One Way to Handle a Widow's Grief - Buy Stuff

My home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

My husband, Dan passed away a little over a month ago. I'm grieving like all widows do.  I found that I could steal some wonderful moments of happiness as well as focus away from my grief, by doing home improvements and decorating. Doing up the house is a great distraction from a widow's grief - at least for me. 

I live in an old Victorian house in rural Maryland. It's about 2000 square feet and in good shape for a home that was built in 1892. But like all historic homes... it's constant upkeep and repair. Something always needs to be fixed.

For the last ten years, Dan and I did nothing to improve the d├ęcor. Our house is a mishmash of things we've collected over the years, things our kids left behind, and way too many mementos. Nothing matches. Our fourteen-year-old couch sags in the middle, is too big for the living room, and has black magic marker stains on the arms from when our twin granddaughters were toddlers. I abhor that couch. 

The House - neglected, crowded, disorganized

We overhauled our bathroom sixteen years ago with the cheapest fixtures available. We couldn't afford elegant back then. So we bought a little sink/vanity combo, a shower and a toilet. Imagine the cheapest fixtures complemented by a multi-color scheme of blue, green, gray, peach, rose and navy enamel paint with mermaid accents. (I must have been on crack). Dan never completed the finishing work. There are paint drippings and broken trim and unfinished corners without trim. Some of the tile eventually cracked. The sink stopper in that bathroom is permanently broken, and the sink itself has brown stains from our hard water that has eaten through the glaze. This is our bathroom from hell. 

Our kitchen still had its disgusting turquoise laminate counter that was likely installed in the 60s and a cheap, shallow stainless steel double sink. The kitchen island was falling apart and had an ugly  chewed corner courtesy our (now deceased) dog, Fergus. There was no room in the kitchen to move or cook. Cabinets were jammed so full that cups and containers would fall out when opened.

Then there were our bedrooms. Oh, my God. I hate to even remember them. We had a spare room with an antique spindle bed, two unmatched, rickety tables on each side of it, a rocker with frayed upholstery hanging down under the seat. There was a child's vanity propped up on bricks that supported a GIANT doll house that I couldn't bear to part with. There were shelves full of toys, puzzles, and books from when our grandkids were little, and a TV sitting on a stack of boxes. The cracked plaster walls needed paint and none of the three sash windows worked. Just walking into that room made me want to cry. 

Comfort Buying Begins

In April of 2019, Dan had brain surgery. During the procedure, I sat in the surgery waiting room worrying and worrying. I'd tell myself everything would be fine, and then I'd worry some more. To distract myself, I thumbed through my Facebook newsfeed. I saw a Wayfair advertisement for a chair I liked.  That chair ad came down my newsfeed once a day, and every time it did I'd stop and look at it and read the description and think about where I might put it in my crowded house of cluttered horror. 

But this time when the chair appeared I thought to myself, "I love that chair. Where would I put it?  It's a good price. Maybe if I got it for that awful POS second bedroom, it would force me to finally fix up  that room. For now, I'll throw out the rocker and put in that chair. And it will feel good every time I look at it"  BOOM. I bought it. Delivery would be in seven days. 

It was a four-hour surgery, and I was on a role. I talked myself into redoing that bedroom, and I purchased  (with my little iPhone) two night stands, a dresser, two lamps, a console table, a chest for the foot of the bed that matched the chair, new linens, accent pillows and a cute little alarm clock. It felt good. I had something to look forward to. It felt creative.  Dan's surgery went well. All was good. 

Wayfair Chair
Wayfair Chair that got me started decorating

I shared my new buys via private message with my grown children, all of whom had occupied that bedroom at one time.  I got great cheers of affirmation from them, except from my son, Daniel who texted back, "Please burn the bed while you're at it."  I texted back, "Bite me. I like the bed." In fact, the bed was the only thing I didn't replace.  Once the old stuff was sold or donated and the new furniture was placed, I had the room painted a very soothing green with taupe trim. Then I bought window shades and a large braided rug. I felt like Joanna Gaines every time I walked past that room. 

It took Dan nearly three months to recover in the hospital from that surgery, and in that time I also ordered a new island for the kitchen, along with a countertop, sink and faucet ... and new cabinets for our mudroom. All of these things were in place when Dan got home. We were hopeful about his progress, and my anxiety lifted. For the remainder of that year my buying was tamped down. 

But then came January 2020. Dan had to go back into the hospital. Like before, this stay was nearly three months. Covid hit during this stay, and things were very stressful.  Dan came home on March 17th just as everything was shutting down due to the pandemic. His health was not stable, and we were sequestered inside our home. I was cooking all of our meals in my improved kitchen with my new island. 

And it was nearly my birthday. 

Poor old Dan couldn't buy me anything so I told him not to worry. I wanted a new charcoal grill. Suddenly, I'd developed a hunger to learn the art of charcoal grilling. So we bought me a Weber Performance Deluxe Grill in Crimson as a birthday gift. I watched a dozen YouTube videos about charcoal grilling and fell in love.  I also got a wooden prep cart to go with it - and new dishes - and new grill stuff. 

