Hope for Widows Foundation would like to thank all of our Summer 2017 participants and donors, who helped in making the First Annual Widows of Hope 5k event a huge success!!!! We even had the kids and furkids join in on the fun! It is so much appreciated and words cannot express the love and gratitude we have for each of you.
Also, a special heartfelt shout out of partnership and support from Kerry Phillips, Founder of Young, Widowed and Dating. This event would not be the success it was without her!
The following are awesome #WidowsofHope5k photos from some our particpants we we received! Great job, everyone!
Hope for Widows Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and relies solely on volunteers to run the organization, moderate discussions and provide other assets that have been and continue to be so helpful for so many of our women in our Hope Sister community. Thank you for investing in our organization and in the widows we serve. The gracious donations will be supporting our Hope Sisters by the way of initiatives, programs, giveaways, helping families directly, events, website optimization and so much more! You are contributing to their healing process so that they can re-engage in life much easier. Thank you for your trust in us!!
We will continue to update you throughout the year with program announcements and special events. We have so much on the horizon as we continue to grow and evolve. We are just getting started!!!
If you are interested in staying up to date with future Hope For Widows Foundation events, partnerships, announcement’s and much more sign up on our mailing list here: Hope For Widows Foundation Mailing List
I used to love a boy named Phillip. He was nineteen and I was twenty-one. It was 2004 and we were both addicts together. He of drugs that had slangs I had never even heard of, and I of loveless sex and sexless love. It was a hot month both literally and figuratively. Summer had come early and we found ourselves in the month of March skinny dipping a lot after midnight in the pool at my apartment complex.
He would say things to me like, “Let’s pretend we are in love” while we danced naked in my living room to Kenny Chesney. “Let’s actually be in love,” I would respond, like the good little love junkie I was. And then we would smile and do things to and with each other that I cannot write about in this blog without an X-Rated label. In all my memories of Phillip, it was always nighttime and the moon was always full.
And then I met John. My future husband. My future adulterous husband. My future adulterous dead husband.
For a whole week, I loved John and Phillip both. Both wanted to marry me. Being at the top of a love triangle was the most awake I’d ever been. What’s precious to me now about this time in my life, is the optimism and simplicity of how we three viewed marriage. They loved me, I loved them so obviously marriage was the next step. No one bothered to ask each other anything logical like what their credit scores were, if they had any medical conditions or you know, what their last names were. We, like most adults in their infancy, made all our decisions based on intuition, and feelings, and hormones….logic be damned!
After that one hot month and that one hot week, John told me to choose. I chose him without hesitation….intuition and feelings, and hormones be damned! Logic had won and Phillip had lost. I patted myself on the back for being a ‘real’ grown up. Phillip was devastated. He showed up that night at 3am on my door step crying and telling me he loved me. Yep, Phillip was crazy, this act of passion had confirmed, and John was not crazy. He was not a drug addict. He was too ridged to skinny dip, and too practical to dance naked. John was the good choice.
Ten years almost exactly to the date that I chose John over Phillip, John would be crying and telling me he loved me as he shot himself.
I didn’t immediately think of Phillip that night; I didn’t immediately think of anything other than our children that night, but months later I would find myself searching Instagram for Phillip. I realize now that I wasn’t searching just for him though, I was searching for a piece of myself that had been lost ten years ago, and another piece that had been lost when John fired that gun, and all the pieces of my younger self that I had been lost in between the ten-year gap of Phillip and widowhood.
Instagram would tell me that Phillip was now married with three daughters. All of them had his blue eyes and their mother’s brown curls. It would tell me that he was sober, in love with his wife, had a stable job, and loved to barbeque. Instagram would tell me that I should’ve chosen Phillip.
I realize saying this makes me a bad widow and an even worse mother, but there you have it: regret. Who would I be today if I’d chosen Phillip? Certainly not this broken, anxiety-ridden, bitter, pessimistic, bitch that everyone loves to be entertained by on social media. I would be in a kitchen somewhere in Texas preparing side dishes to go with Phillip’s barbeque with my hope and my faith and my innocence still intact.
I don’t care if the person I am and the place I am at in my life is amazing right now-and yes, my life here in San Diego is amazing-I don’t want it. What it has taken to get me here, to get me to be the person who lives a life so boldly with her best friend and their five children by the beach, is not worth the suffering that got me here.
I’d rather be Phillip’s wife, not John’s widow.
But soon I wont want this. You see, its 4am as I write this and I know that this regret, (like my capacity to love a man) will not last; it comes and it goes as mysteriously as my joy. My kids will be up soon with their little drool-incrusted faces and hair like mine, that is ratted and has a mind of its own. We’ll fill our day up with appointments and work and arguing over who left their cereal bowl in the sink, and in the midst of me caving in and scrubbing the damn cereal bowl myself, I will wonder how I got to be so very fortunate to have this life. Tonight Lynnette and I will have a few glasses of wine on our backyard palette couch that we built ourselves and laugh about the arbitrary things that made up our day.
I will go to bed not regretting one single choice I ever made because what John gave to me was equal to what he took from me, and I will be so content and full of wine.
