With This Ring…

This year marks a milestone. Steve died 6 years ago today. We were married for 5 years and a_steve_erinb0005_DSC_0020f51 weeks. I’ve now been a widow longer than I’ve been a wife.

There are simply no words to express the pain that realization brings.

One question I see often in widow/widower Facebook groups is about when to take off a wedding ring. Its one of those things no one thinks about until you are in that position.

It’s been six years for me, and I still wear my ring, on my right hand.  In short, there isn’t a right or wrong time to do anything in widowhood – dating, removal of rings, packing up clothes, moving, [insert any other thing here]. It’s all about the moment and when it feels right to you. One thing about me –  I’m VERY sentimental.

My ring is a reminder – a much more beautiful version of that string you can tie around your finger or ink pen in the palm of your hand to remember something important.

This ring reminds me…

To listen. Steve and I had been dating for just a few weeks when a newly engaged couple came into the bar I was working at. He had given her a Tacori ring, a ring I had only seen in magazines. I never thought I would see one in person and I was excited to see one in real life. I’m not a brand girl and had never ventured into a jewelry store. The fact that I actually knew about a ring brand still blows my mind. Later that night, I was telling Steve about my day and mentioned the fact that I saw this ring. We had been dating less than a month and he wrote it down! How many guys would even listen to such a random story with interest, much less capture a note like that for a girl he barely knew? Steve always listened. Any random thing I had on my mind seemed to interest him as he always seemed to want to know me to the depths of my soul. He knew me better than anyone in this world. That type of commitment is so precious and is a loss I feel deeply. Listening with intent is something I strive to be better at, and this ring is a reminder to do better.

I’m loved. There is something indescribable when a person says “I choose you…forever.” When a person is willing to stand next to you and commit to the good times and the bad and truly mean it. My ring represents a love that many people will never know. Steve was my other half, and when he died, I lost myself. I lost my confidence, I lost my best friend, I lost the person that knew all of me and loved me anyway, I lost the person that fixed my problems and made my world right. I lost the person that loved me with his whole self from the very beginning because he saw more in me, in us, than I ever saw in myself. What this ring reminds me of is the fact that Steve lived his promise to love me every day. There are days I’ve felt completely alone, days when I would have given anything to just have my rock there in the battle with me. I look at my ring and remember the love that was shared and the fact that I know he is with me. He never once let me tackle a problem alone when he was alive, and when I need a boost, his love and advice still guides me.

I’m worth it. Yes, I know. Society says that you should find your worth on your own and not need anyone else to build you up. I tell my girls that while at the same time trying to be that person that helps them see their worth. In the past, I’ve made poor decisions simply because I wanted to be wanted by others. Steve taught me that not only was I wanted, I was worth the risk of committing to forever. Steve loved me at my worst, and made me into a better person than I could have ever been without him. This ring reminds me that I was enough for him when I literally had nothing but myself. He never, ever made me feel like I was less – he always argued that he was the lucky one (he was wrong)!  “Just” me was enough for him. Not only was I enough, I was worth the effort. He drove 10 hours round-trip twice to get me the perfect ring while hiding all of it from me. He paid more than he ever imagined, but as he told the story of ring shopping he shrugged his shoulders, laughed a little, and said that he wanted it perfect because he thought I deserved it. When someone believes in you, amazing things happen. When someone believes in the love you have together – enough to commit to a life together and live it every day – it is indescribable. This ring reminds me that I was enough for the best person I had ever known, and I need to believe in myself as much as he believed in me.

To be happy. This ring reminds me of a promise. Not just our wedding vows, but a promise we made to each other to find a way to be happy if one of us died. When I am struggling and can’t seem to climb out of a funk, I look at my ring. I know he is watching me, and the one thing he could never handle is me being upset or sad. The one thing I refuse to do with my life is let Steve down. This ring reminds me of the promise I made. The promise to persevere, the promise to stand back up, the promise to smile. My ring gives me the push I need to continue.

This ring is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever been given. It’s not about the diamonds or the design, it was the gift Steve gave when he gave himself to me.  It’s a gift of unconditional love, and I will forever cherish it.

6 Tips for Talking to Your Children about Death

Erin's Phone Dump 10142013 956How do you being to tell your children that their father has died?

The loss of a loved one is extremely difficult. Having to talk about death with the children left behind tears what is left of a shattered heart even further apart. I knew I couldn’t back away from these conversations – I didn’t want my children to fill in the gaps with their imagination. I also wanted to make sure they could trust me to tell them the truth. It needed to come from me and I wanted to be the source of their truth about what happened. It’s my job to define death and afterlife for our family.