My Weber grill.  If it were a man, I'd marry it. 



Then came Mothers Day. Dan still needed gift help. 

So I got myself a five piece dinette set with umbrella and cushions and placemats and dishes.  We had a little paradise right outside our back door, and I cooked on the grill four or five nights a week. Dan loved the food and it was our special time spent together. 

My deck dinette and cushions.

With my love of cooking revived, I bought an air fryer. What a life changer that was. I still use it nearly every day - mostly for cooking vegetables. I also bought and Instant Pot for indoor cooking and an outdoor chest to store the cushions and deck supplies. We had so much fun on that deck. 


Dan loving his steak dinner. 

Once the weather got chilly, Dan got sick again. He was admitted to the hospital on our twenty-first anniversary - September 18th. He came home on October 30th under the care of Hospice and he passed away on December 5th. 


Dan and I on our deck one evening after dinner. 

Christmas came and I did my usually buying for five grown children and their spouses and ten grandchildren. But the grief is setting in. It changes everyday. Anxiety comes with it. 

So I've geared up agin.  

I'm finally replacing that wretched couch, and that horrid bathroom vanity. Also .... a new TV stand that hides all the cords and doesn't look so junky. I got myself a new ice-maker.  I haven't had ice since I moved from Laurel in 2002. Our water is disgusting. I use bottled water in this ice-maker, and it sits on the countertop making all the ice I want.  These home projects are a nice distraction from noticing how very empty my house is these days. 

Fortunately, I only buy what I can afford at the time. Sometimes I wonder why buying things has a soothing effect on my grief, but for now it works. I hope I don't run out of money before I enclose my deck, expand the kitchen and buy leather chairs for the music room. 


Comments

  1. Mindie, whatever brings you comfort, that is the thing you need. Thinking of you. I love your chair.

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  2. TOTALLY understand! I ended up with a renovated kitchen (much needed) and the den. Looking back it was definitely a distraction from the grief. But the grief was still waiting for me. But I was stronger then.

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  3. I didn't know we have the same wedding anniversary! I too buy or redo my house to distract me from the grief. Tom has been gone 5 years now, I purchased our dream house, traded in my Ford taurus with 260,000 miles & got my Edge with panoramic sunroof. I have painted every bedroom, turned one bedroom into a walk-in closet, & changing old closet to an office nook. During the pandemic & stay at home, I also started a garden & got veggies! One day at a time, Grief is like waves of the ocean. Oh I also have a new addiction to Aldi their cheese & Aisle of Shame....lol
    One day at a time

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  4. You do what makes you feel good or relieved, calm. You have great taste by the way. You do what makes you feel happy. This is your cousin Jenny by the way.. I really don't know why it says taken with you as my name. I'm special that way! Hugs to you!

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  5. You deserve to treat yourself to new furniture and a pleasant environment,especially in a time of grief. I can relate to letting the house go. It happens every time I am deep in in my writing. I just close my eyes and try to ignore all the small things that need attention. Feeling for you and sending virtual hugs.

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  6. Mindie, this is an amazing article. Thank you for sharing your journey as you travel with your loss of Dan. We all look at losing our loved ones with a little fear and uncertainty. You have given us ideas and entertained us as well. You are an amazing woman, I'll travel anywhere with you, and love you!!!

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  7. Sounds like the perfect way to ease the grief and your new looking house will please you too. I totally get what you are doing and I really hope it helps. Glad to have you back writing again too! x

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  8. This was beautiful, Mindie. I've been thinking about you.

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  9. This was beautiful, Mindie. I've been thinking about you.

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  10. Hi Mindie, it is good to hear your voice again. Your very wise voice, I must add.
    I think you are right in what you are about. Make your house shelter you and give you some peace.

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  11. Great blog. I've been where you are and I remember the need to change a few things. I don't know why, but it did bring some comfort. Maybe an ability to control something, anything, not sure. I sold my husband's truck to his brother. My eight year old granddaughter, Lucy, said, "No! YOU SOLD GRAMPA'S TRUCK?" She was mortified. I slowed it down...for a bit. Be safe and keep writing.

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  12. I think about, & pray for, you regularly, Mindie. You have taken on a constructive way to handle your grief, energy, & emotions. Be kind & patient with yourself. Much love.

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  13. Doing something positive and seeing beauty in new stuff is the perfect strategy. When my brother was killed in an accident, I did the same thing. I have a memory of standing on a ladder painting a wall, and the tears tripping me. Gradually, the spinning stops. And you will have beauty all around you. The over achiever in your productivity will be worth it.

    Don’t forget about self care too. Pamper yourself. Sit and stare at the beauty of the dawn or the sunset. Indulge yourself. And occasionally, do something outrageous & fun! ❤️

    When the time is right, come back to Ireland, and let it wrap you in a warm hug xx

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