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.

Widow + Divorcee = Love?

One awesome Facebook follower sent some questions about dating after being widowed. I couldn’t wait to answer!

Should she date? How can she really like someone new? He’s divorced, does that change anything? When is the right time to date?

My initial response – do what feels right! BUT…I’ve recently done a lot of reflection on this very convoluted topic. No, it isn’t as simple as my initial response.

Dating at any age is challenging – go no further than Facebook and your TV and you see all sorts of drama and self-help ideas.  Now, add the emotions of a widow or a divorcee into the mix and you have a melting pot of emotions.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned from dating a divorcee for the past 2.5 years.

  1. Do what feels right! Ok, so this was back to my initial response, but seriously, if being with that person helps you smile after your loss, then do it.  You will encounter many people saying you are getting back into dating too fast, too slow, with the wrong person…all comments that are not needed and frankly, unwelcome.  YOU make your own choices.  If he/she doesn’t make you happy, then stop – simple.  You’ve been through worse than a break-up, you can handle this.
  1. So is there a “right time”? There is no magic formula and no magic answer to this question.  Do a self-check – where are you at with these questions?
    • Have you been able to get into a rhythm with your “new normal”? This doesn’t mean you are done grieving what was lost – this means feeling like you have at least a basic part of your life under control such as your finances.  Why would this be important? You want to get into a relationship because it is what you want not because you feel like you need something in your life.
    • How is your confidence? You don’t have to be confident in everything, but you need to have confidence about what you want and expect in a future relationship. Take the time to reflect on this so you don’t accept the first person that comes into your life (unless they are awesome!).
    • Are you strong enough to say “no”? Unfortunately there are bad people in the world that may try to take advantage of you. They may be nice, say all the right things, and then ask you for money (“It’s just a small loan, I’ll pay you back”).  Be wary – very wary of anyone that asks you to buy them anything or give them money.  You may feel like you are offering out of the goodness of your heart – don’t. The best manipulators are good, very good. Have boundaries in your head of what you are willing to do before you get into a relationship and stick to it!
  1. Getting serious – using the B and G words. Using the word “boyfriend” still feels ridiculous to me. I have a mental block. When my boyfriend and I decided to date exclusively (i.e. more than a strong friendship) we weren’t really ready – we knew this, accepted it, and decided to take it slow. We had feelings for each other – strong and real feelings – but we weren’t truly ready to use the language associated with dating.  I was introduced as a girlfriend for one of the first times just a couple of weeks ago.  I have to admit that it felt good (I was so over “friend”) even if it still seems weird.  Going from wife to girlfriend status was hard for me – it may be hard for you too.
  1. Getting serious – in public. Depending on where you live, going out in public with a new date may be awkward. Small towns are wonderful, but they are also cesspools when it comes to gossip. You may want to consider this as you decide how you want to date (not IF) – never let gossip keep you from being happy!
  1. Meeting the family. Yikes! In my situation both of our families were not ready to meet anyone “new”.  We introduced each other to our families before we ever even dated – probably a mistake in hindsight. We knew we liked being together. Talking gave us smiles that were missing from so much of our life. Being together meant a reminder that we could have fun with someone other than our missing spouse. We weren’t a third wheel together. Being together meant hope – even though we weren’t dating.  We knew this, but that doesn’t mean our family was ready.  I’d say test the waters first.  I had a lot of heartache over the reaction, and it hurt – even when I didn’t think I could hurt any more. Everything is good now – it just took some time!
  2. The in-laws. This could be a whole post in itself (and maybe will be someday). I have been blessed with amazing in-laws. They have supported me and my new relationship without wavering. If you have a good relationship with your in-laws I would be open with them about anyone you are seriously considering dating. The conversation is hard – but necessary. If they treat you with respect, then do the same to them and have the conversation. These conversations will help keep your relationship close.
  3. The Divorcee. There are “special” things that come when you decide to date a divorcee – just like there are “special” things that come with us as widows. The divorcee likely went through a lot of pain. They lost the person they thought they would spend their life with. Find out why the divorce happened and ask for honesty. Did they just grow apart? Was there infidelity? Did they do everything possible to take their vows seriously? The “whys” behind the divorce matter.What did the person learn from that experience? What would they do different? Where are they on their grief journey?

