Categories
Moving Forward

Widower: It Will Never Be the Same Again!

One of the hardest intellectual and emotional tipping points to achieve in a widower’s healing grief journey is when you turn your thought away from the past toward the future. 

Five years ago, I began my grief journey. For several months I was buried in stomach wrenching physical and mental pain which included my constantly looking backwards. During this time, I first reluctantly, and then willingly experienced pain I had never had before.

I did everything I could to hold on to my wife and her memories. This included talking to her, listening to old taped messages, burying myself in our old photos, and engaging in memorial projects for her such as reorganizing her craft room… as if I expected her to return and use it again.

During this time, I could not accept her death. In my mind, she was still with me despite all the evidence to the contrary. At every turn I wondered what she would advise me to do, I wondered if she could still hear or see me, and I wondered if she was somehow still by my side.

I sleep-walked through the motions of settling all our legal, accounting, and personal affairs such as:

  • changing the names on all our accounts, titles, and wills,
  • notifying everyone of her passing,
  • selling her car, and
  • clearing out her closets, drawers, and knick knacks.

But eventually I came to a point where I realized that I had to change my focus from the past (where I was repeatedly revisiting the pain) to the future when I might start to live and enjoy life again. 

As I was in the middle of starting up a Men’s Grief Group at Pathways Hospice, I met with Joe Maio who started a similar group in Colorado Springs. The first thing he told me was to hold on to one fact, “It will never be the same again.” He told me that once you accept this fact you can begin the healing process. I took this to heart and made it a mantra repeated at every meeting of our Men’s Grief Group.

This acceptance of your new reality, this acceptance that she will never return, and this acceptance of your loss allows you to shift your focus from the pain to the healing. You are not suddenly well because of this realization, but you are able to begin the work of becoming more whole again.

Does that mean that she is no longer a part of your life? No! As I say in my book (Widower to Widower), “My belief is that, for us to move forward, we need to know that we do not have to leave anyone behind.”

You can hold on to her memory, you can still love her, and you can still honor her. But that does not mean constantly dwelling on the past as you did during the early deep grieving phase. It does mean that you will make room for new activities, new people in your life, and new ways to celebrate life going forward.

© Copyright 2020 Fred Colby

All rights reserved

—————————————————————————————-

Widower to Widower is available through your local bookstore, my website, and Amazon.

See Testimonies and Reviews of Widower to Widower

Buy Widower to Widower through Amazon U.S.

(In Canada go to: Widower to Widower – Amazon-Canada)

(In U.K. and Ireland go to: Widower to Widower – Amazon UK)

Website: Fred Colby, Author

Categories
Moving Forward

You’re the Boss Now?

WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

Remember when you were young, married, and full of misperceptions about your life and marriage? Previously, in our more male-dominated society, you might have believed that as the husband, you were the “boss” in the family!

Ha! Many of us eventually found what a joke that belief was! We often learned that making solo decisions without consulting the wife came at one’s own risk. Foolishly, we may even continue to make such decisions only to find out later what a big mistake it was. So, we gradually learned to work together with our wives as a team and to concede certain areas to her leadership. This could include how best to raise the kids, planning vacations, designing the back yard, household budgeting, maintaining friendships and familial relationships, taking care of holiday arrangements, preparing meals, choosing a new home, and sometimes being the primary breadwinner. For each of us, the areas of concession might differ, but in most cases yielding control in at least some of these areas was critical to making our lives and families work.

So, now fast forward to when you lost your wife. Now what? Suddenly we are the only boss over all matters, and we may be unprepared for assuming the responsibilities that she handled so well. It is overwhelming enough dealing with her death and its many personal ramifications, but now you must fill in these gaps left by her absence.

Over 50% of us may experience a severe health challenge during the first year after losing our spouse. Is this just because of the added stress due to her loss? Or is it also because we don’t have our “boss” around to nag us into going to the doctor when we first exhibit symptoms? Being responsible for our health is often one of the areas we urgently need to assume ownership.

You may also have to learn how to manage a checkbook, take care of your household, do the shopping, maintain relationships with your family and friends, learn how to cook again, take care of legal matters, and more.

