Nov 162008
Help for Grieving Widows - From a Woman Whose Husband Had Parkinson's

Art from Nancy Paschke, who died from Parkinson’s Disease in 2005. Image from kurmanstaff on flickr.

You lost your husband, and you’re not alone. Here, a grieving widow offers help for other wives – her name is Kathleen and she knows grief. She lost her husband after a long battle with Parkinson’s.

Kathleen offers help for widowers and widows who are grieving loss by sharing she survived. She’s a writer who has found ways to remain strong and happy, despite her grief. She can help you through your mourning process by showing you that you’re not alone.

When you’re mourning, remember: “If you suppress grief too much, it can well redouble,” said Moliere.

Accepting – and maybe even embracing – loss may be one of the healthiest ways to cope with death. This means feeling your pain, sharing it with others, and finding the best ways for you to heal.

If you feel helpless and hopeless – and can barely believe you’re a widow or widower – read Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief.

Here’s what one person said about this book: “Healing After Loss has incredibly insight, hope, understanding and some new ideas delivered in small doses (the tiny shafts of light in the darkness). Since concentration levels are so affected during grieving, the one page entries are easy to read or skip, if you need a one that will more fit your moment. With grief, at least for me, it seems like my mood and outlook can change so much within a couple days – this book fills many needs.”

And here’s how one widow – writer Kathleen Airdrie – coped with the death of her husband. She also shares tips for widows and widowers…

Help for Grieving Widows – When You Lose Your Husband

There’s no “normal” response to death. Everybody is different, which means you’ll grieve differently than a family member or coworker. Accepting yourself and others’ response to death is an important part of the grieving process!

These tips for grieving widows or widowers can help you accept other people’s ways of mourning, and identify your own “best ways” to grieve.

Join a grief support group

Being with people who have experienced similar losses can help you cope with your grief. Just knowing you’re not alone can be reassuring; spending time with people who care helps you deal with your painful feelings. If you don’t find the bereavement group to be supportive, don’t be afraid to try a different one.

And, joining a grief support group when you lose your husband will show you how others cope with loss — which will help with your own mourning process.

Learn how “cybergrieving” works

Many people are now using sites like MySpace and their own personal blogs to deal with their feelings about the death of a loved one. To deal with grief, visit the blog or website of your loved one and write to them on it. You can write poetry, letters, songs, or even a one-liner, simply stating how you feel and what you think. This tip for grieving widowers or widowers involves finding different or unusual ways to let go of someone you love.

Let go of the past slowly

Feeling your grief, anger, guilt, and all your emotions is important. Let yourself grieve. You may feel like your heart will break or you’ll fall into a black pit and never get out – but you have to feel your feelings before you can heal. Letting go of the past through expression of your feelings is healthy way to grieve when you lose your husband.

Are you worried about your future? Read Starting Over in Your 60s – After Your Husband Dies.

Remember that time heals – that old cliche

Time does heal when you’re surviving the death of your husband. Whether it completely heals ALL wounds is a different story, but it does dull the pain a little. Your feelings of loss and sadness may never go away, but with time your heavy burden of sadness will lighten.

Sharing your experience with grief is one of the best ways to heal. If you’d like to tell your story of how you lost your spouse, I welcome your comments below.

If you have a friend in mourning, read How Do You Help a Grieving Friend? 5 Ideas and Tips.

How Kathleen Rediscovered Her Strength After Being Forced to Say Good-Bye

Guest Post ~ Kathleen Airdrie

My husband bravely, but with sadness, faced the truth of his fading good health and active life.  He was a man who loved the outdoors, our canoe journeys on the rivers and lakes, and our gardens.  A musician, he entertained at community events that included wedding receptions and charitable functions.

The diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease was frightening because we knew that there was no cure.  Throughout the following six years as his condition worsened we cried together often.  Deprived of his balance, he couldn’t enjoy the canoe, and with the tremors increasing and his strength lessening, he could not play his fiddle. We faced it together, in our home, until pneumonia ended his life one cold February day.

After his death, a profound sense of loss overwhelmed me.  Family members were helpful, but I had the terrible and terrifying feeling of being lost – away from myself. I could hear their voices, understand the actual words, but not really comprehend enough to participate in real conversations.