    You also need to be prepared to answer some of those same questions. Widows typically don’t have a marriage that was already headed for divorce (although some do), BUT almost all of us have some guilt about how we could have been better spouses. What did you learn? What do you want to do differently?

  4. The Divorcee, Part 2. Memories. Oh, the memories. As widows we are given a little more space to have memories. We can openly talk about how a certain song or place reminds us of our loved ones. We can share happy memories as we retrace steps we took with our spouse. We can and should do that. A divorcee also lost a relationship that was important to them and yet, they don’t have the same freedom to share their memories.  People look at them like they are crazy for remembering the good times.  It is much more awkward for them as society acts like divorcees just pick up and move on without a thought to what was – and that couldn’t be further from the truth (at least for those who truly committed with their vows).  This is a challenge. If you want to share your memories or what is on your mind as memories hit you, then encourage the person you are dating to do the same.  You both had good times and good memories with another person – be confident enough to recognize both of your pasts and encourage the conversation.  I’d rather hear the memory so we can move through it together – after all, you are there to support each other as you build a new life.
  5. New Love. Ok, so you decided this guy/gal is a keeper. Now what? This is a question I’ve been asking for the past 2.5 years! Seriously though, loving someone new is not easy! Falling in like then love – that is actually the easy part. Learning to love and be loved differently? Now that is hard.The “I like youa lot” phase: you do nice things for each other, send sweet texts, and try to spend as much time together as possible. This phase is awesome – enjoy it!

    The “Ok, so is there anything next?” phase: This one gets dicey. Based on your history the desired next steps may not be the same or come at the same time. I’ll honestly say that I misread this one in my relationship – I thought “we” were ready when in fact [honestly] neither of us were.

    With Steve, he knew exactly how he felt about me – fast – like within weeks of us starting to date. He knew he wanted to marry me and I never felt anything but that commitment from him. I’m a person that likes direction and goals, so understanding what you want and then going for it is my norm. I prefer forward progress toward something!

    I thought this whole process would be similar with anyone else (If I think you’re awesome and I believe I’m pretty awesome too…2+2=4, right?). However, just like the normal dating world, you may think one thing and the other person is not on the same path – maybe not even on the same map. This was the hardest part for me – I took this lack of any direction as a sort of rejection – I wasn’t good enough. In reality, that wasn’t the case, and that was never even implied. But, my mind got stuck there for a period of time – not fun. Back to point #2 and the confidence question – are you ready for something different?

    The growth phase. If you make it out of the “now what?” phase you will hit a place that is actually pretty awesome. It isn’t as spontaneous as the initial dating phase (bummer!) but that is because you have a rhythm.  You’ve figured out that you need to love your new person in a different way.  Read The 5 Love Languages if you have no clue what it means to love differently.  Better yet – both you and your partner read it and discuss what you need out of the relationship – then commit to doing it.  I’ve had to adapt to being loved differently, but also communicate what is important to me so he can adapt also.  He cannot love me the same way he loved his wife – we are different people with different needs. Flip it around and I’ve had to figure out how to love him differently too. Yes, we made it to that point and I’ll just say it is so much better than the “what’s next” phase.  Simply by committing to love each other differently we committed to something together.

    …Phase. My expertise ends at the growth phase.  TBD what happens next!

Whew!  That is quite the list.  To my Facebook friend that asked this question – thank you!  I love reflecting on my journey and appreciate the chance to do that on this topic.  I’d love to hear more questions!

For those that have already been on this journey, what else would you add?  What advice can you share with the widowed community?

 

Married and Dating? It’s Not What You Think!

Married and Dating?Widowhood has a unique set of challenges in today’s society.

