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Is your Mum a widow? Is she happy again now?

(56 Posts)
littlecabbage Thu 19-Jan-17 21:01:32

Hi Everyone,

I am looking for some hope.... My lovely Dad died on 18th December 2016 at the age of 73. At the beginning of October, he was fit and well, went to the gym three times a week, volunteered at Citizens Advice Bureau twice a week, and did lots of DIY and gardening. Towards the end of October, he developed quite bad back pain and enlarged lymph nodes in his neck, and began to deteriorate quickly. A lymph node biopsy showed he had a highly aggressive, undifferentiated carcinoma (cancer) and that the prognosis was poor. He opted to start chemo, knowing that there was only about a 1 in 20 chance of it working, and if it did work, would only give him 6-12 months in remission. But unfortunately he died the day after starting chemo.

Needless to say, we are devastated. My parents were married for 43 years and thought they probably had at least ten years left together (my Mum is 70). To have it snatched away with so little time to prepare, has been particularly tough. I am grateful though that we at least had some warning, and were able to tell him how much we loved him.

I am 37, with a husband and three small children, and live an hour away from my parents' house. My older sister is single (with a very busy job) and lives an hour away from Mum in a different direction, and my younger brother lives in Australia. He has been staying with Mum since he flew home about 2 weeks before Dad died, but returned to Australia on Tuesday. So Mum is now living alone for the first time in her life. My sister and I between us are managing to visit 4 times a week, and Mum drives up to spend every Wednesday with me (she has done this ever since I had children and has just resumed doing so).

If I Google questions like "Can you be happy again after being widowed", all I find is bleakness. There are endless forums for bereaved people who are saying that even after 5 years, they are incredibly lonely and sad. I am hoping that this is because bereaved people who still feel lonely are much more likely to visit and post on such sites, and that there are many widows who do reach a point eventually where they are reasonably happy and content again (and don't think to post their more positive experiences on a bereavement site). Obviously still with a sadness for the person they have lost, as they can never be replaced, but able to feel as though their lives are still positive and full overall. Is this possible? I can't bear the thought of my Mum just "existing" until her time comes. I want her to be able to enjoy life again.

I have chosen to post this here, rather than in the bereavement thread, as I would like to hear from any people whose Mum's are widowed, not just those who are very recently bereaved, as I hope to hear that after some time has passed, it is possible to find some contentment and even joy. Please feel free to post all experiences, good or bad. Any advice for me to pass onto my Mum from those who have been through it themselves or watched/helped their Mum through it, will be gratefully received.

My Mum has always kept busy since retirement. She is in a couple of craft groups, a book group, and two choirs. She has a dog that gets her out walking. She enjoys spending time with her three grandchildren. But that still leaves a lot of time on her own in the house, and she finds evenings particularly sad and empty. She has started going back to some of her groups this week and appears on the surface to be coping reasonably well generally, but admits that when she thinks about it, she has little hope for the future without my Dad.

Thank you so much for reading this long post, and for any replies you can offer xx

hidingwithwine Thu 19-Jan-17 21:06:58

My mum was widowed in August 2015 after 45 years of marriage at the age of 67. She won't

hidingwithwine Thu 19-Jan-17 21:09:10

Bloody phone. Won't ever have another man in her life but she's slowly craving out a life with friends in a similar situation, her grandchildren (my dcs), visiting her cousins all over the country. She's still at the very start of this journey as it's all very raw and they'd been together since she was 16. I know to me it still feels like it all happened yesterday.

RudyMentary Thu 19-Jan-17 21:09:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WhatHaveIFound Thu 19-Jan-17 21:16:51

My MIL was widowed 10 years ago (married nearly 50 years) and she seems very content. I don't doubt for a minute that she still misses him but life has gone on.

She's done a lot of things that she wouldn't have done if FIL was still alive as they tended just to stick together. Since he died she's joined lots of groups, increased her circle of friends and travelled with us and her other children.

Is there a U3A close to your mum? My MIL has found that good for evening events such as cinema/theatre trips and educational talks.

ThornyBird Thu 19-Jan-17 21:20:33

My Dad died almost 4 years ago aged 69. My parents married in 1965 and had planned a long, happy retirement together. Then Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died less than 2 years later.

