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The Three Things Every Widow/er Needs You to Say

By Michelle Miller

“Well he never believed in God so now that he’s dead, I guess he knows the truth,” said the religious man. And so began the litany of awkward, insensitive, and of course ‘well-meaning’ condolence comments in reference to my husband’s suicide, that I would have to endure in addition to the constant vomiting and perpetual shaking of my hands for the next year.

Four days later it would be, “Well I can always take you out to dinner next weekend; I clean up nice” as another religious man rubbed my back a little too long for my comfort level during the obligatory, ‘hug-the-widow’ show that took place at the buffet table near the entrance of the reception.

My husband shot himself. Casseroles and hugs for everyone!

“You’ll remarry. You’re so pretty and young!”

Because if I were ugly and old I wouldn’t get that luxury?

“I just want you to know that I don’t blame you at all. It was his choice to shoot that gun.”

Thanks for reminding me that everyone else does indeed blame me.

“How are you?”

Fucking fabulous, thanks.

“I’m here for you”

Except for you won’t be about three seconds after the funeral reception when you return to your own life and decided that ‘here for you’ means occasionally liking my social media posts.

“He’s in a better place”

No he’s not. He was an atheist that denied the existence of God up until his final breath. I heard his final breath on the phone as he shot himself; trust me, he’s not in your version of a ‘better place’.

“His death happened for a reason”

Yes. The reason is, that when a bullet enters the body at point blank range, it kills you.

“I know exactly how you feel, when my great Aunt Agnes died…..”

Yep. That’s the same thing.

“Why did he kill himself?!”

While I appreciate your nosiness I’m gonna decline that question for now and ask that you please do not speak to me again until you have adequately researched suicide and mental illness. Idiot.

“I’m praying for you”

Great! While you’re at it, please make sure to tell God I no longer believe in him. Thanks.

What do all of these questions and statements have in common? None of them brought me comfort, and about half of them aggravated my already indescribable pain.

These people were not insensitive assholes (well except maybe the first two men I mentioned), they were just uneducated in the true needs of those who are in mourning. Years and years ago when I was normal, I too was guilty of using some of these cute little grief catch phrases. I am guilty in my past life of asking things I should never have asked and making promises to mourners that I never intended on keeping (Call me anytime of the day or night and I will be there for you!). I have said these phrases to children who have lost grandparents, and I have said them to Grandparents that have lost siblings. Most regretful of all though, I have said these things to widows. And then, I became one at the age of thirty-one.

Now that I’m living this experience I know better, and so, I do better; and doing better to me means spreading awareness of how to help those in mourning so they are not further injured on top of their life-long grief. I have talked to hundreds of widows in the last few years through social media and in person and we all mostly agree that the three things every widow/er needs you to say to them are:

  1. Nothing…followed by a statement about how you are not going to be saying anything. At all costs avoid words. Never underestimate the power of shutting the hell up, especially early-on. The only exception is if you want to acknowledge your commitment to silence by saying, “There really are no words for what has happened to you.” Or “I don’t know what to say” or, “If there were word in existence to comfort you, I would say them.”
  2. Nothing….followed by validation. If you are ever lucky enough to be the person a widow comes to, to vent, you have one job and one job only: to validate them. You can validate them through listening and nodding in silence with lots of eye contact and attentive body language, or you can validate them by saying things like, “Absolutely! This is not fair and you have every right to be angry” Do not offer unsolicited advice. Ever. More often than not, when people come to talk to you, they are not seeking answers, they simply want to be heard and understood. Let them know that every feeling they have is being heard and that they are not crazy.
  3. Nothing….followed by action. Yes, food and money in those early weeks are helpful. Do that. But also, be aware that grief is a life-long process and helping someone who is grieving should also be. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Two years after the funeral deliver (or have delivered) a meal on a school night. Find out when their wedding anniversary is and take them out for a margarita. Show up to their child’s baseball game. Five years (or ten or twenty) later randomly call on a Sunday and see if they need anything picked up from the store. Action.

Early on in my widowhood I could not identify my needs. I could barely identify which shoes were mine and which shoes belonged to my then, seven year old son. I am forever grateful for the ones who knew my needs and still fulfill those needs for me now, almost three years later. I try my best to pay it forward with all of you who come to me and share your horrible stories of loss on facebbok and instagram, but I wish I could do more. I wish I could respond to every message and read every facebook comment, but I can’t. I will keep writing though, and hopefully this is enough to help you see that you are not alone. You are understood. Your feelings are valid and important. Widowhood sucks.

