To Move or Not to Move

To move or not to move: the question is a common one for many who write us. Of course, there is not one answer that fits all. Ann wrote shortly after her husband died asking the questions that many of us sort through if we are home owners. Her husband was more attached to the home than she was. She had safety concerns, and her adult children had opinions. While we do not give legal counsel and are not real estate experts, our goal is to help you sort through options that will be right for you. The following is a “Thinking it Through” list to help you make YOUR decision.

What is your financial reality? For some, the mortgage and other payments (cars and/or credit cards) are a mismatch with income. Their option is to prepare their home for sale and find housing to match available income.

Can you wait the recommended two years before finalizing such an important decision? Experts agree and common sense tells us that we make better decisions after time has done some healing work after any crisis.

Start a list of housing items that are important to the new you. No, we did not chose to be this new person, but here we are! You may have never even contemplated what you like or dislike, need or do not need, enjoy or find annoying. The list will grow, morph, you may erase and add. You may even have separate lists for location, space, and community. Eventually when decision time comes, your lists will be helpful.

If there are children at home, how will a move impact them? One widow with school aged children moved quickly to escape painful memories, only to see her children struggle with added challenges in a new school and community. She wrote that in hindsight, her life and their lives would have been better had she stayed for at least a few years. There may be sacrifices worth making for the sake of stability.

Whether moving or not, get an appraisal of your home. In many locations, capital gains over a certain amount are taxed upon sale of a home. It is usually helpful to you as a widow for the base price to be that of the home’s worth at the time you became a widow, rather than the original purchase price. While the appraisal may cost a few hundred dollars, it may save thousands when you sell. Consult with knowledgeable people in your area for specific advice.

Remember, its YOUR decision. Listening to children, friends, and other relatives can give you different perspectives. But it is your 24/7 life. Where you spend it is important.

To Move or Not to Move - Questions to Ask

The most important goals in communication are to always safe-guard the relationship and to always seek to fully understand other’s perspective before beginning dialog.

Try asking your spouse or your parents some of the following questions to start a dialog on this topic.

1. How many times do you want to move?
Might want to move to a one level home or condo, then move elsewhere later or maybe move into a Continuing Care Community where all levels of care are available and no other moves are needed.

2. How much space do you actually need?

One bedroom, a living room and a kitchenette might be enough or it might be too small at this time. Remember you would also have use of the common areas at your new location, such as guest suite, private dining room, a library, exercise facilities, etc.

3. Is home maintenance causing worry or stress?
Look at what will have to be maintained or even replaced if they stay where they are
for the next few years. “At what point is it no longer worth trying to keep it up?” How would
you know when it is time to move to something that is not a burden?

4. Do you have safety concerns?
How would you describe your physical capacity? Do the stairs present a difficulty either up
to the bedroom or down to the laundry in the basement? Do you climb a ladder to store things in the attic or the garage? The goal is to make a change before an accident happens.

5. Are you still comfortable with your neighborhood?
Has the two-lane street become a four-lane highway? Or maybe too much neglect has reduced the quality of the neighborhood. What has changed around you?

6. Do you expect to live with your children?
Every family will have their definite opinion about this. For some, even though they may wish they could do this, it is impossible. Be sure you talk openly and kindly about these things.

7. Are you concerned about being a burden to your children, family or friends?
What would being a “burden” look like to you? How strongly would you want to avoid this? Rate your feelings on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.

8. Who is your support system?
If there was an emergency, who would you call? Could your spouse really deal with it or would you need other close family members? How quickly could they come? Where do they live? Would moving closer be a pro-active thing to do?

9. What if you could no longer drive?
How would this impact your social, recreational and doctor appointment needs? Would that indicate that it is time to move?

10. If something happened to either one of you, what would that mean for your spouse?
Would the surviving spouse be capable and comfortable in managing the home alone?

11. How important to you is it that you make your own choices?
If it is important to you, make those choices before you are unable to make those choices. Important choices are: 1) Who do you want to have your precious, sentimental and sometimes valuable items? 2) Who would you want to have the power of attorney? 3) If you had to be moved to a assisted living or skilled nursing location, which one would you choose based on your financial reality? If you want to stay in as much control as possible, making these choices ahead of time is mandatory.

12. How attached are you to your “stuff”?
Where would you begin reducing the quantity? Where would you want to give your
larger or extra items that will not be needed in the downsizing? Sometimes a professional organizer can help with the sorting.

