Feeling Left Out?

Feeling like a 3rd wheel at family get togethers is not fun. Neither is sitting at home without an invitation!

You might feel like you’re always on the outside looking in and this is a perfectly normal experience for a widowed woman.

The fact is, we live in a couples’ world and when you are widowed you become socially invisible. People don’t mean to exclude you, they just don’t know how to include you and worry that “you might not be ready yet.”

In our death-phobic society, you represent that which most people don’t want to think about: the end.

But there are strategies you can use to re-imagine the holidays. They’ve worked for lots of other widowed women and they’ll work for you, too. These strategies help you design what would be meaningful to YOU on each holiday that pops up (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) before it arrives so that you protect your fragile emotions while enjoying special holidays.

Learn more about the Widows Recovery System. Think of it as an investment in your future.

There’s nothing to worry about. You’re fine.

Ever get the feeling that people really don’t want to hear the truth about how you’re feeling? (Oh, that’s because they usually don’t.) We live in a “happy meal,” instant gratification, 3-day quickie-grief, death-phobic culture. Conversations about death (and how you’re surviving it) make most people exquisitely uncomfortable. When you feel like people really don’t want to hear about how you’re doing, your instincts are spot on.

As one of the widows in the Widows Recovery System says, “It’s like we don’t even have a language for what you and I are talking about right now. I’ve needed to talk about this for way longer than I thought. Just being able to say that makes me feel better. Just knowing somebody actually cares is healing me.”

Where do you go to safely discuss grief and your desire to rebuild your life? If you don’t have someone who can listen deeply, try journaling out your feelings at a set time every day, reading what you’ve written out-loud, and then sitting quietly for a few moments to honor yourself.

If you want a proven system to heal and rebuild your life, make an investment in your future with the Widows Recovery System. Practical knowledge, loving support, excellent audio courses, a practical workbook, and personal support calls guide you to that new life you know is possible. Schedule a complimentary call today!

 

Lessons from My Mothers

I don’t reflect as often as I should on the lessons I’ve learned from other women but today the lessons from the “mothers” I’ve loved unfolded like a highway; complete with roadside restaurants, exit signs, and rest stops. True Confession One: I was too focused on the Big Boy restaurants and icebox pies to see the exits and rest stops I really needed to take. Confession Two: I still am.

My maternal grandmother’s teachings arrived first. She was a Victorian era bride who birthed 6 babies in the Roaring Twenties, lost one in childbirth, one to the Big Red Measles, and reared the other four in the Great Depression. Despite only having a 6th-grade education (Why waste education dollars on women? They’re just going to have babies and cook…) she had the best vocabulary of almost anyone I’ve known because she read the dictionary cover-to-cover and could whip your butt at Scrabble.

My grandfather ran a successful life insurance business and she kept his books – in her head. When the stock market crashed and they lost “all their savings” she kept their money in the mattress and saved the stubs of our pencils in a can on the stove. She put up beans all summer long and ate them on bread, often with a wilted salad made from wild greens, dressed with bacon fat, a pinch of sugar, and homemade vinegar.

Grandma was soft on the outside – cast iron on the inside. She was harder on herself than anyone, ruled her family with an iron fist, did not trust others or “the system,” and lived to be almost a hundred. The last 20 years of that as a widow. From her I learned to be strong, resilient, self-supporting, frugal and wary of “systems” that make the rich richer and deny women an education, and take long naps. But I also learned to be mistrustful of others and isolated.
Five Icebox Pies. Two Exit Signs. Daily Rest Stop.

 

Then there was my first mother-in-law: A high-ranking Navy doctor’s wife who drank Bloody Marys for breakfast and chain-smoked Camels. She was world-traveled, politically astute, very loving and tragically lonely. She taught me how to survive in high society, give cocktail parties an admiral would enjoy, and be ridiculously generous. (She gave me a Wedgewood jewelry box, antique brass pitchers I still display, fur coats I almost never wear, a collection of tortoise shell combs from pre-war England, and a red vintage BMW.) She tolerated her husband’s dalliances and openly encouraged me to do the same. When he was gone at night she never asked where, she just poured another whiskey and once a month had a massage. (“Don’t be naïve, it’s just what men do. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you.”) When I finally stopped looking the other way and spending my nights alone with a drink, I divorced her baby boy.
Three Icebox Pies. Two HUGE Exit Signs. One Monthly Rest Stop.

