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Skillbuilders instills confidence in life after a spouse dies

The nation recently remembered and celebrated the life of Barbara Bush. People thought of how lucky the Bush’s were to share 70 plus years of marriage. And they were.

Unfortunately, the consequence when a partner passes is that the remaining spouse is challenged to fill roles and duties in life that the deceased spouse had previously fulfilled. How does the surviving spouse acquire new skills that are needed after the funeral is over and every one goes home? How does one evolve from “we” to “me?”

By Anita Widaman

SkillBuilders is a area program that helps the surviving spouse acquire the skills they need in the transition to being self-sufficient.

One former participant of the program shares that the program is quite broad. Skillbuilders “brings outside experts to help with immediate needs in different aspects of finance, home care, insurance, cooking for one, legal matters, etc,” Carol McTarsney shared.

Haven’t we all struggled with new technology, home repairs, personal safety, etc.? One does not need to be a widow or widower to know the frustration and anxiety that comes with meeting daily, monthly, and yearly living tasks. Attendees regularly state that learning these new skills helped them feel in control again.

The emotional support is just as important as the knowledge. Each session starts with coffee and pastries.   One participant stated, “I was well prepared for his death, but I didn’t have a clue how hard life could be as a widow.” By the end of the 3 month session, there is a change in people’s attitudes. They feel more in control and optimistic.

Lea Deo, another SkillBuilders program participant, said that she and her husband had been together since she was 14 years old. She shared that after his death, “Whenever I went to the grocery store, I would cry at the bananas. I’m sure the workers thought I was crazy if they noticed at all. What they didn’t know was that for years I never went to the grocery store without buying bananas because my husband liked bananas.”   She learned while attending SkillBuilders that the emotions she was experiencing were part of the grief process and she was not going crazy.

“SkillBuilders offers a safe place where people can share their stories, experiences and triumphs,” she said.

SkillBuilders provides free spring and fall sessions. Topics during the spring sessions include: I to We to Me: Making Solo Decisions; Selling Your Home in Today’s Market; Understanding Your Grief; Mobile Device & Home Computer Care; Cooking for One; Adjusting to Reduced Income; Home, Cyber and Personal Security; Independence at Home for Seniors; Estate Planning & Legal Issues; and, Home Repair and Vetting Contractors.

The three month sessions are offered throughout the metro area. Currently, locations include Palmer Center, 218A North Pleasant, Independence, MO 64050; Tomahawk Ridge Community Center, 11902 Lowell Blvd., Overland Park, KS 66213, and Platte County Resource Center-Board Room, 11724 NW Plaza Circle, Kansas City MO 64153.

To connect with SkillBuilders or to share with a friend or family member, call 913-648-1520 or go online at www.widowedpersonsservice.org

One participant summed up the the confidence the program instills upon completion, ‘“And every time I master a new skill, I fall all over myself with the ‘attagirls.’ I knew how to be a wife. Now I’m learning how to be a widow.”’

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