Overshadowing Covid: The loss of a spouse

Three interviewees lost their husbands directly before or during the pandemic. Remarkably, all three women experienced the pandemic lockdown as an opportunity for retreat, healing, and self-discovery. Their stories show that their pandemic experience took a backseat to their journey through grief.

Judi Bachrach

Discovering her "flying solo" self: "I’m still recovering, no recovering is not the word, discovering myself. And so as a widow, … I mean I was with my husband for almost 50 years. So it’s a big adjustment. It’s a really big adjustment. Who am I without that? We grew up together. We were teenagers together. We became adults together, had a life together, had our children together, had our professions. You know, everything that a life is. And then you’re on your own. You’re flying solo. It’s different. Who am I in the relation to myself without him? Internalized psychic reference of your partner. And we were…we were both psychotherapists. We reinforced our spiritual connections with each other and our communities so we were very intimate in a lot of ways. So that was big readjustment."

Janet Kelsey Werner

The open-ended questions of grief: "What I do now that I don’t have Budd? How do I fill my days? How do I find meaningful stuff to do?"

Finding support groups: "There were several things that I was very involved in that I dropped to be his emotional caregiver. And so it’s like woo, woo, now what do we do? What do I do with my life now? So that was, that was kind of a floundering around. I am in a group that was very–maybe some of the other people you’ve talked with–it’s with First Church. We meet every week. We meet for an hour and a half. We read about 100 pages a week. And some of the stuff–I’m not as much of a social activist as some of the women, so some of the books I read because they’re a little too deep for me or they’re a little too whatever. But I love the discussions and I love the women, and they’ve become a support group. And so all of that has helped me get through those first, that first terrible year plus of Covid when we were so shut down." 

Time to sort through old possessions: "I’ve been going through a lot, a lot, a lot of stuff. And I’m excited because I think–I mean he did a lot of things, we have just, you know, things named after him, things that had his name on them–blah, blah, blah. And you know I’m thinking, we can just leave that. You know, I mean, I have my memories, but I don’t have to take that stuff with me…you know I can take, I can take of Budd what I want to take of Budd."

Elizabeth Hole

A pilgrimage to develop a new sense of self: "Bill died then in the first year and so I had the isolation and the opportunity to really stop and think about who I am. And to…because I had you know…I got married in college. And so I’ve sort of, always you know, been with family of one form or another with responsibilities to other people. And this was a wonderful opportunity to sort through things. Get rid of things. Move to a new cottage and sort of find out who I am, and what choices I make. I wasn’t bombarded with a lot of outside expectations. I had the time in the space to really center and reflect. And so if I say it’s a retreat, I meant more in a sense where you go on a pilgrimage…it was more of a pilgrimage. It wasn’t a running away kind of retreat, it was an opportunity to kind of stop and figure out who I was."