My New Year’s Post: 8 Things I Learned While Widowing


Home office decor

Coming to you from my home office

I learned a lot this year.  It just doesn’t feel like it because translating “what I’ve learned” into “things I’ve accomplished” feels really disconnected.  But for the fist year since George died, I have had glimpses of happiness and tranquility.  So:

the main thing if you’re coping with loss: it takes a long time before you start to feel any better.

And it’s supposed to look linear, sloping gently upwards, but it’s more like a messy, unspooled ball of yarn.   How do we feel today?  Anywhere from fine to despairing.

So, what I learned this year:

  1. Solo travel.  I discovered I love to travel. I did a Paris immersion tour (but only wrote about my pick up artist) and a tour of Sorrento.  George didn’t want to travel, but I do.  I love having something to look forward to, especially something that doesn’t bring back memories or invite comparisons to the past. (I go to Spain in the Spring).
  2. It is so Hard to Write a Book. it is really, really hard to write a book when you only write short articles.  I have an agent, but no publisher.  I thought using a great editor would help me get published, but it didn’t.  This is a Herculean task and I don’t know that I can do this.  But, the educational part:  Better to try than to give up and suffer regret.  A codicil, I thought being published in national magazines would provide contacts and writing jobs, but it didn’t, at least in my experience.
  3. I Hate Online Dating. We treat our prospective amours so much worse than we’d treat anyone else. Partly because there’s no accountability and an endless supply of disposable people. But also because when we date, we’re over-invested.  We expect our new person to be everything we want, ever so much. And when they’re not, they have betrayed us ever so badly. I’m done with being “out there” to receive whatever detritus gets lobbed at me. I’m back to being an old-fashioned Lady with firm, iron-corseted boundaries.
  4. I Had to Let Go of Resentment to be Happy. I wrote about that here.  In brief, I had to let go of the idea that other people were making me unhappy.  In truth, I was making myself miserable with my own anger. Losing George is pain, but there’s no one to blame. Giving up a negative outlook is super hard; however, and always a work in progress.
  5. Reaching Out and Saying “Yes.”  This is the first year I had a tribe. And it took yoga to do it.  When I was beyond lonely, with very few friends, I did yoga.  And it made a huge difference in coping with loneliness.  It also taught me to reach out when I wanted company.  And to agree to do things outside my comfort zone, like retreats in close quarters and paddle board yoga. Which made for a much better year.
  6. Home Decor.  Fixing up your space is really cheering.  I think I cornered the market on decorative pillows.  (There’s a few in the photos above). Redecorating is a great place to start if you want to improve things after suffering a loss.  It’s not a cure though, just a jumping off point.  If I’m happier in my space, I can focus on other stuff.
  7. Our Country is Divided.  I never thought we’d elect Mr. Trump and I was shocked that people saw him as a solution, or even an alternative.  I read a few liberal papers and none of them saw this coming. I am looking for news outlets outside my bubble. Worse, what I thought was sanity is just one viewpoint.  I need to be aware of views beyond my own even I disagree.

Two resolutions:

  1. Be positive and open to change.
  2. Write the book and do something with it.  Then, move on.

Now I want to know what you learned this year.  And what are your pledges for 2017.  (The comments section is fixed so talk to me! I miss you!)

Chat soon,

Love Debbie



  • Susan says:

    Didn’t find my tribe through yoga but, I found them. Nice summary of what I have learned in the past 5 years …especially #1 and #3.

    • Debbie says:

      Thank you Susan. I’m working on doing better at being alone, but it sounds like we’re learning some of the same lessons.

  • Susan says:

    Also learned that being alone can be very satisfying and rewarding. I am enough.

  • Therese says:

    I admire that you have the confidence to travel alone. I have taken trips with friends to Ireland and Italy since my husband passed, but it is hard to find people to travel with. Do you travel with a singles tour group? I am still trying to step out of my comfort zone.☺

    • Debbie says:

      I traveled twice with a University Alumni tour group. Lots of lectures, museums and some meals together. I enjoyed it very much because it was so well organized and the time was used so effectively .

      And it wasn’t lonely. It was mostly couples but there were some other women on their own to hang out with. And I was nervous on my trip last year. It is hard stepping out of your comfort zone especially by yourself.

    • Ella Prichard says:

      I travel alone regularly. Never a singles group, but I’m older. I find that travel with non-profit groups is most comfortable because everyone has a common interest and people are inclusive. I’ve traveled with several art museums, Smithsonian, National Trust & Colonial Williamsburg. I usually spend a few days alone at the beginning & ending of the tours.

      • Debbie says:

        I haven’t yet stayed on before or after the group. I too found the UC Berkeley alumni tour groups I’ve been with to be friendly, inclusive and people are interested in the lectures etc.

  • Claire says:

    Another helpful article. I’m 16 months out and am slowly finding my new identity. The storms of loss and loneliness still can erupt but I’mlearning how tto weatherthem anf enjoy the sunlight that follows. Thank you Debbie for ssharing your insights.

    • Debbie says:

      Thank you Claire for commenting. 18 months is so recent. I was pretty lost at 18 months. You sound like you have such a great attitude. Take care. Be gentle with yourself.

  • Betsy says:

    A few things I have learned, is that I do matter. Wether alone or with others, I do matter. We can be alone in a group or happy alone. The dating sites are not real, men tell you what you want or need to hear. I do not have a tribe, but think having one is great. I write in a journal and find that very comforting. I would be scared to death to travel alone, but would enjoy others with me. I have gone on some adventures myself, and met up with others, and I have done these adventures because I could. Change has always been a hard thing for me, but change is the way of the world. I am grateful for my 2 daughters, that they are living their lives and happy. I find comfort in volunteering, and always share a story. I have a million stories, and people really enjoy me telling them. 2017 just has to be better, as each new year has been. Thank you Debbie. Happy New Year.

    • Debbie says:

      Dear Betsy, I only travel with tour groups, so far. Change is terribly hard for me. And this year is better than the last. I relate so much to what you say. You volunteer and people love hearing your stories. I admire you. Your friend, Debbie

      • Betsy says:

        Debbie, it is such a pleasure to read your words and reply. We are the same but different, living on opposite coasts. It is such a relief to have the same but different feelings and wants and needs. I enjoy this so much. One day at a time. Wish you happiness and comfort always. Thank you.

  • Gilbert says:

    Happy New Year, Debbie. I wish you peace and good fortune. I want to say that I have met other widows and widowers who are doing well despite the devastating loss of their spouse. It provides me a measure of hope that I can be better and even flourish without my wife. As for my new year, I plan to travel with my teenage boys and experience a little of the world with them. It will be closer to home and not overseas, however, it will be new experience as three instead of four. I also, hope to get a new direction for my life, something that lets me contribute to my community and at the same time allows us to be more financially stable.

  • mari says:

    Love your posts, Debbie! So very relatable…and I could especially identify with this one on all points…..Thank you!