Support group eases isolation of widowhood |

Support group eases isolation of widowhood

Roseann Keegan
Nevada Appeal News Service

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Janette Reed-Lawson moved to South Lake Tahoe from Orinda, Calif., after her husband died in 2002. She spent many fond summers here as a child, but felt lonely in her new home.

“It is a very isolating place when you’re here alone,” said Reed-Lawson, 70.

Four years ago, she joined the South Lake Tahoe chapter of the Widowed Persons Association of California, a nonprofit, non-denominational community service group dedicated to helping widowed people overcome their grief and “learn to live and laugh again,” according to the website.

“I was hooked,” she said. “I go to everything. There’s something to do every week.”

It can be difficult to adjust to life alone, especially after a long partnership. Members say the group helps with the transition.

“I felt ridiculous going to a restaurant by myself,” Reed-Lawson said. “You just feel very ostentatious.”

The local chapter formed in the early ’90s and has more than 30 members, mostly women and some men. There are at least five functions every month: a pizza night, a “chat and chew” luncheon, a “mystery dinner,” a general meeting and a potluck at the Tahoe Verde mobile home park.

“We need more men in the group, and who doesn’t?” said Jean Olson, 83. “Especially when it comes to lifting things, especially with the potlucks.”

Marjorie Locatelli, 85, learned about the group during a bus ride home from her son’s house in Colorado. She met member Emilie Lorenz, who invited her to the next meeting.

“Once you lose your husband, it’s a weird feeling,” Locatelli said. “He’s been gone three-and-a-half years.

“Everyone (at the meeting) was kind and there were things to do,” she added.

One of the newer members is Donna Aldrich. A recent luncheon marked her second meeting.

“It gives me something to look forward to and it gets you out of your sweats and out the door,” said Aldrich, 72.

Friends are helpful after the loss of a spouse, but it can be difficult for a widow or widower to figure out where they fit in.

“Your old friends will always be your old friends,” said club president Betty Mitchell, 88. “But you’re the odd number out.”

The meetings are upbeat and don’t focus on grief. Members chat about their latest activities, an upcoming cruise or a trip to Apple Hill. At one point, there was a support group as part of the chapter. But over time, members found they didn’t need it. The companionship worked just as well.

“Everyone knows everyone is a shoulder if someone needs it,” Mitchell said.

New members are always welcome. And sometimes, the friendships turn to romance. Four couples have paired up and there has been at least one marriage in the group.

“Come, come,” Mitchell said. “We welcome everybody and you may find friends for the rest of your life.”

For information about the group, call Marjorie Locatelli at 530-544-2264 or visit