If you are struggling to cope with grief after the death of a loved one, or you’re finding it difficult to move on with your life, follow these tips from Mary Essinger, author of How To Be Merry Widow: Life After Death For The Older Lady.
Coping with Loneliness
Plan at least one social event every day.
‘Unless you are dying, staying in all day is a bad idea,’ says Mary.
‘Too cold? Wear three coats, but go out.
‘Not feeling too good? Try fresh air and a walk.
‘Fight any temptation to hide away feeling sorry for yourself.’
Plan a project to occupy your thoughts and energy, suggests Mary.
‘Perhaps a re-design of the garden, or family history is absorbing and so is academic study.
‘Busy people are not lonely.’
Learn to fly solo.
‘Go to a show alone.
‘You will be sitting in a row of people, just as you would with a husband,’ says Mary.
‘Some activities are even better on your own, shopping and libraries for example.’
But if you’re invited to a party, Mary suggests bringing a friend so you feel less lost.
‘It is one thing to make small talk knowing there’s a husband wanting to go home, and quite another if he is not there.’
Seek out friendly strangers.
‘Merry widows stride into the best hotels as if they own the place, knowing afternoon tea costs no more than at a café,’ says Mary.
‘Carry a book to give an air of independence, and if you see somebody who looks interesting, smile and get into conversation.
A chat with a stranger can bring much interest to the day.’
Accept you will sometimes feel lonely.
‘At such moments say to yourself the magic words, “This feeling will pass,”’ advises Mary.
Boost your happiness with friends
Nurture friendships with regular meet-ups and calls.
‘Friendship is the merry widow’s support system, so think before doing anything like moving away,’ says Mary.
Invite people over.
‘Don’t wait for others to ask you,’ says Mary.
‘Ask three or four over, then you don’t need to entertain them – they’ll never stop talking.’
Double dates are out, so make new single friends.
‘To widen your circle, pick up leaflets at the library and read notices in local newspapers about local clubs,’ suggests Mary.
‘Try them for a week or two before paying up as a member.
‘Rambling clubs are good, because it’s easy to talk while you are walking.’
Don’t talk endlessly about your husband.
‘Certainly not about things that you did together years ago,’ says Mary.
‘Nobody wants to listen.
‘Talking about grandkids is also not interesting.’
Dealing with men
Swap romance for reality.
‘There are probably lots of good-looking, smart, sensitive men longing for an affair with a mature widow – only I’ve never come across one, and merry widows don’t waste time looking,’ says Mary.
‘We enjoy the fantasy and go shopping.’
Enjoy a harmless flirtation.
‘Any handsome man under 40 will do, and let’s face it, all men under 40 love a flirtation with an older lady – they know it’s in fun,’ says Mary.
‘Merry widows do not flirt with over 50s, it’s dangerous, they think you’re after them and get frightened.’
Look for a male friend with no romantic complications.
Mary says, ‘If there’s somebody you’ve known a long time, he could be worth cultivating.
‘Here’s what to say. “I’m not after you, but if you fancy a game of chess sometime, call me.”
‘If he comes, don’t dress up and don’t flirt.’
Settle for being single.
‘Look after yourself,’ urges Mary.
‘But if you meet someone, and you find yourself adoring them, seize the day.
Nobody knows what’s round the corner.’
Fighting your corner
Don’t accept a widow’s low place in the pecking order.
‘If you can afford a good seat at a show, book it,’ says Mary.
‘If you can afford a taxi, don’t wait for buses.
‘You are a merry widow. Let it show.’
Be assertive with workmen in your house.
‘If they come late, be firm: “I expected you earlier”.
And there’s no need for strangers to know you live alone,’ says Mary.
‘Be business-like and avoid chatting.
‘If you must offer cups of tea, wait until they’ve finished the job or done at least an hour’s work.
‘You’re the boss now, behave like one.’
Don’t let do-gooders take advantage of you.
‘Widows are in great demand as volunteers,’ says Mary.
‘If you are asked to help out – and only if you really want to – say you’ll do it for a year.
‘How can you be a merry widow if you tie yourself down with jobs others think would be good for you?
‘If you don’t want to do it, smile and say, “No, I don’t fancy that.”
‘They can’t argue, really.’
A note on loss
‘Not everything is lost,’ says Mary.
‘People die, but love doesn’t.
‘When his apple tree blooms, do not weep because he cannot see it, be grateful for all the years when he could.
‘The life you shared will sustain you.’
– Adapted from How To Be A Merry Widow: Life After Death For The Older Lady by Mary Essinger (£3.99, The Conrad Press). To buy the book, CLICK HERE.