Being a widow means that your marriage ended without either of you making the choice to end it. To this day I cannot accept that I am single. I cannot utter the word for the simple fact that I am not single – I am married and will always be married.

I do not have an ex-husband, nor am I a single parent.  I’m a solo mom, with a partner in heaven. I am a widow.

That Awkward Moment

A few weeks ago I was out on a date with my significant other and another couple. At dinner I was talking about “my husband” and the lady across from me stopped me and said, “You mean your ex-husband? I said, “No, my husband.  I’m a widow. I don’t have an ex-husband.” Society assumes that people my age are divorced, not widowed. That’s both understandable and disheartening at the same time!

If you are on the other side of the conversation – NO WORRIES! I’m happy that I don’t have a flashing sign that tells you I am a widow. I (we) do not expect you to know our story. My Widowed Life post highlighted some ways to embrace the term widow and the new definition I have given that word.

Breaking the News to a New Date

When is a good time to break the news to a date that you are a widow? I’d say whenever you are comfortable! If the person on the other side of the table can’t accept or handle your journey, then they probably aren’t the right one to take on the path with you.

How much you share with that person will likely depend on how well you know them. If they were a friend before you started dating, they likely know your story. If you were set up by another friend, find out before your date what the other person knows about you.

Everyone has a journey in life. There are people you meet that make a big impact on who you are. For better or worse, your spouse (or ex-spouse if you are divorced) was one of them.

You Have a Date – Now What?

One thing I’ve learned was to temper just how much I talked about Steve. I started dating a person that had been my confidant as I was going through the pain of losing Steve. He had heard every story that came to my head, learned about my regrets and was there as I discovered the strength I needed to continue.

The first part of our friendship was all about me working through losing Steve – and on the flip side, him working through losing his wife through divorce. We were a mess alone, but together somehow we started to become whole.

We were able to lean on each other during the very difficult times and he was truly a lifeline to me. About six months after Steve died, we decided to give dating a try.

Shortly after that I realized that by talking about Steve in every conversation I wasn’t really living in the moment with Jon. I never plan to quit talking about Steve, but there has to be a balance.

This was not an easy transition for me and I still talk about Steve in most of our conversations. Talking about him keeps him alive for me. The difference today, is that my memories do not dominate the conversation. I can enjoy the present, look forward to my future and never forget the past.

Breaking the News to Others

You would think the hardest thing about being a widow dating would be the date. Wrong! The hardest part is dealing with the other people in your life that may not be ready for you to start living again.

One of my widowed friends said it best, “If you are divorced in society and start dating the next week everyone congratulates you. If you are a widow, you are expected to sit with your broken heart and grieve forever.”

Remember, this is your life and your journey. Everyone else is able to go back to “normal”, while you no longer have anything that resembles normal.  If you find someone that makes you happy, then by all means be with them.

People will judge you for dating too soon and eventually for not dating soon enough (or so I am told). I have fallen into the too soon category.  There doesn’t seem to be a just right category. Expect this. Do what is right for you.  If you find a person that interests you and helps you live the life you want to live, then go for it! There is no right time, just the right person.

Receiving negative or unsupportive feedback hurts! It cuts you to your core and when you are really in the infancy stage of rebuilding your life, it can be painful and very isolating. Know that you are not alone.

No matter where your loss stems from – death or divorce – dating is hard! It is awkward, you judge yourself and you wonder if you are really ready. If you are lucky enough to find a real connection, it can renew your spirit.

Starting a new relationship takes guts! If you are a friend or family member of someone that is grieving a loss, be supportive of their decisions. They have likely spent weeks or months trying to figure out what is right for them. As long as it doesn’t put them in danger, keep your opinions to yourself and just be happy to see them smile.

3 Simple Ways to Show Your Support

1. Ask About the New Person

Then follow that up by genuinely listening. Ask questions because you care to hear all about the other person, not because you are challenging their sanity. There is a noticable difference!

2. Meet the Individual

Hold any judgements for after you actually meet the new person. Then follow the advice above and listen to really learn about them. What do they enjoy doing? What do you have in common? Why do they think your friend/sister/brother/daughter is amazing?

