Everything I Know About Widowhood I Learned From Jessica Fletcher

by | Jul 8, 2024 | Author | 1 comment

Author: Christina Hamlett (www.authorhamlett.com)

Wolves, swans and French angelfish are among a litany of species which mate forever. If a partner dies, the survivor literally becomes a lost soul and gives up all interest in continuing alone. Humans, too, often embrace the mindset of there being only one true love allotted to each of us per lifetime. In Eve’s Diary by Mark Twain, an inconsolable Adam weeps at her grave with the words, “Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.” Even if Eve had been the first one to face the future newly single, there’d have been no Central Casting to which she might easily apply for a replacement.

In a perfect world, we would blissfully exit our shared existence hand-in-hand.

In an imperfect one such as that in which I suddenly found myself after 25 years of marriage, we can either fold to despair like a cheap suit or stride boldly into grand adventures and do our dearly departed lovers proud. My own vote to stride boldly was what drove me to pen EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT WIDOWHOOD I LEARNED FROM JESSICA FLETCHER and to get it on the market before the first anniversary of my husband’s passing. The gracious invitation extended by Authors Lounge to write an article about it is not only a chance to share the process of how the project was put together but also to emphasize that its message of empowerment isn’t just for widows but for anyone single who wants to live an authentic and enriching life.

Although we had a scant three months between his diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer and his death, it was more time than many couples have to suss out finances, write down passwords, identify who to contact, discuss burial wishes, and put a plan in place for moving forward. This is largely due to the fact that even healthy couples eschew “uncomfortable” conversations. To even mention death, it seems, is to court its premature arrival. As many times as I’d try to change the subject, I am now grateful he always nudged me back to it.

We were also fortunate to share the same wicked sense of humor in the face of what has to be one of life’s most devastating experiences. An entire chapter, for instance, revolves around “Cremation Guy and the Great Hall of Urns” in which a particularly aggressive funeral director attempted to sell me a five-figure vessel for my husband’s ashes. I, in turn, held fast to the insistence of decanting my beloved into an elegant champagne bottle from a lunch we had enjoyed a decade previous.

“I don’t know that all of me will fit,” Mark candidly pointed out.

“Then all the more to scatter when I go on trips,” I replied, for travel was something he insisted I continue whether by myself or with interesting companions. (I suppose if I had told Cremation Guy that the champagne bottle would be guarded for all eternity by our resident metal dragon, Diavlo, he’d have completely freaked out.)

Among our peers, we were probably an anomaly in our mutual trust regarding respective finances. We often talked about a friend whose husband was reticent about divulging where he kept his checkbook and bank statements. When he finally succumbed after a lengthy illness, she had no idea where anything was. Apparently he never told her she was eligible for his Social Security benefits, either. Four years after his death, she asked me if it was true that she could apply. Yikes! How many other women, I wondered, are living their lives in the dark?

Unspoken was my husband’s expectation I would continue to be as prolific as ever with my novels, plays, articles and business books. It, thus, surprised me when well-meaning friends sympathetically inquired, “Are you going to keep writing?” They may as well have asked, “Do you plan to keep breathing?” Even worse were those who asked how it felt to now be “half a person.” Good grief. If anything, I have become double, triple, quadruple my previous full self for all of the new things I had to learn and/or take over on relatively short notice.

Three days after his passing, I had already checked everything off my list insofar as Social Security, life insurance, utilities, DMV registrations, creditors, notifying friends and my husband’s business associates, and making an appointment with an attorney to update my will and estate plan. And as I studied my notes, it struck me this could be a useful cheat sheet for other widows so as not to overlook anything crucial during their transitions to a life alone.

Having spent years in theatre as an actress and director, it occurred to me I should have a positive role model on which to pattern my new existence. My search went no farther than J.B. Fletcher, the fictional sleuth created by my beloved mentor, Peter S. Fischer, for his series “Murder, She Wrote” and portrayed by Angela Lansbury. It seemed no small coincidence that Jessica wrote mysteries, lived in a close-knit community and cheerfully waved to total strangers. That she was also of an age and financial independence to not “need” another husband resonated with me. (Thankfully, Dobbs Mills has not become as popular a murder venue as Cabot Cove, Maine because I’d be too busy writing my novels, penning new plays for my British publisher and teaching online classes to usefully solve any crimes.

Losing a spouse is something I would never wish on anyone. I do wish, though, that Authors Lounge fans will check out my book as a nifty survival guide for any of Life’s curveballs. Take the trip. Eat the cake. Buy the shoes. Use the good china. Indulge in sexy lingerie. Even if these things are only for you, you are worth it. If your husband is/was anything like mine, it will be a resounding “yes” of approval.

Former actress and theatre director Christina Hamlett is the author of 50 books, 272 stage plays and squillions of articles and blogs. She is also a professional ghostwriter, a distance learning instructor through Wow! Women On Writing, and a script consultant for stage and screen. The first five books of her UK cozy mystery series are available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.  Learn more at www.authorhamlett.com.

1 Comment

  1. Liz Flaherty

    Although, like a lot of other people, I hope to avoid widowhood, if that happens, I hope I take pages out of Jessica’s and your books. Wishing you happy.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What Authors Say About ReadersMagnet


Google Review

Skip to content