When a spouse passes away the remaining spouse can suddenly find themselves in a world they don’t understand.

There’s more housework, less cooking and less comfort. And what if the other spouse is the one who took care of the cars or figured out the finances?

That’s how Jim Schwartz first became involved with the widowed community. His wife did not pass away but as a financial advisor he realized many of his clients were widows and they needed some extra help not just with finances. Schwartz realized there might be a need for grief support groups and a multi-day conference to focus specifically on the widowed community.

“There were grief classes but there were people who’d lost their grandparents or their dog,” Schwartz said. “It’s different to lose a spouse. And there was no central organization or conference where we could get 20 or 30 people together and have these different widows or widowers attend to get in front of 20 to 30 different professionals. I thought maybe the Valley could use a conference. Instead of going to a coach or a grief counselor and all these different areas maybe they could all go to one weekend conference.”

The support group, called Widowed-to-Widowed began to meet weekly on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. at the Tempe Pyle Adult Recreation Center, 655 E. Southern Ave., and has slowly grown. There is now a group in Scottsdale and a second group in Tempe for those who have been widowed for some time. This year will be the second year Schwartz has helped organize a conference for widows. The conference is called “Tools for the ‘New Normal’ Journey.”

In 2011 about 50 people attended the conference, which was a day-and-a-half-long. This year the conference has just about doubled in presenters, attendees and length of time. Presentations will not only be about dealing with grief but also basics of mortgages; smart Social Security planning; owning and operating a home; cooking for one; and long-term care. The conference will include presentations from spiritual groups, music therapy, Tai Chi and yoga.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Tracy Poulos lost her husband three years ago and discovered Widowed to Widowed. She attended the conference last year and said the best part was just being with others in the same situation.

“I feel like it’s a healing experience,” Poulos said about the conference. “You’ve all been through a similar situation. You can share your experience. We share our experience, our strength and our hope. For those whose feelings are new and raw and feel like it’s never going to get better, it helps to realize that it does.”

This year the conference will be Oct. 26-28 at Arizona State University. There is a cost to register. For more information, visit widowedcommunity.org or call (480) 209-0564.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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