Mum is content now. She has moments of happiness but mostly she is lonely, misses him and wonders what the point is in taking photos etc as who will she share them with? She has a dnr in place and will not allow her GP to refer her if they suspect any serious illness

We live 6hours from her, my brother is closer but still 2 hours drive. Mum has a great support network of friends locally having lived and worked in the same area for over 50 years! She and Dad always had separate interests/groups/hobbies so she didn't have to face things alone.

She misses going out for evening meals - most people invite her for lunch - and some 'couple' friends have stopped involving her. She doesn't like 'big' do's like weddings as she feels more alone.

She holidays with various people - another widow, my Dad's best friend hmm and a couple who were friends from college, as well us us and my brother's family. She goes on jollys with various groups and goes to the cinema most weeks with friends.

Her life is very full but I think at the end of the day, she is coming home to an empty house with no one to talk to and that is when the loneliness comes in.

I am sorry both for your loss and for possibly not giving you the answer you hoped for.

1DAD2KIDS Thu 19-Jan-17 21:20:35

My mum widowed at 52. Still will not look at another man and I have no doubt will never. She loved my dad more than anything and nothing else compares. But she is happy and we are a close family.

ThornyBird Thu 19-Jan-17 21:22:36

Oh yes, my Mum is not interested in another man, she reckons at her age they only want a nursemaid and she's done that and won't do it again!

BikeRunSki Thu 19-Jan-17 21:26:08

DM was widowed at 50.
She got together with her next partner at 59.
They split up last month. She is 74.

SpongeBobJudgeyPants Thu 19-Jan-17 21:26:59

My Mum is a similar age to yours, and my Dad died in similar circumstances, but nearly 20 years ago, aged 60. Mum fairly quickly started Lonely Hearts Column dating (fore-runner to OLD) and met her current DP. She won't marry him...likes her own space, and is very happy indeed.

Chimchar Thu 19-Jan-17 21:27:44

I'm really sorry about your Dad. sad

My mum died 7 years ago and left my dad a widower. They had been married for over 40 years. My mum was 64 when she died and my dad was 65.

The early days were very hard, but my kids were young, and they kept us all going. My dad found himself a new routine, and plodded along.

As time passed, he joined a walking group. He kept in touch with old friends and would come to our house fairly often for tea, or out on the weekend with us. He was happy enough.

A year or so later, he became friendly with a single neighbour. They spent a lot of time going for coffee etc and eventually they became romantically involved. They had four years together and I had never seen him so happy.

Very sadly, Their story didn't have a 'happily ever after'. His lovely partner died last year after an illness. sad

But again he is plodding along. He is happy. He misses someone to go on holiday with, but he makes sure he gets out and about every day and chats with people. We laugh. We talk about my mum, and his partner.

It's all so very raw for you at the moment. I know that some people fall apart, and don't ever really move forward, but I think certainly for my dad, losing my mum was a wake up call that life is for living. He takes opportunities now that he might not have before.

Be kind to yourself, and take things day by day. Try not to look too far ahead. The loss of your dad will become a little easier for you all in time. X

cherrycrumblecustard Thu 19-Jan-17 21:31:18

I think statistically widowed women cope better and are happier than men who lose their wives

LostSight Thu 19-Jan-17 21:32:41

Not my Mum, but my grandmother had a group of friends she had a fantastic time with. They used to go out together and do outrageous things. Apparently, because they all looked like sweet old lades, nobody would ever tell them off. I spoke to one of her friends quite extensively after my grandmother died and she was a hoot. It really changed my views of how being widowed could be.

cashmerecardigans Thu 19-Jan-17 21:33:23

My dad died just after my parents 50th wedding anniversary, 6 years ago. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster as at first my Mum felt she'd got her life back a bit (Dad had Alzheimer's), but she then went into a really difficult period for about 3 years where it was really tough for her. She is really well and active but misses him a lot and often rings me to talk about things that she would have talked to him about.
It's one of those things that makes me very sad really, she's come to terms with it but I know she gets lonely and misses having him at home when she has been out. We're moving closer soon and I'll feel better being able to pop in more often.
The lovely thing is that they had such a very happy marriage, so her memories are strong and joyful.

