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The Mister and His Wife

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

A sweet, older gentleman sat across the quiet room from me. I’ve seen men like him before, rounded shoulders, stubble of whiskers on the chin with a downcast blank stare. For me, this is a familiar experience; for him, this is uncharted territory. The love of his life is no longer. He is at a loss, feeling scared, numb and alone.

Being alone can be a frightening. There is a certain amount of dependency on another person when we are in a relationship. There are tasks that we don’t think about, because the other person performs them. Death changes that. Think of the wife who doesn’t know how to get the lawn mower started because her husband always mowed the grass. Think of the husband who is now faced with trying to navigate online bill pay and he doesn’t know the passwords his wife used. Being alone can be terrifying and exhausting. The responsibilities that were once divided among two are now the burden of one. This burden can be daunting and overwhelm can set in fast.

There are practical ways to defeat overwhelm. One helpful way requires the use of paper and pen. On one sheet of paper list all the jobs, tasks and responsibilities that you take care of. Include everything from the smallest to the greatest and everything in between. Next, list on a separate piece of paper all of the things your spouse/partner did. Remember the daily things as well as larger projects. Keep your lists handy because you will likely continue to add on as things arise. Second, take the second list and thank your loved one for contributing to the relationship in such a significant way. Third, divide the second list into thirds. Put a star next to the items you know you can do and complete on your own. Put a question mark next to the items you are willing and able to tackle with some learning. The remaining items are tasks you will need assistance with. Beside those items list a few names of people you could ask to assist you. Remember those people who said, “If you need anything just call me.”? Some of those people actually meant it and would love your call.

The key to using the lists to defeat overwhelm is to look at it as a plan. The plan is to take one item at a time, either work on it and learn it or let someone else do it for you. Remember, those tasks didn’t get done all in one day when your spouse/partner did them, but each day some one or two things were completed. You may need to prioritize the tasks from most important to least important or weekly, monthly yearly jobs. When you begin to feel discouraged, read through the first list and give yourself credit for all you brought to the relationship. Then look at the second list and congratulate yourself for all you have learned to do and have accomplished. Asking for help is not easy, be proud of yourself for asking for assistance. Lastly, give yourself grace. Living with grief and learning to live alone is hard work. Give yourself permission to feel angry, scared, intimidated and hopeful. Grief in life is a process but you will become resilient.

The gentleman from across the room slowly turned his gaze to meet mine. He was in the middle of a memory; I saw it in his soul, I felt it in the room. “You know, we were married for 78 years?”

"That is a long time. How did you meet your wife?” He shared with me the touching story of how he met the love of his life, his bride.

A soft sigh ended his recollection, he looked at me, with tears overflowing his eyes. He whispered, “Darn it”. He was a gentle man who cherished his bride of 78 years. He knew this day would come. Now, the mister must face his tomorrows, alone.


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