Categories
Finding Purpose Giving Support Grief/Dispair Healing Loneliness Moving Forward Self-care

Life, Love and Moving Forward

Terrell Whitener

February 28th will mark the fourth anniversary of the passing of my wife, Robyn. In so many ways it seems like much longer than four years. I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on a few of the things that I have learned during this period. I have often referred to this time as earning my bachelor’s degree in Widowhood.

Recently I experienced what could only be described as most monumental day. It was Valentine’s Day which can be a stressful day for widowed men. My experiences ranged from a bit of melancholy, to warm thoughts, to an unexpected encounter with a new friend, to watching a movie that brought tears to my eyes and ending with great news from a family member. By the end of this day, I was utterly exhausted. But more importantly, I finally felt that I had been set free.

We often hear the expression ‘rest in peace’. It has been my experience that few things look more peaceful than the release that the finality of death brought to my loved ones when I view them after they die. The strain and struggle that I personally witnessed many of these individuals go through seem to have washed away. While this in most cases is a time of great sadness, it can at times take on a fleeting feeling of relief.

One of the feelings that I found myself experiencing on this most exhausting day was a feeling of release. I finally had the revelation that is was time to move forward with my life. I essentially found the courage necessary to let Robyn go. I realized that I was spending far too much time ruminating on the past when there was so much life left to experience. I was helped in coming to this conclusion by a phone call asking my assistance in helping another widowed person with a book project that would honor their recently deceased husband. As we talked, we found ourselves stating repeatedly “that’s it exactly” and “ you are one of the only people that I have talked to that truly understands.” It was one of the most refreshing conversations that I had experienced in quite a while. I came away from that conversation with a genuine desire to move forward and feeling a sense of value that I hadn’t felt in some time.

As the day went on, I began to think about love. With it being Valentine’s day, this was not hard to do. Gary Chapman in his renown book The 5 Love Languages, teaches us about the importance of discovering the way an individual needs to experience love. After reading this book, I found that my two love languages were quality time and words of affirmation. Upon reflecting on this fact, I realized the feeling of receiving love in this manner was among many voids my wife’s death caused me to experience. I  am missing the quality time and words of affirmation from someone that I am deeply connected to. This is the sadness that I am unable to get my arms around to this day. This is what I miss about not being in love.

Finally, I came to the realization that it is indeed time to move forward emotionally in my life. In my book The First 365, I discuss my 10 Tenants of Grief. One of the tenants, states that “moving forward is not an act of disloyalty, it is an act of love.” The time has come for me to put this tenant to use in my life. It is time for me to endeavor to feel the same peace here on earth that my wife is experiencing in the heavenly realm. Because I loved her, the time has come for me to honor her by loving myself. Then I can truly begin the process of resting in peace. The emotional bondage that I have wrapped myself in is so opposed to what she would want for me. It is time for a change in my focus, it is time for me to move forward.

I will always miss my wife. Just as I am sure, all of you who are reading this article do as well. This is a revelation 4 years in the making. For many, it will not take as long, yet for others, it will take longer if it ever comes at all. But it is my sincere wish that for whatever decision that you make concerning the future direction of your life, it will be a choice that brings you peace.

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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 twhitener@thedebriefgroup.net, LinkedIn @terrellwhitener, Instagram @ or through the Widow Support Network.

(Note: A few Moments with Terrell Whitener if published every other Tuesday.  This week’s column’s delay was due to staff travel.)

Categories
Camaraderie Finding Purpose Widower Awareness

Learning From Each Other

Fred-18

All widowers… you, me, the guy down the street… we all 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 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 you.

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 lives and to feel her presence again. We wander around our home lost and not knowing what to do next.

Most of us worked hard for decades to build a nest egg so that we could retire together and enjoy the fruits of our labor. We expected to outlive our wives 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 each 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 a better person.

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?”

I hope you will join me and many of our fellow widowers on this journey to healing.

Inquires can be directed to Fred Colby at colby3687@gmail.com.

Categories
Finding Purpose Grief/Dispair Moving Forward Uncategorized

A New Year – the promise of a New You!

Cynthia

The passage of time does not always bring with it an anticipation of a “new tomorrow.” Somewhere deep within, I know, “Out with the Old and In with the New” is an adage that is only partially true. Some parts of me have left me forever only in a physical and tangible sense; I still carry them with me every day and everywhere. Time may heal wounds, but the scars left from that gaping hole in your heart, those hurt. Tears bring healing, healing stops the bleeding, but the scars remain forever.

How then do we go on? Is it even possible to look ahead to a ‘new year’ and a ‘new you’? This year has taught me much, just as every other year does; these lessons, however, I would rather not have learned. I find myself drafted into the fastest growing community in the world – the community of widows! Time has allowed me to come to terms with my new identity – it stopped the bleeding from my heart. Time also taught me that some things will always be a part of me – pain, sadness, tears, fears, and immense grief.

I was hoping that I will wake up one morning and just feel like my ‘old’ self; instead, I have learned that I have to embrace my ‘new’ self each day. My new self is not necessarily better than the old, but she works each day at being a better and better version of the person she was yesterday. Yes, it means working hard at not letting grief get the better of me. Grief may reside in me, but the new me has to make a decision daily not to let myself reside in grief. We are unwilling partners in life – but we are not equal. Some days grief wins; on other days, the ‘new me’ wins! It is these little victories I carry with me into the new year. The defeats of the old year have served their purpose – they have showed me resilience I did not know I had, they have strengthened my resolve to fight, and they have revealed to me the power of having a dream.

2020 – a new year, a new me (albeit with much brokenness), a new dream that is ever-evolving into something bigger and better than myself. That is the ultimate lesson I have learned which I carry into the new year; I was created for a purpose bigger than myself. The ‘new’ me will embrace that purpose, the ‘new’ me will allow pain to fuel me, the ‘new’ me will count not my losses but rather my victories. The new me embraces my identity as a Warrior, fighting a battle not of my choosing, but fighting nevertheless.

Isaiah 40:31. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall rise up on wings as eagles

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Following the passing of her husband Franz, Cynthia Mascarenhas founded Walk With A Widow, a non-profit organization whose primary focus is healing the hearts of widows by giving love and hope to widows around the world. As one would expect, much of the material crafted for widows can also be of help to widowers.

Cynthia’s insightful articles will appear periodically here on WSN. You can contact Cynthia at her website, www.walkwithawidow.com

Categories
Dating/Relationships Family Finding Purpose Grief/Dispair Loneliness Moving Forward Service

Living In-Between?

Many of us have a natural inclination to do the things that we feel we do well. I, in many ways, have found aspects of widowhood very much like that. Last week I experienced what would have been my 19th wedding anniversary and the celebration of 25 years together with my late wife. Periodically I experience what I call one of my “sigh” days or moments. These are times when I feel a mix of sadness and extreme loneliness.

Normally on our anniversary, we would have planned to find a nice restaurant or based on how she was feeling, fix her favorite dinner as part of our celebration. Last week as I sat down in front of my McDonald’s quarter pounder with cheese and fries, I had a moment where I didn’t know whether to commiserate on how far I have fallen or embrace how single I have become. This describes an area where I find myself struggling from time to time in my life.

In many of the writings I have shared with you, I have lamented the fact that I don’t seek to find another Robyn (my wife) but am always curious about whether I will find companionship in the future. I have the pleasure of having a couple of female friends that I talk to almost every day at some point. I don’t believe that either of these relationships will develop into marriage but enjoy the conversation and the occasional company. But as I have shared with you before, the older I get, the more convinced I am that I don’t know anything about women! I knew my wife but little about women overall. When it comes to my expectations in this area, I often find myself caught in-between. It has been four and a half years since my beloved Robyn passed away, and I am no closer to solving the puzzle of what I want in a relationship than I was then.

There are certain qualities that I look for in a woman, that I am pretty sure of. However, the thought of remaining in what sometimes is the peaceful tranquility of singleness is very appealing. I don’t know if I have the patience to deal with disapproving children, judgmental family, and friends at this stage of my life. However, I find myself lonely every day and often feel like my life has a larger stage to play on than my current circumstance.

Of course, I have been afforded incredible opportunities, such as sharing my thoughts with you, my brother, twice a month. I have participated in book signings and workshops with next year looking, even more promising in this area of my life. But I often feel that there is just more out there than to settle for living a “special event” life! I find myself not enjoying these events as much as I used to, as I know I will be returning to an empty home with only SportsCenter waiting to greet me. I am not saying this to sound melancholy or even borderline pathetic, but to let you know dear brothers that finding peace is a process. I am ready to serve others through my writing and speaking and will find peace in serving others if that is what is left for me. But see, I was a very good husband and taking care and sharing this world with my wife was important to me. We had dreams and goals. We had trips to make and a few more personal goals to meet. Laughter was the background music that always played in our home even when illness tried to rob us of our joy. Taking care of my wife, providing for her and cheering for her recovery gave me a clear purpose. A purpose is what I still am searching to find peace with to this very day.

Living in-between is a frustrating place to be. It calls for patience and discipline. It calls for faith. It calls for many times, just being quiet and listening for the small still voice telling you what to write next or what project to pursue next. See, when I think about it, it’s been a long time since it has been about me.

So I am not in treading on unfamiliar ground after all. Whew! I feel better already. Wow! I am glad you have been here on the other side of these keys. Boy! I still have so much to live for! I guess I better get back to moving, because only by moving can I graduate from living in-between.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback on my work. Maybe you feel that you are living in-between. Possibly you are struggling to find your purpose or as some call it, our new normal. But as the internationally known Pastor T.D. Jakes told me during a brief conversation 4 years ago. Just “keep moving brother, just keep moving”!

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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 twhitener@thedebriefgroup.net, LinkedIn @terrell-whitener or through the Widow Support Network

Categories
Finding Purpose Healing Moving Forward

How Purpose Helps You Heal

Fred-18

Besides experiencing overwhelming and sometimes terrifying loneliness, for a widower, the loss of their wife can often leave them feeling lost and without direction. As husbands from an earlier era, we often feel that providing for our family (our wife in particular), is our first and most important purpose.  With her gone, you cannot help but ask, “What is my purpose now?”

In my book, Widower to Widower, I explained it this way,

“I would sometimes compare my life to a chair with four legs: my wife, my faith, my job, and my family. I was soon to find out what life would be like with two of those legs (wife and job) gone, and one (faith) in crisis. Trying to keep a one-legged chair upright was about as impossible as keeping my life from collapsing after her passing.”

In our men’s grief group, we often speak of the need to re-invent ourselves as a part of the healing process. A key component of this process is finding new purpose in our lives, a purpose that makes us feel valuable again, makes us feel like we have clear direction again, and most importantly make we feel like we have a reason to live again.

One widower found solace and healing by writing out his mission/purpose to help guide him from going forward.

The following was submitted by Larry R.

My personal mission is to provide for and support my family in all their life choices and honor Leona (1942-2018) in every way. The highest calling and mission at this point in my life is to be a mentor, a role model, and a stabilizing force in the lives of my grandchildren.  I have a responsibility to my family, my community, and my country to continue to be an informed and active citizen who displays the utmost integrity in all activities, including personal and business interactions. I will carry out my mission by being a listener and helpmate. I will shape the lives of my grandchildren by teaching them to be grandparents. I will be a multiplier.

My faith-based mission is to share the heart of Christ and to love all people unconditionally, regardless of social status, ethnicity, creed, or gender, without the burden of validating lifestyles or behavior.  It is my responsibility to affirm the worth and value of everybody.  I will carry out my mission through the organized church and my personal ministries. 

My servant leadership mission is to help individuals, groups, and entities to find their potential.  I will fulfill that mission by being a loyal servant leader.  A servant leader walks beside to build spiritual, relational, economic, and experiential capital; and, the capacity to hold knowledge, develop the aptitude, increase capability and potentiality, and hone critical thinking skills.  I will help them build a life and organizational model that supports a resilient lifestyle.

My professional mission is to facilitate learning, mentor students and peers, and create new knowledge.  I plan to fulfill that mission (1) by training students to be decision-makers (2) by pressing knowledge frontiers, (3) by making my knowledge and service available to all, and (4) by active participation in professional societies and organizations.  I plan to fulfill my mission as a servant of all. My professional mission now includes mentoring young professionals.

Writing down your thoughts can be both therapeutic and kick start your healing process. You honor your wife, reinforce your core values (that she helped you to establish), and provide yourself with some key points to live by as you move forward. This helps to reestablish your foundation, which gives you strength and stability to help deal with the challenges ahead.

Fred Colby’s thoughts can be found here on WSN every other Thursday.  Fred is the author of the book, Widower to Widower.  You can write Fred c/o Herb@widowerssupportnetwork.com.

Categories
Finding Purpose Grief/Dispair Moving Forward Service

Serving others can heal your broken heart.

It’s true! No matter how painful your grief may be, getting up and off the couch and into your community to serve others is guaranteed to make you feel better. Whether you volunteer for the fire department or the Red Cross, become a scout leader or work in a soup kitchen, serving others will energize your heart as it searches for joy.

About 2 1/2 years ago, while volunteering at my church during their annual fall festival when a fellow parishioner approached me and asked, “Have you ever considered joining the Knights of Columbus?” I replied no, but I would be willing to consider doing so. I ended up joining the KofC and have enjoyed working side by side with some terrific gentlemen on a wide variety of volunteer efforts, not to mention having an opportunity to serve my Lord and his church.

Recently, the members of KofC Council 12761 honored me by electing me as their Chancellor. I assumed my new duties last evening during a special ceremony held at my church.

Why do I tell you all of this? Its to point out how serving others, no matter the organization or environment in which it is orchestrated will brighten your day. It gives widowed men “purpose,” and every man needs “purpose.”

As we travel down our never-ending journey of grief, each widowed man will have moments when he can choose to accelerate his own healing. One of the ways to do so is in the service of others. After all, there is no greater reward than what one feels after they have done something for someone who can’t pay them back. Celebrate the ‘life’ the of your bride by living yours. The choice is yours.

So what are your thoughts on this topic? Let’s hear from you.