Sit Down. And Shut Up.

By John Polo

I think that anybody who has followed me from the start or takes the time to read my work will agree that my writings are an expression of true love, raw grief and an undying hope for a better tomorrow.

This post is a little different.

This post is being written on February 14th, 2017.  Valentine’s Day.  After I just read another post from a widow friend who is being made to feel like an awful human because she chose to try to live again.

Here is my rant:

Sit down. 

And shut up.

Serious question:  Is your spouse six feet under?  Oh wait, are they a pile of ashes?

No?

They aren’t?

Wow.

Ok.

Cool.

Then, sit down.

And shut up.

My wife’s name was Michelle.  She’s gone.

Once a widow.  Always a widow.

Once a widower.  Always a widower.

Not, this isn’t a plea for sympathy.

No, this isn’t even an angry post.

This is an honest post.

This is a passionate post.

This is a real post.

Sit down.

And shut up.

Unless you watched your spouse die.  Unless you buried your spouse. Unless you burned your spouse.

Sit down.

And shut up.

Do not tell a widow or widower how they should be living.

Do not tell a widow or widower how they should be acting.

And please, for the love of all that is right in this world, PLEASE – do NOT tell a widow or widower when they should try to love again.

I am  sick of seeing widows and widowers vilified for trying to pick up the pieces of their lives.

I am sick of seeing widows and widowers vilified for trying to find companionship again.  For trying to find love again.

Hell, for trying to find ANYTHING again!

We are lost souls. On a journey to find our self again.

And YOU want to judge?

You?

Do you know the courage it takes to go back out there after your spouse has died?

After you watched them die of cancer.  Or a massive heart attack.  Or suicide. 

After you watched them fall to sixty pounds.  Having bowel movements on themselves.  Having horrific hallucinations so bad that seeing them like that strangled your soul.

After you watched them fall to their knees.  And clutch there chest. And take their last breath.

After you walked in on their body.  Dead.  Because they took their own life.

You have no idea.

Do you have any idea how badly the loss of a spouse messes with your mind?  With your heart?  With your soul?

No.  You don’t.

So sit down.

And shut up.

You are not allowed to judge.

You are not allowed to pass judgment as you drive home to your spouse.

You are not allowed to pass judgment as you eat dinner with your spouse

You are not allowed to pass judgment as you cuddle up on the couch with your spouse.

You are not allowed to pass judgment as you have sexy time with your spouse.

You.  Are.  Not.  Allowed.  To. Pass.  Judgment.

Sit down.

And shut up.

Stop judging.

Stop thinking that you know what the hell you are talking about.

Because you do not.

Your life wasn’t ripped from you.

Your future wasn’t destroyed.

Sit down.

And shut up.

This was not our choice.

This was not a breakup.  Stop comparing.

This was not a divorce.  Stop comparing.

This was not the loss of a grandpa. Stop comparing.

This was not the loss of Uncle Thomas.  Stop comparing.

And for Heaven’s sake, this was NOT the loss of your damn CAT. Stop comparing!

This was the loss of a  soul mate.

Our love.

Our other half.

Our life.

Our future.

Sit down.

And shut up.

The next time you see a widow or widower try to pick themselves off, dust themselves off and ‘get back out there’. 

You have 2 choices.

You can either sit down and shut up.

Or,

You can give them a standing ovation.

For their heart.  For their courage. For their bravery.

Those are your two options.

And your ONLY two options.

Because. You. Do. Not. Know.

 – Rant.  Over. –

Mic Drop.

© Copyright 2017 John Polo

*You can follow John Polo on Facebook by searching Better Not Bitter Widower, and you can find his blog at http://www.betternotbitterwidower.com*

 

 

 

 

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Perspective in Brush Strokes

By Wendy Simpson

Been thinking about perspective…..

 

Take a little time to look up an impressionist’s painting. I love Monet. With that fresh in your mind, think about perspective.  When you walk up close to this painting, you will observe thousands of small brush strokes in an array of colors. Close up there is some beauty but in many ways it looks like a lot of chaos truly makes no sense.  It is pretty hard to get an idea of what the artist it trying to express.  Now take several steps back from this painting.  Something amazing happens. Thousands of tiny brush strokes make way for shapes and structure. The colors blend together to create new colors and something you could not see before, takes shape.  The chaos become beautiful and the artist intended expression makes more sense. It is like that in life. When we are face to face with trials of life, there is not much room for perspective. We see the chaos of each brush stroke and a mess of color that seem strangely placed. There is no picture and beautiful is the last way we would describe our life.

