Too many support groups

I think I belong to too many widow groups…too many pity parties and woe is me, too many negative thinkers and not enough positivity to balance it all out.

Wow, that was a quick rant, down and dirty, and ignorant at best.

I do not want to be this person, this judgmental bitch that gets annoyed by others, especially those that are obviously suffering and grieving, a place I have resided before, in the not too distant past. I am ashamed of my impatience.

Do you know what that means? It means it is time to take a step back and examine the why? No, not the meaning of life why or even the events life brings why, the why do I feel this way examination why.

Why does it bother me to hear others express their pain, or their impatience, or their anger with others? Why do I feel like they are wallowing in self-pity, when that is only a half-truth, they are engulfed in their grief and overwhelmed by their new life circumstances. I know this, I have lived this. I suppose I want to be able to impart some wisdom, or help them to navigate around the mistakes and needless pain that I experienced…. If only.… It is a part of the journey, I cannot make it better for them, I cannot speed them through it.

I think that maybe my impatience and critical thinking come from a place of helplessness. I, even with my what I have learned, what many of us have learned, cannot make their pain go away. I can only impart my experiences and hope that maybe something I say can be relatable. If you can relate to any part of my story, maybe you can also relate to what I have learned.

I am nothing, if not a quiet voice whispering “I understand” in the dark and hoping that somehow, someway it helps someone somewhere.

Thank you.

Grieving doesn’t have to be a negative

Negativity and widowhood do NOT have to be soulmates. There is a difference between grieving and being a proponent of negativity. Just because you are grieving does NOT mean you have to succumb to negative thinking.

Grief – keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow*

Negativity – encouraging or noting an unhealthy or unbalanced outlook toward something*

I may belong to too many widows groups or maybe I just see too many widows and widowers that have allowed themselves to travel down a negative path. I see numerous posts everyday that seem so angry and defeatist. People who are angry because family and friends are not reaching out to them enough, or offering to do things for them, or they feel abandoned. Or the converse, people who are angry because their friends and family are too involved and have too many opinions about what they should be doing. I hear from widows who feel overwhelmed and who have given up, only focusing on what their life no longer has, rather than building something or being thankful for the people and other good things in their life. They are too consumed by negative thinking to see any good things that are in front of them.

Maybe it is just because I am approaching 10 years without my husband that I can say this, but I just want to shake them and wake them up, “don’t do this, don’t waste your time an energy going down such a negative path. It doesn’t have to be this way!!!” A person trapped in a negative mindset can find fault with any idea or suggestion. They will bite any hand that reaches out. They do this at the expense of their own well-being.

If you embrace negativity you can’t expect anything positive to happen.

Pain is Just Pain

Pain is NOT the only way to express love. Pain in NOT love, it is just pain.

Seems like a deep message, but it is really just what it says. Pain is just pain. You do not have to express your heartache and wear your pain on your sleeve to prove that you loved, and still love. When you lose someone close to you, like your spouse or soulmate, you are clearly in pain. You do not need to, or feel the need to show your pain all the time. I am not saying to mask your feelings or be afraid to show that you miss your late wife or husband.

I am also saying that you do not have to be afraid to show when you are happy. You are allowed to be happy, to have a good day, to laugh, you do not need permission to show joy.

Too many times I have seen people slip down the dark slope to a pit of despair. Where all they have is their pain. Sometimes, I think, when you allow yourself to travel down that slide, you make it harder to climb out and harder for others to reach you. You find fault with every hand that reaches out, because “hurt people, hurt people.” You probably don’t even see yourself doing it. You wallow in your world of loneliness and pain…it becomes your focus, all you think about is your pain, what you lost, what you had or could have had, how you were robbed of time. In actuality you are robbing yourself of precious time with all your self-misery.

The law of attraction states that if you foster negativity, you attract more negativity. If you focus on the positive, you will attract the same. There are countless articles and studies that highlight the power of positive thinking and the practice of gratitude. It seems like a fad, but is it? Is it really? I think not. I think when we are caught in the woe-is-me phase (and lets make sure it is only a phase and not a home), that we need to start our own pathway out with focus on the good.

The world may be crashing around you, you may be in emotional crisis, financial despair, losing your home, your kids may be acting out, your family may not be supporting you the way you want them to, your job may have laid you off, a pandemic may be disrupting your life, etc. The list could go on and on, but there is always something to be thankful for, even if it is just the hot cup of coffee in a quiet house to start your day. Be thankful for that quiet moment and comforting brew. Some days that was the bright spot that started my day. Granted my days may not always go the way I want them to, but there is always something at the beginning of the day that can get me going, something I can appreciate…and likewise there is always something at the end of the day that I can be thankful for as well.