My second mother-in-law was a truly elegant, plantation-bred beauty with charming manners, deep faith, and love of family. She was playful, impeccably dressed, and amazingly fit. (She showed me how to do a split at 70 and encouraged me to exercise.) Her five children were the light of her life. She made a mean G&T and also cultivated the habit of looking the other way.

A wickedly smart woman, she unfortunately bought into the myth that men always know best and only made decisions when she had to. I became the wife of her Rhett Butler-esque #1 Son and gave birth to the first-born son of the first-born son of the first-born son of the first-born son. From her I learned pride of lineage, the importance of daily exercise, the art of being Presbyterian, a love of tartans, and prayerfulness in the face of betrayal.
Five Icebox Pies. Two Exit Signs. Daily Rest Stops.

And this leads me to my own dear mother. She was an exquisite pianist and organist whose innate relationship to music is embedded in my mitochondria. (I guess that’s what happens when you lie as a baby on the console of an organ and the lid of a grand piano.) She centered herself in the morning and at night with the power of prayer and was the wind beneath my pastor father’s wings; a wind that entertained constantly to secure and advance his career, a wind that kept its own power a family secret, and also allowed him to define whether or not she was still beautiful after she endured a 43-year fight with breast cancer. A true survivor, my mother wore carefully tailored outfits that hid the maiming she’d endured. She modeled positivity in the face of tragedy, fearlessness in claiming God’s healing and mercy, insisted I use my intelligence and gifts boldly, and was always affectionate and loving.
Eight Icebox Pies. Two Exit Signs. Two Daily Rest Stops.

So as I reflect on my own life as a wife and mother I’m happy that I’ve learned to be truly loving, generous and affectionate. I’ve encouraged my son to be a kind gentleman, to use his deep intelligence, to live boldly, dream big, and be a man of prayerful intention. Like the women who taught me, I am resilient in the face of tragedy and betrayal and have become a fierce encourager for others facing the same. (This still rather surprises me!) I’m pretty bold about sharing the stories that have surprised me, wounded me, informed me, and made me (for better or for worse) who I am.

And, I’m working on taking the EXITS and REST STOPS along the highways of life. I’ve spent too many years either trying to “hold it” or “hold it together.” And, like many of you, way too many years doing both at the same time!

Need Some Help Navigating Widowhood?

Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like life is pushing you around. It can feel like you’re going through the motions of life without living it.

And your spouse is not there to help anymore so you’re negotiating all of it alone and that can make things really rough.

To successfully navigate widowhood, a dual process ideally happens simultaneously: You allow yourself to heal from the loss AND you keep moving forward in rebuilding your own life.

Finding people who will support you is key. You’ve probably got a friend  who really wants you to “move forward, maybe even date somebody!” And you might have a support group that understands that you are grieving. But most people really don’t understand how many changes you are negotiating because they simply don’t understand that your spouse’s death turned your life absolutely, totally upside down. (In defense of your relatives and friends, it’s a hard thing to understand until it happens to you!)

But here you will find that understanding. You’ll receive a proven system to heal your heart and rebuild your life and the guidance of a fellow widow who knows the journey you’re on to guide you through it. Find out more about how the Widows Recovery System can help you.

Do You Know How to Comfort Yourself?

When you’re deeply grieving, it’s tempting to turn to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors to comfort yourself through it. It’s hard to find knowledgeable and loving support (at the same time!).

But there are scientifically proven techniques you can use to identify what you need and then give yourself the comfort you are craving without turning to drugs or alcohol or binge watching TV.

