Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

We Welcome Elaine Williams this morning, who is here to discuss her recently published book.

Why did you write A Journey Well Take: Life After Loss?

I wrote it initially for myself, but then realized that other women needed to read it. It's not just my experience but it's something many will go through. I wanted others to realize that even though their grief is unique, there are untold similarities in the universal process. None of us are alone. Once you suffer such a loss, your life changes. Not only in the obvious ways, but also emotionally and sometimes financially.

You were a caretaker for your husband during his illness?

Yes, with the esophagus cancer he couldn't eat and he was on heavy narcotics for pain control. Even though I wrote down everything, in the early days I was terrified of giving him an overdose. Once we signed up with hospice, they worked on his pain protocol constantly. I had always thought of hospice for end-of-life situations, but my sister-in-law, a nurse, told me pain control was their forte. Unfortunately, most regular doctors don’t know too much about long-term pain control.

You stated in A Journey Well Taken; Life After Loss, you were devastated by the loss of your husband of twenty years. Are you still feeling that devastation, four years later?

Some days it's still there, but not the total well of emptiness I carried for almost three years. I am cognizant of what my children and I have lost, what our lives could have been, but I’m no longer drained by the loss. My life is taking different directions. I have learned to love my life.

Do your kids talk about their dad?

Yes, we all do. My youngest boys are still home and we reminisce at times about funny incidences or remembrances involving their dad. My oldest, because he moved away, didn't have as much interaction in this manner, but I feel this really helped us, not being afraid to remember.

Do you think people in general understand the grief process?

Not entirely. Many times people think a year is the cut-off for grieving and you should be feeling better. A year is nothing in the grieving process. Some days you think you’re okay, then one day you’re driving along and you start crying. In grief, emotions seesaw without rhyme or reason. There is no right way to do it, and it’s in each individual’s time. You can’t hurry the process, but you can know that life does heal and become joyful again. If you allow life to come back to you, you will be blessed in unexpected and joyous ways.

Elaine, we appreciate your honest responses to some difficult questions. Now, Readers, please click on "Comments" below - ask your questions and share your own experiences with others.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad died when I was 10 and our family hardly ever discussed it. Do you think talking about what happened as well as about the parent who died is helpful to kids?

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband died 4 months ago and I can't imagine ever feeling o.k. again. How do I begin to recover from this terrible loss?

Fran Geller

8:41 AM  
Blogger Elaine Williams said...

Hi: I'm sorry you lost your dad.

My youngest son was 10 when his father got sick, 11 when his father passed away. During that time, we talked to the kids constantly, letting them know what was happening with his treatment, what we were trying to accomplish day-to-day. We encouraged them to ask questions, and although they hardly ever asked questions, the door was open.

We gave them information, as hard as it was at times, and when my husband was first diagnosed, he gathered our kids and told them what the diagnosis was and that it was probably terminal.

Families tend to handle illness in the best manner they are capable at the time it happens. For our family, this was the best we could do at the time. I didn't know if it was the best way or not, I just went with my gut feeling. Now, at four years, my kids seem to be on their own healing journey.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When my friend lost her husband, she began dating a few years later. My husband died three years ago and I can't imagine being with someone else. What do you think about dating again?

9:04 AM  
Blogger Elaine Williams said...

Dear Fran: I am so very sorry for your loss. I recall vividly how I felt at four months after my husband's death. I recall the emptiness, a pervading numbness. I was afraid, thinking, what if this is all there is? What is I never feel joy again. Will I ever get past this numbness.

What I learned is that each day you do the best you can. Even if it's only doing the most necessary tasks at first, then don't beat yourself up over getting nothing accomplished. Let time heal you, and it does heal slowly sometimes. Don't beat yourself up over things you could have or should have done, etc.

Please know that if you treat yourself gently, value yourself as a caring, nurturing human being who is frail in grief, eventually you will begin to feel better. You will find joy again, you will love your life again. It's a transition, many days up and many down down.