13. How important is it to be located near children or family?
Rate that importance on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Which adult child or family member is most capable and available to serve your needs in times of decreasing abilities? Do you need to make a move now to be closer to them?

14. If left alone, can you maintain your current lifestyle?
Explore some “what ifs” options of what might fit best for the remaining spouse. Would they be able physically and financially to maintain their current living location?

15. Would you prefer to make a lifestyle transition by yourself, as the remaining spouse, or do it together as a couple while you are able?
Maybe you think, we’ll just wait. If something happens to one of us, then the other one can cross that bridge when they come to. If you make the move together, then the other one isn’t left alone to deal with all the “stuff” and the transition. Even if you choose not to make any move together, what actions can you take now to make that transition go more smoothly for the remaining spouse, such as clean out the closets, give away some large items that would never fit in a downsized location,
have certain rooms painted, etc.

16. Is it increasing difficult to get out and socialize or to drive at night?
Has your evening socializing reduced over the last few years due to poorer night vision? Do you spend more and more time watching TV? Do you go to few interesting events lately? Do you have nothing to talk about because you are not taking in any new information or experiences?

Knowing what loved ones think on these issues gives insight into what and when future actions might need to be. The interaction support is so valuable for them not to feel abandoned.

Summarized by Carol Nevin of Axelson Realty, Northbrook – 847-271-2711
From the book: “Senior Housing 101, Your Basic Field Guide to Understanding Today’s Complex Senior Housing Market” by Randalynn Kaye.
See her website at

Who is a Widow?

I’m finding that I share a common bond with women we don’t consider widows. Our groups that invite widows to come for support, encouragement, and instruction are shared with divorced women, women whose husbands are incarcerated, and women whose husbands have simply left them.

This prompted me to study the meaning of ‘widow’ in the Hebrew and Greek. Not being a theologian, I simply went to dictionaries like Strong’s and Unger’s Bible Dictionary. I discovered phrases like, “lacking a husband either figuratively or literally,” “desolate,” “bereaved.” Other phrases were, “of uncertain derivation,” “a woman abandoned.”

Given those definitions, the term ‘widow’ includes more than our western concept of one whose husband has died. To have once had a husband and to now have none unites many.

A friend whose husband is incarcerated found that the widows need to select her new ‘Board of Directors,’ those who will advise her with HER best interests at heart, not their own, was an important concept for her. She needed to discover those who would be her support network for her and her six children, given the reality that her husband is in prison.

Another friend’s husband had moved out, taking the checkbook and more. Her unconditional trust of her husband was admirable. Yet, she was placing herself and her child at great risk by ignoring the legal ramifications of what he was doing and spending, all of which were not in her best interests. Our Bible study on the persistence of a widow seeking justice, and God’s love for those of us alone, empowered her to face the realities in her life. Yes, it was a tearful and tough recognition. Our group was a safe place for those tears and her anger as well.

In my travels in Africa, I had observed a unity of sisterhood between women whose husbands had died and women whose husbands had simply left them. It was not uncommon for a man to announce to his family that he was going to another area, usually a big city or an area that had mining opportunities, to find better work. Often those men never returned. They settled in to a new place and sometimes started another family. That Mom left behind was, by biblical definition, a woman abandoned, desolate, not unlike the woman whose husband had died.

These women shared watching each other’s children while one walked to their maize patch to garden. Given that the patch might be more than a mile from the village, this sisterhood was important for survival. In some cases, the villages were predominately women and children.

This realization for me has raised more questions than answers.

Thankfully churches are beginning to awaken to the biblical mandate of James 1: 27 that is not just about caring for orphans, but widows as well. Does that mandate include all ‘abandoned’ women?

Whether the church acts or not, are there ways that those of us who are widows because of our husbands death, can serve and comfort other abandoned women?

I welcome your insights and comments. Contact us and let us know your thoughts.

Miriam Neff

Parenting Teenagers

Joyce is a recent widow with 8 children. She writes that her teenage son is a very angry young man who has become verbally abusive to her and the other children. She wondered if anyone else has dealt with a similar situation and can give her some advice?

My dear Joyce,

Sounds like you are in for quite growing experience in your faith and parenting. 
I am checking in with a dad who might be able to give you email counsel and am seeing if he is available.  Meanwhile, here are a few things I know. 

You must establish yourself as head of the household, because that is what you are.  (Though not by choice I know.)  As head, you determine acceptable language standards.  Violating that brings consequences.  What consequences is your son receiving?  If they are not working what consequences will?  I don't know how you can share this with your son, but two truths are essential.