January 2008 in the heart of the winter, that is when he came into my life – the man I didn’t want. My heart frozen in time, hardened like the ice that cascaded and seemed to cover everything around me. If I am being honest, I wasn’t alive, I didn’t want, nor did I appreciate being alive at that time. Destruction had never been my thing – until it became my thing. How much could I hurt myself, so that I would just feel something? Looking back is hard, but it is also what saved me from me. My world felt much like what you would expect of being stuck in purgatory, or was I the one that died and this was my hell?
This man now standing before me and I with my widow heart say, “I am not looking for anything, I don’t want anything.” I had nothing to give. This man that I was very clearly saying my truth right away to, and yet he still spoke these words, “I want something, I want a girlfriend, I want you”. How could he know so quickly?
A smugness, I had never known until widowhood hardened my once soft and open heart, came over me in these days. I told him he couldn’t call me right away, that it would seem too eager. His hand touching my arm, recalling a meeting a couple weeks prior, in a completely different town close to an hour away. A chance encounter with a man I barely knew, just having been introduced by my first husbands mutual friend. I no longer believed in fate, but I couldn’t cheat my own mind by thinking – this is interesting. His lips on my lips and then I walked away. If I continued to walk away, no one could hurt me – ever again.
September 2006. My first husband left in September. How could he have left me here like that? I know he didn’t want to, he couldn’t have known and neither I – but how did this happen? I must have looked so vacant, frail stepping into the coroners office to get Johns death certificate. Somehow holding that paper, it outraged me. Why did I need this stupid piece of paper to certify that my husband was dead. Standing in front of the desk, I asked, “Have you ever seen this happen before? Do you know anyone else that has died from a bee sting?.” I am not sure what I was hoping for with this exchange or what I needed to hear him say, but when he told me “NO”, looking blankly into my eyes – it shattered me again.
I had done everything the way I was supposed to. Small town midwest girl meets local boy, they become best friends, she saved herself for this man, waited for the one, put herself through college, landed a good job, they marry, start building a life, making plans, are getting ready to dig the foundation for their new home and instead of breaking ground to create the dreams we worked so hard for – the ground was broken and my husband was now in a wooden box while his heart and organs were on a jet getting ready to save several others. I was left behind once again, by a man in my life that I loved.
Trusting my heart to another man was never going to happen again! I can’t believe people would actually say to me, “you are young, you will likely marry again” when the dirt hadn’t even settled and my mind wouldn’t give me rest. The nights now closed in on me, sleep, I never knew you could live with so little sleep.
Two weeks into January 2008, the man I didn’t want called. I said “you waited long enough”. He said, “you told me I couldn’t call you right away – want to go out tonight”? I couldn’t. I had created several online dating profiles and I had a date already scheduled. I hated this whole dating scene but for some reason profiling others seemed to pass the time – I kept waiting and wishing my husbands profile or someone who looked like him might just pop up…some of the crazy rationale that went through my maddened mind at that time.
We hung up after saying we would plan something soon. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t seem to get this man off my mind. I kept pushing him aside. There was something intriguing there. I hadn’t felt like this, I kept pushing him aside. I go on my scheduled date that I was trying to be polite by not canceling, and I just couldn’t connect. I kept thinking about the man I didn’t want. Something came over me, maybe it was the knowing of how precious a minute was, the thought of wasting it on something that wasn’t right. I excused myself to the restroom and I called the man I didn’t want. I said ” hey, my plans are changing, still want to meet up”? He was out with friends, but would call me a little later.
So, I end the night early with my date and met up with two of my best friends. We go out and then I receive a text from the man I didn’t want. It is now after 11 and he is in bed. I say meet me and my friends at the Junction for some food. Never having had been forward in my life, this took me back to the time I had actually ran up to my first husbands truck window when he was leaving a party and said, “So, when are we going to go out”? The man I didn’t want, said how about another time and I think, rationally that was reasonable. Though there was nothing rationale in my life these days. Then he messages me, he is on his way. Some type of thrilling feeling came over me, what the heck was this? As he walked in my heart just did something. I felt the nervous, excitement, flutters. So handsome, kind, funny and he had some edge. We left and he came home with me. We talked all night and just talked. He made me laugh and this man I didn’t want started to become a man I knew I needed more with.
September of 2009, he took a month that is hard for me, and made it into a new beginning. I became his wife on one of the most beautiful days. In the middle of a garden this photo was captured of a butterfly landing right next to us.
I walked down the isle toward my future, taking with me my first husband and a piece of my first wedding gown clinging the flowers that budded above it. I was being married to this man by my childhood pastor and given away by my stepdad who is a constant reminder of how men can show up and stay in your lives. I can hardly believe this man I didn’t want broke down walls in my heart I never knew would be opened, he holds me up when I feel broken again, he forgives me for my crazy antics and he loves me through all of the ups and downs of our life. He makes me flipping mad at times, but I know I also return the sentiment. He reminds me that not everything in life is perfect, but being together and appreciating the times we share and the life we are living and figuring out, means everything.
It is not easy, marriage number one, but then marrying a widow, that is in my opinion a whole new level of navigation. My once soft and penetrable heart, had hardened and a defense and coping mechanism was put in it’s place. A new level of awareness of just how short life is brought up two defenses:
1. I know how short life is, so I am going to live it, show it, and not hold back.
2. I know how short life is, so I don’t want to hurt again, lose again, fear for what I now know to be so true and so I am going to keep a close hold of my heart so that that type of hurt will never find me. (SO unfair to myself and others)
This man, kept showing me he was up for the challenge and we took on this new life together. I had to meet him where he was meeting me. I couldn’t cheat myself anymore. We were put on this earth to love, to cherish and to forgive and forgive ourselves and allow love to come in. Hurts of this life will come but it’s on us to see that we deserve grace, joy, happiness. We get to make mistakes, but instead of holding on to failures we get to release them as part of the journey of finding ourselves through and amidst chaos.
