Hope For Widows Honors International Widows Day

By Tanya Smith


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

Kenya

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.

Philippines

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 Nthala

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

Uganda

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

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/02/global-images-of-widows-india-bosnia-uganda-discrimination-exile/

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.

I Have to Go Now

By John Polo

I asked everyone to leave the room.

They said that we only had an hour left and I wanted the last hour to be ours.

I got into bed with her and slowly put my hand on her arm.

I was scared.

I remembered that day just over eight years ago when I touched my dad’s deceased body and it was cold.

It freaked me out.

I didn’t want Michelle to be cold.

With that memory still fresh in my head, I slowly, gently and cautiously put my hand on her arm.

Still warm.

Thank goodness.

Feeling more at ease and knowing that the clock was ticking away I wrapped my arms around her in a full cuddle, just as I had done so many times before.  All the while realizing that it would be for the very last time.

I started with the basics.

I told her that I loved her, over and over again.

I told her that I always had.

And that I always would.

I talked to her about our past.

The teenage love that ended too soon and the fairytale reunion that would take place eight years later.

I talked to her.

I forgave her.

I forgave myself.

For anything. And everything.

I talked to her about the good times that we shared before she got sick.

And I talked to her about the horrific times that we experienced during her two and a half year battle.

I told her that I didn’t know how I was going to do it.

Survive without her.

But then I promised her that I would I would figure it out.

I promised her that I would be ok.

Somehow. Someway.

For her.

For me.

For hers, who I loved as mine.

And then I told her about our future.

The one that I know we will share.

I told her that she better be waiting for me with open arms, and then I reminded her of the pinky swear that we had agreed to the week prior.

That pinky swear in which we promised each other that in our next lifetime down here together we would get our fifty years.

Fifty years of health, life, and love.

And then.

I laid with her.

And I cuddled. And I cuddled hard.

And I stared. And I stared hard.

And yes, I cried. And I cried hard.

‘John, it’s time,’ they said.

Family came back into the room and finished emptying out the place that had been our home for twenty-three life altering days.

It was now time.

Really time.

To do what I had never done before.

To leave her.

I asked everyone to give me just one more minute by myself.

‘I have to go now Michelle. I have to go. I’m so sorry. But I have to go,’ I said over and over again.

‘I have to go baby.’

‘I’m so sorry. But I have to go.’

Tears flowing down my cheeks, as I cried so hard I was convinced I would never be able to stop.

Leaving her.

For the first time, and for the last time. All in one time.

Having no choice, but to go.

It shattered my heart to pieces.

It devastated my soul.

© Copyright 2017 John Polo

 

 

Crystals for Healing, Health and Wellbeing throughout your Grief

By Jill Hochman

 

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.

Fathers Day: Widow Style

By Michelle Miller

 

 

In 2013, my husband John truly believed we were on the verge of an actual zombie apocalypse. When I am drunk, I laugh until I cry about this. The hype surrounding the immensely popular show, The Walking Dead, and my husband’s deteriorating mental state made for some interesting conversations with him in the final years of his life before he succumbed to suicide.

“What exactly do you think Zomies are?!” He hissed at me one night when I attempted to reassure him that Zombies were not going to come after us in the middle of the night.

“You know, they are like human bodies without souls that walk around eating brains in horror movies.” I said casually, trying to diffuse the situation

“No. Zombies are normal humans that got injected with toxins from the government and their brains got eaten alive and they are so sick from their brains that they try to eat other people. Michelle, this is something that could really happen, its not just in TV shows!”

The irony of my brain-sick husband trying to educate me on a species of humans with brain-sickness did not occur to me until I sat down to write this blog. Ugh. I’m so over epiphanies.

John would spend the next year and a half building a “Zombie-Rig” from an old suburban in our garage while stock-piling survival gear, and mapping out places in the desert we would be living once the apocalypse happened.

I would spend the next year and half building a fortress of denial around myself. He was just really into the Walking Dead, I would tell myself. End-of-the-world-prepping is just a trend right now, I would say as I flipped through TV stations watching reality shows on the subject.

After his suicide, I would spend hours and hours going through stacks of yellow legal pads with my mouth hanging open and gasps unwillingly surfacing from my throat. I had no idea how thoroughly he had planned for the zombie apocalypse.

It took me years to tell anyone about this. I didn’t need to admit to yet another sign that I missed.