Many widowers will find themselves overwhelmed by it all, and just throw in the towel, allowing dirty dishes, laundry, weeds, stale food, bills, and broken relationships to pile up to a point where it will appear impossible to clean it all up. The level of a widower’s ability to handle such tasks may lead to isolation, discouragement, lack of self-confidence, diminished quality of life, and even depression. The worse it gets, the harder it is to pull out of it.

How do you fix it? Literally by cleaning one dish at a time, pulling one weed at a time, paying one bill at a time, and repairing one broken relationship at a time. In other words, like any major challenge you have faced in your life, you have to make the decision that you will confront this problem by starting with the first step, followed by another and another. 

In most cases, this often should include asking others for help! You might be surprised by how willing others are to help if allowed to do so and how good you will feel after they help you. This might include family, friends, therapists, grief groups, church friends, and neighbors.

Once you commit to accepting your new role as “the boss” in all things, you may find that your healing will progress, along with your newfound self-identity and feeling of self-worth. Eventually, this healing process will allow you to move forward and to find a new purpose in life.

© Copyright 2020 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
Giving Support Moving Forward Widower Awareness

Where Can I Get Help?

WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

If you are a widower looking for help, ideas, or support, this blog is for you!

While there are very few good books out there specifically for widowers, there are several organizations around the country that can provide help or direct you to the help that you need. 

Here are a few of the key ones that I have compiled to share with my fellow widowers.

Cancer Support Community: located in many communities to help families deal with the challenges of dealing with cancer and its consequences.

GriefNet.org: an online support group that offers specific online groups for loss of spouse or partner.

GriefJourney.com: offers online grief support and resources.

Griefshare.org: offers a listing of church-based grief groups in your area.

Grief Healing: a variety of articles, discussion groups, blogs, and more to help you through the grieving process.

Grief Support Services.org: provides a wide array of online services for fees.

Hospice Foundation of America: provides information about many hospices around the country and access to online articles about end-of-life and grief.

Meetup.com: provides access to many group activities in most areas, including grief groups.

Mygriefangels.org: lists hundreds of resources, including many specific to certain types of losses (e.g., due to cancer).

Modern Loss: provides articles written by people like you and me who have gone through the grief process and have something to share.

National Widowers Association: Lists widower support groups around the country as well as various resources that are helpful such as articles and blogs.

Online Grief Support: offers online support, including online groups, information about grieving, and even After Death Experiences.

Open to Hope: offers articles and talks on grief by real people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. They have sections specific to the loss of a spouse.

Pathways: offers hospice, palliative care, and grief & loss counseling services for all ages in northern Colorado.

Soaring Spirits International: provides a variety of online resources to assist widowed people in helping each other.

The Grief Toolbox: A resource for books, articles, and resources needed to educate ourselves and our loved ones on what is happening and how to best keep going forward.

Widower to Widower: offers free blogs, resources, podcasts, and links to many other organizations.

Widowers Support Network: provides “Widowers Support Network – Members Only,” a free and private online Facebook page for widowers where hundreds of widowers from around the world provide mutual support, humor, and ideas to help fellow widowers through this experience.

If you need help during this strange and crazy time, don’t hesitate to reach out to these groups or your brothers in grieving. To go it alone is not healthy for you or others. We were not made to be isolated and alone, and that is not what our wives would want for us either. So, honor your wives by reaching out to others for help when you need it, and to help others when they need it.

© Copyright 2020 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
Giving Support Moving Forward

Reinventing Yourself to Live Again

WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby 

When Theresa, my wife of 45 years, passed just before midnight on June 29, 2015, I lost three of the four legs that formed the foundation of my life: my wife, family, job, and faith. Only my family remained, while my faith was in crisis. To add to my sense of loss, I felt as if half of my identity had been ripped away. What remained to define me and to serve as my foundation going forward?

At first, the answer was not much. As I emerged from the deepest and most painful first months of grieving, I realized that I did not know who this new person was. Were the labels of widower and grandfather all that was left to define me? Did I want to continue as this ill-defined half-person that I seemed to now be? Reinventing yourself does not mean that the old self was imperfect or lacking, but it is a recognition that things have now changed, and you may need to adapt to your new reality.