We welcomed two beautiful, vibrant littles into our world, both in October.
We were living the life, the picture. People from the outside saw two successful individuals, a budding family. We were running, he with his business and I growing to the top of the executive ladder and jet setting away. We stopped making time for what mattered – isn’t it funny how we continue to take things for granted in life? He resented me and I resented him. He felt like, I didn’t need him. This conversation came up so often, it became old. I had to stop myself though at a time and sit in those words. He was right. I’m thankful we caught ourselves. I had become so independent. I had learned that I could do life on my own, I had closed off places in my heart for fear of being hurt. I had closed off places of myself to even myself because, it was just too hard to go there. When I almost gave up on us, he asked me to give us another chance. I did and I also knew that I had to meet him where he was opening his heart to meet me. We were both imperfect beings and thankfully still willing to be in it together.
We both showed up and put us at the top. He showed me all over again all of the reasons I needed to stay, he loved me the way I needed to be loved, I loved him the way he needed to be loved. He recently at a dinner with close friends, said, he had become an angry person and he was so thankful I gave us the chance we deserved. I willingly said, I am so thankful for us and that I also put in the work to give us the chance we deserved.
Nothing in this life is perfect. Standing in our kitchen a couple months back, I said “hey babe, I love you” he said “I love you too”. I said, “but I haven’t always” and we both laughed, knowing just what that actually meant. Appreciating this moment and the sweetness and honesty of it. It makes me smile to see that no matter what happens in this life you can go through very treacherous seasons, but if you decide to open your awareness, your heart and you unravel the pieces that you try so hard to keep together – that unraveling reveals true beauty that is just waiting to come out.
Eight years we will be married this year and it really blows my mind how fast our time has gone. I am thankful for this man I didn’t want and just how much I truly need him.
When we feel tremendously alone, we check in online to vent about our demons. Everyone grieves differently, we know this, we understand this yet we all connect through grief.
Some people grieve by going out, some grieve by self-medicating, while others grieve by becoming reclusive, many grieve by fleeing, a few becoming more active with health and exercising, and then some grieve through self-destruction. However, we all connect because at some point, we may have had those thoughts too.
But did you know grief also weakens our bodies because of the increase in cortisone levels?
It should come as no surprise that cortisone is released when we are under stress. But the problem is when you’re transitioning from wife to widow those high levels cortisone wreaks havoc and weakens our bodies.
Cortisone is a hormone released from our adrenal glands which basically is connected to our fight or flight response. Eventually cortisone should level off, but in the case of grief, it can last for months even years. High levels of cortisone in the blood can impact the effectiveness of white blood cells and falter our immune system and leave us more prone to infection.
Research has showed prolonged grief is also connected to increased physical pain, increased blood pressure and frequent clots, appetite loss, and can even cause the heart chambers to balloon (also known as broken heart syndrome). Grief is not just an emotional response it is also a physical one.
You may not realize it, but signing up for the Widows for Hope Virtual 5k will benefit your health.
So are you ready to learn why incorporating exercise can help heal your mind, body and spirit?
1.) Fertilizes your brain:
When you engage in exercise a protein WITHIN your nerve cells, BDNF, is produced. This is so cool, because BDNF helps the function of neurons and the helps grow new neurons so your brain works better. We all have had it, widow brain is real.
But BDNF has been connected to improved memory, it’s a natural anti-depressant and combats anxiety. It also helps lower your stress levels, because right when you engage in something to elevate your heart rate for a length of time, BDNF is released.
2.) Greater frequency of more pleasant feelings:
Exercise can help assist in creating that elusive feeling of happiness. If your brain is improving because of the increased BDNF that means your neurons are strong and your brain receptors at the synapses are signaling for those neurotransmitters to be received. And those beautiful compounds connected to good overall feelings, dopamine and serotonin, they are zipping around and giving you a full overall sense of happiness and pleasant feelings.
3.) Gives you something to look forward to, helps learn to set and achieve goals:
When you’re in the depths of grief, getting out of bed becomes a task because your previous life and routine has been obliterated. But incorporating physical activity allows for a new routine to be established. The best way to do this is by writing down your goal. Keeps an individual accountable, and by writing it down it gives a visual cue to the brain and helps internalize the importance of that goal. If you see it you can achieve it.
Okay, so yes exercising strengthens your brain function and it will also strengthen your heart so it can deliver oxygen to your cells. Which means it can improve your lung function too. Improves bone density and builds muscles— yes yes yes—we know this, we were taught this in school.
But you know what I believe exercise provides to widows and widowers? The strength to push forward. You’ve already have gone through the worst possible thing that can happen in this lifetime, and now it’s time to listen to that little voice inside of us that keeps whispering you are worth it. Allow that inner voice to start screaming as you put one foot in front of the other and start believing that you are capable of enjoying all the opportunities and beauty this world has to offer.