But God sends people into our lives, who have been standing back observing this “painting” process in our life.  Their perspective is something we couldn’t see, being in the middle of it all.  They see colors blending together and pictures that have taken shape.  They see that the artist intentions were beauty not chaos.  They see reasons for color choices that we would never have chosen. So, all this to say, we are thankful for those who have spoken perspective into our lives. And those who have pointed out the order in our chaos.  Both perspectives are necessary to walk through a process like this.  You can stand back and see the picture being painted before you and have, in turn shared what you observe, color blending and something taking shape.  I can share the details I don’t see colors blended, I see instead, what was used to make that color. I see the tears and agony and joys and victories it took to paint one of the thousand brush strokes.  To me every stroke has a meaning. You see it as part of the big picture’s beauty.  But when I cannot understand why a stroke was placed, I need only to remember there is a big picture and the artist, he knows why.  Every stroke is part of the masterpiece. I am thankful for those of you who share perspective. I am just living it, and in living it, I do not see outside the everyday survival at times.  Thank you for your encouragement and love and grace as I walk this journey one day, one “brush stroke” at a time.

Five months before Chris passed, on the heels of life altering surgery, I was desperate and looking for hope and perspective.  (Above is an excerpt of that.) I’d put aside passions and parts of me that I felt would hinder complete and utter devotion to caring for Chris.  I stored away and stuffed the ache and the sadness, for as long as I could.  Allowing myself moments, trying (not too successfully) to make them brief.  Aw… control… it served me well, ha, or so I thought.  Amidst the journey’s steps I have (on so many occasions) broke down, and completely lost my resolve, to be strong (on my own strength).  Having very little grace in my grief, I’ve fallen into chaotic and messy emotional places, and always get so upset with myself. After a fairly long battle, and after tears have subsided, then …. I’d finally seek God’s face and the wise counsel that came from those candles God had placed along the dark cave walls of this journey.  All I had to do is reach out… and there it was… His divine provision in the candlelight of dear ones He surrounded me with.

“He had delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son…. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”  -Colossians 1:13

“That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3

Now, my perspective has been narrowed some and I am looking, specifically, at the dark brushstrokes.  Deconstructing them, if you will, for perspective and to find His goodness.  I know you, my widow sisters, see the dark strokes across your canvas… sometimes it’s the only thing you can see.  Please know there is beauty in them.  Our canvas wears these dark strokes, but they are not all that lay upon our canvas. Whenever you choose to encourage a sister, she sees the amazing colors and brushstrokes that surround the dark and painful ones. Whenever you choose to come alongside a sister, her perspective widens and she sees more and more of her canvas. Even though the dark places may still not make sense, beauty can be recognized alongside the darkness and a masterpiece is being revealed in each of us. Thank you sisters. God’s used you in just that way for me.

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13 Ways that Widows are like Toddlers

By Michelle Miller

I will not tell you to keep your chins up about Valentine’s Day.

I will not try to convince you that there are worse things than being a widow on Valentine’s Day.

I will not tell you to count your blessings.

I will not tell you to pray instead of drink.

I will not tell you that you should focus on all of the other people in your life who love you.

I will not tell you to focus on the love you and your spouse shared while they were alive.

And I will not remind you of how amazing it is to have the capacity to still be in love with a person you can no longer see or touch.

No. Optimism surrounding Valentine’s Day makes me want to punch a puppy, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

What I will do today, on the eve of national, “Your Romantic Partner is Alive, and Mine is Dead Day,” is attempt to make you laugh. There is strength in laughter and I know that I will certainly need all the strength I can muster for tomorrow, and I’m assuming if you are reading this, you will too.

I present you now with, “13 Ways that Widows are like Toddlers.” No, this will not “cure” you, and no, this will not bring your spouse back to you, but it’s the very best I can do for all of you today.

I am deeply sorry your romantic partner in life is not here for you to celebrate Valentine’s Day with. It is not okay, it is not fair and it never will be.

