“You must learn a new way to think, before you can master a new way to be.” Marianne Williamson
Growing up in England, post WW2, Widowed Friends member, Christine, was raised with the belief that one shouldn’t focus on oneself, but always on others.
This teaching served her well throughout her life, as she moved to Canada with her husband, raised a family, and enjoyed a varied career in the finance world. But, in 2011, her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Christine’s life changed completely, as she devoted herself to his care for the next nine years both at home and finally, in the hospital.
When she was widowed in December 2019, she found herself lost and alone. She joined Widowed Friends in 2020, discovering a community of like-minded widows and widowers, focused on connecting and supporting each other, working together to find ways to rebuild their lives after the loss of a life partner.
During Covid, Christine says “Widowed Friends helped me through the pandemic and loneliness right at the point in my life when I was at my lowest. By chatting with new friends and taking part in many online Widowed Friends activities, I was able to find support and hope despite the isolation and vulnerability of loss.”
With time, she began to realize that the childhood parental guidance to put herself second behind others, no longer really applied. Now that her husband was gone, children grown and retired from her career, she knew she’d reached a point where she was able to turn the focus on herself. It was time to start finding new ways to support her own healing and recovery and move forward positively with hope, into the future.
Gradually, she realized that to restart her life and move forward meant consciously working on herself and her attitudes to create a new life. It was a long and difficult journey, but ultimately successful as she finds herself today happier, more productive and engaged in the world in many new ways.
She has generously shared some of her thoughts about her journey from despair to renewal with us.
We understand each person’s path is different and everyone has their own unique challenges. The steps outlined here are some of the ones Christine implemented and are here for you to consider if you’re wondering how to follow a similar path on your own journey of renewal – here are Christine’s thoughts:
– First, let the past go. We can’t change what has happened so it’s best to accept the reality of our situations in the present and release sadness, and guilt. A big, hard but necessary step! Sometimes it helps to have the assistance of a grief counsellor or grief group to talk through this phase with you.
-Next, we need to make a conscious effort to find the positives in our lives, another hard thing to do but important – what are you grateful for in your life – from little things like a morning cup of coffee or a sunny day to big things like family and friends, there’s always something in all our lives for which we can be thankful.
-Keep busy. Don’t stay at home and feel sad – there are always activities to engage with. Christine keeps a full calendar so each day is busy and fulfilling. Widowed Friends has lots of virtual and in-person events, there are many volunteer opportunities where you will be appreciated for your involvement, and there’s reconnecting with long lost friends or relatives.
-It’s important to put yourself “out there” – be around people – go to places where there are people and be part of a community. If you are in a situation that isn’t right for you, consider change. Not all friends from your past will be helpful, sometimes you will need to find new, more understanding companions, but that’s ok too and part of the process.
-Refuse to feel old or helpless! It’s amazing what we can do no matter our age, abilities, or history.
-Avoid spending too much time on social media, news channels or other media that specialize in controversy and conflict – it doesn’t help to calm our minds by engaging with information over which we have no control.
-Focus on today, don’t relive or review past experiences or worry too much about tomorrow. The only time we have is the present, so try to enjoy each day as much as possible.
Inspiration can take many forms and sometimes it helps to hear the stories and thoughts of those who have gone before us and already taken a path we are considering. Widowed Friends, Chapter 2 monthly get togethers are designed to share the collective wisdom, hope and ideas of members working through loss to support each other on our unique journeys. Read more about Widowed Friends on our website here www.widowedfriends.ca and thank you to Christine for her ongoing inspiration and willingness to share her journey.