Is It Possible to Befriend Grief?

by Tom Peyton

For the past several months my grief counselor has encouraged me to look at grief from a different perspective. Instead of allowing it at times to crush my spirit, to hit me with an avalanche of tears or overwhelm me with sadness and pain, he suggested I view it as a friend. Initially I rejected the thought. How could I befriend something that took away the love of my life, my soulmate, the woman with whom I hoped to spend so many more years? Could I discover friendship from what I perceive to be my enemy? Let me emphasize that I am just over 9 months into my loss. The thought of doing this a few months ago was inconceivable. The thought even now leaves me somewhat skeptical. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to take on this suggestion and see if it is possible to befriend grief.

I have learned many valuable lessons from the veteran brothers in our group. My first few weeks and then first few months in this group – none of us ever wanted to join – were filled with pain and so many tears. I recall many brothers telling me to trust them; to give it a week and that with each week the pain would ease slightly. It has subsided to some degree but it still hurts. Grief can hit at any time, without warning and is triggered by so many memories, events or experiences that may or may not seem significant. After nine months I have learned that grief can debilitate and prevent me from living my life. I am not looking for a quick remedy for dealing with grief. I am coming to a realization that the process of healing involves me taking active steps to deal with my grief. The wisdom of Herb Knoll, Fred Colby and Terrell Whitener shows that being pro-0active means moving forward in life and learning how to confront, and I dare to say, befriend grief.

I don’t have a plan or a methodology or a solution for confronting grief and converting it into a friend. What I have done is take a couple of small steps still early in my journey that are helping, me to heal. These two very small steps have enabled me to find a purpose and develop a routine in my everyday life as I attempt to discover the new me.

I rescued a large dog a few months ago and he has become a great companion. He was abandoned on the side of the road and as I sadly recently discovered was beaten by his former owner. Fortunately, a Good Samaritan found him and a dog rescue connected me with him. Everyday, we take many walks in my neighborhood. I enjoy his curiosity about everything he sees and smells. He travels in my car and works with me as my sidekick. I am learning from him how to heal and trust again when tragedy hits. He senses when I am down and stays by my side.

Secondly, I spend time each day writing in my journal. It’s an opportunity for me to put into words those feelings that I am experiencing. I can see in my writings what I feel. It enables me to reflect and expound on my emotions. Its cathartic and I find it beneficial.

The healing process I have discovered is a journey that requires time, patience and work. It will cause tears and it will make you sad. Yet it can be a tool to help as it helps me. As I look at pictures from our past family parties, gatherings or holidays, I can view them in one of two ways: sad reminders of what was and will never occur again; or with gratitude that I participated in events that enriched my life. I want to see them as inspiration as I move forward in my life. I have been blessed by a woman who taught me how to live life fully and how to die with dignity and grace.

Grief will always be a part of my life. Its not a death sentence – although it may feel that way at times. It becomes more painful if I see it that way because then it truly takes on the form of my enemy. If I view it as my grief counselor suggests, as part of my life but it does not strip me of all joy and happiness. Before my wife died, she told me to go forward; She said; “You have to go on.” She did not suggest it: she did not say give it a try, but give up if it doesn’t work; she gave me a command.

I am not an expert on grief. I learn each day from you and our veteran brothers ways to move forward. I am not a the point of saying grief and I are best friends. I am however willing to welcome grief as a part of, but not the whole of my life. As with any friendship, it takes time to develop and and hopefully, we can be friends rather than enemies. I wish each of you success in your path and hope that you discover peace and comfort in your journey.

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Tom Peyton’s bride Diane earned her Angel Wings on May 17, 2020.

Managing those Difficult Days

Many if not most of us find some days more difficult than others. For some it may be a birthday, or an anniversary, yet for others it may be a song or even the house you live in that can be the basis of these feelings.

