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
Dating/Relationships Manful Emotions Moving Forward

One Mississippi, Two Mississippi

Fred-18

Since your wife died, how often have you been thoroughly confused by the kindness of women towards you? How often have you, even though you know it is wrong, thought there might be something there? I am not embarrassed to tell you that I had many such instances. For example, within a few months of my wife’s death:

· I went to pick up a grandchild at her daycare, and the owner (who knew of my loss) gave me a big welcoming smile and hug… and I was confused!

· I visited with my lawyer to revise my will, and she was empathetic to me, and I was confused!

· My dental hygienist (half my age) and I empathized with each other over our losses, and I was in love!

· A female greeter at the church repeatedly smiled at me and engaged in light conversation with me, and I asked her out! She was married!

And there were more instances of similar engagements and reactions. Why do we act this way? Why do we have no clue at all after our wives pass about how to interact with other women? How can we learn again how to filter thoughts that should stay in our heads before they are expressed in words or actions?

After our loss, our social filters are all messed up. These painstakingly developed filters tell us how to interpret the world around us. They tell us when to speak up and when to keep quiet, and they help us to navigate our complex human world. Filters that are particularly weak after losing your wife can include:

· Social filters – such things as what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to say out loud in the company of others, especially women… or how to react to perceived signals from others.

· Emotional – those inbred and learned behavioral filters that help us to interpret our emotional reactions to people and events around us… or how to interpret signals from others, particularly women. This can also include our ability to control our anger, anxiety, and fear.

· Intellectual – those “thought” filters that help you to not blurt out remarks that are not well thought through, that are based upon false or biased information, or that are just trying to fill the gap in conversations.

To illustrate this state of mind, I remember a wonderful skit in the Big Bang Theory comedy series in which Billy Bob Thornton erroneously interprets signals from almost every woman he meets. If they touch him in an innocent gesture (think hand on shoulder) for as long as it takes him to say, “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,” he takes it as a sign that they are into him.

When I saw the show, I immediately recognized myself in my then messed up mental state. Billy Bob Thornton’s character carried this to comedic extremes and did not recognize the absurdity of his actions until two of the show’s female characters (Penny and Amy) confronted him about it.

Just like Billy Bob, every time a good-looking woman smiled at me, gave me a hug, or showed empathy to me… I was wondering if they liked me in a way which might lead to a relationship. This, often erroneous, thinking was further complicated by my erratic emotional and intellectual filters as well.

After speaking with my grief counselor, I learned to confront this thinking head on and to gradually rebuild my filters to the point where I was able to once again interact with women with more confidence that I was reading their signals (or non-signals) more correctly. It took months to regain this control so that I could reengage fully without fear of making fatally embarrassing errors.

So, if you find yourself in a similar situation, know that acknowledging the issue is half the battle. Then you can turn your attention to dealing with it, instead of sitting there condemning yourself every time you commit a faux pas. Know that this is not something to condemn yourself for, just something else we have to “address” as we move forward in our healing process.

© Copyright 2019 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

——————————————————————————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. Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon. (If living in Canada go to Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada) See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower. Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Dating/Relationships Manful Emotions Moving Forward

Dating as a Widow: The Fear of Loneliness

Cynthia

(Gents: Pay close attention.  Great lessons to follow)

The fear of loneliness is what compels people to seek relationships.  A neonate cries out loud upon waking up from a nap but is comforted immediately upon seeing a smiling face loom over the crib.  A toddler wants to be tucked in bed; it is not the dark room that scares him as much as the idea of being alone in a dark room.  Children seek out friends in school and on the playground; we instinctively know something is wrong when we see a child sitting all by himself.  A teenager would rather be out with friends than sit alone at home and watch a movie.  Young adults find ways to network with other young adults outside of the workplace.  Then, you meet the love of your life and discover that nothing fulfills you as much as time spent with your love.

