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Advice for a New Widow?
Old 02-23-2015, 08:42 AM   #1
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Advice for a New Widow?

Hi, Everybody--

Over on the thread for those considering downsizing to a condo, a couple kind members suggested I start this thread. My husband passed away last month after a very long illness. I was most fortunate to be happily married to him for 35 years. During that time we grew very strong together in facing reality head-on. He had a debilitating genetic lung condition that suddenly struck him in his 30's. As a gifted athlete, it was very difficult for him to lose his abilities in skiing, golf, back-packing, hiking, and biking over the years.

But he was an incredibly stalwart soul, and continued working full-time right up until age 62 when he could take SSDI (even though the dr. said he qualified for it back in his 40's).

So none of this was a surprise: we had prepared for it financially, signed up for a CCRC, and I retired early (partly to make sure we had some good time together........we got 2.5 years).

Still, it's hard in ways I didn't expect. Practically speaking, I've been cranking out all the paperwork involved; have been catching up on sleep; have had great support from friends, family and our church; and am trying to eat right and "take care of myself."

However, part of me feels like I'm slogging through a sea of molasses. I just want all this "stuff" DONE. There are still trips to the attorney, pulling all the contacts off his cell ph., notifying all the accts. that he is no longer on them, etc., etc., etc. Thank goodness I am retired; and there is some structure in my schedule because of my little part-time job (2 half-days a month) and volunteer youth work I do at the church.

So, I THINK I'm doing what needs to be done. (Have notified our pensions, signed up for his SS benefits, and will drop his part of our med. insurance policy. Re. the SS: have already accounted for my gov't pension offset, since I'm on CalSTRS.) But do any of you who have lost a spouse have more insights?

There are three motivations that keep me cranking out these chores: a couple possible trips to Europe with girlfriends, down-sizing to a condo, and learning from my brother (who owns an RV rental business) how I can buy one of his RV's and travel the country for months at a time. (I already have 4 girlfriends who are ready and willing to "full-time it" with me. They just know they would have to take turns, as I'm only interested in buying a 25-ft. Class C. with one slide-out.)

Oh, and I'm also going to sign up for a grief support group.

Thanks in advance for any and all input!
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Old 02-23-2015, 08:47 AM   #2
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No advice as I've not walked in your shoes. Just condolences and best wishes to you LitGal. Your future plans sound exciting.

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Old 02-23-2015, 08:57 AM   #3
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My sincere condolences, LitGal.

No advice here either. Wishing you all the best going forward.

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Old 02-23-2015, 09:03 AM   #4
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Hi, Everybody--

There are three motivations that keep me cranking out these chores: a couple possible trips to Europe with girlfriends, down-sizing to a condo, and learning from my brother (who owns an RV rental business) how I can buy one of his RV's and travel the country for months at a time. (I already have 4 girlfriends who are ready and willing to "full-time it" with me. They just know they would have to take turns, as I'm only interested in buying a 25-ft. Class C. with one slide-out.)


Thanks in advance for any and all input!
Going RVing, maybe, are you? Wow, what a fun plan you're looking at.

I've already written my condolences elsewhere, so here just let me add, if you're ever in my neck of the woods, let me know.
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:03 AM   #5
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I was also widowed and I highly recommend a grief support group . Also don't be surprised when you lose couple friends . It happens and you will eventually form new single friends . Take time to take care of yourself .
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:04 AM   #6
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Going RVing, maybe, are you? Wow, what a fun plan you're looking at.

I've already written my condolences elsewhere, so here just let me add, if you're ever in my neck of the woods, let me know.
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:25 AM   #7
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It sounds like you have a great support group in place which is wonderful.

The RV adventures sound like fun and a great change of pace. Maybe your brother will give you a "deal" on some rentals this summer so you can see how the trips work out for you. Our area has several RV camping groups that get together and plan long weekends or week long trips and RV together, this might be a great way for you to get started. Have you done any RVing in the past.
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:49 AM   #8
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It sounds like you have a great support group in place which is wonderful.

The RV adventures sound like fun and a great change of pace. Maybe your brother will give you a "deal" on some rentals this summer so you can see how the trips work out for you. Our area has several RV camping groups that get together and plan long weekends or week long trips and RV together, this might be a great way for you to get started. Have you done any RVing in the past.
Yes, DB and I are already talking about a "deal" after I sell my house (in about a year). He's wanting to downsize his business to spend more time with his family (as this was a hobby business he did, in addition to his full-time job). He's invited me to spend vacation time with them when he'll teach me and I can test-drive the RV I've already chosen.