5.) The ability to accept:
You feel alone. An overwhelming feel that is so crippling you don’t know how to cope with it and the thoughts. Running is lonely too. It’s an activity you can do alone. And you can’t fail at it. Because when you’re alone, no one can judge you, no one can criticize whether you’re doing it wrong. Because you’re doing it alone. Grab your baggage of thoughts and begin sorting through it when you venture into your own world moving along the side walk at your pace. The companionship of solitude can stanch the flow of hurt after losing a loved one. The feeling of pride as you pull yourself up to the top of the hill can provide a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Dancing in a world that only you can understand and is away from those who might not get it, you begin to accept the rapid change of life after loss.
5 Week Beginners Guide to July 29th:
Be safe, be realistic, and mindful about where you are regarding your fitness level and health. Talk to your physician if you are unsure if you should be participating in strenuous exercise.
Week One: Begin fertilizing your brain by walking 3 days a week for 15-20 minutes.
Week Two: Write down some of those pleasant thoughts you have on those walks. And then when you feel daring, 2 days of the 3, begin jogging for 30 seconds, walk for 2 minutes, repeat 8 times. (20 minutes total)
Week Three: Write down your nonstop jogging goal. For example: I want to run for 5 minutes without stopping. Hang your goal on your bathroom mirror.
First workout: Jog at your pace for 3 minutes. Walk for 3 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (30 minutes)
Second workout: Jog for 4 minutes, walk for 2 minutes. Repeat 5 times. (30 minutes)
Third workout: Walk for 2 minutes, jog for 3 minutes. Repeat 5 times, EXCEPT on the final jog, go until you cannot go anymore (be close to your house)
Week Four: Begin to raise your eyes to what is going around you. Begin to count the number of dogs you pass, count how many cars pass by, begin to let the light in as your eyes become wider.
First workout: 10 minute jog, 5 minute walk, 10 minute jog, 5 minute walk (how far did you go?)
Second workout: Walk for 45 minutes
Third workout: Jog for 1/4 mile, walk for 1/4 mile, Jog for 1/4 mile, Walk for 1/4 mile, Jog for 1/4 Mile, Walk for 1/2 Mile, Jog for 1/4 Mile (2 miles)
Fourth workout: Jog until you cannot go any longer (how far did you go?)
Week Five: Make the best 1 hour work out mix, take all those thoughts, and hit the road and embrace the streamline of thoughts passing throughout your brain.
First workout: Jog 1/2 Mile, walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, Walk 1/4, Jog 1/2, walk 1/4 (3 miles)
June 23rd is recognized as International Widow’s Day. Hope for Widows is honoring all widows worldwide each and every single day.
This day significant to widows, but also the children who have lost. Hope for Widows Foundation is committed to change and bringing awareness to the real issues of widowhood. Issues affecting even the unaffected, indirectly. They include poverty, starvation, prostitution, hate crimes, rape, depression, targeting of widows, anxiety, suicide and more. Widowhood is a large contributor to these and many more social trajectories.
“In some cultures, the death of a husband has meant exile, vulnerability, and abuse. But bereaved women are beginning to fight back.” – as quoted by Cynthia Gorney, National Geographic
Every day is widow’s day to a widow. There is not one day that passes, that the day is not observed by a widow’s heart and mind.
I have immersed myself from my own experience as a young widow – found within the depths of my own soul the feelings and misfortunes, the rebuilding and growth, the effervescence of emerging as new hope and life re-births you and molds you into your afterglow. The timing always unclear, the pace different for each person, and the memory and loss etched into your being FOREVER, walking alongside you – EVERY single day.
I have listened to the stories of the women who have shared – have bore their heart out, have struggled with many things, carry the weight of many things. Each story, tragic and sad, each underlying tone filled with despair, but also a hunger and a want for more. A newfound admiration and purpose, calling to them in this life. Many wandering and navigating without navigation. Many trying to find direction, looking for some kind of hope – an answer and even a sign. I feel a pride in knowing them, though the life events that brought us together are misfortune – we have fortune with each other.
“When the United Nations in 2011 designated June 23 as International Widows’ Day, the official explanation was a somber one: that in many cultures widows are so vulnerable—to abusive traditions, to poverty, to the aftermath of the wars that killed their husbands—that widowhood itself must be regarded as a potential human rights calamity.” – National Geographic, Cynthia Gorney
Life moves forward for widows, but I can tell you “Life does not just go on” in the free way others may believe. You don’t just get over it. Loss changes a person forever, stays with a person forever.
At the heart of widowed woman is bravery, courage, strength, compassion, understanding and a want to be understood. Even as a tear trickles down and the hurt envelopes, they wear a warriors face, an openness in their eyes that they now understand life in a way that they hope many do not ever know and at times their understanding fleets them as the reality is just to encompassing, to understand.
They wear a warrior’s smile – you will see this smile in the video composed.
I started this article thinking, “I wonder who the very first widow in this world was?” I wonder how she felt? I wonder if she was embraced or thrown away? I wonder how loss changed her? Did she stay in her grief, or did she step into this new way of life, finding joy and hope? Did she even have a choice in what happened next for her, or did society choose? All of these questions swirling through my brain, wanting to do her and all of you justice, give justice! Thinking about this, I think of the thousands of your faces that I have come to share my own journey with. Faces, flipping through my mind, each face as significant as the next. Do you even know, how often you come into my mind, are in my prayers, and walk with me through my days? How I wish I could help each of you, how Hope for Widows Foundation is a place for us to come together in this way.