Telling my mother and father-in-law that Steve had died was the worst thing that has ever come out of my mouth. Telling my children that their daddy was now an angel was the most heartbreaking thing I have ever had to say.

I was lucky that my girls had some prior knowledge of death. We had lost a dog a couple months prior to Steve’s accident. Steve was heartbroken and he took a lot of time explaining death and heaven to the girls. Even through tears he made it seem like a great place. There is no doubt that the foundation he laid made my conversations a little easier. Here are six tips for talking to your children about death.

1. Don’t Shy Away from Talking about Death

Death is part of the cycle of life. In our society, it is something that we typically shy away from talking about regularly. I don’t know if it’s because we feel ill prepared, or unqualified or if it’s because we fear that it may make people uncomfortable.

It’s important to figure out your stance and take the opportunity to talk to your children about death. If you are a Christian, talk about God and heaven. A death of a pet is a great first opportunity to start the conversation. Don’t wait until you lose someone important to introduce the concept of death!

2. Choose Your Words Wisely

If you say the person “went away” kids take that literally. They will wonder why they were left – or when they will be coming back. As hard as it was, I explained to the girls that the Jeep rolled over and daddy got hurt. He had to go to heaven to get better.

There were reasons for my honesty. They needed to know they weren’t going to see the Jeep or daddy again and they needed to know why. They especially needed to know that their daddy didn’t leave us. In fact, I reiterated hundreds of times how much their daddy loved us and how he would never choose to leave us.

The one thing that was really hard to explain was when I said that I knew their dad was near us. I said he was talking to my heart. Reanna got really sad because she couldn’t hear her daddy talking to her and she wondered why her daddy couldn’t talk to her. Remember that kids think very literally or in black/while, so be prepared to explain whatever you say in a way they can understand.

3. Help Them Remember

There were times I could hardly speak a word and Reanna would ask about her dad. She wanted to hear stories. She wanted to know if I remembered certain events. There are no words to describe the pain involved with these conversations and the amount of tears that were shed. However, it is important to keep him alive.

She was grieving in her own way and she needed to remember. She needed to be listened to. Most of all, she needed me to put my desire to curl up in a ball of tears aside and just be there as her support. She needed to know that she could count on me to be her confidant.

Here we are one year later and we still love to tell stories. I praise her for pictures that include her dad. In all of her school work we list her “angel daddy” on forms about family. The girls love to hear about their Dad. I still struggle getting through stories without tears, but the tears are worth it. They deserve to know how great their father was!

4. Explain What to Expect at the Funeral

Remember I mentioned that children are literal thinkers, right? Imagine what it is like for them to see their daddy “sleeping.” I took the time to explain that they would be seeing their daddy’s body, but only his body was left on earth. I explained that he got a new body in heaven, one that was not broken.

This brought on questions for months about how daddy gets to heaven, what he looks like in heaven and all sorts of different things. I still do not know how to explain it all to them, but I am honest and tell them that I don’t have the answers.

I tried to keep the girls away from the coffin, but they did have their time to see him. I still remember Kaelyn saying, “Daddy, wake up!” Talk about a heartbreaking moment!

The girls had a nanny – Steph – and I asked her to play with the girls during the visitation. I wanted them to be there, but I wanted them to be able to be kids as well. They played outside in their dresses. Someone went and got them ice cream cones. They were content and taken care of – that meant the world to me. They came and went as they pleased, which allowed me to focus on trying to keep myself together.

I remember driving by the “bubble,” where Steve’s funeral was held and Reanna asking if we could stop and see her daddy in the box again. She said she just wanted to see him one more time. Don’t we all baby girl…

Above all, follow any leads your children give you. Reanna leaned over and asked me if she could say something on the microphone in the middle of the funeral. I asked if she was sure – she was. The song, I Miss My Friend was played – it was the same song we played at our wedding for three special loved ones missing on our special day. I placed a rose on his coffin during the song and walked Reanna up on the stage, much to the pastor’s surprise. I asked for the microphone and at the end of the song handed it to Reanna. I didn’t know what to expect, but she simply looked at a packed basketball gym and stated, “I love daddy” and handed the microphone back to me. Her strength at four years old amazed me!

5. Talk to Other’s Children about Their Loved One

First, it is absolutely okay to talk about any fun, uplifting stories involving the person that passed away. Be sure to ask ahead of time how the death was explained to the child if you do plan to talk about that person.