 

13 Ways that Widows are like Toddlers

1.We can’t be trusted to dress ourselves

My son once bit me because I would not let him wear flip flops during a hailstorm. I regret glaring at him behind his back as I dropped him off at Sunday School that day, because I get it now. I get what it is like to have your brain so clouded and busy that appropriate apparel rules become too complicated to adhere to.

After John’s suicide, I often found myself looking down at my feet in the grocery store to be amazed that I had been walking around all day with two different boots on.

Then there was the time I finally did my laundry (after only two and a half weeks of letting it rot in my closet), only to realize that I had not come across one pair of underwear. I checked my underwear drawer to find every piece of underwear I owned still unmoved from the weeks before. Yes, I had not worn underwear for two weeks.

Which brings me to my next point:

2. We are often naked

As toddlers, my children loved to be naked. This would have been fine and healthy behavior had it not always been in public. I don’t know if they were some sort of exhibitionists or just suffering from a hot flash, but it seemed like every time I looked away from them in public, I would turn around to find them stripping and streaking.

I can tell you for me though; the widow nudity had nothing to do with hot flashes or exhibitionism. It had to do with the grief-sex I was having and the return of my self confidence as I spent a few hours naked on a beach. And twice in a car. And a few times in other locations that I am sure will surface on the news via google earth and/or a surveillance video one day (Hi Mom and Dad!).

Who knew that nudity would be a part of my grief process?

3. We Have Nightmares

And they are fucking scary.

4. We are finicky eaters

News Flash: Toddlers don’t like vegetables. Shocking, yes I know. My son though, ate dirt, lint and whatever else he found on the floor with gusto. So one day I just started dropping green beans all over the floor in our house and low and behold, I had a toddler that ate vegetables. Oddly enough though, when I tried this with goldfish crackers he said “Ewww Mommy. Fishy dirty” and refused to eat them.

Much like my son (any my daughter who lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for 2 years) after John’s death my eating habits became strange and unpredictable. After his suicide, I didn’t eat for a week. Then the next week and for a month strait, every night I ate a bowl of peanut butter laced with half a bag of chocolate chips and washed it down with Vodka. Six months after his death I went through a phase where I only ate organic beef patties and two avocados a day.

Which leads me to the next one….

5. We have unpredictable bowels

I used to play a game in my head each morning when my kids were toddlers. It was called, “Will their poo be running down their legs and spilling out of their diapers today, or will they be sitting on their potty chairs making the same face I make when I think about my exes for hours on end?” I hated this game almost as much as I hated CandyLand.

So ya. It’s like that with widowhood too, only I was too embarrassed to purchase adult diapers, so I just ruined underwear…unless it happened to be during the aforementioned two week stint I went without underwear.

6. We have no concept of social norms

We will say and do weird shit that will make everyone around us uncomfortable. And then we will laugh about it.

7. We throw fits

In public. And we don’t give a damn about who is watching. My son once threw a fit at the bank because they had a Christmas tree up that had a star at the top and not an angel. I whisper-yelled at him through gritted teeth “you get your little bottom up right now! People are staring at you!” He then looked at me as if I was the crazy one, and proceeded to throw an even louder fit.

I never understood this until a year into widowhood when I found myself yelling at a woman, “Fuck you, you stupid-ass-bitch and your ugly ass car!” while in the child pick-up line at my kids’ elementary school. In front of a row of kindergartners.

I am no longer allowed in the west side pick-up line and I still to this day maintain my innocence.

8. We Just Want to be Held

Seriously, someone pick me up and rock me.

9. We are entitled

Both of my kids as toddlers thought that just by being born they deserved unlimited amounts of TV and assorted sugary pastries. Oh and they also wanted my complete and total undivided attention and my soul. I remember having a talk with both of them once in the car, trying to explain to them that other people in the world had it worse than them and they should learn to start being happy that they lived such a charmed life.

My son then asked me for a cookie.

Neither of them could conceive of a life where they weren’t having all of their needs met all of the time.

Fast forward to “The Widow Card.” It exists and it got me out of chores, traffic tickets, and work in addition to a lot of free drinks, meals, and spa treatments that first year in 2014. Then somewhere around 2015 people became less sympathetic to my widowhood. Apparently I had graduated to veteran widow status after the first year had passed, and I no longer was entitled to free shit. Or so they thought.