Once you learn how to identify the emotions that are sitting just below the surface, and the techniques for calming yourself, you can safely move through your grief and loneliness and learn to give yourself what you need.

No one can hold your hand through this process 24/7. It’s not realistic. People want to help but they really don’t know how. Surviving widowhood is kind of a specialized activity.

But you can find loving support and information you need to know with the Widows Recovery System. Explore how to help yourself heal today. Be willing to invest in your own happiness.

Are You Angry With Your Spouse?

 Don’t feel guilty if you’re feeling angry at your spouse. It’s a natural response to the situation you’ve been thrust into.

Women are taught to hide their anger (sadness and crying are more acceptable female emotions.). But running from your anger or not talking about it with someone you can trust  is dangerous when you’re grieving because it keeps you from being real with yourself. And if you can’t be real with yourself, you’re not going to be able to heal and move forward.

Anger is the twin cousin of fear. Often, when we are afraid our go-to emotion is anger, because it helps us feel more powerful. Releasing fear is an important practice in moving forward and embracing life. You can use the Temple of the Heart guided meditation to decompress from fear.

How are you managing your anger? In the Widows Recovery System, you’ll use a proven process to release yourself from fear and receive the loving support you need to let go and rebuild.

Learn more and get free of what’s hurting you inside.

 

 

Having Trouble Negotiating Holidays?

Feeling like a 3rd wheel at family get-togethers is not fun. Neither is sitting at home without an invitation!

You might feel like you’re always on the outside looking in and this is a perfectly normal experience for a widowed woman.

The fact is, we live in a couples’ world and when you are widowed you become socially invisible. People don’t mean to exclude you, they just don’t know how to include you and worry that “you might not be ready yet.”

In our death-phobic society, you represent that which most people don’t want to think about: the end.

But there are strategies you can use to re-imagine the holidays. They’ve worked for lots of other widowed women and they’ll work for you, too. These strategies help you design what would be meaningful to YOU on each holiday that pops up (Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) before it arrives so that you protect your fragile emotions while enjoying special holidays.

Learn more about the Widows Recovery System. Think of it as an investment in your future.

What do you want your future to look like?

I’ve been focusing on that question a lot lately. It’s been necessary for self-preservation, because it’s been one of “those years” for me. I’ve had a break-up from an LTR (A “long term relationship” – I hate that term, by the way), some health issues, a surgery or two (make that 3). The old saying, “It never rains, it always pours” really threw its wrecking ball around in my life and I was in serious need of rejuvenation. (I just needed to have cataract surgery first so I could see well enough to go get it!)

My rejuvenation was delivered at a retreat for retreat leaders in a beautiful beachfront home on the Emerald Isle of North Carolina. Thanks to weather in the upper 60’s and a window that faced the ocean, I fell asleep listening to the surf crash against the thin strip of beach Hurricane Florence left behind… a sand bar bikini if you will.

Bless her heart, that poor girl had been through it, too. The beach erosion on the coast of North Carolina was unreal, just a little slip of that beautiful girl’s old self was left. Half the coast was still dangling from its hinges, and the squeal of buzz saws and drills filled the air until Miller time each day. She actually got a huge facelift while we were there, but that’s a story for another day.

As we spent our mornings in retreat, each leader taking her turn, my mind began to unwind and my sleep was deep and long. Fabulous food, guided yoga nidra, inspiring (and mercifully frank) conversations, and long walks on the beach brought yet more rejuvenation.

I wrote words in the sand with a stylus only to watch the waves snatch and erase them in a flourish of froth. I inhaled deeply and wrote the poet Mary Oliver’s question, “What will you do with your one amazing life?” and before I could even exhale, the question had disappeared into the surf. That kind of experience takes your breath away. It righteously changes how you think your one, fabulous life.

Which is actually a good thing, because with stress and violence becoming leading causes of death across the world for man and animal alike, the question of how to restore and find renewal is one of increased urgency. Polar bears are running out of ice faster than we can find answers to climate change.