You get married – life happens, bills need to be paid, jobs become stressful, and children come along, bringing a huge change in the dynamics between your spouse and you.  Time spent with each other is at a premium; the number of hats you wear is wearing you down.  However, you have this awesome alliance which allows you to toss hats back and forth at each other as you juggle your way through the responsibilities of life.  Sometimes a hat gets thrown back at you, at other times a hat falls to the ground, and then there are those days when you just want to throw every hat out the window and curl up in bed with a book.  Blissful solitude!

Widowhood changes so much in our lives, yet we are still the same creature deep within, always seeking relationships.  We miss those years of not having to seek companionship because you had a ‘designated companion.’  We miss those years of just being able to say, “let’s watch a movie together”; in quiet companionship, you watched curled up in a couch together – not a word was spoken, but not a word was needed.  You could rest in the quiet comfort of knowing you were loved, and no matter what the world threw at you, someone always had your back.  It was comforting to know you could interrupt a football game, wake up your spouse in the middle of the night to tell him you were feeling sick, offer driving tips from the passenger seat, give directions to a husband who questions his GPS device, reach over and eat out of his plate, and myriad other annoying behaviors that your spouse just overlooks because he has learned to love that about you.  You feel loved.  You are in your comfort zone.  Then, you lose it all.  Loneliness becomes the hallmark feature of your existence.  Fear of rejection creeps in.

Once again you feel like that neonate wanting to see a familiar face when you wake up, a toddler who wants to be tucked in bed, a child wanting to just hang out with a friend, a teenager wanting to go with someone to the movies, a young adult seeking to network with others of the same age and interest, and a person looking for that quiet, comforting love again.  What’s different about this time around?  Fear of the unknown is juxtaposed with a fear of loneliness.  We lived in a predictable world for long enough to where the unpredictable intimidates us.  We now have experience and history behind us, which colors our view of any future relationship.  Most marriages are not idyllic.  Even good marriages have their fair share of challenges.  Many marriages can be steeped in loneliness. Some marriages are outright adversarial.  In all cases, a widow seeks a nurturing relationship; either because it is what she had before or because it is what she has always dreamed of having.  I suspect the same can be said of a widower.  Marriage has trained us to find the intricate balance between being the nurturer and the nurtured one.  Can we find that balance once again?  Can a widow find that relationship which quells her fear of the unknown and remedies her fear of loneliness?  Be very intentional in seeking another relationship, but also be cautious and wise; consider this – a relationship based on true friendship will stand the test of time and troubles.

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Cynthia Mascarenhas was widowed on February 4, 2018, when she lost her husband of 29 years, Franz Mascarenhas, to a sudden heart attack. Following the passing of Franz, Cynthia founded Walk With A Widow, a non-profit organization whose primary focus if healing the hearts of widows by giving love and hope to widows around the world. As one would expect, much of the material crafted for widows can also be of help to widowers.

Professionally, Cynthia is a registered nurse and an independent legal nurse consultant. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Greater Orlando Chapter of Legal Nurse Consultants. Cynthia has served on various committees for the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.

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

Categories
Forgiveness Grief/Dispair Guilt/Shame Manful Emotions Mental/Emotional Health

Forgiveness – what role does it play in my grief journey?

Cynthia

Guilt and anger are recognized characteristics of the grief journey – Guilt over what could have been done or should have been done; guilt over things left unsaid or things that were better left unsaid; guilt over those fleeting moments where a smile might form around the corners of your mouth; guilt for some unknown reason. Anger over the circumstances surrounding your loss; anger about what your spouse should have done to take better care of himself/herself; anger over what you should have done to take better care of your spouse; anger about why any of this had to happen; anger about every secondary loss you suffer that overshadows the initial loss over a period of time.

