Widowhood Happens consists of widowed people's stories, both men and women, and interviews with professionals who deal with their problems. It's a down-to-earth easy read even the attorney's chapter. Readers are bound to find out something about widowhood that they didn't know. Perhaps it is that some people have personality conflicts with relatives, or official papers they can't find, or financial affairs with which they are unfamiliar. So many variables exist that the stories are not boring. The characters are rich and poor, outgoing and quiet homebody types, educated and not-so-educated, planners and non-planners. The purpose of the book is to nudge readers into looking into their own plans, or non-plans, and possibly coming up with ideas to make the death of a spouse not quite so difficult to handle. It is honest, and does not push any particular belief.
Barnes & Noble.com
Ruth's Husband Died While Jogging (excerpt) ______ Jacob really had it all together. A brilliant man, a psychiatrist. One would have thought that he would have stayed in his field of anesthesiology, but he didn't. He also had a law degree. An achiever, that man. "Gosh, it's getting dark earlier and earlier," Ruth said to him after she had picked him up at his office. It was November, the day before Thanksgiving, and they were about to take their daily jog around the high school track. They took care of themselves and looked lean and fit in their fashionable jogging outfits. Being in their fifties had nothing to do with it. As usual, Jacob forged ahead. Ruth was maintaining an easy gait perhaps a hundred feet behind him. She could see her breath in the chill air. She wondered why he opened his jacket. She looked away for a moment, then turned back to see him stumble. He was face down on the ground by the time she got to him. "I turned him over and knew he was dead. You hear people talk about a death rattle. I heard it." A shrill scream penetrated the darkening neighborhood. A figure vaulted the chain-link fence and ran to their aid. It was a psychologist who worked for Jacob. Others heard the scream too and in a few minutes the ambulance was there, bending down the fence to get to the victim. While the paramedic team was working on Jacob an internist from the hospital arrived and applied the cardiac shock technique. With the ambulance siren wailing he was rushed off to the hospital. Ruth drove behind the ambulance. The whole scene seemed unreal. She stood, and occasionally paced, for forty minutes or so outside the operating room, until the surgeon came out and confirmed the bad news. "He won't respond. He won't come back. He's had massive brain damage. There's nothing we can do." Ruth had a sinking feeling as she imagined what he felt when he was stricken. She kept thinking, "He fell over just like a tree. Somebody please tell me it's not true!" The plans for Thanksgiving in Los Angeles with the family — dashed, trampled on, snuffed out — just like Jacob. So Thanksgiving was spent in Idaho, the strangest holiday the family had ever experienced. "I think you do one thing after another because your intellect tells you to do certain things and you know you have to do them. Of course, an autopsy had to be done because he was not under a doctor's care during his last forty-eight hours, and it was a state law that it had to be done. "I really didn't know what to do. We cremated him. It's against the Jewish faith to be cremated. I'm not fundamentalistic about these things. I'm not Orthodox and my feelings aren't that strong, but I can't hold with him being shoveled into the ground. To me it's repulsive. I want it clean." Different emotions filled Ruth's body, but the predominate one was rage. "I couldn't sleep. I must have cleaned the house five times. I was too angry to cry. How the hell can he do this to me?" She was angry with her husband. "He just quit on me. Everything was looking great. We had a hundred years in front of us. But, bullshit, you don't have a hundred years in front of you." He had just started his new career as a psychiatrist. "We had moved to a brand new community in Idaho and he had a stable of abut nine psychologists. He really had it made. I was running the office, so it's not that I didn't know how to work. The whole thing was just shot. "I think you're beyond reasoning after your husband dies. I don't think you're rational at all. This is around you and you can't ...you want to get out of it. You say, 'Oh, if I could just go and jump off a cliff. Just do not leave me alone. I want to be destroyed too.' But you don't do it." The thing that keeps one from doing something as drastic as suicide is responsibility. "I've got five children," Ruth said. "If I didn't, I think it would have been easy to stand in front of a truck and say, 'Come and get me. Cart me away.' You're so conditioned for so many years to accept responsibility." There were only three Jewish families in the town where she lived, and no rabbi. "The man from Boise came in for the service. I don't know who was there and who wasn't. I have no idea." Ruth's brother-in-law said to make sure they had plenty of food in the house because after the service people would come over. Ruth enunciated every syllable when she said, "Let me tell you something: not a single, solitary soul came — not one! The psychologists who worked with Jacob did not come. Not only that, they never, ever came, and they did not call. Now they're trained to be a support system, right? Nothing. They all fell on their faces. They knew me because I was in the office twice a day, but they didn't even bring me the mail." Two years after Jacob's death she was still feeling the bitterness and anger she felt when she went to clean out Jacob's office. Some of Ruth's friends said, "I never wrote to you, I never called you because I can't handle it." "O.K., that's fine. I can accept that," was her response. "But for a psychologist not to be able to handle it, that is bad." There was one psychologist friend who lives in Iowa who called Ruth every day to make sure she was all right. She was glad that she could talk to somebody. "I was climbing the walls. I screamed a lot when I was by myself, but I didn't cry. There's that utter frustration inside you. You have to let it out. There's nobody home, so who cares if you scream? If you don't scream, you might literally explode." The funeral was over, the relatives had left and Ruth was alone. "What the hell am I going to do?" She looked around the house and realized how much everything reminded her of Jacob — his sports equipment, books, his favorite chair, and that closet full of his clothes. She quickly looked away from the jogging outfits. "Living with Jacob was never dull. We made so many, many changes in our lives. I went to all the conventions with him. We lived in Ohio, New England, Texas, Idaho, Iowa, New York, Arizona and New Zealand. We lived and studied in Switzerland and Holland and traveled all over the world. Sometimes we went separately and sometimes together. There was always something going on. I wasn't that dependent. When the kids were young I'd put them all in the station wagon and we'd go skiing. Jacob didn't ski, so he didn't go." She thought of their plans for the future. "We were going to get our own plane so we wouldn't have to share time. And I wanted a house again; I didn't want to live in an apartment. The money was coming in so we weren't very concerned about it. Jacob loved to spend money on his family; he loved to give gifts to his wife and children." Still seething with anger because of the way Jacob's associates had ignored her in her time of crisis, she confronted one of them one day. "Why didn't you come to see me or call after Jacob died? I needed your support." Her cool gray eyes had made contact with his. He was obviously uncomfortable. "You should have come to my house," he said. "What?" she shot back. "You're telling me I should come visit you, and you live five minutes down the road from me? No way." "Well, I have a family." "I know you have a family." "You're not going to be like my mother?" "What are you talking about?" "My mother talks to my late father." Ruth gave up. She said he was so worried about his mother that he could not relate to her.
Excerpt from the final chapter:
I found that planning for widowhood means realizing that you won't be half a couple forever. It means making sure there won't be financial hardships. It means having interests of your own and having friends. They should be your own as well as friends in common. Relationships with couples will not necessarily be the same.
Faith is fine, but sensible planning is also a comfort. If you prepare for the death of your spouse I believe a realistic expectation is that you will have an emotional jolt, grief will probably be overwhelming and friends will offer support. You won't have extreme money worries and some parts of your life will go on much as before, but this is a new phase. It can offer opportunities, new freedom. It does not discount the life you had with your spouse, but that is now over. Life has drastically changed. Instead of being part of a couple, you are suddenly single. The interdependence you developed has evaporated.
Take advantage of your new status. People who have gotten over the anger, bitterness and sorrow often surprise
themselves by the things they are able to do things that they had never thought about doing.