Categories
Giving Support

Why Widowers Grieve Differently, and Some Resources To Help

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

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
Giving Support Grief/Dispair

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

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
anticipatory grief

Anticipatory Grief – An Early On-Ramp to One’s Grief Journey

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

By Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey

Loss of a spouse or a life-partner can occur suddenly as in the case of a drug overdose, an auto accident, or someone falling down a flight of stairs. Some spouses are lost to their families following a prolonged illness such as cancer, dementia, or Multiple Sclerosis, leaving the door open for survivors to experience anticipatory grief. As the founder of the Widowers Support Network, I have witnessed members frequently debate which scenario is more comfortable with the survivors. The jury is still out. 

Sudden death may deprive loved ones of the opportunity to say good-bye, to reconcile a long-standing dispute, or to say “I love you” to the deceased.  Conversely, anticipatory grief has its own set of pluses and minuses. Writing for the Journal of Palliative Care, Therese A. Rando wrote: “… in the area of anticipatory grief, the caregiver has the golden opportunity to use primary prevention strategies and to make therapeutic interventions that may facilitate appropriate grief work and a more positive post-death bereavement experience for the survivor-to-be.” A period of anticipatory grief provides family and loved ones the time to get used to the reality of the impending death gradually. 

Perhaps this is why, after serving as a caregiver for thirty-nine months, I did not shed a tear while attending my deceased wife’s Celebration of Life. After all, I had been experiencing anticipatory grief for thirty-nine months. Each morning, and before I would even open my eyes, I would think to myself, my wife is dying, and I need to give her another good day. 

Dr. William C. Shiel (MedicineNet) cautions: “Although anticipatory grief may help the family, the dying person may experience too much grief, causing the patient to become withdrawn.”

The view of some soon-to-be mourners is that anticipatory grief is a sign of abandonment of the dying patient, leaving in the aftermath of the patient’s passing, a sense of unwarranted guilt by the survivor, perhaps for years to come.  Moreover, one shouldn’t assume that by their experiencing anticipatory grief, they will automatically experience a lessen amount of pain following the eventual passing of their loved one, as each survivor’s grief journey is unique. Anticipatory grief entrenches itself into a caregiver’s daily life, absence of any fanfare, or noted entry. The soon to be survivor will be burned with having to carry any fear associated with their anticipatory grief as well as its emotional weight each day, each hour, each minute. 

One occasion I experienced anticipatory grief occurred about two months before my wife died, as I was sitting at a traffic light at the corner of 1604 and Blanco Rd., in San Antonio, Texas. As I glanced to my right, I noticed a grey-haired elderly couple in the car next to me. As I gazed upon them, it struck me how lucky they were to have been able to enjoy their senior years together, and how I was not going to be so fortunate. At the time, I felt cheated. Little did I realize that the human heart is capable of loving again and that I would discover love and marry years later.         

Commenting on his experience with anticipatory grief, widower Joe Netzel of Cincinnati, Ohio, said, “My 

mind tended to drift toward the possibility Tracey might not win her battle with breast cancer when I had  “alone time,” which usually took place in the car during my weekly trip to and from the grocery store, and when I had a private moment to think/ponder/wonder/tremble about life without her.” 

Widower Mike Simons of Cleburne, Texas, lost his wife Amy in May of 2019, self-discovered he was “pre-grieving” when he found himself needing to visit with a financial advisor, a lawyer, and ministers.  

“I cried in the shower or the car when running errands so I could be strong for the family.”           

Dr. Shiel adds, “Expecting the loss often makes the attachment to the dying person stronger.” A feeling I can personally attest to as the thirty-nine months I served as a caregiver for my deceased wife were among the best years of our sixteen-year marriage.   

Working with hundreds of widowers from around the world, I have found that the degree of anticipatory grief or pre-grief experienced by a survivor may not only influence the severity and duration of their grief journey, it is also likely to accelerate their desire to rebuild what remains of their own life following the passing of their loved one. This may include their romantic involvement with another woman or life-partner soon after their spouse passes, an action that may risk alienating family and friends that may view such conduct as disrespectful to the deceased, if not worse.   

Caregiver Nathan Siefert of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, wife Becca is currently fighting cancer. “I’m slowly taking on more and more around the house and in our family,” said Nathan as he describes the current state of his anticipatory grief journey. “Faith has helped.  I chose at the moment to evict any intrusive worries.  I chose to focus on what is in front of me.” 

To help combat the onset of anticipatory grief, Nathan remains proactive. He works out three days each week, and he runs to keep depression at bay. He shares his fears with friends, a little bit at a time to not scare anyone away because he will need them to listen to his concerns during the dark days ahead. Nathan encourages caregivers who believe in a higher power to read Matthew 6:25-34, which reads in part, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.”