Love to you all,

Michelle

© Copyright 2017 Michelle Miller

Grief @ Work: Coping With The Loss Of A Spouse

By Sabra Robinson

If you are reading this, chances are you are grieving the loss of your spouse. If so, please accept my deepest condolences.

I know it must be hard to get back into the swing of things and your emotions may be on a roller coaster of not knowing what to expect. Guess what? You’re not the only one. There are thousands of us (yes, me too) out there deliberating if we are doing the right thing wanting to go back to work (versus needing). But the bills need to be paid and food needs to be put on the table so we must make that essential decision, especially if there is absolutely no income being generated.

I was given three weeks notice on my job due to budgetary reasons. My last day of work was one week before his death. I was relieved, yet, saddened. I didn’t inform my husband until about a week after I was notified because he was in enough pain. But during that final week with him it was a worry-free week for me because I could care for him full-time; searching for a job was not a priority.

Then he passed away.

I’ve learned a lot since that fateful day and I want to share a few things I’ve learned while coping with my loss, in hopes that you could use this as a foundation before, during and after the death of your spouse prior to returning to work.

  • If your spouse is currently sick and you are still working, do not feel guilty that you have to work. Think of it this way, you must work in order to continue your health insurance (if applicable) so that your husband can continue attending his/her appointments, provide food on the table, gas, prescription, etc. Get the point?
  • If your spouse passes away, don’t expect condolences from everyone in the workplace whether through in-person visits, the sending of cards or flowers. Some offer their condolences in other ways, such as relaying their condolences to other teammates to pass along (I know, not cool, but it happens). I’m sure the intention is there. If you continue to feel abandoned by your peers, don’t be afraid to check out the Employee Assistance Resources program that may be available.
  • If you can afford it, don’t be in a hurry to get back to work.Ask for additional time, see if there are programs where your peers can donate their accumulated vacation or sick time towards your time-off.
  • If you can afford it, take your time when searching for employment. If you feel that your current employer is insensitive to your situation, it’s time to find a company that is more “employee friendly.” It may take some time but it will be worth it in the long run. Consider this quote by Tyler Perry, “Sometimes you have to go deeper to get what you are after, no matter the cost.” This quote comes after he was tired of high water bills so he had a company dig wells in his back yard. There were several holes made until he made a decision to stick to one hole. He had the company to dig deeper than normal (beyond 1,200 feet). Then, voila, they hit a river of water!
  • Seek guidance. You are not alone so don’t challenge it (grief) alone! Contact grief counselors, spiritual leaders or others who have been through the ordeal.
  • Pray. Praying was an absolute must for me and it channeled me away from some of the worst emotions I’ve ever felt (and people!)

My friend, mulling over other people’s actions (or in-actions) will get you nowhere. Think about your health.

I wish you well on your return to work, I truly do. It’s a tough decision and it’s tough enough being a widow or widower.

Sounds familiar? Talk to me…

 

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Welcome, Penny Craig to the Hope for Widows Advisory Board!

By Chasity Williams

 

We are honored to share that our Hope Sister, Penny Craig will be a wonderful addition to our Hope for Widows Advisory Board. Her loving serving heart will be a huge asset to the Foundation. Penny’s heart is helping widows children through initiatives and programs, also wherever she can volunteer to help enhance the Foundation as a whole. We look forward to seeing her ideas and suggestions come to light!

Penelope ‘Penny’ Craig has lived and worked in Florida for twenty years. Her husband Alec and she moved from Maine in 1996 after realizing they wanted to live where it was warm and near the beaches that they loved so much. She worked as a middle school teacher for ten years before retiring and then began her dream job working for a local college as a Professor in the College of Education. Her husband was a minister and she was the church musician/pianist. They were “Team Craig.”

The picture is of her husband Alec and her standing at the entrance to the ferry to Ellis Island in the summer of 2012. This was their final road trip. Alec died on July 22, 2014. She believes her story is no different from that of another widow. Penny shares: “We all share the love we received and gave. We all share the most intimate of stories. We all share in the loss and the grief of our loved one. We all share the journey of widowhood. Thus begins another chapter.”

