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

LIFE HAPPENS WHILE YOU’RE BUSY MAKING OTHER PLANS

This is the famous quote from John Lennon. As I sat down to write this, that quote came to mind because I never expected things to go the way they’ve gone. Yes, we all hated the pandemic that seems to have no end, the uncertainty of the virus’s danger, the inability to be with family and friends. You know the rest.

Personally, it was a year of difficult loss. My wife Susan in March 2020 on the heels of losing my Dad earlier in the year at age 95. I lost some dear friends too. I sold our house of 25 years, that was the best house I’ve ever enjoyed. The list goes on. I won’t burden you with the bad news. We’ve all had enough bad stuff to last us a while.

Yet reflecting on the past year and heading into the new year, I’m also surprised at the good things that occurred that I never saw coming—small blessings and large ones too.

I noticed things started turning around when I was invited to join the “Widowers Support Network – Members Only,” (available to Men Only). Honestly, I never expected to find the depth of friendship and support that I have received in a group like this. It lifted my spirits. It helped me raise up hope that better days were ahead.

Then I noticed that both my attitude improved, and my heart opened up. There’s a lot of life left to enjoy. It’s a chance at a “second act,” if you will.

The more I let my spirit improve, the more good things came my way. I had a new business – actually two of them – drop in my lap. I’m not ready to retire, and at the same time, I wanted to free up my daily schedule and not have to report to a job five days a week. It’s called designing your life, and it’s fun to do that.

Then I met a new woman. I wasn’t looking for a relationship. But suddenly she shows up and makes my life beautiful again. We’ve developed what we like to call a “Pandemic Romance.” Ironically enough, part of our mutual attraction comes from the fact that we both lost our spouses. We both knew true love in our marriages. Surprisingly that common loss has made us even closer. My late wife was ill with Alzheimer’s for some years before she passed. I haven’t had a normal relationship with a woman in a long time. I forgot how sweet it is.

I offer this story simply as a way to support all the Brothers in WSN. There’s hope for us all. There’s a new chapter in your life waiting for you. Take a moment and realize that a good life can undoubtedly happen while you’re busy making other plans.

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Larry Ahrens is a former radio and television personality in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his show, “Coffee and Conversation,” was broadcasted. Larry’s articles appear every other Thursday, right here, on WSN-MO. You can send private messages to him on Facebook Messenger.

Glitter

We all have memories. Sometimes we want to bring these memories to the forefront of our thoughts, and other times they are best suited tucked away in the back of our minds. Some of these memories are fond and happy, but honestly, some of these memories are sad or scary. I will be the first to admit that not all of my memories are happy and great. However, all of the pictures together paint a mosaic of who we are and who our loved ones were.

What’s more, they make up who we are today. Without all of the memories, we lose a part of ourselves. This part of ourselves that includes our memories may be the most significant part we have. I admit there are several memories that I would prefer to tuck away and never meet again. That is just not possible. Rightfully so, these memories need to be a part of my life. I do, however, recommend concentrating on the good memories. Keep the happy memories close and alive inside us.

Recently, I had to face a chore that I was dreading. I knew I had to put up the Christmas tree. I really was not looking forward to it. It would be a chore for the dogs and me. I mustered up the confidence and got the tree pulled out and the boxes of decorations. The dogs were much more excited than I was. I cannot say for sure if they knew why they were so excited, but their enthusiasm was contagious. Before long, they ran around the tree, helping in their own k9 way, and I was pulling out ordainments. I started to get a smile. The reason for the smile was I would remember where so many of these ordainments came from. My wife had ordainments made with the kid’s names; she had ordainments made with graduations and baptisms. I remembered all these times and more. At the time, I did not think these ordainments were such a big deal. Now, they are a huge deal.

One ordainment brought a special smile and tear to my eye. My wife’s grandparents had passed down a fish ordainment. Admittedly, it is a hideous fish. It is old chipped, faded, and as frail as paper. Nonetheless, every year I would hurry and find the fish first and try to hang it on the front of the tree in all its glory.

Moreover, every year I would receive a scolding because I knew that the fish needed to be hung but only in the back of the tree. Sure, it’s a tradition that the fish be hung, but it was our tradition that I try to hang it out front, and I would get a scolding. That was a memory that I thought I had tucked away. However, without warning, that memory came rushing back. I chuckled and cried all at once.

I have discovered that memories are like glitter. I say this because if you ever take a handful of glitter and throw it into the air, you can try to clean it all up, but you never will get it all. You will find glitter in places you never imagined, and for years to come. It is like my memory of the fish. I was not looking for that memory. I also thought I had the Christmas trees’ memories cleaned up and put where they go, but once the fish came out, it was like glitter. The memory was there without warning, shinning, and sparkling to the extent that was unmissable. It caught me off guard, and I knew I had a choice. I could enjoy the memory like glitter, let it shimmer and shine and be pleasing, or I could think of it as something else I missed that needs swept up. I chose to enjoy it. Don’t store your memories away. Instead, think of them as a shiny spot or something messy; you feel a need to clean up.

