Categories
Grief/Dispair Holidays

Holidays 2020

Nyle Kardatzke

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

Categories
Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health

Focused Attention

Jeff

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

Categories
Family Finding Purpose Giving Support Grief/Dispair

Husband – Warrior – Brother

Terrell Whitener

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.

Categories
Family Giving Support Grief/Dispair

THE REAL DEFINITION OF WINNING

LArry Ahrens

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.

Categories
Grief/Dispair Holidays

Embrace or Escape the Holidays?

Fred-18

WSN: Widower to Widower by Fred Colby

One of my mantras as a widower is: “It will never be the same again!” This view is never more apparent than during the holidays. Because holiday memories are so unforgettable and because they are so important to the family as a unit, the loss of your wife just makes these days incredibly challenging to get through. COVID 19 has only compounded the problems.

Like my family, yours may have developed time-honored traditions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s Eve (ours was a New Year’s Eve Tamale Party for friends and neighbors). Often your wife may have been the driving force behind these special holidays.

For me, continuing these traditions in the same way was not only challenging to execute but also a huge trigger to intense grieving. At times I felt that I was deliberately punishing myself.

We each may have very different experiences during these special days. Much of your reaction will depend upon how important these holidays were for you and your wife. Regressions into deep grieving are perfectly normal during important holidays, whether you adhere to the old traditions or not.

As I put up the Christmas tree that first year, set out the Christmas displays, and decorated the tree with my grandchildren, I felt it necessary to let the grandkids know that Popa had not forgotten Gaga and that Christmas would go on no matter what. But there was a price to pay.

That first Christmas was as advertised, as I regressed to the worst stages of grief. It was as if I was again revisiting the first month of the healing process, including full-blown meltdowns, sobbing, crying, yelling, and the whole bit. Total funk days occurred often, and I could barely function at times.

In the middle of preparing our first Christmas family dinner together after my wife’s passing, I had to escape. I crouched in our master bedroom closet, shut the door, and sobbed. After regaining control, I returned to the family to enjoy our meal together. I felt better just knowing that I had taken the time to remember and honor my wife in a way that was therapeutic and helpful.

However, after that first year, I decorated my home less and attended the holiday celebrations at the homes of my daughters and their families. I still have good memories, but the reality is that these holidays just don’t have the same meaning for me now.

One way to make the holiday more survivable is to “reinvent” the holiday. For example, to counter the anticipated Thanksgiving dinner impact, I took everyone for an overnight stay at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort, which had a Thanksgiving buffet. It changed things up enough that the sorrow was somewhat diminished. (Granted, this is extra hard to do this year).

One thing I have learned during this process is that it is best to confront your demons, your grief, rather than try to avoid it. That does not mean wallowing in constant self-pity where you are re-experiencing the pain for the pain’s sake, but rather, allowing your grief to progress and come out as it needs to. By confronting your demons, you will help process your feelings and love for your wife. It will enable you to move on and celebrate the good moments from the past and enjoy the ones in the present.

Each Widower must find his unique way to embrace and express his grief, a practice that means something special to him and/or his family. You may discover it will build on a talent you have, such as writing, singing, music, painting, or carpentry work. I escaped to reorganizing our photo albums to try and counter the grief with the many positive memories of my wife, Theresa. Writing my book, Widower to Widower, was another effective and therapeutic outlet.

Now in my fifth year after her passing, I find the holidays less challenging. I remember her often and fondly at these times, but no more elongate sink into deep grieving. My new mantra is: Stop thinking about yesterday, focus on today, and look forward to tomorrow. I know Theresa would be there with me every step of the way with this approach. Yes, I still miss her… but I am gradually re-engaging with life, as I know she would have wanted me to.

You can do the same!

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

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Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon.

Categories
Grief/Dispair Manful Emotions Moving Forward

BIG BOYS DO CRY!

Fred-18

WSN: Widower to Widower by Fred Colby

Remember Frankie Valli’s hit song, “Big Girls Don’t Cry?” We can all probably sing a few verses. Well, like you, I learned the hard way that as widowers, big boys do cry! And it is a shock to our system.