Children like to ask questions and your intent may not be to bring up the person’s death, but a child may ask anyway. Be prepared to answer. They need to know it isn’t a scary or a taboo subject.

Align what you say to what they have heard from others – even if you don’t agree. Children need a consistent message. My in-laws did a great job giving me a heads up about any questions the girls asked and how they answered the questions when I wasn’t there. This ensured that we never broke the children’s trust by giving them two different stories.

6. Seek Help

I’ll admit that I didn’t seek help for me or my children, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it. I asked for referrals from the state patrol and our family doctor. I only wanted to go somewhere that specialized in children’s grief. I wanted someone I could trust.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone that was a clear choice – even in Fargo, which is 60 miles away. So, I studied and read up on how children manage grief. One thing that I am good at is learning – this activity made me feel like I was doing something to help my children through this.

As you can imagine this was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I still consider myself lucky – lucky to have married such a wonderful partner in life that loved me and my girls with his whole heart. He will always be remembered as an amazing father and husband.

It’s so important to introduce your children to the concept of death early on – you never know when loss will happen. Consider the six tips above as you do and pass this message on. Death is hard – but you can make it easier by talking. Find the right words to say and start preparing your family today. Hopefully you’ll never experience a loss like mine, but the loss of a grandparent or another close relative or friend is hard and confusing too. Be prepared!

My children were young (four and two) when my husband died. Do you have experience with older children or teenagers? Anything you’d change or add to my list?

My Experience with Life Insurance – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Photo Credit: feministjulie via Compfight cc Photo Credit: feministjulie via Compfight cc

Figuring out and obtaining enough life insurance is a task that is easy to put off, forget about or wrongly assume that you have enough of it.

Steve and I knew that we didn’t have enough. We took action and worked with a financial advisor to understand what we would likely need and were given quotes for different types of coverage. We completed our applications and only had our blood tests and physicals left to do.

Then, life got in the way. The applications proceeded to the bottom of the pile on our desk, which is equivalent to a black hole. We never got it done. Then Steve died.

Knowing that we did not have the coverage that we needed added A LOT of financial stress to an already extremely emotional and overwhelming time. When you add the surprise beneficiary issues I ran into, it made the worst time in my life even tougher.

Life insurance was one of many things I relied on Steve to handle. I trusted him implicitly, so when he said what we needed I agreed. After he died, I needed to learn a lot of things. One of my priorities was to learn more about life insurance.

Combing through my life insurance policies and adding additional coverage was a very high priority for me. I had to make sure that my girls would be financially okay if anything ever happened to me.  Here is what I learned (the hard way) about the different types of life insurance that are out there.

I am NOT a financial advisor, so before you decide what you need please pursue professional advice.

Term Life Insurance

Term life policies provide life insurance protection for a specific period of time. If you live past the end of the term, the policy simply terminates unless it is renewed. Renewal at that point tends to be extremely expensive.

With guaranteed level term insurance both the premium and the amount of coverage (death benefit) remain level for a set period of time, i.e. 10, 15 or 20 years are all very common. Many policies are also convertible to permanent coverage for a portion or all of the term.

You can also secure group term insurance through your employer benefits (provided you have them). Typically these are not portable, so if you leave your job (or your job leaves you), you no longer have coverage. Usually it makes the most sense to have some sort of individual life insurance.

Permanent Life Insurance

Permanent insurance policies provide protection for your entire life as long as you pay the premium to keep the policy in force. With a permanent policy, a portion of each payment goes to the cost of insurance and a portion goes into a savings or investment account that can build over time.

This cash value grows tax-deferred as long as the policy is in force (and you follow the rules). If you cancel the policy before you die, you will receive the cash value in the account (minus any surrender charges), but may be subject to taxation (depending on your cost basis).

There are other definitions that are used to represent different types of permanent life insurance.

  • Whole life enables a person to make equal payments for their life or as long as they want the policy in effect. The death benefit and cash value are predetermined and guaranteed. Gerber life is a good example of this.
  • Universal life allows policyholders to pay premiums at any time, in any amount (within set limits), as long as the policy expenses and the insurance costs are met. The amount of insurance coverage can be changed and the cash value will grow at a predetermined interest rate. The interest rate may vary over the length of the policy, but there is usually a guaranteed minimum.
  • Variable life also enables a person to pay a level premium for their life. The difference between this type of policy and the whole life policy is that the death benefit and cash value will fluctuate depending o the performance of investments. This policy has sub-accounts which are similar to mutual funds. Another way to think of this money is a pool of investor funds professionally managed. The policy owner has the ability to select the sub-accounts in which their money is invested (from the available list) to coincide with their individual risk tolerance.
  • Variable universal life is a combination of universal and variable life insurance. A person can pay premiums at any time and amount (within limits) as long as the costs are covered. The amount of the insurance coverage can be changed and the cash value goes up or down based on investment performance in the sub-accounts.