How do we get past any of these emotions? The human spirit cannot survive, let alone thrive, under the constant onslaught of these harmful and destructive emotions. Human nature requires a resolution of sorts to every conflict. Forgiveness might be the key to this resolution; forgiveness of oneself, the forgiveness of one’s spouse; forgiveness for things that were said; forgiveness for things that were left unsaid; forgiveness for hurts inflicted over the years of marriage; forgiveness for failures on both sides as you traversed life together. In marriage, we have the opportunity to confront our failings and that of our spouse. We have the opportunity to engage in discourse and dialogue, frustrate each other, encourage each other, laugh with each other, and cry with each other. Then one day, all you are left with is your thoughts. Your head and heart are bursting with unresolved conflict; monologue arguments about why you have to go through this grief; however, nobody is listening. At least, nobody you can be brutally open and honest with. A healthy dialogue with your spouse is not an option — monologues, as frustrating as they are, come with a certain advantage. You control the narrative! You can make a conscious decision to forgive or be resentful.

Forgiving oneself and forgiving one’s spouse every single time an unresolved conflict arises in your mind or heart is the only way to bring reconciliation. Over and over again, as often as doubt and self-talk begin to overpower you, you will have to make a conscious decision to confront your worst thoughts. You will have to make a resolution to forgive yourself and your spouse. Forgiveness does not mean conceding victor or denying wrongdoing, real or perceived. Forgiveness means breaking free of the hold anger, and guilt have over you. Forgiveness grants you victory over your circumstances. Forgiveness frees you to love and be loved – love the life you had (even as you grieve the loss), love the memory of the person you loved through every challenge, love the promise of a future (whether single or with another).

Proverbs 17:9 – Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends

Colossians 3:13 – Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you

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

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

Categories
Healing Manful Emotions Moving Forward

Laundry

Nyle Kardatzke

With the holidays behind us, we widow-men may feel relieved to return to the mundane duties of normal life. If you had house guests, you may still have a backlog of laundry.

“Marriage is about the most expensive way for the average man to get laundry done.” Burt Reynolds

A lady friend told me about her widowed father’s struggles with his laundry. The same woman said she prefers to do all the laundry for herself and her husband, but she lets him wash his own underwear, socks, and towels: he’s not likely to damage those.

If there was ever a serious conflict in our marriage, it probably was over laundry. My wife had very precise routines to govern clothes washing. I called it “scientific laundry,” and to this day I can’t tell you all the elements that went into it. The most scientific procedures were applied to her clothing, not mine, so I have very little idea what was involved. What I do know is I could never interfere! Like my friend’s husband, I “wandered off the reservation” only at my peril. There were times when I wondered if laundry crises would become a serious threat to our marriage. (Near the end of her life, she actually asked me to do a load of her delicate laundry. I didn’t realize it at the moment, but that was a sign that her life was ending.)

My friend and her sisters helped their father by giving him tips on laundry and buying him no-iron clothing. They didn’t want him to stray into the even more technical field of ironing clothes. For my part, I’m reasonably good at ironing, and I usually find it therapeutic. It’s clean, quiet, indoor work, and if all goes well, wrinkled clothes come in one side and smooth ones go out the other.

I’m still pretty unscientific about laundry, but I have experimented with bleach. It’s wonderful stuff! When I found that it would brighten some of my white things, I started using it regularly. I have bombarded underwear, towels, and sheets with chemical warfare. Those successes have led me to use high concentrations of bleach on my kitchen sinks, badly stained old Tupperware measuring cups, and even on my kitchen counters. (Caution! Please do a little research before trying bleach on modern counter-tops. Mine are not modern.)

Confession Time: I have violated some of my wife’s laundry laws in recent months, and I seem to be slipping into habitual laundry criminality. I have sometimes washed outlandishly mismatched batches of fabric: towels, pillowcases, underwear, socks, and jeans all in the same load. Each little experiment with eclectic laundry has emboldened me to take the next step. I have found that modern colorfast clothing rarely discolors other clothes. Now I am an unrepentant felon where laundry is concerned. I have simplified and expedited my laundry work, and that’s worth the shame and guilt my wife thought I should feel.