MerylPeril Thu 19-Jan-17 21:38:32

I think living alone is hard when you aren't used to it - and she may never.

I do think we haven't as a society come up to a solution to that. In the past people rarely lived on their own and it was more common for older women in particular to live together. It's the downside of more money and houses.

MyBreadIsEggy Thu 19-Jan-17 21:38:48

Sorry to hear about your Dad Op flowers
My Nan was widowed in November 2011 after 56 years of marriage.
She's happy. She misses him terribly but she doesn't wallow in misery IYSWIM?
She's kept all my grandad's things and she has a photograph of him above "his" chair in the living room. She sits in "his" chair in the evening and tells him all about her day which I think is lovely.
They travelled a lot when my grandad was alive, but he really struggled in the heat, so they never went to a few places my Nan wanted to go....so she has gone on some incredible holidays with her friend (who also lost her husband) over the last few years - Morocco, India, Vietnam to name a few.
She's a very "glass half full" person, and knows that my grandad wouldn't want to see her miserable, so she tries to make the most of everything smile

traviata Thu 19-Jan-17 21:41:37

I'm so sorry about your DF.

My aunt is nearly 80 and has been widowed for 15 years. She and her DH were just about to start their retirement together when he died suddenly.
She now has a full and satisfying life, she is generally happy or content, and mostly what she enjoys are cultural trips (theatre etc), gardening and golf.

The only thing she has found is that it has been difficult to have relaxed conversations with couples when she is with other people but on her own - the wives seem to get all territorial - and weekends can be lonely because it seems that friends can only go out on week nights and weekends are for partners.

RachB78 Thu 19-Jan-17 21:42:17

So sorry for your loss littlecabbage, you sound like a great daughter. My dad died 13 years ago, my parents had been married for 30 years and together for a long time before that. It was sudden (heart attack), my mum had a chance to say goodbye in hospital but he died after a couple of hours before my sister and I got there.

It was obviously really hard for my mum, she'd never lived on her own or had another boyfriend (she'd been with my dad since she left school). But after a while she decided she didn't want to be single forever so she joined the SAGA dating site (I was shocked!) and met a lovely guy who she's been in a relationship with ever since. He's a widower and has proposed but she isn't interested in marriage. She's moved house to live just around the corner from him, and they go on holiday together and see each other every day. They each value their own space but love each other dearly.

She's extremely happy now, with both her independence and her best friend/soul mate living just around the corner. Good luck to you and your mum.

PutDownThatLaptop Thu 19-Jan-17 21:44:03

My mother was widowed 2 years ago. She only ever had one boyfriend, my dad, who she married in the sixties.
She would never have another man. I feel that she has changed personality, she is more cold, more critical, harder to please. We do a lot for her and with her and she has friends and a church, but her health took a huge downturn when he died. So no positive story from me, I'm sorry.

FinnegansCake Thu 19-Jan-17 21:47:22

My mother was widowed 5 years ago, and regularly tells me not to worry about her as she is "not exactly happy, but content" - her words. My parents were married for 59 years, and my mother had also never lived alone prior to my father's death.

She tells me that she accepts that one of them was going to be left alone one day and that she is glad it was her, as my DF would have struggled more on his own. She has surprised me with her strength, because for the last twenty years she regularly told me she would never be able to cope on her own. She refuses to join any groups whatsoever, despite my efforts, but says she enjoys her own company. She is actually calmer and more placid than she has ever been.

As your DM has an active social life I am sure she will be fine, OP. She will obviously always miss your father, and there will be many times when she will feel lonely, but it won't stop her from finding contentment in her family and her activities, so try not to worry too much. Just listen if she wants to talk about her feelings.

I'm very sorry about your father, OP, it must have been a dreadful shock. I hope you are coping alright flowers

C3l3brity2017 Thu 19-Jan-17 21:56:02

Sorry for the loss of your father

It sounds like your mum still has good health and this should be celebrated and she should try to make the most of her life while she still has good health eg travel, spend quality time with family and friends

If your mum has friends, family, pets, holidays and attends groups on top of her good health then she has alot of positive things going for her (some people do not have this)

I know some people that have met another partner in their later years and have married again and been happy. However this does not suit everyone

The grieving process is different for everyone

littlecabbage Thu 19-Jan-17 22:21:45

Wow, I am actually overwhelmed by how many of you have replied, and although there is a mixture of stories, I feel more hopeful than before. I am sorry for all of you who have lost a parent. Tough, isn't it? It's a club I never wanted to join, and did not expect to join for quite a while.

