Sunday, July 17, 2011
Janet Boyanton is the author of Alone and Alive: A Practical Guide for Dealing with the Death of Your Husband, available on Amazon. If you read the reviews on Amazon's site, you'll see it isn't just for widows. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to interview her.
Your book has such a great title. Alone and Alive. It describes widowhood so well. Was this the first title you came up with or did you think of others?
It was the first title I came up with, however the sub-title was much more difficult. I wanted a statement that explained that the book was more then my story or a book about grief, but a book with practical help for the new widow. Alone and Alive clearly described my feeling of widowhood.
You’ve been a widow now for nine years. Is this a book you’d been planning for a long time or a fairly new project?
I conceived the idea of writing the book about 5 years ago and actually began work on it three years ago. The process of writing and refining the book took longer than I expected, but I wanted to make the book as clear and easy to understand as I could. I remember how confusing things were immediately after my husband’s death, so I tried to make this book easy to use.
As a probate attorney, what is the most common problem widows face in the early days of widowhood?
I think one of the most common problems I see in the early days following the death is widows being overwhelmed by the number of critical decisions they have to make. At a time when you are least able to think clearly the new widow must make decision about pension distributions, life insurance payments, probate, living arrangements, and many other issues. For some the amount of paperwork that must be done is daunting, and the paperwork is often very complicated to complete. The probate process is also very confusing. The new widow is given lots of advice by well-meaning friends, a much of it is incorrect, with regard to probate.
Do you see differences in the way women manage widowhood related to the way their husbands died—suddenly, after a long illness, etc.
Yes, to some extent. Where the husband has been ill for some time they may have had the opportunity to get their legal and financial affairs ready for death. That provides the new widow with some idea of what needs to be done after death. After an expected death the widow is often left without any knowledge of the family finances and without necessary estate planning paperwork. While all widows struggle with the same issues, those who lose a husband after a long illness are slightly better prepared.
What about widowers? In your experience, how are their needs and problems similar to women’s?
Widowers face many of the same problems as widows. Loneliness is a pronounced problem for the newly widowed man. Typically they have difficulty with meals and housework. They have the same concerns as widows, but not always the same difficulties. Though I find that widowers are just as confused as widows are about the processes they must go through with regard to the legal issues.
I enjoyed reading the insights of your son. What is he doing now?
Thomas is almost 20 and will be a sophomore at Austin College this fall. He has grown up to be a fine responsible young man. I am unreasonable proud of him for the way he has handled things. (Can you tell I am a Mother?)
I also appreciated the very practical suggestions you make for just getting through daily life. What was the hardest practical matter you faced as a young widow?
I think one of the hardest things was finding saying no to some of the well meaning suggestions of other people. As a new widow I was very vulnerable and it was hard to ell relatives and friends no. But I realized fairly quickly that I needed to do what was best for us and not what others thought was best.
The other practical matter I faced was finding competent repair men to fix the things. I had to try several services for repairs before I found people I could trust.
Any other advice?
Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time, but you will eventually feel whole again.