John’s last Father’s Day on earth was in 2013. I asked him what he wanted and he gave me a list of survival gear. I asked if I could just make him his favorite dinner instead. He rolled his eyes at me. And so, I bought $200 worth of survival gear, put it in a large box with tissue paper, and had the kids help me wrap it; all the while trying to convince myself (and the kids) that we were buying all of this so that we could start taking camping trips.

I could tell instantly that he disapproved of the survival gear on Father’s Day morning. It wasn’t the right size, or brand, or color, or whatever. Nothing in John’s life was ever the right size, or brand, or color, or whatever. Nothing was ever enough. Nothing was ever good. Still, he politely smiled and thanked the kids and I, while I politely accepted, and pretended I gave those gifts to him from my heart.

Insincerity; the foundation of our marriage.

Insincerity; the twin sister of denial

So what have I done on Father’s Day with the kids since their father’s death? I have been asked this question a lot in the weeks leading up to this holiday. For all of the post-mortem holidays, I have decided only sincerity will do for the kids and I. The only obligation we now have in this new life is to be honest with what we are feeling and decide for ourselves what we want to do with those feelings, especially within the context of holidays.

So two weeks before a holiday or mile-stone, I will very casually say “_________ is coming up in a few weeks, let me know if you guys would like to do anything for that, we can do whatever you want as long as it costs less and a billion dollars.”

Then I remind them a few days before.

Then the morning of, I acknowledge it and say, “Lets go do _________ unless you’re just not feelin’ it today, then we can make other plans, or do nothing at all.” So far, this has worked for our family.

On Father’s Day in 2014, I woke up to a vase of flowers that the kids had picked from our garden. for me. We climbed a hill and spread John’s ashes.

In 2015, we went to his grave and took pictures.

In 2016, we did nothing because they sincerely didn’t want to.

In 2017, they wanted to stay with my parents and have a normal day. I wanted to surround myself with widows, Tito’s vodka, deep fried tofu, and music. And so we each did what we wanted to do. My mother sent me pictures of the kids swimming and lounging, and I found myself at 11pm looking around a very crowded table at a very stuffy bar with a group of widow’s I had, up until that moment, only known through facebbok. I took notice of each one of these bold women, and loved them all so dearly that I wanted to sit on a carpet and look up at each and every one of them as they explained to me in detail, the stories of their scars, and freckles, and tattoos. Maybe, that’s what Vodka and I will do for the next holiday.

Sincerity, I thought to myself when I ordered my third cocktail, the twin sister of healing.

©Copyright 2017 Michelle Miller

Missing You on Father’s Day

By Christina Saunders

As I sit here I think about all of the Father Day’s that have passed by without you. There are so many things that I wish I could do with you but I can only dream. How I wish I could just spend the day with you. How I would love for the kids and I to take you out to dinner. I imagine seeing your smile or hearing your voice. There is so much I want to say to you. But I am thankful for the people who work hard to keep his memory alive.

I can recall a time when I was grocery shopping with my youngest daughter and ran into a friend of my father’s. The man was following me down the aisle of the store and I was beginning to get paranoid. I was thinking to myself why is this dude following us? Finally he approached me and asked, “who is your father?” I then told him Chris Ushry and he began to cry. I didn’t know what to say or do. I looked in his eyes and I could see the pain he was feeling. Right now I can’t even remember his name because I was so emotional watching him. He said, “your father was a great man and I miss him dearly.” I could feel my eyes flooding with tears. He then began to share how in school he was the outcast and my dad was his only true friend. How my father always took up for him and wouldn’t allow others to taunt him. He then said, “your dad was a gentle giant but others knew not to mess with him.” He wanted me to know that my father had a heart of gold. No he wasn’t perfect but he was a man of great character. Then he shared with me how when his family turned their back on him because of trouble that my father was right there to help him. He ended the conversation with letting me know that my father loved me more than anything this earth had to offer him. I cried the whole time he talked and as he walked away.

I shared that story to say this it’s stories like these that help me through the rough times. When I am missing my father like I am right now I can always think back to these stories. Knowing that he touched so many people and that he loved me makes me smile. Although I can’t see his face or hear his voice I can smile knowing that he was a loving man. It’s been 37 years since he left this earth and I still love hearing stories about my father. I now share those same stories with my children in order to give them a sense of who he was as a man. My mother made a album for me which was destroyed during a flood. I was devastated but some loving family members have offered to give me photos to make another one. I can never share the pain you feel as a widow but I can share the pain of a child. As a child I use to make cards on different holidays and put in my daddy box. This was therapy for me and it allowed me to feel close to my father. Now that I am older I make a bouquet of flowers and put on his grave. I sit there for a while and just share with him all that has happened in my life this past year. Some say I should stop doing that but I will never stop having that time unless my health keeps me from doing it. So tomorrow I will spend part of my time talking with dad as I do every year.

