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As a woman who has lived through many passages and learned through my larger than life experiences (positive and negative), I’ve discovered how to take a big empowering bite out of life.

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The Tools I Used to Survive Widowhood


The Tools I Used To Survive Widowhood

I have navigated the pain of widowhood. I want to share the tools that helped me.

Navigating widowhood is a painful and aching experience. I understand this firsthand, having walked this path myself. It’s been more than three decades since I received the phone call and received the news of my first husband’s passing, and the feeling is still palpable. My story and experiences will hopefully enlighten you with the answers you are seeking or will seek in your future. I pulled myself out from under the depths of despair and back into the world, and so can you. You can hear the complete story of my widowhood journey by listening to this podcast.

A New Lifestyle with Widowhood

As a woman over 50, when you find yourself alone and adjusting to a new and unwanted lifestyle, it can be a traumatic experience. It is hard to transition from coupledom to singlehood.

For recent widows and those of you who have a difficult time moving into the now, I want to share with you the tools I used to emotionally pick up the pieces of my life. I also want to begin by informing you of a change in our culture.

The trend toward singlehood is on the rise. Singles are becoming one of the largest demographics. About 50% of American adults are either divorced, widowed, or never married. Women are living longer so there are more widows, and though the stigma of being alone has lessened, it hasn’t disappeared completely.

Nevertheless, before a widow can re-enter society, she likely encounters several bumps in the road. Aside from the emotional trauma of losing a spouse, she is suddenly thrust out of her comfort zone and forced to do things on her own.

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How To Survive Widowhood

In one split second in my 40’s, I was no longer Mrs. Michael A. Forman. I was a widow. My late husband, also in his 40’s, had suddenly passed away from an unexpected heart attack.

The day of Michael’s funeral is a blur. I don’t recall the Rabbi’s words. I do not remember how I arrived or left Michael’s funeral.

Similarly, I don’t know who put a lifesaving paperback book in my hand at the end of the service. The book became my savior as I began a new passage, a new journey back to life.

Tools To Rebuild Your Life

The little paperback lying on the table next to our bed the following morning was How to Survive the Loss of a Love. The book is filled with jewels of knowledge that led me from utter shock and darkness into light. I used the book’s words as tools to rebuild my life. It was no easy task.

It has been proven that you cannot heal emotionally from loss without going experiencing four stages of the mourning process. I went through each one and they boded me well in my ultimate recovery.

A year into widowhood, I was able to restart my life; however, it took me two years to concentrate again.

I am happily remarried, but the sudden loss of my husband was so paralyzing that I sometimes ponder the long-term effects of widowhood on me. There are long respites, but a loss such as this reappears at certain times.

The 4 Stages to Recover From the Loss of a Loved One

 1. Denial

During the denial phase, you may struggle to accept the reality of the loss, clinging to a sense of disbelief, and avoiding the emotional impact.

 2. Anger

Anger is a common response while mourning, manifesting as frustration, resentment, or even rage. Darlings, sometimes the anger is even directed towards oneself or the events surrounding the loss.

 3. Depression

The depression phase involves a deep sense of despair while grappling with the emotional weight of the loss.

 4. Acceptance

In the acceptance phase, there begins to be a sense of peace and understanding, and an acknowledgement of the reality of the loss. This phase allows healing and the possibility of moving forward.

To do a deep dive into these phases, I recommend you purchase How to Survive the Loss of a Love on Amazon. I had the first edition that sold over two million copies. Therefore, I suggest you purchase the first edition, even if it is a secondhand copy because it is far more compact and literal.

The book explains that you cannot survive the emotional loss of a spouse or loved one unless you experience these four steps. The main theme throughout the book is to let yourself experience and mourn your loss.

How I Used The Tools My Way

Spending Time Alone

Living in the beautiful city of Honolulu, I walked four miles each morning and four miles at sunset with my pooch at that time. I thought about my life with Michael. And, I did not hold back my emotions. Crying and sobbing, I grieved alone.

The Tools I Used To Survive Widowhood

Keeping active and moving my body helped me heal.

