S3E7: How Social Support Increases Our Resilience to Loss with Pat Hiller

In this episode, I speak with Pat Hiller. She was directly introduced to me by my mother’s friend. My mother and her friend are both active with At Home Alexandria, which describes themselves as a community for support, enrichment and fun for neighbors that are 55 and older.

This episode covers topics that may be triggering for some people. [TW: SI, mention of su*c*de].

Pat had two, long, loving marriages, the first for more than 30 years and the second one just shy of 30. Unfortunately, she had to experience both of her husbands passing away, as well as several other people that were near and dear to her. She also had to deal with the impact that these deaths had on her and her family. She was kind enough to share her experience.

In this episode we talk about:

  • How she met each of her husbands through her social network
  • The impact that being a primary caregiver had on that network throughout her life
  • Her memories about what helped her through the loss of Arturo, her first husband
  • Reflections on two different group therapy experiences
  • The support network that her late husband Ron cultivated throughout his life
  • The role that neighbors and hobbies have played for both of them in building relationships


  • How Pat met her first husband, Arturo, in the 1950s [2:25]
  • How Pat met her second husband, Ron [4:58]
  • What Pat’s social circle was like as a primary care giver to both her children and mother-in-law [6:31]
  • Describing how Arturo passed away and the impact that it had on her [8:12]
  • Never considered remarrying and how that changed over time [9:09]
  • Her social support network after Arturo passed [10:56]
  • Ron’s social support network and how they welcomed Pat with open arms [15:23]
  • The impact of remarrying on the relationship with her daughter from her first marriage [16:08]
  • The critical role that friends and neighbors have had in her life [17:28]
  • Experiencing loss for the second time with Ron’s recent passing [18:02]
  • An unexpected friendship that blossomed after Arturo passed [20:03]
  • Participating in widow peer support networks [21:05]
  • TW: SI, mention of su*c*de [21:52]
  • Things that surprised her about the support that she received after her husbands deaths [23:13]
  • How big changes rebalance your network [24:20]
  • How Pat thinks about cultivating a support network as people close to her pass away [25:22]
  • How her mother cultivated intergenerational friendships [26:06]
  • Recommendations for making friends as a widow or older person [27:29]
  • What she thinks makes it hard for some to recover from loss [30:15]


Learn more about other life events that impact your network and how to reduce their impact here.