My meals were merely snacks; enough to sustain me. Sleep was fitful.  The loneliness and pervading sense of loss weighed heavily on me. A wonderful friend who truly listened to me and was supportive during my darkest days, shared my first ‘breakthrough’ moment with me. About three months after my husband’s death I told her that a family member reacted angrily to my response that I was just sort of coping.  Raising her voice, she told me to ‘get over it’.

I told my friend about how that remark made me sad, but mostly angry, then suddenly realized that the spark of anger was something I’d not felt since my husband’s death.  We saw that as a hopeful sign.

While giving all of my attention and energies to the gardens that summer I gradually regained my physical and emotional strengths. I began to eat better meals and sleep through most nights.  Sometimes I sat in the garden and cried then continued the work with my renewed sense of purpose.  While walking through my gardens a friend commented, “I know how difficult this year has been for you.  Your garden is your victory.”

From that day I knew that I would be all right, or as all right as possible under the circumstances.  No longer a recluse as I was during those awful months, I became involved in a few community activities again and travelled occasionally to visit family members.  Most importantly, I was taking care of myself.

Now, it’s not all sadness, it’s not all loneliness, it’s not all wonderful or humorous.  It is a combination of all of those, as are most peoples’ lives.

Kathleen’s tips for grieving widows:

  • Tell a family member or close friend what you need, whether it’s a good meal, a good listener or help with daily chores.
  • Try to acknowledge the legitimacy of your feelings; be patient with yourself.
  • While reminiscing with family members or friends, don’t let feelings of guilt intrude if you hear the sound of laughter from them or yourself.

If one of your family members is having trouble accepting loss, read When Your Spouse Withdraws Because of Grief.

If you’d like to share your own story of loss, please comment below. Sometimes the best way to get help as a widow or widower is to express your feelings.

You can visit Kathleen Airdrie at Suite101, where she’s a Contributing Writer.

  49 Responses to “Help for Grieving Widows – From a Woman Whose Husband Had Parkinson’s”

  1. Dear Dee Dee,

    I’m so sorry to hear that you lost your husband. I believe losing your spouse is one of the most painful, saddest things to deal with in life – especially when you have daughters who miss him so badly.

    Thank you for being here. It sounds like you’re still in shock and disbelief, and you’re trying to work through your emotions and still be there for your daughters. It’s so much to cope with at once! Too much.

    Are you leaning on friends and family for support? It’s important to talk through your feelings, and cry with adults who can be there for you. You have to be there for your girls…and you have to find loving people who will be there for you.

    Who is walking alongside you as you grieve the death of your husband? Feel free to share your thoughts and feelings here.

    I wish you all the best – I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers,

  2. I lost my friend, husband and my girls’ daddy to a terrible vehicle accident a few weeks ago. I had just talked to him on the phone an hour and a half before the accident. I had no idea as I was picking up our first of three girls that he was being pronounced dead at that exact time. I picked up all three girls and brought them home from school. I went back to work for my last hour downtown. I received a call on my way home from the sheriffs office asking me to please come home. I was shaking, worried but not prepared. Within 5 minutes I was told that my husband had been in an accident… and died. I screamed at the top of my lungs! My girls came running out and screamed and cried! I screamed and fell to the ground. It was the worst, most unreal, unforgettable, disbelieving and gut wrenching feeling of my life. We were in total disbelief.
    I am strong for my girls but just want to bawl so much of the time. I drive to work in a daze. I drive home in a daze. I can’t believe he is gone forever! My poor sweet girls. He loved them and me so very much. He ALWAYS told us. I am filled with such sadness. I feel like He has left to such a far and away place and has left me here all alone to care for our girls and myself. I thought he would just always be here no matter what. I just can’t believe he is gone. We want him back so very badly. My girls are 15, 13 and 9. We meant everything to him and he is supposed to still be here. I will be getting us all in counciling soon. I am so incredibly saddened!

  3. Dear Safina,

    It sounds like you are going through the normal, confusing stages of grief! You’re in shock because your husband died, and you are overwhelmed with all sorts of conflicting emotions.