My Experience Filing Claims

Some insurance companies give policy holders the option for “extras” such as accident, cancer, or long term disability coverage. Generally speaking (and depending on the cost) they may be worth it. I say “may” because of the experience I had. Steve had three different policies through three different companies.

One company (Aflac) refused to pay out the policy because of their long list of exclusions. The second company (MetLife) paid out the entire amount only to request half of it back – apparently due to a policy change that no one could find documented. PLEASE hang on to your actual insurance policy and any policy changes, especially those with your signature on it.

I fought this one and asked them to produce the copy that showed the new exclusions (I apparently had the “old” policy which did not list the contested exclusion) and they never produced it. They eventually turned it into collections and threatened court all without ever producing the proof – how awful is that?

The cost of fighting it coupled with the fact that I was fighting to survive each day forced me to return half the money without having the simple courtesy of seeing Steve’s signature accepting a change.

The third company (Dakota Capital Life) is a private life insurance fund and they paid the whole amount. I was beyond grateful to this organization for not trying to get out of what they owed.

Do Your Homework

Read the exclusions in each policy and determine if the exclusions are so far reaching and vague that they will exclude any “likely” cause of death for you. Compare the exclusions to your normal activities. Some companies are great – while others seem to be there to collect money, but never pay.

There are a ton of options out there – don’t let the extensive list keep you from taking action. Life insurance is an investment, whether you buy a term or a permanent contract. We all hope it is something that ultimately isn’t needed due to a premature death.

Remember, the policy isn’t for you – it is for those that you leave behind. The small cost is absolutely worth it.

What I Did

Again – I am not a financial advisor!  I opted for a 30 year term life insurance policy. My reasoning was this – in 30 years I will not have a mortgage. My children will be out of college and I will have enough cash saved in my retirement accounts to cover all of my final expenses and any debts I may have at that time.

The primary goal of my life insurance is to ensure my children are taken care of if God forbid something happened to me. As adults, I fully expect them to be capable of paying all of their own bills. The 30 year term policy was really affordable, it can be cancelled when/if it is no longer needed and my rate is locked in until I am 59, which is great!

The policy is not tied to an employer – it is my own personal policy. Having this coverage means I do not need to rely on an employer to provide it and it can’t change as benefit packages change.

I also have a second life insurance policy through my employer. This policy allows me to have 8X my annual salary, up to a specified amount. I chose the max, so as my annual salary increases (hopefully!), so does my coverage until I hit the limit.

This policy also allowed me to have up to $10,000 of coverage on each of my children. I chose to include that coverage since I know too well that unexpected nightmares do happen.

The total cost of Steve’s funeral, cremation and headstone well surpassed $10,000. Death is expensive – please make sure you have some coverage for those left behind. I hope that by me sharing my journey full of challenges, that you’ll do things differently while you still have time.

When’s the last time you looked at your coverage? Do you know where your policies physically are?

Do You Have Enough Life Insurance?

Photo Credit: One Way Stock via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: One Way Stock via Compfight cc

Life insurance – not typically anyone’s favorite topic of conversation.

Even though it’s not fun to think/talk about, it’s oh so necessary – when you don’t have enough of it, you REALLY feel it.

Erin and Steve actually had two new term policies sitting on their desk at home. All they needed to do was finish the underwriting process – but they didn’t. Hopefully Erin’s Story will motivate you to take action – TODAY!

Life insurance is a complex topic. Everyone has an opinion on it – and they are often vastly different from one another. Rather than focus on which types of life insurance are best/most appropriate, let’s focus instead on getting the right amount in place – for your family.

 How Much Is Enough?

Wouldn’t it be easy if you knew the answer to that question with 100% certainty? It seems to be an ever-changing number for most. It’s a number that’s also completely unique to your situation – dependent on your lifestyle, income, number/age of children, level of debt, etc.

It doesn’t help that there are so many theories on how to calculate the right answer either. You could take a human life value approach, debt pay-off, or straight up income replacement. Or some combination of those three.

