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I know I’ll be a widow

How should I prepare? Our elder has some advice for a letter writer contemplating life on her own.

Dear EWC

My husband has been drinking a six-pack + of beer a day for years. He’s functional and not a typical alcoholic. I used to try to talk with him about it but have realized with help from AA that it’s not up to me and have since accepted what I cannot change. However I can see where it’s headed and need advice on how to prepare myself. His grandfather, father and uncles didn’t live past 68. He’s 63, I’m 65. Women in my family often live to 100. I know I’ll be a widow. What can I do now to prepare myself for the journey beyond? I’ve no interest in remarriage. He’s been very good at managing our finances so I’m not worried about money. Just learning to be responsible when consumed with grief…

Good-Listener replies

You ask an important question, that there may not be an answer to… or that is as individual as the person asking. Normally, when people contemplate their older years, the focus goes on finances, children, property, final arrangements, etc. and all the other things that are usually discussed with family and doctors. However, it seems as if you’ve had all of those discussions. If not, I highly suggest you do, as that would make the most practical sense and be less worrisome when/if something comes to pass (we’re all going to go at some point, so all of those discussions are important).

But, if I “hear” you correctly, you’re talking about the emotional side. If those conversations and arrangements are in order, your emotions may be easier to handle since there will be less “stuff” (decisions, negative surprises, fears, etc.) to add to the grief. Additional items to think about may be your living situation —do you want to move or remain where you are? Thinking about interests and activities you may want to pursue in the future, could help. Are there any causes you might want to volunteer for? My feeling is that when you can do for others you’re really doing for yourself as well, and it could be a way to deflect and distract yourself in a healthy way. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel sad and mourn; it’s just a way of helping to get through some tough times. If you think you may need therapy, then investigate the process of grief and whether or not you might find it helpful to seek out a counselor. These days, 65-70 is relatively young, and if you’re healthy, there is lots to get involved in and time to do it.

When my mother died 25 years ago, I thought my dad would go within weeks or months. But, fortunately, the arrangements (finances, etc.) were very much in order (they were both good about that) and Dad didn’t have to worry. He ended up living 19 more years — much of that working, traveling, and having a social life, until the last several years when dementia took over and he became gradually disabled. He transferred his grief into having very meaningful later years, as he could focus on things he wanted and was interested in.

Again, your situation is as individual as you are. If your health is good, and your living situation is stable, then think about things you might want to do, and giving to others as well. I hope this is a long way off, and that our husband surprises you with a much longer life. Good luck.

Letter #: 457598
Category: Marriage

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