Finding Your Way After the Death of a Spouse
Marguerite Pons knows the pain of losing a spouse. She felt so lost when her husband died in 2003, that she turned to a friend to guide her through the funeral arrangements.
Nine months later, at the end of a conversation with her pastor at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Pons suddenly said, “I am a capable woman and was stymied at what I had to do when I lost my husband.”
She told him that there should be some type of support to help spouses through their immediate loss and the grieving process.
That same day, Pons and Mickie Boyle, director of Pastoral Care, brainstormed on the support group that became Widowed Helping Others.
Boyle gave Pons a folder with names of people who had lost a spouse. Soon after, Pons’ friend Ray Sweirski, who had helped with her husband’s funeral arrangements, called the men on the list, and Pons called the women.
“We each explained our interest in why we should all get together,” recalled Pons. “To help one another during this journey we were forced to take. We all had to deal with the grief, the legal aspects and how to live alone after all the years we had had a partner.”
Two months later, WHO held its first meeting.
“No one understands what it’s like to lose a spouse, unless you’ve lost a spouse,” Pons explained.
The group had grief counseling and shared information with each other on estate issues, paying bills, moving forward and even dating.
“Soon we were meeting socially with one another, going on day trips and [to the theater]. We were still small enough that we were very close and became one another's new family,” Pons said.
Widowed Helping Others is now mainly a social group that meets at 6 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of the month, at St. Ann’s. Grief counseling is available at 5 p.m. in St. Ann’s Parish office.
Sixty people attended last Wednesday’s gathering.
“We still reach out to the newly widowed. We follow-up by calling and keeping in contact to see if they have counseling needs for themselves or their children; and we give them resources,” Pons said.
Losing a spouse can be so overwhelming that surviving spouses are often advised by professionals to avoid making major decisions during the first year of grieving.
Last February, John Eidson, of Sandy Springs, lost his wife to suicide. In addition to WHO, he attends a support group for survivors of suicide at The Link Counseling Center on Mount Vernon Highway.
“This group helps you carry on with your life in the absence of your spouse,” said Eidson, regarding WHO. “They have a welcoming committee, and you know that everybody there is on the same journey as you are. And then you don’t feel so alone. But it is a long and slow journey. This group is a blessing for anybody who has lost their spouse. “
Dunwoody resident David McCracken, has been widowed for seven years. His wife died at the age of 51.
During his 23-year marriage, McCracken lived with his wife, two sons, two cats and two dogs. Shortly after his wife passed, his sons went off to college, taking one dog. The other dog and the two cats died.
“I continued to work and just plugged on after she died…possibly became a workaholic,” McCracken said. “That allowed me to isolate.”
He attended Bereavement Seminars at Dunwoody Methodist Church, and later learned about WHO. At his first gathering, Marguerite Pons took McCracken’s hand and introduced him to everyone.
“There’s a lot of guilt associated with being left when you lose your partner. And you have to allow yourself to change, [just] as life has changed,” he said.
Located at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Widowed Helping Others is a non-denominational group. The church is located at 4905 Roswell Road, in Marietta. The 6 p.m. group meets at La Salette Hall behind the parish office. Grief counseling is available at 5 pm. on the lower level of the parish office building. For more information contact Marguerite Pons at 770-977-8438. Also visit http://www.st-ann.org.
Repinted from Sandy Springs Patch by Sharon Spangler.