After getting out some and meeting new people, and trying some new activities, I realized that I could redefine myself just about any way that I wanted to. Yes, I would always be Theresa’s husband, the father of my children, and the grandfather of my grandchildren… but I could be more. It was up to me; no one else could do it for me.

This led to me engaging in snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, and dancing as a way to redefine my newly active self. So often, some of us in long marriages tend to fall into a sort of complacency, which can lead to a less active life-style with few new challenges and more time spent in leisurely activities like reading, going to the movies, watching sports, etc. This gets old real fast when you are by yourself and have no one to share things with. Over time this can lead to isolation and depression if not addressed. 

To keep my new self mentally engaged, I soon joined two Boards of Directors: the local library, and Pathways hospice which had supported my wife, me, and my family through her passing and our grieving process. At Pathways, I worked with the Grief & Loss department to help launch and then co-facilitate a Men’s Grief Group, which continues to this day.

And finally, I decided to write my book, Widower to Widower, to help other widowers to survive the painful and daunting grief process. I had spent months trying to find printed materials that could help me through the grieving experience. Much to my own and my therapist’s dismay, we could find very little that was of use. She finally challenged me to write the book I would want to read. This led to me spending over a year of writing and editing, and another year of formatting, polishing, publishing, and promoting the book. (Click here to see reviews and testimonies of Widower to Widower

Eventually, all of these new activities, friends, compatriots, and positions helped me to re-invent my new self into something healthy and vibrant again. The four-legged stool was restored by reclaiming my faith, adding new volunteer “jobs” to my resume, strengthening my role as father and grandfather, and bringing new friends into my circle. Today, while I still grieve my wife at times, I once again feel alive and fully engaged with my community, friends, and family.

This new self was developed over three-years and is still a work in progress. Over time it will evolve further. I am convinced that for me, this process of re-inventing myself was crucial to my healing from the deep grieving I experienced during the early stages after losing Theresa.

Each widower will find their own way to this “reinvention” process and will do so at their own pace. It can be a noble undertaking that engages you in a dynamic and creative way.

There is no need to rush it, force it, or even fully engage with it. Allow yourself the time and space to do this in a way that meets your individual needs, background, culture, and situation. If you do, you can eventually find yourself enjoying life once again.

Widower to Widower is available at your local bookstore and online at Amazon.com

—————————————————————————————-

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which can be found 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
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Moving Forward

Let’s Heal Now!

Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

If you are going to survive this hell-on-earth experience and if you want to heal, you are going to have to grow as a father, brother, son, friend, and community member. If you retreat from the world to stew in your grief and anger, that is likely where you will remain. While this retreat is often normal during the first deep grieving months, it may be a sign of complicated grief if it continues beyond a year or so.

We each must find our unique healing path out of grief. My journey will not be the same as yours. But I offer the following as an example of a healing path:

A little over four years ago, I started to attend our area hospice’s monthly co-ed grief group meetings. I could not help but notice that the women usually outnumbered me by a factor of around eight to one. While I found some solace in these groups at first, I felt constrained in terms of what I was comfortable talking about in front of widows. After a few meetings, I approached the hospice about starting a men’s group.

Last week I co-facilitated the 48th meeting of the Men’s Grief Group, which I co-founded precisely four years ago. The attendance at our meetings grew steadily from around 4 – 5 attendees up to a monthly average of 15.  Attendees range from first-timers to old-timers. Ages vary from the late ’40s to the late 80’s. Almost all are widowers, with a smattering of those who lost a child, sibling, or parent.

Through the years, we have helped to save lives, and we often helped men to pull themselves out of the pit of grief. Their expressions of gratitude are a balm for my grief wounds. In short, my efforts to help others has helped me to heal much more quickly than I would have without these activities.