I recall at one point I was tallying up the days since I'd cried. It does get better, there is life after loss, but just let it happen. Let life in, keep yourself open to living and don't shut down in anger and bitterness.

However, having said that, there will be moments of anger that you are alone, perhaps feeling it isn't fair. But, for me the best way I found to get through those periods is face it head on. Let the anger and feelings wash over and through me, honestly look at them, acknowledge you feel that way, and let them go.

I wish you the best. Life will get better and perhaps you will find, as I did, an entire new life awaiting you. I know the life I have now may never had happened if my husband had survived. I'm a big believer that we are all where we're meant to be.

Remain open to life. It will find you again.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People think it's too painful for me to talk about my husband now that he is dead but I would rather reminisce about him and our beautiful times together than pretend he never existed. How can I let my friends know that it's OK for them to talk about him? Lily

9:08 AM  
Blogger Elaine Williams said...

Dear Anonymous RE: Your Friend Dating: I truly believe we think about dating and new relationships after losing a spouse, based on our life circumstances, previous relationships and even our current ideas about ourselves.

Some women I have spoken to say they are not interested in ever dating or getting married again. That is what is right for them. Perhaps ten years down the road they may change their mind -- or not. I know many women who are perfectly happy and content to remain single and/or without a partner relationship in their lives.

Some women, like your friend, desire a partner or someone to see socially. She may just want to date or may have marriage in mind at some point. I guess it just comes down to what is right for each of us. How are we fulfilled in our lives?

For myself, I learned early in dating (I dated too early. I wasn't ready emotionally when I began to date) that trying to fill a hole of loneliness is the wrong way to go about dating.

At 51 years of age, I have decided that I'm not wasting time dating someone if it doesn't feel right. For me, a partner should enhance the great life I have, not detract from it.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Elaine Williams said...

Dear Lily: I'm sorry for your loss.

I found that friends would sometimes avoid talking about my husband for two main reasons: they're afraid of hurting you by bringing him up or they're not sure what to say and therefore say nothing. Basically, people are sometimes afraid you'll start crying and they'll not know what to do or say.

I see nothing wrong with bringing reminisces into the conversation. I've done this myself with a little smile (usually about something my husband did, he had a great sense of humor) and quite naturally. It lets people know you're okay with talking about him. We know it's good to remember loved ones. My kids and I do this, and other times we bring people into the conversation to reminsce with us.

So, bottom line perhaps you should be the one to initiate the memory so your friends know it's okay and even beneficial for you to talk about him.

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in a fog for the first several months after my husband, Mike, died. And now I realize that feeling guilty about it only made it worse. Your advise is wise, to let time heal and don't beat yourself up. Wendy Sinclair

10:59 AM  
Blogger Elaine Williams said...

Hi Wendy: I also learned something valuable, not to sweat, or worry about the small stuff we can't control. elaine

1:21 PM  
Blogger Elaine Williams said...

Regarding dating, it's really an individual decision. I know some women who are perfectly happy being on their own, and don't plan to change that after becoming a widow. Other women prefer to have a partner in their life. For myself, I would like to find someone to enhance my wonderful life, but have also decided not to settle for just anything, just to be in a relationship.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Elaine Williams said...

Lily: I would lead by example in conversation. What I have done myself is talk about my husband, brought him into a conversation with friends, reminiscing, letting them know that it's okay to bring this up. What I found is sometimes people are afraid they'll hurt your feelings, or perhaps make you cry by bringing up a deceased partner. And there are some people may be upset, but if you let them know it's okay, they'll feel more comfortable.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Elaine Williams said...

Thank you for reading my interview. If interested in reading a widow's journey through loss, grief and renewal, you can find my book "A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss" at my website, and also available at online bookstores such as and
Thank you Rosemary and Phyllis for having me. Elaine

7:09 AM  

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