For me, the most complex day of the year is Valentine’s Day. During my marriage I found Valentine’s Day the most stressful day of the year. You see Valentine’s Day was the day you did not want to get wrong if you were married to Robyn Street. Full disclosure, my wife was not an overly materialistic person, however she made a very good living and one of the great exercises in our marriage was picking out a gift for Robyn that she had not already given herself! So, this brings me to the yearly challenge of picking the right gift for this “day of love”. Or as I referred to it” the day my blood pressure increased 15 points”! Get it right and you saw her eyes light up I that way I miss so very much, get it ok, and receive that thank you Terrell, this is nice. Dang! Note to self, on your next business trip come home with something special.

On Sunday I experienced my sixth Valentine’s day with my Robyn. It was a very long day, but a day that has a mixed history with me anyway. Let me give you the background on why I feel this way.

It was on Valentine’s Day of 2014 while taking a stress test that we discovered what would become quadruple bypass surgery that my wife would need to undergo. Despite positive checkups, I now know that she would never fully recover from that surgery. The following year on Valentine’s Day Robyn and I would have our last date, dinner at a French restaurant that she loved. You see Valentine Day and I have a bit of history together.

As the years have gone by and love has not found its way into my life to date, Valentine’s day can sometimes feel like it takes a week for the day to go by. To combat the sadness that comes with it, I have begun to focus on the irony that this day has recently brought into my life. For it was on Valentine’s Day two years ago that my son got engaged to his wife. On that same day two years ago, I accepted a new job and had the first conversation with someone that has become a good friend. No, that friendship has not become love, but she is a widow and we both have come to appreciate the familiarity we have with how difficult it is to lose someone you love. So, could it be brothers, that Valentine’s Day is not so bad after all? Time will tell.

No matter what your difficult day is, let me offer a bit of encouragement to you, push through the uncomfortable feelings. Denial is seldom, if ever progress. While recalling the emptiness, remember the special memories and muster up a smile. Remind yourself if you must that it is just a day and not a lifetime you are felling at that moment.

There are times that I lean on one of the countless words of wisdom my great-grandmother used to remind me of when she would say “remember Terry, trouble do not last always. My brothers, we will carry grief with us the rest of our days, but remember while doing so, we also carry love. This is where you find the strength to carry on. This is where you find the strength to manage those difficult days.

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Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at my newly redesigned thedebriefgroup365.com, there you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widowers Support Network.

Managing those Difficult Days

Many if not most of us find some days more difficult than others. For some it may be a birthday, or an anniversary, yet for others it may be a song or even the house you live in that can be the basis of these feelings.

For me, the most complex day of the year is Valentine’s Day. During my marriage I found Valentine’s Day the most stressful day of the year. You see Valentine’s Day was the day you did not want to get wrong if you were married to Robyn Street. Full disclosure, my wife was not an overly materialistic person, however she made a very good living and one of the great exercises in our marriage was picking out a gift for Robyn that she had not already given herself!

So, this brings me to the yearly challenge of picking the right gift for this “day of love”. Or as I referred to it” the day my blood pressure increased 15 points”! Get it right and you saw her eyes light up I that way I miss so very much, get it ok, and receive that thank you Terrell, this is nice. Dang! Note to self, on your next business trip come home with something special.

On Sunday I experienced my sixth Valentine’s day with my Robyn. It was a very long day, but a day that has a mixed history with me anyway. Let me give you the background on why I feel this way.

It was on Valentine’s Day of 2014 while taking a stress test that we discovered what would become quadruple bypass surgery that my wife would need to undergo. Despite positive checkups, I now know that she would never fully recover from that surgery. The following year on Valentine’s Day Robyn and I would have our last date, dinner at a French restaurant that she loved. You see Valentine Day and I have a bit of history together.

As the years have gone by and love has not found its way into my life to date, Valentine’s day can sometimes feel like it takes a week for the day to go by. To combat the sadness that comes with it, I have begun to focus on the irony that this day has recently brought into my life. For it was on Valentine’s Day two years ago that my son got engaged to his wife. On that same day two years ago, I accepted a new job and had the first conversation with someone that has become a good friend. No, that friendship has not become love, but she is a widow and we both have come to appreciate the familiarity we have with how difficult it is to lose someone you love. So, could it be brothers, that Valentine’s Day is not so bad after all? Time will tell.

