Widowhood Love and the BAE Phenomenon

WSN-MO: A Few Minutes with Terrell Whitener

Next month I will experience the sixth anniversary of my wife Robyn’s death. Over the almost two years that I have had the privilege of sharing my thoughts with you brothers, I have admitted that I have discovered that I feel that I know very little about women.

In the twenty-two and a half years that Robyn and I were together, she was the primary focus of my affection. Now full disclosure, it was not like I never appreciated other beautiful women, but in my selfish desire to continue breathing, I never acted on straying too far from home.

As the calendar changes to 2021, I think, dear brothers, that I may be ready to tread to the deep end of the pool again. I still do not know how to swim, but what the heck, it may be time.

In most of my conversations/flirtatious conversations that I have experienced with women my age, I have found that I, after a period, can categorize most of them in one of three areas. In today’s slang, there is an acronym BAE- Before Anyone Else. For me, however, I would sum my experiences with these acronyms differently. Let me share my experiences with you.

“B” stands for broken. I have found that the relational history of these women has left them with some significant wounds. However, very high functioning, successful women, boy do they come with some issues. Now I am sure that I am not “issue-free” myself but come on, not on this level.

Being a man attracted to intelligent, independent, successful women basically around my age, I have found that there is a definite reason that most of them are still available. I make this observation not out of bitterness but out of sheer observation. I live my life as a glass half full person, so I press ahead optimistically.

“A” stands for annuity. Boy, I have met a couple that loves to run through money! Fortunately, I am blessed to live a comfortable life, but like many, that comfortable life comes with a modicum of common sense as well. While among my cohorts, they know that I have a propensity to pick up the check, a practice my son always chides me on; everything has its limits. I very much believe in taking really good care of individuals that I may be interested in, but one whiff of entitlement, and I’m get immediately turned off.

So, I avoid being the “come up, brother.” I never mind investing in good ground, but please bring something to the relationship, will you please! I am sure this is a byproduct of living for more than two decades with a highly successful and generous woman, but I am who I am.

“E” stands for emotionally unavailable. I have experienced individuals that want all the perks but none of the responsibilities. I am far too old to play “house” in a relationship. Being serious is not a pre-requisite for me in a friendship, but I will not commit to exclusivity to an emotionally unavailable person. I am experienced enough to understand that there may be many reasons why an individual becomes emotionally guarded. However, careful, cautious, and unavailable are different things.

I often say that knowing what I want in life begins with knowing what I do not want. Over the years, I have had the good fortune of discovering what love looks like, feels like, and acts like. I am not saying that it needs to be precisely what I have experienced in the past, but it should exhibit some strong similarities to what brought me happiness in the past. I do not have a clue if a meaningful relationship/friendship is in my future. But if it comes along, I want it to be positive for both parties involved.

So, there you have it, my current state, Widowhood Love and the BAE phenomenon. I admit that this article is a bit of a departure from my usual offerings, but an honest offering none the less. As always, I welcome your feedback on these thoughts. 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 newly redesigned website, thedebriefgroup365.com; there, you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widowers Support Network.

Life is for the Living!

Some winning thoughts by Jim Winner

Life is for the living!

I went to the mountains of Pennsylvania last week to spend Thanksgiving with a few family members. Six of us gathered in my father’s cabin and enjoyed three days of relaxing, visiting, and sharing life.

My father died in an automobile accident ten years ago. Thanksgiving was his favorite day. The first few Thanksgivings without him were hard. My late wife Joyce died 18 months ago. That was tough. This was the second Thanksgiving without her. As I looked around the table, which used to have a minimum of 15-20 people gathered around, I was reminded once again how quickly life changes and how the older we get, the more it changes. I was also reminded that no matter what happens to us, life goes on. COVID and the risk of traveling kept some higher-risk family members at home. Life and work obligations prevented others from traveling. I agree with and respect those decisions. After all, it is 2020.