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You can contact Chris at brandt5@hotmail.com

Brothers: We Still Have a Purpose

For many of you, this title strikes you as a bit rhetorical. For others, you may take one look and discount this notion entirely. My brothers welcome to one of the many complex aspects of being a widower.

Early in my widowhood, I found myself completely unprepared to deal with the difficulty I had with convincing myself that I alone was enough of a reason to move forward with my life. While not at all suicidal, I found it difficult to get on with the business of healing.

As I have shared many times in my writings, one of the wisest decisions that I made was to seek grief counseling. While I know that is not a palatable thought for many of you brothers; it was the answer for me. Without it, I may have eventually come around to be motivated to do the work necessary to begin the process; however, having someone to talk to, structure my thoughts with, recognize my feelings, and simply just listen helped me tremendously.

During these sessions and with my dogged determination, I found that my life still had a purpose. Let me share with you three thoughts that I have on this matter.

I Learned to Master my approach to my thoughts and feelings.

While I know “master” is a strong term when it comes to emotion or grief, I feel comfortable in using it. Why, you ask? I believe we each will experience a wide range of emotions for an individually based period; we eventually gain some clarity of what we are feeling and why we feel that way at the time. Of course, there are no absolutes, but we often grow with time or circumstances in this area. In my book The First 365, I recount how there are certain songs, events, and memories that may cause me to emote for the rest of my life. When I experience these thoughts and feelings, over time, I have become armed with the coping mechanisms to make it through these periods.

We Often Model Behavior to Others

Whether you know it or not, you are modeling behavior to others. Take a moment and remember some of the awkward conversations you have had with other people. They are fearful of saying the wrong thing or asking inappropriate questions following the death of our your spouse or partner. I honestly feel that this is a significant contributor to why some of our “friends” vanish into thin air after our loved one passes away. While they may not engage you in conversation, they are often watching you for signs of how you seem to be coping with your loss. These observations sometimes lead to those “you seem to be doing well, Terrell” conversations I have had with others over the years.

One of the groups that we almost universally model to is our family. For those who still have children at home, recognition for your modeling may be expressed in the unsolicited hug or the head resting on your shoulder. Being an empty nester when Robyn died, I could have used a head on my shoulder!

We Often Times Mentor to Others

By writing my book, serving as a podcasts guest, and having shared my thoughts with you, I find myself being sought out by friends, former classmates, and by individuals that acquaintances just have people to call me when they experience loss. On occasion, some of these conversations have led to short-term mentoring relationships. However, because I am not a grief professional per se, I will only allow these conversations to progress so far before recommending a more formal relationship with a trained professional.

So, my brothers, We still have a purpose. Brokenhearted? Yes! But alive none the less. We learned to find times of comfort where we find them, friendship where they manifest themselves, and a new purpose wherever it can be found.

As always, I welcome your feedback. Know that I never take these opportunities for granted and enjoy the interchange we have from these articles. Until next time.

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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 his website thedebriefgroup365.com: there, you will find all his social media contacts or through the Widow Support Network. His insights appear here every other Tuesday. His second book, From the Heart to The Heart, will be released soon. More details soon.

Dash

March 28, 1959 ~ April 5, 2018. There is so much about my late wife Lorna’s life that you really can’t signify it by placing a dash between her first breath and her last breath. The Pastor mentioned it at her celebration of life. The dash represents decades, represents learning, loving, serving, raising a family, being a wife, a mother, a friend, and so much more. I got to spend 14,635 days with her—13,858 as her husband. I wasn’t ready for it to end.

May be an image of 1 person, beard, hair and outerwear

One summer’s day, we went for a drive along an old highway following the Red River. As we wound our way back on the west side of the river, we came upon a very old church and took some time walking through the cemetery, stopping and looking at the various names and dates on the gravestones there. I don’t remember the oldest ones, but there were many with birth dates in the mid to late 1800s. Some small graves had a short period between the birth and death dates; some had a longer time between those dates. All had a dash. A start date – an end date. With each one, the dash represents their lives between those dates. The dash didn’t mean anything to me, other than they were born, they lived, they died. But it meant something to someone. There are monuments in cities and parks worldwide with plaques that tell the reader of the accomplishments of the person immortalized there, what significance that person did during their dash of life. History books with information about people or events that happened between this date and that date. The dash. And then there are many whose dash seems meaningless to anyone else. But their dash does mean something because everyone matters. I have seen some headstones where the dash is there, but no end date yet. This occurs when one spouse has ended their dash and is waiting for their spouse to join them after their dash is complete.

This dash of life is just that….a dash….a moment in time. It may seem to us to be an eternity, but we have no clue what eternity is really like. I don’t know my great grandfather’s or great grandmother’s dash. I do know that both sets of my grandparents dared to leave their homeland, leave friends, family, livelihoods, and go to a new country far off in the hope of a better life. They did so as they sought a better life for their children and the generations: a better dash in their lives. And I’m very thankful for that. Lorna’s grandparents did the same, and because of that, Lorna and I were able to be a part of each other’s dash. When my dash is complete, I will have an endless amount of time to talk with them and hear what their dash was like.