No matter what your difficult day is, let me offer a bit of encouragement to you, push through the uncomfortable feelings. Denial is seldom, if ever progress. While recalling the emptiness, remember the special memories and muster up a smile. Remind yourself if you must that it is just a day and not a lifetime you are felling at that moment.

There are times that I lean on one of the countless words of wisdom my great-grandmother used to remind me of when she would say “remember Terry, trouble do not last always. My brothers, we will carry grief with us the rest of our days, but remember while doing so, we also carry love. This is where you find the strength to carry on. This is where you find the strength to manage those difficult days.

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Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at my newly redesigned thedebriefgroup365.com, there you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widowers Support Network.

No Such Thing As Closure

There is closure on real estate deals, businesses deals, etc. but there is no such thing as closure on a relationship. Closure means the end of a deal. It’s done, over, completed. All conditions have been met. No more expectations that need to be fulfilled. Closure relates to deals, not life, not relationships.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no end to the relationship that Lorna and I had. Yes, our physical relationship on this earth has ended, but our RELATIONSHIP has not ended, nor will it. She is very much alive to me right now, even though I can’t see her, feel her, talk with her or touch her. It is me that is not as alive as she is. I will die, someday, whenever that will be. Then, I will join her in a new life that will never end. Then, our relationship will continue, in a different manner than it was here, but it will continue. I have that promise. Without that promise, there is no hope. It is more than a hope. Once you know the truth, it sets you free. Free to know that I will be with Lorna again, no question. Different, but still in a personal relationship with her, walking with her, talking with her, experiencing an amazing life WITH her! And there will be no more intermission, no sorrow of having to say “see you later!”

Many people say that a funeral is the “closure” for the family. For me, it wasn’t. Maybe for others, it is an end of that relationship, but for those of us who have lost that most important person in our lives, there can be no closure. Yes, we “move forward”, we learn to “manage” without that person in our daily lives, but that person, that love, is still very much a part of our daily lives. They will never leave, but now it’s called “grief”. It is now a part of life, part of what we deal with every single day, multiple times throughout the day. At first, it is overwhelming, like the waves of the ocean when you are not used to them. Later on, we learn how to see them coming and can handle them in public, but in private, we still often have our times of being swallowed by them. When things go wrong during the day, I find myself stealing away to have my alone time and cry out to Lorna, without the comfort of hearing her reassuring words that it will be ok. I have to imagine that, and yes, I can hear her telling me that.

Sometimes we get caught up in the rhetoric of what other people say that you should have “closure” on. For me, personally, I will never “close” on the relationship I had with Lorna, I can’t, it’s not possible. I am the person I am because of a 40 year relationship with Lorna. However, in the past 2 years and 10 months since she has been gone, I have had trouble with holding on to myself, the way she would’ve wanted me to be. This happens when everything that was “normal” in my life gets totally disrupted. What was “our” normal, disappeared.

While in many ways I feel like I am starting over, it is a “moving forward”, not without Lorna, but with her in a different way. Again, I am who I am because of the love from her and the desire I had to be the best I could be for her. I need to keep going forward being the best that I can be as if she was still here. I will get there, in time.

Closure should never exist in relationships, because we should never “close” a relationship with anyone.

“Love you to infinity and beyond” was the line she would always say to me just before going to sleep pretty well every night. There is no closure in that. Nor will there ever be.

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Death, Disease , Divorce

#death #Disease #Divorce – they leave us with painful memories of traumatic moments. Yet, we must find a way to grab life by the horns and keep living, not merely existing but truly living.

Words to live by: Remember…. But do not forget to keep moving forward. Or as my husband will say, “It is OK to be where you are, but it is NOT OK to stay there.”

In the movie News of the World, Tom Hanks says to the little girl: “It does you no good to go back to the past; keep moving forward.” She replies, “Sometimes you have to remember in order to move forward.”