As I think back on Thanksgiving 2020 versus Thanksgiving 2019, I realize that, thankfully, I am a completely different person. I barely remember Thanksgiving 2019. I was deep in “the fog.” Last week, my siblings and friends remarked how good it was to see me happy again. The truth is, I am happy. Life is good in every way. Life’s journey continues. I took some long walks in the woods and spent some time honoring and remembering past Thanksgiving. There are a lot of good memories in that cabin. I also spent a lot of time thinking about the future and all the memories yet to be made. There’s a saying about the windshield being larger than the rearview mirror. That’s so very true.

As we approach the Christmas season, I know there’s a natural tendency to dwell on the Christmas past. There’s a significant risk to that. Christmas past is over. While we should never want to forget Christmas past, we must not live there. We should always honor and learn from the past. We cannot stay in it.

What I will hope we can all do is live for Christmas ( and life ) in the present and future. So, as we approach the Holiday season, I encourage you to honor the past memories while being intentional and focused on living for the present and future. Gain wisdom from those memories, and embrace what the present and future hold.

Life IS for the living.

A “Lakota Tradition” About Grieving

WSN: Widower, Wounded, Warrior, Waking and Walking

By Jeff Ziegler

This subject matter has been doing the rounds on Facebook of late. But it is relevant to what I want to address in this week’s post.

It starts like this: “In the Lakota tradition, a person who is grieving is considered most waken, most holy.”

It is not an alien concept. In many religions and belief systems (Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.), the bereaved are held in high regard and “revered” for a certain length of time, but what happens when that time is “over?”

The same Facebook post about the Lakota Tradition continues by saying, “There’s a sense that when the sudden lightning of loss strikes someone, he or she stands on the threshold of the spirit world. The prayers of those who grieve are considered especially strong, and it is proper to ask them for their help.”

What most people, especially non-widows, will typically ask of us is how they can help us. And we usually don’t have the clarity to answer, so we end up with yet another casserole.

But if you read my last post, I specifically talked about asking for help. So, why would a Native tradition turn that idea completely on its head and dictate that we (as widows and widowers) are the ones that others turn to in times of their need while we are grieving?

The answer isn’t straightforward, but belief systems are robust. We are raised to believe in certain things. So, I ask, does that mean we as the bereaved have some unique channel, an open line, to the hereafter when our person dies? While we sit in the throes of grief, do we have some acute superpower that is effectively a hotline to the creator/universe/spirit that created us for a brief time? If so, when does that end? When do we stop having this superpower?

The Facebook post ends like this: “You might recall what it’s like to be with someone who has grieved deeply. The person has no layer of protection; nothing left to defend. The mystery is looking out through that person’s eyes. He or she has accepted the reality of loss. They have stopped clinging to the past or grasping at the future. In the groundless openness of sorrow, there is a wholeness of presence and a pearl of deep natural wisdom.”

The thing is, I believe we all have this superpower and can access it at any time. What happens in times of deep grief is that we allow our true essence, our inner core nakedness, vulnerability, and openness to come out. We strip away all the layers. We lose the ego, and bravado falls away as we reach deep inside to bear witness to our mortality for a season. For some of us, this never leaves after our loss. For others, the superpower is lost over time; it wanes into a capacity to simply identify our grief feelings.

In my own life and practice, I have lost then rediscovered this superpower. It took a lot of hard work because my ego built up so many walls and roadblocks to protect me from feeling the deepness of my grief. It stopped me from truly accepting my mortality (that Suzanne’s death showed me)—to the point where it almost cost me everything!

What I realize now is that by genuinely accepting the ability to commune with my feelings and the grief associated with Suzanne’s death. I can now reopen the channel to the great creator, which helps me be at peace (with a sense of calmness and knowing that allows me to remain open to all possibilities in this life). This evolution of mine will enable me to act as a source to help others in their need.

Holidays 2020

WSN-MO: Widow-Man with Dr. Nyle Kardatzke

When I think of holidays, I think immediately of Thanksgiving and Christmas. My wife died on October 25, so those two holidays were a shock. I didn’t intend to immerse myself in open, emotional grief, but I didn’t want to pretend that nothing had changed. Those holidays were a challenge, especially that first year.

At Thanksgiving, I knew I needed to decline invitations from my wife’s family to join them. My son and his wife came to my house for a quiet lunch and afternoon. In the evening, we went to Cracker Barrel for Thanksgiving dinner. Half of the Hoosier nation was there, it seemed, but we had a traditional turkey dinner and felt that we had done justice by Thanksgiving.