You may be inclined to violate some of your wife’s laundry rules. Smile when you think of them. Take some pleasure in remembering her care for you and your clothing.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, “WIDOW-MAN,” every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidowman@gmail.com

Categories
Grief/Dispair Loneliness Manful Emotions Mental/Emotional Health

Fear

Nyle Kardatzke

I was surprised to find myself fearing some things that I hadn’t feared before, or hadn’t feared as much before she died. When I knew I would be alone in the house for the first time after her death, I was afraid of what my emotional reaction might be. I asked my son and his wife to stay in a guest bedroom that night, and my fear of being alone in my house subsided. The next night was fine. Within a few days, new fears intruded: running out of money, being sick with no one to care for me, making bad decisions without the benefit of her wisdom, and the fear of breaking down crying in front of people. You may find that you have new fears or old fears that are stronger now that you are alone.

Fear can be rational or irrational. Rational fear is your mind warning you of potential hazards. It leads you to take preventive action to protect yourself and others. Irrational fear is unreasonable, out of proportion, and not based on facts. Irrational fear can disable you and slow your grief recovery. If it comes upon you, try to identify it for what it is and do what you need to that day, defying unreasonable fear.

A widow friend of mine fears air travel after her husband’s death. I know that other widows fear driving alone and to be in public places surrounded by strangers. Most men don’t experience their aloneness in these ways. There is enough of the bully in most of us to feel that we can make things turn out as we want. We may be more likely to be surly with other people if things go wrong at an airport or in traffic. We men tend to soldier on stoically, even grimly, rather than seek help or look inside ourselves. We shouldn’t be surprised. Men are, after all, different from women.

If you don’t have fears, other people do. If you have adult children, they will fear for you even if they have little reason to fear. Your friends may fear for you, especially if you expressed natural, open emotion at the time she died or at her funeral. Keep in touch with those people. Don’t ask about their fears or yours; mere contact with them will restore calm. Action on your part will also avoid solicitous inquiries that are awkward for you and your family.

Although I am not Catholic, I am impressed by Pope John Paul II’s frequent advice not to fear. “Do not fear,” he said often. The Bible is full of admonitions to deny fear of its power over us. These warnings have caused me to wonder why they are so important and so frequent. Surely we are not to be unwise about things that warrant real fear, rational fear. But we should not let ourselves be paralyzed by the unreasonable, irrational fear that will hold us back and limit the full lives we can have.

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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
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Manful Emotions

Emotions

Nyle Kardatzke

Quotation: “You won’t always feel the way you do now.” – C.S. Lewis

Emotions sometimes seem more real than reality itself. In a time of grief and loss, our emotions are deeper and stronger than at any other time. We feel that we may burst into tears or maybe even collapse because of these feelings of grief. We know emotion is a natural part of grief, and we know we must sometimes let it overtake us, but we don’t want to lose control of ourselves. We don’t want to magnify our grief, and we don’t want to upset others. And we may be alarmed if we think we will always feel this way. But you won’t always feel the way you do now, as C.S. Lewis has told us.

My wife had two episodes of heavy cancer treatment, each of which lasted many months. During those times, my wife and I were not emotional except in a few isolated episodes. She was almost always calm, whether the news was good or bad. Strangely, I found that I was most emotional when we had good news about her condition, not when bad news came.

When I learned that her PET scans were clear during her first cancer treatment, I broke down and cried. She then had five more good years. When we learned in the second episode that two forms of chemo had failed, we both took it as another objective challenge to be met. We were less emotional about bad news than about good news. You and your wife may have been the opposite. We can’t know in advance how we will respond emotionally to great difficulties.

Sometimes my judgment has been impaired by emotion during my time of grief. More than once, my anger over a traffic situation has become inflamed absurdly. I once growled at people in an airport when I was delayed, though I wasn’t even inconvenienced. And I have also caught myself buying things that were only attempts to soothe my grief or loneliness.

Our emotions can energize us or cripple us. The joy you feel in moments of positive forward momentum is an emotion that supports and nourishes you.