Those dealing with anticipatory grief are encouraged to see a mental health professional. During my caregiver days, I knew I needed to be on top of my game. I also knew I would be ill-advised to evaluate my mental state, yet I needed to know that I was capable of dealing with my anticipatory grief for as long as my wife needed me to do so. For her sake, as well as my own, I decided to visit with a psychologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where I was pleased to learn a trained professional thought, I was handling the rigors of being a caregiver pretty well. Nathan’s doctor prescribed a medication for anxiety for him, something just to taken some of the edge off.    

Writing for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Vince Corso suggests caregivers work through their feelings of anticipatory grief and to take time to examine unresolved issues between their loved and themselves. “Say what needs to be said,” Corso advises. Moreover, if your spouse or life partner is still well enough, settle legal and financial matters and discuss end-of-life wishes.

Anticipatory grief or pre-grief is a condition that ebbs and flows and should not be ignored; sufferers should seek medical attention. For those who think seeing a doctor is not manly, I’m here to tell you; you’re mistaken.  Seeing a doctor for a legitimate medical condition is a smart move, especially if you genuinely care about being able to serve your ailing spouse or a life partner better. 

“Some days are better than others when dealing with my anticipatory grief; the denial, the depression the bargaining and the pain,” said Nathan. “Today is a good day. Tomorrow I may be on the edge of tears as I can’t stop thinking about life without Becca.”

Categories
Dealing with Emotional Suppression Grief/Dispair Loneliness

Widowers Need To Step Out of The Shadows and Into the Light of Day

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

By Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey

Grieving men are misunderstood. And for a good reason. After all, men don’t believe they have permission to grieve in the first place. When a man experiences a loss, they frequently resort to their primitive behaviors, suggesting to those who will listen, “I’m fine,”  Oh really?  Is that why you sit in front of your TV, endlessly watching programming you have little to no interest in watching, frequently falling asleep in your darkened home, and your half-finished pre-fab frozen dinner resting on your belly. Is that how you define “fine?” I can relate.

For months following the passing of my wife, I would go to work at the headquarters of the bank at which I worked at 4AM (banks don’t open until 9AM).  Upon my arrival, I would tune in my favorite radio station that played one love (sad) song after another. I was usually the last to leave the bank about 7PM, just in time to get home to another tasteless meal I stockpiled in my freezer, just to do it all again the next morning. This went on for four months until one day, a young female staff member entered my office with an important message for me. “The entire floor misses your laughter.” WHOA!  Say that again. My wake-up call had arrived. My behavior following the passing of my wife was precisely like that which I now routinely witness in others as I lead the Widowers Support Network. 

It’s as though grieving men become comfortable in their grief, seldom accepting invitations to join others attending a gathering of one sort or another, refusing to see a doctor when they experience aches and pains, including what they know to be behaviors symptomatic of one who is depressed and is at risk. Yet they will continue offering lame phrases in their own defense. Some believe they can’t expose their vulnerability and are waiting to be rescued. One widowed man once said to me, “It’s not manly to talk with you about my grief.” How sad.  

J. Scott Janssen, MSW, writing for Social Work Today offers, “I’ve known plenty of men who fit the stereotype: emotionally controlled, disinclined to talk about matters of the heart, as apt to seek out solitude as connection, focusing on action rather than talk.” Janssen adds, “there is evidence that men are more likely than women to remain silent or grieve in isolation, engage in action-oriented forms of grief expression, or lose themselves in distractions such as work or throwing themselves into a new relationship. And you have to know, more than one man has become the victim of a predator woman. 

Given time, many widowers will relive portions of their past life with their wife, including the days they served as caregivers, mentally cataloging all of the ways they failed their deceased wife, convinced she left this world thinking their husband must not have loved them. Guilt sets in… giving the widower even more reasons to cocoon, almost barracking themselves behind the draped covered windows of their home.

Yes, widowed men practice 1cocooning, a term coined in 1981 by futurist and best selling author Faith Popcorn; defined as “staying inside one’s home, insulated from perceived danger, instead of going out.” Widowed men will frequently retreat to the confines of their fortresses (aka residences), opting to “tough it out alone.”  

Men electing to cocoon place themselves at risk, of isolationism from critically needed relationships and significant health risks, increasing the likelihood of self-abuse, including the use of alcohol, legal or ill-legal drugs, and more.  As if those risks were not enough, research has shown how 65% of widowed men and women are likely to have a life-threatening illness within one year of their spouse’s death. Still, more research suggests how widowers have a suicide rate 3-4 times that of married men. Beneath these risks is the notion, many widowed men hold that their new life is devoid of relevance

Widowers and those who are concerned about a widower who may be cocooning have several options they can call upon while in search of answers.