In a couple of days, it will be the 3rd anniversary of my first husband’s death. I find myself unwillingly reliving the anxiety of that tragic and traumatic night. My sleep is consumed with dreams of death in general. I work hard at not remembering and not thinking about that night, yet my subconscious finds ways to take me back there. I know this, it is not easy to forget; I work hard daily at ‘not remembering’ the final images embedded in my brain, the moment of truth, the moment when my world was brought to a screeching halt for just a few moments; then it started to spin nauseatingly out of control.

For the first 6 months, reality was too painful to accept; so, while my head tried to forget my heart just would not catch up with reality. Then, the painful reality of loss hit me and grief that I can only describe as a deep, dark hole consumed me. I still fought back, hard. In those first 2 years, I ploughed through life with desperation – I had to survive! My girls and I were going to make it through.

Remembering was not an option because it weakened my resolve to fight; however, forgetting was not an option either because my subconscious would not let me. I buried myself in work trying to keep my mind from going places I did not want it to go. Several times in those 2 years I hit a hard, unyielding wall and crumbled like a cookie. I yielded to grief, but only for a short season. Then, I dusted the crumbs off, put on a straight face and decided it was time to fight again. This process was exhausting, and I needed a breakthrough.

One fine morning a year ago, I decided to fight a different kind of fight. Not the fight to forget but the fight to find Joy. I understood well that we were never made to be in a prolonged state of sadness, but we were meant to be vibrant reminders of God’s faithfulness. The scriptures state, “Weeping will last for the night, but Joy comes in the morning.” I decided to seize the ‘morning’ and to pursue ‘JOY’. That was the birth of our new ministry “Joy Comes in the Morning!”

Much has changed in this last year – a year filled with remembering and moving forward.

Transitioning from one state of life (widowhood from my first marriage) to marriage again; this required me to work hard at forgetting. It required me to not look back but to learn to embrace the present and dream of the future. Yet, for me to do that successfully required me to ‘remember’ and then make a conscious decision to move forward. My most recent act of remembering was an entire day of going through photographs, cataloging them so my daughters and I would some day be able to go through them and remember. Those pictures right now represent pain, but someday they will represent memories and stories to be shared with spouses, children, and grandchildren. I had to ‘remember’ so that I could continue to move forward.

On days like this memories flood my mind. Memories of intensely painful moments surrounding the loss sear my heart. Yes, I will remember; but I will keep moving forward. My life is a story of victory! It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the storms. It is a reminder that even though you feel alone and abandoned in your darkest hour, God has never left your side. It is a promise of tomorrow.

If you are in this journey of pain and grief, remember to make a decision to move forward. Remember the past as a means to your healing; but embrace the present with its promise of tomorrow.

When you lose hope remember this:

THE SUN WILL SHINE AGAIN BECAUSE THE SON NEVER STOPPED SHINING ON YOU.

I pray that you will remember: JOY Comes in the Morning! A very Good Morning to you.

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Cynthia Waits (Mascarenhas) is the Founder of Walk with a Widow, a ministry to widows worldwide; You can also find us on the web. Walk with a Widow Group is a support group on Facebook, serving almost 500 widows from over 13 countries around the world.

Cynthia and her husband David Waits, are subject matter experts for Joy Comes in the Morning #Death #Disease #Divorce, which can be found on Facebook. We hope to help you in your journey of finding Joy after a season of despair. Joy Comes in the Morning!

Don’t Expect Others to Know What to Do Following Your Loss

Following the passing of a wife or life-partner, it is the widower who needs support, not the deceased. So why is it that so many widowed men complain about their sense of abandonment by their families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers following their loss? Behaviors and interactions with those who you would hope would be of some level of support to the widowers can instead become hurtful, insensitive, and at times, clumsy.

Case in point, on the first morning, I was back at my bank job in San Antonio, and while seated at my desk, one of our human resource officers entered my office. He appeared to be surprised to find me lost in thought with tears in my eyes. Not knowing what to say or do with a grown man crying, the officer immediately turned to exit my office, closing the door behind him. Perhaps if I was a widow instead of a widower, I might have been offered some tissue or maybe a glass of water and a kind word.