Under Lorna’s name are the two dates of her time here on earth. The significance of her dash will be with me until my dash is complete. Now, in Heaven, there is a start date of when she got there, but there will never be an end. No need for a dash. My dash is continuing. No idea how long it will be, but it is up to me to make it significant to those around me, especially to my kids and grandchildren. We cannot influence our start dates, but we can control what our dash represents; and who and how it interacts with another. So that when our dash ends here, it represents our start date in Heaven….without a need for a dash.

Decluttering

By Jeff Ziegler

Today, I spent part of my day decluttering the kitchen and reorganizing my toolboxes. It was a bit cathartic. I threw a load of things out. And it got me thinking about how cluttered I have been feeling in my mind of late.

Clutter is a funny thing. We “collect” knickknacks, and we display them so everyone—especially us—can see them. From little magnets, we bought on that visit to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco to the owl candle holders that came from someone who thought they were cute.

Whatever you have lying around the house, taking up space, have a good look. What you probably don’t realize is it’s a reflection of your internal mental state. Today, I discovered how truly cluttered my life is; simply because I started looking around my kitchen. And I didn’t like it.

It started with the counters… I saw way too much stuff just sitting out! Things I don’t use every day went into cupboards. But of course, I had to clean out the cabinets to make room for those things I don’t use regularly.

Then, when I moved on to the cupboards, where I saw the things I haven’t used in a long time. Some of them I haven’t used since before I moved into this house nearly 18-months ago. It was then I decided that things had to go.

If I was going to declutter the kitchen, then I also had to do other rooms as well. So, now, I am halfway through clearing the living and family rooms and plan to move on to my office next (probably tomorrow). And, I have realized that it’s about time. I have needed to clear my head (and my space) for a long time.

By recognizing that the space I live in reflects my internal state, I chose to start decluttering—inside and out! And so, the process of clearing begins. Suzanne was never one for clutter. It was time to clear up—and that was something I used to love about Suzanne’s cleaning and clearing habits—she was ruthless.

She especially disliked things being left out on the counters. If I left my keys and wallet on the counter when I came in from work, I would get “the look” (You know, the one that said, “are you planning on leaving that there?”)

As I worked my way through the kitchen, probably embodying a little procrastination about writing this piece and some need to simply clear the space, I started to think about what she would think of this place (and the space I have created). Once I finished decluttering the kitchen, I surveyed the landscape. I think she would have liked it (as it is now).

So, now, I believe that I have channeled that energy of hers and have done something I probably never would have done without her. Truthfully, I am living that adage, “Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone.”

I hope this helps you think about what is cluttering up your life and whether you are being the best of the person who you loved and lost. Today, I know that I have been.

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Jeff Ziegler’s column can be fond very other Wednesday here on WSN-MO. You can write Jeff at jeff.ziegler@ymail.com

Finding Help for Your Grief

Losing your wife is so all-encompassing that it may not be comparable to any other loss except possibly the death of a child. The complete intertwining of your life with your wife in marriage makes her death distinctly life-shattering and life-changing. For this reason, many men find they need both informal and formal help in growing through their grief.

My church contacted me about the grief support groups held several times each year through our Stephen Ministry. The groups were conducted on an “as needed” basis, and the next group wasn’t scheduled to begin for about five months. While I waited, I learned online about several other grief support places: other churches, hospice care, and hospitals.

I was the only widow-man in the group of eight I joined; the others were all women, and only one was a widow. Everyone in the group had lost a family member through death, generally siblings or parents. Some had lost loved ones only a week or two earlier; some were grieving deaths from a few months ago. It might have helped me more if there had been another widow-man in the meetings, but I found I could learn from those experiencing other sources of grief. Perhaps I encouraged the others.

I later learned of a program called GriefShare, and I was invited to be a discussion leader for small groups at a church where the meetings were held. GriefShare looks deeply into experiences of grief when a loved one dies. It is presented from a Christian perspective, but it can be valuable for those of other faiths. You can find locations and meeting schedules online at Griefshare.com.

A good friend in a distant city lost her husband six weeks before my wife died. She and I had known each other for nearly fifty years. After we both lost our spouses, we became our own two-person support group through a constant stream of emails. We reminisced about our spouses’ final illnesses, our families, and the struggles we felt in our time of grief. When we found a book for grieving people, we began to email about the readings every day. Our two-person group was a rare discovery, and we both felt it preserved our mental health during that most challenging times. We still email often, but not about the loss of our spouses now. Our communications back then have had their healing effect.

You may want to list the names of three people with whom you could speak freely. If you can meet in person, that may be best, but even email and text messages can help. If you have a pastor, a priest, or a rabbi trained in grief counseling, they can be a great help. There is help for your grief.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, Widow-Man, every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidoweman@gmail.com.