Getting Physical in Widowhood

This was very important in my healing process. I walked to rid myself of stress, to stay fit, and to stay healthy. Now you are alone with plenty of time to take care of your body and mind. Choose what is appropriate and discipline yourself to stick with your program.

Your Home Is Your Castle

I was numb from my sudden loss and could not concentrate. Therefore, I was unable to read or watch television.

But I could find solace and joy in my environment. So I moved out of our home of love and deep family memories into a charming, temporary apartment with palm trees visible from my fourth-floor balcony. I lived near the ocean so I could take in the salty air and listen to the sounds of the ever-changing sea.

I bought orchids and placed family mementos everywhere. Often spending time alone on my balcony. I gazed below at the koi swimming peacefully in the pond.

Moving from a large home to my enchanted apartment was healing. If you have to move or decide to move, do so with care.

Listening To Your Heart

Widows should have confidence in the inner you. I had faith in my instincts and you can too. No one can get in your head. My instincts told me to spend a year alone and mourn. Respect your comfort level; eventually, you will uncover abundant optimism and hope to reenter the world.

Soul Searching

Darling, I was afraid. Worried about my daughters facing life without a father, holidays and huge life events that would be missed, I knew I was now both mom and dad!

Should I stay in Honolulu or should I move to Chicago to be closer to my family? Questions and more questions whirled through my mind. You will be met with worries. Don’t leap into your decisions–no fast moves for a year.

After several months of indecision and a lot of soul searching, I began to live into my answers. I then made realistic decisions. As this process took one year of my life, please don’t rush your healing process.

One Year to Complete the Four Steps of Mourning

I took a full year of widowhood to go through the four steps of mourning, the last of which is acceptance.

On the one-year anniversary of Michael’s death, in his memory, we held a service at our synagogue. I stood between my daughters during the Rabbi’s final prayer, and I recall the three of us held hands. As I listened to the Rabbi, a year of tears surged down my face.

These tears would not stop. I had no control over them. My face was drenched. At the end of the service, I knew I had accepted the loss of a love.

It was time to move into the present.

Proactive Outreach

For you darlings who are recently widowed or those having a hard time months or years later, I will leave you with this short story.

I have an established relationship with a friend of mine, a widow in Rancho Mirage, California. She has no idea I have been observing her experiences in widowhood. She was married for 60 years.

I watched her from afar as she found her place in the single world. Even with her career, she realized she had to slightly shift her lifestyle.

It has been multiple years and I still marvel at her. She learned to play cards and she made dates with the women. Proactively reaching out to other widows, she decided she wanted to have a full life so she extended herself and opened the doors to new opportunities.

When I see her, I think to myself, she is such a role model for widows. She could be the poster widow. That is why I am sharing her story. After you go through the four steps, and you must for your own good, march to her drummer, darlings.

If you are seeking a space to lean on other women and experience solidarity in your widowhood experience, I recommend joining my private Facebook group, Sisters in Widowhood.


What tools have you used to handle loss and grief? Share your wisdom in the comments!

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November 21, 2023

Advice, Grief & Widowhood, Relationships

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  1. Becky says:

    Everything you write about is true. My husband died 6 years ago. The ache is still there, sometimes more profound than others. I sold our home, built 3 new condos, became the mayor of my city, have friends, attend a wonderful church, have 3 grandchildren whom I get to see frequently it still feel very alone. I miss being cherished by my husband of 43 years. This year was our 50th. I became acquainted with a man 15 years younger than me. I’m too old for him-he was opposite from my husband. I miss romance, handholding, kissing, and feeling a thrill when he walks in the door. Looked at dating sites, ugh. I live in a small town and now that I am mayor anonymity is not possible. I’m 72,look pretty good, a little over weight but ok. I’m trying to acclimate myself to being alone, but I don’t like it. Not sure I will ever get to acceptance.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      I am impressed with your accomplishments and the luck you have with 3 grands living near by.You are resilient and goal orientated so now it is time to figure out how to find ‘the thrill again.’ I would not give up on the dating sites.I have been told there are some very sophisticated sites out there. Have you researched? And, I don’t understand what you mean ‘you became acquainted with a man 15 years younger. Would you feel differently about him if he was 15 years older? You know age is just a number. Let’s communicate if you care to. Warmly, Honey

