Archive of ‘Finding Support’ category

What Really Matters Now?

By Wendy Simpson

What really matters?

I’ve asked this a hundred times over the last 3 years since my husband’s diagnosis of cancer.

Before he passed, in the early stages of cancer diagnosis shock, what mattered was fighting it. Our lives were consumed with appointments and treatments and side effects. I didn’t even think of sadness or defeat.  We focused on victory and being warrior strong.  Oh we loved each other and what mattered was fighting the enemy, the big “C”.  Then came the big “T” the word “terminal.”  What mattered shifted to making time slow down, still fighting but the enemy was now… time, and somehow we needed to make every second count.  Life became more and more precious as we had long conversations without words. Then suddenly, there was our last dance and good bye. All that mattered left with my beloved that day. And, for a long time, nothing mattered.

It was in this dark place of death, that I saw what I couldn’t see in the light of life.  I saw how precious and life-giving relationships were.  In the midnight of my loss the lights of frienship and sisterhood stood out more intensely.  It was as if God had placed beautiful night lights along the path I must walk, so that, even in the deepest darkness of my grief I’d see a way through it all.  In the valley of the shadow of death, I was not alone.

So… what matters now?

I am asking that question again… it’s been 2 and half years since my beloved husband and I had our last dance and I saw him into heaven.  I’d have to say, along with the beautiful relationships God’s given me, I’d add…  purpose to what matters.  We do not find purpose alone.  Purpose is in the moment you reach out into the stories and lives of sisters and friends.  It’s looking into their eyes and seeing their heart.  When someone took the time to look into my eyes, see my heart and hear my grief… I mattered.  And… when I mattered… I had purpose…  and meant something to someone.

It’s when I realized that God gave me life so I could speak life into someone else that this journey mattered.  It’s when I could stand in the gap for someone hurting and pray for them that I found the ache of my grief lessen.  It still aches terribly, but I have hope, that one day it will soften.

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A special note to our Hope Widow Sisters on National Widows Day

By Chasity Williams

 

We want to send a special shout out to honor all our Hope widow sisters today, on National Widows Day. We appreciate you and are very proud of your resilience in the face of extreme tragic circumstances. We always want to validate your emotions, feelings and thoughts as they matter. You matter.

Nothing prepares you for widowhood!! It’s a committee that no one wants to be a part of. No instructions, no reference guide, no rules. We are left to pick up the pieces and find out how to get through and survive. Most days, weeks, months, even down to the second that’s all you can do. To us, the word ‘widow’ means: Hope, Strength, Warrior, Resilient, Faith, Overcomer, Determination, and growing your soul and self to new and greater heights than you ever imagined.

As widows ourselves, we know something stunning and magnificent can happen after time; emerging from a devastating loss or tragedy, then transforming and changing, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. It’s not right away, not even soon, but we promise you will see the light in the darkness eventually. There is no time limit, but you will go from surviving to thriving. One of the hardest parts is the acceptance, acknowledgement of the loss and the future that was to be, and then surrendering to it. Knowing you will never get ‘over it’, but learn a better way to ‘get through it’. Remember, you have to feel to heal.

So, as beautiful, flawed, and broken you feel, battle scars, wounds and all, to hell and back … the beautiful, messy, chaotic life that is now yours, just breathe — take ownership of all of it- It is ENOUGH. YOU are ENOUGH. You can DO IT! Our Hope sisters are here for each other. A sisterhood of us who relate, understand, listen and care. Grief and heartbreak of losing a loved one is an unspoken language, until it happens to you no one on the outside will truly understand. Our Hope Sisters are some of the strongest and most beautiful people we have ever met.

Our Hope Sisters continue to inspire and encourage us daily. We want to tell you how much we care for you, how strong you are and that you can do the tough things! Hang on to your anchor, because Healing Happens.

You are enough. You are strong. You are brave. You are beautiful. You are amazing….. We believe in YOU.

“Pain is real, but so is Hope.”

In Hope,
Chasity Williams, Khadija Ali and Maureen Bobo
Hope for Widows Foundation Directors

We’re Partnering With The Mighty!

By khadija ali

themightyhopeforwidows-2016-facebookimage

We’re thrilled to announce a new partnership that will bring our resources in front of The Mighty http://themighty.com/ wide-reaching readership. We will now have a growing home page https://themighty.com/partner/hopeforwidowsfoundation/ on The Mighty and appear on many stories on the site.

The Mighty is a story-based health community focused on improving the livesof people facing disease, disorder, mental illness and disability. More than half of Americans are facing serious health conditions or medical issues. They want more than information. They want to be inspired. The Mighty publishes real stories about real people facing real challenges.

Here’s an example of the kind of stories on The Mighty: What Nobody Tells You About Self-Care: https://themighty.com/…/self-care-how-to-take-care-of-your…

We’re dedicated to helping people with mental illness https://themighty.com/category/mental-illness and grief https://themighty.com/?s=grief in their lives. With this partnership, we’ll be able to help even more people.