When widower John Von Der Haar was asked, “What was the best thing that happened to you during your grief journey?,” John replied, “When I told my family and friends, ‘I’m fine, leave me alone with my thoughts, they ignored my instructions and forced their way into my life and I am so grateful they did.’” Friends and family take note: don’t let a widower cocoon.  Force your way into their life if necessary. 

Commenting in my book, The Widower’s Journey, Dr. Deborah Carr of Boston University said, 

2 “The importance of social support cannot be overstated; for widowhood as well as many other stressors we face in life, having a confidante – even just one close friend – can do a world of good.”  Carr continued, “Both close-knit friendships and confidantes can be useful for heart-to-heart talks, but we also benefit from more-casual acquaintances that are just fun.  These can be clubs, men’s groups, sports teams, and the like.” As an example, my stepson, Jacques (23 years of age at the time), and I went to a minor league baseball game with my colleagues from the Farm Bureau Bank.

Not only are activities great for social contact but they can also be a great way to establish a new identity or rediscover an old identity that might have been put on the shelf while the widower was caring for their dying wife.  For instance, widower Keith Merriam got back into the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international history group that studies and recreates Medieval European cultures and their histories. Keith also sought out and joined a community theater group.  If you enjoy painting, take an art class.  Love to read? Join a book group. Athletic? Find a softball or basketball league you can join.

Other recommended options are for you to volunteer in support of the efforts to help others stricken with the same ailment your wife suffered from. Help organize a walk/run to raise needed research funds or visit hospital rooms of those who have no one to visit them.

Still struggling with the notion of venturing beyond your front door, let your supporters know you would welcome their involvement in discovering what works for you. Remember, allowing someone else into your life, allowing them to be of service, helps them grieve too.

If you find yourself barricaded behind your four walls still, you may want to see your primary physician as you may suffer from a medical condition that requires attention. Enroll in a grief group like GriefShare.  Their program is widely available across America.  If you’re a bit shy, consider viewing Walking Through Grief, an educational nine-disc DVD series offering hope to the bereaved that you can watch in the privacy of your cocoon. See www.thegrieftoolbox.com.   

But whatever you do, cocooning widowers need to get up off their sofas, open their blinds and walk outside. 

  1. Wikipedia
  2. The Widower’s Journey 

Herb Knoll is a retired banking executive, an advocate for Widowers, professional speaker and author of the breakout book, The Widower’s Journey.  Available at Amazon.com in paperback and in all digital formats. Herb is the founder of the Widower’s Support Network (WidowersSupportNetwork.com) featuring the Widowers Support Network Members Only, a private Facebook group page for men only, and a second Facebook page which is open to the general public at Widowers Support NetworkContact Herb at herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com.     

Categories
Giving Support

Widowers – Overlook Again

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

By Herb Knoll, Author: The Widower’s Journey

When asked, few people can name even one man who has been widowed. After a few moments of additional thought, many are likely to say, “Oh wait a minute, I do know one.  He lives down the street.” When I presented the same question to a friend of mine, he failed to recall how his own father was himself widowed. As remarkable as it may appear, few Americans can name more than one U.S. president who has been widowed, yet over one-third of our presidents have been widowed (sixteen in total).  Widowed men reside in the shadows of our communities.  Want more proof?  American’s love movies – yet few can recall how actor Mel Gibson practically built his action-hero career on exacting vengeance from being a widower—not exactly a healthy way to deal with loss. He did it in the Middle Ages in Braveheart, during the Revolutionary War in The Patriot, and as a cop in Lethal Weapon, 1 through 4.  Look around you.  While you may not know a widower today, you will soon, for one in five men you know will eventually be widowed. And unless things change, they will be soon forgotten. Sadly, this failure by society to recognize those men who have been widowed, not to mention their needs has become an international norm.  

No other testament to this view was more poignant than the actions of the United Nations when on December 22, 2010, the United Nations 65th General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution establishing June 23rd as International Widows Day.  To be celebrated annually, this global day of action was intended to raise awareness about the cultural discrimination of widows. We all should applaud the actions of the United Nations in their effort to raise awareness about the needs of widows around the world, but what of the men who have been widowed?  What of their needs.

Not to diminish the pain and suffering of countless windows on all seven continents, the actions of the United Nations mirrors the efforts – or lack thereof – of societies around the world; Men are held to a different set of standards versus women after they experience the loss of a spouse.  Women are more likely to be comforted while widowed men are expected to “get over it.”  Couple the general view that men are tough and don’t need grief support with the fact that few resources are ever crafted to comfort and assist widowed males specifically, its no wonder widowers face so many significant challenges.  Challenges most are ill-prepared to deal with including substance abuse to career self-destruction, from difficulty reconciling with their higher-power to their financial ruin, isolation, grief and severe health concerns.  In addition to an increased rate of diabetes and hypertension, widowers have a suicide rate that is 3-4 times greater than that of married men.  In spite of all of these facts and more, widowed men are left primarily to their own resources.  I personally experienced this phenomenon following the death of my wife in 2008 at the age of 52, at my local Barnes and Noble bookstore.  As I approached the customer service counter, I inquired what they may have available that could help me as a new widower deal with my grief.  The clerk politely entered the word “widower” into his computer’s search engine and then looked up at me saying, “Mister, I don’t have a damn thing for you.”  You have got to be kidding me.  

