Valentine’s Day Healing Heart

By Herb Knoll

Author of The Widower’s Journey

Valentine’s Day, 2008, will forever live in my heart as well as in my mind’s eye. The day began when I was awakened by a noise coming from what seemed to be the vicinity of the kitchen.  As I approached to retrieve my first cup of coffee of the day, I found my beautiful wife Michelle busy working on her latest project: making pretzels sticks dipped in various flavors of chocolate; each stick beautifully wrapped in heart-themed cellophane, with a red or pink bow.  “These are Valentine’s Day gifts for your staff,” she said.  “Employees always like getting gifts from their boss.”  I didn’t know it at that precise moment, but Michelle’s efforts to spread joy among my team at work would be the last thing she did in our home before being admitted into a hospital for the last time, later that same day. Michelle lost her battle with cancer twenty-one days later on March 7, 2008, a dark and rainy Friday evening in San Antonio, Texas.

Surviving holidays as a widower, especially as a new widower, is always tricky.  As an advocate for widowers, I have noticed how most widowers have one or two holidays that are harder than others to deal with, for they are laced with cherished memories that are more valuable than the Crown Jewels of England. For me, Valentine’s Day is one of those days. With perfect regularity, February 14th is always sure to give me pause, as each year I’m reminded of the sixteen years I celebrated it with Michelle. 

For many widowers, Valentine’s Day delivers an endless barrage of love symbolism, perhaps never to be experienced again. From chocolates and flowers for their lady to memories of a warm wet kiss or a loving glance from across a room, the expressions of love around Valentine’s Day are inescapable. Valentine’s Day reminds many widowers of the emptiness they may have become accustomed to living with daily, even if for only a brief second when their grief of yesterday assumes its role at center stage in one’s thoughts. 

Following Michelle’s passing, I assumed I would be a bachelor for the rest of my days.  It was about that time I decided to celebrate Michelle’s life by living mine.  Two and one-half years after Michelle’s passing, I met and fell in love with Maria. We were married twelve months later off the coast of Italy during a ceremony onboard the Ruby Princess cruise ship.

Does this mean I never think about Michelle anymore?  Hardly.  I am proud to say I was married to Michelle as I am to Maria today.  Today, Valentine’s Day reminds me that the human heart can mend and is capable of loving more than one person over a lifetime. If a widower is seeking companionship, a life partner, or perhaps more, he should have hope that such joy may well be awaiting its discovery by him.  And it is likely to occur when he least expects it to do so. 

I understand that some widowers, including those who, like me, may have discovered love again, have lingering difficulty in dealing with the visible triggers of grief Valentine’s Day presents. For them, please permit me to offer a few suggestions.  

1.  Spend the day with your children or with members of your extended family, preparing your wife’s favorite recipes.  Once made, enjoy a family meal with each other while allowing each family member to share stories about your wife.

2.  Spend some time working on your family tree, capturing memories about your wife for future generations to enjoy.  You may even want to write your wife a letter and insert it into your family tree’s archives.

3.  Spend time with your grandchildren, perhaps taking them on a day-trip to show them their grandmother’s favorite park, the home of her youth, or where the two of you met.  And be sure to take the little ones to their grandmother’s favorite restaurant and buy their lunch while you’re there.

4.  Focus your expressions of love on to others.  From volunteering for the Red Cross or your local veteran’s organization to spend some time assisting those served by your wife’s favorite charity. 

5.  Volunteer to babysit for another couple so they can enjoy their Valentine’s Day as much as you enjoyed yours during years past. 

6.  Be strengthened by reading scripture (1 Thessalonians 4) that speaks to Our Lord’s promise that we will one day again be reunited with those that we love. 

Just because someone dies doesn’t mean the love they shared with others did likewise.  This Valentine’s Day, go out and celebrate the time you were blessed to be with your beloved wife.  And when you lay your head on your pillow later that evening, be sure to tell your deceased wife you love her.  Go ahead.  She’s listening.   

Social Security Tidbits

Don’t be so fast to spend the first Social Security check deposited into your wife’s bank account following her passing, for if you were to do so, you may find that you have to pay it back.  WHY?  Because Social Security is paid in advance.  In order to be eligible to receive any amount paid, the payee must live for the entire period (month) the payment is intended to provide for.  Recommendation:   Contact your Social Security office following your spouse’s passing for details.

And did you know widowers are eligible for a widower’s Social Security payment if they are 60 or older.  Eligible widowers may want to subscribe for this payment and defer going on their own Social Security program.  Doing so will allow your personal plan to grow in the amount to be paid once you switch over in a year or two.  As with most things financial, be sure to visit with a qualified financial planner to assist  you.  It is well worth the investment, regardless of your financial standing.

HELPFUL TIPS YOU CAN USE

After becoming a widower, most men find themselves performing many new tasks.  When doing so, it is always helpful to have the advantage of a few friends to offer some advice and money or time saving tips.  Here are just a few.

1.  For those widowers who are disabled veterans, you can receive 10% off on all purchases at both Home Depot and Lowe’s.  You can also recevie 10% off on your AT&T cell phone bill.  Just inquire at the respective stores.
2.  All Veterans are eligible to receive final resting places for both the veteran and his deceased bride at any one of over 100 National Cemeteries.  Free services include plot, grave stone.  This can be a significant savings for those who are interested.  Contact your local National Cemetery for details.
3.  To increase the amount of your income tax deductions, arrange to have any fees charged by your financial service provider on your qualified retirement accounts charged to your personal non-qualified accounts.  This advantage may not impact everyone so as always, be sure to check with your tax advisor for details.

