One of the worst parts of widowhood is making big decisions when you are least able to process them fully.

You’re suddenly faced with almost endless decisions about all these aspects of your life right at a time when grief makes you the least prepared to deal with it. This is particularly true if the death of your spouse was a hard death or it happened at an unexpected age.

As you know, the death of your spouse changed almost everything about your life. Your predictable world no longer exists. Your life with your spouse may not have been perfect, but you knew what to expect. After years with someone, your life takes on a day-to-day rhythm. Now that rhythm has been replaced by uncertainty.

What you are going through is very hard.

The death of a spouse is the single biggest loss anyone can experience. Men are widowed, too, and they often have great difficulty functioning after the death of their partners (many men handle this challenge by remarrying quickly). But I think widowhood is especially poignant and painful for women because we love so deeply.

We women extend ourselves, even over-extend ourselves, to care for those we love.

At first, you probably got cards and casseroles. I don’t know about you but when those casseroles and cards stopped coming after my husband died, I felt abandoned. (I sometimes still feel that way when I see a happy couple at church or out for a concert.)

I felt like no one remembered that he died, and I that made me feel really alone. In fact, I had never felt that alone ever before. The loneliness was overwhelming.

Just when I needed help the most, I found I was too depressed or too exhausted to ask for it. I was afraid that the friends and family who had been there in the beginning would be tired of helping me, or feel like I should have gotten over it by then, or that they’d be annoyed or inconvenienced so I just quietly shut down and went inside myself to sort things out.

At which point, people just assumed I was fine.

They would say, “How are you?” and I would say, “fine!”because I didn’t have the energy to tell them otherwise. Our son was 16 at the time and I used what little energy I had to take care of him. And, guess what? When I withdrew to sort things out, I disappeared. People forgot about me. I became invisible. Some days I was even invisible to myself.

Being invisible is very stressful. You feel so alone!

So, to feel connected to life again, try this little exercise:

Close your eyes. Put your hands on your belly just above your navel, just below your ribcage and feel your breath lifting your hand up and down as you inhale and exhale. Take 3 breaths this way, deep, slow breaths. Now with your eyes closed, try to see the room where you are sitting. Take 3 more slow breaths. Now in your imagination, walk outside and see the house or apartment building where you live. With your eyes still closed, look up and see a night sky. The night sky is deep blue with sparkling stars and a silver moon. Take 3 more breaths as you see all the stars just where they are supposed to be. All is right with the universe and you, dear one, are made of stardust. Take in a deep breath and remember this beautiful truth: You are a beloved daughter of the universe. As you take 3 more breaths, keeping your eyes closed, walk back through the door into the room where you are sitting.

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