It was at that precise moment I decided to write a book for widowers. The book, The Widowers Journey – Helping Men Rebuild After Their Loss (2017)(Amazon.com).  When my literary agent shopped the manuscript around over thirty New York publishers, she was repeatedly told that “Men don’t buy books.”  As a result, the publishing community doesn’t accept manuscripts written for widowed men.  Again, the needs of the widower next door are ignored.  

While the United Nations and New York’s publishers have failed widowers around the world,  they are not alone.  In the United State alone there are 2.7 million widowers with 420,000 new widowers each year.  In spite of this vast community of poorly served sufferers, our houses of worship, as well as our employers, have failed them.  From the medical community to our governments (local, state and federal), and even our friends and families, each has failed to do their part in addressing the needs of widowers everywhere.  The absence of meaningful resources, let alone awareness about the pain and suffering widowers endure is heart-wrenching, perhaps even sinful. 

And even if those who are in a position to act don’t wish to do so for humanitarian reasons, they should do so because it is in the best interest of all parties to ensure this segment of our population is healthy, functional and contributing to society. 

It begins with all interested parties doing their part starting today.  And that beginning can be on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly who, like many others, failed our world’s widowers. 

In the famous words of Gandhi, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Herb Knoll is an Advocate for Widowers, a Professional Speaker and author of the breakout book, The Widower’s Journey.  Available at Amazon.com in paperback and all digital formats.  

Email: herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com   Web: WidowersSupportNetwork.com

Facebook: Widowers Support Network Members Only and at Widowers Support Network

Categories
Faith/Religion Moving Forward

Angels Walk Among Us

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

by Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey

“Hi, my name is Richard.” Thus began my knowing a giant of a man named Richard Blount (62) as he sat down in the chair beside me. The occasion was my first meeting at GriefShare, a widely available program for those who have experienced a loss in their life.  I was attending the program as part of the research I was conducting for my then soon-to-be-released book, The Widowers Journey

I would soon come to realize that Richard, a native of Tampa, Florida, was no ordinary man. Built like a linebacker from your favorite football team, Richard is also a giant of a man in another way.  You see, Richard loves people … especially children. He loves children so much, he and his previous wife had two children, Rebecca (35), and Matthew (34). When Richard married Terri in 1991, her three children, Joshua (37), Ryan (36), and Tyler (35), joined the family.  

As deeply religious people, both Richard and Terri felt a calling from the Almighty to do more in the service of those in need. “We prayed over it,” says Richard. “We then decided to become foster parents.” Once approved by the State of Florida and over some time, Richard and Terri, opened their loving home to forty foster children. You heard me; forty. 

As any foster parent will tell you, foster parents become very attached to the children they are asked to care for as their own until the day a court orders otherwise. This sense of attachment caused Richard and Terri to adopt five of their foster children, Alex (19), Ricky (15), Sarah (14), Abigail (12), and Jacob (9), two of whom have special needs (autism and bipolar disorder). Ten children in all, each showered with love in the Richard and Terri Blount home.

When asked why he and Terri felt a need to serve as parents to ten children, Richard replied, “You’ll have to ask the Lord that question. He placed it in our hearts to care for his children.” 

Tragedy struck when Terri passed away, leaving Richard as a single Dad with 10 children, ranging in ages from 1 ½ to 30.  As a widower, Richard needed time to grieve the loss of his wife Terri, but he had little time to do so.  After all, he had ten children who needed him, a house to maintain, and a career he desperately needed to preserve if he was to provide for eleven people, including himself. Again, Richard turned to the Almighty for strength and direction. Believing no prayers go unanswered, it wouldn’t take long before Richard would meet Cheri (63).  

A widow with four children, Jenny (42), Jason (40), Lizzy (38), and Michelle (37), Cheri‘s life parallels Richard’s in several ways, including having served as a foster parent with her deceased husband Jim to over 100 foster children. Also like Richard and Terri, Cheri and Jim adopted some of their foster children, six to be exact, Lucy (24), Kayla (23), Emma (14), Daniel (12), Izabella (10) and Isaiah (9), three of whom have special needs.

