Are you ready to take control of your life? I have narrowed down the top 5 areas of growth that widowed people can focus on in their journey to a happy life.
Read through these categories, and give some thought to what areas you’d like to improve. We can’t fix everything in our live at once, but we can narrow our focus and choose one area that we want to concentrate on first, and start making a plan! At the end of this article, I will give you some tips on how we can work together to implement your plan!
Ready? Let’s take a look:
Area for Growth #1: Mental Health
This area is huge, and includes spiritual and emotional health as well. It is probably the area that was most damaged by the loss of our spouse. The moment they took their last breath, our lives changed. We are missing half of our heart, feeling sad, lonely, angry, lost…and these negative emotions effect every other aspect of our lives. And if we don’t fix this area, it will be difficult to work on anything else in our lives.
Here is a small list of ideas and ways that you can work on your mental health (these are very broad, and meant to only be a springboard to get your mind thinking about how you want to get started):
- Praying/meditation- reconcile the negative feelings in our head and heart about how or why we are widowed in the first place
- Talk to someone- a friend, counselor, pastor, doctor. Contact us if you need help with resources
- Journal- write out your thoughts, type them in a blog, or dictate them into your phone.
- See a doctor- if your thoughts are a danger to yourself or others, seek medical help
- Medications/supplements- seek out medical advice if you feel that prescription medications might help. Natural supplements are another option, and you can find a wealth of information online about them
- Church- visit or join a church in your area. Or search for online sermons if you can’t get out in your area
Area for Growth #2: Physical Health
Just as your mind should be in the right place, your body needs to be fueled and cared for properly. You don’t need to be a fitness guru, or adopt some strict diet plan. But you do need to keep your body moving and feed it with healthy food more often than junk. The mind-body connection is real, and where one goes, the other will follow.
Here are some ideas of how you might start to add healthy habits into your daily routine. At first, your body will not like the new changes, but after a few weeks, you will start to see and feel a difference.
- Working out- Join a gym, buy some home equipment, or just look up some workouts on YouTube and follow along in your living room for free!
- Hire a personal trainer- they are trained to educate and motivate
- Go for a walk- your body will thank you, and you can get some fresh air. An added bonus is that you’ll have a chance to clear your head
- Buy a treadmill- these come in so many price ranges, and you can even buy a used on one Craigslist or Goodwill (no more excuses about it being too cold or rainy to walk!)
- Find a workout buddy- cheaper than a trainer, and they will hold you accountable so you don’t make lame excuses to skip workouts
- Join a yoga class, dance class, Zumba class, or whatever strikes your fancy
- Eat healthy- no need to get complicated, stick with natural, unprocessed foods as much as possible. If it can be grown or caught, it’s better than something created in a lab or factory
- Drink water- at the very least, try to get 1/2 gallon (64 oz) of water per day
Area for Growth #3: Finances
We all wish we could have more money, but most of us already know that money does not bring happiness. However, the lack of money can sure cause problems! When you lose a spouse, most of our expenses stay the same, and our income may have bee cut in half. Some of our loved ones had things in place to take care of our finances, and others were taken by surprise and were left with no provisions.
If finances are a problem for you, it may be time to attend to your financial health and put things in order to improve them. Here are some financial planning areas:
- Budget- making and sticking to a budget will help you not spend unnecessarily. You can use a spreadsheet like Google Sheets or Excel, or you can purchase a printable template on Etsy. You can even go old school with a notebook, pencil, and calculator!
- Banker/Planner- Schedule a visit with your local bank or financial planner and discuss some financial plans, especially if you have a lump sum of life insurance or other larger inheritance
- Savings tracker- I have seen so many versions of savings trackers online (search bullet journal savings tracker for ideas!). I created my own to see if I can save $5000 by the end of this year. Again, there are templates for you to create or purchase printables that are already made for you
- Monitor your credit- There are so many places to check your credit score, and even if they aren’t as accurate as the paid one, you can still track if its trending up or down. You can one free credit report per year at www.annualcreditreport.com and check everything for accuracy. Dispute anything that isn’t correct, and have your spouse’s items removed if they are listed on yours.
- By now, we know all too well how important it is to prepare our own finances for our loved ones if something happens to us. Check and update your own life insurance beneficiaries, assets, and if you don’t already have a will, get one drawn up ASAP. If you still have minor children, you’ll need to draw up something that will tell who you want to take custody of your children in the event of your death
Area for Growth #4: Career
Whether you are young, middle aged, or past the age of retirement, you need to do SOMETHING to fill the time in your days. Once your mind and body go dormant, they both start to deteriorate quickly, so use it or lose it! Many widows are in the situation where we still have to work in order to make ends meet. Or we choose to work to keep our minds busy and occupied.
Regardless of the reason, our career/work life can be an area that we can focus on improving. Here are some ways:
- Focus- If you are working the same job that you had before you became widowed, you may find it hard to focus at your job, or you emotional state might be affecting your job performance. Try to focus on one task at a time at your job, and keep your mind on that ask at hand. It may be difficult, but I try to check my emotional baggage at the door when I go to work- it doesn’t always happen, but I’m being paid to do a job, and I need to keep that job to pay my bills.