Imagine being the first. For all of my widow sisters and brothers, you did feel you were the first, didn’t you? I know I did. I went on a search, a hunt to find others who specifically went through the similar events as I did being so young and having a spouse die from a bee sting reaction. I still have yet to find another with the same exact situation, though I have found more than I could have ever imagined with different stories of loss and the feelings shared and understood. No other understanding I could have garnered from someone who hadn’t lost a spouse.
I often think of and relate that thought to one of my favorite childhood movies. The Last Unicorn.
“I am the only Unicorn there is? The Last? That cannot be. Why would I be the last? What do men know? Because they have seen no unicorns for a while does not mean we have all vanished. We do not vanish. There has never been a time without unicorns. We live forever! We are as old as the sky, old as the moon! We can be hunted, trapped; we can even be killed if we leave our forests, but we do not vanish. Am I truly the last?”
This line holds so much truth, so much impact, and power. There is injustice in widowhood and most of that comes from society and secondary losses suffered that you least would have expected.
What I share will shock some. It has shocked me and left me minimizing my very own loss and the circumstances. I know my loss and no others loss should EVER be minimized and that each is SIGNIFICANT, however what I have learned has truly opened my eyes.
As I started connecting with women worldwide, I learned of many truths, many injustices. They leave me in tears, leave me needing to act, do something, anything to share their lives, their stories, to make an impact, to be the difference, to give support!
Just do something!!
That something is exactly what we at Hope for Widows Foundation are doing. You can help, just as we are helping.
At the end of this article I ask you to leave a comment and enter this hashtag #donate. You will be able to sign up and send an amount that you would like to contribute to our International Support effort. I donated $100.00 and this is how it helped.
My $100 donated, bought this amount of food for the orphans at the Dagoretti Childrens Home. My friend and widow sister Dianah sent me the itemized receipt without me even asking or needing this, she sent me a video of the children dancing and singing their thanks. It beyond moved me.
Hope for Widows Foundation was able to help with school fees for an entire year for three children with the $130 donated.
“Hope for Widows Foundation has made many connections to women within the United States and Internationally. Our heart is with every widow and every woman or man who has lost their loved one. On this day and every single day, we see all of you and are here!” – Hope for Widows Foundation
Our International Hope Sisters Spotlight
Dianah Wanjiku Kamande from Come Together Widows and Orphans.
Dianah is dear to my heart and you will soon know why. She was widowed in 2013. Today she is 35 and has accomplished much in her serving of widows and orphans.
A mother of two beautiful girls and such an example to them. She became a widow as a result of domestic violence when her husband of ten years came home and had planned to kill her and her daughters. when his attempts failed he turned the knife on himself.
Her injuries were life threatening. She had urgent head surgery and was fitted with 5 plastic nerves in her cranium. She also had hand surgery and was fitted with multiple metal plates because he had broken her left hand. She underwent breast surgery because he had pierced her right breast.
This is how selfless Dianah is – though it was a terribly tough time for her, it was at that time that she realized so many of her visitors in the hospital were widows and survivors of past cases of violence. As a survivor on her hospital bed she went through widow abuse. Her in-laws accused here of her husbands death. She was insulted and called a prostitute. While in the hospital her property and household items were taken. She quickly took action by enlisting her brother’s help. Turning to Google she began to check if the constitution of Kenya provided rights for her as a widow. She wondered if this was even clearly defined and what rights as a survivor of violence would be offered to her. Unfortunately there was nothing. This amazing woman sat on her hospital bed, requesting a notebook and a pen and she started drafting a widows bill.
After she was discharged she invited widows into her home, instead of them coming 15 as requested they came 25. Word spread fast. The second meeting hosted 66 widows. The third 337, the fourth over 750. Dianah rolled up her sleeves and started getting the exact number of widows in the country of Kenya. Widows are absent in statistics worldwide; the National Bureau of Statistics does not collect this data. Astounding right? She went further and contacted the morgues and started getting both private and public numbers of married men who passed every day and she reached out to these woman. She began gaining exposure in the media and soon the organization she registered on September 14, 2013 exponentially grew to 1.4 Million Widows by June 23, 2016, also known as International Widows Day.
Philippine Hope Sister, Micah Juarbal
Micah is 29 years old and the mother of one daughter. At the age of 27 her journey of widowhood started. Her husband worked as a government employee in a nearby city. They were together but because of financial problems they decided that it would be best for her and her daughter to live with Micah’s parents temporarily. She continued herstudies for their daughters future.
Their wedding anniversary was April 14th. She expressed she would miss him so much to which he replied, “missing someone is normal, we need to sacrifice for our future”. The next day, her husband sent her and their daughter to be with her family. On April 16th her husband went back to work. He would call them everyday. On April 18 at about 11:13 p.m. someone called her and she thought it was him, but when the lady spoke, Micah was shocked to hear her husband was in an emergency room, he had been hit by a car while on his motorcycle. Micah immediately got on a bus. When she arrived to the ER, she saw her husband lying in bed and having a seizure because of the head trauma.