3. Invite the Couple to Socialize

Invite your widowed (or divorced) friend/family member to events that you may be hosting. Giving the open invitation is much more inviting than having to ask if you can bring an extra person.

4 Tips for the Widow/Divorcee

1. Don’t Feel Shame About Your Relationship

People will judge you. Have confidence and remember, this is your life and your happiness.

Sometimes people judge you because they see strength, courage and your will to live your life after loss. Not all judgement is bad! Sometimes it just feels that way.

2. Consider Your Public Relationship

Consider how much air time you are both comfortable giving your relationship in the beginning stages, especially on social media. Jon and I have chosen to keep our relationship relatively private (although I include him in my public writings – thank goodness for his common name!).

You would have a hard time finding pictures online of the two of us – that is intentional for the time being. The reason? We wanted to avoid unnecessary drama. We have both met each other’s families and many close friends. We enjoy our time out and yet it keeps our relationship stress low to remain off the digital grid – for now!

3. Find a Word You Are Comfortable With

I still can’t bring myself to introduce Jon as my boyfriend and he has never called me his girlfriend. It just seems too weird to use those terms since we have both been married.

We laughed about these words a long time ago and yet, we still haven’t come up with a good introduction. For now it is “friend” which is not my favorite…hmm, I may need to revisit this one myself!

3. Surround Your Relationship With Support

I was ignorant and thought that because people loved me they would like to see me happy and would support me. I was wrong. My new relationship made them uncomfortable and they made me feel like I was doing something wrong.

When you are just getting on your feet, this is a horrible feeling. It took a lot of time for me to move past the hurt of that experience. Surround yourself with those that will build you and your new relationship up – people that give you strength and confidence in your ability to be the champion of your life.

My New Perspective

I realized just how much judgement I was passing on to others by going through this experience. Over the years I have heard people judge others for being happy – those that have been divorced (and heaven forbid want an actual wedding for marriage #2!), those that have children out of wedlock and even those that started dating too soon after becoming a widow/widower. I’m here to say NO MORE!

I was appalled at these thoughts when I realized they crossed my own mind at times. I felt sorrow for the times and the people I had judged, even if it was only in my head. That was a reflection of ME, not them or their choices.

Now I revel in other’s happiness. When people I know and love are happy, I am happy too. It’s as simple as that!

Fellow widows or divorcees, what advice would you add for those that are going to reenter the dating scene?

My Bucket List – Why You Should Start One Too!

Photo Credit: tubblesnap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tubblesnap via Compfight cc

Bucket lists – they seem to be all the rage these days, but for good reason!

A bucket list to me is just a written list of your hopes and dreams. I find myself adding more and more to mine as I learn more about this world that we live in. After writing this post, I realized how true this is and promptly split this into a two-parter. Welcome to part one of two!

Building a Bucket List

There were many times that I tried to get Steve to sit down and create a bucket list with me. He was not really interested. I found it important because I felt like part of my job as his wife was to make sure his dreams came true – I couldn’t do this if I didn’t understand what they were!

When you are married to your best friend, you want to experience their dreams with them. Steve was a giver and was truly happy making other people happy. This is why he was content just living off of my list. But I know that every person has things that they want to do in life – for themselves.

What he failed to realize is the power of a written dream, a written goal, a written desire. You might not check them all off as done, but you’re sure to make a lot more progress (and have a lot more fun) if you have a list to begin with! Once I explained why it was important to me, he was willing to put his list down on paper.

My bucket list also helped me prioritize my desires. There are things that I have done this past year simply because I had an opportunity to live the list. Knowing that these experiences were on it made them even more special. I took a little extra time to slow down that day. I focused on making memories that represented the dream I had when I wrote that item down. Here are some of the categories that I used to make mine – consider them when making your own. Just remember, it’s your list – and don’t forget to dream big!

Destinations

There are many places in this world that I want to go. My list is broken up into places of exploration, relaxation and culture.