Not all grief is openly emotional. Some of our grievings go on quietly without our noticing and then reveals itself in a new feeling of peace. I’m sometimes surprised and pleased to find that my life is coming together again in a new and comfortable way. Grief has been at work behind the scenes, and I sometimes experience the happy fruit of that work when I least expect it.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, “WIDOW-MAN,” every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidowman@gmail.com

Categories
Grief/Dispair Healing Loneliness Manful Emotions Memory Moving Forward

Why I Still Love My Life

Terrell Whitener

Recently I received the gift of a significant breakthrough in my life. But first, a little background. Fifty-two months ago, on a cold February morning, I was driving to the hospital, suitcase in tow to bring my wife home from another incident avoided. You see, I was very used to adjusting our routine with a possibly new or differing dose of medication and the signing of discharge papers. But this day would turn out different than the rest. The phone would ring in the car, and five hours later, I would leave the hospital with everything except my wife. It was over! Or was it really? In my book The First 365, I say that it was the end of one thing, but the beginning of everything else. Over the fifty-two months since that day, I have navigated many of the stages outlined by the legendary psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and enhanced by David Kessler. I have gone through, three of the five stages of grief that have become the cornerstone of the understanding of grief over the years.

Let me start out by saying that I was never in denial. From the time I walked in the room and did not see my wife turn toward me and the corner of her mouth turn up in the smile that always shone through the most difficult days, I knew she was gone.

I never bargained with God, as we were far too busy fighting to bargain. I was far too determined to win to tap out and bargain. No, I never cheapened the adversary of illness to bargain for a compromise.

I must admit that I was angry. Not at God for taking my wife, but at the blur of time, that I didn’t respect enough to demand that we take more vacations or the two hundred and fifty thousand more times that I failed to tell her how much I loved her. That is what I was angry about.

I even admit to depression. I often look back at the malaise that I operated in, a hollowed-out shell of my former self, searching to find a reason to give a damn again. I remember wondering if life would just be a series of stolen moments of happiness and never a constant in my life anymore.

But recently, I received the gift of moving into the realm of acceptance. Acceptance has long been a long time coming. I had some mourning to do, some growing up to do as well. Let me be very clear, I still miss my wife tremendously. I still haven’t completely closed the door on sharing my life with another person. But that relationship will not heal me, it will enhance me if it occurs. I will mourn the loss of my wife as long as I live. However, the space it takes up in my existence has settled into a healthy resting place. It has become vital to me that I emotionally allow my wife to rest in peace truly. Not that I determine that in any way but honor her by really being dedicated to living the quality life we came to know together.

This newly discovered maturity has a much more forward focused point of view than I have experienced in years. My life now consists of sharing my thoughts with my fellow widowed brothers. Starting to formulate thoughts for another book, looking forward to my son’s wedding next year, giving speeches, planning conferences, meeting new people, and discovering new ventures. I really feel relevant in a whole new way. Also, in my book, I encourage my readers to ‘do the work, it’s worth it.’ I really feel that I may be at the beginning stages of reaping the benefits of doing the work.

The wonderful thing about the Widowers Support Network * is that we are at many different stages of this journey. As I read the many posts and heartfelt welcomes and advice we extend to our brothers, I am often inspired by the sense of caring and concern shown. I am as well grieved by the pain I feel in the despair of others. For many, these words are premature, but I encourage you to believe. We will be here for you in any way we reasonably and responsibly can be. We care! If we could expedite the process, we would! Because we care that much. It is always my pleasure to share my thoughts with you all. I hope this gives hope to some and inspires others. I genuinely have rediscovered that I still love my life. It has been a life of many twists and turns, but as I said during a recent speaking engagement, ‘It’s just life.’

(* WSN also offers a FBook page just for men at Widowers Support Network – Members Only.)

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Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of  The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss.  Terrell can be reached at twhitener@thedebriefgroup.net, LinkedIn @terrellwhitener or through the Widow Support Network.