I am almost three years in to this shit storm, and I can tell you that I absolutely still need free goodies, a lot of understanding and tons of cocktails every single day for the rest of my life. I pull the Widow Card our frequently and I have no shame about it.

10. We need naps

Like three a day. Minimum.

11. We don’t know the days of the week or months of the year

Even when we sing that damn, “Days of the week” song, we still have no clue what day of the week it is. Widow brain is a thing people!!! I wrote a check two weeks ago with the year 2015 on it and a few months ago I sat at my kids school two hours before pick-up time because I was convinced that it was early-out Wednesday. Turns out, it was actually Thursday.

My daughter once asked me if Friday was purple. Why yes, yes it does appear to be purple now that I am a widow.

My son once insisted that Novebruary was a month and it needed to involve cake. Sounds good to me son!

12. Our living space is a huge mess

And no thank you, we will not be cleaning it up, and we will throw things at you if you suggest that we do.

13. We respond well to positive reinforcement

I once posted to my facebook how proud I was of myself for showering AND shaving my legs. I had an overwhelming amount of widows and widow supporters post gold star emojis in the comments. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside, much like I think my kids felt as toddlers when I would put a sticker on their little sticker charts to reward them for not sending me to the insane asylum that day.

Widowhood sucks. Every widow I talk to expresses to me their profound discouragement within the life they exist in. They worry that they are not grieving the “right” way. They worry that they are grieving too much. Crying too hard. Not crying enough. They judge themselves for the six-month-old pile of laundry. They get judged by others for their inability to just, “get over it.” I want to tell you all that you are doing just fine. Yes, you sitting there reading this with your hairy arm pits, ratted hair, and week-old leggings…you are WINNING. You clicked on a post with a funny title in search of laughter. Do you even understand how heroic it is to seek out laughter after what you’ve been through?!!

Gold stars and so very much love for all of you!

**Image from StuffMomsSay.com

© 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, Emma. 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 Emma 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, Emma 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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Have it Ready for Me

By John Polo

I have a question.  For you.

When it’s your time.  When your number is called.  Who do you want to greet you on the other side?  And how do you want them to greet you?

Don’t get me wrong. I want to live a long life. I want to fall in love again. I want to raise Emma to be strong, kind, happy and healthy.  I want grandchildren. I want it all.

But, when it is my time, when my number is called, I’m not strolling to the gates of Heaven. No. I’m sprinting.

For her. For this.

February 6, 2016. This was supposed to be our wedding day. A day that we could erase the memory of our actual wedding day, July 26, 2013, a day in which we were married at a courthouse. Michelle was violently ill that day, in extreme pain and throwing up non stop. It was 4 days after her cancer diagnosis, 5 days before her 8 hour surgery was scheduled to take place.

February 6, 2016. We had it all planned. The Ivy Hotel, downtown Chicago.

This was the day I’d finally get to watch the love of my life walk down the aisle. Something I had dreamt about since I fell in love with her, at the young age of 18. We never got our dream wedding, but one day we will.

When it’s my time, whenever that may be – here is my request to Michelle:

Have it all ready for me.  All of it.  Perfectly.  Just as we had imagined.

Have the dress on, that beautiful dress that you loved so much. I never got to see you in it, but I know I will. The gorgeous shoes that you looked like an absolute princess in. The hair, the makeup, all of it. Have the candles and the flowers and our colors, purple and grey. Have the special chairs that were supposed to leave unattended to honor Michael, Kevin, Rose and Nicole.

And have Etta. But don’t have her on a speaker system, no, instead have her there with you. Have her sing. That song. That song that told our story so perfectly. That song you were supposed to walk down the aisle to. At Last, by Etta James. A song I have loved forever and that I suggested you walk down to instead of the normal bridal song, and after hearing it, you agreed.

Have it all ready for me. Have my grey suit and the purple bow tie you wanted me to wear.

Have it all ready for me.

The aisle.

You walking down.

Etta singing.

Have it all ready for me.

That smile, those vows, that kiss.

Have it all ready for me.

*You can find John on Facebook by searching Better Not Bitter Widower*

 

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