As I close out I want to say for those with children hold them tight as tomorrow may be hard for them. And in holding them prayerfully it will give you comfort as well. Try to surround yourself with love ones that can help you to make it through tomorrow. Peace and Blessings to you all.

The Battlefields and Victories in the Ugliness

By Wendy Simpson

To be honest the words are not flowing as I wanted today.  I am in a battle. I see casualties strewn across this vast field of grief.  My knees worn from praying for peace and my armor is dented from so many blows to the heart. Today my standing looks more like laying flat on the floor, huddled in the mud and wondering if the sun will come out.

We widows have many battles in this journey, and as many victories if we look at even the small steps we take each day.  Though I struggle with words today I am feeing compelled to write through this battle and hope you don’t mind joining me on the front.  It could get ugly, but I pray its victories are like a light cutting through the darkness.

There’s not one of us untouched by battle.  We all have them and we all receive terribly painful wounds and wear deep scars. The widow’s battle fronts are vast and many.  You and I often walk the battlefield with careful steps, wanting our strength to be what others see… not our weakness.  So… we put on our armor each morning and pray we have the strength to be super heroes to our kids, super women to our friends and sisters.  But in our heart, we feel like small children wishing someone would be our super hero instead. Though we are never alone, we sure do feel that we are on these devastatingly painful battlefields.

Here we are, armed to the gills, sword raised and knees knocking…. facing down the darkest night and all manner of pain in our primary loss as well as our many secondary losses. I hope you don’t mind this walking tour of my battlefront.

My front today…. being single mama. I walk a fine line between what is grief and what must be parented as I always did.  I have come to this conclusion… is it something they were characterized by before their dad’s passing, then I must handle as such.  Or is it new behavior?  Then I handle with extra care. Is it hurting them or others, then handle it as I once did.  Or is it crying out in the depth of loss? Then I must be tender and make healthy boundaries.  Sigh… such a hard battlefield.  It often seems as if they are the enemy, as they come at you in hatred and anger, in defiance and disrespect and in words that are sharp as a sword’s well- sharpened blade.  This mama stands fully armed, at first I took the hits as I felt they needed to express their grief, it was so powerfully deep. As my sword took another hit and my armor was becoming so heavy, I sat on my bathroom floor, locked in, crying out to the God I have come to lean upon.  As a temper’s storm raged in a room above me, I sat and reached out to a widow sister and asked for her prayers.  Today… there is a shift in strategy.  This warrior mama needed a fellow warrior widow sister to point out the hits were not necessary, the undue wounding was not healthy and their manner of expression was plain wrong.  I now stand on the edge of this battlefield looking out across the vast expanse, wondering at the outcome.  We all do I suppose, wonder where these many steps and all the battles will take us.

As a mama, I am here to tell you the victories may be invisible, but they are there.  Look at one minute at a time.  I took a stand today.  That is a victory.  I can love my girls and be firm even in their grief and it’s not wrong.  My love for them is without question, so much so I would take the blows when I shouldn’t have.  I stepped out and made this battle less private.  A victory in itself.  I invited you to look in to the rawest place I currently have… to walk with and help and even battle with, at times, grieving rebellious children. Another victory, as I am usually so very inward and private in such things.  Though their grief is lashing out it’s ok to stand and say “enough.”  I listened to wise counsel.  These are my victories on the battle field.  I didn’t want you to just think I’d bring you here to observe the ugliness of widowhood parenting battles.  I wanted to also share the victories.  I battled this morning as I sat at the computer to write and share here.  I wasn’t sure if a battlefield was the place to take you all.  But as I came to my knees last night in the greatest battle for my sweet girls yet, I felt God standing behind me.  And when I looked into my child’s eyes it was as if I saw her anger back off. She wasn’t looking at me, but God in me.  I had to share.  In my weakness God was my strength.  It is my belief that God promises to fight our battles, collect and treasure our tears, be our husband and our children’s Father.  He is proving that to me on this battlefield. There was peace and and perspective as I sat upon the cold bathroom tiles.  I stood and one day my sweet girl will see through the fog of her unhealthy battle strategies.

I wanted to share by way of encouragement.  You’re not alone. You are strongest in the weakness you take to God.  Don’t stop looking for victory.