He and I grew up RVing around the country with our parents. When he was 6 and I was 11, our family traveled the USA in an Apache tent trailer. He and I both had our daily chores in setting up camp with that trailer and zipping on the "add-a-room".

Later, our parents bought a travel trailer, and again we trekked around the USA. DB and I just had a new set of chores. So, we were pretty much raised on this stuff.

Of course, he's the mechanic/auto tech of the family. Me? I'm the one who just wants to pull in somewhere and enjoy the scenery. But he'll train me on how to check everything over and give me a daily checklist of what to watch for.

He and I are already talking about taking one of his bigger units to Alaska-- he'd do most of the driving with that one, though. But I can learn a lot from tagging along.

DH-- bless his beloved soul--- knew it would be only a matter of time before my wanderlust would return. We had wanted to do this together. But his health prevented it. (BUT, DH and I did drive both ways across the USA last summer to meet DS and his wife in San Francisco. No regrets there!)
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Old 02-23-2015, 09:56 AM   #9
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I also haven't gone through this, so I don't have personal experience, but my Mom is going through this after having lost her husband of over 60 years. You are well positioned to deal with this as you seem to have a good support network as well as goals of things you want to do.

My mom has mentioned that one of the hardest things for her is dealing with all the paperwork and other tasks my Dad handled (such as heating oil deliveries and furnace issues). When she thinks of "everything" it seems overwhelming, but if she deals with things one at a time, she can handle it. Each time she does something new, it gets easier to do the next thing. Celebrate each step forward that you take, and don't get down on yourself for the things you don't currently know. You don't need to do everything all at once.

Don't be afraid that your happiness or life goals are somehow disrespectful. The feelings of loss are unavoidable, and there will be days where the emotion hits you like a tidal wave from unexpected things. But you aren't honoring anyone simply by being sad. It's important to do things that you enjoy, even if they don't seem enjoyable on certain days. Your plans for trips and other adventures sound wonderful and I'm glad you have the spirit to try something new and fun.

The fact that you are posting here already shows that you have more financial awareness than my Mom had. My sympathy on your loss, but I admire your spirit and attitude.
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:02 AM   #10
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I am so sorry to hear about your husband. My sincere condolences.

I haven't been widowed, although years ago I did initiate and go through with a rapid divorce after 23 years of marriage. Not to say that's the same at all, but there are a few analogies. I have some suggestions and please feel free to take them or leave them! Here goes.

You know how people say to not make any major decisions for a year or two after becoming widowed? I see these:

1. buying a condo
2. buying a big RV
3. going on two trips to Europe

as major decisions. I wonder if you have given yourself enough time to go through a mourning period first, before you move on. No need to wallow in it, if you don't want to, but it may take some time to face everyday, normal life without him. You can't run from it. I have no idea if you are or not, just pointing that out.

If it was me (and I know it's not! ) I'd set aside #1 and #2 above for a year or two, and maybe schedule one trip to Europe less than a month long as a compromise.

Good for you to be getting through all the paperwork and so on! That's got to be so painful and difficult to do. You've probably already done this, but donating all of my father's clothes was a big help for my mother after he passed away.

Take care and like everyone else, I wish nothing but the best for you as you grieve and deal with this situation.
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:05 AM   #11
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Please accept my condolences for your loss. I think you are on the right track. Here is a short summary of the time after my DW died.

My DW died suddenly in an accident. The first 6 months were definitely a slog for me. I got through the paperwork, but it was not fun. I don't remember a whole lot about that time. I had two kids in college and I was still working. I did not join a support group mostly due to working odd hours, but I think doing so is a very good idea. I did talk to pastors in our former church in Colorado and our church in Virginia as well as a grief counselor recommended by the pastor. I lost quite a bit of weight in that first 6 months so again I think you are doing the right things. I do remember spending a lot of time looking at RVs and motorcycles while trying to figure out how my new life would look. With help from God, the big picture was there, but more the day-to-day stuff when I retired needed to be figured out. So here I am 5.5 years later living in a motor home while I build my home. I guess you might call it RVing in place. I have been retired for 1.5 years and am enjoying it. Although I miss my wife of 30 years, things have worked out OK.

From what I have read on the RV forums, it is a good idea to do some shorter trips and work up to the full timing before you commit to it.

The best of luck to you in your new life.

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Old 02-23-2015, 10:12 AM   #12
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LitGal, I am sorry for your loss. Your DH sounds like he was a great person and that you had a great relationship.

