My wife died suddenly last year and I am facing my retirement years alone. It seems all my hobbies are for two together. My children and grandchildren visit me at weekends, but my weekdays are long and very lonely. How does a widower in his 60s fill his days?
ANSWER: Losing a spouse is one of the most difficult experiences we can face, yet I imagine when people ask “How are you doing?” you simply say “I’m fine.”
One of the most important things to do is open up to friends and family, talk to people and ask for help. Independent Age in the UK surveyed over 2,000 widow and widowers and found that 31% of men didn’t turn to anyone after the death of a loved one.
Do you remember at your wife’s funeral all those people who said “If you need anything I am here”?
Now is the time to reach out to those people. Start off by deciding who you would like to reconnect with, then get your calendar out and be specific when you get in touch, because without an arrangement with a date and time, it’s unlikely to happen.
You say you don’t have many hobbies. Well now is the time to try lots of new ones; you might just find yourself finding something that you truly enjoy.
You can also still do the things you used to do with your wife. Why not join a walking club? Get involved in your local active retirement group. Websites such as https://www.meetup.com can help you find people with similar interests.
There is even a group for widowers. (If you need help with using the internet ask your children to help you.)
At all these things, you have to make an effort to meet new friends. Use your telephone – don’t wait for people to contact you.
You could also upskill and do an adult education course. Your local adult education centre will have courses in everything from Latin dancing to cookery to learning a new language. Not only do you meet people and get out of the house but you will also be working your mind, which helps reduce the risk of Dementia.
Why not volunteer with your local Saint Vincent de Paul or homeless shelter? Not only will you be helping others, but you will meet new people – and volunteering has been proven to increase self-esteem and decrease the risk of depression.
Try to connect up with a nearby bereavement support group in your local parish, sharing with others in a similar situation to you can really be a great support.
You could also go on a holiday, specifically designed for independent travellers – go on that adventure you have always wanted to go on. There are lots of companies that run group trips around the world for solo travellers, you can get your own room, have your own space whilst enjoying travelling with others.
Finally, pray. God wants to help you in your grief. Let Jesus reach out to you and help you in your grief, pray and ask for his help. “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” (Mt 5:4)