We encourage you to submit a story http://themighty.com/submit-a-story/ to The Mighty and make your voice heard.

Sincerely,
Hope For Widows Directors

We relate. We understand. We care. We listen.

 

 

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R E S P E C T Find Out What It Means To Me

By Cathy Nelson

The past few weeks I have been pondering the meaning of the word respect. It seems that a fair amount of posts on social media are written about this subject. In fact, the last post I read said, “Once you lose my respect, it’s gone. I will never respect you again.”

Once, after I had spent a few months in my new widowhood, someone said to me, “If you do that, I will lose all respect for you.” Looking back, I have come to realize what that person was actually saying to me was, “If you do that, you will be going against what I want you to do, and I will be upset because I no longer have any control over you.”

What does a statement like that have to do with respect? Nothing! Moreover, it wasn’t even about me but rather about the person saying it.

In truth, it’s a statement of control, and it asserts something to the effect of: “I do not approve of your choice, and I am using the threat of losing my respect in order to control you so you make the choice I think you ought to make!”

Anyone who embraces the concept of respect would never hold respect over someone’s head as a form of manipulation or control!

I am learning more and more that respect is not something you win or lose, earn or take away, or something you can hold over someone’s head. Respect is something you either have or do not, and it all begins with you. Making a choice based on someone holding the concept of respect over your head means you have no respect for yourself, so you attempt to gain it through others. I know that the more I do that, the more I feel something missing inside of me – that being respect for myself.

Respect is not a defiance of others either. It’s simply a form of honoring yourself and recognizing that, even as a widow, you’re still alive – that you still have worth and your life has purpose and meaning AND that you respect yourself enough to pursue your dreams – even if others don’t believe this to be true. When I respect myself, I automatically respect others.

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My Wake Up Call

By Cathy Nelson

Before my husband Ray died, I used to “go along, to get along.” In fact, I think I spent my life trying to please others. For example, I would do or say whatever I thought would make someone else’s life better or easier. If I took on the blame, or let someone else take the credit, I was making the ultimate sacrifice, which I believed would enable others to love and accept me.

My wake-up call came at the funeral home on the day I was to view my husband’s body for the last time. It was to be just me, my daughter, my son-in-law and my grandson. This moment in my mind was to be shared only with them. It was my desire that the four of us would have a very private, personal few moments together. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

An outsider decided to make his presence more important than my wishes. This person stayed in the room and took over tender conversations that I alone wanted to have with my grandson. Additionally, this person gave answers to questions not asked and offered prayers without invitation.

I stood in shocked silence while letting this all take place because I did not want to disappoint anyone. After all, even in that moment, everyone else’s feelings were more important than mine … I thought! After all, I was a people-pleaser. Hmm… does the word doormat come to mind?

A few days after the funeral home experience, I just woke up. It was like I had been sleeping my whole life. I became determined that I would never ever again allow someone to rob me of my power.

Speaking up for myself at times has not been easy. I must admit, as I master this new skill, I have made some mistakes. However, it is a skill worth learning, so I will keep trying because loving myself is what gives me the power to love others.

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Inner Wisdom

By Cathy Nelson

imageDuring my life, I have often sought permission from others to go ahead and do what my heart was telling me. This habit hasn’t always served me well.

Consequently, today I want to suggest the following to my widow sisters. Give yourself permission to:

~ forget the stages of grief and grieve in the manner that suits you the best;
~ love yourself;
~ pay attention to yourself;
~ put yourself and your needs first;
~ run away;
~ ignore those who do not understand;
~ let go of old friends who judge you;
~ find new friends who do understand you;
~ laugh and laugh and then laugh some more;
~ cry whenever and wherever you want;
~ never forget;
~ sell your house and move;
~ redecorate your house;
~ begin dating at the time which is comfortable for you;
~ go back to school;
~ quit your job and find a new one;
~ lose weight;
~ begin to exercise;
~ welcome your new life;
~ let go of the guilt including berating yourself with “would of, could of, and should of”;
~ ignore what others are telling you to do and listen to your own intuition

It’s okay; it’s okay; it’s all okay!!!

Whatever it is YOU desire. – go for it. Please know that you don’t need my permission or anyone else’s permission to follow your heart! My widow sisters, your life is yours to live as you see fit and don’t let anyone tell you differently!!!!

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City Of Widows

By Cathy Nelson

Even before I became a widow, I was fascinated with Vrindavan, India, which is also known as the City of Widows. This is a city to which the shunned widows of India are sent by their family members. Here, these widows are reduced to poverty and roam the streets begging for their food. These once cherished mothers, daughters and sisters are forced to wear white, shave their heads, cannot wear jewelry, shunned by their own children and family members, and even their shadows are considered bad luck. In other words, simply by the act of becoming a widow, these women also lose all of their social rights.