Start and end your days with grace and appreciation. Last night, for instance, I placed my head on my pillow, thankful to and appreciative to have had a quiet hour in my evening to enjoy a book and relax my brain. Something so simple, but yet to gratifying and fulfilling. A moment to myself, without chaos.

Pain is just pain. It is not who you are, nor is it who you want to be.

Taking the Rings Off

This is a very controversial topic in the widow-world. When is the right time, and is there a right time to remove your wedding rings?

Honestly, you can probably guess what my opinion will be. Do what you feel comfortable doing. Do not let anyone persuade you to do anything you are not ready to do. There are people who feel the need to remove their rings in the early stages, although I haven’t really met any of those people, but I am sure they exist. And there are those who wait years and years, or never remove their rings. (I am not sure if I agree with this either….but it is not for me judge.)

Much like the “when is it appropriate to date again?” question, to each his/her own. Everyone grieves differently and everyone moves forward in their own time, in their own way.

What I can share with you is what I chose to do, it is not the right way, and it is not the wrong way, but it was MY way. Around 6-7 months after my husband passed, I felt awkward still wearing my rings. But I also felt naked without them. I had worn them for over a dozen years and had trouble parting with them.

I was on my first solo vacation, a long weekend away in Southern California visiting family. I chose at that point to purchase a new ring, something shiny and pretty and different. Something I absolutely loved! I had it sized on the spot to fit my left ring finger. At that point, I had replaced my wedding band and engagement ring with a new ring, effectively making the naked feeling go away. Substitution was my solution! It may not be right for everyone, but it worked for me.

Again, what I say is do what you want, what you feel is right for you, and don’t let yourself be dictated to by others views and opinions.

I’ve hit a wall

I’ve hit a wall. As much as I hate to admit it, it is true. It happens, usually when life gets stressful…work is crazy, the holidays are approaching, challenges with the kids, or family…it comes in, out of the blue, and bricks itself right in front of you, so close that you cannot avoid it, cannot go around or circumvent, you have no choice but to hit it head on and find a way to climb over or knock it down.

I don’t want to move, but I know I have to, people depend on me, work depends on me, I depend on me…I need to begrudgingly move forward.

This is where I need to discuss baby steps again. Revisit the idea that one small step at a time can get you through. While I hate the wall, despise the wall, and feel like sitting down, leaning against it, and staying put, I know I can’t. I am tired, but I need to keep going. I have been here before, so I know, I can get through this time.

Step 1: Recognize the impending wall speed toward me. CHECK

Step 2: Deep breaths, know this is not gong to beat me, and brace for impact. CHECK

Step 3: Isolate. Not the bad kind of isolate. The introspective kind. Take time for myself and “veg out.”

Step 4: Do not remain dormant. After a short period of time (a day or two max) start to climb over the wall. Step by step.

Step 5: Know that the wall won’t beat you, can’t beat you. Choose to move forward, around, over, or through the wall.

Step 6: You’ve got this!!!

A widow’s lesson from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

I recently re-watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and this one struck a chord for several reasons. First, coincidentally, the air date for the episode was was just one month before the passing of my husband. Second, this episode hit home in an different way the second time around, from the perspective of a widow.

In this episode, Christina Yang, a 5-yr resident, had unknowingly performs surgery on her mentor’s husband. Complications arise during the procedure and the patient dies, at which point Christina learns the identity of the patient, a this lands as a crushing blow. In this episode, her mentor, Teddy Altman, rather than mentoring Christina in the operating room. calls upon Christina to recite the details of her husband’s surgery over and over in great detail. I am certain that the first time I watched this, my thoughts were on Christina and have this must be pure torture for her, and that Teddy was trying to punish her for making some critical mistake. In watching this now, having experienced the loss of my husband, I have a different view.

This, to me, is less about torturing Christina, although there is not denying that IS happening. I think it is more about Teddy, and her widow brain. How many people that have lost someone close, like a spouse, repeat the significant events leading up to the death over and over in their brain? Trying to figure out what could have been done differently, or evaluating the “what ifs.” Basically torturing themselves. Everyone knows that hindsight is 20/20, and to look back on replay is not a fair comparison to what could have been done. I can tell you, I have replayed my husbands passing and the events preceding, over and over again. But if I set aside the microscope and look at the events as if I were there again, knowing only what I knew at the time, I would have reacted in exactly the same way.

There is no point in focusing on the “what ifs,” none of that will change the situation you are in, and none of it brings your loved one back. You need to focus on the here and now, remain in the present, and what you can do right now. Stop torturing yourself.

Toward the end of the episode, Teddy came to realization that her husband was dead, that Christina did all she could, and in fact Teddy admits that even she herself would have performed the surgery and reacted in the exact same way had she been the doctor on the case. There was an “aha moment” that occurred and helped her to move forward.

