Cancer took the life of Sandy Dircks' husband two years ago -- not long before Thanksgiving of 2004.
But she didn't find her way back to everyday life right away, and that's why she formed the Merry Widows, a club dedicated to helping widows get out and get on with their lives.
"Once you've been a caregiver for so long, you lose your identity," she said.
Kay Rigney, another club member, knew too many women out there, alone and struggling.
The experience of becoming a widow created a common bond through the 20 or so women who meet once a month for company, camaraderie and laughter.
"There are women out there who were sitting at home doing nothing," Rigney said.
"It's a way of meeting women with similar interests."
Although more than 30 percent of Payson's community is 65 and older, Dircks said the number of younger women involved in the group surprised her.
"This town is full of widows," she said.
Becoming introverted is a natural part of the grieving process.
According to the Hospice Foundation of America, the year following the death of a spouse is marked by bereavement -- emotions covering everything from confusion, anger and guilt to relief.
The most intense mourning can last weeks, even years.
Some survivors establish healing rituals that celebrate the life of the deceased.
But at some point, life must begin again.
"You need to get out and be around people who are cheerful and do some of the things you used to do before," Dircks said.
Since the inception of the group in September, the ladies of the Merry Widows have been meeting to discuss upcoming events.
Antiquing, bus trips, shopping, lunching and having fun are just a few of the interests expressed by group members.
Dircks said she's seeking more participation from the widows of the community.
"We've had three meetings. So, we're still asking for comments and suggestions," she said.
The group meets the second Wednesday of the month. The next luncheon is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Nov. 8 at Tiny's.
For more information, contact Sandy Dircks at (928) 474-0825.
Signs you are healing after the loss of a loved one:
Adapted from the American Hospice Foundation
- You have developed a routine or a new schedule in your daily life that does not include your loved one.
- You can reach out to help someone else in a similar situation. It is healing to be able to use your experience to help others.
- You are in touch with the finality of the death. You now know in your heart that your loved one is truly gone and will never return to this earth.
- You look forward to holidays. Once dreaded occasions can now be anticipated with excitement, perhaps through returning to old traditions or creating new ones.
- You can establish new and healthy relationships. New friends are now part of your life and you enjoy participating in activities with them.
- You can enjoy a good joke and have a good laugh without feeling guilty.
- You can take the energy and time spent thinking about your loss and put those energies elsewhere, perhaps by helping others in similar situations or making concrete plans with your own life.
- You acknowledge your new life and even discover personal growth from experiencing grief.
- You feel confident again. You are in touch with your new identity and have a stronger sense of what you are going to do with the rest of your life.