Categories
Camaraderie Giving Support Manful Emotions Widower Awareness

I Am A Widow-man

Nyle Kardatzke

When I became a widowed man, I wondered what to call myself. “Widow” is usually applied only to women, but why can’t a man be a widow? Why accept the implied accusation when you are called a “widower?” Long before I lost my wife, I rankled quietly at the term “widower,” and it still sounds like an accusation to me. If a painter is one who paints and a builder is one who builds, what is a widower? Is it someone who “widows?” Does that not sound like an accusation or a judgment? You didn’t cause your wife’s death. “Widowed” is a better term, but of course, she didn’t do this to you; it wasn’t her choice.

I know widower is the standard term for widowed men, but I’m enough of a Grammar Nazi to be bothered by it. I like to call myself merely a widow or widowed, or maybe better, a “widow-man.” Being a widow-man implies that my situation is different from that of a female widow, as I will explain in future messages here. “Widow-man” reminds me of “macho-man,” a hearty, masculine title. I hope it doesn’t resemble “girlie man” to you!

Now that I have had this little rant with you to introduce myself, I’ll calm down and accept the standard terminology. I may sneak in the “widow-man” term sometimes, and I’m asking your forgiveness in advance.

Men, we have entered a new kind of life. We are alone after a short time or perhaps after a lifetime with the woman to whom we were supernaturally bonded in marriage. Even those of us who lost our wives later in life were not prepared for this new life. Death itself is always sudden, even after a protracted illness, because it is such a complete, irreversible change. And being alone as widowed men in a world of married couples and widows is a new thing for all of us.

In future essays, I’ll explore some aspects of this new world of male widowhood. I’ve been here for nearly ten years. Perhaps I can share some things of value with you.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, “WIDOW-MAN,” every other Wednesday beginning today. You can write Dr. Kardatzke c/o herb@widowerssupportnetwork.com

Categories
Family Financial/Estate Planning Giving Support Grief/Dispair Manful Emotions Mental/Emotional Health

Widower 101: More Key Learnings

Terrell Whitener

Recently I shared four things that I have learned since becoming a widower. In this article, I would like to continue to share a few additional thoughts on this issue.

For each one of us, this list may be different. As I write in my book The First 365, a loss is the ultimate designer emotion. No two journeys are alike. Since becoming a member of the Widowers Support Network, I have had the privilege of reading and sharing with members of this group. I consider it an honor to be among those chosen to contribute to this group. Each of us has experienced the loss of a spouse or partner. Though similar in many ways, each of our relationships took on different qualities. With that being the case, there are differences in what we miss in the loss of our companions. I shared with you last time that for me I have found it is the small things that I seem to miss the most. For many of you, it is something completely different. So, let’s look at some additional thoughts that I have on this matter.

You May Not Be Able to Do It Alone

When I lost my wife Robyn, I decided very early that I could not navigate through this jumble of feelings and emotions alone. Many years ago, I learned that as a man “what we don’t talk out, we act out”. I made a conscious choice to not burden my family with the responsibility to take this journey with me. While I needed (and still need) their love and support, I would need to surround myself with a team of individuals during this most trying time. I come from a generation and culture that has not always embraced the thought of reaching out to mental health professionals. In some ways, the “suck it up” and “suffer in silence” mentality often ruled the day. However, I am so very grateful that I made the decision to receive support from a professional. It is through this relationship that my book was born, it was through this relationship that I am sharing this article with you today.  I respect those individuals that decide to face this trying time in a more solitary manner. I just want to encourage those that make that decision to know that finding support from others is always an option.

Relationships Will Change, While Others Vanish Immediately

In my previous article, I shared how I learned that many people that I thought were “our” friends were really my wife’s friends. Every so often I reflect on how many relationships I said goodbye to on the day of my wife’s funeral. While a bit unfortunate, I have come to realize that on other than a polite social level, none of them played a significant role in my life. To be completely honest, with the shift in perspective and priorities that have developed in my life, there probably isn’t much room for these encounters anyway. One of the changes that being a widower has brought to the surface is how I value my time. With time being so important to me now, the quality of my relationships is very important to me. For many years in the business I always shared with my team that “I rather go to war with 50 good soldiers, than 100 half-ass ones”. In some ways, I have come to look at friendships the same way. Not a thought of bitterness, but quality control in this area of my life.