She wanted to break down, but she couldn’t. After five hours passed when he should have had an immediate head operation, (it took this time because she had to find money and seek help from his friends), they landed in a public hospital because the private hospital wanted a downpayment before they would do the operation. On April 21st at exactly 8:35 while holding her four year olds hand, his pulse rate dropped and that was when the doctor told them he was gone. The pain was excruciating. She wanted to go with him but needed to care for her daughter. She has continued her studies in college and is now in her third year. Her daughter in grade 2. Micah shares that she doesn’t like to be called a widow because for her and like so many others, she still is married to her husband. Where she lives, it is in a state of martial law because of ISIS existence. Everyday is horrible she explains. There are a lot of soldiers killed and she can’t imagine the wives waiting for their husbands to come home in a coffin. She is focused on her studies as a way to honor not only herself, but her husband as this was his dream for her.
Amess shared with Hope for Widows Foundation that she had been praying and fasting for God to direct her and her group to our foundation.
She is a widow advocate and has worked with her church coming up with ideas to offer support to widows. They are planning a fundraiser at the church so that widows can start their own businesses.
Amess was married in 2004 right after graduating from high school. She suffered abuse from her stepmother and married young to leave home. This unplanned marriage was God sent. The man she called her husband brought love and comfort to her life. She gave birth to her first-born son Trust, that same year. In 2007 she gave birth to a baby girl named Mildred. This was the year when her husband felt a calling to become a pastor. I encouraged him to apply and he did. He was asked to interview. There was a rule that when going to the ministry interviews you need to take your spouse. Amess accompanied her husband as a witness. After the interviews they were surprised that they took both of them to go and study theology. Amess had never thought of studying or teaching Theology in her life. It was very difficult for her to accept at that time, she didn’t know God’s plan or purpose for her life.
Even still, her husband encouraged her. One of the interviewers told her husband that he saw something so unique in Amess. She became pregnant and was allowed to continue her studies. That year she welcomed a baby boy and he was named Joshua! Her husband was earning a certificate in Theology while she was earning a Diploma in theology. In the second year of her course she did well and qualified to be enrolled for a degree program. Her husband was very happy for her. She started the degree program in September of 2010 and then in November her husband fell ill. He was diagnosed with liver cancer; the prognosis grim being told he only had three months left to live. On March 22nd he died. Amess was distraught and at a crossroads not knowing what to do. She felt like quitting, but chose perseverance and graduated with her Degree in Theology in 2012.
She put in the work and excelled. The school asked her to help them teach Greek and Hebrew but on a voluntary basis. This arrangement suited her because the school helped her through her education and she felt it only right, that she give back. She was faced however with raising three children to take care of, so it became a burden to her financially. At that same time she had a friend talk to her about an orphanage. They called her to help on the spiritual side and administration. She went to help in 2013 and would still go to the Theological college to teach up until 2015. Up to she is still working as a volunteer at the orphanage without a signed contract. They are not able to offer a salary, but give her an allowance. She continues to have a serving heart while trusting in Gods plan and provision for her and her family. Her experience is one of trust and hope. She continues to serve in the hopes that she will be able to use what she has learned, sharing it with others and earning money to be able to support her family.
National geographic recently issued an article in the February 2017 issue. In this article it highlights the brutality of woman being disowned, thrown away, made to leave the life they know, raped, forced into prostitution, forced to drink the blood of their husband and sleep with a family member to cleanse them. This excerpt cited from National Geographic’s article in the February issue.
India (this information shared by National Geographic)
“There is a place called “The City of Widows”. The widows wake very early as one large vat of tea is made. They must get in line to have a ration of that and rice if they are one of the lucky ones for the day. The numbers are not reported but it is said there may be 10,000 widowed woman in this city.
They crowd the temples singing devotional songs, which are chanted all day long by the impoverished widows. They do this to earn hot meals, maybe a nighttime sleeping mat.
They live in shelters too, and in shared rental rooms, and under roadside tarps when no indoor accommodation will admit them. Vrindavan is about 100 miles south of Delhi, but the widows come here from all over India, particularly the state of West Bengal, where allegiance to Krishna is intense. Sometimes they arrive accompanied by gurus they trust. Sometimes their relatives bring them, depositing the family widow in an ashram or on a street corner and driving away.
Even relatives who don’t literally drive a widow from the family home can make it plain every day that her role among them has ended, that a widow in India, is forever burdened by the misfortune of having outlived her husband, is “physically alive but socially dead,” in the words of Delhi psychologist Vasantha Patri, who has written about the plight of India’s widows” – Cynthia Gorney, National Geographic
When a spouse dies the term used is widow inheritance. You would generally think this means what is left to the widow who has lost her spouse. It has much different meaning unfortunately. This means that the in-laws illegally seizing all her inherited property as their own. The in laws also take her as a sex partner or wife for the relative of their choosing.
International Widows Day Background
International Widows Day (IWD) is a global day of focus for effective action to raise awareness and help widows and their children around the world. In 2015, there were an estimated 259 million widows and 585 million children in the world affected by widowhood, together with their family members the number is well over a billion people. For more information on the Loomba Foundation visit http://theloombafoundation.org/international-widows-day/
The Loomba Foundation put together a report in 2015 that details the research they performed to gather information on the number of widows per country. I have used Esri’s ArcGIS for Office solution to create an interactive map on my A Widows World blog that allows you to visualize this data worldwide.
