Alone and Alive

a practical guide for dealing with the death of your husband


When the World Turned Upside Down:
The Day You Became a Widow

You may be alone, but you are very much alive. Becoming a widow does not end your life. It simply begins a new phase.

This book will not be about sadness.  It is not the tear-jerking story of a grieving widow.  It is the story of how to overcome the grief and recapture the joy of life.  It’s the story of how you live in your newfound state, how you move on, and most important, how you stay yourself, even when you feel like part of you is gone forever.


My world turned upside down on August 10, 2001.  Bob, my husband, Thomas, our nine-year-old son, and I had returned from vacation in Ireland and Scotland just three weeks earlier.  It was a great trip, a nearly perfect family vacation.  But I didn’t realize it would be the last vacation we would all have together.  

That fateful morning in August began innocently enough.  It was Friday, and Bob had taken the day off from work to go camping with Thomas at a nearby lake.  The trip was a celebration of Thomas’s tenth birthday the following Monday.  As I dressed for work, Bob came in from packing the tents and told me he and Thomas wanted to take me to breakfast that morning.  I hesitated, thinking of the hectic day I had scheduled at work.  My private law practice was booming, and I was very busy.  In the end, I decided that I could take a few minutes to meet them at Braum’s, which was on my way to work. 

We had a quick breakfast.  It was just an ordinary breakfast, on an ordinary day.  We laughed and Thomas talked excitedly about what they were going to do at the lake.  They had big plans for the day, swimming, hiking, and bicycling.  I ate quickly, and headed out to my car.  I realized I had the vacuum cleaner in my car, so I grabbed it to put in Bob’s truck.  Just then, Bob, who had seen what I was doing, appeared at my elbow, and, taking the vacuum cleaner from me, promised to drop it at the house before going to the lake.  He then kissed me good-bye, with a fond “I love you” and “have a good day.”  I drove away, confident that the next morning I would see him return home from the lake.  That wasn’t going to happen.

He called me during the day to chat and tell me what they were doing.  That was a normal part of our routine when somebody was out of pocket.  He and Thomas were having a great time.  Around 5:00, I got a call inviting me to come out and eat hot dogs with them for dinner.  I passed on the hot dogs.  Bob laughed, knowing that I would not come, and I knew the invitation wasn’t serious.  I said goodbye to him and headed to the house. 

I was looking forward to my evening alone, and I had plans to watch a movie.  When I got home, I noticed a call from Bob on the caller ID just minutes before I arrived.  I dialed him back, but his cell phone was busy.  I hung up and muttered something about people calling and then turning off their cell phone.  As I turned to walk away, the phone rang.  I picked up and heard my son’s voice. 

The sound of Thomas’s voice filled me with dread.  “Mom, Dad is sitting in a chair with his eyes closed, and he won’t open them, even if I yell at him.”  I knew instantly what had happened.  I told Thomas that I would call for an ambulance.  I asked him if there were any adults around. “No,” he said.  I told him to stay with his dad, keep the phone where he could answer it, and that I would call him back.  I needed to hang up and get an ambulance to help his dad, I told my distressed, but amazingly calm, nine-year-old.

I called for the ambulance, and gave the dispatcher Bob’s cell phone number.  They would call Thomas to find out where they were camping in the park.  I had failed to get that crucial piece of information.  I called Thomas back and told him the ambulance was on the way.  I located my brother and, miraculously, he was close by the entrance to the state park, though he lived nowhere near it.  He and his wife immediately went to the park, so Thomas wouldn’t be alone. 

Jumping in my car, I headed toward the park also.  Halfway there the police dispatcher got hold of me.  “Don’t go to the park,” she said.  I was to go to the hospital and wait.  Also, she asked permission to release Thomas to my brother.  I assured her that was fine.  There were so many details to deal with in the middle of the crisis.

