Losing a loved one is hard, and when that person was your life partner, finding new balance can be difficult. The first step is always to deal with your grief and get the help you need from loved ones or even a professional. Once the dust has settled, however, it’s time to find your new normal.
Don’t Be Alone
A suddenly empty house can be numbingly lonely, and we certainly aren’t suggesting you should replace that missing person in your life with someone new, however, you should fill your time with human interaction of one kind of another.
Reach out to friends and family to build new routines and outings. Having a friend’s lunch once per week or a standing monthly dinner with your children can help you stay sane and fight off loneliness and even dementia. Make these plans in advance and build them into your schedule so you always have something to look forward to. This will also help your loved ones plan for their time with you. Your children want to help but showing up unannounced at their house every day is only going to strain the relationship.
If you don’t have enough to fill your time with people already in your life, make new friends. The LOEL Senior Center in Lodi and the Lodi Community Center both have full schedules of programs to enrich your life. Pick up a new hobby or rediscover something you love, choosing from options such as exercise and dance, scheduled game nights, movie matinees, and bingo. Each of these activities welcome people to come alone but also interact with others, which is likely exactly what you need.
Another place to seek out new friendships is at a nonprofit. Give your time to a cause you care about. There are plenty of SJ organizations that could use your help, and this activity is also likely to increase your feelings of self-worth.
Depending on your own limitations, losing a spouse may also mean losing some of your independence. For example, if you can’t drive at night or reading is becoming difficult, it can feel overwhelming to complete daily tasks on your own. Instead of asking children to be your caretaker, utilize local programs to help you maintain a sense of independence, and to limit the burden on those closest to you. While they certainly want to help, they may not have the ability to care for you full-time.
Meals on Wheels is one way to get food delivered directly to your door, which you can sign up for through LOEL. If you’d like to have a meal with friends, visit the center Monday through Friday at 11:30 AM with an advance reservation (the cost is only $3).
If you need help getting to the grocery store, consider hiring someone to come once each week. This person is another confidant and companion you can count in your corner, but they are also being paid to complete a job, which can alleviate any guilt you may feel about relying on others.
You can also learn the local bus system. The San Joaquin Regional Transit District offers its schedule online, so anyone can make it around San Joaquin County without need for a personal vehicle.
Learning technology can also help you find independence. LOEL offers classes that teach seniors how to use new technology. And, once you know how to operate a smart phone or connect to the internet with ease, you can enjoy new avenues of connecting with others whether it’s facetiming your grandchildren or finding an online forum for a shared hobby.
Don’t Stay Home
Above all else, get out. Create a daily schedule that ensures you don’t spend listless days not quite sure what to do with yourself. Eat breakfast at the same time, set aside an hour for exercise—even if it’s just a walk—and fill your weekends with trips through group senior tours. Enjoying your life as a widow is important, and it is possible if you know what to do.