This CNN Money article talks about someone that makes $50,000 per year should have anywhere from $250-500k in coverage. The New York Times on the other hand claims that the life insurance industry’s rule of thumb is 10x your annual salary. Which is right? Both are generalizations – not specific to your situation. Take some time to think about your individual family’s needs and ask yourself the following questions to get closer to the answer.

Good Questions to Ask

  • Do you have a survivor need? Is anyone depending on you that if you died today would be negatively impacted? Are you depending on anyone else?
  • How much debt to you have? Make a list of your liabilities – mortgage and consumer debt and tally it up. Would your family continue to live in your current home if you passed away today?
  • What are your family’s expenses? How would they change if something happened to you or your spouse? Would you need to hire help for the home or additional childcare?
  • How much are you currently saving? What are your savings goals? Are you wanting to help your children with college tuition costs? Are you on track to fund your retirement goal?
  • Are you making any rate of return or inflation assumptions? Are they realistic?

Figuring It out for Yourself

I think it’s important that you play out the scenario in your head to see how your family would be impacted without you here. If you contribute to the household financially, how much would it cost to sufficiently replace you? Would the goals of your remaining family members still be carried out?

If you’re the primary caregiver, how would your family replace you? Would they have to hire outside help? How much would that cost? Besides caring for the children, are there things that you’re responsible for that would still need to get done (home maintenance, etc)?

What about a grieving period? Would you want to make sure that you could provide for your spouse to not work for a period of time if you could?

More Art Than Science

As you can see calculating your life insurance needs is more of an art than a science in most cases. Personally, I’d rather err on the side of having a little too much than not enough. It may make sense to calculate straight income replacement (like the 10x your annual salary assumption above) AND try to calculate your needs by answering some of the above questions.

Compare the two – are they very far apart? If you’re still unsure (or not wanting to do the math yourself), consult a professional – either a financial planner that can evaluate your entire situation or an insurance professional that can help you to look at your individual life insurance needs.

Take Action

Take a few minutes today to tally up what coverage (if any) you currently have in place. Ask yourself some of the above questions to get an idea if it is in the ballpark of being enough.

Seek help if you’re still unsure. Figure out how much life insurance you need and then make sure to start/complete the application process – TODAY!

Have you been putting off reviewing your life insurance coverage?

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, consider hiring me to write for your blog.  Click here for more information.

10 Learnings From My First Year As a Widow

10 Learning's From My First Year As a WidowOne year ago I lost my best friend, my husband, and the father of my children.

I also lost myself. Losing a spouse means losing the person you planned your life with. You lose the future as you had dreamt it. These past 12 months have taken me to the very depths of my soul. It completely drained me of everything – and forced me to find myself again.

Reinventing myself meant finding my new purpose in life. My husband, Steve, had a purpose. He wanted to be remembered as a man devoted to his family and a person that contributed to making our home, Valley City, North Dakota, a great place to live.

At his funeral, I realized that he achieved his goals – in spades. Weird as it sound, his funeral motivated me. The world lost a great man and now I needed to figure out how to live my life with a purpose to honor him. In short – that is why this blog exists.

I’m learning that a big part of my purpose is my desire to positively contribute to other people’s lives. Where this adventure leads me is yet to be fully known, but if I can make a difference for even one person my time writing is well spent.

Through my new world as a widow I have come to see life a little differently. I hope to connect with widows and non-widows alike, as we all try to get the most out of this one life we have. Through my experiences over the last year, I now see the world differently – in a way I wish I would have seen it all along. Here are ten ways my perspective has changed.

1. Amazing People Exist Everywhere

A person I hardly knew became my daily support, confidant, and shoulder to cry on. I also met widows that gave me great unsolicited advice and affirmation that all of the mixed emotions (highs and lows) I experienced were completely normal. They helped me feel okay when nothing in life was normal.

There are times in life where you need people that have walked in your shoes. It reaffirms that you are neither alone, nor losing your mind. Connecting with others in my grief helped me to see these beautiful souls and how they lived their life after loss. They gave me strength and the belief that not only would I get through the grief, but I would be able to live again.

There were also many people that truly stepped up to help me during this past year. There are so many “little” things that truly make a big difference to a new widow – there will be a future post on this topic!

2. Make Sure to Implement Your Financial Plan

My husband ran the finances in our marriage. A few months before Steve died I commented to him that if anything ever happened to him I wouldn’t know where to start. He turned on his computer and showed me where all of our financial information resided.

