Thursday, October 21, 2010

Surviving Widowhood with Help from Friends

Are you stressed? Silly question. Aren't we all?

If you're grieving a loss--spouse, parent, child--your stress level may be especially high.

But here's the good news. One of the best ways to lower stress is to connect with friends.

A recent UCLA study found that under stress, women release a higher level of oxytocin, a hormone that helps counter stress. In fact, it buffers the fight-or-flight response to stress and encourages women to "tend and befriend," which causes further hormone release and has an overall calming effect.

A study at Harvard Medical School found that people who have friends live longer. Women who have a close friend are more likely to survive the loss of a spouse without suffering physical impairment or loss of vitality.

In short, friends help us live longer and better.

I know this to be true. When Ralph was ill, friends met me for lunch, bought my groceries, dropped off food, listened to me cry. In these past five years they've brought me comfort and strength and eased my way along my journey through the widowsphere.

So, my dear friends, I can't thank you enough for what you've brought into my life. With some of you, I've sat around a dining room table and we've shared our deepest feelings about death and dying. Some of you have laughed with me, listened to my stories about Ralph. Others of you, like me, are reading junkies and we've spent evernings sharing our opinions on everything from bizarre short stories to literary classics. With some of you, I've indulged in old-fashioned cattiness sessions (I'm not naming names here, but you know who you are). Each of you has guided me, cared for me, cried with me. Because of you, my life has become whole again.


If you're grieving, I challenge you to reach out to a friend this week. New friend, old friend--doesn't matter. Have a cup of coffee together, take a walk, watch the sun rise or set. Face-to-face is best but even if you reach out across phone lines or into cyberspace, that's a start. Then come back and share your story here.


S. Etole said... [Reply to comment]

Your visit was most appreciated ... I'll be back again. May your day hold a special joy.

Linda Steinberg said... [Reply to comment]

I absolutely agree. Most of my close friends were 'girlfriends', that is, though they are married, we were not 'couple' friends. Which helped me a lot because our relationship didn't change when my husband died. Two friends came out to visit and said, "what would you like us to do? Go out to dinner? Sit and talk?" Since my daughter's wedding was coming up soon (a month after her father's sudden death) I asked them to help me address wedding invitations. And they did. I'm not sure we even talked about my loss that night. But they were there. And that's what was important.


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