Penny’s family all live in New England and New York. She has one son, one daughter and two granddaughters. She loves to work, knit, swim, read, go to the beach, and spend time with friends. Her purpose and passion is to serve a need to other widows who are on their personal widow journey, and to provide loving support to children who are also on their own grief journey.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” C.S. Lewis

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” Queen Elizabeth II

Go in Peace! Blessed Be!

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Welcome, John Polo to the Hope for Widows Advisory Board!

By Chasity Williams

We are ecstatic to announce that John Polo will be an awesome addition to our Hope for Widows Advisory Board. He brings a perspective of grief that may not be recognized and/or voiced. We welcome his service, caring heart and ideas that will assist in developing more programs and initiatives for the Hope for Widows community. 

John Polo is a step dad. First, and foremost.

He is also a blogger who focuses in on grief, or as he puts it: Love, Loss and the Aftermath of Losing Your Soulmate.

John met the love of his life, Michelle, at a young age, and the two dated for a year in High School. After eight years apart the two reunited and planned to spend their life together, alongside Michelle’s amazing daughter. Two years after their reunion Michelle was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive cancer. So rare in fact, that the two were told when you consider what type of cancer it was and where it developed, there is only one case a year in the world of what Michelle had. Michelle fought valiantly for two and a half years before taking her last breath on January 22, 2016.

It was no easy feat, but while Michelle was in hospice John had a moment that would forever change him. He was able to rid himself of the bitter, and find his better.

John currently lives in Illinois and raises his step daughter fifty percent of the time. The two share an incredibly close relationship and try to talk about and honor Michelle on a daily basis. To John, she is his ‘step’ daughter only in name, not in his heart.

John is co-owner of a meeting and event planning company, Quality Conferences, Inc., that also produces mobile event apps, http://www.quickcomm.mobi

John is currently a contributor for Hope for Widows blog, TheMighty.com and Goodmenproject.com and is currently writing his first book (with every expectation that more will follow). He is also a speaker for the National Cancer Survivor’s Day Foundation and is currently exploring options to expand his speaking opportunities.

His true passion is writing and helping those who are grieving to both honor their pain and see that a hopeful tomorrow can indeed exist.

You can find John’s blog at http://www.betternotbitterwidower.com and his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/betternotbitterwidower

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Welcome, Jo Hausman to Hope for Widows Board of Directors!

By Chasity Williams

 

We are happy to announce another addition of Jo Hausman to the Hope for Widows Board of Directors. Her expertise and knowledge will be an abundant asset to our Board.  Jo looks forward to advancing Hope for Widows community with many visions through program development and her love to be the service of others. Her ideas to developing more social media outlets and group activities for the group members is just a portion of the ideas she has in mind. We look forward to seeing the meaningful impact she will make.

Jo Hausman is a Leadership expert, Entrepreneur, Motivational speaker, International live radio talk show host and an Amazon Best Selling author in four motivational and business categories.  She speaks and coaches others to live through the grief, start their own businesses and move to greatness in their life.

Jo lost her husband in July 2010 and then in August 2010 her only child went off to college.  She was working from home at the same time running her virtual assistant business.  After those losses she decided to take back her life! Jo went back to college and earned her MBA, ran successfully for the city council in 2011 and 2015 and currently sits on the city council in Sioux Falls, SD. Jo wrote and published a book called Go For It!  A Woman’s Guide to Perseverance. The passion she has comes from empowering others to live in a positive life. Jo offers coaching and speaking to women going through grief and also wanting to start a business. You can find out more and the services she offers at: http://www.johausman.com

Her humor, enthusiasm and love for GOD is where her strength comes from. She is a mom to one adult son and two fur babies. Nothing gives her greater joy than being a mom. She is very active in her community and gives back through networking and volunteering in her church and community.

She has appeared on numerous television, radio, blogs and podcasts around the world.  She is currently a contributing blogger to HuffingtonPost.com and her international live radio show airs live every Tuesday mornings 8am US Central time on Voice America Empowerment.  http://www.voiceamerica.com/show/2578/go-for-it

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Welcome, Jill Hochman to Hope for Widows Board of Directors

By Chasity Williams

We are thrilled to announce the recent addition of Jill Hochman to the Hope for Widows Board of Directors. Her skills and experience will be a wonderful asset to our Board. Jill looks forward to advancing Hope for Widows community with many ideas through program development and her heart to serve widows.

