The Healing Power of a Group

by Tom Peytom

Recently I met with an old friend I worked with many years ago at a diner near my home for dinner. We were both excited since I had not seen him in about five years. During our dinner, he asked the question that so many friends and acquaintances often pose to me; and I am sure each of you has encountered this question; “How are you doing?

It’s the question those who have not lost a spouse or a loved one often pose out of sincerity and concern, and I think often hoping they don’t upset us, cause us to cry or make us angry. I answered by saying there are strategies I had to develop to move forward in my life.

My friend thought I would give the perfunctory “I am ok, doing as well as I can.” I wanted him to know that I have a plan and am actively working to heal.

I explained how I meet with a grief counselor once a week for over 22 months since I knew my wife was in the final stages of her life.  I explained how he had been a source of comfort.  His wisdom has enabled me to make progress in my life as a Widower.

Secondly, I am part of the Widowers Support Network- Members Only (WSN-MO) Facebook page, and it is the best resource for Widowers on the planet! I explained how I could reach out with questions at any time, and 30 or more brothers will offer suggestions on any topic we as Widowers may face. I also told him about my group of 7 brothers, all members of the WSN-MO Facebook page who meet monthly on Zoom to support each other and provide solace and strength as we walk this journey.

I then told him about extensions of the WSN-MO groups, formed in various parts of the country and the world. One such group of brothers is in Texas who meet regularly for dinner and share their support for each other.

He gave me an apoplectic look and said, “Wow, I thought you would say ok, and we would talk about something else.” I told how I had discovered grief-centered groups could accelerate the healing needed when needing to move forward.  Grief-centered groups can help those of us who have suffered the loss of our spouses by giving us strength and hope and helping us find meaning and purpose in our new lives.

As Herb Knoll, our founder, has told us, “Men are fixers.” They see a problem: examine it and then fix it. Grief cannot be fixed as easily as a flat tire or a broken hinge on a door. Grief is a journey we the bereaved travel. It requires us to share experiences with those newly widowed and those who continue to navigate the roads and provide insights for all of us along the way.

We never tell each other what to do; we offer suggestions on how to deal with various issues. What’s most important about the group is that I can share with men who know exactly how I feel.  We also share laughs and fond memories of our late spouses. Our goal is to be a listening board for each other. We each know we cannot share our feelings with others who do not understand how we feel.

I now have the honor and am humbled to lead another group for my brothers in New York and Vermont.  About two months ago, 5 of us met in Upstate New York with Herb Knoll, our founder, and shared our stories.  We decided to continue once a month to support each other through a Zoom Meeting. These meetings play a vital role, I believe, in the healing process. There is no other place where men who suffered the loss of a spouse can share their feelings, worries, concerns, and memories that only our brothers understand.

Brothers, I encourage you to find your support network. Maybe it’s a church group or a Zoom meeting group through WSN-MO or a local hospice grief support group or Greif Share that has any chapters throughout the United States and other parts of the world. It’s the only safe haven where we can experience with others the pain and sadness that will one day lead to gratitude and joy.

As always, strength to you, my brothers.

Widowers: Dating Again!

Starting to date again at age 65 after being married for many years is intimidating for both widows and widowers. The reality can be very different than the cliché’s seen at the movies.  For me, dating was a necessary step in my journey to redefine myself and regain my self-confidence.

Once I got past the first few dates (starting five months after my wife’s passing) and regained a modicum of self-confidence, I was fortunate enough to meet one woman who caused me to feel like I was sixteen years old again. Wow! I had no idea that I could possibly feel this way about any woman again. Prior to this, I expected to feel some level of mutual attraction, but not to have my pulse run faster, to have sleepless nights thinking about her, or having anxiety about our relationship. Literally, I felt as if I had regressed 50 years to my first high school infatuations.

We found ourselves carrying on long conversations, calling each other frequently, seeing each other often, and just enjoying each other’s company. There definitely was attraction, a sense of being able to be open with each other, and a feeling that we had been brought together for a reason.