Although, this is not 2017 data, this is the most current information I was able to gather. I credit the Loomba organization for their research, adopting this day, and the care and support they offer to recognize widows worldwide.
I encourage widows out there to live, take chances and go after the things that matter. Don’t stay in your sorrow and grief, honor your loved one lost and yourself by living a life that would make them smile and be proud. We all deserve that.
HOW OTHERS CAN HELP – visit the Hope for Widows Facebook page, comment using the hashtag #donate and you will be able to register and select an amount to donate. All money collected will be used to support our international hope sisters.
Article approved to be Cited from National Geographic:
For Widows, Life After Loss, by Cynthia Gorney, Photographs by Amy Toensing
Tanya Smith, Hope for Widows Advisory Board Member, A Widows World Blogger & Owner of Addelise Inc.
About Hope For Widows Foundation
Hope for Widows is a national support system for, and developed by, widowed women. We help connect new widows with other widows to offer peer-to-peer support and other resources. By pairing new widows with women who have been where they are now, we help make connections that begin the healing process. Through our peer support, resource section, initiatives and conferences we support widows through the entire grieving process.
Do you like stones? Rocks? crystals? Do certain ones of them have special meanings for you? Well, there could be reasons why. I am writing this to help explain what many people believe are healing powers of crystals.
Like with other spiritual healing methods, crystal healing is NOT medicine.It can be complementary to traditional medicine or it can just be something to help you cope with overwhelming emotions. To be fair, there are many people who claim crystal healing is pseudoscience.
Here is why I think they may be wrong:
Crystals are made up of chemicals and each has a unique structure. Their chemical structure reflects a balance of their electromagnetic fields or their energy. It is like with colors. The colors are the way that light bends when it hits a chemical structure. So if you take it as true that everything is made up of energy, then each crystal’s own energy can impact the energy of the things around it.
Each of us has energy centers in our bodies. These are called chakras in yoga, Reiki, acupuncture, and other forms of alternative healing. Each chakra has an energy flow to it that needs to be balanced in order for us to feel our best. So, the energy of a crystal can impact our chakras and can have an effect on the way we feel.
For a more scientific explanation, see this from the Book of Stones:
“When we bring the crystal into our electromagnetic field, two things occur.
The electromagnetic frequencies carried by the stone will vibrate with related frequencies in our own energy field through the physical law of resonance, creating a third larger vibration field.
The nervous system is attuned to these shifts in energy and transmits this information to the brain. The frequencies stimulate biochemical shifts that affect the physical body and shift brain function.(Simmons & Ahsian 2005, 28)
Each of our chakras and it’s energy flow is related to a color. These colors follow the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Red is our root chakra located at the base of our spines. Violet is our crown locate at the very top of our head.
The color of each crystal can help balance our energy flows by interacting with the energy of our chakras. If a chakra’s energy is blocked, the energy of certain crystals can help free it or vice versa if the energy of a chakra is overactive. It makes sense that the color of the crystal can be a reflection of the electromagnetic energy flow that it has. Some colors go together well, some conflict. Do goes the crystal energy.
There are lots of books and information on the web about which crystals can help with particular health or emotional issues. I find that a few crystals help me more than others.
Rose quartz (a nice pink stone) makes me feel less out of control with sadness when I hold onto one or hold it while trying to meditate.
Amethyst helps me realize my grief is real and that I can let it ce without feeling guilty.
If a day is especially sad and I feel I need some humor or something to perk me up a bit, I will hold sunstone.
Sometimes I put these stones in my pocket or bra (you know that extra picket we have) while going about whatever needs to be done.
Another helpful experience I have had with crystals is going to a crystal sound bath. Crystals can be shaped into bowls and played with a soft flannel type pointer that gets rotated around the top of the bowl. Each crystal bowl emits a different frequency which can help change the energy flowing through our chakras. The sound baths are extremely relaxing and one of my favorite treats.
Feel free to look up healing properties of crystals to see what may help you. Or, take a trip to a crystal shop near you and hold different stones. If one feels right, chances are it is something that might help you feel a bit better.
He’d been telling me every day since I met him a month earlier, that we were going to get married, and so finally, I agreed to go on a date with him to Calico Ghost Town. He asked me to bring my eighteen-month old daughter.
It was May in the Mohave Desert, and so hot that I dressed my daughter in a soaking wet tank top and shorts to keep her from overheating. The tank top was pink.
We wandered up and down and in and out of the small tourist town that day unknowingly fabricating the bonds that would one day turn us into a family. “Wanna meet my grandparents?” He asked me as we loaded the baby into her car seat that evening.
“I’m not dressed for grandparents” I said, motioning to my daisy duke shorts and tube top.
Somehow we still ended up in the cozy living room of his kind grandparents watching my daughter color a page of their family scrap book that I would one day, after his suicide, ache for deeply to see again.
On our way back to my apartment, as my baby slept and the setting sun caused John to remove his sunglasses, I suddenly blurted out, “We are going to get married, aren’t we?”
He laughed and said, “I’ve been telling you that for a month!”
A week later, on Memorial Day weekend he moved in to my apartment and we began to plan for a fall wedding.
Three years later, on Memorial Day weekend we moved into our first home. I watched him sweat as he moved boxes and I nursed our son.
Seven years after that on Memorial Day weekend, John was gone forever, and I was deep into the home remodeling phase of my grief….which also happened to overlap with the slut phase of my grief.