    Grief is complicated and confusing, and it takes a long time to process and deal with the fact that your husband died. Even if you weren’t living with your husband, it’s still a huge shock that you’re a widow!

    Let yourself grieve – just let yourself feel your emotions without trying to fight them. If you can, take a few days off of work. Let your mind and heart get used to the idea that your husband is dead. It takes time, but you’ll start to feel normal again, bit by bit.

    Come back anytime, let us know how you’re doing.


  4. I lost my husband to drinking 18th june just gone his funral was Thursday thing is I had not seen him in about a year an half as he was so ill I could not have my 2 year old round him so we parted in best intrestof our son . but I arranged his send off I can not explne how it feels as one min im sad then happy then bitter am confused also as to what I do now as this as somehow put me into a dream an I need to get up please help me understand

  5. Dear Bonnie,

    I am so sorry you lost your husband, but so happy for you that you have your grandchildren and son. I’ve lost people dear to me, but never my husband. The pain of grief and loss does fade a little bit, I think, but it never totally goes away. I’ll never be the same after losing the people I’ve loved…and I do cherish the people in my life more now.

    I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. I hope you have found solace in your spirituality and beliefs — and your Christian friends.


  6. I found this site, an just finished all u dear widows stories… Like all of u I to am a widow… In the beginning part of me wanted to go with him… I could barely breathe.. Iam a Christian… Had I not been? I don’t know??? Please don’t misunderstand me I was very mad at God..after all I was trying to live a Christian life, why not take someone who wasn’t trying to live right? I had been studying the word about 6 years when he my spirit I felt it , I had told my husband several times, I feel like I have been afforded this time because something is big on my horizon…will I be tested? Oh yes..Jesus told us as long as u live in this world u will have trials tribulations…I became a widow at 51.. I lost my lifelong partner. I was a child bride , he too… One week 18….. We were married 34 years we have a son …I had recently recovered from major colon surgery before he passed… He was my nurse…I had a 6 yr battle… He stayed by my side…we had just hung a 30 yr anniversary collage in our liv rm 3 days before his accident… I had made a DVD movie of it the morning of the accident… It was a warm aug eve. After work there was a bike ride not far from our home… We had a beautiful conversation , I said to hom honey be careful of the sun, he said no worries it will be at my back. Babe I will be home by dusk and we will watch that dvd of our 30 anniversary… I watched him hose off his bike, all fresh… We hugged and kissed, I said be careful see u in little while… That was 10 mins. To 5… At 6:15 I got the call no one ever wants to get… My world stopped… I watched him fight for 3 days… After watchn one after another on his chest try to save him paddles , needles , ——————–. My son had only been married 3 mOnths at the time.. He was also in chile for work had to be flown home ASAP.. God does know what u need… Had it not been for our son, I honestly just don’t know…medication helped me survive it too… The medicine made me numb… It’s 4 and half years now… Time does help… U don’t want to hear that at the time , but it’s true…God has since given me two beautiful little grandaughters… And yes the oldest looks like him she has his eyes…my love for them is so great that I must go on for them, I want to teach them things and I don’t want them to think their grandma was so weak she couldn’t handle a hard part of life…. Because my ancestors had to do, whether they wanted to or not too…I know I have drawn some of my strength from my ancestry….I am blessed to have had that love in my life… My life could have been empty??? But it wasn’t someone came into it for 34 of my 51 years… My best wishes to everyone of you.. In revelation , this too shall pass its only temporary…our loved ones are on the other side working for God , with no pain…Gods blessings to all

  7. Dear Mrs B,

    I’m sorry for your loss. You have to go on without your husband, for your children’s sake. I think you’re stronger than you know. Sometimes it helps to take it one minute at a time. Just getting through this day or the next hour may seem overwhelming, so just focus on this minute.

    I will keep you and your children in my thoughts and prayers, as you mourning your loss.

    In sympathy,

  8. Dear Cristina,

    I’m so sorry that you lost your husband and your mother at almost the same time. My heart goes out to you and your daughter, and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you mourn.

    Please keep coming back and reading the comments of other widows who are grieving their husbands’ deaths. You are not alone, and you may gain comfort and strength by reading the words of others.