A few days later (just seventeen days after my wife died), a colleague offered to introduce me to her unmarried aunt. My wife’s memorial service was still six days away, and someone was trying to fix me up with their aunt. “That’s not going to happen,” I snapped and walked away.

In each case, my initial response may have been of disappointment in the lack of compassion and common decency presented by my colleagues. Looking back, I don’t see it that way, and I now regret not offering a more appreciative response to what was their best effort to comfort me.

“People often make mistakes in trying to comfort the bereaved,” says Dr. Deborah Carr of Boston University. “They can’t envision what the widower is going through, and they become ham-fisted and misguided, offering well-intentioned reactions. Getting angry at those trying to help you isn’t going to lessen a widower’s pain. But what it may do is alienate those who can be a source of support to the widower in the future.”

Dr. Justin Denney Ph.D., of Washington State University, believes people feel especially socially awkward to see older male figures let down their positions of power and authority and then embracing them, validating their loss like they might with a woman or a younger person.

“Death and illness make people uncomfortable. People often don’t want to talk about Death because they don’t want to risk upsetting the widower,” says Dr. Carr. Perhaps this is the reason so many “friends and family” barely show their faces around a widower after the wife has died.

Grief is a moving target for the bereaved and their family and friends who want to be of some comfort to them. As a result, many people who say they were there for you would later say, “Oh, I didn’t want to bother you, so I decided not to pick up the phone and call,” ultimately staying away at a time when widowers need them the most. To those who share this view, let me strongly suggest, next time, pick up the phone.

The need for well-wishers to proactively engage the bereaved was pointed out to me when I interviewed widower John Von Der Haar for my book, The Widower’s Journey (2017), for which Drs. Deborah Carr and Justin Denney contributed. I asked John, “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 sure grateful they did.”

The widowed and those who hope to comfort them have a role to play in what has become known as anyone’s grief journey.

For the would-be supporters, Dr. Carr recommends that well-wishers who don’t know what to say to a widower simply “Ask them (widower) about the deceased, let them share a memory.” They know their wife is dead; it’s no great surprise if someone speaks about the deceased. Widowers should encourage others to talk about the deceased and not let their fear of Death get in the way of having a meaningful conversation.” Dr. Carr went on to say how “Whenever people see or experience anything for the first time, they’re not sure what to do. They don’t have a roadmap. So the first time a young assistant sees his or her older boss cry, they simply may not know what to do. It’s hard to get things’ right’ when we don’t have experience dealing with such matters. Nerves can get the better of us.”

But alas, widowers have some ownership of the sought-after solution too. As the founder of the Widowers Support Network (WidowersSupportNetwork.com), I have consoled hundreds of widowed men from around the world. In doing so, I have identified common traits that exist among them, including the need to resist being isolated. Finding themselves residing in a silent home, devoid of even the fragrant residue from their wife’s perfume, is viewed by many as a form of a sentence. To combat this emptiness, widowers need to remove themselves from their sofa or recliner and find purpose in their lives. And while they’re at it, they should find themselves around people who are happy or those who can appreciate their kind gestures. Good examples of these places include the American Red Cross, Meals on Wheels, or your local animal shelter. Widowers may prefer to drive a van that transports our veterans to a local VA hospital or clinic, while others enjoy serving on a committee at their house of worship. When a family member or friend asks a widower if there anything, they can do for them, the widower should say “Yes,” and then assign them even the most trivial of tasks. Doing so will not only enable the widower to cross a job off their to-do list, but it will also serve the supporter with some level of therapeutic relief from the loss they, too, are feeling.

As for the misguided deeds of others, widowers should just let them go and find the peace that awaits them. Widowers can take comfort in knowing that all their would-be supporters did their very best to comfort them. Now it is time for the widowers to do theirs!

