Categories
Dating/Relationships Forgiveness Guilt/Shame Loneliness Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward

Am I Cheating?

Chris Brandt

There is a feeling of fall in the air. Depending on where you live, you may have noticed the nights are feeling a little cooler, and the morning air is feeling a little brisker. Where I live, I have also seen the leaves on the trees are starting to lose their spring/summer green color. One thing is for sure, the last of the “Summer” holidays is upon us. That means different things to different people.

With fall approaching I have to do something I have been dreading, I have to take my son back to his apartment so he can continue college. I am ashamed to admit that a small part of me wanted his classes to be online rather than in person. I tried convincing myself that this hope stemmed solely from a concern for his safety. The truth is, I was only kidding myself. I wanted him home with me longer. I wanted someone home when I get back from work, I wanted someone home to eat with, and I wanted someone home to have conversations.

Recently, I accepted the fact that I will soon be alone. This made me think about a co-worker that I have been talking with at work. This friend has alluded to the fact that she is open to having dinner together sometime. I did not think about that as an option at the time because I had my son at home, and we had each other for company. Besides, I wanted to spend every minute I could live with him. Now, I face eating alone, which is why those passive hints from my co-worker resurfaced. It sounds like it would work out perfectly. She is alone after a break up in her relationship, I will be alone, and it is worth considering. Or is it?

After my thoughts started to get more serious about asking my friend to dinner, I became overwhelmed with emotion. What is the passion that is pouring over me? After concentrating on this feeling, I discovered its origin. What I am feeling is guilt. What I did not understand is why I was feeling this.

You may have experienced this feeling too. In my situation, I am just at the beginning of sorting out these feelings. The reason I wanted to mention this is that if you have felt this emotion, do not feel alone. It comes with the territory. I felt as though I would be cheating if I did ask this person to dinner. It is my opinion that after years of marriage, you will feel like you are cheating on your late spouse. In reality, I know it would not be cheating. I know she would want me to have company and companionship.

When the time is right, we all have to decide between being open to finding a new friend that may lead to a relationship. What we do need to remember is that there is not a set time for this scenario. It may even be that we decide we don’t want that type of companionship, and only you know if that’s your case. However, one thing we do know is that you need to be open to this, and it isn’t cheating. The only cheating that happens by hiding from others is you cheating yourself out of a possible friendship. Be strong, my brothers.

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You can reach Chris at brandt5@hotmail.com

Categories
Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health

Escaping Anxiety

Fred-18

When my wife passed 4 years ago, I first experienced shock and then numbness, after that anger and depression, and after that resignation and doubts about my future without her. It wasn’t until around my sixth month of grieving that I began to experience something unfamiliar to me since my 20’s and 30’s, anxiety… and I mean full-blown anxiety.

This coincided with my re-entry into life as I began to socialize again through a Meetup.com group called the Breakfast Club. I also started to date again via online dating services. My self-confidence was nearly non-existent at the beginning, so I had tremendous doubts about my ability to meet and engage with new people. Though I could put on a good front, I would go home after each meeting or date and question my every word and action. It was worse than when I was a teenager.

Soon, I met a widow whose company I really enjoyed, and who made me feel more at ease about the whole dating concept. However, I found that I would think that I had control and then would be overcome with euphoria and anxiety at alternate times (part of the hyper-emotional response). I did not have things under control. It was months before I saw how out of control I was during this period. Anxiety is a normal part of any relationship. While in a heightened hyper-emotional state, anxiety can become overwhelming and dominate your thinking day and night.

The ups and downs, the drama, and the uncertainty about what we really wanted doomed the relationship from the start. As our relationship evolved, I experienced increasing anxiety over possibly losing her, I am sure because of the recent loss of my wife. But I also had fear and anxiety about:

  • moving too fast, 
  • saying the wrong thing, 
  • how our relationship would impact my friends and family, and
  • her deciding it was too soon to be in a relationship again, 

The anxiety only got worse as I had more trouble sleeping, causing me to spiral out of control. If you can recognize this anxiety for what it is and confront it before it ruins all your relationships, you will be way ahead of the game.

I first got some help from my therapist, and then from reading Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, which challenges you to engage with your emotions and doubts, to face your fears and self-doubts, and to be vulnerable. However, this vulnerability actually led to more anxiety in some ways. I was still dwelling on past mistakes or shortcomings and fearful of what might happen in the future.

This led me to a spiritual philosopher, Eckart Tollé, whose central message is to stay in the present and turn away from worrying about the past or future. Tollé often quotes Lao Tzu: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” 

Once I adopted some of his teachings that I thought useful and combined it with meditation, I began to calm down and learned just to enjoy the moment. You can find some of his talks on Youtube, which you may find helpful. Tollé is an intriguing character with a funny laugh and gentle way of speaking, but his messages often go to the core of feeling and thinking. (With someone like Tollé or Chopra, you don’t have to accept everything they say. Just take in what works for you and is in conformance with your own values and beliefs.)