The object of my affection and I both found we were going through a similar emotional rollercoaster. The fact that she also was recently widowed helped us to be more empathetic and supportive of each other as we went through this experience. I loved being able to feel this way again; but I was fearful that my emotions were being driven by my psychological-emotional state that arose from my continued deep grieving for my recently deceased wife.

I was fortunate in that my new-found friend and I were able to step back and slow the train down before we jumped into full-blown intimacy. I admit that she was better at this than I was, but I came to be grateful for our hesitancy as I believe neither of us was fully ready for that yet. I also believe that at this early stage, there would have been negative repercussions in the form of regrets and self-condemnation.

Eventually, after about three months, we broke it off knowing that we were not yet in an emotional and psychological place where we could take the next step in our relationship. We both realized that we were still going through some deep grieving that made it very difficult to establish a strong foundation for an ongoing relationship that might develop into something more permanent.

This led me to begin dating in a much more platonic mode going forward.  I had come to realize that my first focus had to be on me, and my becoming a more secure, fulfilled, and strong individual before I could add someone else into my life. I recognized that I was still trying to redefine who I now was after losing my wife who had been such a large part of me. I did not yet know who I was without her. I could not just take another woman, no matter how wonderful she was, and put her in Theresa’s place.

In the end, this three-month whirlwind romance was good for me in that it:

  • showed me that I could love again,
  • built my self-confidence about myself and my ability to meet wonderful women again,
  • allowed me to experience emotions that I did not know were still possible, and
  • taught me how to better manage my newly unleashed emotions.

I hope that all of you who read this and decide to date again, are able to find a rewarding relationship that allows you to continue to grow and enjoy life again.

© Copyright 2021 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

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Widower to Widower 2nd Edition is now available through:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie bookstores, Target, Walmart, local libraries and more.

For autographed copies, go to: https://www.fredcolby.com/buy-books

Nooks and Crannies

Nooks and Crannies

Day by Day with Chris Brandt

            There is something that never seems to change, that is the fact that I wake up, and it is a brand new day. Some mornings come sooner than others, but when I open my eyes, it is a new day with new opportunities each morning. This scenario never fails.

            In my bedroom, on the dresser next to my bed, I have some pictures. They are pictures of my late wife. When my wife first passed, I knew I wanted those pictures there, and I would not have it any other way. After a few months, I questioned having the images there. Now, about a year and a half since she passed, I still am sure I want them there. I like having her there when I go to bed, and I like having her there when I wake up. It gives me a piece of happiness.

            Happiness can be found in all sorts of places. We need to make a conscious effort to look in all the little nooks and crannies for happiness. One thing is for sure, recognize what makes you happy and do more of what that is. I like the pictures, I want to reminisce, I like to watch the same shows that we once did, and I like going to the same places we would go.

            The examples I give for me finding happiness will probably be different in your case, but also know that there are many other things where I find happiness. There are still wildflowers coming up in the spring, and I know my wife planted them, I see our son doing the things she taught him, and the list goes on and on. Many times, it’s a matter of looking back at the root of what you notice. This is something I did not do at first. Maybe I was afraid to, or perhaps I did not look at things that way.

            Just remember that some things you see as sad today may look different not far down the road. I will leave you with this thought. I recently pulled the old trailer out from behind my sheds lean-to. It had been under there for a long time. It was dirty and cobwebs and dusty. I pulled it out into the yard to use later. Shortly after, the sky turned dark grey, and the wind picked up. I dreaded seeing this storm coming. I went inside and left the yard work for tomorrow. When I went out the following day, that dreaded storm washed the trailer, and it looked great! Some things aren’t always as dreaded as they seem.

Blessings, my brothers.  

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Chris can be reached via Facebook Messenger

35 Money Matters

By Dr. Nyle Kardatzke

“Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it.” Ecclesiastes 7:12 (NIV)

The Teacher in Ecclesiastes advises us that “money is a shelter,” but he indirectly cautions that money in itself doesn’t preserve us as wisdom does. Money is only a tool, but it’s a uniquely important tool.

