Many middle-aged widows are employed when their spouse dies. It’s a curse and a blessing. The curse: If they have an employer, they get maybe a couple weeks off to immerse themselves in grief before heading back to work, yet, undoubtedly, they are still grieving. The blessing: Work keeps a part of the widow’s life like it was before the loved one’s death. It provides some normalcy; it distracts the mind — at least a little.
I was self-employed when Tom died, which means I worked at home writing and editing. My work load was erratic; my income lagging. It was especially uneven when Tom was sick because I was caring for him while trying to cope with the chaos and emotions that swirled around us. I didn’t have the time or the heart to make work a priority other than to take assignments when they came my way.
So even before the funeral, I knew I would get a full-time job. I wanted a job out of the house — with benefits. I had been self-employed for 27 years and that was enough of that lifestyle.
As it turned out, one of my clients – an automotive research company – offered me a position at just about the ideal time after Tom’s death. I had time to handle administrative tasks, cry and grieve with and without my kids, visit relatives in Florida, walk miles and miles and talk over too many drinks with friends and family. My boss was a friend of close friends. She was someone I sort of knew – we had been at many parties together.
It was quite perfect, really. But the job would be a huge career change. The company came up with a new position and gave me the title writer, research analyst. Not surprising, my job duties were a bit muddled. The position was somewhat low level, but I accepted it because I knew almost nothing about the world of market research and the learning curve would be considerable. I also worried I wouldn’t get another offer.
Despite having decades of experience in writing, editing and public relations, this post would be Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoints, math equations, acronyms, a dead-quiet work environment, coworkers who could make beautiful, confusing charts, and something Dilbert-like called project management.
I struggled – not with being employed by a corporation, but by trying to understand what the hell people were talking about. I was out of my element for the first two years and, at times, it was uncomfortable and made me feel stupid. I didn’t have enough to do; I was a fish out of water. I longed to write a news story.
Regardless, I was thankful for the job, which I still have two and a half years later. Despite the 55 miles of driving thru rush hour five days a week and periodic malaise in my still-too-quiet office, it helped defuse the grief early on and even now gives me a place to go each day and helps me cope.