Reinventing Yourself After the Loss of a Partner

“So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  —Mark Twain

It was not a club I ever anticipated joining. I am in that unenviable category of having lost one’s partner far too early and realizing that the life we envisioned together is not to be. In the middle of all the sorrow and just trying to get through the day, I knew I had to let go of that imagined life, and that reinventing myself at age 66 was going to be a challenge.

What about all those dreams and plans and adventures that had been ahead for us? I am here to encourage anyone who’s lost their partner to forge ahead with as many of those plans as you can. Grab a friend, a sibling, a grown child, or even a grandchild if you can’t envision yourself doing things alone. Challenge yourself to not give up on those dreams. And here’s the silver lining—you will enrich yourself and anyone else that comes along for the ride. I am honoring my husband by taking the 21-day tour we had planned before he died on my own.

Another startling discovery for me in this new solitary life is the abundance of time. In my married life, so much time was taken up with what we did together. Suddenly, all I have is time and at first this seemed overwhelming. I have learned that solitude, and even melancholy, can be powerful, positive forces. I now take one day at a time and set five simple daily goals. Each day I try to do something kind, something healthy, something creative, something spiritual, and something to expand my mind. I schedule events and trips farther out on the horizon to have things to look forward to, and with encouragement from a good friend, try to “say yes to everything.”

Now with a future that initially felt too vast, I have the opportunity to spend more time with my children and grandchildren, visit with friends, participate in new volunteer activities, and embrace solitude. For me, this realization brings a surge of energy. In its wake I am reconsidering long-held personal dreams, and making a “bucket list” of things I still want to do, even if it is on my own. For example, writing had been a long-overlooked passion and I don’t believe I would be writing articles for this outstanding magazine today had I not lost my dear husband.

I close with encouraging you to try something you never thought you would or could do. Maybe, like me, it is a creative endeavor such as writing, art, or music. Don’t ever underestimate the healing and energizing properties of creative pursuits. Or maybe it’s taking a trip by yourself or reconnecting with family and friends, particularly those who are single. Be bold. And, by all means, try something!

Marilee Clarke lives in Issaquah and loves the Northwest’s natural beauty. She is a collage artist and her passions include travel and anything creative. She and her late husband taught a course at Bellevue College on “How to get the most out of your retirement years” and that is just what she’s doing!


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