You are now navigating your financial ship without your most trusted adviser, your wife. I recommend that you find someone with whom you can talk confidently about your finances, even if you have some expertise in this area. For objectivity, if nothing else, a professional advisor, a family member, a friend, or perhaps even someone on your church staff can help. Be sure this person can talk with you analytically without a personal stake in your decisions.

If you haven’t already, you should review your finances now and continue to do so in future years. Financial conditions and laws change over time. You need to be aware of those changes.

Your risk tolerance probably has changed since your wife’s death. You may need or want to reduce the degree of risk in your financial holdings. If you haven’t evaluated your finances recently, you may want to change your assets, insurance, and debt management. Your advancing age alone leads to changes in the optimal handling of finances.

Try to be aware of any financial issues that are on your mind. Don’t let those issues fester and worry you. There are objective answers to your financial questions.

One of the most significant financial decisions for widow-men is housing. If you and your wife were living in your own house, you may soon wonder if there is another place you should consider. Emotional issues, as well as financial questions, are important here. Is your present home convenient and emotionally comfortable? Is it a place where your children grew up and perhaps where they come to visit with their families several times a year? On the other hand, does your home stir negative emotions, or is it becoming unwieldy to manage?

For at least the first year after your wife’s death, it’s probably wise not to sell your house and move unless economic pressure forces it on you. After that first year, you will be able to look at the question with more objectivity. I still live in the house we bought more than twenty years ago, and I love it here. My children love to come here, and the grandchildren enjoy the spaces for play. Yet a time will come when I won’t have the stamina or even the desire to maintain this house. I might not even be safe here or able to climb the stairs.

A popular way to downsize is to move to a senior living community. I know many people, both older and younger than I am, who have made this move happily, and I can see advantages in the simplification senior living can bring. When my health begins to fail, as it will, I’ll want to have people nearby and possibly even medical support in the place where I’ll live. I hope I will have the presence of mind to decide to move when I need to. Two of my brothers are now in assisted living, and the menus at those places make me want to quit cooking for myself.

You probably already have begun to review your insurance needs. Your home and auto insurance may not need special attention. Your medical insurance, Medicare supplements, life insurance, and long-term care insurance will need to be updated soon. This can lead you to a number of complex questions for which a professional advisor can be a great help. See the Internet to begin schooling yourself on the complex subject of insurance.

If you don’t already have a professional financial adviser, you probably should see one. You don’t have to be wealthy to need professional financial help. It may be even more crucial if your financial resources are limited.

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You can contact Dr. Kardatzke via Facebook Messenger

The Best Game in Town

by Terrell Whitener

For those of us that are sports fans here in the United States, we have just turned the page on the calendar to include a very important date, American Football Season!!!! It’s something about the energy of crowds, the pageantry of the colors and tradition, the beginning of the slowing down from the hustle and bustle of summer that ties in with what I call in my book The First 365, the “seasons of grief.”

To be successful in American football, you must execute a plan successfully to win the game like any other sport. Our grief in many ways requires that we do the same thing to learn to live a healthy, happy, and productive life. Yes, it will never be the same again for many of us, but the calendar moves on, and so must we in many ways.

So how do we develop our plan for moving forward with our lives? Though we have many similarities, seldom are the plans identical for each of us. To start with, only we lost our spouse or partner. That by itself gives us a unique thumbprint in the book we knew as love. So, let’s look at what one of these plans comprise.

Protect the Truth

While others have their opinions about our relationship with our loved ones, your truth is the most important as time goes by.

Not everyone in our lives respected or thought well of our relationship. Jealously, disapproving family members and friends sometimes made the waters of our lives uneven at times. The perceived slights after the passing of our loved one, the hurtful comments, and at times the outright lies can be difficult to experience. But as I referenced in a previous article, I chose the be the “curator of our love.” I own the only authorized edition of our love story; my story is the most important in my existence.