My culture list focuses a lot on Europe. It’s a big place – I want to see almost all of it! I love experiencing different cultures. I want to ride the train from country to country and find places to eat and stay along the way. I specifically have Ireland, Italy, the Fjords, Greece, the UK and the Alps on my list. Exploration can be found via hiking, biking and various drives.

Under exploration I have the Grand Canyon, Alaska, Africa, and New Zealand along with a few others. A few more simple options like Yellowstone Park, Medora (ND) and spending a week in the black hills of South Dakota were on our joint list.

I see myself relaxing someday in the Maldives, Bali and Hawaii. Yes, please!

Steve had a few historical locations on his list like both Fenway and Wrigley park.

One of the last things on Steve’s list was to drive around the US as a family. He did this growing up with the Eggert family and his own in a school bus. It was one of his favorite childhood memories. I would prefer flying – so the jury is still out on this one, since I wouldn’t get to experience it with Steve. I would still like to explore the US – once I get somewhere I love to drive, wander and eat local.

Events

Sports and music are two things that both Steve and I loved. Steve wanted to see a Cowboys game in AT&T Stadium, a Yankees game in their old stadium (which we did!), a Superbowl and an All-Star game. I’ve always wanted to see the National Finals Rodeo and he made that dream come true for my 29th birthday. It’s one of my fondest memories!

Steve was more the music buff than I. We both wanted to see Garth Brooks live – Steve wanted us to go together, since it was his all-time favorite concert.

Family

We had a dream of taking our girls on a vacation every year. Depending on our financial situation it may be something simple like camping and fishing in Northern Minnesota, or it could be as big as the Disney World trip. We figured we could alternate a trip that included airfare and one that we could drive to each year. The premise was to focus on something that the girls were learning in school as they got older (to make education more fun). Education through quality family time in a new place – perfection!

We had dreams to take the girls to some of our favorite places and also give them some of the adventures we had dreamed of as children. This included Disney World, Wisconsin Dells, and skiing in the mountains.

Connecting together through experiences and travel was one of the ways that we dreamed about our future. Providing educational and bonding experiences to our girls was also our desire. Of course we wanted a strong family – we also wanted to experience all that this earth had to offer while we were on it. Even though Steve passed before we could check a lot of things off, I’m still striving to make as many of these things happen as I can. For me – for him – for our girls.

What is one of the travel destinations or music/sporting events that you are most excited about bringing to fruition from your personal bucket list?

6 Ways to Keep Living While Grieving

Photo Credit: Helga Weber via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Helga Weber via Compfight cc

Life is hard.

Living through loss makes it even harder. There is a period of time where you feel dead. Your soul has been ripped out and you just feel numb. When you’re not numb, you hurt. Sometimes numb is better than feeling pain. I used all of my energy each day to just make it through – the paperwork, the processes, paying the bills and making sure my kids had food.

As I was battling to survive each day, I started to remember what Steve and I had promised each other. We promised that no matter what happened to us we would always put our children first. I also promised Steve that I would LIVE life and take care of our children if anything happened to him. Everyday that I spent feeling dead was a day that I was breaking my promise to him.

That broken promise began to become fuel for change. I gave him my word – I became determined to keep it.  It wasn’t easy – I can assure you it was not. However, the story you tell yourself is POWERFUL. You have the choice to be a victim or the champion in your life. As I thought about our children, I wondered what type of role model did I want to be for them?  What did I want them to see when they looked back at this period in their life? I answered these questions for myself. Here are some ways I moved myself from death to life. You can do it too!

1. Identify What’s Most Important

For me, it was showing my girls that they were safe, loved and cared for. They were going through a situation in life that no child should ever have to endure and it was my job to show them that we would make it through this together.

They needed to know that being sad was okay and we could talk about it together – but it was also okay to play.  If I couldn’t pull it together, then my children would have essentially lost two parents in a time that they needed one the most.