- Promotion- Maybe you need to set your sights on a promotion that would lead to more money. In the meantime, the goals you set will keep your attention on your career advancement, and give you a sense of accomplishment when you earn that promotion
- Change jobs- Maybe your job is no longer bringing you the same joy or sense of purpose that it did before. When I returned to work after my husband died, I found that so many things at my job continued to trigger sad thoughts, and even my commute to work would have me in tears every morning. I transferred to a different location, doing the same job but relocating to a different school. I had all new co-workers (who know I’m widowed, but never knew me from before, so the idea is more abstract to them). It made a big difference. Now, I am finding that I no longer get the same satisfaction at my job that I did before, and I’m searching to change my career completely- I’m hoping that I can make a career out of helping others find happiness after loss
- Dress for success- Whether you work offsite, work at home, volunteer, or stay at home- dressing for success will nearly always boost your confidence. You may not want to walk around the house in makeup and heels, but at least get out of your pajamas every day, get cleaned up and put a brush through your hair and over your teeth, and even put your shoes on. These small steps will trick your brain into thinking you are getting ready to be productive, and you’ll be in the mindset to at least “hit a lick at a snake” ( as my Grandma would say).
- Take classes- Educational classes of all levels have never been more accessible, and it’s never too late to learn a new skill, trade, or even get a degree! have you always talked about going back to school to become a ________ (fill in the blank with your own word)? Well, why not do some research and get it done? Online classes are available in just about every area you can imagine. Learn how to bake cakes, cut hair, fix cars, build doghouses…the options are endless!
- Start a business- Now that you have a new sill or trade under your belt, why not start your own business? Again, the internet provides us with so many opportunities to sell goods, provide services, or even start writing your own blog or creating a YouTube channel
Area for Growth #5: Relationships
The last area that we can work on to grow is our relationships with people- friends, family, co-workers, and even the general public. Laying in bed all day crying isn’t helping you or anyone else who cares about you. The dynamics of many relationships we had before we became widowed may change, but we still have to give as much as we get out of the relationship with the people in our lives.
As humans, we are social creatures, and are not meant to live a solitary life. For a while, we might retreat into our own worlds to grief and lick the wounds of our heart, but eventually we need to venture out into the world and start to reconnect with people. Here are some things to consider:
- Family- relationships between family members may take on a whole new dynamic after we lose a spouse. Our children are grieving the same person, but in a different way. Our in-laws….well, do we still call them that? Even as we move forward, our family members may have different opinions about how we are grieving and that might cause strife. Remember that most family members simply care about you and your well-being. And in the even that a family member is truly toxic and holding you back from moving forward, it is ok to cut ties with them.
- Friends- Sometimes even the oldest friendships change or fade after we lose our spouse. The couple that you visited for drinks or card games find it awkward to invite you over alone. People who claim to care about you may pass judgement about how you are living your life. Or you might simply find new interests or even become a completely different person, and it might be time to find some new friends who share those interests
- Online- Times they are a’changin, and we can now connect with the entire world without ever leaving our home. Reach out and find groups of like-minded people (like One Happy Widow Facebook group), and get support or just connect with others if you aren’t ready to get out, or if you are unable (or quarantined???)
- Commit to an event so that you can mentally prepare to get out and be around others. Accept an invitation to a party or holiday get-together. Or maybe even agree to host the family Thanksgiving dinner at your house!
- Children- I have found that raising grieving children is far harder than grieving myself. Their emotional pain manifests in so many ways, and for a very long time. In addition, my children have a heightened sense of anxiety over the thought of losing the only parent they have left- since the reality of losing one is all too real. Spend time with them, and share memories of their mom or dad often so that they never forget about them
- If you are so inclined, you might decide to date, or even find love again. Some widowed people stay widowed for the rest of their lives, and others move forward and even remarry (I did). Whatever feels right for you, that’s what you do. Be prepared for all of the opinions of others, as everyone will want to give you their .02 on this matter. Also be ready for a rude awakening- dating is never the same as it was when we met our spouse the first time around. Some of us may not have even dated in 40 years or more! Being married and then suddenly entering the dating world can be a shock to the system, and there might even be some guilt at first. Just do whatever feels right for you, and do what makes YOU happy, as it is your life that you are living, and you don’t have to explain your decisions to anyone else. Go and have fun!
There are so many areas that we might need to improve in our lives. There is no way that we can address them all at the same time. My advice would be to choose one of the 5 areas above that you want to improve, and then dig a little deeper and make some small goals for yourself that you want to reach. We are on this Earth to live, and move forward. We cannot do that if we get stuck in one or more stages of grief.
Remember that you are not alone in this struggle. I am living with my loss daily, and so is my current husband, who is also widowed. If you are ready to start moving forward but are unsure where to start or what to do first, contact me and we can discuss a plan for you!
For more topics about finding happiness after loss, check out my YouTube channel, where I create weekly videos about various topics that we encounter in our grieving process. Head on over and subscribe!