Whether you decide to look up and adopt some of Eckart Tollé’s ideas or not, the key point is that I encourage you to look outside your normal belief systems and find ones that help you to deal with your grief and often resulting anxiety. Some may find solace in their religious beliefs, others may find help through meditation or yoga. When you go through the kind of trauma and grief that we all have had to do, sometimes the only way out is through a new path… one you have not tried before.

Learn to be courageous enough to try one. You may be pleasantly surprised and rewarded.

Categories
COVID-19 Grief/Dispair Loneliness Mindfulness Self-care

What I Miss Most

Terrell Whitener

The current Corvid 19 pandemic effected most people’s life in some way. As a widowed man and an empty nester, the current protocol that I have chosen to follow has given me a significant amount of time to reflect on my life.

Recently I gave a lot of thought to what I miss most about not having my wife with me during this most unusual time. While reflecting I was not overcome with a deep sense of sadness, but just with what I would deem as one of my “sigh” moments.

My wife Robyn was an extremely strong-willed person. It is anyone’s guess as to how compliant she would have chosen to be. But despite what could have been a challenge, I cannot help but to contemplate what we would have been getting into with all this “bonding” time on our hands. One thing I am confident of, is e would have the Amazon and other delivery personnel would have been getting a more active than usual amount of business from my wife. Robyn was a world class shopper. With even more sedentary time and the additional money saved by not being as mobile she normally would have been, she would have found even more of her famous “deals” to take advantage of. So, I miss hauling in the packages and complaining in vain.

I also miss the sound of laughter in my house. Robyn and I loved to laugh. Humor was our sixth Love Language. We would find humor in almost anything. Around her nuclear family laughter was in short supply, so I believe the constant levity of our home gave her great comfort. It also gave me great comfort and I miss it a lot.

On the business side, Robyn served as my primary sounding board. Before her retirement for health reasons, we both had jobs that demanded a lot of our time and came with tremendous responsibility. As a consult and entrepreneur, Robyn was often my primary sounding board. I felt she had a keen understanding of how the pieces came together. She seldom had much interest in the nuances of what I did overall but was very intuitive when it came to asking the right questions in gauging the proper amount of preparation and risk. I often tell people that no one believed in me more than my wife Robyn did. In this aspect of my life however I am fortunate that my son has seamlessly moved into that role in my life and is doing a great job in being my consigliore.

On a more personal level I miss Robyn’s presence in my bed at night. Not so much for the sexual side but for the comfort side of intimacy. The bedroom can be at times a vast place when you are all alone. I have not been fortunate enough to forge a relationship, that includes intimacy on that level, so I miss her a lot in that area.

At times like these the smallest things can trigger a memory. I have always disliked drinking alone, so I rarely take a drink at home. The other night however I had a taste for a glass of wine with dinner. So, I picked out a bottle and opened it up and poured a glass. While the wine was a nice compliment to dinner the experience of drinking it was lacking something. Possibly what is was lacking was the second glass which would have been Robyn.

Overall, however, my life is a great one. I have great family and a comfortable home. Full of great memories and if I get still enough, I can maybe hear laughter still hidden in the walls. It is in those moments, that life is just a bit more bearable, life is just a little more complete.

As always, I welcome your responses. If you are willing share the things you miss most.  I appreciate the opportunity to share 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 website thedebriefgroup365.com, there you will find all my social media contacts or through the Widow Support Network.

Categories
Mental/Emotional Health Self-care Simplify

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!

Jim Winner

Last month, I spent 12 days with my daughter in Oregon. We rented an AirBnB. We enjoyed a lot of time in the mountains of the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests. She’s an avid hiker, and like me, loves the outdoors. The more time I spent in the woods, the more I felt myself really savoring the experience of getting in touch with nature.  We trekked to several waterfalls, some very remote lakes, and saw things that I had never seen before. As you fellow dads can imagine, it was a special and meaningful experience.

When I got back to the Indiana flat lands, I found myself in a state of restlessness. I was antsy and unsettled. I wanted to be back in those woods. I missed those mountains. There is something about the forest that brought me a sense of deep and real peace. It was joyous. It was simple. There was no cell phone service, no internet, and no Facebook. ( sorry, Herb )

As I was thinking about my time in the woods, I decided to re-read an old favorite book of mine. The book is Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It was written in 1854 and chronicled his time living in a cabin on Walden Pond in Massachusetts. It’s been a real treat, to once again, read those words about what he believed really mattered in life. Many of his thoughts are as applicable today as they were in the mid-1800s.  The highlight of the book is his call for a simple life. “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!” is his cry throughout. My favorite quote was, “If a man does not keep up with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” That really struck a chord with me. As we move through our respective journeys, we all hear our own drummer. That’s what we need to listen to. We only need to keep up with him. No one else. What works for one of us probably will not work for all of us. Friends be reminded, this is your journey. It is a journey you’re taking with guidance and support, but with no navigation app or road map. Listen to your drummer. Take this journey at your own pace.