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Herb Knoll is the Founder of the Widower’s Support Network and author of the top rated book, The Widower’s Journey. Herb also is the host of a podcast, Widowers Journey Podcast available on all podcast providers. You can write him at herb@widowerssupportnetwork

Growth and Gain

“From Grieving to Greatness” is what I am calling it. I look in the mirror, and I am not the same man I was two and a half years ago. I have evolved. Please do not get me wrong; I am most definitely still grieving Suzanne and always will.

Over these last two and a half years, I have grown. It was not a conscious choice in the beginning. No, I was dragged kicking and screaming, swearing, and shouting (literally and figuratively), into this stage. But here I am. And my only advice for those around me is this: Make growth your main priority.

While daunting challenges, getting outside of our comfort zone will change how we think about the situations we find ourselves in, focusing on success instead of growth can become both distraction and obsession. But success should not be your only priority. Instead, when we focus on how a challenge might make us grow, that is when we start to evolve and awaken.

By focusing first on our internal growth, success starts to come naturally. Grief begins to ebb and becomes a dull ache instead of a raging torrent of pain. If we allow ourselves the opportunity to grow a little every time, we “fail” at a challenge, every time we feel like the weight of the world will crush us and still get out of bed. Inevitably we will succeed, and we will see forward motion and momentum.

Most of the time, we are always looking ahead and only see the vast mountain to climb in front of us. If we pause and reflect, turn around and look at how far we have come, the challenge doesn’t feel or seem so daunting. And growing is the only way we succeed; bettering ourselves is the first and most crucial step to create our success.

Although it is difficult, the changing mindset around failure and how we are when we grieve will make you more resilient. When you start to focus on how you can grow from any given situation, then pervasive negative thoughts will soon be replaced by opportunistic ones, by positive thoughts and memories that help guide and drive us forward. I know that I found my resilience in growth, and my growth has led to my success.

I hope for the same for you.

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Jeff Ziegler’s column is featured here on WSN-MO every other Wednesday. You can write Jeff at jeff.ziegler@ymail.com

A Message for a Widower’s Friends and Family

A kind word can save a widower. Amazing, but true! When a widower is buried in grief, just one kind word from someone can make their grief bearable and make their chances of surviving their grief intact more likely. More than once, a friend called me at just the right time and offered kind words of support, or to meet with me, or to help in some way.

I fully understand the reluctance of others to say anything at all to a widower for fear of saying the wrong thing. Let’s face it; most men are not well-trained to be in touch with their emotions. The result is someone unprepared to experience and process their grief. This often results in a state of confusion, anger, fear, and even a belief that they are going crazy.

Because so few people reach out to them, they are often left to fend for themselves. They can find themselves isolated with little human contact and support. Without their wife to use as a sounding board, their verbal and written expressions may be clumsy and inappropriate at times. As a defense mechanism, they may act like they don’t care what you or others think.

But the reality is that widowers do care and do need help. You can be that help! If you are willing to take the risk, you can provide a widower with a life raft in the midst of their storm. It can be as simple as:

• Encouraging them to tell their story and taking the time to hear it,

• Telling them that these feelings are normal and that with help and time, it can get better,

• Offering a list of area providers of grief counseling,

• Suggesting they reach out to their remaining family members and friends,

• Working with area churches to establish grief groups, or

• Offering gift copies of books written to help widowers. WSN members Herb Knoll, Fred Colby, Nyle Kardatzke, and Terrell Whitener wrote books to help their fellow widowers.

Friends and family are often desperate to understand what the widower in their life is going through. I like to recommend the following to widowers, friends, and family to understand the widower experience better:

1. The Kominsky Method on Netflix stars Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, who plays a just widowed former agent for the stars who struggle with his loss. The show touches on real topics with humor and humanity.

2. After Life on Netflix, starring Ricky Gervais as a deeply grieving widower who deals with depression and suicidal thoughts, this realistic drama-comedy is disturbing during the first few episodes as the lead character struggles to find his footing.