Other widowers, I know personally have:

  • Started and built up the Widowers Support Network, which has provided thousands of widowers with a members-only site where they can provide mutual support for each other.
  • Joined nonprofit volunteer groups and boards of directors to help others in their community.
  • Founded and nurtured the National Widower’s Organization, which provides all kinds of resources for widowers.
  • Provided free trips from Fort Collins to Laramie, Wyoming, for veterans who need to visit the Veterans Hospital.
  • Helped to start grief groups at various churches and nonprofits.

And there are so many other ways of giving back. Some widowers are left with young children to raise, aging, and ill parents to care for, as well as friends or siblings to help. There is no end to the number of ways we can help others, and through that activity, heal ourselves.

When I think of my wife today, I know that if she is aware of what I am doing with my life now, that she would be so proud and happy for me. I have found a way to become a better person in large part because of her and all that she instilled into me.

So, this holiday season, no matter your faith and no matter your history, take the time to think about how you can make a difference going forward. How can you become an even better person, a person your wife would be proud of and love even more than before?

Blessings to all of you this holiday season.

—————————————————————————————-

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower, which can be found 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
Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward

Widower: Maybe I Don’t Want to Heal!!

Are you floating in a sea of grief with only a life vest of memories and past love keeping you afloat? If you are not careful, that life vest can instead become a weight belt of anger, regret, and fear that drags you down into depression.

Grief during the early stages can be both physically and mentally painful to the point that you are desperate for it to end. But you might eventually find yourself welcoming the grief as a way to be close to and honor your wife.

At this point, you may begin to avoid healing because you fear losing touch with your grief, and therefore with your wife! Sometimes when we are in pain, we become accustomed to it to the point where we would prefer the pain to the unknown that lays before us. 

This unknown, a life without her, a life that is different in so many respects, may scare us after so many years of contentment and knowing exactly what to expect. You completed each other’s sentences and knew each other’s habits, schedules, emotional states, and more. You could count on each other for support when things went unexpectedly. Now, you have no one to do that for or with you.

The black void that lays before you is scary! And when we are fearful, we tend to hold on to what we know… even if it is bad for us. At this point, you may bury yourself in innocuous chores, hide in your home, drink too much, or take drugs, or do just about anything to avoid confronting the challenge which lays before you… that is to reinvent yourself and learn how to live again, now as a single widowed male.

The first step towards healing is to admit that you are afraid and then reach out for help from others, including grief counselors, family, friends, and others who care about you. Tell your (and your wife’s) story to anyone who will listen, honor her by being the man she helped to make you into, and give gratitude every day for having had her in your life.

We all need to find ways to help others, as our wives would have wanted us to do. Every time you help others, you begin to feel like you have a purpose again, a purpose that gives meaning to your life and why you are still here.

It is not like a football game that can be won with a single hail-Mary pass. It is more like a marathon where you have to stick with it and keep pounding through the pain and exhaustion. It takes consistency and persistence to break out of the grieving into a healthier healing journey. 

It will still hurt, and there will always be moments when you cry and want to be alone. But you will gradually find yourself able to laugh again, to return love for love, and to feel that life is worth living again.

Categories
Grief/Dispair Mental/Emotional Health Moving Forward

Storytelling Yourself to Healing

WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

Grief can be like cancer, festering in your body and soul until it corrupts and destroys all that is good in you. If grief is left alone or ignored while it mutates into something that threatens your very existence, it can:

  • send you to the hospital with very real health issues (mine was an emergency hernia operation), or
  • cause you to self-isolate and cut yourself from all those whom you love and who love you, or
  • ferment anger that can build up as a response to your loss, and real or imagined wrongs, or
  • accentuate the bone-crushing loneliness you feel after losing a spouse who can lead to sleep deprivation, alcoholism, and drug abuse.

There are several ways you can learn to process your grief in healthy ways and begin your healing journey. These may include burying yourself in projects which honor your wife (mine was to clean up and organize her craft room), joining efforts to help your community, engaging in parent or grandparent duties, or even reorganizing your home. Each of us must find the way that works best for us.

An alternative method, often used by widows and widowers, is storytelling or journaling. For me, this took the form of writing a series of 33 blogs that began shortly before my wife’s passing. These blogs, which were shared via Caring Bridge (see https://www.caringbridge.org/), a website which offers you ways to connect with family and friends during challenging times.