“I prayed the Lord would point me in the direction of a man that I could love and who loves children,” said Cheri.  Once introduced, the chemistry between Richard and Cheri was immediate. It didn’t take long before Richard asked Cheri to marry him, bringing the total number of children in their now consolidated household to twenty. Yes… TWENTY CHILDREN, several of who have special needs.  With so many children residing in their home, one of their neighbors complained to the local authorities that Cheri and Richard were forming a “group home.” Cheri said, “I can’t help myself, I love babies, and I love God.” 

“We’re a good team,” added Cheri. Indeed. But their union did not come without significant sacrifices.  At 62 years of age, Richard is unable to retire for another ten years.  “We look at people our age who are empty nesters, enjoying their senior years realizing we won’t be able to retire until we’re in our 70s,” Cheri added.  “At times, I feel as though I have lost my identity, I had to quit my career as a nurse.” Cheri went on to say, “It was all worth it.” Richard added, “We make time for ourselves and our marriage, which includes a date night every Saturday.” He went on to add how the date may be a simple meal at a local diner or perhaps they’ll take in a movie.    

When asked what surprises arose raising 20 children, Richard said, “I’m surprised I could do it. I’ve become more humbled by the blessings I have received, including being able to provide our twenty children with a stable home and a sense of belonging to a family that loves them; I have also become closer to my Lord.” 

Today, Cheri and Richard live in suburban Orlando, Florida with nine of their twenty children, the youngest who is just nine years old, including several with special needs

Widowed, and faced with the responsibility of raising twenty children, Cheri and Richard have plenty of reasons to be angry, even jealous of others, yet they choose to celebrate the lives of their deceased spouses by gracefully touching the lives of Our Lord’s children.

Cheri and Richard didn’t stop there.  When it was time to acquire a therapy dog for their children with special needs, you guessed it, Cheri and Richard adopted a beautiful Golden Retriever named Mr. Wilson (4) from an animal rescue center. Did I mention that Richard was at the GriefShare meeting on the evening I first met him because he volunteers as one of the program’s facilitators? Some people just never stop giving to others.

Are there Angels walking among us?  Say hello to Angels Cheri and Richard Blount. 

(Ages shown are as of May 2019)

Pictured are Cheri and Richard along with 17 of their 20 children along with assorted spouses and grandchildren

Herb Knoll is a retired banking executive, an advocate for Widowers, a professional speaker and author of the breakout book, The Widower’s Journey.  Available at Amazon.com in paperback and in all digital formats. Herb is the founder of the Widower’s Support Network (WidowersSupportNetwork.com) featuring the Widowers Support Network Members Only, a private Facebook group page for men, and a second Facebook page which is open to the general public at Widowers Support NetworkContact Herb at  herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com.  

Attention Widowers and Men who are serving as Caregivers

Apply today to join the Widowers Support Network – Members Only (WSN-MO) on Facebook. WSN-MO is a FREE private page exclusively open to MEN who have lost their wife or life-partner; men who are currently serving as caregivers for a seriously ill spouse or life-partner; and other good-hearted men who wish to help assist and comfort them.  

Copyright 2019  Widower’s Support Network

Categories
Dating

Finding Ms. Right.

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

By Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey

Dating and finding Mrs. Right is not my expertise but I have a few thoughts on the topic. 

1. What are you looking for? A wife? Someone to keep your life organized and your house clean. A lover? A spouse? Or just a replacement? 

Given what you truly are looking for, is there sufficient reason for any woman to say, “That’s for me!” If not, you have some work to do. 

2. Why are you comparing your deceased bride with other women? Is that really fair? After all, you had a lifetime to get to know your wife. And I’m sure not every moment was perfect. Anyone new is competing with a legend. Do you want women to compare you to their late husband’? As one widower said in my book, The Widower’s Journey, “The way my girlfriend describes her deceased husband, he was perfect, and I’m not.” 

2. Are you a good catch? Fit? Healthy? Financially secure? What makes you think so? Are you fun to be with? WSN Relationship Coach Christine Baumgartner writes terrific columns every other Thursday. Have you taken her advice to heart? 

Like most men, women who aren’t attracted to you aren’t going to try very hard to win your heart. So… look in a mirror. Take inventory. What Babbage are you asking a woman to buy into? Is there a need for a few corrective measures? 

If you need assistance packaging up what you have to offer, Christine is a great resource. Write her care of the contact points provided in her bi-weekly column titled, The Perfect Catch. 

My new bride is very different from my deceased wife… yet I learned to love them both? 

Where are you looking for love? 
Bars? I hope not? Blind dates? Perhaps. I met my wife on eHarmony. My new wife is a PhD computer engineer. She personally knows the man who designed eHarmony. When she decided that she wanted to meet men, she called her friend and inquired if the science built into eHarmony was valid. He replied it was. Not all online dating services can say that about their services. As a client my self, I will tell you I had several very promising dates before I met my current wife. The key is, you need to be brutally honest when completing their questionnaire. 