  2. L says:

    Thankyou honey for sharing :)its very true all different losses death divorce job ect…and u are so right u need to take time to grieve to recover 🙂

    Have a great weekend with America and Shelley 😉


  3. Patty Wood says:

    I am not a widow, yet, but I have been dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease for the last five years. Every day that another piece of my husband dies, I am widowed from that part of him, of us, and I go through the grieving process of losing that piece. It seem that every day, or at least every week, I go through the grieving process of yet something else that is lost. It’s hard to effectively get to the fourth step when you can’t move beyont steps 1 to 3. I appreciate your stories and advice. Thank you.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      I understand how you are feeling. Thank you for expressing yourself openly and with feelings. I have an online network with several different groups on varying topics. Would you be interested in starting a grieving group for women who whose husbands or significant others or parents are suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease? If so please write to Susan. Her email is pr@www.honeygood.com and she will fill you in on the honeygoodnetwork and if you are interested in joining another group or starting your own she will help you. Explain to her I sent you to her. Warmly, Honey

  4. Kathy says:

    My husband passed unexpectedly just over two months ago. In this time of corona virus and self-isolation, I am having such a hard time being home all the time when going to work was actually a pleasure. The biggest and most unexpected thing I am dealing with is fear. Fear of so many things I never gave a thought to before. I was never a fearful person and I always knew Michael had my back. Now its just me, just me to take care of the house, the cars, the dogs, the finances, and I could go on an don. I cry myself to sleep every night and talk to Michael all the time. I hope he hears me because there was so much left unsaid. We had 35 years of marriage but that was not enough. I just never thought I would be left alone like this.

  5. Carol Motl says:

    I lost my husband 01/24:2020 to Pancreatic Cancer ! He had just turned 60 ! He lived 14 months to the date which is what the Doctor had given him ! We were married 38 years and I knew him 4 years before that ! I agree just as these ladies have said ! It’s the fear and loneliness that gets me ! I have a Memorial outside in my flower bed for him ! His dog Jack and I sit outside and talk to him ! He has visited me in Angel form thru feathers, coins, the clouds, music and warmth ! I miss him so much ! 😭 Some days are harder than others ! I am a survivor and I have my daughters and grand kids to keep me busy ! I just miss his touch and his warmth ! ❤️🙏😭

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      Please purchase the FIRST edition ( even a used one) of the book I mention in my story. It will help you, I promise. Also, go to my web site, https://www.honeygood.com and in the bar under my name hit the word about. There will be a drop down. Tap on the second line and you will go to a page that has a podcast on widowhood. I was interviewed by KEEP IT JUICY. Tap on that and listen to how I went through widowhood, in my own words. I understand how you are feeling. You are in mourning for your beloved husband and this is of course natural. Listen to your feelings. Listen to your heart. Follow it. The recovery from loss takes a very long time. Let it proceed naturally. My thoughts are with you. Sending my love…Warmly, Honey

  6. Julie Jarvis says:

    Thank you for creating this website. Widowhood is the one thing I feared most in life because that meant I would have lost the love of my life. Very sadly, I had to face this fear two years ago when I lost my husband.

    To Carol Motl: Thank you for sharing your story. I lost my precious love to pancreatic cancer too, but he passed only five weeks after being diagnosed. We, too, were married 38 years. It was like watching a horror show in slow motion, as I sat by his side and watched this evil monster suck the life out of my husband. I will never be the same—you won’t either. Although it’s been two years ago, the pain at times is still excruciating. Your loss is still relatively new. Grief has no timetable. Your journey is different from the author’s and mine, yet the grief journey and road is daunting and most often is a solitary path.