Have a tip you wish to share with other widowers… please post it in the comment field below.

RUTILO FLORES NEEDED HELP IN THE KITCHEN – HE IS NOT ALONE.

Contributing widower Rutilo Flores of Illinois tells us how, in his country, men never entered the kitchen.  It was as they say… the custom.  You can image the reservations a widower may have if they were suddendly expected to prepare a casserole or perhaps even an omelette for their children or a guest.  Someone, quick… pass me a beer and two asprin.

Take heart gents.   There are some great resources which can help with your culinary challenges including:
1.  Many Hopsice chapters have cooking classes.  Check with your local Hospice for availability, times and fees if any. Hopsice of Michigan is promoting its new book, A Meal for Me, as part of their cooking class which teaches simple strategies when cooking for one.  Recipes include: Miniature quiche, Baked frittata, Apple, celery and nut salad, Turkey Ceasar sandwich, Sesame shrimp with noodles, and many more delights.  For more information, call 888.247.5701 or visit www.hom.org.
2.  Cooking 101: The Course for Absolute Beginners is available in the New York City area and is repeated frequently. Tuition: $335.00.
3.  To find additional opportunities to discover the joy which lerks in your kitchen, Google your local community colleges course offerings as well as any single groups which may have cooking events among their planned activities.  Heck… by attending one of these classes, you might even find someone to do the cooking. 🙂

If you discover another helpful resource, please post it to our blog.

My daughter is having trouble adjusting to life without her mother

It has been 19 months since my wife passed away yet my 14 year old daughter still has not recovered from her loss.  She locks herself in her bedroom for long periods of time.  She shares very little with me about her day let alone her life or her feelings.  I just don’t know how to help her.  Has anyone else had similar experiences?  If so…please tell me what you did about it.

Attention Widowers: IT’S TIME FOR YOU TO SHARE

So go ahead and register with WidowerSupportNetwork.com and then log-on to WidowerSupportNetwork.com FORUM.  Read what others are writing.  Learn from their mistakes.  And when you’re ready, share a story or two of  your own.  It’s easy.  It’s fun.  And communicating with other widowers can help those who are suffering heal…including you.  Besides…like everything associated with WidowerSupportNetwork.com, its FREE.

Good News

November Edition, 2014
By Micki Morrison
Realtor
“Meet Herb Knoll”

It will probably not surprise you that in my work as a Realtor, I meet some of the most amazing, interesting and inspiring people on the planet.  From a WWII fighter jet pilot to the mother of eight children who has survived amazing challenges and demonstrated strength and courage throughout it all, each customer and friend teaches me something beautiful about life and the goodness that resides in each and every one of us.

In this month’s edition of “Good News”, I would like to introduce you to a man who has transformed pain and tragedy into purpose and healing while changing the lives of souls in need along the way.  Meet Herb Knoll.

When I first met Herb at a listing appointment in The Villages, I didn’t expect to encounter such an empowering story of transcendence and healing. Herb moved to The Villages shortly after the passing of his beloved wife, Michelle Renee’ Knoll.  Herb, a man with an impressive business background and extensive resources, instinctively went in search for help in dealing with his profound grief.  Certainly someone understood that men and women cope with the loss of a spouse differently and there would be something available which spoke specifically to men about the grieving process.  To his surprise, there was very little help available for widowers and their families.

From his church to the self-help bookshelves of the local Barnes and Noble book store, Herb could not find a resource which would help him, as a man and recent widower, cope and navigate the healing process.  It was then that he decided to turn his personal quest into a book which would comfort and assist other widowers with their grief as well.  The book which is currently being written is titled: The Widower’s Journey

To write Herb’s book, he interviewed forty of what he refers to as Contributing Widowers from across America, representing a wide variety of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds.  The circumstances surrounding the passing of their wives range from tragic auto accidents and being struck by a car, to prolonged illnesses.  One wife died in her twenties when she was deployed by the U.S. Air Force to Afghanistan where she contracted leukemia, leaving three young children behind.   As he interacted with his team a widowers, Herb looked to identify the risks and challenges widowers face and the methods and best practices they used in dealing with them.   And there are plenty of challenges to be dealt with including but not limited to: grief, raising children, careers, relationships with family and in-laws, dating, and some serious health considerations.

Herb also recruited a team of experts who are lending their professional skills to the lessons Herb will be sharing.  Members of this A-Team include two psychologists, a certified financial planner, a Catholic priest, a Rabbi, a clinical psychologist, an attorney and more.  The Widower’s Journey is laced with actionable steps the reader can immediately put to work.  Whether the reader is slowly losing a spouse to Alzheimer’s or has been faced with a sudden and unexpected loss, this book is both a blessing and a comfort.

Reading the personal stories contained in Herb’s latest work will move its readers into a sense of fraternity with those who graciously provided their experiences for their collective benefit.  Finally, men and their friends and families who want to comfort them, have a guide which helps them navigate the unchartered waters of losing a spouse and finding a life renewed in the process. Thank you Herb!

For information on how to order your copy of The Widower’s Journey, you can do so by either contacting Herb Knoll at: 407.878.1514 or visiting Herb’s website: WidowersSupportNetwork.com