Christmas marked precisely two months after my wife’s death. My adult children and four young grandchildren asked if they could all come and stay at my house. I knew I had to decorate the home to some extent rather than broadcast to these young people that I was alone, sad, and in shock. Christmas decorating was a project my wife had always led, so my mind felt like oatmeal, and my body seemed leaden.

I could hardly go through the motions of testing the lights, putting them up and getting the tree from the attic. Thankfully my son and his wife came to help, and the house quickly began to look a lot like Christmas. That year’s decorating was far below the standards my wife would have expected, but it was enough to signal to my family that life was going on and to me. The holiday I had dreaded became a step toward the future.

On the third Christmas after my wife’s death, I was with one of my daughters and her family. It was the first time my daughter had a grandparent there for Christmas, and it was my first time to be alone in the home of one of my children. I now have had ten Christmas seasons without my wife, and each has become easier, happier, and more focused on family, friends, and the future.

Holidays won’t be the same without your wife, but they won’t always be the same kind of emotional challenge you may feel at first. You may find altogether different ways to celebrate the holidays, maybe at home with some of the same decorations and foods you enjoyed with your wife, or perhaps in someone else’s home or a restaurant. Locations can change from year to year to accommodate the needs of family members.

Let Thanksgiving and Christmas take on new shapes in new ways. Find your way naturally into your new holiday traditions, and you will begin to celebrate them wholeheartedly.

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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 thewidowman@gmail.com

Focused Attention

WSN: Widower, Wounded, Warrior, Waking and Walking

by Jeff Ziegler

I have done a lot of work on myself over the last two years since Suzanne died. This morning, I had a revelation.

My attention has been scattered. The revelation came when listening to a podcast about brain science. It dawned on me that I need to apply attention to what has become—since Suzanne died—the most important things in life to me.

To me, this means placing my attention entirely on the activities and the relationships that truly serve me—not just what I have always been taught to “think,” I need to give my attention. I am changing the focus of my attention.

Brain science is a funny thing to think about. It isn’t something that immediately comes to mind when we talk about grief and losing our person. But we as widows and widowers have experienced significant trauma and our brains re-wire due to this loss (this is what experts call brain elasticity).

For some of us, this manifests as “Brain fog” or “Widow’s brain.” Widow Brain is a real thing for widow/ers, and most of us never escape from that fog because we can’t recognize it is affecting us.

Many of us will go to therapists to seek counsel on our grief (and we don’t always choose the best-qualified person to help us). Many therapists cannot know what we are experiencing, and they don’t necessarily know to diagnose the widow’s brain as a condition. Mostly, they see our thought patterns and behavior as a byproduct of depression, grief, etc. But it is physiological, real, and it can debilitate us. I know.

Toward the end of year one, I had to work through the widow brain and brain fog myself. Overcoming the brain fog was not only “mind over matter”—because it’s the mind that matters in this case. It was something much more challenging to overcome, mostly because we have to recognize it in ourselves and then choose to find a way to cure it.

For me, curing brain fog meant recognizing that I was suffering after making changes to many facets of my life. This included changed diet and exercise—both of which had increased in intensity over the previous few months.

I had decided to stick with my vegan diet (Suzanne and I both went vegan when her cancer returned in 2016). Also, I was still grieving heavily, hurting from the breakup of my first post-loss relationship, and I was ignoring the signs. My body lacked vital nutrients, fats, and acids, which meant the synapses in my brain were failing to fire.

At that moment, I identified these things were happening. While I chose to stick with my diet, I introduced supplements. When I started my new regimen using natural supplements, it was as if someone switched on a light switch on in my head. Quite literally overnight, my brain fog was gone.

When I started to focus my attention on solving the issues with my brain, I overcame what had seemed like an insurmountable obstacle. I was able to succeed because I focused my attention on overcoming the widow brain.

By committing my attention and focus on being present with the sensation of the brain fog—the widow brain—I realized that I could stop it from controlling me. I also realized that if I focused my attention on things that matter—not to “control” the situations and outcomes but to be present in them—I could attract what I wanted most: The things that are important to me.