Live a Life of Purpose

I believe strongly that men respond best when some modicum of structure exists. Often, we must maintain discipline in our thoughts, be intentional in our activities, and remain accountable for our decisions.

For myself, I have tried to adopt the concept of intentional living. I will pick up the phone more often to check on a friend, the word I love you flows more easily than it used to toward those that matter in my life. While a bit more disciplined, I have tried to loosen my grip on this thing called life.

Allow for Adjustments

Newsflash, we may not get it right on the first attempt. There will be misfires along the way. It doesn’t mean we fumbled the ball, but the game is seldom over even if we did. There will be trial and error in our efforts to re-shape our existence. The most important thing to do is to “stay in the game.”

Never Give Up on the Belief that it Can Get Better

Word of clarification to start, I did not say better than it was, but it can get better than the current state for many of us. For those that have found love again, I wonder if you spend any time comparing your new love with your previous love or do you just love. We are best served by thoughts that life can and will get better. That is my glass half full view of the world. I will miss Robyn for the rest of my existence, but there are more laughs to laugh at, excellent sites to see, and happiness to experience. I will often reach for her hand only to remember that it is no longer there, but the fact that it was at one time there will make me smile.

So, plan we must move forward, we must and remember we will. The plan is essential; the plan in your own unique way is a must in our lives to remain fully alive. Until next time brothers.

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, where you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widow Support Network.

Financial Landmines

My father died when he was 33 years of age, so I realized the importance of getting my finances in order while still young. I bought life insurance, started an IRA investment account, wrote a will, and made sure that my wife was the primary beneficiary.

During one period (2008 – 2012), I was sure that I was going to die first due to a serious and rapidly spreading skin cancer. So, I doubled down on making sure my affairs were to ensure my wife’s ability to survive comfortably after my death. Then, through a fortuitous set of circumstances, I was healed in 2012. However, my wife and I suspected that my health record was a sure indicator of my going first.

Then suddenly, in 2015, my wife passed as a result of uterine cancer. I was so shocked and angry over the injustice of her early demise that I did not think about the finances for some time. Eventually, I came out of deep grieving and realized that everything about our finances had been structured for her survival, not mine. She had no life insurance policy, her IRA was small, and I had given little thought to what I would do without her.

After getting copies of my wife’s death certificates, I began the tedious task of changing everything over to my name, including bank accounts, investment accounts, property deeds, automobiles, charge accounts, and much more. It took almost a year to find and change everything.

Many widowers face loss of spousal income, huge medical or funeral costs, or diminished assets resulting from long-term care.  Some may have left financial planning to their wives and may not know where the checkbook is much less investment account information. This can make the task seem overwhelming and lead to inertia or poor decisions made in haste.

Another threat can be family members who expect to receive immediate benefits in estate distributions, insurance payments, or IRA account payouts. This can put tremendous emotional pressure on a widower at a time when he is ill-equipped mentally to deal with these demands. The temptation can be to give it all away and forget about their self-interest. This, in turn, can lead to future financial challenges.

This brings me to an important piece of advice we all have heard repeatedly, a piece of advice that has proven its value over and over again for thousands of widowers: WAIT AT LEAST A YEAR BEFORE MAKING ANY MAJOR DECISIONS.

This applies to selling your house, marrying again, leaving your job, and distributing your assets. I know of many widowers who ignored this advice and paid a heavy price for it, diminishing their quality of life in the future. Sometimes we have no choice and must make these decisions before a year is up. But even then, you can still tell everyone, “Time out; I am going to take a little extra time to make this decision. You will have to wait.” If others are putting heavy pressure on you, that is probably an indicator that you should not give in and make an immediate decision.

When it comes to your finances and re-marrying, be extra careful to allow yourself the Time to explore all options. Wait until you feel that your head is on right and capable of making good decisions. I know there was a time in my deep grieving where I did not feel capable of this. Whatever you do, don’t do this alone. If you can, see a counselor and talk through the big decisions before you leap and are stuck with the results.

