Early Widowhood: Downtime

If you’ve been reading my previous six posts about the death of my husband at sixty-eight years-old, you may have received the impression that I filled my days with frantic activity to defer the moment when I had to confront the loss. That wasn’t the case at all.

After the first three weeks, which were very busy, I asked everyone to give me privacy for a week. I needed to be alone to mourn and face up to my new reality. I decided to do nothing that week surrounding the estate, sorting out James’s things, or even paying bills. I slowed right down. I walked. I sat. I slept. I thought.

At the time I didn’t understand how necessary the downtime was; all I knew was that my body and mind were begging for it and I listened. Firstly, I needed rest as I was exhausted and I spent one whole day in bed reading and watching Netflix. Then I spent a few hours each day with old photos reliving the family times, the major events in our lives, and the travelling we did together. I cried a lot, but the photos reminded me of a healthy James. Much of this activity was interspersed with walks along the shoreline in Port Moody when the weather allowed (it was February, after all).

I would sit quietly and think too — at home and often in the car parked by the sea with a picnic lunch. Mostly I thought about my metamorphosis into widowhood, the sudden change that was irreversible. I tried to imagine what it would be like, what it would mean. This wasn’t a self-pitying time, but rather a practical one.

Later I thought about what I could do solo. On about the fifth day, I had a breakthrough — I grasped that I was now in a position to focus on my photography and play more golf. I could travel to all the places that I wanted to visit and hadn’t. Life began to beckon me back and I held tight to that thought and still do.

I also decided to reserve a day in the year to devote to James, a day on my own. I didn’t choose the anniversary of his death as that would tend to focus me on a dreadful time. So I took a leaf out of Queen Elizabeth’s book — she takes a day off on her father’s birthday each year. I would do the same every May 2. I have taken that time twice now on James’s birthday and have found it grounds me with memories. I also believe it’s a way to continue to be in touch with his life. I should add that I’ve never stopped thinking about my husband, one doesn’t, but I had turned the corner during that precious week.

Several months later, as I looked back, I finally understood what a sustaining gift I had given myself — downtime with no activity as soon as I could after the memorial service. I was able to come to terms with my new reality and discovered it helped me move further forward each day.

© Julie H. Ferguson 2017

Vancouver-based Julie H. Ferguson is an addicted traveler who is intensely interested in the history and culture of foreign lands, as well as Canada, and her stories and images reflect this focus. Julie never leaves home without her cameras and voice recorder, always looking for the colour and sounds that captivate readers everywhere.

A non-fiction writer for forty-five years and an avid photographer, Julie is also the author of twenty-six books, including four about Canadian naval and church history, six for writers, and sixteen photo portfolios. Her articles have appeared in national and international markets, both print and online, and her images have been exhibited, published, and sold.