Over the weekend I received an email from a man who has now been widowed twice. The first time it happened he was in his twenties. He rebuilt his life and now, some 40 years later, finds himself a widower again. He mentioned that doing this journey a second time was a lot harder the second time around. He gave two reasons for this: 1) his youngest child is about to leave the nest and won’t have anyone to care for and 2) he feels he’s too old to date again and start a new life. He asked if I had any ideas to help him find a purpose to his life again. I sent him off an email with some ideas but in hindsight wish I would have thought it out a bit more.
So here are some updated suggestions not only for this gentleman but any other widows or widowers of any age who are having a hard time finding a purpose to their life after their spouse has passed on.
- Volunteer at local hospitals, charities, soup kitchens, schools, churches, or other groups that could use an extra hand. It’s a great way to make friends, become active in the community, and help out cause or charity you believe in.
- Find a group of similar-aged people in your area that do things together. For example, I have a grandfather who played softball into his 70s. Part of it was for the exercise but, looking back, I think the bigger reason was just being able to hang out with guys he played ball with over the years.
- Take that vacation or trip you’ve always wanted to take but never did. Go see a new part of the world, take a long road trip, or throw a dart at a map and explore some random town.
- Help neighbors, friends, or family members who have financial, physical, or other needs. Everywhere I’ve lived there’s always been someone that’s been going through a hard time that needs help. It’s amazing what mowing their lawn, fixing a leaky faucet, helping someone clean their house, or just talking to someone for 30 minutes can do for people’s morale.
- Go back to school. If you have the time, take a couple of classes or retrain yourself with different skills. Develop skills that can take that hobby you’ve always done on the side and see if you can make a new career out of it. If you’re retired, try a part time job doing something else. Better yet, if you have marketable skills, find a way to share your knowledge with others (friends, family, neighborhood kids) who could benefit from these skills.
The best thing you can do is stop thinking about your plight and start thinking about ways to help others. Don’t let your marital status define who you are or what you can do with your life. Just because you lost a spouse doesn’t mean your life no longer has purpose. Widowhood isn’t something that people look forward to, but it often opens new doors and new windows that wouldn’t have remained closed otherwise. Take advantage of them and see where life takes you.