Every woman is different. To hold them is different. To kiss is different. Each will offer you pluses and minuses as you will them. And that difference can be exciting. 

A few years ago, I wrote a song that has since been recorded by three NASHVILLE singer songwriters. It’s titled, “Love You Different.” It is a story about a widower singing to widow. Among the lyrics he sings, 
“🎼 I won’t ask you to forget him, I wouldn’t even try. I know how you feel because I lost my Angel too. But I will love you different.”

Your next love may be very different from what you had in your marriage. And I think that is good. 

Cherish the memories you have, but don’t miss out on the next opportunity your journey will present. 

If you would like a free copy of my song, “Love You Different,”write me at herb@widowerssupportnetwork.com. 

Dionne Warwick once sang, “you’ll loose tomorrow reaching back for yesterday”

Categories
Dealing with Emotional Suppression Giving Support

Boy’s Don’t Cry…right? WRONG! And That’s Okay

Headshot -HerbKnoll

by Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey 

From the time little boys are first able to walk, in some cases even before they can walk, parents begin shaping the psyche of their sons by telling them, “Boys don’t cry. ” Oh really… who says so? Whoever it was, they should be picked up and prosecuted for the harm they have imposed on to men, young and old alike.     

Who among us doesn’t know a man who when faced with a painful situation such as the loss of a spouse or life partner, turned to tears, only to quickly apologize for having shed them? Why is it society holds men to a different set of emotional standards vs. women?  

Men Do Not Believe They Have Permission To Grieve.

A few years back I was asked to lead a widowers grief seminar in Connecticut.  The audience comprised mostly of retired widowers gathered to share their grief.  Suddenly, the room took on a life of its own.  Once presented with an environment in which they were permitted to express their sorrow, the participants opened up with both barrels. There before me, a gentleman who lost his wife nearly two years earlier cried openly, and he screamed his loving words of sorrow about his loss and did so in front of men he didn’t even know.  I witnessed another attendee, reach out to the crying gentlemen with gestures and words laced with warmth and understanding about the pain a widower may experience.  

Immediately following the dynamic exchange, it came to me. Men do not believe they have permission to grieve.  At least not in a public forum or where their ego-strength may go into harm’s way.  After all, they are men.  And men aren’t supposed to cry for to do so would raise the critical eye of family, friends, colleagues, fellow parishioners at their house of worship and even strangers.  Employers may suspect a man who cries is weak, and can not be trusted with select responsibilities. Sadly, the careers of some men have suffered for this very reason.    

When Ashley Altus of the Baylor Lariat asked Baylor University’s Dr. Mark Morman, “How are boys forced to prove their masculinity in today’s society?” Morman replied: “The obvious is control your emotions, don’t be seen as emotional, don’t be seen as open, vulnerable, keep it under control.”  Dr. Morman went on to say how even the jobs we pursue as men reinforce our identity with those… “kinds of masculine things.” 

Not surprisingly, the double standard society applies to the behaviors of men vs. those they hold for women is not as prevalent among younger males. Clearly, baby-boomers and perhaps those generations that immediately followed are more likely to keep the belief that men should clothe their tears in what shadows are available. Suppression of one‘s emotions has been a long-standing behavior adopted by most men.  Seclusion is another; where men who are grieving opt to remain out of the public eye, adopting a lifestyle of cocooning within the confines of their home, rarely venturing out where they could risk embarrassment should let their emotions be stimulated by a triggered memory.   

Charles Dickens once said, “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.” Dickens wrote this in 1861.  Yet, over 150 years later, there remain those, including members of our own families who shy away from a man whose grief transitioned to tears running down his cheek.    

“Get Over It!” 

An excellent example of this occurred when a friend encouraged me to contact a local veterans organization whose membership included many widowers. As I outlined the programs and materials available from my ministry, the group’s program director, himself a widower interrupted to say, “I’m a widower, and I got over it. They’re just going to have to get over it on their own.” Huh!  Widowed members of his veterans organization are grieving their loss, and his only offer of support is to tell them to “get over it.” Old habits die hard. 

Men Have A Place Where Crying Is Viewed As Manly 

Among the communications channels employed by the Widowers Support Network are its website, WidowersSupportNetwork.com and two Facebook pages. The first Facebook page is titled Widowers Support Network.  After a couple of years, I noted how this Facebook page attracted both men and women alike, but it was the women who were commenting and contributing the most.  That caused me to establish the second Facebook page.  Its title is Widowers Support Network – Members Only or WSN-MOWSN-MO is a private members only page for men who are either widowed or are serving as caregivers for seriously ill spouses or life-partners.  First opened in March 2018, today WSN-MO is approaching nearly 500 registered members from 19 countries including the United States, England, India, Nigeria, Canada, France, Australia and beyond. It did so without the help of any advertising; instead, membership grew organically, a direct result of referrals made by WSN-MO’s members.  WSN-MO boasts members from all walks of life and social and economic backgrounds. From corporate officers and laborers, truck drivers to retirees, young professionals to military officers (including a couple generals) no one is denied membership. On WSN-MO, all who grieve are treated equally.  

