Widowhood Case Study

A quick review of the case study suggests the following central issues: The impact that a chronic illness has on a marital relationship, and the burdens of taking care of the spouse, the initial stages of grief and bereavement after their passing, the transition from having a long term partner, to widowhood, and the likely outcomes that the subject will experience during her transition from married, to widowhood, to single-hood.
Impact of Chronic Illness on Marital Relationships Chronic illness in anyone family can have many impacts, not only on the person who is ill, but on the family and care givers as well. More importantly, it can affect children and spouses’ emotionally and physically. In Clara’s case, there is a very high possibility that her relationship with her husband experienced a considerable change in relationship and sexual satisfaction.
There have been studies done in the past that state, “Although spouses of chronic pain patients showed no more physical symptoms than spouses of diabetics, they reported significantly more pain symptoms that were related to elevated levels of depressed mood. ” (Herta Florb, 2002) The depression felt because of her husbands chronic illness, is likely the reason why she pulled away from her family, and friends. She likely did not want them to see her in that state, and wanted them to think that she was strong, and could handle it.

However, other parts of the studies have indicated that “not only is chronic pain associated with problems in the marital relationship but heightened distress and physical symptoms in spouses as well. ” (Herta Florb, 2002) The effects are not so much the reality of a chronic pain problem, but instead a manner for paitents and spouses to cope with the situation. Burdens of care giving and the initial stages of grief and bereavement This leads us to the topic of the burden of caregiving.
There is a large impact on ones emotional and physical well being. Women’s greater focus on the emotional side of the caring relationship and on reaching standards of what they consider good care, …this is “not to be confused with how much a spouse cares about her partner” (Connidis, 2010, p. 88). In the case of Clara, there is an assumption that she cared deeply for her husband, but was focused on his needs, and taking care of him, and this may have put great strain, on their marriage, because she may have felt a sense of disdain in the final days of her husbands life.
Possibly blamed him for her being out of touch with her family, and friends, and not having circle of people around her to help take care of her during the initial stages of grief and bereavement once her husband passes. There are generally 5 main stages of grief that someone feels when dealing with a loss, however when going through a loss as large as that of a spouse, it is more likely that one will go through each stage in a more defined way. Shortly after the death, there is the Numbness & denial – this is the feeling of shock and disbelief.
Even though in Clara’s case she knew that this day would come, she still likely will have gone through this stage. The next stage is yearning & anger – this happens when the main shock has worn off, and one would long for the lost loved one, and one may even feel a sense of anger and thinking that there could have been something more that coul dhave been done. Next comes emotional despair & sadness- this is mostly a long period of tru bereavement. The point when the reality that that person, in this case Clara’s husband is truly gone.
This brings one to the reorganization stage – this is when the widow will earn how to deal with practical businss of living, without your loved one at your side. This is also when the sun may start to shine a little more each day in ones life, and also a time when outside sources of support will likely be reeived with open arms. Lastly is the stage of letting go & moving on. This is often when the sadness starts to fade into the background, and new interests take on importance. Experience of widowhood In the case of Clara, widowhood was not likely sudden, as it often is for elderly people.
She acted as a caregiver for her husband who had a chronic illness, and likely was warned by doctors, family, and friends, to prepare her for his passing. Since Clara was restricted, from family and friends, by caring for her husband, she was likely the sole caregiver, her husband’s passing although saddening, may also have been seen by her as relief. “Caring for a departed spouse allows some widowed persons to anticipate their loss and to feel some relief in their death” (Connidis, 2010, p. 106). This relief may be seen as the beginning of her transition to single life.
Transition into widowhood Becoming widowed can be a difficult and sometimes devastating life transition. “Because women remain much more likely than men to be widowed, widowhood is often considered a women’s issue,” (Connidis, 2010, p. 108). Based on psychological studeies that have been done, the initial stage of bereavment, can last anywhere from two to four years. This is generally seen as a period of mourning, and can be “characterized initlaly by profound psychological disorganization” (Connidis, 2010, p. 08)
Often times, and possibly in Clara’s case, this is also an opportunity to rebuild relationships that may have been hindered during the state of spousal care, by leaning on family and friends during the emotional pain, grief, and loss, as well as slowly taking part in groups of people who had experienced similar transitions in their lives. A great defenition given by a widow is this: “Joan Didion (2005) describes the year after her husband’s death as one of magical thinking during which she felt invisible and understood only by others who were in the same situation. ” (Connidis, 2010, P. 09)
Outcomes Clara like other widows and widowers will experience a great influx of emotions and changes after the passing of her husband. Based on conversations that I personally have had with counselors who focus on loss, they encourage people to broaden their social circles again, once they have come out of the fog of the loss of their loved one. In many cases, family and “friends emerge as important network members in widowhood…widows are more likely than the married to consider a friend both a confidant and a companion, and friends occupy a larger portion of these networks among widowed persons. (Connidis, 2010, p. 114)
As for Clara, perhaps her and her husband had children that had pulled away because of the long term illness of their dad and they may now be spending more time with their mother. If children are in the picture, Clara now has time to spend with her grandchildren perhaps. She may go out and join social groups, such as knitting circles, church groups, exercise groups for seniors, or even take on a volunteering position. These are all acts to assist her in getting out of the house.
Assuming that Clara is now living in a large house all alone, perhaps she will move into a facility for seniors, where she can have her own apartment type living quarters, but also where there are activities that she can partake in with other widows, and widowers. Often when a parent becomes widowed, they will take up residence with the children; this will often be seen as “the parent helping the child out”, not the other way around. In Clara’s case, because she lives far away from her family, there is a high possibility that she will sell the home that her and her husband had resided in, and re locate so that she can be closer to her family.
This will allow her to reconnect with her children, and grandchildren. This may however be a very hard move for her to endure, as she will be leaving behind friends that she may have had where her and her husband had lived. However, moving to a new place, with new people, and new activities will act as a fresh start for Clara. This could be a while new life for her to live, even at the age of 80. Many people still have lots of gumption in them, at that age, and are still looking for companionship, and to be loved.
As can be found on a website for seniors, “The sex need to some people is romance, companionship, and closeness–often the need for actual sex is quite minimal. In other people the need is quite strong. When we lose our spouse, we lose our sexual partner and our feelings can be anything from the desire to shun sex for the rest of our lives to powerful needs, and anything in-between. Sexual feelings after being widowed are quite common and the feelings should not make us feel guilty” (Diehm, 2000) In closing, nothing can prepare anyone for the shock and grief of widowhood, even when we know it is impending.
One of the myths of mourning is that is has an ending point, and that if we wait long enough, it will stop hurting. Unfortunately it doesn’t. As we have discussed in this paper, it is important to work through the various phases of grief and it will eventually get better, and we no longer allow it to paralyze us. The important thing is to live our lives to the fullest, and enjoy each day knowing that the person we have lost is with us in our hearts, enjoying each day that we live in their memory.

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