The only near experience that I have is as executor of my grandmothers and great-aunt estates and helping my Mom out since my Dad died 10 years ago. The only thing I can suggest is just scrolling through all your assets and expenses and for each one asking yourself whether there is anything that you need to do as a result of your husband's passing and picking them of one at a time. Don't forget to also update your beneficiary designations, wills, etc if you have not already done so.

And your RV trip sounds like a lot of fun. We camped a lot when we had a young family and really enjoyed it and the camaraderie of campers. Many times when I see a small to midsize camper I think that it might be fun to buy one and travel the country to escape our harsh New England winters.
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:14 AM   #13
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I am so sorry to hear about your husband. My sincere condolences.

I haven't been widowed, although years ago I did initiate and go through with a rapid divorce after 23 years of marriage. Not to say that's the same at all, but there are a few analogies. I have some suggestions and please feel free to take them or leave them! Here goes.

You know how people say to not make any major decisions for a year or two after becoming widowed? I see these:

1. buying a condo
2. buying a big RV
3. going on two trips to Europe

as major decisions. I wonder if you have given yourself enough time to go through a mourning period first, before you move on. No need to wallow in it, if you don't want to, but it may take some time to face everyday, normal life without him. You can't run from it. I have no idea if you are or not, just pointing that out.

If it was me (and I know it's not! ) I'd set aside #1 and #2 above for a year or two, and maybe schedule one trip to Europe less than a month long as a compromise.

Good for you to be getting through all the paperwork and so on! That's got to be so painful and difficult to do. You've probably already done this, but donating all of my father's clothes was a big help for my mother after he passed away.

Take care and like everyone else, I wish nothing but the best for you as you grieve and deal with this situation.
I'd second this advice because planning even fun and enjoyable things requires many, many decisions big and small. Almost to the point where it takes some pleasure out of the anticipation. I have noticed this myself as I'm aging and I don't have the added stress of losing a spouse. For example, maybe you could start looking for a great deal on some of the fantastic European cruises that are out there. That way the decision making gets much less stressful, as all your meals, a place to sleep and such are taken care of by the cruise line. Find a travelmate or sometimes they will run specials that don't charge a single supplement. Travel is enjoyable, but can be stressful.
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:40 AM   #14
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I'm very sorry for your loss.

There are a few items I might add. First, you sound like an organized person. Maybe with all that paperwork and stuff just view it as a divide-and-conquer. Maybe just an hour a day and then your done and move on to something fun. Don't short change fun.

Regarding trips to Europe. It can seem exciting but there could be lots of planning which could be fun or drudgery. It will get you out of your domestic issues a bit and that could be good. Some people (like me) have a bit of anxiety surrounding far off travel, other languages, etc. There are Rick Steves tours of various parts of Europe which apparently are well thought of. This can add back some of the fun element as you don't have to do all the planning but it does cost more. Buy or check out the country books from your library.

Mostly you just go to that RS site Rick Steves Europe: Tour Operator, Travel Guides & Information and review the options and open dates. They have a great forum which can be country specific if you need that kind of advice. We are going on a tour this year and also some on our own. We have used the RS books for several trips over the years. This could be a fun way to do a tour with a friend of yours.

If I recall right, you are quite a reader. Right now I'm reading some historical fiction about Roman history as we are going to Italy. Also planning on reading about Renaissance art as my background is more in modern times. Glad to have some months to go to do this kind of fun reading prior to a trip.
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Wow! Many thanks!
Old 02-23-2015, 10:49 AM   #15
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Wow! Many thanks!

You have all been VERY helpful. You've helped me to revise what count as "big decisions" and which ones are "small."

I've always enjoyed planning for the big decisions as much as the actual events/purchases/trips themselves. So, yes, planning to find a way to travel in an RV next year will be just as much fun as getting the RV. Shopping with a friend for a good deal on a Danube cruise--- and all the associated prep---- is just as much fun as taking the cruise. Driving around and looking at the condo options has already taught me that the ones for sale are usually out in the front, near the heavier traffic.

The ones I like best are in the back of most complexes, where there are views of trees and lakes. Those are not for sale right now. Thus, I would have to wait (maybe at least a year?) for the ones to come on the market that have the location/views/and price that I want.

Waiting has never hurt any decision to be made. "Shopping around" for anything and everything is a fun hobby...........and a great distraction from all the current chores. But the "shopping" motivates me to get this day-to-day work done (like loading up the car and taking DH's clothes to the Salvation Army).

Thank you, one and all!