On WSN-MO, grown men cry, and they do so daily and openly. And they do so without the risk of ridicule from their fellow widower. Instead, they are encouraged to express their most private of feelings and emotions, this they do without hesitation. Members speak of their sorrow, their regrets, their failed dreams, and their cherished memories. To my delight, the brothers (the title they use to refer to one another) run to the emotional aid of those who may be having a bad day. They also laugh, kid one another, share memories and stay up to date on sports, cooking for one, personal finances, dating and so much more.  Best practices are routinely shared, and no topic is off limits. When one member celebrates a win in life, no matter how small, they all take a bow. And no one is shunned for their manly tears… for to cry is first to have loved.  At the Widowers Support Network – Members Only on Facebook, men of all ages have permission to grieve… and to shed a tear if they wish to do so.   

Herb Knoll is a retired banking executive, an advocate for Widowers, a professional speaker and author of the breakout book, The Widower’s Journey.  Available at Amazon.com in paperback and in all digital formats. Herb is the founder of the Widower’s Support Network (WidowersSupportNetwork.com) featuring the Widowers Support Network Members Only, a private Facebook group page for men, and a second Facebook page which is open to the general public at Widowers Support NetworkContact Herb at  herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com.  4

Attention Widowers and Men who serve as Caregivers

Apply today to join the Widowers Support Network – Members Only (WSN-MO) on Facebook. WSN-MO is a FREE private page exclusively open to MEN who have lost their wife or life-partner; men who are currently serving as caregivers for a seriously ill spouse or life-partner; and other good-hearted men who wish to help assist and comfort them.  

Copyright 2019  Widower’s Support Network

Categories
Moving Forward News Media

A Widower’s Wake-up Call

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

By Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey

“The entire floor misses your laughter,” said the young female staff member standing at my office door.  It had been just four months since my bride, Michelle Knoll, had earned her angel wings following her 39 month battle against pancreatic cancer.  She died on March 7, 2008.  “They’re missing my laughter!”  Wow!  A real wake-up call if there ever was one. I knew I needed help in dealing with my grief, and I intended on finding it. 

During the days ahead, I visited my church, a counselor at Veterans Administration and my local Barnes & Noble bookstore.  “What do you have for a new widower” I inquired of the clerk behind the counter. The attendant typed “widower” into his computer’s search engine and then looked up at me, almost apologetically saying, “Mister, I don’t have a damn thing for you.”  How could this be?  Nothing?  

Those words spoken to me by the bookstore’s clerk changed my life in ways too numerous to count. There was no way I was willing to accept the apparent lack of materials available to widowed men. Someone needed to write a book for men, and I decided on that very day, that person was me.  As it turns out, later, I did find a few books written for widowers, but they were few in number and inadequate at best. Within a few months, I resigned my position as a senior executive at a nationwide bank and rededicated my life to the service of men who grieve.  I embarked on a new journey, a new purpose in which I would tirelessly, and without compensation, endeavor to research the world of widowers and then make my findings available to those who mourn.

What I discovered should frighten us all. According to one report, 155,000 people die each day around the world.  If just 1-5 are the wives of married men, that’s 31,000 new widowers each day.  There are 420,000 new widowers each year in America alone.  One in five men in America will eventually be widowed with many of them becoming double widowers. In total, there are about 2.7 million widowers in America. In spite of these numbers, few people are able to name even one widower. That’s because men draw little attention to themselves when grieving. That’s because men do not believe they have permission to grieve.  As a result, widowers withdraw from many facets of society and grieve in the shadows. This is precisely when their trouble begins.

Widowed men have an increased rate of suicide that is 3-4 times greater than that of married men.  They suffer from grief of course, but many widowers also suffer from problems such as substance abuse, alcoholism, diabetes, hypertension, and other ailments.  Sixty-five percent will have a life-threatening illness within twelve months of their wife’s passing. Others suffer from financial concerns, career problems, legal problems, and more, why still others become angry with the Almighty.  Many have difficulty dealing with family members including their own children while still others become the prey of predator women or the victim of poor choices they have made in response to their grief.

To help widowers address these and other challenges, I established the Widowers Support Network (WSN) in 2014, (www.WidowersSupportNetwork.com) whose mission it is to comfort and support widowers and the families who love them.  WSN also supports men who are caregivers for seriously ill or terminally ill spouses. All service provided by WSN is free.