About two months after my husband died, I became filled with an intense desire to travel to the City of Widows. I felt the pull of sisterhood, and I just wanted to walk with them for a little while to, perhaps, feel their pain alongside of them. I never got to go – at least, not yet.

Sometimes, we widows also feel shunned by our families and friends. We feel left out, and, often, it seems as if our whole identity evaporates with the loss of our husbands. Like our widow sisters in India, I have even felt that my shadow is considered bad luck by some.

So, what is left for us? Something really great – lots of hopes, dreams, and even miracles. Despite what losses we’ve experienced, we always retain the power to change our own lives and, thus, create our futures. We are free to live without self-imposed restrictions. If we choose to, we can go back to school; travel; lose weight; date; re-marry; create loving extended family relationships; forgive; practice kindness; and a million more things.

Our pain can become our fuel to create our life. I know it’s not the life we planned, but it IS the life we get to have. So we might as well embrace it with the most enthusiasm and joy that you can muster!

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New Beginnings

By Cathy Nelson

imageI left Stanford University Hospital in the early evening the day my husband died. As I walked across the grounds surrounded by my children, I could see Hoover Bell Tower in the distance, the bells were ringing. I was numb and in a fog. I remember thinking, I was born in this area, I grew up here, I graduated from Menlo Atherton High School. My husband had asked me to marry him close to this tower. Now I was alone, starting over again.

The Bell Tower became my symbol for New Beginnings. I had no idea where my new journey was going to take me, just that I get to trust that I am powerful enough to deal with whatever life gives me, even this.

Each day is a new beginning for each of us. Each day is a new opportunity to experience hope in the future without forgetting our past. What will you choose?

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My Widow Wall

By Cathy Nelson

imageI recently learned that most animals in the wild run from a storm; however, not the buffalo. The buffalo will walk right into a storm and walk right through it. Let me explain how this can be applied to our journey through grief.

My late husband, Ray, and I had been married less than 10 years. We had 4 young children and lived in a small home that was located close to our town’s little hospital. One night, we got word that some friends of ours were at that little hospital awaiting news about their 2 year old who had been found face down in the family pool. Without hesitation, Ray jumped in the car and headed out to be with this couple. There he waited and prayed with them until their family members arrived.

After the tragic loss of their son, this little family fell apart. We lost contact with them over the years after the father moved out of state. Fast forward 25 years. Ray’s obituary was posted in our local newspaper, along with a memorial site which allowed people to post their condolences. I was deeply touched when one was written by the father of this young boy. In it, he said how he would never forget how much courage Ray showed by having the guts to come to the hospital and sit with him on the worst day of his life.

Ray taught me many things over our 36 years of marriage. However, for me, the example of his courage has been the most important lesson.

We widows talk about widow fog, which is very real, but I have found there is also something I call the Widow Wall. I feel this invisible wall go up around me, when I start to feel deep emotional grief at his loss. I feel this wall sometimes when I meet someone new and I start to share my story. I feel this wall when I’m told by others how I “should ” feel or what I “should” do. This Widow Wall is what I put up to protect me from my fear.

My Ray was like a buffalo. He could walk right into a storm and face it head on. I seldom saw him try to go around a storm in life. My hope is to follow Ray’s example by learning to step through my fears and be courageous under all circumstances. My Widow Wall is self constructed, so I know I am able to tear it down.

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My Wake-Up Call

By Cathy Nelson

Before my husband Ray died, I used to “go along, to get along.” In fact, I think I spent my life trying to please others. For example, I would do or say whatever I thought would make someone else’s life better or easier. If I took on the blame, or let someone else take the credit, I was making the ultimate sacrifice, which I believed would enable others to love and accept me.

My wake-up call came at the funeral home on the day I was to view my husband’s body for the last time. It was to be just me, my daughter, my son-in-law and my grandson. This moment in my mind was to be shared only with them. It was my desire that the four of us would have a very private, personal few moments together. Unfortunately, it was not to be.

An outsider decided to make his presence more important than my wishes. This person stayed in the room and took over tender conversations that I alone wanted to have with my grandson. Additionally, this person gave answers to questions not asked and offered prayers without invitation.

I stood in shocked silence while letting this all take place because I did not want to disappoint anyone. After all, even in that moment, everyone else’s feelings were more important than mine … I thought! After all, I was a people-pleaser. Hmm… does the word doormat come to mind?

A few days after the funeral home experience, I just woke up. It was like I had been sleeping my whole life. I became determined that I would never ever again allow someone to rob me of my power.

Speaking up for myself at times has not been easy. I must admit, as I master this new skill, I have made some mistakes. However, it is a skill worth learning, so I will keep trying because loving myself is what gives me the power to love others.

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