The latest episode in our Resilience Unravelled series has now been released, Resilience Unravelled – Redefining loss and transition.
In this episode, Dr. Russell Thackeray talks to Alison Pena aka Bad Widow about loss and transition. After being married for almost 20 years, Alison’s husband David was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in 2015. The prognosis was between 6 weeks to 4 months so their lives changed immediately. Having gone through the medical options, doctors wanted David to slow down and rest but their joint response was why? Life became more urgent as they worked through their bucket lists. Alison found she needed do things that stopped the illness defining her life and helped her remember she was more than a caregiver and would be more than a widow.
Alison tried to create a situation where as much as possible they could both thrive. David continued working and completed his last watercolour commission the week before he died. Alison thought she was prepared for it but, when it happened, she realised she wasn’t. She had dealt with all the practical things but at 56 she was a widow and felt completely broken.
Alison suffered from some physical side effects. Her memory became very unreliable which impacted on her work as a medical editor and proofreader. She also discovered that as well as feeling broken herself, other people treated her the same way. People would initially try to help and listen but then felt she should bounce back. It was a long, natural cycle and people assumed that her circumstances had broken her, perhaps forever. Alison needed a lot of self-care. Any loss or transition provokes a sequence of events that pushes us into something we might not want or know how to deal with. Self-care is essential. It’s a necessary part of resilience and a buffer against the experience you’re involved in.
With the future she imagined gone, Alison developed a way to navigate out of her loss. Level 1 is about healing from the loss or transition. You need to grieve the loss and give yourself time to fill up again. People will talk about the practical things but are not so willing to talk from inside it. You need to heal powerfully and peacefully. Trying to return to the person you were doesn’t work. You need to bounce to a different place, to bounce forward.
Level 2 is about reinventing yourself and clearly communicating what you want and need. In a long-term relationship your likes and dislikes sometimes bend to those of your partner. Your own preferences can be comprised so you need to rediscover what you like and want as an individual. People are afraid of getting things wrong and don’t know what to say or to do. They either step up, step back or step out.
During her journey Alison found the resources she needed weren’t available so she started writing her Bad Widow blog. This resonated with people in similar situations so she developed her consulting resource and now works with people navigating though the transition.
You can listen to the podcast in full and find out further information about Alison here. Our previous podcast episodes and upcoming guest list are also available and there is an option to sign-up to receive our podcast episodes on release.
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