After nine years of research, supported by the candid participation of over forty widowers from across America, as well as the counsel provided by fifteen subject matter experts from the fields of sociology, psychology, law, consumer finance, religion and more, WSN released The Widower’s Journey (2017) in paperback and all digital formats. See Amazon.com.

Today, WSN serves widowers and caregivers from eighteen countries, and its geographic reach is growing rapidly. The Widower’s Journey has become the definitive breakout book of choice for widowers everywhere.  As one widower said it, “The Widower’s Journey is not the kind of book you read only one time.”  And given the book’s substantive content, women love it too! 

During coming months, and thanks to Men n’ More, you will be able to enjoy reading a series of articles about widowers and the world in which they are confronted.  Each piece will be laced with detailed research as well as best practices.  

Categories
Uncategorized

Men Need To Have Purpose

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

by Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey 

Men need to have a purpose in life.  A reason to get up in the morning.  Absent purpose, why live?  I hear it in the voices and read it in the posts men make on “Widowers Support Network – Members Only” (WSN-MO), a FREE and private “men’s only” page on Facebook.  With the passing of their brides, men lose much of the purpose for which they lived. Purpose enhances a man’s. Purpose provides men the means to see value in their existence. Perhaps that’s why men become fixers. If you give a man a problem, he’ll apply a fix to it. If the fix doesn’t work, no problem.  He’ll just use a second fix. (And he’ll most likely do it without asking for help. Why? Because men hate asking for help. Example: When was the last time you saw a man ask for directions? The only thing that saved modern men from endlessly driving around in circles is the invention of portable GPS.

Men have a bias for action.  And they should embrace it. It’s something I think men particularly benefit from doing.  Want proof how men are wired to be fixers. Let me tell you about my brother Don.  Don and his wife, Kathy, were on a plane. A young boy seated behind Kathy kept kicking the back of her seat. Kathy leaned over and mentioned it to Don. Immediately, Don looked back over his seat and told the young man, “Knock it off.” Kathy was chagrined.

“Why did you do that?” she said. “I didn’t ask you to say anything; I just wanted to tell you what was happening.” 

Fixing things gives men a sense of purpose, and it relieves a lot of frustration. Yes, having a purpose, even if it is to be a “fixer” is part of every man’s DNA.

As I read painful stories of my brothers on WSN-MO, I can’t help but think, many of them have lost purpose. A purpose will rarely jump up and present itself to you. Those in search of purpose need to go out and discover it on their own.  I wonder how many of those served by the WSN-MO have yet to do so.  I wonder how many of their wives in heaven wish they would at least try. 

I wrote about the importance of purpose in my book, The Widower’s Journey. I can’t encourage widowed men enough to seek their purpose during this, the next phase of their earthly life.  Frankly, Serving as the founder of the Widowers Support Network and the gatekeeper of the Widowers Support Network – Members Only (WSN-MO) on Facebook gives me purpose.  Each day, afternoon and evening, I have the honor of serving men from around the world in successfully navigating their grief.  For this, I am incredibly grateful.  But I don’t rely solely on helping widowed men to satisfy my desire to have a purpose, to contribute to the happiness of others.

Nearly three and one-half years ago, I joined the Knights of Columbus (KofC). The KofC is the largest fraternal Catholic organization in the world.  Today, I serve as the Chancellor of my parish’s local council.  The blessings I receive from advancing the agenda of the KofC is immeasurable. As Chancellor, I also serve as the chair of the sick and visitation committee.  In this role, I frequently visit members of the KofC, whether it be at their residence, their nursing home or even their hospital room.  

This past week, I had the honor to visit with Sir Knight Dan Dittmer (83).  Dan is a combat veteran who served as a U.S. Navy fighter pilot. Once when flying a mission during the Korean War, Dan lost his plane and was forced to parachute, injuring his back. Later, and during a duty assignment at Pearl Harbor, Dan became friends with the actor, Roger Smith (star of 77 Sunset Strip) and his wife, Ann-Margaret.  His career later transitioned to that of a swimming coach, gaining him international recognition including having been recruited by Disney to serve as the Director of Aquatics at Disney World.  

Given his mature state, Dan most likely didn’t even know I was there in the room. But I knew I was in the presence of a giant of a man, a man among men. And my visit was made possible by my first having the purpose of serving the Knights of Columbus.

Purpose can come in many fashions.  This past week, my wife Maria and I got up early to make twenty-five sandwiches that we needed to deliver to a special after-school program for disadvantaged young children. Again, I found a purpose.  

Whether your discovery of purpose is to serve the Red Cross, coach a League Baseball team, join a fraternal organization as I did or volunteer at your local SPCA, your skills and heart are needed by many.  But make no mistake, finding purpose makes you the big winner.