1.  Anger is an appropriate emotion given the loss of his dad.
2.  Being rude and disrespectful is not an acceptable way to get rid of anger.

Often physical activity helps get rid of that anger/adrenalin thing.  However, I do not know your son and that may or may not be a place to start.  Maybe he can help decide with you what he can do when he is angry that is appropriate.

My prayers are with you today.  God's strength and blessings to you.

Dear Miriam,   

I'm not doing very well at establishing myself as the head of the household.  I've always been the weaker parent:  more indecisive, emotional, hesitant to "lay down the law".  How do I become the head of the household?

Dear Joyce,
A good thing is that you know yourself as you are.  This is a real beginning and God will help you from there.  I'm sure it is your desire to be Christ-like.  Remember that Jesus was a leader, strong, and focused.  You can become that, because that is who you must be now with your children.  Deciding your family goals so that you prioritize where you invest your energies as a parent is a good place to start.

Dear Miriam,

I don't have any goals right now other than trying to make it through each day without having a nervous breakdown!  Obviously, the most important issue is the kids' spiritual lives.  I try to have bible reading and prayer time with the kids each night at 7:00 and feel that I have accomplished something if we get this done.  (Sometimes, the older kids have evening activities: sports, debate, etc., and we don't have our devotions.) So, if spiritual training is the most important thing to me, how does this become our family goal?  What would our home look like with that as our goal?

“Email dad” writes (Yes, this is lengthly, however, it is priceless, and so worth reading!)

Miriam forwarded your emails and asked if I'd be willing to offer a "male" perspective.  It is my prayer that these thoughts may be of some assistance.
I fully agree with what Miriam has already written about the need to "vent" and release anger and pain.  I've sensed and seen this in my own daughter and the need has been confirmed in our lives by counselors as well.  So I don't, or at least try not to, overreact when my daughter goes into the backyard and cusses out God at the top of her lungs.  God can handle it.  Hopefully the neighbors won't call the police.  It is only by going through this, by releasing the pain and anger inside of her that she can go on to the healing parts of grief.  Profanity in casual conversation is another issue altogether and my daughter is experimenting with that as well.  Whenever I hear it, I correct it immediately.  I remind her it is inappropriate and unnecessary.  It violates the standards of our family.  I don't use such language and she is not allowed to either.  What I see is my daughter both being a teenage...testing her limits and boundaries... and reacting to grief.  I find it is almost impossible at times to separate the two. 
My daughter's response to grief I understand as well.  In the biggest crisis of her life no one, not me, not family, not teachers, not the church, not even God saved the life of her Mom.  In her mind we're not reliable.  She has stated that she's going to do things on her own.  She doesn't need God or anyone.  And then she promptly gets into trouble...and doesn't understand why.  I approach her needs, fears and doubts with a three fold attack.   We are body, mind and spirit.  No one can heal themselves.  Believing that God uses doctors as well as pastors, I've gotten psychiatric care for my daughter.  If she had broken a leg, I wouldn't hesitate to go to the hospital, well there is a physical component to our thoughts and emotions.   
Mentally I support my daughter via counseling.  Even psychiatrists recognize the limits of "pills".  Sandy needs help thinking the right things. An experienced counselor helps her with perspective.   My daughter doesn't like going and I always end up doing most of the talking but by the end of the hour she is talking on her own.  It seems everybody has advise and wants to talk to my daughter.  I severely limit this to protect her but there are a few that I "insist" that she talk to.  The alternative for her is being committed to a psych ward, that's enough to make her talk. 
Most importantly I support my daughter spiritually.  She regularly visits with one of our pastors and his wife.  Also my daughter and I are reviewing scriptures that lay out God's relationship and His love for her.  I routinely pray with her and for her.  I try for the evening devotions but most of the time what I'm able to do is recognize and capitalize on teaching moments.  These are those moments in everyday life that I can tie back or attribute back to God.  We've recently had very interesting discussions on angels started by a seemingly innocent question asked in the car. 
No surprise to you, boys are different.  Makes you appreciate the "fearfully and wonderfully made" part of scripture.  Not to mention that idea that God has a sense of humor.  Before you get too smug, remember us guys think the same about you women as well.  My recent experience of losing my wife has made me really cognizant of my need for strength in my life.  I think it is common among men.  We are drawn to strength.  Kinda explains, football, pro wrestling, NASCAR....   We are God-wired to bear burdens but in doing that are often overwhelmed and need to know that someone out there is strong enough.  Strength comes from strength.  We vicariously tap into the strength of others.  Ultimately that person is God but we men tend to look for it in each other first.  Originally we look for it in our dads.  It isn't lost on me that at the point your son needs it the most, you are least equipped to offer it.  On a good day you're probably not the strength a 14 year old future man is looking for, and today is not your good day.  As someone has wisely said, God knows what your son needs.  It is not by accident that He had written that He is "a father to the fatherless."  Other men in your family's life will be used to step in represent that strength which God provides.  As your son matures he will learn to go direct to the source himself. 
A woman on a Christian radio broadcast once detailed how she wasn't drawn to the "Big God" of the Old Testament, the one who did big things like creation and miracles and making nations, she was more impressed by the God who became the person of Jesus... and cared about the little stuff of day-to-day life, water from a well, sickness of a child, hunger.  The emphasis for her was on love and relationship.  At the risk of stereotyping, most men are drawn to that "Big God"  We need to know that the one who placed within us the urge to bear burdens and provide support to others is bigger than the problems we constantly experience and see.  Again, strength comes from strength.  Men are often drawn to the God who spoke and life began, who empowered man to halt the sun, split rivers, who can rain down fire from heaven when need be.  We think plagues are cool.  Imagine, cut me off on the freeway, I drop a swarm of locust on your pristine lawn.  Yeah !!!  The man who can model strength and confidence for your son will have appeal to him.  A Christian man will recognize and acknowledge that this strength comes from THE FATHER.  The source of all strength.  One note, I'm no gun nut.  I don't drive a pickup, never been hunting.  Only been fishing once and the fish won.  Never played any organized sports.  This isn't about being a tough guy or macho.  It is about being the man God wants your son to be and to become.            
This is starting to sound preachy and I'm not qualified to do that to you.  I'm a fellow Christ follower, a widower and single parent these past 11 1/2 months and I pray for you and your family.