3. A Man Called Ove available on Amazon Prime with a Swedish cast (subtitles) in this comedic take on the adjustments a widower goes through while learning to live on his own. Also available in a well-written paperback novel by Fredrik Backman.

4. The Unicorn, starring Walton Goggins, follows a recently widowed landscaper and his friends as they adjust together to his new status. The first season (in particular) dealt with some of the challenges of a newly minted widower with seriousness and humor.

As miserable as they may be, the amazing thing is that widowers still have a sense of humor and can always appreciate a good laugh, often at their own expense. I know that while I was in the early stages of my grief after losing my wife of 45 years, I enjoyed the distraction of a good comedy show. You will not regret recommending any of these shows to a widower, and they will be grateful to find storylines that deal with their issues in such elucidating and humane ways.

© Copyright 2021 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

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Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which can be found 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

Can you see and be the Lights?

On January 20th, 2021 a precocious 22-year-old African -American woman told a divided and grief-stricken nation “We can grow as we Grieve”.

I like most people was awe-struck by her profound wisdom that far exceeds her youth. My purpose in writing is to examine her poem as she speaks to us about grief and sheds “light” on how we can move forward. The words of the youngest Poet Laureate I believe echo in the heart and mind of a Widower.

She states that “We carry a loss and wade in a sea”. Is that not the feeling each one of us had when we lost our spouses? We were like ships tossed around by a sea of extremely high waves and endless winds. Our pain, our loss and our grief left us rudderless and wondering how we would ever get back on course and move forward.

How do we progress from grief I think is the question she is asking? What path do we need to follow to move forward? Think of another image she evokes in the title of her poem: “The Hill We Climb”.

Each of us I believe she is implying either young or old is at the base of the hill. We feel unprepared to climb that hill. We don’t know what skills we need to climb this hill. Do we have the right clothing and equipment to climb up that Hill? Does the hill look insurmountable?

Yes, at first, but if we look around and see who is standing on the hill with us, we gain a slight sense of relief. Our fellow Widowers are scatted all over the hill.

Some are at the base handing us clothing, supplies and other equipment. Others are several hundred feet ahead; slightly longer in the journey but available to guide, help or lend a hand as we move to a new level. Farther up the hill are the veterans: men who walked the path longer, suffered more scars and share how they made progress and what their new life looks like. They are the messengers of hope. They calmly and gently bring solace and peace to the new brothers.

As we look at the hill the gifted young poet tells us “that despite our hurt, we never lost hope”. Even as “we grew tired, we never stopped trying”. Our past has shaped and formed us. Our wives chose us to be their spouses and helped to mold us into men who built lives based on love and faith. A foundation that would not crack.

The products of our love: our children be they young or adults need us to guide them as they travel a different hill. As they prepare for the future, they are also affected by grief but moving forward in whatever paths they chose to purse in their lives. Our children look to us for guidance in navigating a new path.

We were not prepared as the poet wrote: “for the terrifying experience that shook us to our core”. The death of our spouses put is in a very frightening and overwhelmingly uncomfortable place. Despite this powerful loss we are as the Poet wrote: “somehow finding the power to author a new chapter in our lives”. To quote Fred Colby; “Life will never be the same again”. It is not said as a life sentence but as an opportunity to realize we cannot change our past; we can’t re-write or edit it. Unfortunately, we cannot rewind the clock. The new me or you is what we will encounter with help as we climb the Hill.

We will as Amanda Gorman writes; “Step out of the shades of grief”

We will always carry our memories; the legacy of love that formed our lives and the gifts our spouses gave us so freely and unconditionally.

As the youngest Inaugural poet wrote “If only we are brave enough to see the light; Brave enough to be the light”

Brothers I am eight months into the journey of a Widower. I would not be making progress and moving forward if I did not join the Widowers Support Network.

A fraternity of over 1300 men who are united by the fact that we lost of our beloved spouses and walk the path of a Widower. We are all “Climbing the Hill”.

We have been given the opportunity to “step out of the shade; unafraid and aflame with a desire to see and be the light”. Take the steps