In the past two years my brother-in-law and brother both died. It has been interesting to see how my sister-in-laws have responded to the death of their spouses. Of course it has been difficult and very sad for all of us, but looking at it from a family systems perspective I have noticed a major shift in family dynamics. Not so much for me as for the widows. Comments such as, "I am feeling lonely, sad, frustrated and angry" are often expressed to family and friends by these widows. Underlying these feelings I believe is a more fundamental issue, and that is "feelings of powerlessness." The power of two is now down to one. This power shift often causes frustration, anger and tension when friends, family and especially adult children are unable or unwilling to fill in the gaps left when one's partner dies.
If you or a family member are one of the thousands of people who were widowed last year and are having these feelings, you are not alone. No one likes feeling powerless or less connected. Let's look at what is going on. With the death of a spouse or partner you naturally lose the power of your status as a couple. This is a paradigm shift that requires you to give up the life you planned in order to embrace the life that awaits you.
In order to make change you will have to explore new outlets and claim the power of "one." This is easier for some than others as those connected to high voltage people may feel they have dropped totally off the familiar power grid, but for most it is a temporary set back. You may not have noticed the shift in power the first few month or the first year as life is busy with tasks related to loss, but with time the loss of wattage is noted with complaints such as:
- "Since my husband died I feel that my adult children have been ignoring me."
- "Since my husband died my children are not inviting me to movies or on trips."
- "I don't think I am just imaging thing.s but I feel like I have become less of a presence in the family since Walter died."
- "I sometimes feel like my opinion no longer counts."
Do you identify with these comments? If so, it may be time to make some major power shifts of your own. The first thing to do is to understand the basis of power for as we all know knowledge is power. Basically, there are three sources of power: (1) Referent Power, (2) Power the Position and (3) Personal Power.
Referent Power -- That is the power you get from connecting with powerful people. A friend who was married to the president of a Fortune 500 company held a revered place in the community prior to her husband's death.
Power of Position -- This power relates to the work place or volunteer setting and your job title.
Personal Power -- This is who you are as a person; how you relate to others and how they relate to you. This is the real you! This is your God-given power. Strangely, after a loss, this may be your weakest current on the grid and the one that needs to be amped up the most.
Stop and think how you connect with these three powers. Select some ideas that might power you up. I have come up with a few but I am sure there are many others that will spark your interest.
Suggestions for Amplifying your Power:
Referent Power (enlarge your community)
- Give a dinner party.
- Invite people for coffee.
- Go to book signings.
- Make an effort to connect with people you admire.
- Connect with people on Facebook or Linked-in.
- Get in touch with powerful friends from the past.
Power of the position
- Volunteer at your local hospital.
- Look for other volunteer activities.
- Join a non-profit board.
- Consider changing jobs.
- Go back to school and train for a new position.
- Express Gratitude.
- Learn to laugh again; see a funny movie.
- Become less critical of yourself and others.
- Make an effort to be pleasant.
- Hug yourself often.
- Ask others for hugs.
- Write a book.
- Write a blog.
- Blog on other's sites.
- Pay attention to your personal appearance (no sweat pants).
- Sign up for a dating service.
- Take up a sport.
- Join a book club.
- Take a daily walk.
Look at the power areas above and take actions that will build on your network and amp your power. You will be surprised how small changes can increase wattage and lighten life's pathways.