Resilience and Relationships


speaking at Camp Widwo“When asked to list an emergency contact number, how many of you have to stop and think about whose name and number to write down?”

Hands shot up all around the room when I asked this question at a recent conference break-out session. We were at Camp Widow™ and my program on “From Sorrow to Social” was filled with recently widowed men and women.

Sadly one of the big issues widowed people face after losing their spouse—their ‘person’ as they say on Grey’s Anatomy–is that they also lose friends and often some family members become distant.

The American Psychological Association ( lists strong relationships with family and friends as one of the basic things you can use to help build resilience. Having support from someone who cares and will listen is significant in becoming resilient.

Resilience–the capacity to bounce back after trauma, adversity or tragedy, is sometimes referred to as if it’s a character trait. Actually it’s something that can be built and strengthened by various actions and behaviors. Becoming resilient is a process.

It’s not just widowed folks. People who’ve gone through a divorce, lost a job or moved to a new location also often lose their inner circle of friends.

When we look back at friendships over the years most of us find that our closest friends were people we went to school with, worked with or had some other shared activity. Having to work at making new friendships and building a new social circle during our middle years seems strange. Yet that’s what many of us face after a life-changing event or crisis.

Here are my three best tips to creating a new social life:

  1. Make a list of people. List your friends and people you know but aren’t close friends with. Anyone who may also be single and looking for new friends. List names, phone numbers and email. When you’d like to go somewhere but don’t want to go alone go down this list until someone says, “Yes!” You may even want to share that you’re looking for new people to socialize with.
  2. List of Things. Make a list of things you used to do, have always wanted to do or would like to learn. Hobbies, civic clubs, charitable activities, book clubs, cooking classes, religious services, etc. Any activity that interests you. Since my husband died I’ve taken novel writing classes, cooking classes and motorcycle riding classes!
  3. Invite people to do things. Look at the list of things you want to do and select at least three. Look at your list of people and see who may want to go with you. If you’re more of an introvert, find an extraverted person to team up with. They’ll help you meet others. A group email is a good tool to invite multiple people for movies, concerts or events. Be sure to include the details such as time, location and price so each person can handle their own registration if needed.

What about you?

  • Are you struggling to build a new social life?
  • Do you no longer have an inner circle of friends?
  • Would you like additional articles on how to build a community?
Myra McElhaney is an author and speaker who helps people to Enjoy Life and Do Good! Visit her website at Her memoir, Building A Life You Love After Losing the Love of Your Life is available at

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