2. Focus on What’s in Your Control

I would have given anything to go back to that day and somehow change the outcome – anything! Unfortunately, no amount of tears, focus, guilt, or pleading with God would change the outcome. There was no redo or rewind button.

What I could control was how I engaged with my children. I could choose how I wanted my children to remember their father and I could choose to show my children how to deal with significant life challenges.

3. Ask for Help

Why is it SO hard to ask for help? This is what I am the worst at – even today. After Steve died, I had a crew come out and help me finish the barn which was one of his goals. They did what I could not do alone.

I had to get a tax advisor because I had never done taxes before and had no clue where to start. I sought advice from a friend knew a lawyer to deal with the beneficiary issues.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help with non-critical or technical tasks. People want to help and don’t know how – they’ll be happy to help if you give them something specific to do!

4. Write Down Goals That You Had Together

The one that stands out the most for me is taking our girls to Disney World. We had planned to do this in 2-3 years and were really looking forward to it. In my mind I questioned whether I would be able to give our girls this opportunity without a dual income household. I also had immense guilt in thinking that our girls wouldn’t get to experience life the way we had planned as a family, because I couldn’t afford it.

We may not be able to do everything – it may take a few extra years, but I know we will have these adventures together.  Disney became a priority to me and I opted to put a portion of Steve’s savings into a CD, so that the money would be there when we were ready. I’ll find money for bills in another place or another way. Daddy will make our Disney dreams come true after all!

5. Find Your New Life Balance

I realized that I struggle a lot on days that I don’t get enough sleep. Cleaning the house and doing other activities have to wait if sleep is needed instead. Sleep is essential for me to execute on #1 above.

Going for a run also helped immensely. At first, I ended up hyperventilating and really struggled through a lot of workouts – in the end I felt like I accomplished something. Running became my outlet and by the time I finish a run my head is clearer – I feel like I’m back in control of my life – at least for a moment!

6. Lean on a Buzz Word or a Theme Song

I have both. Steve had a wall hanging that I had given him as a father’s day gift one year that hung in his office. It was titled “Perseverance” and for me that word fit. I kept that picture where I could see it and it reminded me that I needed to persevere through this.

Steve also had a love of music and we connected often through the words in a song. There was one song in particular that he played for me when we felt like we were struggling with life – Faith When I Fall. After Steve died, my mind kept repeating the lyrics, “Give me strength when I am standing and faith when I fall.” I’m not sure if Steve put those words in my mind and heart, but those lyrics have repeated themselves in my head thousands of times in this past year – it’s now my theme song.

Different things will work for different people, but these are six ways I found to keep living while I was grieving. They are still things I do to this day! I hope that they help someone else through their grief.

Is there anything else that helped you keep living while grieving?

Widowed Life

Photo Credit: docoverachiever via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: docoverachiever via Compfight cc

Living life as a widow is something no one imagines or dreams of.

If you are not a widow – be thankful that you have never had to go through our pain. If you are a widow, know you are not alone. Widows are unique. We have lived through losing our future. We have had to wake up to the empty bed, fallen asleep with unwashed clothes just for the scent, and put on a brave face for the world to ease the discomfort of others. Loss of your spouse shakes you to your core.

Being a widow means surviving through times when you are surprised you can even breathe. It means gaining a mental toughness to handle the challenges of broken dreams and the memories of a life that ended too soon. For widowed parents it means telling your children that their parent is never coming home.

Widows Around Us

Once I became a widow, I started to notice all the widows around me. News of car accidents and plane crashes now make me think that someone else just joined the widowed life. I knew some widows before becoming one, but I never slowed down my life enough to truly attempt to understand their struggles. I certainly never thought I would be forced into this new world.

When I first became a widow I felt alone, scared, and devastated. Friends and family helped me to the absolute best of their ability, but I was acutely aware of the fact that they were able to go back to their normal life and my normal had all but disappeared. My normal had been stolen – shattered, and I had no idea how to even begin to piece it back together. A year out, I can say that it still hasn’t gone back together. Widows have to create a new life to move past surviving and into living again.