That Doggie and The Widow

By Julia Steier

Those nights, the dreadful, pain wincing nights staring up at the vast whiteness of the ceiling listening to the sweet low breaths of my dog Bodie. In the days immediately after my husband George died, I would stay up crying wondering how I didn’t know he was dying. Love is blind, you can trick your mind into imagining something is not real, although everyone around you can see the truth. The rose colored glasses protected me from the barrage of agony so I could stay hopeful and optimistic in his final days and hours. Though I am so angry at myself, I now believe my ignorance allowed for him to transition peacefully.

Bodie felt the emptiness and was grieving too. His favorite thing was to perch atop George’s belly while he laid on the couch. Gazing around and supervising his two bi-pedal housemates. But in his death Bodie would recover to the empty side of the bed to keep me warm and press against my chest to help heal the dead space behind my ribs.

On weekends, George would pull his guitar out and make up songs about Bodie and his infatuation with his squeaky ball. This little critter would wag his tail so hard his back legs barely touched the ground. George even made a Meetup group so Bo could make other terrier friends. This dog really hit the jackpot when he adopted George.

Though, I didn’t realize George was dying, Bodie knew. Bodie begged to stay with him one evening and was being rather contentious about it. I’d pick him up and put him on the bed and he would hop off and run back into the living room to be with his favorite man. I wasn’t in the mood to fight with a 20lb cairn terrier. So lifted him up onto the hospital bed which was the newest addition to our living room set up. He circled around twice then rested his head on George’s knee. I kissed both of them goodnight. The next morning our man was gone and our pack was down to two.

Those days afterwards were brutal, almost like a constant ringing in my ears, but there was no sound to lock into and it became maddening. I felt like a stranger in my apartment, living amongst weapons that cut me so deep but never enough to kill me. Pictures on the walls laughing at me and showing me once upon a time I had it all. Cancer stole George and my life.

Bodie started jumping off the couch or bed and tuck behind the door, whimpering. His high squeals were like a fire alarm. I’d rush over to him, collecting him in my arms and rock him like a baby. Kissing his head while my tears fell on his snout. I’d call my parents or my sister, because the pain was so profound. Never realizing the hour of the day it was. 3am or 8pm, it all seemed the same to me. Time stopped being time, it was just wasted moments where I had to figure out what happens next and spin around the same thought of “why am I still here?”

I didn’t know what to do, but Bodie knew what I needed.

My social worker wrote a note for me to bring my little guy to work to help comfort me. I was coaching lacrosse at a small university in New Jersey. I went back to work a week later because, well, because I didn’t want to stay in the apartment that no longer felt like home. Sitting in the living room where I had to watch my husband die wasn’t exactly my idea of paradise. So I went to work with my most precious cargo, my dog.

Bodie loved going to work. When we went into the office, he’d run laps greeting all the other coaches. He was like a loose piglet at a rodeo, running around and around. Having him with me made days more bearable, and I became more social. I talked to people simply because Bodie would run up to them to say hello. Bodie re-socialized me after the trauma of losing George.

Though, driving to work I battled with mental demons of whether to drive my car off the bridge or not. But looking at my bearded passenger and how eager he was to see all his bi-pedal friends, my fantasies of bridge driving stayed locked in my head. These wonderings were real and consumed my thoughts more often than I would like to admit.

At work, when grief got the best of me I’d take him out for a walk in the forest and he would chase squirrels and other rodent things. One time a ground hog refused to run away and nearly two feet from it, Bodie stopped barreling towards it and ran back to me. The ground hog was fearless and my little guy showed mercy and it made me chuckle. I started developing a routine and Bo gave me a reason to wake up each day.

We moved to an apartment across the street from the school and there we rebuilt our lives. My insomnia was more productive in a safer neighborhood. Those nights staring at the ceiling listening to him breathe, I’d wake him up and take him for a walk. He pounced at the opportunity, regardless of time of day.

Wrangling an excited cairn for a walk is tough, but once the leash was secured he’d grab it by his mouth and walk me instead. In the morning when I had 6a practice, Bodie would be hopping and running in circles ready to make the practice plan and see the players. He adopted all 20 players that season and chased them on the lacrosse field. I couldn’t help but laugh. Bodie helped me realize it was okay laugh.

On weekends, we would walk to grab a cup of coffee at a local shop and the owner allowed me to bring him into the store. He’d lean against my legs as I ordered, like a scared little kid trying to hide behind their mother. The kindness of the owner showed me how to be grateful even on the darkest days.

