What do you do when you lose the love of your life after age 50? That’s a question two nationally-known authors with ties to St. Louis tackle in the book “Suddenly Single After 50: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Navigating Loss, Restoring Hope and Rebuilding Your Life.”
On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the book with authors Barbara Ballinger and Margaret Crane.
Crane lost her husband of 42 years after a five-year battle with lymphoma. Ballinger and her husband divorced after 29 years of marriage.
“I found myself suddenly alone, for the first time in my life,” Crane said. “I had never lived on my own. I looked around, in a flash he was gone, and I thought ‘now what?’ My role as a wife was ended.”
While the reasons their relationship statuses changed are different, both faced a sudden feeling of loss and of lost-ness.
“I was terrified of being alone,” Ballinger said.
The two had to face the stunning realities of managing finances, legal matters, mental health issues and the world of romance for the first time by themselves.
The two swear by support groups and therapy, but also had more practical advice for listeners going through similar situations. In Crane’s case, going back to work for 8-10 hours a day took her mind off the loss of her husband.
“You need to get good help,” Ballinger said. “You have to be a healthy individual before you can go on if you want to have another relationship. You need good legal advice whether divorced or widowed. Before you go to the lawyer, go to the financial planner. You need to get the good therapist. If you can’t afford an individual, go to a support group. You need to keep exercising to stay healthy. You need to look good on the outside too. You need to get a new haircut, a few new outfits. You need to take stock of what you want. Get your work in shape. You need some fun also.”
After some time spent working on themselves, both Crane and Ballinger made forays back into the world of dating. Ballinger even used an online dating service for Jewish singles known as “J Date.”
“I remember going online and thinking ‘this is like a candy store!’ There are all these available guys,” Ballinger said.
For Crane, part of dating new people was realizing her needs had changed and what she had wanted in a partner had changed too. She also felt like dating could be something that was completely for her own sake for the first time in her life as well.
“I’ve always been a caregiver,” Crane said. “I’ve always suppressed my needs for everyone else. This is the first time in my life I’ve focused on me. It is very different and very odd. Sometimes I feel very selfish. But I’m changing. This is a new chapter of my life.”
After many years spent working on these issues, both Crane and Ballinger say there is happiness to be had at the end of such a rough patch.
“There is a life after this heartache and tragedy,” Ballinger said. “It is not going to be the exact same as it was. It won’t be the way you imagine it will be, either.”
What: St. Louis Public Library Presents Barbara Ballinger and Margaret Crane
When: Thursday, December 1 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: St. Louis Public Library - Schlafly Branch, 225 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.