    In sympathy,

  9. I am so hurt right now and all I can do is vent. I lost my husband on Nov. 28,2012. He was only 35 but was on dialysis and the fluids filled up around his lungs and caused him to go into cardiac arrest. Everytime I talk,type, or even think about it my heart begins to cry out with my tears all over again. Ours was alot like some of you. My soulmate, my everything. He took pride in family and we took care of each other. I have 3 kids a teen and two small girls who adored him. They seemed to be my strength right now. I just feel as if I dont want to go on without him. But I know I have to its hard. I have not had to go through anything this devasting without him. Everything happened so fast- Im just in shocked..No word can console me- I even begged God to wake me up but im realizing thats its not adream. My “One & Only” is gone.

  10. I lost my husband Nov 3 , he try so hard to make it since his visit with his doctor it was a terrible cancer ,
    he came from ER and say Iam going to died in 3 to 6 months to make things worse I just came back from my mother cremation ,
    i didnt know if I was crying for mi mother for him for me or my daugther .
    my husband only last 1 yr after his intestinal cancer , it hurt me so bad that my brother in law ask me about the will when he came to see him at the hospital . time will be the best medicine I hope

  11. Thank you for sharing your stories. I think it’s easier for all widows to know they’re not alone in their grief. I hope it helps to read Kathleen’s story of losing her husband to Parkinson’s, and to read the other comments here.

  12. I lost my husband six months ago. He went into the hospital for a 2-3 day stay to adjust meds for congestive heart failure and afib. Within 48 hours he developed an unusual pneumonia and showed signs of alcohol withdrawal which put him in the ICU for 3 1/2 weeks. He developed a second, worse, Klebsiella pneumonia and a blood clot which required intensive blood thinner therapy. While awake he told me how very much he loved me and shortly thereafter I was spoon feeding him when he suffered a hemorrhagic stroke from the blood thinner therapy … Several days passed, he was transferred into a neuro ICU ward but he did not do well. I called in the palliative care doctor who told me he was totally paralyzed on his left side, would never speak, eat, swallow or walk again and would not likely live long. I brought him back home to die in his own bed with me caring for him in our own home and felt it was the most therapeutic thing for both of us.

    He was my guiding light in life, my mentor, my business partner, my husband, my friend. I believe he is still all around me and I speak to him often. I am through the initial stage of grieving but am now becoming rather lonely and need to find more friends and activity but believe that I will be alright longer term. My best wishes for all the rest of you in your difficult journies…


  13. Nicole,
    Your story is very sad and very unexpected like mine. I think that is the worst way…not being able to say good bye. My heart goes out to you.

  14. tomorrow will be one month that i lost my husband. i can’t beleive i’m saying these words. He died at the age of 34 in a motorcycle accident. We have a 3 month old daughter. My daughter and I were cheated out of a life of love. He was/is an amazing man. I’m not saying it to boost him up, he was the best thing that ever happened to me and touched so many hearts. I don’t know how I’m living without him. We had a love that people noticed and wanted. I have no regrets because I loved him 100% everyday. My soulmate…
    I question God but I’m trying to have faith because I want to be with him again. I love you baby…

  15. Hello, It has been 251 days sincemy husband died suddenly @ the young age of 48. Although we had dated for close to 7 years we were only married for 116 days…A beautiful wedding in an apple orchard among family and friends professing our love for God and each other. We were Iron Sharpening Iron together a TEAM a FORCE. We were both marrried before but finally were able to make a commitment to each other and our Maker. I joked in asking that we would have 32 years together. My husand died of a heart attack at a annual poker game with his brothers and friends by his side. He went from one happy world to another and I was a widow now longer than I was a newlywed. Heart ache, disbelief, and wondering how God could make good of this tradegy. For the most part I have been able to be the LIGHT he would want me to be. I am a very positive person. It does take so much energy and so many times I want to hide and not face the demands of the world. I have a very demanding job and had to jump back in so I think it helped me survive those first few months. I feel that the roller coaster I am on is helpful bbecasue no matter how low I go I know I will head back up. I find great joy in honoring him and doing what he would want me to do. All is greaat but I am still alone and so sad and wonder how God will ever make my heart new again…I never had a chance…a this love for someone left…I am presently writing a book “My 116 days in Heaven” and find great joy accounting our courtship and marriage. My faith and family and friends substain me but I can never imagine that joy and love with anyone ever again and I could never imagine taking a picture down or changing anything. He is a part of my life…my heart…Where do I go from here?