Parents would stop us on walks to see if their kids could pet him, and Bodie always sat down at my feet, gazing up at me with his big brown eyes while little hands patted him all over and sometimes tugged his ears. He taught me patience and acceptance.

I needed to accept this new life because the old one was never coming back. As many tears I shed, tantrums I threw, nights I stayed up wide awake, my old life vanished. But I can take the lessons from the past and apply them to bettering my new one.

We would go on 3-5 mile walks a day, and our bond became stronger. Even those days where it was pouring rain, he would look at me earnestly and knew leaving the apartment would be best for both of us. Walking wasn’t just for his stimulus and exercise, it gave me the opportunity to look around me. Soon enough, I felt my head lifting a little higher toward the sun and finally allowing the shadows to fall behind.

Bodie trained me to accept the fact life pushes forward and everyday there’s two options:

  1. Hide behind the door whimpering. OR
  1. Grab the leash and take control.

But then one evening while at the dog park, he wandered away from me. When I caught up with him, he had adopted a new man. And that’s when I realized all those painful nights, staring up at the ceiling, barely breathing, it would lead me here. Lead me to finally feeling at home and falling in love.

5 Reasons Why I Will Not Remove His Pictures If I Remarry

By Sabra Robinson

Hearing something a hundred times isn’t better than seeing it once – Chinese proverb.

It’s been five years since my husband passed away but honestly, it still feels like five days.

It still feels like I’m still sitting in the front row of the funeral home staring intensely at his handsome made-up face which beautifully neglected his lupus scars and bald spots.

It still feels like I’m at the hospital the night before he received his wings, laughing away at corny jokes, eating chicken and sipping down the strawberry jello.

It still feels like the day in the bedroom when he realized the severity of his illness and cried in my arms like I’ve never seen a man cry.

But most of all, it still feels like the day we both apologized to one another for the wrongs we’ve done and vowed to forgive and forget.

But it’s not.

Today is a different day.

Today is a just another day of living, and I have vowed to keep his memory alive in plain view. And by doing so, I’ve vowed to never remove his pictures from my home, no matter what, no matter who asks, no matter if I remarry, which led me to write 5 reasons why I will never take them down.

1) For Me

A picture is worth a thousand words. This Chinese proverb (some versions vary) exemplifies so much truth for me and I’m sure for many others. Each picture, including the frame, presents a unique memory for me, like the picture of he and I on the Spirit of Baltimore cruise where I showed off my favorite white shirt or the one of he and my dad toasting champagne at my wedding.

I need to see his pictures. I’m a visual person; I always have been because hearing something a hundred times isn’t better than seeing it once.

2) For the Children

I attempted to remove his pictures about three years into my widowhood because I just couldn’t bear the grief and depression. I didn’t want him to see me emotionally unbalanced. But that lasted two seconds because my kids quickly shamed me. I vowed never to remove them again.

3) For the Resilience in me

Staring at his face on a daily basis reminded me of how far I’ve come since 2012. Recently, I found a stack of photos that I had finally removed from the poster board that was displayed at his funeral. My sister, my sister-in-law, and sons rummaged through many photo albums to find just the right photos to showcase for that day. The photos helped to captivate the very essence of who he was. I knew that the appearance of normalcy if only for that one day, was necessary for others to see; at least for the sake of the kids. But it soon ended shortly after the calls, texts, and visits. Today, I can honestly say that my grief is no longer held hostage; healing helped launch my resilience.

4) For the In-Laws

The pictures will always be a gentle reminder to his family that he will never be forgotten.

5) For My Future Husband (If I decide to remarry)

Some may view this as a selfish act towards my future husband. It’s not because if he should receive his wings before I receive mine, he would be honored the same way. I would only hope he would do the same.

It’s not like I’m stuck in a time-warp – I’m not.

It’s not like I haven’t dated – I have.

It’s all about celebrating his memory no matter what phase I am in life.

If I decide to remarry, I pray that my new husband is able to withstand his memory with me, too – that he can also relate to how deep the depths of grief can reach, go away, then come back again.

I pray that he understands that I may sometimes recall the good times, not comparing the two, but simply and respectfully embracing the unexpected flashbacks that so easily may make its way into my thoughts.

I pray that he also understands that a tear may shed here and there and he will understand.

I pray that he will understand that grief is a part of life and it will never end, that it will recede over time, and that a portion of it needs to be memorialized somehow.

But the truth of the matter is, there will always be that one memory that will still feel like it happened just yesterday.

This is my story and I’m sticking to it.

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