My natural tendencies are to encourage people. To always cheer people on and look at the bright side of most things in life. As I think back, this optimistic attitude has been a constant in my life. I’ve held these attitudes in spite of experiencing many, many troubling circumstances and multiple losses in my life.  I genuinely believe it’s a gift I’ve received from God -to have the ability to uplift people, push them forward and the ability to speak “life affirming” words into their lives.

While it’s truly a positive gift (versus being a negative gift), it comes with its share of contradictions.  Since I am generally an upbeat person, people never expect me to have sad days full of doubt.  It’s somehow written somewhere that I must always exhibit these positive, encouraging attitudes in my life.  Even during death, losses, and grief, I’m still expected to push those feelings aside and “be” what I preach to others.

The truth is, I am not always what I say to others. I have dark, lonely, sad days and nights when I examine my life or miss the wonderful experiences I had with my husband.  Sometimes the realities of the pain of losing friends, material possessions I cherished, and even missed relationships swell my heart with tremendous grief. But normally I suffer alone, because most people do not expect me to have these feelings or experiences. Not because I am not human. It’s because they consider me to be the one to exhibit that “light” to affirm life and speak only positive things.

I guess it’s like the experiences of a famous natural food chef. He/she is expected to only prepare whole, natural “clean” meals, and only teach others with a wellness mindset. But I often wonder when the television or Twitter cameras are off, and the last meal is presented, do they secretly have a closet full of stashed junk food? A private propensity towards candy, chips, and sodas? That stash for when they are having a dark, unmotivated day when it seems only chocolate can “fix” that attitude?  I believe they do. I also believe it is okay.  Manufacturers created all those gooey, crunchy, high- carb filled snacks for just those times.

It is very unrealistic to hold me and others working in the arena of grief to such high standards. To believe we don’t have dark days full of tears. After all, we are human too and hurt as deeply as others.  As a widow, I am on that same path of wholeness and wellness as others- I just chose to help other widows traveling along this path too.

So, if people will listen, I purposely tell them of my hurting heart, and painful memories that still cause me to lose my breath. Please do not make me a martyr. I’m not someone to admire for being “so strong.”  In my private closet, there may be a stash of junk food along with grief books, prayers journals, and reflective mediations to encourage me when those unimaginable lonely days show their ugly head.

My gift is a blessing from God, but it’s not always who I can be. And that is okay. I’ll always strive to be true to who I am. Tears and all.



Ajai Blue-Saunders is a servant leader and works for a nonprofit in the Richmond VA area. She is always seeking ways to encourage and serve others, even while experiencing the sudden death of her husband in 2015. Her work experience includes project development, herbalist, management, supervision and overseeing several companies and nonprofits.

Ajai has a heart for the disability community and serves on many local and national boards. She currently is solo parenting an artistic adult daughter with disabilitiies and together they are navigating this life with faith and love. She currently runs a widow's support group that meets monthly sponsored by a local funeral home which provides a safe place for widows to experience their grief journey with love and compassion.