Embracing Widowhood

Accepting the term widow is a journey in itself. Months went by before I started to even say the word. Now it’s like a second name.  The word used to make me think of an old woman, who wears black all the time, surrounded by gray and dreary days.  I couldn’t wrap my head around associating that word with me.  I can now tell people that I am a widow without feeling uncomfortable.  The term “widow” describes something that happened to you, it does not describe YOU.

Being a widow means that you loved, lost, and survived. I was lucky enough to have been married to my best friend and honestly the best person I ever met in my life. Many people in this world never know that feeling. I was proud to be his wife – one thing I can do to remember the love we had in our marriage is to be honored to be his widow. He lived his vows and truly loved me “until death do us part”. What more could I have asked for?

Learning From Experience

My saving grace came in the form of other widows. Although I knew a few, I never realized how many widows were already in my life! Widows are like a hidden group of beautiful souls that have been forever changed.

My aunt became a widow when my uncle passed away in his early 40’s from cancer. I cried at the funeral and celebrated when she started dating again. But, in-between? Nothing. I didn’t know how to help – or that I should.

I met another widow at a neighborhood party hosted by Steve’s aunt and uncle. I had met this person a few times before, but never knew she had been widowed. She asked how I was doing in a way that only those that have walked through grief would understand. She gave me advice about making decisions that result in my and my children’s happiness. Most importantly she shared her story with me about the social stigmas of being a widow.

Society thinks there is an “appropriate” time to grieve. Some would say it is a year, some two years, while others are concerned if you couldn’t pull your life together in a couple months. In the grieving process you move too slow or too quick – there’s no just enough that is spelled out for you. You start to wonder what is wrong with you.

This is where we can help. Widows helping widows is POWERFUL. There is hope, guidance, and normalcy that can only be offered by those that have walked before you on this journey. It is a journey indeed and often one of self discovery.

For the Non-Widows

Have you ever been divorced? Lost a sibling or a child? Do you know someone who has been there? It’s a lonely place to be. My goal is to help those that are going through any life altering event. There are no winners or losers in the grief journey. There is no competition or measuring stick about who’s journey is worse.

We need to accept that life is the journey. Some of us are thrown hand grenades that forever alter our course. We all know someone who has had a life altering experience through divorce or death. We are all in this together.

Why Blog?

This blog was started with the hope that by sharing my story I can have a positive impact on others. I’ve learned a lot about myself through this journey and a lot about what it means to be prepared for the worst in life. There will be tactical, easy activities that you can complete within a couple hours to ensure you are prepared for the unexpected. I want everyone to be prepared – ideally before a life altering event. Most importantly I want you to know that you are not alone.

In the past I was guilty of temporarily feeling sorry for someone that just lost a spouse and then moving on with my life. Occassionally I would say to Steve, “I can’t imagine ever losing you.”  Your mind goes there after hearing of someone else’s loss (or at least mine did) and it was horrible to imagine. The imagery was was nothing compared to reality.

People surround you and help, but then everyone else gets to go back to their own life.  Their life may be altered by the loss, but as a new widow, you are left with the ashes of a life. It’s almost as if there is no life to return to. It takes time, strength, and sheer persistence to literally start your life over.

My goal is to make it OK to be a widow. There are a lot of “young” widows in this world and I want to empower us to make a difference together. Widowhood is now synonymous with strength in my mind – I don’t have a life like any of my friends. I don’t live a life that people dream of. In fact, one moment in my life reflects most people’s deepest fears.  One moment.

What I have come to realize is that there is one moment in time that changed my life forever.  One simple moment.  One decision that I would have made 100 percent of the time.  Steve did exactly what I would have done and yet, that decision resulted in the end of his life.

One moment changes a life, but it doesn’t have to define it.  What defines life is how you live each day. Being a widow means seeing the world differently than everyone else around you. Let’s embrace our differences together, empower one another, and give each other strength.

Are you a part of the Widow Club? Feel free to share your story in the comments or reach out to us via the contact page.