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A year ago when I was at the end of my first year of widowhood and on the threshold of my second I wrote the following words: “I acknowledge, now, that the second year of widowhood is not going to be sunny stroll on other side of a tunnel door that I had imagined. It’s not going to be a tar pit, either, holding me in place. It’s going to be a step by step climb as I rebuild my life and find me again---the woman who is sometimes wise, sometimes silly but always wanting to honor what Don and I had together by striving towards being as upbeat and lacking in self-pity as he was. The first year I just came through, what was that all about? Most widows would answer ‘survival’ and I’d concur.”

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Since in my mind I had labeled the second year of widowhood ‘the rebuilding year’ it seems fitting that I should pause as I approach the second sadiversary of Don’s passing to take stock of whether or not I accomplished anything that could be classified as success in rebuilding my life. Honestly, the answer is complicated. On one hand I certainly made (and will continue to make) a valiant effort to network my way into forming new friendships and developing a new way of living without Don at my side. I joined the Red Hat Society and the historical society, I started volunteering at the museum and I went into overdrive signing up for events, classes, day trips and lectures at the senior citizen hall. Winter has slowed down that effort but my master plan is still in place waiting to resume with spring. On the other hand as I took part in all those social outings, lectures, and luncheons this past year it felt more like pleasant busy work than building blocks to a contented and happy life. Where is my niche? I always knew where to find that sweet spot before Don passed away. It got lost and I haven’t found it yet. Oh, well, as I’ve often said since becoming a widow, “Fake it until you can make it!” I know of no other way to change the status quo than to keep working towards that rebuilding goal---any goal that keeps the pity parties away.

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Most people would call it ‘major progress’ that in my second year I also didn’t avoid any social situations because I didn’t want to go alone, a first year bury-your-head-in-the-sand commonality amongst widows and I did my share of that in year one. I’ve gotten braver by design and determination. The hardest part, though, is when I have a good time, then come home to realize that I have no one to share my joy or excitement with. Boohoo, you’re saying, that’s where blogs serves a useful purpose. Dear Diary, I’m so proud of myself! I actually laughed out loud today.

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What else can I point to and claim as a second year success as a recovering widow? Somewhere along the line, last year I quite crying over songs on the radio. This was a big issue for me in the first year. I couldn’t get in the car and go anywhere without the Prime Country channel making the tears flow and I couldn’t force myself to change the channel either. I suspect I needed the purging of tears mixed with memories that the music brought to the surface so I could get back to enjoying my memories as just good memories minus the pain. Somewhere along last year, I also quit talking to Don’s ghost, a positive thing I’m sure the professionals would say but I still kind of miss feeling his presence in the house. It was oddly comforting. And another mark of a widow moving on? I finally claimed my husband’s La-Z-Boy as my own. (Although the dog still thinks it’s his property and I physically have to evict him from the chair on a daily basis. He’s a stubborn little bugger.)

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Former broadcast journalist Jane Pauley was on TV recently talking about her new book, Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life and one statement in particular jumped out to me: “You don’t have to do it right the first time.” She was talking about baby boomers redefining retirement but much of what she was saying in the interview could apply to widows struggling to reinvent our lives. She talked about how it doesn’t have to be a straight line to get to your goal. Okay, point taken, Paula. I need to stop being impatience with myself when the building blocks to my future seem to be taking their sweet ass time coming together. Experimentation is necessary and good when life changes are needed. You really don’t have to get it right the first time. How could I have forgotten that?

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It wasn't necessarily true for me but I understand, now, why so many widows say the second year is harder than the first. At the end of our first year, most of us have accepted our losses and are no longer fighting against them with denial and/or avoidance. The legal and logistical stuff is in place and we say to ourselves, “This is it, this is my life now.” That can be daunting and depressing to know the status quo can’t change unless we put a lot of effort into reinventing ourselves. We need a road map and have discovered that we’re in charge of drawing one for ourselves; no one’s going to do it for us. It’s been called the ‘second year slump’ and from what I’ve read in other widow blogs and have experienced firsthand this winter, it’s real. But when you think about that word---slump---it should give us hope. The widowhood recovery process can’t have a slump without a raising of spirits and/or emotional growth at the end. A slump is a temporary dipping from the trajectory, not a death-spiral nosedive.

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Slump or no slump, finding myself is still on my agenda but in my coming third year out from Don’s passing I hope to take the pressure off myself---that almost desperate need to make something change or happen sooner rather than later. “Seek contentment,” yup, I picked the perfect mantra for my 2014 New Year’s resolution and for my embarkment into my third year of widowhood. I want to learn to enjoy the experimentation without worrying about where it’s leading me. ©

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My other blog is here.

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Comment by Blue Snow on January 10, 2014 at 7:31pm

Thank you both for the comments!

Comment by only1sue on January 10, 2014 at 2:41am

Jean I hope to get to this point in another 9 months time too.  I want to find a new normal, a life that seems worth while and yes still think it needs to be productive too.  I am gradually making changes and following in your sensible footsteps would like to include some fun events too.

At the moment I am ready to try a few new things and if they are not for me I hope I can recognise that and move on.  Love your quote : "You don't have to do it right the first time." as that give us all leave to experiment a bit and find new areas to be explored. I guess that fits in with your "rebuilding" theme.

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