Thoreau’s call to simplify really impacted me as well. It motivated me to start on some long overdue de-cluttering projects. (the same ones I have meant to do since March) It led me to think about the things that occupy my time and take up valuable space in my mind and my life. What the message of simplification has done is encouraged me to do some shifting in where I will be focusing my energy. I am working on moving towards doing less of the things I “like” to do and concentrate on doing more of the things I “love” to do. I am cutting back on things that bring me temporary happiness and focusing on things that bring me a deeper sense of joy.

We have all learned how important it is to stay busy during the grieving process. I agree with that. I would also suggest that busyness for the sake of being busy does not do anyone any good. Maybe we need to save and intentionally schedule some time to take care of ourselves. A walk in the woods can do wonders, so can a bike ride with your kids. An evening at home with a book can be wonderfully healing. Find something that brings you a sense of joy and instills a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Keep it simple!

Perhaps, if we start saying yes to less, it will open the door of what really matters. I believe it could have significance in our lives and the lives of those around us. I am willing to try. Are you?

__________________________________________

Jim Winner’s thoughts can be seen here every other Thursday.  You can write him by Private Messenger

Categories
Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward Uncategorized

It is okay to be happy

Chris Brandt

Have you ever felt guilty or maybe even startled at a smile on your face? If you have, there is no reason to feel any shame. Let me explain. As my wife and I battled her disease, there where many times that I felt guilty about being able to do things she could not. I will not go into detail, but the guilt I felt was intense, and it was painful. I thought that once she passed, the guilt would pass with her. I was wrong. A few weeks after she passed, I was having a conversation with a friend from high school. He and I have always been the kind of friends that could pick up where we left off even after not talking for months. He has always had a happy perspective on life. Well, after talking for a few minutes, something happened, and it was startling. I smiled and laughed! I caught myself. I will never forget that moment because it was a significant event in my new life. I asked myself, “What are you doing?”

I wanted to share my smile and laugh story for a couple of reasons. It took much thought and self-reflection to conclude that it was okay to smile and laugh. Besides, the guilt I felt needed to be addressed. Please understand, when a widower is freshly dealing with their loss, these feelings are a major concern and not digested and proceeded the same way they are after a few months after the loss. At that time, I felt guilt, and for me, I think I know why. I felt that it was far too soon to smile and laugh.

One thing is for sure during or journey of grief, and I feel all of us brothers will agree, there is not a set time frame for any of this process. It is okay that some things take longer for others, and other things happen quicker for others. It is a wonderful and blessed reality that we are unique and deal with certain things better than others. The reason for this being a good thing is because we are band together and can use our unique abilities to help those that are in need in those areas. Nonetheless, one thing is for sure, if you find yourself smiling or laughing, don’t feel guilty, cherish that moment. There is no guilt in happiness.

-Chris Brandt

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Please welcome Chris to our outstanding team of columnist. Chris lost his wife Christine on 1/13/20. He can be reached at brandt5@hotmail.com.

Categories
Addiction Health

WSN: Talking About Your Health

Image may contain: ‎text that says '‎קס MAYO CLINIC HEALTH SYSTEM‎'‎

Think On This. If it sounds familiar, seek help.