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Old 02-23-2015, 10:58 AM   #16
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I did this cruise vacation in 2014. It was wonderful. A culture vulture's dream! I asked my travel agent to find me a Danube cruise without a single supplement, and this was it. After I booked it, a friend asked if she could come along. Best of both worlds! I highly recommend Avalon.

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Old 02-23-2015, 10:58 AM   #17
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I'm glad you started this thread.

Paperw*rk...ack ! I delegated a fair amount of it to my attorney when it was something I had no idea (brain fog) on how to proceed on estate stuff. She charged me very little but every penny was worth it.

Being an organizer by nature, I grabbed a bunch of folders and sorted the paperw*rk into them. That way it did not seem like such an overwhelming pile. Some stuff had to be dealt with immediately, some could wait.

I am glad to hear you are getting rest and eating well. Plenty of rest is critical to your health. Grief is hard w*rk. If your body feels stressed, i.e. tightness, soreness, go for a massage. The physiological reaction to grief can be tremendous.

If friends invite you to go out to eat, please do so. Eating alone at home is not great to do in these early times of loss. Have a friend come over and stay the night. Or go to their home, just as a change of scenery. If anyone asks you if they can do anything for you, tell them a big hug would help.

Your couple friends may act a bit differently over time. I sincerely hope that does not happen, but if it does, just take it in stride.

You may feel married/widowed/single at different times, in different circumstances. This is a normal psychological transition as your psyche adjusts to the loss.

Group counseling is a great idea. For myself, I went to a one-on-one grief counselor, and it helped immensely. Which method is better (group or 1:1) is purely an individual preference.

Look online for articles about grief and loss. When you read them, you will see that what you are feeling is very "normal".

Last of all...HUG
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Old 02-23-2015, 10:59 AM   #18
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Best wishes to what lies ahead of you.

(May want to try lease before you commit to buying condo, RV. )
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Old 02-23-2015, 11:03 AM   #19
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You have all been VERY helpful. You've helped me to revise what count as "big decisions" and which ones are "small."

I've always enjoyed planning for the big decisions as much as the actual events/purchases/trips themselves. So, yes, planning to find a way to travel in an RV next year will be just as much fun as getting the RV. Shopping with a friend for a good deal on a Danube cruise--- and all the associated prep---- is just as much fun as taking the cruise. Driving around and looking at the condo options has already taught me that the ones for sale are usually out in the front, near the heavier traffic.

The ones I like best are in the back of most complexes, where there are views of trees and lakes. Those are not for sale right now. Thus, I would have to wait (maybe at least a year?) for the ones to come on the market that have the location/views/and price that I want.

Waiting has never hurt any decision to be made. "Shopping around" for anything and everything is a fun hobby...........and a great distraction from all the current chores. But the "shopping" motivates me to get this day-to-day work done (like loading up the car and taking DH's clothes to the Salvation Army).

Thank you, one and all!

I think the point is these are not "normal" times for you and things might not feel "normal" for quite some time. Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend..you sound like a fun well-adjusted lady going thru a huge stressful event. Maybe focus in on one fun thing at a time, instead of several things.
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Old 02-23-2015, 11:33 AM   #20
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You have all been VERY helpful. You've helped me to revise what count as "big decisions" and which ones are "small."

I've always enjoyed planning for the big decisions as much as the actual events/purchases/trips themselves. So, yes, planning to find a way to travel in an RV next year will be just as much fun as getting the RV. Shopping with a friend for a good deal on a Danube cruise--- and all the associated prep---- is just as much fun as taking the cruise. Driving around and looking at the condo options has already taught me that the ones for sale are usually out in the front, near the heavier traffic.

The ones I like best are in the back of most complexes, where there are views of trees and lakes. Those are not for sale right now. Thus, I would have to wait (maybe at least a year?) for the ones to come on the market that have the location/views/and price that I want.

Waiting has never hurt any decision to be made. "Shopping around" for anything and everything is a fun hobby...........and a great distraction from all the current chores. But the "shopping" motivates me to get this day-to-day work done (like loading up the car and taking DH's clothes to the Salvation Army).

Thank you, one and all!

My condolences to you.

I just updated my instructions so that my spouse will have something to start with. But now that I read your post, I can see much more opportunity to actually program in specific steps.

You sound like a "busy" person, and find it hard to delay some of the stuff that can wait. But, it's good to hear you are shopping! You do need to go and enjoy life.

Someone suggested big and little decisions. So make that list, and get rid of at least one smaller decision or necessity each day. Maybe try to complete one bigger decision each week or two.

Driving the giveaways to SA or somewhere else? Make a call and they will pick it up. Avoid all the drudgery you can.
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