Widowed Support Network offers caring circle

For those who have lost a spouse, looking for sources of strength and support can seem overwhelming.

The Widowed Support Network of Red Deer (WSN) aims to help those dealing with such a loss. Through support groups, seminars, recommended literature and social events, WSN provides the support our society can lack, says member Joy Lee.

“We understand the devastation of grief and the tremendous silence and loneliness this loss can leave behind. Our group leaders are themselves widowed and are empathetic to those we support,” she said.

“The death of a spouse has been identified as one of the greatest stresses a person can experience. The emotional upheaval and social re-adjustment can often be overwhelming and debilitating, so the (WSN) provides a place of common ground.”

As to the group’s beginnings, Lee said it was after completing several grievance classes, “A few of us were left wondering what we do now and inquired if there was a support group to belong to. But there was nothing. “So we created one.”

Lee said that knowing there are others who are walking a road that is similar to what you are experiencing is helpful.

“It helps just knowing that there are other people who have also lost a spouse and know what you’re going through.”

The group meets at various restaurants on the first Friday of every month.

They also meet the third Friday for regular meetings at New Life Fellowship Church from 7 to 9 p.m.

The setting allows for a safe place to meet other people, share stories and concerns, feature special speakers, have potluck suppers and games nights.

Meanwhile, with the Christmas season, those who have lost a spouse can feel that much more alone.

“Special occasions are always harder because we remember the wonderful times or places we experienced with our loved one,” said Lee. There are important things for friends and family to remember during these times.

“Having your friends and loved ones recognize that even though you put on that happy face, you are still forced to ‘do’ the holiday without your spouse by your side.”

Just making it clear that you are there to offer support and help is also critical.

“Certainly being busy is a good distraction so when people include you and make you feel like you are needed in someway, it helps get you through,” said Lee.

“A small gesture of kindness also goes over bigger than you’ll ever know; to be included at a Christmas concert or a dinner party, to have the surprise of someone shoveling your walks, or treating you to a hairdo at a salon, or a simple ‘Tims’ card, an invitation to play games night at the neighbours or whatever.”

For those in the community who have experienced losing a spouse — but are reluctant to attend a meeting – Lee said the group provides a safe environment.

“If they choose to connect with us, we welcome them and encourage them to find friendships within our group. If it’s not a good fit, then at least you tried it, and if it works for you then that’s great.

“Everyone has a story to tell and each one is unique and different but many have similarities. Before our spouses passed away, we all were ‘couples’ but now we find ourselves single and yet our friends are all still couples.

“How do we fit in without feeling like the third wheel? We not only lost a spouse, but our best friend who we shared a lifetime with.”

Lee said there are misconceptions about those who have lost a spouse.

“The big one we all hear is that after the first year, people say you should ‘be over it.’ Unfortunately there’s no set time. Every circumstance is different, and some can move on easier than others. Some need a lot more time to readjust to the idea that their life will never be the same.

“It’s like a picture puzzle you have worked on over the years and someone drops it and the pieces go flying everywhere. You are left to try and put all the pieces of the puzzle back together again, however, there are always going to be missing pieces. You lose a lifestyle as well as the person. You have to begin to find yourself and that takes time.”

For more information, email widowedsupportnetwork@gmail.com.