    While I’m better at keeping my emotions under control now and moving forward in life, there comes a day when the loss of my love and the deep pain and grief wash over me like a tsunami. Give in to those feelings, and every day try your best to keep the forward motion. Reach out to others. Feel free to communicate with me. Our stories seem similar.

    All we widows are now part of a sisterhood we never asked to join. I’m so saddened to read your stories and know your hearts are broken too.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      Dear Julie, Your note to Carol was so helpful. “Give into your feelings” is profound. So many people in mourning do not. The loss of a love is 100% debilitating. Did you think about taking Yoga. I am starting. Come join my Private Facebook Group, GRANDwomen with Moxie. Every Wednesday I have a ZOOOM. The women on GRAND are wonderful. Where do you live? If you join let me know in a comment. I would love to have you. I know exactly how you are feeling. I understand. Warmly, Honey

  7. Katherine Adraktas says:

    Nice is you have money. I’m broke. My husband had no life insurance and we were childless. I am struggling to make it month to month. No book or guide for women like me.

    • Honey Good says:

      Dear Katherine,Please come and join my free private facebook group. GRANDwomen with Moxie…where loneliness disappears. And, please write to me personally, if you would like to, at honey@www.honeygood.com. I may be able to help you and it would be a great pleasure. Together we may be able to find some solutions. Warmly, Honey

  8. LEA THORNTON says:

    I lost my husband of 28 years on January 14 due to Covid. He was perfectly fine and four weeks later he was gone. I loved and admired him so much. We ran our businesses together for 25 years and were rarely apart. I feel like my life has been destroyed. I am being smothered by crippling loneliness that no one but my husband can fill. I am 53 years old and I hate the thought of living the rest of my life like this.

    • Honey Good says:

      Dear Lea, My heart goes out to you.There are no words I can write to you to take away your emotional pain. I do know how you are feeling because I was widowed in my early 40’s.I felt just like you are feeling now.hopless, helpless, sad, scared, alone in the world.You have been widowed for 31/2 months and the healing from the loss of a loved one takes time.It is important to mourn and feel your true feelings because that is the only way you can heal. During this time take care of yourself.Eat well, take long walks, join a grieving group so you can express your feelings with others who will understand.Don’t stifle your feelings.It is healthy to cry. Don’t make any quick moves in your life over the next year.This is your time to grieve. You will have another life if you want one.You are young and a business woman so I imagine you are strong in your mind. Think positive when the time comes. At this time mourn the loss of your husband and walk through the rain as I did. One day, in a different way, the sun will shine again. Keep in touch. Warmly, Honey

  9. Eve says:

    I hear my own thoughts in these women who feel lost and scared that life is just going to be more than they can bear. We thought we had planned well by prepaying for our cremations, , my name and his on things but there were still a lot of problems. I don’t drive because of a inner ear disorder so that complicated things for me,. I have Some family support but they have their own problems, you see, I’m 78 so family members are right along there in age with me. We had 50 years together. I haven’t had time to grieve because the house started falling apart, leaky roof, front porch needed fixing. Things I never took care of because he handled all that.

    Simple things like getting into our bank account because he couldn’t remember his password for the online site. He handled all that so I never got an account of my own. Transferring his car to my name so I could sell it. It was something new every day to figure out. He died in 2-2-21. It’s not something we get over. It’s something we get through…by the grace of God.

    • Honey Good says:

      We have no choice except to get through the rain. And, you will and are. There are no words but I can relate to yours…”It’s not something we get over. It’s something we get through.” The weather is nice now, so take a daily walk and if you don’t have a pooch, consider bringing a loving one home. Walking with my pooch helped me through the rain. Warmly, Honey

  10. Sherry says:

    My brother enjoyed a very happy second marriage when he died unexpectantly in January. While I am not close with my sister-in-law I told her how happy I was for them both and was sure my mother would like her. Because of covid I could not attend the funeral, so we have not spoken since then. I do know she is having a rough time and I am at a loss of what to write to comfort her. I hope you can share some suggestions of what to say.