Each blog was written to share our experience with those closest to me and my family. It provided them with a way to stay in touch without my having to speak with each one individually. These blogs carried over into my in-person conversations with family and friends, as well. 

I found that each time I told my (and Theresa’s) story, I would heal… just a little bit. It helped me to allow others into my grieving without them or me being intrusive. I could be completely honest about what my daughters and I were going through while still allowing myself private time for my grieving. I found it freeing and therapeutic. 

Through my blogs, I was also able to advise my friends and family on how best to interact with me. This included a warning to them that if they were going to help me through this, they had to understand that there would be times when I would cry or become choked up. I also encouraged them to share their own special stories about their time with my wife. This helped me immensely as I became even more aware of how wonderful she had been as a wife, friend, and family member.

Eventually, these series of blogs, together with my verbal storytelling, became the foundation of my book, Widower to Widower, which I published last year. While not every widower will want to follow this path and will not become an author, I do encourage everyone to reach out to others and share your story with them. You will usually be rewarded with love and support. 

Those who love you most will stick by you through this hell on earth experience, especially if you include them rather than shut them out.

____________________________________________

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower which can be found on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday.

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Moving Forward

Why Am I Still Here?

WSN-MO: Widower to Widower with Fred Colby

After my wife (Theresa) died, after the numbness, and after the severe physical and mental pain of the first few weeks, I began to ask the question most widowers ask, “Why am I still here? Why did she go first? Wasn’t the plan that I was supposed to die first?”

Only four years before her death, we both expected that I might not survive another year or two due to a debilitating bout with skin cancer. This cancer was finally treated successfully in 2012. Suddenly I found myself healthy and energetic again; so much so that I joyfully returned to the workforce.

At this point, we both thought we were safely entering our golden years and that I just might be around and able to enjoy it with her, at least for a while. And then… that dream blew up in our faces. In 2014 she began to experience some severe rashes which the doctors were unable to help with until it was discovered that she had uterine cancer and needed surgery. This was to be followed by chemotherapy and then radiation treatment. Within a year, she passed away, and I was the survivor left standing.

For forty-five years, we had worked and scrimped and saved to build financial reserves that would insure that she and our children would be okay after I died. The life insurance policy was on me, not her. Everything we owned had been placed into a trust to make the transition smooth, with her as the primary beneficiary. 

Now I was left alone, with no plan, no purpose, and lots of questions. I could find no rationale for why I was left alive. She was the one supposed to live a long life, with time to participate in the lives of our children and grandchildren, with time to enjoy her friends without the encumbrances of work, limited finances, or health issues. I was angry and felt lost, sinking into depression, and even suicidal thoughts. Going alone every night to a cavernous empty and silent home was a challenge.

Fortunately, I found some great support from a therapist at Pathways Hospice, from friends and family, and from new activities that got me out of my house. Gradually I found new purpose in: 

·       writing my book (Widower to Widower) to help other widowers, 

·       joining the Pathways and Poudre River Public Library Boards of Directors, 

·       starting a Men’s Grief Group and co-facilitating it for the past four years, 

·       finding new relations and companions; and in 

·       re-committing to my role as father and grandfather.

All of these activities became more normal and gave me a stronger sense of my life’s purpose, as well as new joy which gradually filled the void left by my wife’s departure. This did not happen overnight, and there were often setbacks in my grieving process, but incrementally I began to fill whole again.

If you find yourself in this position, I offer my experience as but one example of how you can begin to answer these questions about “Why am I still here?” Each of us must find our own way and in our own time, but we can learn from each other and grow from there. I have watched many widowers come through our Men’s Grief Group and find their way to a different new life which often gives them solace and allows them to get value from life again. You can too!

Fred Colby is the author of Widower to Widower which can be found on Amazon.com. You can find Fred’s column appearing here on WSN-MO every other Tuesday.

