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
Holidays Mindfulness Self-care

Thanksgiving 2020

Jim Winner

WSN: Some winning thoughts from Jim Winner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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
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?

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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
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.