Nothing can be more disturbing for sons and daughters than to see their father cry, especially full out sobbing! Friends, family, workmates, and children can often become fearful and at a total loss of how to respond when a widower breaks down in tears.

Those of us in the business of serving those who have lost loved ones may have become too used to this expression of grief, and our responses may become too rote. We may not see how painful and disruptive to relationships this transformation might be for

both the widower and their family or friends.

Most often, these family and friends are grieving too, but they may still have trouble relating to the deep grief the widower feels. This grieving is made all the more traumatic because men are not used to expressing their sorrow, fear, and emotional responses. Now all of a sudden, it is pouring out of them unfettered.

Children are used to seeing their Dad as a strong and stable figure during past family crises’ so to now see them broken down in their grief and unable to help themselves can be very scary and disturbing.

Often this reaction, paired together with pre-existing family issues, can cause destructive changes in relationships that cannot be repaired. Such occurrences are particularly true of merged families where second marriages have brought together two sets of children, siblings, parents, and grandparents. Bonding these two groups together over the years may not have occurred so that these bonds may be easily broken.

Too often, I hear from widowers who have been abandoned by their children and relatives, especially those of merged families. These can often devolve into outright hostilities and attempts to steal what remaining resources the widower has left. Men, in particular, have a hard time with this as they may not used to turning to others to ask for help.

What can we do as widowers when faced with these challenges? Here are some suggestions:

· Be alert to recognizing when issues emerge between family members. Don’t ignore them.

· Find a comforting and safe place to express your fears and concerns (e.g., grief groups, counselor office, church support groups, or that special friend or family member who you trust completely).

· Consider inviting your family members to join you in some therapy sessions to work things out together.

· Research area resources that might help you to survive the grief and challenges ahead, such as area hospices, grief groups, grief counselors, church counseling programs, online support groups (see https://www.fredcolby.com/resourceslinks for a list of resources).

· Alert the authorities if you are being abused or taken advantage of by those around you in any way. Don’t wait until the money, furniture, car, or other items are all gone.

· Read Fred Colby’s Widower to Widower or Herb Knoll’s The Widower’s Journey. (Fred’s autographed book now discounted 20% + $1 shipping). There are helpful ideas in both that can help you through this.

You can also go to the following link to books, blogs, and resources designed to help every widower to find answers and support: https://www.fredcolby.com/

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

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Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which is available on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday. Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon.

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair

WHEN DEATH DOES US PART

David knapp

WSN: Grief Relief with David Knapp (A Guest Column)

“Till death do us part…” I repeated. Those words seemed to echo throughout the vast college chapel following my promise and then my bride’s commitment. The witnesses, family, and friends of our wedding stood by smiling. Our parents sat with proud looks on their faces. In all honestly, however, I only viewed those words as a symbol of commitment. I did not think I would experience that part of those important words, let alone do it twice.

Ruth and I had never been happier than we were that delightful day in July.

Our wedding crowned three years of getting acquainted through writing letters and occasional long-distance phone calls. Looking back, this strengthened our relationship because it forced both of us to express our hearts, feelings, and beliefs on paper without the distraction of the physical. That was great for my growth both emotionally with my wife and spiritually with the Lord.

The proof of the depth of our relationship revealed itself in the ensuing years of life. We were not only committed to each other, but we understood each other. We did, indeed, marry our best friend. To keep our relationship growth on a “roll,” we spent every one of our wedding anniversaries—alone—discussing the “state of our union.”

But the day would come when I dreaded our tradition. It occurred the summer following Ruth’s cancer diagnosis, surgeries, chemotherapy, and our loss of “normal.” Those events proved to be the biggest challenge to our relationship to date. Up to this point, our love had been a mutual give and receive. Ruth was so drained both physically and emotionally that she had nothing left to give—either to our four young children or me. Thirty-three is a young age to be facing a life-threatening disease.

Finally, for the first time, I sensed our relationship changing, and it hurt me in that realization. Ruth was no longer able to contribute to our relationship as before. And, in brutal honesty, I found myself questioning my love for her simply because things seemed to be one-sided for the first time.

Soon after, my dreaded “state of our union” meeting came. Sure enough, Ruth asked how I had been during the throes of the most challenging days that winter. I hesitantly yet openly shared with her how I had struggled and how God met me. She simply said, “I thought so. It’s okay.”

The following six years were days and weeks filled with hope and disappointment. We faced treatments and then recurrences, over and over.

The most memorable time happened again during the “state of our union” talk that next July. Following an unforgettable day on the Eastern shore of Lake Michigan, we sat talking. During a warm embrace, Ruth softly said, “I have never felt so at one with you.”

Three short months later, I watched her take her last breath. I did not know a human could hurt so much. Within days I became aware of this hole in my soul that seemed permanent.

Losing a spouse has many aspects to it that are not always understood by many. Indeed, there is the death and physical loss of that person leaving a void in your life. Theirs is also a loss of intimacy in communication. I had no one to tell even small things that Ruth would appreciate hearing. My most significant loss, however, was the loss of the relationship. It seemed that in addition to grief due to the death of a friend, I had lost the close relationship we had. Love songs were next to impossible for me to enjoy.

A year later, God brought along a godly widow lady to the school where I work, who swept me off my feet. What a beautiful lady!

The next year Judith and I found ourselves in a large church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, with six sons on one side and two daughters and Judith’s sister on the other. Again, the room echoed our vows, “Till death do us part.”

These words had a much deeper meaning to both of us. We had both experienced this hard truth to the fullest. However, even with that, we idealistically viewed the reality of it happening again as being a lifetime away.

Now, the process of blending eight teenagers became twice the task either of us had imagined. Yes, the volume was an issue. When you bring two families together, they bring their baggage along. That meant twice as many problems. The growth and mistakes of our kids only drove us to the Lord and each other. We learned early on to talk about everything, no matter how hard the subject. We reviewed the development of each of our kids every three to

six months.

The joys and challenges we experienced in our successful blending of families from two different countries and cultures will have to be addressed later. I need to fast forward sixteen years from our wedding day.

Judith’s health began to be of concern. We spent five years chasing symptoms from doctor to doctor. We intentionally worked hard on her health, even though we did not know what we were fighting. Once again, we faced this issue together.

She had to have emergency surgery. During which the doctor called me in the waiting room. He said, “Mr. Knapp, I am sorry. I am seldom surprised but I found a very mean looking cancer tumor in Judith.” I immediately knew she was going to die. I sat down and sobbed uncontrollably for nearly an hour. My crying continued daily from that day in August ‘till Christmas day.

The next day a full-body scan exposed cancerous spots on her lungs and a large, stage-four tumor on her pancreas. With that news, Judith asked, “Does that mean I am going to die?” I teared up and nodded “yes” as I leaned over for a long sobbing embrace.

Judith and I talked about everything. This time was no different. The next four days in the hospital were full of time we spent mourning her impending death together.

Gradually we communicated with our eight children and their families that they needed to do whatever it took to come to see Mom/Grandma soon before pain medication made it hard for her to be alert. I watched, monitored, and participated in each one’s mourning. Some of our grandchildren wept in my arms.

A week before she left for heaven, Judith and I were talking quietly at her bedside when a tear trickled down the side of her face. Through her medicated fog, she whispered, “I’m sorry I have to die.” Now the tears were running down my cheeks. I assured her it was okay and that I would be fine. I gave her permission to go on without me and that I would be along soon.

Early Sunday morning late in October, Judith leaped into the arms of Jesus.

I was alone again. The loneliness was deafening.

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Dr David Knapp is a certified grief coach and founder of Grief Relief Ministries. His professional career has been with a religious non-profit organization that includes traveling abroad, conference speaker and administrator and professor at the collegiate level. He has had the unfortunate experience of losing two wives to cancer. David is the author of the book: I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY: Being a Better Friend to Those Who Experience Loss which is available on Amazon. You can reach him through his webpage; http://www.griefreliefministries.com or the email, dkworld@yahoo.com

Categories
Faith/Religion Grief/Dispair Healing Mental/Emotional Health

Joy Comes In the Morning

WSN: Death, Disease, Divorce

By Cynthia Mascarenhas Waits

The single biggest challenge one is faced with after experiencing the death of a loved one, the crippling emotional and physical ramifications of a disease, or the devastation of divorce is the decision to “move on” or “move forward.” While many extraneous factors come into play, our inherent inability to “let go” keeps us tethered to the past rendering our efforts to “move forward” ineffectual.

In every relationship, especially in marriage (yes, even in a “perfect” marriage), we cause each other pain – sometimes intentionally and at other times inadvertently. Our past experiences appropriately influence our future behavior, statements like “I do not want to go through that again,” “I will not let anyone else treat me like that again,” or similar “guard your heart” statements govern our decisions. There is wisdom in that attitude so long as it is balanced by guarding against the “root of bitterness.” We build fortresses, safe havens, unscalable walls designed to keep us protected, but these also serve to keep us in fear and isolation; they obscure the view of all the abundance of life God has in store for us. Self-talk becomes our Jiminy Cricket, hostility and contentiousness become our armor, and sarcasm becomes our sword. Yup, we are ready to take on anybody who even remotely triggers our fears; we approach future decisions with this mind-set.

However, let us turn to something that has been validated, tried, and tested over the centuries – the Scriptures (eat your heart out Jiminy Cricket!). Quit the self-talk, which is influenced by a negative attitude (albeit for legitimate reasons). Go to the unchanging truth.

We are called to break down strongholds, tear down our fortresses, and take captive every thought. Not easy to do because it calls for you to take off the armor you are wearing, to be vulnerable, and rely on the armor of God.

2 Corinthians 10:5 – We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

It calls for obedience, which would require us to cast away all our thoughts, fears, and insecurities, and “seek” the will of our Father, learning to hear Him and obey Him. Not easy to do until we quiet the voices in our heads and the trepidation in our hearts.

1 Samuel 15:22 – …. To obey is better than sacrifice.

It calls for us to recognize what is going on – God has a plan for our lives, a plan which involves His glory is reflected in how we live. We will have to give up our ‘right to be happy’ by our definition of the term ‘happy’; it calls for a paradigm shift in our sense of self-worth. It takes knowing that you indeed are called to live in a love story (we are the object of God’s infinite and unconditional love), but there is a mighty effort to keep you from reaping the rewards of this love – a battle for your future. Know the enemy and know what weapons to wield.

2 Corinthians 10:4 – The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

I pray you might embrace the fullness of life God has in store for you, notwithstanding the trials and tribulations you have and continue to experience. Death, disease, and divorce can steal your joy and shatter the prism through which you view life; remember you have an ally who desires that your life be a reflection of His glory; take up the armor He offers and embrace His promise.

No matter how dark the night, remember this: Joy Comes in the Morning!

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Cynthia Waits (Mascarenhas) is the Founder of Walk with a Widow, a ministry to widows worldwide; You can also find us on the web. Walk with a Widow Group is a support group on Facebook, serving almost 500 widows from over 13 countries around the world.

Cynthia and her husband David Waits, are subject matter experts for Joy Comes in the Morning #Death #Disease #Divorce, which can be found on Facebook. We hope to help you in your journey of finding Joy after a season of despair. Joy Comes in the Morning!

Categories
Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health

Sleep

Nyle Kardatzke

WSN: Widow-Man with Dr. Nyle Kardatzke

“I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”

-Robert Frost, from “On Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Sleep is a great healer, but it can be elusive in a time of grief. Some men have trouble falling asleep. Others sleep easily but wake up in the middle of the night. I have had both of these sleep problems. Another is the temptation to sleep a lot, sleeping to escape life and grief. If you have persistent problems sleeping, you may need to see your doctor for help.

My wife had difficulty sleeping in her last few years. I fell asleep almost instantly as I hit the pillow. In the morning, I would ask about her “adventures in the night” to hear about her times of sleeplessness. Now my sleep is more unpredictable like hers was. When I go to bed, I don’t know how well I will sleep. I might sleep soundly through the night, or I might wake up and need to turn on a lamp and read for an hour before sleep returns.

Your body requires a reasonable amount of sleep, given all you are going through right now. Sleep is part of the healing process. The amount you slept before your wife’s death was probably your normal amount for that time in life, but you may not return to it for a while. Be patient; don’t try to force things.

Men tend to be problem solvers and want to do something. But sometimes we have to live with a problem and let it take its course. Sleep may be one of those problems. If loss of sleep is persistent, however, your doctor can prescribe something to get you through this sleepless phase, and you will later begin to sleep more naturally.

You may find it helpful to keep a bedside diary about your sleep. Note the time you turn off your light and the time you get up for a few weeks. Keep a record of your wakeful episodes in the night. Your sleep diary may help you understand what you are experiencing at night. Your notes may help if you talk to your doctor about sleep problems.

If you are a praying man, bedtime prayers may help you and the people and situations you pray for. You can give your problems to God through prayer. Sometimes I have prayed myself to sleep, and I think God accepts that kind of prayer as well as those offered in full consciousness.

My wife has been gone for ten years. The sleep problems I had in my early grief have gone away, but now I have varying sleep success. Some fitful nights are normal for many people. Don’t panic about them. Find your way through them, and continue to seek a healthy sleep life.

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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

Categories
Faith/Religion Grief/Dispair Loneliness Moving Forward

This Life We Are Given: As Simple As ABC?

Terrell Whitener

WSN: A Few Minutes with Terell Whitener

Recently I lost a colleague due to some unfortunate circumstances. Historically in these writings, I share with you, it focuses on strategies for managing the loss of our spouses, partners, and significant others. However, recent events in my own life have made me reflect that loss continues to happen in our lives, and we must find ways of managing these events when they occur.

So, this life we are given, without our loved ones, frequently gives us a different view of death. For me, it has enhanced the importance of time in my life. I have a greater appreciation for the time, how I use time, who I spend time with, and how I prioritize the use of time. After receiving the news of my colleague’s death, I took some time to not only absorb the shock of their passing but also look at this life I have been given.

Over the years, I have developed a strategy that allows me to take a simple approach to complex matters in life. When reflecting on the losses I have experienced since my wife Robyn died, my approach to future losses boils down to the ABC’s in my life. Let me take a moment to share this approach with you.

A: Acknowledge those people and things that bring value to your life.

I have learned to express my genuine feelings for and appreciation of the relationships and things that bring happiness into my life. I say, “I love you “much more often and easily than I used to. I find it refreshing to let others know how I feel and, in a more cliché way, takes the time to smell the flowers.

This ability to express my feeling has led to a more open and expressive existence with friends and family members than previously in my life. Those who may believe that this sounds too mushy, let me offer that this makes me feel more genuine.

B: Believe in something or someone greater than yourself.

Right up front, let me assure you I am not telling you what to believe in or who to believe in at all. I only what to encourage you to take the opportunity to galvanize the benefit of the realization of what makes your life the life you are living. What motivates you? Who assists you in being the person you are? How do you use your talents and gifts are a few ways you can approach this aspect of life.

I am a man of faith, so my approach is rooted in my religious beliefs. Over the years, I have come to not only acknowledge but respect those that take a different approach to life.

C: Commit to an approach and celebrate the successes.

Over the years, with the help of my mentors, friends, and family, I have learned to be a fearless decision-maker. While this has not always resulted in success, it has afforded me a clear and convincing approach to life. Take the time to take a 360 view of your circumstances, and then take the best path to happiness and success in life.

Another habit that I am forming is to celebrate success no matter the size of the accomplishment. If it is losing 5 pounds or closing a seven-figure deal, celebrate it. I am a huge fan of momentum. In my relationships with individuals I mentor, I always emphasize creating positive momentum in their lives and careers. I believe in this practice very strongly.

So, there you have it. A very surface level synopsis of my ABC’s of life. Though this was born out of the heartache of loss, it has become the framework of peace. I am confident that whether you have formalized these thoughts in your own lives, many of you have the same approach to living and loving after a loss.

As always, brothers, I welcome your feedback. And by the way, do not forget your ABC’s.

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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 thedebriefgroup365.com; there, you will find all his social media contacts. You can find his article every two weeks here on WSN-MO.