Stress finds us. We are stressed about family, our health, money,
politics and the scroll keeps unrolling. How we deal with stress
colors our days and the quality of our sleep.
Stress is defined as a feeling we experience when demands
exceed our mental resources. In other words, we feel that our
life is out of our control.
Psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe created a
Social Readjustment Rating Scale to measure the stress load we
carry. They assigned a value in so-called “life change units” to
stressful events in a person’s life. The higher the score, the
greater the stress you are experiencing (http://www.cliving.org/
What is the greatest stress of all? Death of a spouse is number
one, with a score of 100. Divorce trails (73) and in tenth spot is
There are nearly 14 million widows in the United States. After
the greatest loss in their lives they are besieged with a
multitude of urgent questions and decisions. They often feel
unprotected. Alone at night, every sound in the house takes on
an ominous tone. Perhaps the most difficult part to deal with is
the loneliness and the social demotion.
Speaking with widows (and divorcees), they tell me they feel cut off
from half of the population. “I miss having a conversation with a
man,” a widow shared with me. “Not to date, but just to have a
simple conversation,” she explained.
Life-changing events such as having a baby or getting a new job are
by choice. Becoming a widow is not. It’s thrown at you. It is a
passage from one part of your life to another. You are no longer the
person you used to be—Mrs. Jones—and unsure of who you are
about to become.
In a guide (belovedhearts.com) for the newly widowed, the first advice is to give yourself
permission to mourn. It is to acknowledge the pain and be kind to yourself as you go through a range of emotions.
A minister told me that in his work of supporting widows (widowers) he encouraged them to push through to the other side and go on with their lives.
Many of us will become widows. “One day,” a widow told me, “it will be your turn.” But as I get to know more and more widows/divorcees, it’s my observation that in time, like the return of sensation after circulation has been cut off or numbed by cold, women who find themselves alone, reengage with life. They laugh, they find joy in nature, are nurtured by friends and family, pursue interests, and travel. They go on to finish their lives in the best way they know how. They push through to the other side