I stood in the demolished dining room and called one of the contractors I had hired to remodel my house. We had sex on mine and John’s bed amongst the plastic room dividers and saw dust…all the while I silently prayed to him, “Please give me HIV so I can die.”
When that nice man left, I numbly showered. It’s weird how depression makes you unable to even feel the sensation of hot water. When I reached for the soap, John’s abandoned razor caught my eye as the afternoon sun reflected off its chrome handle in the shower’s window ledge. Just hours before he shot a bullet into his torso, he’d shaved his head and face. He wanted to look good in his casket. I had him cremated. As I held the razor I noticed a single chin hair caught between blades four and five.
Grief, is plucking a piece of his hair from blades four and five.
Grief, is clutching onto that hair as you fall to your knees in the shower.
Grief, is then crawling out of the shower, wrapping yourself in a towel, and saying goodbye to the hair you plucked from blades four and five as it is carried away in a stream of cold water; lost forever through the porthole of his former bathroom sink.
Later that day, a woman said that I seemed happy that John was dead because I was smiling in my latest Facebook selfie. With one comment, this lady invalidated my suffering. She made me ask myself, “Was I happy he was dead?” The seeds of guilt she planted in me that day grew to be forests that I still get lost in even now, three years later.
Before you judge a widow’s social media, think about my husband’s hair that was caught between blades four and five. Think about a despair so deep that you pray to contract HIV. Think about things you probably have never experienced because you, like that lady have not yet known a loss like this. Think about this story because chances are that one day you too will meet grief in the shower.
Note: This blog is transparent about the emotional effects of witnessing a death on social media as a result of black market organ trafficking. My condolences are extended to the families of those killed online or by suicide by way of live or post video recordings. The opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone so please read at your own risk.
You’ve seen them, you know, those violent and horrible videos of violence on Facebook; the ones that have several thousand likes, shares and comments and are not taken down until it’s too late.
I give myself a pat on the back for ignoring videos that display horrific crimes and suicides across the world. Nonetheless, one or two may come across my newsfeed that’s already set in motion and it meets the eye. Hence, the purpose of this blog.
I watched a video about two weeks ago that disturbed me horribly, so much so that it had me in tears. According to the caption, a young lady was lured unknowingly by the promise of a new job – a new life. Her journey was paid for in full but upon arrival, her dreams became a nightmare. She became a statistic out of the thousands of girls lured for the sake of trafficking, whether for sex, labor or for unintentional organ trafficking of human body parts. This lure was for the latter.
Why did I watch the video?
-I saw a young girl seemingly the same age as my daughter in an awkward place
-The start of the video intrigued me
-I was curious
There was no gore, no blood, no screams. She died a horrible death in a remote area electrified by the presence of her killers; she was their prized catch of the moment.
The video showed enough for me to realize that her death was unexpected, and she didn’t see it coming. My emotions got the best of me; I was infuriated that it was not removed sooner. I was infuriated that it was allowed to be shared over and over again. I was infuriated that Facebook had not yet removed this sadistic attack on a young life which accumulated thousands of comments tagging others to see.
Then I thought of her family and the other families of those whose deaths had not made it to social media. I thought about how the families may have provided a farewell party, anticipating their safe arrival and even much so, anticipating their portion of earnings to be remitted back to the household. But for this particular young woman, I asked myself, do they even realize she’s missing?
As a widow, what do you do when you’re faced with an assembly of emotions that you would normally reserve for those private grieving periods for your husband? You’ve already expressed your loss to a point which you’ve vowed to never weep like that again, but then this happens; a death is publicized publicly for the world to see.
I get that death happens and life continues on. But you try your best to move on and you can’t because you’re grieving the gruesome death of someone you don’t know, which makes it even more difficult (at least for me).
You can’t console them
You can’t touch them
You most certainly can’t help them
They’re alive one minute and the next they’re gone – permanently.
Depending on your beliefs, grief conditions us to prime the body for a burial or cremation of the loved one but in cases like this, it’s impossible because there is no body, there’s no visitation to view the body, there’s no funeral, no burial, no rites nor a procession.
How would you cope? How do you cope? How did I cope?
Since viewing the recording, I’ve changed how I allow my mind to receive and act on problematic online viewings:
I became aware of my surroundings, my social media, and email advertisements
I will be selective about what posts will flood my newsfeed and report violent videos and graphics if they somehow come through
I researched this horrific trend to see what I could do to help
I intend to speak to my therapist about it
I prayed for her family
I informed my daughter
I wrote about it!
The video really shook my spirit. I kept reflecting on the young girl’s face of how innocent she appeared before her death. One moment she was alive and the next, she had her wings.
It could have been my child.
A few days after I reported the video, Mark Zuckerberg posted his plans to combat violent recordings and pictures posted on Facebook (I doubt if my reporting it was the cause of the post). Nevertheless, it brought a smile to face and gladness in my heart because it was acknowledged by a major social media company who vowed to do something.
I’m hoping that this young lady’s family and the families of the thousands of other men, women, and children can at least rest a little better in knowing that many of us care and we’re trying our hardest to do something about it, too.
My sincere condolences and prayers are extended to the family and I pray that justice is served swiftly to the murderers, deceivers, liars and cowards behind the cameras.