Prepare for An Adjustment in Finances

One of the areas that I would love to see more emphasis put on in the grief and loss community is the financial impact of widowhood. Talking about money can be a complex issue for many. Far too often there is a tinge of embarrassment if individuals find that they may not have been as prepared as they should have been for the loss of a loved one. With death many times not giving us a timeline, with being amid a battle to take care of our loved one, financial planning may not always be at the forefront of our thoughts. With the passing of our loved one, many see a financial impact from this loss. In my own life, I saw a forty percent reduction in my monthly income. For many that can be devastating. For most of us that I am sharing this article with, we have already dealt with this reality. But as the network grows, our ability to share our experience with others who have not gone through this is something we should think about.

No Expectations

In the early stages of grief and loss, a common mistake is to take in the expectations of others. Many times, we want to be strong for others, try to mask the heartbreak and genuinely want to make others feel like we are going to be alright. While we are working very hard to put others at ease, many times we are not as sure ourselves. In my book The First 365,  I talk about one of the mistakes that I made was in returning to work too soon.  I was fortunate enough to have an employer that offered for me to take all the time I needed before returning to work. I took the weekend! I wholeheartedly endorse taking more time than that! One thing I often find myself saying to my fellow widowers when speaking with them is to manage their expectations. I often find myself ending many conversations by telling them “no expectations”. As a point of full disclosure however, no expectations do not include behavior deemed harmful to yourself or others. No expectations encompass being loving and patient with yourself, which may not be as easy as you think. Navigating the path toward your new normal can be quite the undertaking.

Initially, I very much struggled with no longer having the responsibility of being a caretaker. For years my schedule was very much guided by that role. It took some time to realize that caretaking had become a large part of my identity. Having the freedom to completely chart my own path became almost overwhelming at times. The great news is however that eventually, you will find your way forward. Try to resist any artificial timelines if you can.

Remember that You are Not the Only Person that Lost Someone

A secondary aspect of no expectations is to remember that we must have compassion for others. While we are grieving our loved ones, don’t lose the fact that your loss has persons around you as well. Even though they may not verbalize it, many times they are hurting as well. I will never forget the strength demonstrated by my son as he sat with me in those initial hours and watched me completely melt down the day my wife Robyn died. It takes love and strength to witness such a thing as that. The same thing goes for friends, co-workers, neighbors as well as anyone who knew of and cared about your loved one. While I am not advocating for putting the healing of others ahead of your own, we must remain cognizant on grief’s effect on those around us. For those of us that are parents, this can be extremely complex to manage. We must find the strength to be a loving to our children as we are to ourselves. Their ability to process the loss often-times is directly correlated to our own.

Do the Work It’s Worth It!

For those of you that have followed my articles, you know I am a strong proponent of the benefits of doing the work. While I strongly believe that there are many paths to the destination of healing, each path requires work on our part. I endorse just as strongly that the work is worth it. No matter whether you seek the assistance of professionals, find the strength within or just let time and experience facilitate the healing process, the work is worth it.

So now I have shared just ten of the many lessons I have learned during my time as a widower. I would love to hear from you about what some of your key learnings have been. One thing I am very sure of is that if I were to write another version of this article five years from now, it may have a bit different slant to it. I am often awed by how much I have taken in over the last four years. I am in many ways so much more grown up and, in many ways, more alive now than ever before. However, that is another article for another day. I wish you nothing but the best on this journey that we share.

Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of  The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss.  Terrell can be reached at twhitener@thedebriefgroup.net, LinkedIn @terrellwhitener, Instagram @ or through the Widow Support Network.