Joyce writes one month later

Sam has been better lately.  I had a very serious conversation with him about a month ago and really "laid down the law".  I told him that his behavior has GOT to change or I will find a group home for him to move into.  Maybe that sounds extreme, but we just couldn't handle the constant verbal and physical abuse anymore.  He has been much more settled down since then. I'm so thankful to have connected with you.  It's been a good resource for me. Sometimes it's nice just to have someone else to talk to who has had similar experiences.

Joyce writes six weeks later
Sam is still a struggle for me.  I've decided to get some counseling for ME so that I can learn some better parenting skills.  I've tried sending him to counseling but he just sits there the whole time and won't talk.

Dear Joyce,
Widowconnection will continue to pray for you and your family. We especially pray that godly men will come into ‘R’s’ life to model his heavenly father. You are becoming a woman and mother of strength. We salute you!

Dating Again

How we hunger for connection! While many of us intend to remain single and become comfortable with our new life alone, many do not. Statistics tell us that more widowers remarry than do widows. Since the average age of widows is 52, it’s not surprising that looking for a new companion is likely and appropriate.

One widow wrote talking about how God was satisfying her needs in so many ways. And yet she added. . . “so I have the love I have always wanted..but some real arms would be ok.” We can relate!

Another told of her hasty marriage to a widower and their divorce only a few years later. Her conclusion was that they married too soon without considering the difficulties ahead.

One woman wrote wondering whether the fact that she was nearly the same age of her widower friend’s daughter would be a problem. My answer: probably at some point.

A new relationship is not to be lightly undertaken. Remember that we are vulnerable in our grief. Wisdom may get buried under impulse, especially if we are struggling to get a handle on our new life. Another relationship to solve a problem, whether loneliness, financial difficulties, or home repairs, rarely solves the problem and usually brings others we did not have before!

So, keeping it real and brief, here are a few guidelines:

Always, always connect only when you are both like-minded in your faith.

No hurry, please. The guideline of no major decision for two years is a good one.

Children will be a factor. Whether young or old, they remember their dad or mom and have a myriad of feelings attached to seeing you with someone else.

Ask the opinion of others you trust and listen to them carefully. They often have better relational eyesight into others than we have.

Study the Scriptures on remarriage. Your prayers over the open Bible will invite God’s special wisdom and protection into your life.

Proceed with caution, prayer, joy, and anticipation. A great future in not dependent on a new person in your life, but your connection with your Creator.