© Copyright 2021 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

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For Facebook page, go to: https://www.facebook.com/FredColbyAuthor

What do I do with my loved one’s clothing

It’s the question we widowers and widows must one day face. It is like the other questions we encounter as we move forward in life. Do I continue to wear my wedding ring? Do I stay in my house or apartment or move to another place of residence?  Do I choose to date or choose not to date?There is no right or wrong answer to any of these questions. It’s a decision that, with time and understanding, each of us will one day make.

I am fifteen months into my journey as a Widower. As I have done all my life, I proceed with caution. I am taking steps to enter a new chapter in my life without my wife. I would pass by my late wife’s walk-in closet for several months and always ensure the door was closed. I did not want anything disturbed. After ten months, I decided it’s not a mausoleum or a tombstone but a place that brought lots of joy to my wife and a place that always smelled so nice. It’s the place containing all her clothing and shoes and some medical supplies toward the end of her life.

My wife was the most meticulous person I ever knew. She arranged her closet with business suits, expensive dresses and gowns on the top shelving, and ordinary everyday clothes on the lower shelves. Shoes were organized from dress to casual, including sneakers and sandals. Everything had to be in its place. It was how she lived her life: organized, structured, and well-balanced.

After my long period of hesitancy, I one day opened the closet door and smelled the fragrance that in so many ways defined my wife: beautiful and sweet.

I noticed all the clothes that were neatly hung as I previously described. I thought of the many celebrations we shared in our lives. I remembered the beautiful dresses and gowns from so many events and milestones. The shoes always had to match the outfit. I recalled with fondness the sandals and sneakers my wife wore at the beach. Fond memories of our many trips to Rhode Island, watching the ocean, and enjoying the majesty of nature.

I laughed at the red converse sneakers my wife had me buy her several years ago. In 2016 my wife suffered a mild stroke and was in the hospital for several days. The stroke did not affect her physically but did affect her ability at times to speak. One of the grandchildren came to visit her and had brand new red converse sneakers. My wife loved them and said to me: “When we get home, get me a pair of those sneakers.” Being a dutiful husband, I did what she asked.  She wore them proudly on many occasions.

Recently my four youngest grandchildren stayed with me for a week. We had a great time together, and one night they saw me go into my late wife’s closet. I was removing some of the medical supplies, and they asked if they could help me. Of course, I said yes.  They then sheepishly asked: “Can we look around the closet”? “Grams,” as they affectionally called her, would let us, they reminded me.  I let them go in one by one to spend some time looking around. Their eyes lit up as they saw her clothes and shoes.  I know my wife would have laughed and been delighted with their joy. I decided it was time to share what my wife wanted me to give them with them.

The sixteen-year-old has grown so much and is about as tall as my wife was at 5’5″. I asked her what her shoe size was, and she said 7, the same as my late wife. I asked her to try on the sneakers, and of course, they fit her perfectly. I knew at that moment it was time to ask her if she would like to have them.  She, of course, hugged me and said, “Yes, yes, absolutely.”

I said, you can have a part of your grandmother by wearing her sneakers. She told me, I want to show you something; let me get my purse. She came back with her grandmother’s memorial card. She said I carry it all the time with me. It reminds me of my grandmother.  Now I can wear a part of her on my body.

My grandson’s youngest wanted something from the kitchen that he always loved: one of “Grams” traveling mugs.  He was so delighted to fill it with ice and Sprite, his favorite drink. I gave gloves and a scarf to the two younger girls, and they were so happy to have a part of “Grams” with them.

The grandchildren all went down into the basement to relish their new treasures. I went back to my bedroom and into my late wife’s closet and closed the door as I shed many tears.  They were tears, yes of sadness, but also joy. I took a step that I postponed for a long time. It is not a significant accomplishment; a few small steps brought joy and happiness to the grandchildren who loved their grandmother so much.

I have since given away a few more items of clothing and will continue to do so.

I believe I am fulfilling the responsibility I have as the caretaker of my late wife’s belongings. It’s not an easy task, and yes, there will be tears along the way.