I drove to the hospital, but when I arrived the ambulance wasn’t there.  I was disturbed by this, because the park was closer to the hospital than I was.  I paced and waited, and still no ambulance.  Fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes I waited, checking periodically with the nursing staff.  No, I was told, the ambulance had not come in, but they knew it was coming.  Finally, one of the nurses asked me for information.  But rather than filling out the triage form, they took me behind the nurse’s desk, offered me a seat, typed the information directly into the computer, then offered to get me coffee, tea, a cold drink, anything I wanted.  I had the feeling that they knew what I already suspected, that Bob was dead. 

When they cleared out the private family room and put me in there, I knew that the news was bad.  Finally, thirty-five minutes after the original call, the ambulance pulled in.  I raced out to meet it.  As the doors opened, I saw my husband in his swim trunks, with an automated CPR machine pounding his chest.  A nurse pulled at me to try to move me away from the scene, but I had to stand and watch.  I needed to see Bob.  Only after he was in the treatment area did I move back to the family room.  Then Thomas arrived.

Now my wait was short.  Only a few moments after Bob’s arrival, a doctor came in and told us that Bob could not be resuscitated and she needed to stop trying.  It was over.  In the span of less than an hour, my life had changed forever. 


This book will not be about sadness.  It is not the tear-jerking story of a grieving widow.  It is the story of how to overcome the grief and recapture the joy of life.  It’s the story of how you live in your newfound state, how you move on, and most important, how you stay yourself, even when you feel like part of you is gone forever.

After struggling through the decisions, events, and emotions that followed in the weeks and months after my husband’s death, I realized that there was no guide to help the new widow.  Certainly, there are many good books on grief, and grief books are very beneficial, but the things a new widow needs to know go well beyond dealing with grief.  This book will address not only the issues of grief, but also many other issues that are commonly faced after the death of a spouse.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Help from friends and family
  • Where to live - alone or with relatives
  • Retirement home or roommate?
  • Assessing your new financial realities
  • Probate and other estate matters
  • Keeping or selling your house
  • Helping your children (of all ages) deal with the death
  • Re-planning your legal affairs
  • Dealing with “stuff”
  • Hiring repairmen or do-it-yourself
  • Forgiving yourself
  • Your new daily routine
  • Loving yourself 

In addition, this book will look at the changes in your life and social status, from being part of a couple to a woman alone, and how that impacts your life.  It will also address more mundane problems, like how to pick a repairman and how to deal with your new financial reality.

I am not a psychiatrist, therapist or grief counselor, though I deal with the effects of grief often in my law practice.  I have counseled many widows, and other grieving family members, on the effects of grief and the life transitions that follow.

While my experience as a lawyer, my Master’s of Business Administration, and my Master’s of Divinity give me the tools necessary to help the new widow, my personal experience has given me insights my education never could.

Mostly I am a widow like you.  I have walked this road and emerged whole.  This book is a melding of my personal experiences, the experiences of the many widows I have worked with, and my training to provide practical information for the new widow.

In short, my hope is that this guide will provide you with some nuts and bolts information and resources to survive the transition into widowhood and emerge whole and happy.  You may be alone, but you are very much alive.  Becoming a widow does not end your life.  It simply begins a new phase.  The transition is not easy or pleasant, but it is possible to come through it and step out on the other side alive, vibrant, and ready to embrace your new life as a woman alone.


The grieving widow is at a crossroad.  She can choose to wrap herself in her grief and live there permanently, becoming prematurely old and bitter.  She can embrace self-pity, shrinking from the demands of her new situation and becoming totally dependent on the help of others.  Or she can fearlessly accept and deal with the death of her husband.  Only by dealing with the grief can she stay herself and experience joy once again.

For each of us this is the challenge.  This book will provide you with some of the information you need to help you on your journey to joy.

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Contact Info
Texas Law Office of
Janet Shafer Boyanton, P.C.

211 Executive Way
De Soto, Texas 75115-2336
Phone: (972) 298-6111
Fax: (972) 298-6301