When he passed and I had to start figuring things out, I realized this information was only the tip of the iceberg of what I actually needed. Even though he was a financial savvy guy, there were some small details that were missed that left a big impact on our family.

I’ve learned a lot about personal finances through my experience. I’d like to help others avoid some of the financial oversights we made by sharing some of the simple plans I have put into place since his passing to ensure all of our affairs are truly in order if something happens to me.

3. Kids Are Amazing

They are the most resilient, innocent, and best things in life – period. We have two children who were two and four when Steve passed away. I always called Steve the 75% parent, because he was. He lived for our girls and I realized that I need to truly engage in their life.

I used to be content to sit back and watch them play or stay behind the camera. No more. It HAS to be me and I have to make time for play. My kids are amazing and they inspire me to be the best I can be. They deserve the best of me!

4. Life Isn’t Perfect

I used to think that I had to be okay, even if I wasn’t. I felt like I needed to live like everything was under control and “perfect” from the outside looking in. No more – I am a real person with real feelings. I have good days and bad days. I have reasons to feel extremely blessed and reasons to feel cheated. Don’t we all? Let’s be real together.

5. Sunsets and Sunrises Are Windows Into Heaven

Have you ever stopped your life just to watch the sun rise or set? Have you ever set time aside to just clear your mind and see the beauty in these moments? A sunrise or sunset is a metaphor for so many things in life. There is beauty all around this world if we just pause for a moment to truly see it.

6. I Have An Angel

Life does exist after death. I struggled for a period of time wondering if there was a God. If there was, how could he take such an amazing father, husband and contributor to the world? Then I realized we are given angels on Earth to teach us how to live. I had an angel on Earth and now I have an angel in heaven.

I have a whole new consciousness and accountability knowing that I live on Earth for both of us. Steve lives through me. I’ve been given signs, as have multiple members of our family that he is still with us.

My faith has been strengthened through this loss because I had to truly believe that heaven exists. It has to exist or I will never see Steve again. That is a reality that I cannot and will not accept. Someday, I will go home to Steve. After all, the last thing I ever said to him was, “I’ll see you at home.” I didn’t know how true that statement was at the time.

Mitch Albom said it best, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

7. Focus On Your Story

Goodbyes make you think about the story you made together and the chapters that were left to write.  The story that has been written never changes or diminishes. For those that remain, the ending is yet to be written.  Life is too short – write the story you would love to read!

IMG_40298. Write (and Keep) Love Notes

Love notes from Steve have become treasures to me. When I first lost my husband I felt this deep guilt and regret for not being a better wife. I regretted the times I was upset with him as what we were fighting about now seems trivial. I wondered if I ever told him how much he truly meant to me.

Then I found the letters. Not only can I see the love he had for me in his own handwriting, but I have tangible proof that while I was far from perfect I did tell him how important and loved he was in my life.

“When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.” ~unknown

9. Journaling Helps

I was never one to sit and journal, but I started to write after Steve died. Fear was my motivator. Fear that I would forget the memories that kept flooding into my mind. Fear that something would happen to me and my children would never know these stories.

I found that writing gave me an outlet. It helped to calm my anxieties. In the moments when I was crying so hard I could barely breathe, I would do the only thing I could do – write. Calling someone was out of the question because I couldn’t even speak. I wouldn’t have known what to say anyway.

Being a widow is a lonely place, even with a lot of well meaning, caring, and genuine people around you. I very rarely started writing in my journal with a plan. I would just pick it up and write whatever came to my mind. Over time, I realized that each of my journal entries naturally flowed from memories or situations out of my control into what action I could take, or what changes I would make to my life to honor my memories.

I found that by the time I finished writing in my journal I was more relaxed, felt more confident, and had the start of a plan – all without even trying! If you are struggling with anything – grief, weight, relationships – pick up a pen and randomly write what is on your mind. You’ll be amazed and what you find within yourself!

10. Life Is What You Make It

No more and no less. Each day is a new opportunity to CHOOSE how to live your life. Only you can control the outcome of each day. Be aware of the “can’ts” or “shoulds” in your head. Then get your game face on and prove yourself different!

I plan on expanding on all of these learning’s in their own posts over time, but when I sat down and thought about this last year – my first as a widow, these are the things that came to mind. When you haven’t experienced a loss in this capacity, it can be hard to really understand the gravity of how your life will change. I hope that you’ll take the time to appreciate the loved ones in your life a little more today – maybe even write a love note or two!

Have you experienced a similar loss? If so, is there something you would add to my list of learnings?

We want to know what you think: