Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair

Simple Grief

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Want to help someone in grief? Put these 10 things into practice and I guarantee that you will be a comfort and blessing in supporting anyone who is grieving.

1. Be present, now and in the future

2. Let them know you are there to hurt with them

3. Don’t try to “fix” the griever

4. Say very little (there are no magic words) … Listen and validate their pain

5. Avoid unsolicited intellectualizing, rationalizing, scripturalizing or spiritualizing of their loss

6. Grant grace and tolerance to allow them to grieve in their own way

7. Ask what you can do right now that might help them

8. Place no expectations or timetables on their grief

9. Keep saying the name and share stories with them of their loved one who they will always actively continue to love.

10. Don’t try to help them get over it, continue following these steps long term in support of helping them get through it

WSN – WSN – Words from my Alan Pedersen, Inspirational Speaker on Grief/Award-winning songwriter at Angels Across the USA.

Categories
Faith/Religion Healing

Help from a Higher Power

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An Excerpt from The Widower’s Journey – Chapter 5

(Aside: While Chapter 5 may be one of the shortest chapters in my book, The Widower’s Journey, it is, in my view, the most powerful. It also receives the greatest number of favorable comments from readers. I pray it serves you well.)

This chapter was written for those who seek to help their healing through spirituality. I’ll share views and stories from our team of contributing widowers on the role their religious and spiritual beliefs had in their journeys, and how it eased their grief. Readers will also be introduced to our team of religious experts, including two Christian ministers, one Rabbi, and a Roman Catholic priest. Though I found comfort in my faith and will encourage widowers to renew and deepen their faith to help their recoveries, this is an honest look at religion. Some widowers will openly express their anger toward God and their reasons for discontinuing the practice of their faith.

Just as we said in Chapter 2, there isn’t one path to working through grief, there is no one path for healing through faith. As Rabbi Alexis Pearce tells us, “spirituality is a very delicate, personal and intimate thing.” So if you’re reading this book to help a widower you know, and you feel religion might do him some good, suggest it gingerly. Maybe invite him to play a round of golf in your church golf league, or ask him to help you with a church volunteer project.

The Bible speaks plainly on the help God gives those who grieve. Pastor Doug Fultz believes God is especially close to people who are heartbroken. He quoted Psalm 3:19 to me: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” which comforted me. And the Bible calls upon the religious community to help those who have lost someone dear. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). And we of faith

are comforted that the Bible assures us that someday we will be reunited with our loved ones in heaven.

I cannot put into words the role of faith in healing our spiritual wounds better than Pastor Ken Hagin. Pastor Hagin says that at its most powerful, faith helps us establish a personal relationship with God. “It is within personal relationships that we experience loss, and consequently, it is within personal relationships where we find comfort and, more importantly, personal peace. God wants to be the provider of the peace that is being sought; so as we continue on our journey through the most difficult times in our lives, we need to remember it is not in the inanimate rules of religion where one finds comfort but through a personal relationship with God.”

I learned how widowers found many different ways for their faith to help them. Widower Quentin Strode, a man of religious strength, says: “Through the tough times, based on my religious beliefs, I know I will see my beloved Shanda again.

_____________________

The Widower’s Journey is available on Amazon.com in paperback and all digital formats.

Categories
Children Family Giving Support Grief/Dispair

A Widower’s Letter

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Widower Ed Hersh (Texas) shares a powerful letter he wrote following the passing of his beautiful bride, Shellie.  Ed’s letter speaks volumes about the plight of the 2.7 million widowers in America.  He has authorized me to share it with you below.

“Hi Bernie,

“It was very nice of you to call me yesterday afternoon. You sounded perplexed when I told you that I am still on a roller coaster.  I thought that writing might be easier for me to attempt to share what I am going through and how my life has been permanently impacted.

“Loosing Dad and Shellie a month apart of each other has been more than most people can handle, myself included.  You know that Dad and I were very close.  Shellie and I were married just months short of 25 years—an accomplishment by all standards of today.

“In May, Jonathan graduated college, an event that Shellie had been looking forward to for the last three years.  It was one of two goals she set to live for when she was diagnosed in April, 2008.  Watching Jonathan march in procession and receive his diploma was both joyful and tearful.  The dinner Shellie and I planned in Dallas went on as planned, but not without tears.  No way could I have had a party at the house to honor Jonathan having just lost Shellie.

“Life as a single parent is not easy as I’m sure you have heard from Belinda.  Being a single parent of children who have lost their mother is even more difficult.  We will go through life celebrating more graduations, engagements, weddings, births and bar mitzvahs—all joyous but without their mother who died at a young age.

“After being together for 25 years, I am now without my partner and lost.  Marriage is the joining of two halves to make a whole and I am now half again.  Who am I and what do I want?  I don’t know. 

“I am alone, don’t want to burden my sons and am lonely, yet not ready for large social gatherings.  I go to shul weekly for Kaddish for Dad and Shellie, yet I leave with an empty and unfilled inner self.  I have seen counselors and rabbis.  Yet I am unable to truly communicate and receive the words of solace that I seek.  Had I only lost one I would have had the other to truly comfort me.  Now, there is no one.  I am told that it takes time and I’m sure that that is true.  My world has turned inside out and I am searching–for what I don’t know, but am told that I will know when I find it.  Friends and acquaintances can not understand, not that I expect them to, but they have abandoned me for many reasons: not knowing what to say or my regressing inward or not wanting a single person in the mix or whatever, I don’t know. 

“Anyhow, I did appreciate your call and thanks for listening.

“Ed” 

THANK YOU Ed for sharing your words with those who turn to the Widower’s Support Network for understanding and comfort.

Categories
Giving Support

Why Widowers Grieve Differently, and Some Resources To Help

By: Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey

Widowers are vulnerable. Very vulnerable! In fact, according to research performed by Dr. Justin Denney of Washington State University, widowed men have a 1.6 to 2.0 times the risk of death by suicide, compared to otherwise similar married men, and they’ll do so within two years of their wife’s death. Still, other research suggests the rate may be even higher. And that’s just the beginning. Widowers have an increased rate of diabetes, hypertension and more.

Widowers are at risk of being diagnosed with depression, which can negatively impact virtually every aspect of their lives. From raising children to maintaining their career, handling personal finances to ongoing relationships with others, and yes, dating, the challenges are many. Sadly, few men are equipped to handle any of these.

“If we’re all going to die, why is it that we are so ill-prepared to deal with it?” said John Von Der Haar (68) who lost his wife Mary Jane in 2013. Good question.

While there is no cut and dry answer, there are clues we can point to which have contributed to the problems widowers face.

Social Norms About Men and Grieving

From the time little boys are learning to walk, they are repeatedly told how “boys don’t cry” or “Be a man!” Much like our fathers and grandfathers who came back from wars, and rarely spoke of their days in uniform, many widowed men don’t believe they are allowed to cry or grieve outside of the shadows of our society. It is as though they are seeking permission to grieve. Until they feel they can, they hold their feelings mostly to themselves, offering common phrases such as “I’m OK, just leave me alone with my thoughts.”

When family, friends, and colleagues leave a widower alone, they are contributing to the creation of an environment that is likely to make the widower’s grief more challenging to navigate. Frankly, it is the worst thing that can happen.

Widowers and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Master Sergeant Chris Sweet – USAF (ret) has worked with military personnel who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. When asked if he thought widowers are at risk of a PTSD diagnosis following the loss of their spouse, Sweet said, “Absolutely.

Sweet should know, he lost his wife Danielle (30) who contracted Leukemia in 2009, after the U.S. Air Force deployed her to Afghanistan.

According to Sweet, “All of the symptoms PTSD sufferers experience are exactly what I went through following the passing of Danielle. It’s no different.”

Men need a purpose. To provide, protect and love their mate. When a wife dies, many men seem to lose their reason for living, providing the basis from which other problems can grow.

Limited Support and Resources for Widowers

With so many problems facing widowers, you would think there would be a host of self-help materials available for them. I felt so too when in 2008, I visited a large box bookstore retailer following the death of my wife, Michelle to pancreatic cancer. “Mister, we don’t have a damn thing for you.” These were the words spoken to me by the clerk after he had searched his store’s database for available titles.

The fact is, the publishing industry has abandoned men by their refusal to publish books which address the needs of men. Men don’t buy books,” multiple publishers have told me. My response: “Men certainly can’t buy what isn’t on the shelf.”

The Widower’s Journey – A Book For Widowers

For all of the reasons cited and more, I elected to leave my 38-year career in banking and dedicated my life to the comfort and support of widowers. After nine years of research and writing, I published The Widower’s Journey in 2017.

The Widower’s Journey is a self-help book for widowers and those who love them, featuring the candid advice and best practices as expressed by over forty contributing widowers. The book’s contributors hail from across America and represent a cross-section of social, economic and geographic backgrounds, as well as a variety of circumstances surrounding the passing of their wives. Supporting the contributing widowers is a team of experts from the fields of law, psychology, sociology, financial planning, religion and more.

If you are a widower, or should you know a widower that you want to comfort or assist, The Widower’s Journey is the perfect guide to give them. Available on Amazon.com in paperback and in all digital formats.

Widowers Support Network (WSN)

You will also find additional support available at Widowers Support Network, (WSN). There are four ways to access the resources WSN makes available, all of which are free.

  1. “Register” on the WSN website at www.WidowersSupportNetwork.com. Loaded with helpful information, and a BLOG on its homepage where you are invited to present your personal questions or share one or more of your best practices with our community of widowers and their supporters.
  • “Like” Widowers Support Network on Facebook. Registered members on our website (#1 above) are invited to have their deceased spouse “Remembered” during the anniversary month of their passing on this Facebook page complete with your spouse’s photograph.
  • “Follow” us on Twitter @WidowersJourney – An excellent source for more healing resources.

By completing all four steps, you will receive numerous comforting suggestions, time-sensitive grief recovery tips and best practices from widowed men and various experts.

You are encouraged to write me at herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com or by contacting my office at 615.579.8136.

Categories
Addiction Health

WSN: Talking About Your Health

Image may contain: ‎text that says '‎קס MAYO CLINIC HEALTH SYSTEM‎'‎

Think On This. If it sounds familiar, seek help.

My Opioid Addiction

Posted by jdiakiw @jdiakiw

My body is my major negative asset. I am riddled with pain. At a 5, 6 or 7 out of 10 on my pain scale, I still function normally, just living through it. At a 10, I suffer in bed. As a youth I had occasional, classic aural/nausea migraines. They became more frequent and less severe, till they morphed into chronic daily headaches. Knee pain resulted in a knee replacement. But arthritis continues to attack my lower back and neck. My piriformis muscles too, add to the relentless pain.I probably saw a hundred medical practitioners from both traditional medicine,-pain or neurology specialists, to alternative treatment, from acupuncture to cupping. Nothing worked except drugs… especially when Oxycodone was introduced to the medical market.My doctor was very enthusiastic. There was a medical mantra they all bought into that was clearly promoted by the drug company.They believed that there was a difference between those who used Oxycodone for recreational use who could be addicted, but if used for pain and no high was experienced, you could not become addicted, you were only ‘dependent’. I never experienced any high on opioids. Somehow it was assumed that ‘dependent’ was a mild issue that could be easily rectified if necessary. You could just quit anytime. I started with Percocets a few times a day. It soon was not enough. My doc prescribed Oxycontin. It was soon not enough. A friend had a Fentanyl patch. My doc said he only prescribed a patch for terminal cancer patients. He upped the Oxycontin dose… again… and again. I continued to complain of pain. Finally he added a Fentanyl patch. I began taking 160 mg of combined Oxycontin and Percocets, plus the patch.I was a drug addict. I remember driving up the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto, in bumper to bumper, stop and go, rush hour traffic, in a drug stupor. I fell asleep at a pause and was only awakened by car horns urging me to move on. It was time to stop.A pain specialist advised moving into a residential rehab facility. I opted for the do-it-yourself option. I researched the process and decided to do it on my own. It took me 6 months to get off the opioids. I asked my wife what it was like when I was getting off the drug. “You lost your mind. You kept saying to everyone you saw the Buddha on the road. You wandered up and down the beach at the cottage buttonholing people and talking nonsense and breaking down crying.”My cottage neighbor, a doctor, who observed me in this state, called it ‘ebullient emotion’, typical when patients have strokes or when in shock. I burst into bouts of convulsive weeping without any reason. I did that frequently during my detox.I reduced my dose by 5 mg a week. It was agony. After a couple of months the detox twisted my mind. I was nearly mad. Even when I was down to 5 mg per day it was excruciating. I wanted to give up and get a strong dose, but I persisted.I remember talking to Laurie, a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart in Penetanguishene and asked her if there was anything I could take to get me over the agony on my last 5mg. She asked how much I had reduced from. “160 mg and a Fentanyl patch,” I replied.“On your own?’ she asked, incredulously.“Yes,” I said.“That’s unheard of,” she said. Her face signaled shock.Every time I hear one of many current statistical opioid stories on TV, I am reminded of my addiction and detox. For example: * There were 2,833 opioid related deaths in Ontario last year. * In the USA, there were more than 70,200 overdose deaths in just 2017. More than 130 people died every day from opioid- related drug overdoses.On TV as I wrote this, someone declared, “One hundred people die from gun violence in the USA every day”. 130 from opioids! 100 from gun violence! Are these not preventable?I have been free of opioids for a few years now. The pain persists but I am better off than where I was. My wife had nightmares about my drugged period. “I thought we were going to lose you.” I am still here.By the way, I really did see the Buddha on the road.

Categories
Moving Forward

Widower: It Will Never Be the Same Again!

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One of the hardest intellectual and emotional tipping points to achieve in a widower’s healing grief journey is when you turn your thought away from the past toward the future. 

Five years ago, I began my grief journey. For several months I was buried in stomach wrenching physical and mental pain which included my constantly looking backwards. During this time, I first reluctantly, and then willingly experienced pain I had never had before.

I did everything I could to hold on to my wife and her memories. This included talking to her, listening to old taped messages, burying myself in our old photos, and engaging in memorial projects for her such as reorganizing her craft room… as if I expected her to return and use it again.

During this time, I could not accept her death. In my mind, she was still with me despite all the evidence to the contrary. At every turn I wondered what she would advise me to do, I wondered if she could still hear or see me, and I wondered if she was somehow still by my side.

I sleep-walked through the motions of settling all our legal, accounting, and personal affairs such as:

  • changing the names on all our accounts, titles, and wills,
  • notifying everyone of her passing,
  • selling her car, and
  • clearing out her closets, drawers, and knick knacks.

But eventually I came to a point where I realized that I had to change my focus from the past (where I was repeatedly revisiting the pain) to the future when I might start to live and enjoy life again. 

As I was in the middle of starting up a Men’s Grief Group at Pathways Hospice, I met with Joe Maio who started a similar group in Colorado Springs. The first thing he told me was to hold on to one fact, “It will never be the same again.” He told me that once you accept this fact you can begin the healing process. I took this to heart and made it a mantra repeated at every meeting of our Men’s Grief Group.

This acceptance of your new reality, this acceptance that she will never return, and this acceptance of your loss allows you to shift your focus from the pain to the healing. You are not suddenly well because of this realization, but you are able to begin the work of becoming more whole again.

Does that mean that she is no longer a part of your life? No! As I say in my book (Widower to Widower), “My belief is that, for us to move forward, we need to know that we do not have to leave anyone behind.”

You can hold on to her memory, you can still love her, and you can still honor her. But that does not mean constantly dwelling on the past as you did during the early deep grieving phase. It does mean that you will make room for new activities, new people in your life, and new ways to celebrate life going forward.

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

—————————————————————————————-

Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon.

See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower

Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon U.S.

(In Canada go to: Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada)

(In U.K. and Ireland go to: Widower to Widower – Amazon UK)

Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair

Widower: Self-Isolation – What Now With COVID-19?

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If you are a recent widower, this blog is for you!

Widowers often are advised to avoid self-isolation. It is harmful to our physical and mental health. Fear, anger, doubt, and depression can run rampant. Destructive behaviors, such as alcoholism and drug use, are common. This can lead to alienation from our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. 

We are told to get out, try new activities, meet new people, and reach out to those who still love us and are in our life. All of this is critical to eventual healing.

But now we are being forced to isolate-in-place due to COVID–19. So, how the hell are we supposed to heal now?

Just when we are most vulnerable, just when we need human contact the most, and just when everything in our body and mind is screaming at us to hunker down and hide from everyone… then we have this COVID-19 crisis come along and force us to self-isolate.

Many of our friends, family, and acquaintances are unlikely to reach out to us, as they are often afraid that they are imposing on us and our grief… or afraid they will say the wrong thing. So, I am going to tell you something you might think is counter-intuitive:

IT IS UP TO YOU TO REACH OUT TO THEM, NOW MORE THAN EVER!

Because now you may not be able to:

  • have dinner with your family, 
  • go out for a beer with your friends, 
  • attend church,
  • go to work, 
  • eat out at a restaurant, or
  • participate in group hikes, dances, ball games, or other activities.

Here are a few options to help keep you engaged with others: 

  • call (video call if possible) at least one person each day and have a real conversation,
  • text and email friends and family daily,
  • communicate with others through Facebook,
  • exchange ideas on how you are dealing with the crisis,
  • view humorous or inspiring Facebook posts dealing with our situation, such as Laura Clery  
  • join online video groups now being offered through Meetup

Also, consider some activities to help you through this:

  • Exercise, exercise, exercise – and eat right
  • Meditation – you have time to try one of many free ones on Youtube
  • Reduce Stress – read or listen to people like Eckhart Tolle 
  • Change your routine – mix it up
  • Keep the television or music on to fill the void
  • Find a home project that keeps you occupied and feels good to finish (write a book)
  • Plan one positive thing for the future, such as a road trip to visit family or old friends, that gives you something amazing to look forward to.

You might also identify some people in your neighborhood who need help, such as picking up groceries for them. Take a walk in your area and pick up trash. Go pull some weeds, which can be a very therapeutic project. 

In other words, find new ways to maintain your contact with others and to be active. DO NOT use this pandemic as an excuse to take your isolation to a new level! Reach out to others; don’t wait for them to reach out to you. 

P.S. Please take a moment and share your ideas on how to un-isolate while in isolation!

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved


——————————————————————-

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Children Family Giving Support

Helping Your Children

An Excerpt from The Widower’s Journey (Taken from Chapter 10)

As I said at the beginning of this chapter, grief means we’ve been cut off from a relationship that brought us all kinds of emotional benefits. Part of our recovery is finding sources of emotional support that will help assuage the sting of that loss.

For us men, that’s often a tough thing to do. This was driven home to me in the spring of 2014 when a friend of mine, retired minister Paul Hubley, arranged for me to meet with a group of widowers, each a resident of the Elim Park facility in Cheshire, Connecticut. After speaking to the gathering of widowers about my loss and trials, I was amazed how engaged the men became. The men shared stories, and tears flowed as each man recounted his loss and the pain he had carried—for many of these men, it was the first time they had spoken of their feelings, and it was obvious they felt better for sharing them with other widowers. It was one of the most moving experiences I had while working on this book.

On my trip home, it hit me that widowers need permission to grieve and to share. Today, most do not feel they have permission, or they fear that others will think less of them as a man if they expose their grief. For that single reason, one widower I spoke with decided not to participate in this book. He was afraid that once he revealed his story and his emotions, others would see him as weak.

I admit that I didn’t reach out as soon as I should have for all the support and fellowship I needed. I recall one day, as I worked at my desk at the bank, one of the employees from the bank’s call center entered my office with her brow furrowed by concern. She quietly told me how “everyone on the floor misses your laughter.” That helped me see myself from a different vantage, and thanks to that caring soul I began to realize that I was not in a good place physically or emotionally. I realized I needed help, and I resolved to find it.

Men don’t need to go it alone. Those who have friends and family should reach out to them. For those who don’t have loved ones nearby or who don’t feel comfortable asking friends and family for assistance, there are other services available. Hospice, which provides comfort care and support to dying patients, also can be an important source of support and empathy for care giving husbands and widowers. For instance, hospice offered widower Rod Hagen counseling for one year following the loss of his partner, Larry. Every ten days or so, the same man would call Rod, so he had someone to speak with—someone who understood what he was going through. Rod added, “The hospice volunteer ended up calling me for nearly two years. I wasn’t asked to come to some meeting and sit with a group of strangers and talk about my loss. Hospice was great. I also had a couple of close friends who were there when I needed to talk, and even when I didn’t need to talk but I didn’t want to be alone.”

Widowers need a support network. I refer to them as a widower’s Personal Advisory Board. They could be a team hailing from your collection of lifelong friends, neighbors, a fellow congregant from your religious community, relatives, or a select group of professionals (doctor, lawyer, financial planner, life-coach, etc.). Your Personal Advisory Board represents your go-to team, the ones you should make familiar with your life situation and allow them to advise you as needed. Forming a Personal Advisory Board is a great way to allow another person who is also grieving over the loss of your wife to offer their support. You could even say it would be therapeutic for both of you.

Fellowship with other widowers through a widower group, or even with just a single widower, can be a valuable part of your Personal Advisory Board. Widower Chris Sweet tells us how he reached out and found one of his old high school buddies who had also lost his wife. “He and I used to play basketball together but lost touch after graduation. When his wife died, I felt horrible for him. I remember how I didn’t know what to say to him. After some time, I found myself thinking how, given his loss, he was aware of what I was going through, and might be able to help me make sense out of what was going on with me. We spoke on the phone and exchanged e-mails. That was what I needed to keep me going.”

Check for widower support groups at local churches, hospitals, and hospices. Or you may want to check out groups through www.nationalwidowers.org. Let me also recommend you register with the Widower’s Support Network’s FREE private Facebook page for widowers, caregivers and men experiencing a loss. We also invite good nature men who wish to offer their encouragement to those we serve.  At the Widowers Support Network, our mission is to comfort and assist widowers by offering free services. See “Widowers Support Network – Members Only” on Facebook.  We also offer a public Facebook page for all others to enjoy.  See “Widowers Support Network” on Facebook.

Other resources that might be of help to widowers include www.onetoanother.org, a service that enables men and women who have experienced loss to meet, and www.widowedvillage.org, which connects widows and widowers for friendship and sharing.

In my research, I also discovered that a pet can be a great source of comfort during a time of grief. After personally witnessing the effect that animals can have, I became a believer. But rather than go into that here—I know pets are not for everyone—I’ve written up my research in Appendix III.

______________________________________________

The Widower’s Journey is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobles and elsewhere in paperback ($14.95)  and all digital formats. Members of WSN-MO enjoy 15% off if purchased directly from the WSN. To do so, write herb@widowerssupportnetwork.com

Categories
Camaraderie Giving Support Grief/Dispair Widower Awareness

Reaching for Help

An Excerpt from The Widower’s Journey (Taken from Chapter 2)

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As I said at the beginning of this chapter, grief means we’ve been cut off from a relationship that brought us all kinds of emotional benefits. Part of our recovery is finding sources of emotional support that will help assuage the sting of that loss.

For us men, that’s often a tough thing to do. This was driven home to me in the spring of 2014 when a friend of mine, retired minister Paul Hubley, arranged for me to meet with a group of widowers, each a resident of the Elim Park facility in Cheshire, Connecticut. After speaking to the gathering of widowers about my loss and trials, I was amazed how engaged the men became. The men shared stories, and tears flowed as each man recounted his loss and the pain he had carried—for many of these men, it was the first time they had spoken of their feelings, and it was obvious they felt better for sharing them with other widowers. It was one of the most moving experiences I had while working on this book.

On my trip home, it hit me that widowers need permission to grieve and to share.Today, most do not feel they have permission, or they fear that others will think less of them as a man if they expose their grief. For that single reason, one widower I spoke with decided not to participate in this book. He was afraid that once he revealed his story and his emotions, others would see him as weak.

I admit that I didn’t reach out as soon as I should have for all the support and fellowship I needed. I recall one day, as I worked at my desk at the bank, one of the employees from the bank’s call center entered my office with her brow furrowed by concern. She quietly told me how “everyone on the floor misses your laughter.” That helped me see myself from a different vantage, and thanks to that caring soul I began to realize that I was not in a good place physically or emotionally. I realized I needed help, and I resolved to find it.

Men don’t need to go it alone. Those who have friends and family should reach out to them. For those who don’t have loved ones nearby or who don’t feel comfortable asking friends and family for assistance, there are other services available. Hospice, which provides comfort care and support to dying patients, also can be an important source of support and empathy for care giving husbands and widowers. For instance, hospice offered widower Rod Hagen counseling for one year following the loss of his partner, Larry. Every ten days or so, the same man would call Rod, so he had someone to speak with—someone who understood what he was going through. Rod added, “The hospice volunteer ended up calling me for nearly two years. I wasn’t asked to come to some meeting and sit with a group of strangers and talk about my loss. Hospice was great. I also had a couple of close friends who were there when I needed to talk, and even when I didn’t need to talk but I didn’t want to be alone.”

Widowers need a support network. I refer to them as a widower’s Personal Advisory Board. They could be a team hailing from your collection of lifelong friends, neighbors, a fellow congregant from your religious community, relatives, or a select group of professionals (doctor, lawyer, financial planner, life-coach, etc.). Your Personal Advisory Board represents your go-to team, the ones you should make familiar with your life situation and allow them to advise you as needed. Forming a Personal Advisory Board is a great way to allow another person who is also grieving over the loss of your wife to offer their support. You could even say it would be therapeutic for both of you.

Fellowship with other widowers through a widower group, or even with just a single widower, can be a valuable part of your Personal Advisory Board. Widower Chris Sweet tells us how he reached out and found one of his old high school buddies who had also lost his wife. “He and I used to play basketball together but lost touch after graduation. When his wife died, I felt horrible for him. I remember how I didn’t know what to say to him. After some time, I found myself thinking how, given his loss, he was aware of what I was going through, and might be able to help me make sense out of what was going on with me. We spoke on the phone and exchanged e-mails. That was what I needed to keep me going.”

Check for widower support groups at local churches, hospitals, and hospices. Or you may want to check out groups through www.nationalwidowers.org. Let me also recommend you register with the Widower’s Support Network’s FREE private Facebook page for widowers, caregivers and men experiencing a loss. We also invite good nature men who wish to offer their encouragement to those we serve.  At the Widowers Support Network, our mission is to comfort and assist widowers by offering free services. See “Widowers Support Network – Members Only” on Facebook.  We also offer a public Facebook page for all others to enjoy.  See “Widowers Support Network” on Facebook.

Other resources that might be of help to widowers include www.onetoanother.org, a service that enables men and women who have experienced loss to meet, and www.widowedvillage.org, which connects widows and widowers for friendship and sharing.

In my research, I also discovered that a pet can be a great source of comfort during a time of grief. After personally witnessing the effect that animals can have, I became a believer. But rather than go into that here—I know pets are not for everyone—I’ve written up my research in Appendix III.

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The Widower’s Journey is available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobles and elsewhere in paperback ($14.95)  and all digital formats. Members of WSN-MO enjoy 15% off if purchased directly from the WSN. To do so, write herb@widowerssupportnetwork.com

Categories
Faith/Religion Giving Support

Tom Nate, A Good Hearted Man

tomathius nate
tom nate

Tom Nate is not a widower. Rather, Tom Nate is a walking miracle. A resident of San Antonio, Texas, Tom is a man who has endured much and is eager to give forward by supporting the members of WSN.

You say you have troubles.  Read the account of Tom Nate’s story as written by Kihm Winship.  Then tell me how your day is going. Don’t miss out.  You’ll be glad you took the time to read the story of this truly remarkable man.

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The Remarkable Story Of Tom Nate… A Walking Miracle

A native Texan raised in Houston; Tom Nate started life with a lung disorder, but he didn’t let it slow him down. In spite of childhood bouts of pneumonia, he was active in sports, graduated from college, and went on to a successful career in business. True, he might have gotten a little out of breath from time to time, but he grew accustomed to it.

However, in 2002, when he was 48 years old, two things happened that would change Tom’s life. First, he became the father of a son. And second, his shortness of breath became a constant challenge. By the time his son was an active three-year-old, Tom was tied to an oxygen tank, and on the waiting list for a double lung transplant.

Tom talks a lot about miracles, and an early miracle in this story was that his employer’s health insurance provided full coverage for transplants. The closest participating hospital was in St. Louis, and in 2007, Tom received a new set of lungs. He was in surgery for 14 hours, and in a coma for six days, but he got well, and three months later he was back home in Texas.

Through all of this, Tom wanted everything to be as normal as possible for his wife and son. His boy was now four years old and more active than ever. Tom wanted to be active with him. However, eight months after he returned to Texas, his lungs rejected.

The doctors told him that finding another matching donor would be difficult; in fact, there was just a 2% chance due to antibody issues resulting from the first transplant surgery. Not sure whether he should try for another transplant, Tom and his wife prayed for 40 days. Their answers started revealing themselves as what Tom calls “a whole bunch of miracles “began happening. An offer of an airplane to take them to St. Louis. Housing opportunities in St. Louis. A school for their son, with tuition, paid anonymously by another family hearing of Tom’s struggle to live. Those were answers to Tom and Irma’s prayers,and they decided to move forward.

When Tom and his family relocated to St. Louis in October of 2008 to await another transplant, Tom’s doctor told him he had six months to live. Tom and his wife focused on prayer and on keeping his son’s life as normal as possible. Tom went to rehab every day, accompanied by his oxygen tank, to stay strong for the possible surgery.

On New Year’s Day, 2009, Tom was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance barely able to breathe; his lung function was down to 12%. His doctor told him that he had two weeks to live, at most. Tom’s lungs had quit making oxygen and, worse, were unable to clear the CO2 from his blood. The same evening his doctor gave the terrible news, Tom went into cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, and kidney failure.

His wife Irma was called to the hospital and told Tom would not make it through the night, and she should just “let him go and not resuscitate him.” His wife refused and told the doctors that “it was not their decision whether Tom lived or died but God’s decision.” But the doctors said they could not put him on a ventilator unless they had his written permission. His wife, doing her best to stay in control, screamed at Tom to wake up. His eyes opened, and she asked him if he wanted to live or “let go.” Gasping for air and unable to speak, Tom reached up and squeezed his wife’s arm; a tear fell from his left eye. The doctors accepted that as a “Yes.” They put a tracheotomy in his throat and attached a ventilator to him. He would be unable to speak until new donor lungs were located, and another transplant surgery was performed.

For the next three weeks, Tom was unconscious in the Intensive Care Unit. Four more times, the doctors tried to convince Tom’s wife to let him go. However, she said, “If God wants him, God will take him.” Unconscious, Tom fought through cardiac arrest, kidney failure, a staph infection, and reactions to drugs. Tom remembers asking God to “take him home” and having out-of-body experiences, leaving his body and the hospital room behind, rising into brilliant colors, beautiful music, but hearing a voice that said, “It’s not your time yet; you have a son to raise.”

When Tom woke up, he had “tubes everywhere.” Unable to move, he told himself that he would start over at square one. The first thing he did was get a pen and paper and write down his recollections of the out of body experiences, sobbing as he wrote. Tom has total belief that God intervened and spared his life, answering all the thousands of prayers offered by so many on Tom’s behalf. He had to relearn to walk. Still tied to the ventilator, he needed an electric larynx to speak. Doctors predicted his kidneys would never work again and counseled his wife on the reality of Tom living on dialysis. But 20 days after he woke from his three-week sleep, Tom’s kidneys started working again. His body, swollen to twice its normal size from all the fluid in him, began to return slowly to normal. He had to work with physical therapists each day not only to walk but to learn to eat and bathe and dress. One day, he walked five feet. The next day, ten feet. It was grueling at times, but after three months, he walked out of the ICU.

With a portable ventilator and a scooter, Tom was able to leave the hospital and return to his family’s apartment. His job was to stay alive until a transplant could be arranged. He learned to do for himself what the nurses had been doing for him. When he asked his doctors how long he could go on, they replied, “We don’t know. Nobody’s ever done this” (having lived on a ventilator outside the hospital while waiting for a double lung transplant).

Tom and his wife again focused on their son, prayed, kept up with distant friends on Facebook, and he drew strength from his wife, who was a “rock.” Tom’s Caring Bridge website amassed over 1000 followers who were also praying for him and his family each day. One very good friend, named Jon, was the ultimate prayer warrior, staying by Tom’s side praying the entire time Tom was in ICU. When Tom first opened his eyes after his three-week sleep, Jon was praying beside his bed.

There were many tough days, but all days were good as Tom was able to stay alive. Tom and his family waited 18 months for a telephone call that a donor had been found. At one a.m., on September 19, 2010, the hospital called to say they

had a perfect match, but it was from a “high risk” donor, a 21-year-old who had traded sex for drugs; Tom could reject those lungs if he wanted to wait for another donor. Tom and Irma got on their knees and prayed for God to send a sign that this was the right donor. After praying, his wife called a retired doctor friend of theirs back in Texas for some guidance, and she told him that Tom was hearing from God to “move forward, ” but

Irma felt very nervous about the high-risk lungs from the donor. Tom had told her that the entire journey had been “high risk” and their doctor friend in Texas also said,

“Irma, all of this is high risk.” That was Irma’s confirmation. Tom tells about the difference between the first and second transplant surgeries: Before his first surgery, Tom had sought to control all of the variables. This time, he said, it was “trust God. He is in control!” The surgery was a go!

Because it would take too long to shift ventilators and load Tom into the family car, he took his scooter down the elevator, out onto the street, and drove four blocks to the hospital with his son on his lap at three a.m., and to the side of a waiting bed. The nurses had never seen that before. Moreover, then he was taken into surgery a three p.m. on September 20th.

Tom awoke as they were wheeling him back into his room 6 hours later. Four hours after the surgery, he sat up. When his wife came in, he smiled and waved as she walked down the hall. He sat up when asked to by the nurse, and several hours later stood up and walked also. Within three days, he was walking laps around the ICU. After one week, he was up to six laps and noticed that the nurse accompanying him was beginning to perspire. After two weeks, he left the hospital. It had been a journey of more than two years, during which Tom never gave up hope and faith that God had a plan for him.

Today, Tom is 58 years old and coaches his son’s football, basketball, and baseball teams. On the day I spoke to him, he had pitched an hour of batting practice. “I have no bad days,” he said. “It’s all part of the journey.”

In thinking about the support he and his family received, Tom recalled a practice that his wife started while in St. Louis. Every time he or the family witnessed a miracle from either God or from people God placed in their lives to help at special times Tom’s wife, Irma, would put a pink post-it note on the mirror in the dining room, as a reminder of all the blessings they were receiving while on this journey. One day Irma counted them and found there were 140 notes on the dining room wall mirror!

Tom has spoken to hundreds of people about the power of hope, the power of prayer, the miracle of the body that God created. When he visits the hospital in St. Louis for an annual checkup, he spends two days on tests, and the rest of his visit talking to patients and rehabilitation specialists, offering encouragement. “I promised God I would do all that I could for others that are suffering from terrible lung disease,” he said.

Tom gives all credit to God, family, friends, and faith for his survival. “With God all things are possible.” Tom is always looking forward, never looking back, never losing hope, he counts himself as “supremely blessed.” And every day, he strives to be a blessing to others.

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Copyright: Michelle’s Angels Foundation, Inc. 2013

Founded by Herb Knoll