Do you remember these lyrics from a song – “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”?
It works! Almost 9 years ago, my husband passed away after 52 years of marriage. In May, he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and less than a year later, the cancer won the battle. Fortunately, it was a gentle, gradual decline at first, and toward the end, the nursing home staff took care of his comfort.
Still, this was an unexpected loss – I had anticipated living a long life with him. Now, after those many years of marriage, I was alone – a widow! Thank goodness for the support and love of family and friends. That helped me get through the ordeals of sorting his things and giving them away, settling his estate, facing the taxes, taking care of the piles of paperwork, and all of the details that go along with the death of a spouse.
Once everything was taken care of, it was time for me to think about myself. Now what do I do? Where do I go from here?
The radio and TV became my constant companions, giving me voices that replaced my husband’s. My favorite radio station was one that played the music and tunes of my younger years. I no longer had anyone to talk to, share jokes with, or tell my anecdotes and stories of the day to. On one particular day I heard, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
Was this an omen? A message? It made sense. Doing as the lyrics suggested. I picked myself up, analyzed my situation and thought about what I could do about it. I dusted off my rusty skills, and looked for volunteer and other opportunities. Then I started all over again by contacting locations for my interests.
It worked! It really worked! I began volunteering at our three local theatrical venues. This provided me with a great social opportunity plus the chance to see excellent shows. Before Al’s death, I’d been an active storyteller and writer, but had gradually pushed that aside. Now I reached out to clubs, organizations, libraries and schools and revved up my storytelling programs. I offered to teach classes in storytelling and writing at a variety of sites. I also got on the phone and called my friends to arrange frequent lunch dates.
I joined a fitness club, where I did strength building, took the Zumba classes, and used various machines and equipment. A plus to the club was meeting many ladies (and some men, too) in my age bracket, with whom I enjoyed chatting.
My days (and many evenings) became filled with interesting events, fun activities, and most importantly, being with people. For a while I became so busy I had to take a step back and downsize my lifestyle. Once I’d leveled off, I found time to take a power nap every afternoon, which enabled me to get through the evening without stumbling around and having my head fall into my dinner plate.
That was another thing I discovered: although cooking for one is not as easy as cooking for two, I learned to prepare a quantity of something and freeze it for a future meal. I sought and discovered quick and easy recipes that were nutritious and tasty. And, on the positive side, I never had to worry about having dinner on the table at a certain time!
Now, with my new lifestyle at Country Meadows, I’m happy, content and living my life to its fullest. Of course, I miss my husband and think of him often, but I don’t brood over my loss or go into a funk or depression.
My marriage was a good and happy one, resulting in three wonderful children and trips to many interesting countries. But it is now part of my past–just as my growing-up years, educational years, and working years.
Now is now.
I focus on today and don’t worry about tomorrow. My calendar is marked with various appointments and obligations, and I look at it every night before I go to bed to see what’s on the agenda for the next day.
I plan for the future, but not too far ahead, not knowing just how much of a future I have. Planning gives me goals to strive for and something to look forward to.
Life is good, and to others who have experienced the loss of a spouse, I recommend doing what I did: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again!”