Thank you for all the supportive messages - some of them have made me tearful all over again, but in a good way.

I think it's unlikely that Mum will ever seek a new partner, although I would be supportive if she did, as I'm not the one who has to live by myself. She is already a member of a local U3A patchwork group and I've looked up other available groups after reading your posts. There aren't any evening/theatre/cinema groups, only daytime things, but some of the walking groups could be a good option for her.

I forgot to mention that she has signed up for bereavement counselling at a local hospice. Once the one-to-one sessions are over, she can join a support group of other bereaved people. One of my Dad's ex-colleagues was at his funeral, and was widowed 9 years ago. She joined a similar support group back then, and says they are her best friends now, and she socialises with them a lot. So I hope that may be an option for Mum to have evenings out, especially at weekends (I agree that it seems that is when other people tend to socialise with their partners).

It sounds as though for some widows at least, life can be good again, albeit in a different way to before. I will encourage my Mum to try to live life to the full, and hope that she does find happiness. Thanks to all of you for posting, and further stories are very welcome. I like to think that people googling "Can you be happy after being widowed" in future, will come across this thread and feel as though there is hope xx

Enjoyingtheattention Thu 19-Jan-17 22:48:24

I lost my mum when she was 69 after a short illness. Dad had just turned 70. Bless him, he made a decision early on never to turn down any invites to dinner, lunch, coffee etc which we all as his children supported. He met a lovely lady 3 yrs later and they remain 'partners'. Both have their own homes but enjoy each other''s company, share similar hobbies and are very much a couple.
I'm so pleased he has found her, he is immensely happy and at 80 lives a very active life (with a better social life than me wink!!!

LapsedPacifist Thu 19-Jan-17 23:46:53

I'm so sorry for your loss littlecabbage. flowers. It's far too soon for you to be worrying about your mum's long-term happiness and future marital prospects though, you are just going to have to help her to get through the next few months.

I lost my DM 4 months ago - we lived with her and I was her carer. She was very elderly and had mild dementia, but it was still very unexpected and a terrible shock. She lived by herself for 17 years after DF died, until we moved in with her. She was a very reclusive and private person and didn't seem to be worried about being, as she put it: 'Perfectly happy to be a hermit', but she still made the effort to go to social activities such as Townswomen's Guild until she passed away at 87.

However:
I'm a heritage worker in one world-class museum and volunteer in another, neither of which could open their doors without their fantastic armies of over 400 volunteers - most are retired and many are widows and widowers. I cannot stress the importance of volunteer work for elderly and/or isolated people. The friendship and practical and emotional support our volunteers give each other (and my working colleagues) is phenomenal, inspirational and ultimately very reassuring. There IS such a thing as 'Society'. I work with fascinating and talented people who would otherwise feel sidelined and invisible because they have lost their life partners and are no longer in paid employment. I've developed a far more philosophical and positive attitude towards the ageing process as a result. Getting out of the house, engaging with colleagues and/or working in a public facing role are enormously helpful for one's happiness, self esteem and confidence.

Life doesn't end until you're dead. Our oldest volunteer celebrated her 100th birthday recently - she still drives and does regular 3 hours shifts talking to tourists about the history of 18th Century Bath. We have other volunteers who have moved country and learned new languages in their 70s. And they still go on dates, and start new relationships - we get to hear all the goss!

Somerville Thu 19-Jan-17 23:55:17

It's a day at a time at this early stage for your mum.

You sound so lovely to be thinking about all this.

I was widowed in 2014, far too young and with dependant children, so rather a different situation. I recently remarried. It doesn't mean I'm not sad any more but it is possible to be happy and sad all at the same time.

Oh - remember to make your mum feel very welcome over Christmas every year as your father dying so close to that might make it especially hard. Having grandchildren around to cuddle then might help her.

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