In my case the “aha moment” was a little more subtle, but it came in a slow wave of understanding that what transpired didn’t change anything, the only thing that could change my circumstance was me. Me accepting that my present and my future where in my hands. I could not ever go back, I had to accept that fate, but I could choose how to move forward.

*S8Ep11 – This Magic Moment

What advice would I give myself

What advice would I give my new-widow-self?

  • It’s ok to curl up in ball on the bed and shut the rest of the world out…just don’t set up camp in that dark space.
  • Every now and then your mind needs a break. Jumping into a mindless, light book is a great escape…do more of that.
  • When others want to help, let them. They are grieving too, they are looking for ways to show they care, and let’s face it, you may not want to admit it, but you need the help right now.
  • Don’t try to do too much too soon. Don’t jump right back in to work. You may think you want to be busy, but you will have a melt down at the first sign of stress, and the last thing you want to do is tarnish a relationship with a co-worker or client. (speaking from experience here)
  • When people ask “how are you doing?” don’t just say fine, or ok. If you are not fine or ok, be honest. You don’t have to unload on them with all the deep dark thoughts in your brain, but you can say something like….”I am a work in progress, I have good days and bad days, but I am working it.”
  • Find friends and family who will sit and listen, without judgement or advice to give. Don’t let others cloud your thoughts with theirs. No one has walked in your shoes, so listen, but make your own choices. Only you know what is right for your.
  • There are no perfect timelines or concrete stages of grief to follow like a flowchart or roadmap.
  • While you will learn to reshape your life and live with your grief, it never really goes away…in fact years later it can still creep up on you and bite you in the ass.

You are in control of your destiny, as cheesy as that sounds, your “new normal” does not have to be your old life minus one. Build a new life, create your own new normal. Take care of yourself and don’t let anyone make you feel selfish for doing so. Figure out who you are now, and be you!

The Practice of Gratitude in Grief

The right way to grieve, the wrong way to grieve, everyone seems to have an opinion, there are even books on the subject. I am not going to tell anyone how to grieve for a lost loved one. Is there really a right or a wrong way to miss someone? Nor am I an expert on grief, just someone who has experienced loss.

What I am gong to say, from personal experience, that life is what you make of it, and your how you choose to love with and through your grief is all yours to own. I learned through experience and practice that gratitude has its well-deserved place of honor in my life. It is gratitude that helped me from going down a dark rabbit hole of anger and self-pity.

Even in the most painful grief there is something to be thankful for, for if we had never experienced love and connection with the person we lost, we would never experience the converse pain of grief. Be thankful for the time you have had, for the time you had it for it is a treasure to be cherished.

Be thankful for the people in your life with which you find solace and comfort. Choose to be grateful for those you care about and who care about you. Even those in your life who may unintentionally hurt or offend you during your most vulnerable times, because their intent was actually good. Be grateful for the intent, not the content.

Sometimes it is important to be thankful and mindful of all you have, rather than focus on what you have lost. How has your life been changed or altered for the positive, just by having the person you lost with you and for having known them. This can be life affirming, this can provide hope in the darkness, if yu choose to let it.

I am a better person for having known and loved my husband. He change me and made me a stronger, smarter, and more self-aware person. I will always be grateful for the time we had, for the experience, for the emotional growth, and of course for my daughter.

At the height of mourning, in those months immediately following my husband’s passing, it was gratitude and appreciation that carried me through. It saved my life. I appreciated every card, note, phone call, text, message, hug, and meal that was granted to me. I chose to feel uplifted by others and appreciated it every single time. Gratitude has the ability to heal.

Unfortunately, gratitude is something I still need to practice. I need to work at reminding myself to appreciate what I have, and to count my blessing, for there are many to be counted. I try to start everyday with a little time to myself, to gather my thoughts, and to appreciate the new day before me with all of its bumps and imperfections, and all of the joys and blessings that have been bestowed upon me.

Again, I will never tell someone how to grieve, but I can tell them how I have chosen to grieve. I grieve with humor, appreciation, gratitude and joy.

There is even a double standard with death.

There are no defined rules on the use of the words widow and widower, yet there is an unwritten double standard. Think over time, think about the news, think about how often you hear the word “widow” for a woman who has lost her husband, and think about how little you hear the word “widower” for a man who has lost his wife. Why is that? Why does society, even in death, loss, and grieving choose to assign stigma and gender bias?

I can tell you this. Widows outnumber widowers by almost 4:1. But not purely for the reason you think. A contributing factor is because, often times, the terms widow and widower do not follow the person into remarriage. Men are, more often times than not, more likely to remarry, and remarry sooner after loss than their female counterparts. That brings the next double standard. Why is that, why are they are more likely to remarry? And why is that broadly more acceptable in society?