My Opioid Addiction

Posted by jdiakiw @jdiakiw

My body is my major negative asset. I am riddled with pain. At a 5, 6 or 7 out of 10 on my pain scale, I still function normally, just living through it. At a 10, I suffer in bed. As a youth I had occasional, classic aural/nausea migraines. They became more frequent and less severe, till they morphed into chronic daily headaches. Knee pain resulted in a knee replacement. But arthritis continues to attack my lower back and neck. My piriformis muscles too, add to the relentless pain.I probably saw a hundred medical practitioners from both traditional medicine,-pain or neurology specialists, to alternative treatment, from acupuncture to cupping. Nothing worked except drugs… especially when Oxycodone was introduced to the medical market.My doctor was very enthusiastic. There was a medical mantra they all bought into that was clearly promoted by the drug company.They believed that there was a difference between those who used Oxycodone for recreational use who could be addicted, but if used for pain and no high was experienced, you could not become addicted, you were only ‘dependent’. I never experienced any high on opioids. Somehow it was assumed that ‘dependent’ was a mild issue that could be easily rectified if necessary. You could just quit anytime. I started with Percocets a few times a day. It soon was not enough. My doc prescribed Oxycontin. It was soon not enough. A friend had a Fentanyl patch. My doc said he only prescribed a patch for terminal cancer patients. He upped the Oxycontin dose… again… and again. I continued to complain of pain. Finally he added a Fentanyl patch. I began taking 160 mg of combined Oxycontin and Percocets, plus the patch.I was a drug addict. I remember driving up the Don Valley Parkway in Toronto, in bumper to bumper, stop and go, rush hour traffic, in a drug stupor. I fell asleep at a pause and was only awakened by car horns urging me to move on. It was time to stop.A pain specialist advised moving into a residential rehab facility. I opted for the do-it-yourself option. I researched the process and decided to do it on my own. It took me 6 months to get off the opioids. I asked my wife what it was like when I was getting off the drug. “You lost your mind. You kept saying to everyone you saw the Buddha on the road. You wandered up and down the beach at the cottage buttonholing people and talking nonsense and breaking down crying.”My cottage neighbor, a doctor, who observed me in this state, called it ‘ebullient emotion’, typical when patients have strokes or when in shock. I burst into bouts of convulsive weeping without any reason. I did that frequently during my detox.I reduced my dose by 5 mg a week. It was agony. After a couple of months the detox twisted my mind. I was nearly mad. Even when I was down to 5 mg per day it was excruciating. I wanted to give up and get a strong dose, but I persisted.I remember talking to Laurie, a pharmacist at Shoppers Drug Mart in Penetanguishene and asked her if there was anything I could take to get me over the agony on my last 5mg. She asked how much I had reduced from. “160 mg and a Fentanyl patch,” I replied.“On your own?’ she asked, incredulously.“Yes,” I said.“That’s unheard of,” she said. Her face signaled shock.Every time I hear one of many current statistical opioid stories on TV, I am reminded of my addiction and detox. For example: * There were 2,833 opioid related deaths in Ontario last year. * In the USA, there were more than 70,200 overdose deaths in just 2017. More than 130 people died every day from opioid- related drug overdoses.On TV as I wrote this, someone declared, “One hundred people die from gun violence in the USA every day”. 130 from opioids! 100 from gun violence! Are these not preventable?I have been free of opioids for a few years now. The pain persists but I am better off than where I was. My wife had nightmares about my drugged period. “I thought we were going to lose you.” I am still here.By the way, I really did see the Buddha on the road.

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

___________________________________________

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
Children COVID-19 Family Health Moving Forward

What’s behind your mask?

Jim Winner

I just got back from a trip to Oregon. I had the privilege of spending ten days with my 34-year-old daughter. It was wonderful. Spending time with an adult child is a rewarding and meaningful experience. We shared many long conversations when we discussed some real hard life topics. Us dads all know how precious those times are.

Everywhere I went, I saw people wearing masks. No question, it’s a necessary sign of the times. It’s something we must do until we figure this corona-virus out. I don’t know about you, but I miss seeing the face behind the mask, I miss enjoying the smile of the person I’m talking to. I miss the expression on a person’s face. I want to know who’s behind that mask. I want to know what they’re feeling. I want to see them, not just a piece of them.

I believe we tend to wear different masks as we journey through the grief process. I know in my early stages of grief, for the first few months after Joyce’s passing, I tended to try to take on a lot by myself. I admit that I tried to mask a lot of how I was feeling. I’m very fortunate that I have friends and family who kept reaching out to me during that time. It’s easy to shut ourselves off and try to tough it out. That won’t work. We want to “man up” and not let others see our real emotions or situation. I think this is particularly true in the first several months after a loss. That’s when we’re most confused and tend to internalize everything. That won’t work either.

Masks can offer protection from the unwanted. Masks can serve as a filter, literally and figuratively. Masks can also hide what we don’t want to share with others.

I see all kinds of ads on Facebook for masks. Who would have ever thought they’d be the must-have fashion accessory for 2020? But then again, 2020 hasn’t exactly gone the way anyone expected.

When it comes to the physical masks, I’d recommend that you follow whatever protocol keeps you compliant and makes you confident, comfortable, and keeps you and those around you safe.

When it comes to emotional masks, I’d like to suggest that we are much better off not wearing them. When someone you trust and care about asks how you are, tell them. Be honest. They’re asking because they care. Share the good, and share the bad. Not even your closest and trusted family member, friend, or ally can help or support you if they don’t know what you need. And if your phone doesn’t ring, don’t feel bad if you’re the one reaching out. Trust me; your closest friends want to help. They want to be there for you. They don’t know what you need unless you tell them. For many of them, this may be their first grief experience as well. Help them be better at what they so desperately want to do, to help you.

So, wear that mask when you need to, but know when it’s time to take it off.

Blessings, Brothers!

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Jim Winner’s thoughts can be found here every other Thursday. You can write him c/o WSN.