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Second Chances

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SPECIAL FROM BetterAfter50

How timely: It's my 4th anniversary this week and I have been given the big second chance...

Four years ago, Bill and I were married outdoors at our new home on Martha's Vineyard. The skies cleared from the deluge of rain that poured from the heart of Hurricane Hannah just long enough for us to say our vows and file into the big tent in our backyard. Not more than one hour post-ceremony the rains returned, hammering against the tent as Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish jazzed us around the dance floor in a whirlwind of mud and Chardonnay. We were over the top happy and our good-natured guests tossed their shoes to the side and slid around with us in our mud-fest of love.

No one dared complain. Friends and family had had their fill of shock and misery just three years prior when we lost a man who was knitted into this community of mud dancers -- he was my husband of 21 years, my boys' dad, my darling in-laws' son, my nephews' uncle, a brother and brother-in-law and a best friend. He meant something to all in attendance. We weren't totally done with our mourning, we never would be, but that day we were all ready to celebrate. Bill had captured us all with his smile, his laugh, his sincerity, his love, his steadiness and his generosity. And now we were celebrating a new beginning with a man who was welcomed in with a communal hug and had fast become a friend to all. Talk about a second chance!

So maybe I was lucky! My eldest sister always said I was, but I never could see it. I just say "yes" a lot and try to move obstacles away when they block my path -- but some things just can't be avoided.

Widowhood is just plain bad luck. It's a showstopper. Curtain down, game over. Dreams cauterized. Gone, dead, over -- that's the deal. You can't lose someone you love and rationalize it. When the shock subsides, memories flood in and fill the gaps and spaces, but the loss of a partner feels like an impossible pit out of which you can't climb. Or so you think.

My friend Jackie (always the wise one) reassured me, "even though you feel the world has stopped, the river is still flowing. You decide when you are ready to jump in cuz it's never gonna stop. You decide."

And you see it, you see that river flowing but you are in the dark pit and you can't get a foothold out -- and then miraculously -- there's a light that appears, and if you are ready, you move toward it. And that's the second chance. That's the magic of life.

I do know that losing a husband at the age of 47 presents a different scenario from one such as my mom's loss of her husband at age 77. Second chances feel more possible at a younger age, if in fact one is looking to find another partner.

I have learned a great deal over these past few years. I would have liked to have been able to embrace some of these beliefs from the get-go but I wasn't ready. Now I get it. I hope this helps those who have lost a partner and are finding their way toward the light.
  1. Time heals.
  2. You have to have faith that things will get better.
  3. Say "yes," a lot.
  4. Love yourself and it could become contagious.
  5. Become disciplined about your tears -- once they have exhausted you -- take charge of them and give them their private space and time.
  6. Fresh air is the best medicine to clear your head.
  7. Give, volunteer, work at something that helps someone else. (I became a teacher.)
  8. Buy yourself gifts -- don't wait for someone else to get them for you.
  9. Create a morning routine: wake up and walk or run with a friend, first thing (before work).
  10. Find a creative outlet: paint, write, knit, cook.
And most important of all, THANK YOUR FRIENDS. My friends got me through the hardest and darkest of times. Our journey together brought them closer to me and closer to each other.

 
Read more from Better After 50:
Five Steps to Healing a Marriage After An Affair
Squash What Bugs You
Does Downsizing Mean Loss?
What's The Worst That Can Happen?