Jill is a retired US Federal Senior Executive. She worked at the US Department of Transportation for thirty four years. She wrote the first ever standard for licenses for drivers of big trucks and busses. Much of her career was spent bringing people together to facilitate and improve safety and transportation project planning.

Jill met her husband Charlie at work while waiting for a bus and they were married for almost thirty five years. Shortly after retiring, Charlie died from cancer in August of 2014.   He was diagnosed just three weeks before passing and Jill was not prepared to be a widow with all her retirement years ahead– much less be a single mom to a twenty year old son. Since taking on this completely unplanned widow/solo mom role, Jill joined the University of Maryland Legacy Leadership Program in the School of a Public Health, created a fund in her husband’s name to provide food at her city’s interfaith food pantry, and brings to widows positive intentions and healing energy through her work as a Master Reiki Healer.

We thank Jill for her willingness to serve our widow community, her participation and contribution. We are honored and look forward to her visions for our community to come to light.

Hope for Widows Directors

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We Must Never Lose Infinite Hope

By Sabra Robinson

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hi everyone! It’s an honor to be here and I’m excited about the opportunity to share my heart and to blog alongside a great group of people. After reading the latest blog entries from my co-bloggers, I knew that I was at home here. Wendy’s blog entry was so timely and well-stated that her quote, “I am not there yet, but I have been given hope…” caught my attention. Why? Because it’s the very subject that this blog entry speaks to. So, what is hope? Wikipedia defines hope as, “an optimistic attitude of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.”

Before I jump into the content here, let me relay that I think we can all relate to the ‘circumstance in one’s life’ reference. So I’ll leave this right here.

I Hate My Life

These words were real. Upon scrolling down Facebook’s newsfeed, I saw the words, “I HATE MY LIFE,” written in all caps by a widow. I needed to know more, so of course, I read through her profile to try to get a glimpse of her husband’s picture. I had to, I feel it’s my duty to check on my sisters and would hope they would do the same in return. She created a memorial page in honor of him and I checked it out. As I paged down to read some of the most warming and encouraging comments, I immediately was overcome by sadness. My heart was touched and I tried to imagine the two of them inundated with infinite happiness so much so that the term, widow, would never, ever have become a reality; but it did.

How do you respond to a post like that?

Here is my suggestion: comment!

Let’s admit, we all enjoy seeing those pop-up Facebook notifications. They mostly mean well or regrettably, not. We’re grieving and we need to know that others care and are concerned about our well-being. We need to kill the monotony of not living the life that our husbands would want us to live. We must be more than what grief expects of us. I must admit, it will be hard at first, but we can get through it. And yes, the struggle is indeed real.

My “Shero”

There was one woman who I admired, who the world admired and whose husband would have been proud of her achievements. Her name, Coretta Scott King.

When I was ready to begin to live life the way God intended after the death of my husband, I looked to her bravery and strength to encourage me. She was a wonder woman who fought for justice on behalf of her husband and the nation. She didn’t lose hope, she lived as if her husband were right there by her side and she hustled and flowed like no other. Mrs. King died in 2006 after years of taking on the leadership of the struggle for racial equality. She died a shero to many, which leads me to share something with you. Often times in the mornings I arise with either a song in my spirit or a quote or scripture in view, which helps me begin my day on a positive note. I would like to leave you something positive to start your day as well in hopes that you will place in your planner, stick on the bathroom mirror, share with your congregants or more importantly, share with your widowed sisters:

We must eliminate the gulf of mistrust and ignorance that keeps us from learning from each other. -Coretta Scott King

The harder the struggle, the more glorious the triumph – Anonymous

I don’t want my pain and struggle to make me a victim. I want my battle to make me someone else’s hero. – Anonymous

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.- Romans 12:12 (NIV)

When you’re struggling with something, look at all the people around you and realize that every single person you see is struggling with something, and to them, it’s just as hard as what you’re going through. -Nicholas Sparks

God sees your struggle. Keep talking to Him and listen for His direction. -Anonymous

We’ve got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn’t matter to me now because I’ve been to the mountaintop. -A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love Your Life

Remember, we must not allow ourselves to forge into the dark side, hope can’t grow there. Hope does indeed float to the other side of grief. Don’t lose hope!

Has your hope manifested?

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