Categories
Faith/Religion Moving Forward

Angels Walk Among Us

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

by Herb Knoll

Author: The Widower’s Journey

“Hi, my name is Richard.” Thus began my knowing a giant of a man named Richard Blount (62) as he sat down in the chair beside me. The occasion was my first meeting at GriefShare, a widely available program for those who have experienced a loss in their life.  I was attending the program as part of the research I was conducting for my then soon-to-be-released book, The Widowers Journey

I would soon come to realize that Richard, a native of Tampa, Florida, was no ordinary man. Built like a linebacker from your favorite football team, Richard is also a giant of a man in another way.  You see, Richard loves people … especially children. He loves children so much, he and his previous wife had two children, Rebecca (35), and Matthew (34). When Richard married Terri in 1991, her three children, Joshua (37), Ryan (36), and Tyler (35), joined the family.  

As deeply religious people, both Richard and Terri felt a calling from the Almighty to do more in the service of those in need. “We prayed over it,” says Richard. “We then decided to become foster parents.” Once approved by the State of Florida and over some time, Richard and Terri, opened their loving home to forty foster children. You heard me; forty. 

As any foster parent will tell you, foster parents become very attached to the children they are asked to care for as their own until the day a court orders otherwise. This sense of attachment caused Richard and Terri to adopt five of their foster children, Alex (19), Ricky (15), Sarah (14), Abigail (12), and Jacob (9), two of whom have special needs (autism and bipolar disorder). Ten children in all, each showered with love in the Richard and Terri Blount home.

When asked why he and Terri felt a need to serve as parents to ten children, Richard replied, “You’ll have to ask the Lord that question. He placed it in our hearts to care for his children.” 

Tragedy struck when Terri passed away, leaving Richard as a single Dad with 10 children, ranging in ages from 1 ½ to 30.  As a widower, Richard needed time to grieve the loss of his wife Terri, but he had little time to do so.  After all, he had ten children who needed him, a house to maintain, and a career he desperately needed to preserve if he was to provide for eleven people, including himself. Again, Richard turned to the Almighty for strength and direction. Believing no prayers go unanswered, it wouldn’t take long before Richard would meet Cheri (63).  

A widow with four children, Jenny (42), Jason (40), Lizzy (38), and Michelle (37), Cheri‘s life parallels Richard’s in several ways, including having served as a foster parent with her deceased husband Jim to over 100 foster children. Also like Richard and Terri, Cheri and Jim adopted some of their foster children, six to be exact, Lucy (24), Kayla (23), Emma (14), Daniel (12), Izabella (10) and Isaiah (9), three of whom have special needs.

“I prayed the Lord would point me in the direction of a man that I could love and who loves children,” said Cheri.  Once introduced, the chemistry between Richard and Cheri was immediate. It didn’t take long before Richard asked Cheri to marry him, bringing the total number of children in their now consolidated household to twenty. Yes… TWENTY CHILDREN, several of who have special needs.  With so many children residing in their home, one of their neighbors complained to the local authorities that Cheri and Richard were forming a “group home.” Cheri said, “I can’t help myself, I love babies, and I love God.” 

“We’re a good team,” added Cheri. Indeed. But their union did not come without significant sacrifices.  At 62 years of age, Richard is unable to retire for another ten years.  “We look at people our age who are empty nesters, enjoying their senior years realizing we won’t be able to retire until we’re in our 70s,” Cheri added.  “At times, I feel as though I have lost my identity, I had to quit my career as a nurse.” Cheri went on to say, “It was all worth it.” Richard added, “We make time for ourselves and our marriage, which includes a date night every Saturday.” He went on to add how the date may be a simple meal at a local diner or perhaps they’ll take in a movie.    

When asked what surprises arose raising 20 children, Richard said, “I’m surprised I could do it. I’ve become more humbled by the blessings I have received, including being able to provide our twenty children with a stable home and a sense of belonging to a family that loves them; I have also become closer to my Lord.” 

Today, Cheri and Richard live in suburban Orlando, Florida with nine of their twenty children, the youngest who is just nine years old, including several with special needs

Widowed, and faced with the responsibility of raising twenty children, Cheri and Richard have plenty of reasons to be angry, even jealous of others, yet they choose to celebrate the lives of their deceased spouses by gracefully touching the lives of Our Lord’s children.