 I know I am paying homage to the woman who taught me about love and about sharing love. As I share her love, I am acutely aware of the man she chose to share her life with and the man she helped mold.

Strength to you brothers

What We Share with Fellow Widowers

Author, Widower to Widower

By Fred Colby

All widowers have something in common… we are going, or have gone, through hell on earth. We may have different experiences on this journey, but we also have many commonalities… especially if we were fortunate enough to have a good loving marriage.

We can support each other by sharing that which was common in our experience, as well as by sharing that which was unique to us. By seeing the different ways in which we meet our challenges, we learn that we don’t all have to do it the same way. We also learn that there are many different paths to healing and to feeling whole again.

My situation was unique because of my background, culture, family, style of meeting challenges, faith, and circle of friends and acquaintances. Each of us has all of these in some unique combination, so what works for me may not work for another.

BUT, we all feel, we all loved our wives, we all go through deep and painful grieving, and we all feel like we are alone in our pain during this period. And we all come out of the experience with more empathy than we had before it. These commonalities, together with our shared experience help us to identify with and learn from each other’s experience.

We all feel as if a huge part of us has been torn away, as if our very being is now incomplete. We have pain, we cry, we feel disoriented, and we have lost all sense of our place in the world. We feel lonely like we have never felt lonely before. We are desperate to have our wife back in our life and to feel her presence again. We wander around our home lost and not knowing what to do next.

We worked hard for decades to build a nest egg so that we could retire together and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We expected our wives to outlive us, and that our hard work would provide for her later years. Instead, we now find ourselves alone with no place to go, and in a very unfamiliar role.

It helps to focus on gratitude for this wonderful woman who was in our lives, for the lessons we learned from her, and for the love she shared with us. As we struggle with redefining who we are we must hold on to what she instilled into us and honor how she made us better.

And finally, we need to discover our new purpose in life now that she is gone. That means becoming a better father, grandfather, neighbor, community member, and person. We need to learn how to turn away from  negative, angry, and helpless thoughts, and turn to gratitude for the good in our lives while celebrating the wonderful memories of our past lives with our wives.

Our time left on this earth is now less than before, so the importance of making good use of our remaining years becomes even more crucial. So, I challenge all of us to ask ourselves, “What will I do with my remaining time on this earth to make it better for my children, grandchildren, community, and world? What can I do that would make my wife proud of me and what I accomplished after she was gone?”

Please join me and many of our fellow widowers on this journey to healing.

© Copyright 2021 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

Widower to Widower 2nd Edition is now available through:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie bookstores, Target, Walmart, local libraries and more.

For autographed copies, go to: https://www.fredcolby.com/buy-books

I Have Called You In Righteousness

I have called you in righteousness. I will hold you by the hand and watch over you. Your life will be a light to others. God’s purpose in creating you and calling you to Himself is that you will reflect His glory. I declare new things over you. Sing to the Lord a new song.  Shout for joy.  Give glory to God.  The Lord will go forth before you.  He will prevail against the enemy.  He will make darkness into light before you.  He will make rugged places into plains.   Isaiah 42 is full of promises to those who will partake of God’s goodness.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, what has carried me through the deepest and darkest valley I have ever walked has been my willingness to lean on these promises.  Even in the period where I struggled to trust God’s plan for my life, questioned His agenda, and challenged His motives,  deep within me I trusted my prior experience and understanding of the  character and nature of God.  This valley may have been the darkest I had walked, but over the years there were other valleys and struggles.  Whilst navigating them, my own weaknesses were revealed and my strengths became the vanguard of my daily existence. 

It may sound like antinomous reasoning when I state my weaknesses are my greatest strength. Every loss and heartache reveals my brokenness.  Every failure reveals my lack of confidence.  Every defeat reveals my weakness.  Yet this I know, I can lay them all down at the feet of my Father because of the promise He has made in His word. 

  “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

  2 Corinthians 12:9 

I pray that my life would be a reflection of His strength being made perfect in weakness.  The warrior in me acknowledges my (not so secret) weapon is the power of Christ in me.  Would you tap into that same power that is made abundantly available to all who call upon His name?  #Death #Disease #Divorce will bring you to your knees in defeat and surrender.  Remember this – you are not surrendering to your circumstances but you are surrendering to the Magnificent Potter; He who fearfully and wonderfully knit you can and does break you and rebuild you into a vessel of His bidding for a higher calling.  Live a victorious life, notwithstanding the many defeats along the way.

Joy Comes in the Morning

#Death #Disease #Divorce 

Cynthia Mascarenhas Waits is the Founder of Walk with a Widow – a ministry to widows.

“Sometimes our healing happens when we change the way we relate to the things that will not change” – Vienna Pharaon

By Tom Peyton

As I mentioned in a previous column, I receive daily inspirational quotes, and this one arrived not only from the site that sends them but forwarded as well from a high school classmate to me. They are both asking me to examine the quote and unravel its meaning. I will give it my best attempt.

Let me start with the second part of the quote and with a question: “How do I relate to the things that will not change? Almost fifteen months ago, my wife died, and my world changed forever. Our collective life ended, and I will never get it back. I can wish and hope and long for what was, but the reality is it won’t ever come back.

I am reminded of one of the disclaimers my friend Fred Colby uses at the start of his bereavement support group meetings: “Life will never be the same again.”  It’s not meant to make the participants sad, cause them to cry, or become filled with anxiety. Neither is it designed to force or compel one to accept a harsh reality the past is over. I believe its purpose is to remind us, the bereaved; there is a new aspect to our lives called Grief that is a part of but not the whole of who we are as human beings.

Let me emphasize this point so that it is not misconstrued. Greif in the early days, weeks, and months is overwhelming. Let’s use the image of the waves that often capture how we feel. The metaphor creates the image of waves coming at us with a speed and force that completely wipes us out. We cannot manage them, nor can we stand up as they strike constantly. With time they seem to slow down, but it requires us to work through them and learn how to manage and accept them.

Yes, brother’s work on our part that involves change. As Mark Twain or Samuel Clemens wrote many years ago: “The only one who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper.” Change demands learning how to rethink, redo and re-purpose our lives. It requires we take steps that will help us find a new way to remember forever our past, cherish our beautiful memories and incorporate them into our new life as we move forward. There will, of course, be tears, the triggers that remind us of the past, but there will also be smiles and laughter conjoined with joyful remembrances of the love we shared with our special brides who, as Herb Knoll reminds us often: “Chose us.”

In 2017 Diana Krall, the esteemed Canadian Jazz Musician, released her album “Turn Up the Quiet.”  The album was a tribute to the many lost mentors and loved ones who had influenced her life. In an interview after its release, Krall said the album was “a reflection of how she was learning to deal with grief.” Initially, it was overwhelming and unbearable. She felt as though she was in a cave and will never find an escape route. With time she discovers and realizes that if you endure grief if you let it take its course, if you learn how to accept it rather than denying it, you can find joy. She says it’s about finding beauty in sad things.

In her book “The Anatomy of Grief,” Dr.  Dorothy P Holinger, renowned Harvard School of Medicine professor, talks about Alchemy – the medieval forerunner of chemistry. Alchemists believed they could convert basic metals into gold. Proven over and over, it is impossible to do. Holinger draws a comparison to grief. The bereaved often see suffering like lead: dark and heavy. If only like the alchemist, we could turn it into gold. Impossible? Maybe not.  “Grief does change the brain, hurt the heart and make the body suffer. Yet it can if you work through it and allow it follow its dynamic path with ebbs and flows, tears and laughter and accept it as part of your life it can change into joy or possibly gold”.

I return to the first part of the quote: Healing occurs when we change the way we see our reality- The death of our loved one is that “thing” that will never change. It is not a curse or a life sentence. It’s not imprisonment into a world of pain and suffering.  It’s an opportunity to remember, recall, re-purpose and move forward by seeing the new way we relate to the things that will never change.

I stand with you, brothers, as we journey together.