Having to do everything yourself, including the tasks that “he” used to handle, is one of the major challenges of widowhood. Unfortunately, many of us flounder through the seemingly endless details we must handle, rather than ask friends and relatives for aid. We don’t want to be a “burden” to others or have them feel forced to help. (We somehow forget that these people are perfectly capable of saying “no” if they can’t or don’t wish to assist.) Or we don’t want to “owe” them, although often we’re simply asking for wise advice, another perspective or information on “working the system,” whether it’s Social Security, the Veterans Affairs, or the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s common, too, to associate needing help with laziness or dependency. However, asking for assistance is a way to empower yourself, as well.
In my own case, I gradually assembled a kind of unofficial “team” of people I could call on. I spread my requests among them, so that no one person would feel taken advantage of. I learned that strategy from a dear friend who used it after a difficult divorce. It worked for her – and for me, too.
Yes, it helps if you have resources in the form of friends or acquaintances who have expertise you need, such as legal or insurance advice. But often you don’t take stock of the resources you have. One of the ways to do that is to ask yourself, "Who do I know who might know about ---.” And make a list. If someone doesn’t have the answer for you, he or she may know someone else who does. The most unlikely people can wind up being tremendously helpful, whether you need help cleaning out your husband’s closets, a good accountant or someone to pick you up at the dentist’s office after a procedure involving anesthesia.
I found that asking for and receiving help was like a muscle I had to massage. I had to force myself at first, but I grew more and more confident each time. I might be helpless to fix the faucet, but I could find others who knew how. So can you. Ask and ye shall receive.
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at email@example.com.
Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist,author — and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill,What Do You Say When and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.
Image via Wikimedia Commons, Loic Evanno