  16. July 20, 2011, my 75 year old husband of 55 years was found unconscious and not breathing on a mountain bike trail in Colorado. All efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. I was waiting for him to come back to our condo for lunch when the call came from the coroner. I was terribly shocked since we thought my husband was in excellent health. To add to the stress, I was away from home and nearly two thousand miles from my family. I felt sad and frightened, but most of my anguish came from feelings of guilt: guilt for fussing at him for little things like leaving the toilet seat up or chewing a cigar. I beat myself up for not noticing something was wrong with him–felt I should have been more aware of his health and insisted he see a doctor! I had to spend the first night by myself, and I didn’t sleep a minute. The only relief I got was writing to him. That first night, I wrote him a 20 page letter, describing my emotions and feelings. The next morning, I got out of bed and walked for an hour. Writing and exercise have been my therapy. He’s been gone, now, for fourteen months, and I still write to him. Somedays, I’m his secretary and he writes to me. Thank goodness, I’ve always had a fitness routine which I’ve continued. Writing, exercising, positive thinking, and being in the company of happy family members and friends as much as I can be are carrying me though a difficult time in my life. Grieving in a group setting did not work for me. It made me aware that we’re all different. In order to survive I had to follow a course that made me feel better–not worse.

  17. my mother lost my father 3 weeks ago.she really needs and friends are help too support my poor mother i feel so bad for her.she has so much to deal with at this sasd time.i would like more information to help my mum like counselling helplines.she has been such a loving and devoted wife to my dad.i know my dad would be so proud of mum,she has so much to deal with.i would really like help and support for my mum.i love her soo much i feel so sorry for her..we all miss my dad soo soo much.words can not describe our pain and upset on my dads u forever dad miss u xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  18. My husband was a hard worker and this July he was so excited to finally be getting some time off work and take a much needed vacation to North Carolina to visit our daughter and spend some time at the beach. Well we did that. It was great until july 20, 2012. the night before we were to come home. As he was driving us back from a nice day shopping and a nice dinner, he told me his shoulder hurt, he had just got the words out of his mouth when he slummped over and died. I am waiting for the autopsy report. It had to be a blood clot or something that caused an otherwise healty 47 year old man to just drop dead. We got him back to Ohio and had his funeral on July 27 2012, the day before our 23 wedding anniversary. I am broken, devastated at this horrific sudden death. my kids are in shock as they are just beginning to find their own way in the world. My husband and I were cheated of the 2nd part of our lives together. our kids are pretty well grown and on their own. We had so many plans for our future together. The pain is swallowing me. Where do I go from here.

  19. dear laurie thanks for the article you wrote me. i have since tried to move out of the mode i was in. i stated to talk to people on the web, at first it seemed like fun but later if proved to be dreadful. there is a bunch of losers in the chat rooms, probably worse off than me. so i am making a new plan for august. i haven’t seen the dentist so i am going on the first of aug and then i will treat myself to red lobster, its around the cor. and then on the 4th i am invited to a big party with 300 people. its a sports event. then i am going to take pictures with my new adopted grandson. yes i am a grandmother and on the 2nd of aug. i will join a really kewl gym with a glass enclosure of the park, and then at 8 am i will take myself out to breakfast. there is a little store around the cor where men and women get together and chat. it was fun doing that. so at least its a start in a good direction and i will be doing that for 3 months. then if that don’t put me in a better place then i will be joining grief support groups in the area. last nite i went to see a movie called the incuribles it was so awesome. best thing is i am now moving alot more and getting out more and meeting people who actually have been divorced or widowed for 8 to 9 years. they tell me that you will see that you don’t really need a man. i hope it just gets better for me so at least its tolerable. i wrote this for all who are suffering and do not see a light, but there definitely is one. you just have to dig really hard. thanks

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