Surviving Widowhood: Just Do The Next Thing

Do you ever worry about how you will survive widowhood? Do you ever wonder if there’s a magical master plan and you just can’t find it because you’re doing it wrong? There is no magic formula for managing, surviving, or thriving the journey of widowhood. There is no hidden textbook. What there is is a set of skills you can learn, and a phrase that you can use over and over to help you get through, and that phrase is, “just do the next thing.”

Farm Story Alert

Beginning literally the day my husband died, there were what felt like insurmountable obstacles! In addition to the regular horrible issues that face all of us, such as having kids to raise, mortgage payments to make, and a job to perform, I also had a farm to run and I was just the farmers wife! I had zero qualifications, and while you may not have a farm to run, you may feel the same exact way.

You have a terrible, scary thing that feels insurmountable at this very moment.

Put on your farmer hat for a minute. If you are a farmer and you don’t care for your crops or animals, what happens? They die! If they die, you have no crop. No crop, no money. No money, no bills get paid…. you get it!

I leaned a set of skills that allowed me to SURVIVE the hard times. Was it a good strategy for long term healing? NO! That was a separate beast that had to be addressed at a later time.

Guess what? Healing doesn’t take place until the needs of survival have been met. It’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 101.

You will need to do the work of grieving. However, if you are in a tough position, and just trying to survive, this will help you get through.

  1. I managed my mind. I had a good cry, sometimes daily, and then I looked at what exactly needed to get done. I forced myself into a hyper focus mode. How do you hyper focus? You tune out anything that doesn’t have to do with the task at hand.
  2. I acquired the skills I needed as fast as I could. For me it included attending “Fruit and Nut School” at UC Davis. It meant getting a pesticide applicators license. I meant learning how to drive a tractor and spray weeds and apply accurate water. For you…. what are the skills you need to learn in order to survive your circumstances?
  3. I learned to just do the next thing. Remember I engaged hyper focus? It allowed me to take a task and break it down into tiny pieces. It was literally too much to think about this big picture, so I learned that all I had to do was just the next thing. For you… what is your big project that has you terrified? How can you break it down into smaller pieces? Once you have broken it down, what is the next thing, and then the next thing, and the next thing?
  4. I found mentors and people who could just give me the next step. Friends, find people who can mentor you. This is not a time for pride! This is a time to access resources, and many of those resources are in the form of people. You don’t need a lot of cheerleaders. I had my neighbors, Keith and Renea, and a crazy water guy named Guy.

I had very few people on “team Julie” in the agricultural world. What I did have was a long parade of white pick up trucks that slowly drove down my road on a weekly basis to gawk and see if I had failed because I hadn’t been raised at my Pappy’s knee in this world of men in farming. I could have chosen to focus on them, but I didn’t. Instead I just focused on what just doing the next thing over and over.

I did exactly what you need to do.

I don’t know what your unique situation is. What I do know is that it is overwhelming to you. I know that you may wonder how you will survive. I know that you are scared.

I also know that in the end, you may or may not be able to do the terrible scary thing that terrifies you, and it’s ok. You will survive either way. As long as you have a pulse and you can take a breath, you have won!

When you feel that you cannot do just the next thing anymore, then I want to to envision the future that awaits you at the end of this survival phase. For me it was keeping the farm and home. It was healing from my traumatic loss. For you it may be very different, but equally important.

I had quotes I used to read over and over again. It was too hard to read a book, because let’s face it, I didn’t have the time, nor could I concentrate more than ten seconds.. I found quotes that spoke to my soul. And this one saved me.

“It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” 

Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

My beautiful friends. I know that you may be in the middle of a terrible, scary thing. I know that you will have to endure it in order to survive it. I also know that once you have done those things, you will be better for the suffering. You will be unshakable and refined like gold. And then you CAN run in the direction of your future across the bridge that was built by your suffering.

You can do this, and I’m here to help.


P.S. If you find the journey too much and want guidance, support or help, you can work with me. All you have to do is click on the link.

Julie Martella Avatar

Posted by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with

%d bloggers like this: