Categories
Faith/Religion Healing

Help from a Higher Power

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An Excerpt from The Widower’s Journey – Chapter 5

(Aside: While Chapter 5 may be one of the shortest chapters in my book, The Widower’s Journey, it is, in my view, the most powerful. It also receives the greatest number of favorable comments from readers. I pray it serves you well.)

This chapter was written for those who seek to help their healing through spirituality. I’ll share views and stories from our team of contributing widowers on the role their religious and spiritual beliefs had in their journeys, and how it eased their grief. Readers will also be introduced to our team of religious experts, including two Christian ministers, one Rabbi, and a Roman Catholic priest. Though I found comfort in my faith and will encourage widowers to renew and deepen their faith to help their recoveries, this is an honest look at religion. Some widowers will openly express their anger toward God and their reasons for discontinuing the practice of their faith.

Just as we said in Chapter 2, there isn’t one path to working through grief, there is no one path for healing through faith. As Rabbi Alexis Pearce tells us, “spirituality is a very delicate, personal and intimate thing.” So if you’re reading this book to help a widower you know, and you feel religion might do him some good, suggest it gingerly. Maybe invite him to play a round of golf in your church golf league, or ask him to help you with a church volunteer project.

The Bible speaks plainly on the help God gives those who grieve. Pastor Doug Fultz believes God is especially close to people who are heartbroken. He quoted Psalm 3:19 to me: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” which comforted me. And the Bible calls upon the religious community to help those who have lost someone dear. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). And we of faith

are comforted that the Bible assures us that someday we will be reunited with our loved ones in heaven.

I cannot put into words the role of faith in healing our spiritual wounds better than Pastor Ken Hagin. Pastor Hagin says that at its most powerful, faith helps us establish a personal relationship with God. “It is within personal relationships that we experience loss, and consequently, it is within personal relationships where we find comfort and, more importantly, personal peace. God wants to be the provider of the peace that is being sought; so as we continue on our journey through the most difficult times in our lives, we need to remember it is not in the inanimate rules of religion where one finds comfort but through a personal relationship with God.”

I learned how widowers found many different ways for their faith to help them. Widower Quentin Strode, a man of religious strength, says: “Through the tough times, based on my religious beliefs, I know I will see my beloved Shanda again.

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The Widower’s Journey is available on Amazon.com in paperback and all digital formats.

Categories
Finding Purpose Giving Support Healing Moving Forward Uncategorized

All Dressed Up and Nobody to Love

Terrell Whitener
If you have followed my writings over the years, you may know that I am a glass half full type of person. Long ago, I learned to own what yours to earn and move forward with life. The year 2020 has been unlike any other I have experienced in my 63 years on this earth. I probably have spent more time reflecting on my life more profoundly than any previous year. There is perhaps no other aspect that I have reflected on more than taking a deep dive into the current “state of my own private union.” Let me explain that statement. As a person who works from home, still follows strict social distancing protocols, and lives alone, 2020 could have created many challenges. First, I am pleased to be employed. A little over a year, I was “unretired” by a great opportunity that came my way. Returning to the workforce gave me a nice balance of intellectual challenges and social interactions with others. Returning to work also made the time that I spent solitarily at home far less than without the opportunity of going to the office. Then came COVID. Just when I had a new rhythm to my life, I am thrust back into solitary confinement. I am very thankful that over the years, I have made my home a place that is appointed with most of the amenities I need to entertain myself. While I miss seeing family and dining at restaurants, I am not having as tough of time adjusting as many people I know are having. I have taken a deeper dive into listening to more music, turning off the TV, participating in zoom chats and meetings, and have even indulged in ordering my groceries online. But as human nature goes, I often wonder what it would be like to have someone to share this more intimate of times. I am, however, very happy to report that I have not jumped into a relationship just for the sake of being in a relationship. I am so very happy for those of you that have found love again. I will continue to live vicariously through you until my lightning bolt falls out of the sky! While standing by in wonder, I have also grown to appreciate the relationship I am forging with myself. I have engaged in a deeper level of self-care, more generous than I have provided for in years. I have contributed to a soon-to-be-released book, and I have spent more time dealing with my health. I have discovered I spend too much time on social media, but I have learned to live without attending baseball games. Any travel plans have been placed on hold, but I have resolved to check travel off my bucket list as soon as I can safely do so. I attend church services online, and I have created a very primitive home gym. I cannot help but wonder what it would have been like sharing this time with my Robyn. It would have been tough on her, as she was a very social person, and while she loved me, she did not like me underfoot excessively. It would have been a challenge, to be sure. While the title of this article is All Dressed Up and Nobody to Love, it may have started with thoughts tinged with a bit of melancholy; it has been transformed into a story of empowerment and discovery. I have realized in this process, that despite the obvious love that I have for family and friends, I have discovered a new love, myself. Meanwhile, while fate takes its time in revealing itself, I am going to continue to concentrate on growing with my new love, me! As always, I welcome your feedback. I also continue to be grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you all. Until next time. __________________________________________ Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at my newly redesigned thedebriefgroup365.com; there you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widow Support Network.
Categories
Grief/Dispair Healing

Grieving Men Returning to Work

Ron Kelly

No matter what personal devastation may come in life, the world continues to turn. For so many of us that means returning to work after the loss of a loved one. As men, we also have an inherent trait for control of our environment, and the loss of a loved one was something we could not control.

The workplace, however, can represent a place where we might still establish our influence on responsibilities.

“When you come to work, leave your home life at the door.” We hear that all the time. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. Even before your loss, you went to work each day carrying all the motivations and demotivations taking place in your life. Now, however, you have the burden of painful emotions. Some of these you’ve never felt before and others you’ve never experienced at such intense levels.

The most important thing you must always do is be easy on yourself. You have a lot going on in your mind and in your heart. Expect to be more distracted and less productive for some time to come. If you’re feeling fatigued, overwhelmed, or unfocused, let your boss or teammates know that you need a little time before completing the task at hand. Don’t resume anything until you’re sure you can do it safely and with total competency in your own abilities.

As for well-wishers, be understanding with those at work. Many will be unsure how to interact on your return and may act awkward or uncomfortable. Those co-workers absolutely want to be supportive, yet are uncertain how to approach you. And, if they do, unsure of what to say. If they do say the wrong thing, just remember the words are not spoken in malice.

Some co-workers may say nothing at all. On top of general concerns about feeling awkward, they’re not comfortable with mortality in general. When they consider your loss, it mentally puts them right in your shoes and brings thoughts of what it would be like to lose someone of their own. If a co-worker had lost a loved one in the past, he or she might have some unresolved grief issues, and facing your loss may bring back incredible pains they’re not willing or prepared to deal with.

As you move forward through your grief, know that many at work will quickly get over your loss. In just a short period, it will seem that your loss is all but forgotten. It’s not your co-worker’s fault. They don’t go home with you at the end of the day. On another hand, it may well come from you putting on an act that you are doing well, right? You’re wearing a Grief Mask that disguises your pain.

It is well worth repeating that when returning to work after your loss of a loved one, you must be easy on yourself. Take your time and feel your pains no matter where they hit. Try to remember that, as men, we have many inherent instincts and traits residing within our very DNA that may unconsciously drive us to take certain actions. Sometimes we’re ready. Sometimes we’re not.

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Look for Ron’s column every other Wednesday here on WSN-MO. R. Glenn Kelly can be reached at rglennkelly@rglennkelly.com

Categories
Grief/Dispair Healing Uncategorized

Love, Roses and Marilyn Monroe

LArry Ahrens

One of my wife’s favorite books near the end of her life was “Joe and Marilyn” by C. David Heymann. Susan was fascinated by the tumultuous love story between Marilyn Monroe and baseball star Joe DiMaggio. We would often sit out on our patio sipping wine while Susan read several sections of the book to me.

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were only married for nine months. Joe was very obsessive about her and was by all accounts a very jealous man. The story goes that when Marilyn was filming the movie “The Seven Year Itch,” he was opposed to her shooting that iconic scene where her white dress billowed up over her head while she stood on the subway grate.

Yet through it, all Joe became the one steady influence in her very crazy life. Soon after the divorce, when she got sick once, he was the one next to her at the hospital. They had gotten close again towards the end of her life, and he was the stableman by her side. He wanted to marry her again, but she died an untimely death.

But the one thing my wife Susan loved was the true romantic story behind roses and Marilyn’s life and death. Marilyn was found dead in her house, and there was no family to call their own but him. Joe flew from New York to LA, identified her body, and had a small, private funeral for her. He even designed the headstone. He was inconsolable at the funeral.

Joe was never going to see her again, but he fulfilled a promise. Many years ago, Marilyn had told him that she wanted roses sent to her every week. Joe did so when he honored that promise. From Marilyn’s death in 1962 until he died in 1999, he would send fresh roses to her grave a few times a week. She had said, “Six fresh long-stemmed red roses, three times a week … forever.”

To which my wife said, “Go ahead and send me roses now while I’m alive!” Then she would break into a huge smile, and we would laugh and have more wine.

Through the remaining two years of her life, I did bring her roses many times. I just brought six red roses to her grave yesterday.

For Joe, Marilyn was the love of his life, and till his dying breath, he kept her preserved in his heart. People can only hope that they find a love like that at least once in their life. I am so lucky that I found that kind of love as well.

Joe and Marilyn. Larry and Susan. Our love transcends life and death.

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Larry articles can be found every other Thursday here on WSN-MO. You can send private messages him on Facebook.

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Healing Memory

Saying Thank You

LArry Ahrens

Quarantine allowed us to take some time off from worrying about our appearances. However, to some people, it was a daunting task. One of the good things to come out of this forced time-out is that many people started to understand the value of such workers as hairdressers, nail technicians, masseurs, waiters, and so many others.

Recently, a letter written by “a grateful customer” who thanked a hairdresser for the way she treated his wife during a haircut went viral. The man revealed that his wife was living with dementia, and the way Sara, her hairdresser, treated her was touching. I think it will touch you as well.

Here is the letter: ________________

June 27, 2020

Dear Sara,

I have waited a long time to pass this on to you.

My wife and I came in for haircuts shortly before Christmas of last year.

My wife was suffering from dementia, and you treated her as if you had been working with dementia patients all your life. You let us sit next to each other, and when it came time for her cut, you turned her chair towards me so I could watch her expression as you cut her hair.

It turned out even better than I thought it would. Sadly, she died in March. And that haircut was one of the last, best moments of her life. She felt so pretty. She visited the mirror in her bathroom several times during the day and would come out beaming.

To see her so happy was priceless.

Looking back, it was likely one of the dozens of haircuts you gave that day. But one which revitalized a woman’s sense of self and her singular beauty. I hope you always realize the power of your profession.

It’s so easy to take things like that for granted.

Sincerely,

A grateful customer

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To the world, we are just one person, but to that one person, we are the world.

It’s OK. I am crying too.

Larry

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Larry articles can be found every other Thursday here on WSN-MO. You can send private messages him on Facebook.

Categories
COVID-19 Giving Support Grief/Dispair Healing Self-care

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forever

Terrell Whitener

As I sit down to share my thoughts with you, it has been 64 months since I joined the community of widowed men. During that time, I have experienced so many things. Currently, as I find myself navigating this period, I call social distancing, I find myself with a lot of time to be alone with my thoughts. For many, this can be a very troubling time. When I was initially forced to quarantine, I entered it with some trepidation. I felt that I would miss interacting with my friends and family, which I do. Oh no, not take away my baseball season! I have learned to live without it. No summer travel, oh come on now! What do you mean cruising is too dangerous even to consider? But I love my cruises. No dining out, no concerts, missed the Rolling Stones again! What is a man to do?

See, my dear brothers, I am not a man that dates. My family and a small select group of friends are my social outlets. I am blessed to have the privilege of sharing my thoughts with you all a couple of times a month, but overall, my life is quiet. During this time, I have rediscovered reading, saved a ton of money, gotten back into music, undertaken household projects, demystified Zoom, done some preliminary work on my podcast as well as signed an agreement to do a second book. Not bad for a guy with too much time on his hands, huh.

But from time to time, thoughts of how wonderful it would be to be sharing this added time with Robyn creeps through my mind. It is natural to miss our loved ones and managed correctly; these thoughts can be very therapeutic. It is not the fourth quarter I planned to live, and it certainly was not the one we designed for each other. Over time, however, my feelings have transformed from feeling that I possibly got cheated, to at times feeling Robyn got cheated by dying. I do not spend a lot of time with those thoughts, but they surface occasionally. But once I get my thoughts together, I spend much of my time being guided by these overriding mental principles:

I Realize and Reflect on the wonderful life I have had. Please be clear, we all have had something exceedingly difficult happen to us in the loss of our loved one. In no way am I minimizing that reality at all. But I try to live in the vein of gratitude over perpetual grief. I understand I will never get over the loss of Robyn. As I have stated before, I do not want to. But over these last five-plus years, she had settled into the positive memories that make the void in my life bearable.

I also Remember, but try not to Ruminate. Recently I made a big decision. Over the past six months, I have started redecorated my apartment. I am finally in an emotional place to take on the project. One of the complicated parts of taking on this project is choosing what needs to be given away, donated, or thrown away. Robyn and I spent countless hours sitting in our living room, laughing, and talking, watching television, or just occasionally spending some quiet time together. I so needed her to get better so we could get on with our forever. The time had come for the couch to go. It had been her favorite seat and my seat of comfort in the early days after her death. Since the start of the plans to redecorate, I tried to make that couch work, but to no avail, it had to go, and it did, and I lived. No more rumination, it is time for action.

Finally, we need to find strength, Recharge, and Re-emerge. Now I am not advocating everyone goes out and buy a Maserati or that “tricked out truck” but make a responsible plan to move forward. For some who are in the earlier stages, I urge baby steps. For others, it is time to take the responsible plunge. A couple of months ago, I wrote about discovery. I guess this is another branch on that tree. New experiences are out there.

Yes, a funny thing happened on the way to forever, and in this, we all share the same experience, WE ALL RAN OUT OF TIME!

As always, I welcome your feedback. And as always, I wish you nothing but the best. Each one of us is on a unique path to our forever. I wish you all traveling grace along the way.

____________________________________________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.

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Healing Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward

Is Contentment Even Possible?

Fred-18

Remember that feeling of peace, that feeling of being comfortable with yourself, your circumstances, and your marriage? Maybe you were 10, 20, or even 30 years into your marriage before you reached this point. Many of us were fortunate enough to have achieved that blissful stage of existence… even if it was only for a few moments here and there.

I remember so clearly how I reached this state of contentment later in my life. It was strange, but one day I happened to look around at all that my wife and I had achieved together and told her that I was genuinely content for the first time in my life. Little did I know that a few years later, I would lose the most important part of that contentment.

After my wife’s (Theresa) passing, I felt anything but contentment. I was miserable. My body, soul, and mind were in a constant state of turmoil. I was wracked with physical pain, questioning my relationship with God, doubting myself, and experiencing delusions from lack of sleep. I was incapable of even a few moments of happiness, much less being comfortable. I was always stressed and could not relax for a moment, much less sleep.

It took many months to achieve a level where I could feel at ease and appreciate what I had with my wife. I could now enjoy the remnants of what we had built together. She was not there with me physically anymore, but she was with me always in my thoughts and very being. She had helped me to build a new better me, and that did not suddenly disappear when she died.

The children we had raised were still with me, in addition to four grandchildren. Our friends were still there the first year and often offered to help during this painful time. The life we had built was still there, and she was woven into every aspect of it.

During this journey, I had to reinvent myself (see my blog – https://www.fredcolby.com/blogs/widower-reinventing-yourself-to-live-again-1). This took time and lots of persistent effort, with a few wrong turns. As this “new me” emerged, I found that the turmoil in my life began to diminish. I made new friends, learned new skills, took risks, and tried new activities. Over time my new and more self-confident self-image began to emerge along with a gradually growing sense of well-being.

Eventually, I even found a new best friend (a widow herself) who was happy to join me on this new journey. Both of us have welcomed the other’s spouse into the relationship, and both of us are respectful of what we had during our previous marriage.

Not long after this, I realized that for the first time since Theresa’s death, I was once again feeling contentment about my past and current life. This contentment has allowed me to release the stress and doubts and fears of the previous few years, and to enjoy life again.

While I am incredibly grateful to have this new best friend in my life, I do not believe that you require a new partner to achieve contentment again. The critical elements of your sense of well-being were there before you lost your wife, and so many of those elements can still be there for you going forward.

You may have to work hard to achieve contentment once again, but it is possible, and it is well worth the effort.

© 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
Dating/Relationships Grief/Dispair Guilt/Shame Healing Loneliness Moving Forward

Permission to Change

Nyle Kardatzke

My wife and I slept in a king-size bed in the final years of her life. After her death, I continued to sleep in that massive bed, but always on my side, not hers. It was a comfortable bed, but I found I was swimming all over it at night, and it was hard to make such a large bed by myself. Changing the sheets seemed to be more work than it was worth for me alone.

About four months after my wife died, I looked at that king-size bed one morning, and for the first time, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to keep using it. I could use one of our other beds. I winced at the thought, wondering what my wife would say if she came home and saw that I had changed things without her permission. Where would she sleep? It took me half a minute to realize she wouldn’t be coming back to catch me disturbing our bed. Emotionally I didn’t feel that I should be making a change without her permission even though mentally, I knew that it was okay. I went ahead that day with a major bed-moving operation that ultimately led me to the twin-size bed that now suits me best.

Several other times, I have wanted to make a change in the house or my schedule and have felt I had her permission to do so. Fortunately, my wife was quite practical, so it’s easy for me to picture her approving and endorsing some of the changes I have made. But there are still things I leave as they were, out of respect for space she still occupies in my mind. She liked things this way, and I can still enjoy them for that reason.

Many widow-men probably need to feel their wives’ permission to make changes, especially in the first few weeks or months. Of course, we know that it is we who must grant the permission, but we are more comfortable with those decisions when we feel our wives invisibly agreeing, may be smiling and nodding from where they are. My wife’s name was Darlene, so I sometimes ask myself, “WWDD” (what would Darlene do)? I often receive assurance about an action by asking that question, and I have been diverted from disasters in the same way.

Small household changes are one thing; new relationships, especially with women, are another. Some men never feel they have permission to see other women, to say nothing of remarrying. Others make this transition smoothly. Still, others can do so because their wife told them she wanted them to remarry. You will have to listen to your mind as well as your heart in these matters, and you may need to listen for your wife’s voice for her counsel.

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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
Finding Purpose Giving Support Healing Manful Emotions Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward

I feel good, is that ok?

Jim Winner

Today is a cool, clear, and beautiful Indiana summer day. As I write this, I am sitting in my courtyard, listening to the birds sing. The flowers are in full bloom, and kids wave to me as they ride their bikes by my house. It all feels right. I feel good. But wait. Is that ok? Is it alright to be happy? Should I feel guilty because I feel good? I know that answer. So do you. But if you’re like me, sometimes a little reminding is in order.

During Joyce’s illness and prognosis, she had many opportunities to share her hopes and wishes for my life after she was gone. Those of you who have had these conversations know they are extremely difficult, hard to listen to, and even harder to accept. But accept them we must, because that reality is here. I would dare to say that each of our wives had the same wish for us. That wish was simple. It was for us to keep living. I remember the day Joyce took my hands, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Keep living. Don’t stop being happy”. As I look back on that conversation, I marvel that even in her final weeks and days, she was worried about me. I know many of you who are reading this are nodding in agreement because your wives said the same thing to you. For those brothers whose wives passed away suddenly, you know they also had the same wish. You were happy with your wife. Their wish was for your life to continue. They wanted you to find your happiness. They wanted you to keep going.

I do not believe that anyone can bring us happiness. Our happiness is our responsibility. If we aren’t happy with ourselves, it’s not reasonable for us to ask someone else to make us happy. Not only is it unreasonable, but it’s also a recipe for disaster. As I continue my journey, I have come to understand that there’s room for grief and happiness at the same time. Those two words are not mutually exclusive. The grief process we go through relates to what was lost and what never will be. At the same time, the quest for happiness involves what is and what is yet to be. Friends, the good news is there’s room for both.

I endeavor to choose happiness every day. Please know I don’t say that flippantly. I am mindful of how much time I spend watching the news. I am intentional in the tone of the conversations I have with my friends and neighbors. I always wave back and stop to talk when I see those kids on their bikes. I invest in the rebuilding of my life. I choose to smile even when I don’t feel like smiling. Dale Carnegie once said, “If you act enthusiastic, you will become enthusiastic.” I believe that is especially true for how we deal with happiness.

We all have people and things that make us happy. Make time for both. Maybe yours is time with family and friends, walking, reading, cooking, building things, or playing a round of golf. Whatever allows you to focus on something positive, and in the future, I encourage you to do it. Thank God, we can look to the future without ever sacrificing the memory of the past. That’s a real blessing.

I hope you choose happiness today.

Categories
Finding Purpose Giving Support Healing Learning new skills Maintaining a Home Moving Forward Uncategorized

“A rose by any other name”

Jim Winner

Joyce was always my biggest cheerleader. Many years ago, she encouraged me to become a Master Gardener. The process was a great experience and I learned a lot. Joyce loved our garden. She was proud of my work, and I delighted in creating a beautiful space for us. In the past several weeks, I’ve spent countless hours in that special place. The work of cleaning, weeding, planting and pruning has been good therapy. I enjoy my time in the garden.

At the end of March, I gave my roses a hard pruning. I removed the dead or weak branches and left 5 or 6 of the strongest canes on each plant. I mixed in some new amended soil around the base of the roses, added some feed and nutrients and began the waiting process. As I look at the roses today, I see plants that are healthy. They’re growing, reaching upwards, and if I do say so myself…are looking pretty good.

Like my roses, we all got a hard pruning when our wives passed away. We didn’t ask for it, but a big part of our life no longer existed. We found that part of our life was removed from us. The longer we were together the more of us got pruned away. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A part of us dies with our spouses, but a large part of us is left to renew, recover, regrow and restore.

After a pruning, no rose grows back to be the same plant it was. Canes and new branches grow in different directions. The shapes and sizes are different. The plant may produce more or less flowers depending on many environmental factors. Pests or disease may thwart and impede the health of the plant. With the right care and attention (and a little bit of luck) roses can come back after hard pruning to once again be healthy, vibrant, and full of life. So, can we.

Compare our journeys to these roses. We have endured a difficult and dark winter season. We have had to suffer through our own hard and undoubtedly severe pruning. Here is the good news. We survived. New growth can and does begin to emerge. Hopefully, the deep roots we have shared will keep us strong and hold us steady. Our loved ones, while no longer with us, will always be a part of who we are. They will always help to shape us. Perhaps our feeding and nourishment comes from this group of men. Certainly, our friends, our families, our faith and many other sources of support and resources are available to us. Keep yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually fed. Stay positive. Keep the pests and diseases away. With time, we can all grow again. We won’t be the same men we were. Personally, I hope to become a better man.

No, I’m not saying any of us are as pretty as a rose…and like a rose, I am sure we can all be a bit prickly and thorny from time to time. It is my hope and prayer that you will join me in believing that even the hardest unwanted pruning can create meaningful and healthy new growth for all of us. 

May we all bloom, dear Brothers.