Cheri and Richard didn’t stop there.  When it was time to acquire a therapy dog for their children with special needs, you guessed it, Cheri and Richard adopted a beautiful Golden Retriever named Mr. Wilson (4) from an animal rescue center. Did I mention that Richard was at the GriefShare meeting on the evening I first met him because he volunteers as one of the program’s facilitators? Some people just never stop giving to others.

Are there Angels walking among us?  Say hello to Angels Cheri and Richard Blount. 

(Ages shown are as of May 2019)

Pictured are Cheri and Richard along with 17 of their 20 children along with assorted spouses and grandchildren

Herb Knoll is a retired banking executive, an advocate for Widowers, a professional speaker and author of the breakout book, The Widower’s Journey.  Available at Amazon.com in paperback and in all digital formats. Herb is the founder of the Widower’s Support Network (WidowersSupportNetwork.com) featuring the Widowers Support Network Members Only, a private Facebook group page for men, and a second Facebook page which is open to the general public at Widowers Support NetworkContact Herb at  herb@WidowersSupportNetwork.com.  

Attention Widowers and Men who are serving as Caregivers

Apply today to join the Widowers Support Network – Members Only (WSN-MO) on Facebook. WSN-MO is a FREE private page exclusively open to MEN who have lost their wife or life-partner; men who are currently serving as caregivers for a seriously ill spouse or life-partner; and other good-hearted men who wish to help assist and comfort them.  

Copyright 2019  Widower’s Support Network

Categories
Dating Moving Forward

WIDOWER: NEW RELATIONSHIPS

While being prepped for an emergency hernia operation four months after my wife’s death, I instructed the doctors three times that I wanted a “Do Not Resuscitate” order in place. I saw this as an opportunity to rejoin my wonderful wife of 45 years.

Many hours later ― I woke up! The immediate question that came to mind was, “What the hell am I supposed to do now?” The answer that came to me was, “Damn, I guess I am supposed to live and get on with my life. There must be more for me to do here.”

Stress and emotionally traumatic loneliness had contributed to my physical and near emotional breakdown. For many widowers, our grief journey is aggravated by the fact that most men have few friends they can turn to while in this state.

Women who become widows often have a built-in support circle that includes numerous close friends, family members, workmates, and acquaintances who are willing to physically embrace them and express love and support in many ways. Men who become widowers frequently are left to fend for themselves as they often have few close friends, much less ones willing to express love and support for them.

This exacerbates the sense of loneliness and subsequent stress that can lead to severe emotional, physical, and psychological challenges such as sleeplessness, sharp mood swings, depression, suicidal thoughts, and critical health issues. It is very common for widowers to encounter life-threatening health challenges, such as my emergency hernia operation, in the first year after losing their wife.

For widowers, all of this contributes to an increasing desire for companionship, particularly female companionship. While I firmly believe this is an emotional, psychological response, the fact is there often are physical side effects ranging from impotence to constant arousal. This can cause confusion, shame, and fear of one’s sanity.

For me, the best way to deal with these effects was to re-enter the dating scene several months after losing my wife. After 45 years of rewarding marriage, this was a scary new place for me. It was challenging and at times traumatic, but I pushed my way through until my emotional, psychological balance began to re-establish itself. This, in turn, improved my health as I was getting more sleep and stressing less.

I found the female companionship I so craved, regained my confidence as a man, and learned how to re-invent myself while retaining the values and good qualities instilled in me during my 45 years of marriage. Eventually, this craving settled down to just enjoying being with women friends again. 

After a period dating platonically (romance and intimacy were not the goals), I gradually found a new equilibrium in my relationships.  Ultimately this led to meeting a wonderful woman (also a widow) who brings added love and joy into my life.

Counseling, participating in a men’s grief group, and the support of my family were all critically needed during this transition. I encourage all widowers to face these challenges head-on, but not by themselves. Reach out and include others (friends, family, counselors) who can provide you with feedback, support, and encouragement during what can be a long bumpy ride.