The old saying is 100% true: “Where your attention goes, energy flows.” Even in these last few weeks, I have realized that my scattered attention was showing up still. While I no longer have brain fog, I am still scattered (relationships and work, for instance). By recognizing this, I chose to transition my focus—and my life—again.

As I revisit the path I have been walking since Suzanne died, I have been able to see all the wonderful things I have achieved in my life and see all the things I did that were maybe not in my best interest (or serving me). But I am genuinely proud of what I have accomplished and look forward to the next step in my journey.

By simply staying in the moment, I realized that I was still scattering my attention, meaning I was not focusing my attention on where my energy was flowing. I was still doing too much for too many others, and once again was losing my true self. So, now I have chosen to narrow my focus—both in my personal life and in my business.

In my life, I have started to focus my attention on my health, exercise, and diet again. It has been a bit neglected as I felt out of integrity with my own goals. In my work life, I have narrowed the focus of my coaching practice to work only with widows and widowers for the foreseeable future. Because this journey has not been easy (none of our journeys are), I know that what I have experienced is relevant to others.

I know my acquired wisdom will help others. That’s why I am directing my attention to specifically helping widow/ers. Who knows, maybe in another year or so, I will help their children, too.

Focusing my attention on one thing is a major shift for me. All my working life, I have been scattered—pulled—in multiple directions. I was always looking for the bigger and better deal. But I know my expertise and abilities lay in being authentic and empathetic to the other widows and widowers that live a similar existence and have had similar experiences to mine—but may still need more healing.

By focusing my energy and attention on helping widow/ers in the short-term, I may be better able to help hundreds, possibly thousands of men and women, achieve acceptance of the life they now live. I will be better able to help them find meaning and purpose after losing our person. Like I have.

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

Husband – Warrior – Brother

WSN-MO: A Few Minutes with Terrell Whitener

During a recent reflection period, my thoughts turned to just how I have ended up where I am at in life. As a very grateful and appreciative man of my station in life, these reflection times usually end up as an exercise in gratitude and not a time for regret.

Many times, these sessions end up being a catalyst for a future article, and this my brother is one such article. At the conclusion of this exercise, I came away with three defining roles that have contributed significantly to my status as a widowed man. I started as a husband, moved to a period of being a warrior, and now reside proudly as a member of this brotherhood.

Let me begin with my role as a husband. In my life, I have had the pleasure of achieving many things. I say this not to be boastful but from a place of gratitude. Professionally I have benefited from the guidance of wonderful mentors, talented staff, the providence of the right timing, and a small modicum of talent mixed in. But one of the greatest benefits that I had was the counsel and support of my wife, Robyn. I have said many times on these pages that no one ever believed in me more than Robyn did. I am sure that my seeming hire wire act of risk-taking drove her crazy at times, but she wore it well.

The warrior aspect of my life manifested itself when Robyn’s health challenges occurred. Over what was nine years of concern with the last 18 months serving as her primary caretaker, we waged what I felt was a winnable war on her health, both physically and emotionally. I was dogmatic about her care and equally dogmatic about her happiness. I felt this was the least I could do for the woman I loved. While I relish the trips we took and the comfortable life we built, I would burn it to the ground if it got in the way of taking care of my Robyn. Like most marriages, we had our moments. But I have come to realize we had a “mature marriage,” one that was not without flaw, but one that always found its way to do the right thing for each other. Sometimes you must let the person have their way even though you disagree but support them and be there for them despite the outcome. That was the bedrock that forged the strength that held us together the last 18 months of our marriage. But alas, I was not victorious in winning the war to keep Robyn alive. Despite my best intentions and my best efforts, I did not have the final say. But boy, did I try. That my brothers, I can accept.

Last but certainly not least is the brotherhood aspect of my life. I spend a lot of time sharing my experiences with creating a life after loss. Sharing that story has found a comfortable place in my life. Like many, I am often lonely. Unlike many, I have not found true love again. But I have a great and comfortable place in the brotherhood. I have biological brothers and my kindred spirit brothers that I am sharing this article with today. I am so grateful for both sets of my brothers. They give me a soft-landing place from time to time. They provide me an outlet to share my grief and loss as well as my hope for the future.

So, there you have it. Husband, Warrior, Brother. All roles in which I comfort. Like many who will honor me by reading this article, we all will find a way of defining our existence, or at least I hope so. As always, I welcome your thoughts and responses. And as always, I want to let you know that I appreciate and want nothing but peace for each of you. 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. You can reach Terrell at his newly redesigned website thedebriefgroup365.com. There you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widow Support Network.

Re-routing

WSN: Guest Column by Terry Rempel

My previous job was as a pedigreed seed inspection manager for a company in Winnipeg. Based in Winnipeg, I had about 35 seed inspectors under my direction from Manitoba through to northern Alberta. Part of my duties was to train the inspectors both with updated information in a classroom setting as well as observe and assist new inspectors in the field. So, a couple of times a year, I got to drive across western Canada, crisscrossing each province. I had an app on my cell phone to locate the field where I was to meet the inspector. I would load in the LLD (legal land description) of the said field on to the app and it would then load the correct coordinates (most of the time) into Google Maps. Press “Directions”, and it would then produce a map of how you should get to that field. A lovely voice would come on to help you with the directions. Ever wonder why they have a feminine voice giving those directions? Think about that. Must have been a room full of programmers thinking “Yeah, lets make it a woman’s voice giving the directions” and all the women in the room would go “Let me do it”. What woman wouldn’t want to tell millions of men where to go? It would also get many men taking wrong turns because they think they know better and they kind of weren’t paying attention to the woman’s voice anyway. This app and GPS map system brought me to many a field in nowhere Saskatchewan (it’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from there). There were a few times, though, you’d be driving along, go over a ridge and on the other side, and….no signal. The route would disappear from sight. I’d stop….look around (no clue where I was)…drive a little farther….still no signal. Turn around, go back to where there was a signal, save the map, then figure it out from there.

Last week I was in southern Ontario meeting with customers. Using GPS, I found their locations usually without a problem. The problem would come when I’d load the new address on the phone and it would say “Head North for 5 kilometers.” It had been cloudy since I got there, not even a hint as to where the sun was. Now, I’m usually pretty good with which way is north, south, etc., but, in a strange area, with no land marks that you are familiar with and no sun to give you a shadow of where north is, I was lost. (Yes, there is a compass somewhere on the dash of this car, but I didn’t think of that). So I start off going one way…..”Re-routing”. You can almost hear an irritated sigh coming from Ms. Google Maps (like I haven’t heard that in real life before). Most of the time I could make a U-turn and get going the right way, and as long as I listened to her (yes ma’am), I’d get to my destination. The real aggravation came when I was in Toronto to return the car to the airport. I got to the airport (so I knew where I was supposed to be), then I needed to fill the rental car with gas. Look for the closest gas station on Google Maps and away we go. When you hear “Re-routing” in Toronto and it’s leading you to the freeway, you know you took a wrong turn. I was getting further and further away from the airport, following these prompts, and I was getting quite ticked. Why are you taking me this far away from the airport!!! Surely there is a gas station closer! (Again you can hear the irritated sigh from Ms. Google). But I kept following her prompts and eventually ended up right back where I started. Now I’m really ticked because it’s telling me to turn right again and that’s what got me in trouble in the first place! Then, right across the street on the corner, was the gas station I missed the first time around. “Turn right….your destination is on the right (you idiot…I’m sure she meant)”.

April 5th of this year, I was re-routed. While the end destination has always been the same for both Lorna and me, the route to get there went blank. Lorna was there….at home. My route had further to go. GPS shows you the way it knows to get to your destination, but sometimes that road doesn’t exist any more, or becomes a very narrow, bumpy path. It’s been washed out, under construction, or the map needs to be updated because that road has been changed. The route Lorna and I were on together vanished in my arms that morning. I know I’m supposed to keep going….I’m just not getting the signal yet. I’m down in a valley, waiting to come through the other side so I can regain the GPS (God’s Positioning System). It’s not that the signal isn’t there, that hasn’t changed, I’m just having a hard time finding it. His system knew I’d have to go this way, even though He didn’t put the roadblocks in. It’s a slow, winding, bumpy trail for the time being….one I never wanted to go on or thought I’d be on. The bumps and rocks I’m hitting on this road will be marks on me for the rest of my journey and I know the scratches will fade in time but will never go away….and I don’t want them to. I know that when I don’t know which way to turn, just look for the Son and it will get me started in the right direction. The destination hasn’t changed…..my route has.

“Your destination is straight ahead.”

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You can write Terry via Messenger

THE REAL DEFINITION OF WINNING

WSN: Coffee and Conversation with Larry Ahrens

One unsavory reality of losing your wife is dealing with the estate details, relatives, and lawyers. What this process does is smack you in your grieving face one more time with cold reality. Your wife is gone, and now we’re taking inventory and putting a value on things.

Here’s the disclaimer with my column today. My situation is unique. It probably doesn’t reflect your situation. But the purpose of this story is to help you find the “win” when you may have lost by any other standard.

Let me set the stage. When I met my wife over 25 years ago, she lived in a beautiful home nestled in the foothills of our city. When our relationship got serious, I sold my house and moved in with her. The house was always hers. I knew that from the beginning. The house was left to her one and only son. I knew that from the start.

When she passed, I moved out of the house. Number one, I didn’t want to live there anymore. The house WAS her. Everything in the house was about her and our life together. I didn’t want to stay there anymore. My wonderful friends helped me take care of her clothing and personal possessions. We arranged an estate sale for the rest of the household items, followed by the home being sold.

Fast forward now to the probate process. This is where it gets very cold and calculating. Lawyers are now involved. Values are assigned to the property. Dollar signs are attached to things. What’s that sofa worth? Who did it belong to? What was her property, your property, and what was your joint property? You’re forced to participate in this exercise even if you don’t want to.

Her son, whom I have admired and loved, turned very hostile towards me in this process. Hostile as in ugly hostile. We’re wrapping up the probate negotiations now. And on paper and in a financial sense, I lost, and he won. Sure, I’m getting some dollars out of this. He’s getting far more, so he believes he won.

At the same time, did I really lose? I was lucky enough to be married to a spectacular woman that loved me as much as I loved her. We got to live in a lovely home where we entertained our friends, welcomed our family, and spent magical holiday times together. The house was very much our sanctuary and our blessed abode. As I look back, it was a marvelous 25 years with her in a warm, loving home. It was a chapter in my life that I’ll never forget.

To me, her son may have gained financially. But he really lost on the most important things – family, memories and just being a decent person. By any measure, that’s a big loss when you get right down to it.

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Larry Ahrens is a radio (KDAZ 96.9 FM) and television (KCHF-TV) personality in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his show, “Coffee and Conversation,” is broadcast-ed. Larry’s articles appear every other Thursday, right here, on WSN-MO. You can send private messages to him on Facebook.

Thanksgiving 2020

WSN: Some winning thoughts from Jim Winner

Is it just me, or is it hard to believe that next Thursday is Thanksgiving?

I see and hear of a lot of people struggling as we enter this Holiday season. I understand entirely. COVID-19, quarantine, face-masks, and everything else could make a person wonder how even to be thankful this year. Many of you good brothers are facing the first Thanksgiving holiday without your mate by your side. Just keep breathing. You’ll get through it. I found the anticipation of first events was usually much worse than the actual day itself. It takes a lot to reach down and find something to be thankful for during the year of firsts. If you look just a little bit, however, you’ll find plenty of people and things to be for which you could be very thankful.

I believe this is a good time for all of us to be intentional and mindful of the things we can indeed be grateful. Whether you’re new to this journey or far down the road, I would encourage you to think of those who have been steadfast and have supported you during your darkest and most difficult hours. Take some time this week to sit down and write a personal note or card to the people who have helped you the most. Don’t send a text. There is power in a handwritten note. It speaks to your sincerity. They will appreciate knowing that their efforts meant and still mean something to you. You will feel better having acknowledged their support.

I’m nearing the 18-month mark on my journey of restoration, reinvention, and renewal. I find myself very grateful and appreciative to many people. I’m thankful for new relationships that have blossomed over the past several months. I’m grateful for my family and friends who stayed true and continue to be there for me. I don’t know when Herb Knoll put this Facebook group together. Now, with nearly 1,200 members strong, with members from all across the world, I’m very grateful to Herb for his work. This site and the honest and helpful insight and advice from the people here have helped my healing tremendously. Thank you, Herb. You have a vital ministry. Keep helping those who need it.

So as we officially enter the holiday season, I hope you will live it in a spirit of gratefulness. Grateful for what you had, what you still have, and what you hope to have in the future.

Friends, life is short. Have 2 pieces of pie.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Jim Winner’s thoughts appear every other Thursday. You can write to Jim using Private Messenger.

Asking for Help

WSN: Widower, Wounded, Warrior, Waking and Walking

by Jeff Ziegler

Ever see a movie when the family is driving in the car, and they’re lost? The dad is at the wheel, the wife in the passenger seat, and the kids are in the back? Stress is rising; kids are hungry and bored; the wife asks the husband to stop and ask for directions.

But he won’t. He does not stop. Dad just keeps driving—maybe even in circles—because he is too proud, too “stuck” in his own ego, to stop and ask for help.

The thing is, I asked a lot of people what they would tell themselves if they could go back to those early days of widowhood. Guess what…? It wasn’t only the men who said they would “ask for help.”

Why can’t we ask for help?

Why are we—the collective we, men, and women, widowed and non-widowed—so reticent to ask for help when we need it? I’m not talking about merely asking directions, either.

As humans, we are truly capable of doing anything; except for flying, although I’ve seen videos of people jumping off mountains wearing those cool flight suits, so even that may be possible. We can pretty much do anything we set our minds to do. But we “can’t” ask for help.

Henry Ford infamously said, “whether you can or whether you can’t, you’re right.” But this isn’t always a helpful way to live (no pun intended).

Just get on with it!

We can do anything. We can feel our emotions, and we can think about what we want and how we want to do it. But we often overthink. We procrastinate about what to do and when to do it.

We wallow in thoughts based on fear and uncertainty—thinking and overthinking about the possibilities of something not going right.

When we were first widowed, some of us immediately knew we would eventually be okay. We knew that the grief would be all-consuming for a while, then the waves would slow and be less frequent.

Some of us never allowed for grief in the first place. We invented stories in our heads, “I have to be strong for the kids,” “I have to work to pay the bills,” “I don’t have the (insert words here) to deal with the grief, and I don’t want to think about it.”

Some of us dived right into numbing and distracting behaviors—binge-watching TV, drinking, dating, work, dealing with the kids, eating, running, exercise, drugs, etc. Others sat with their pain—some wallowed in it while others simply felt it.

Please ask!

But we are not built to ask for help. So, we don’t. Maybe we could just ask ourselves, “What kind of help do I need?” We might even have a reasonable answer.

As someone recently wrote, “I didn’t need a 10th casserole; I needed someone to sit and listen to me.” But why didn’t you ask? The answer: Fear.

It’s a much broader issue than it seems. It seems there are two key reasons why we are afraid to ask for help. First, we fear rejection, that your plea for assistance went unanswered or not heard by anyone. And second, we fear judgment; and that judgment can be unkind—being seen as needy by others or one’s self-judgment of feeling weak for asking for help, etc.

Note that nearly every widow and widower I asked said they would tell their “newly widowed self” to ask for help.

So here is a request I have of you and a promise I’m making to all my fellow widows and widowers: be honest. With yourself and with others. If you can, offer help to each other when someone asks. And if you have the strength, be vulnerable and honest enough to ask for help when you need it. Be courageous.

We all have a great deal to offer this world. Each of us has gifts to offer and being widows doesn’t mean we have to horde those gifts or hide them (and our true self) from the world.

Being Honest

Being honest and sharing is being caring and empathetic to the needs of others who—believe it or not—are exactly like us. We all know that we need help sometimes. Do not be afraid to simply ask, be vulnerable, courageous, and don’t suffer. Ask for help if you need it. Sometimes by asking for support, we end up helping others by opening them to the possibilities of using their gifts.

If you ever need help, ask. I’m here. So are many others. I may not be able to help with everything, but I will listen. I will hear you. Know that just asking is a step forward.

Lots of love and hugs to you all.

Namaste.

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