Have any of you seen the Netflix show called The Unicorn? I am not bashing the show, in fact, I love this show. It is very entertaining. It is about a widower with two kids and his friend circle that has taken an over-active interest in his personal life. A comedy, and a funny one at that. However, it shows a glimpse of societal truth. They call a widower a unicorn because he is a rare, and sought after find. A “single” man who has proven he can be settled and married, and committed, and more than likely has not been “playing the field.” What would that look like if the gender tables were reversed? A widow is far less of a unicorn. She is “single,” presumably older, saddled with those two children. Maybe the thought is she is looking for someone to take care of her, or she is sad, or not sad enough…

Men are expected to “get back out there,” the sooner the better, right? And women, well they are judged if they get out there too soon, or grieve in the wrong way, or not long enough, or too long, or whatever. Why all the judgement, people? Why is it different? Why should men “get back on the horse” when they may not be ready and why should women wait an “acceptable” amount of time?

Society, and even the bible call out widows as women to be pitied and taken care of, while they are “allowed” to remarry, society often feels the need to judge and scrutinize. But widowers, you are hard-pressed to find a mention of in the bible and they receive far less criticism from society as a whole. Why is that? Why is it more or less acceptable to to date, or remarry, or view a man who lost his spouse any differently than a woman?

As a woman, and a widow (remarried), I can tell you that grieving is a personal thing, it is individualistic, it is something that is different for everyone as everyone’s experience, situation, and personal makeup is different. I am a woman who has always been driven, career-minded, self-sufficient, and strong-willed. I am not saying I didn’t or don’t still grieve, I am saying that I don’t need to be taken care of, I don’t want to be pitied, and I definitely didn’t need anyone telling me how long I should grieve, or when it was an acceptable time frame to date, or remarry.

I guess what I am saying is that society should be less judgmental, people should not view widowers differently than widows. Someone who loses a spouse grieves, on their own terms and in their own fashion, and you have to trust them that they know what is best for themselves, better than you do. Let people grieve in their own way. Don’t push them in any direction. Present ideas to them and try to learn what they are thinking, ask questions if you like, but do not judge. A widow/ widower has enough pressure and emotional turmoil, they do not need judgement and criticism from the peanut gallery. Be supportive and not directive. Be compassionate and not conditional.


Have you heard the phrase “fake it ’til you make it”? I am a sham. I do not have everything in my life together. Am I strong? Sure, but do you know the secret to my strength? I am strong, because I am weak. I am strong, because I am vulnerable. I am strong, because I keep going, foot in front of foot, step by step. Life is not any easier for me and quite honestly, I have made several wrong turns.

I am a woman and mother who was unprepared to lose her husband when she was 41. Unprepared emotionally, unprepared financially, unprepared personally, just unprepared. This has been a struggle, but you know what, that is ok. Life is not, nor never will it be, a Facebook or Instagram profile page.

I don’t always feel confident, in fact, many days I am stressed out and many nights I lose sleep. I spend more time than I would like trying to figure out how to hold it all together. But do you know what I learned? Blame gets you nowhere. Worrying gets you nowhere. Blame focuses on the past that cannot be changed, and worry focuses on a future that has yet to happen. All you really have for certain is right now. You can learn from the past, and you can have faith in the future. And the right now, well, just do the right thing. Take one small step in the right direction, and then another, and then another.

People will always be haters, people will criticize and tell you what you are doing wrong in their eyes, know that these thoughts and opinions are more about them than you. People apply their own experiences to your life and would rather focus outward on you than inward on themselves. Criticism is not helpful. What is helpful is a friend or family member that lets you know that they will support you in what ever you choose to do next. They may not agree with a choice you are making, or a chance you are taking, but they will be there for you and the outcome, regardless. They will congratulate you on your successes, and cry with you when things don’t turn out so well.

The right thing for me is to offer the same respect. Be there for my friends and family. Don’t criticize, don’t tell them what they should and shouldn’t be doing, but be there. Help them up if they fall, and toast them if they succeed. You do not have to agree with someone to support them, and your support should not come with strings.

It is not selfish to focus on what is best for you. It is healthy, it is strong. The best way I know to be strong is to support others by supporting others, but not at the expense of yourself. Being selfless does not mean giving to others, but supporting others, no strings attached. It means doing the next right thing.

Life is messy, it is not a dream, or tied up with pretty ribbons and bows. And strength mirrors life. Strength is not Superman or Wonder Woman, strength is messy, it is vulnerable, it is hitting rock-bottom and still moving forward. It is losing your husband and starting over. Strength means you keep moving forward.

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