    • Honey Good says:

      At a time like this there are no words that bring peace to a widow. My close friend leaned over to me at my late husband’s funeral and said,I am here to listen to YOU and those are the only words I remember said to me that day.You don’t have to offer advice. Be a good listener and be yourself. Warmly, Honey

  11. Excellent article, and beautifully told, Honey. I helped my sister through her first weeks of widowhood, and it was one of the most challenging “jobs” I’ve ever had. Your “two year” milestone is what I have seen and read with many of my widowed friends. And I have seen great blossoming and growth in them in those two years.

    • Honey Good says:

      Thank you for your comment. Hearing your positive words are very encouraging. Hope all is well with you. Love your stories and messages. Warmly, Honey

  12. Jaimie Douglas says:

    My husband died in March after seven weeks in the hospital. We were married almost 36 years. I’m 54 and but feel like a lost child. The present seems so dark and scary, the future even scarier. Family and friends do not understand the pain of my loss or sudden insecurities. Thank you for the encouraging words and tools to get through this dark valley of dispair.

    • Honey Good says:

      I know how you feel. I felt like a lost child. The future felt dark and scary because how we feel is reality at the time. You can listen to my video on widowhood on HoneyGood.com under, In the News. The podcast is called Keep It Juicy and one of them I am interviewed on my feeling as I went through widowhood. This is your time to mourn your loss. Mourn. You had 36 years of marriage. Being alone is scary. One day you will wake up and breathe easier and at that time you will start making plans to live, again. Promise. Warmly, Honey

  13. Brenda says:

    My dear husband passed after a 9 year battle with renal cell cancer eventually metastasis to liver, adrenal glands, lungs etc. We were married 49 years and 3 months. I have just passed the 1 year mark and this has been the hardest year of my life. He was a true cowboy, loved the Lord witnessed up to the last 4 days before death
    I know I will see him again some day. The loneliness is the hardest. We have 3 grown children but they have lives if their own
    They help every way they can but the best gift they give me is their presence not presents. You just feel so alone !!!! I didn’t realize hiw much I depended on him. I have not taken offy rings and on the 50th anniversary. I told everyone I was celebrating here on earth and he was celebrating in heaven . Do you ever get over the loss. I know he is God’s care, but I miss him so!

    • Honey Good says:

      Mourning and listening to your feelings are so important. You were with someone for fifty years. You will never erase your love. But you will heal in time.You will know when it is time to reenter the world of the living. One day you will say, “I am beginning to feel better.” Trust me, I know because that is what happened to me. Warmly, Honey

  14. Jo Anne Barksdale says:

    My husband and i were married 51 years. He survived cancer twice but died from COVID after two weeks in the hospital. Our sons and i were able to spend the last few hours with Art, for which we are so grateful. We have nine grandchildren, and they watch out for me. But that piece of my heart which Art occupied is empty and painful. It’s been six months. Some days are easier than others. I take comfort in knowing he is out of pain and with God. I attend a loving church and have many friends. But this widowhood pain must be walked out by me one day at a time. Thank you.

  15. Diane Golden says:

    My husband of 47 years died last May from ALS. Looking back, I see that the disease process began far sooner than I thought. I despise that I have a knack for remembering dates. Jan 27 2023 was the one year anniversary of his diagnosis. We raised his two children together, but they live far from me. Grandchildren are also not near nor in a relationship with me. I am living alone for the first time in my life. I get frightened easily which I never did before. The people in my apartment building just say hi but I don’t have any friendships with them. I have a vocation of teaching Catholic Theology which I treasure as a life line. My husband was the social one, I have always been a loner. I am okay with being alone now. Better than I was right after he died. I’ve accepted his death but find myself yearning for his touch, his hug and his presence. I talk to his picture for solace. Prayer is also my lifeline. Thank you for listening.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      Hi Diane, Please consider joining my private and free Facebook group, Celebrate Life. We have a sub group for widows with a leader. I think this will be of help to you. I am sorry for your loss. I was widowed and I know how you are feeling. Warmly, Honey

  16. Diane Golden says:

    Thank you for your kind words. I will join that group on Facebook.

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