We’re leaving our kids with one heck of a mess. My son, Mr. Science, says in twelve years (probably less) climate change will be utterly irreversible. He’s pretty pissed off about that and he has a right to be. Take a deep breath and think about that for a minute: When today’s cutie kindergartener graduates from high school, it will be too late. That’s some pretty scary math.

Accck!!!! I hate change as much (or more) than the next person, but this is real people! It’s us: dying from heat stroke, Lyme disease, the tropical diseases borne on the bite of a blood-sucking insect whose turfs are rapidly expanding, and massive storm systems. Imagine how much Excedrin is being consumed by folks who work for the CDC or FEMA. Seriously. They have very scary jobs! Our country has money and boots on the ground but it’s those who don’t who will suffer the most.

Is panic a solution? (Uh, no.) Twitter feeds? No. (No, Mr. President, stop it!) Hysteria and vociferous Facebook attacks on those with alternate persuasions also only add distance to our ability to work together. Our anger actually contributes to non-solutions. Doing nothing or going backwards hasn’t proved productive yet. But meanwhile, meanwhile, the science is more damning by the day. It says climate change is coming sooner than we thought and that it’s way more devastating than we can currently imagine.

But here’s another thing science says: When you’re stressed and freaked out and distanced from everyone else you can’t think of strong solutions! (It’s a brain hierarchy thing and it’s real.)

Rational, deliberate thought and a deep sense of having a caring community is what you need. Caring community is how we survived up until now and guess what? It’s still what we all need, it’s what our planet needs. It’s the only way to find real answers and accept the behavioral changes necessary for the survival of all. Oh, and with 1-5 Americans now taking anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, or anti-psychotic medications we probably need some new answers to the chronic stress that plagues us all, too.

Now that I’ve climbed all the way up on my soapbox, let me finish, I’m almost done, I know you’re busy.

Do I realize that I’m one of the lucky ones? Yes. I’m relaxed and inspired now. I’m jazzed and recharged. I’ve spent time with highly intelligent, creative, and intuitive thought leaders. After time with my tribe, my duffel bag is stuffed full of new things (attitudes, skill sets, ideas). After this time of deep self-reflection, I’m actively exploring new ways to do what I do so I can play my small part to bring about needed reflection and change. I want to do my part to ease suffering in our precious world. But I had to start with myself. Because, where else can you really start to bring about reflection and change?

Life is short, so I’ll return to my original question: What do you want your future to look like? Where will you find the renewal and support necessary to have hard conversations, first with yourself, and then with others?

Think about it, just don’t wait too long. Time is not on your side.

Ode to Alzheimer’s

Many widows have dealt with Alzheimers, a horrible disease that robs them of the person they love one day at a time. This poem was written by Karen Kuester, a widow in Hawaii who is working in the Widows Recovery System. She wrote it about her father. It really reflects the feelings that arise as you see your loved one disappear.

Ode to Alzheimer’s
By Karen Kuester

I hear the silence where there once were words
I want you back to talk with me.

I smell the urine on you clothes
I want your body whole again.

I see the blank stare in your eyes
I want to see the lively sparkle.

I stroke your numb swollen legs
I want them to dance again.

I see the disease eating you away
I want it to feed elsewhere.

I taste death on your plate
I want to order from a different menu.

Be Prepared

As widows, we have to take care of ourselves. We are our own best (and often) only advocate. The idea today comes from A Widows Tale retreat participant and all-around-amazing woman Cappy Tosetti. Cappy’s husband was a family doctor who developed a program for senior cognitive development, which she now teaches at Roads’ Scholar programs. I’ve already put her idea to use, and suggest you do the same! Cappy will be one of our  “Navigators” on the new Navigating Loss private Facebook page for widows. Stay tuned for more on that. In the meantime, this is a timely and wise idea!

“Like a good Girl Scout…..one needs to be prepared. Pregnant women do it……why not an older person? No babies on the horizon, but I will have a packed duffle bag ready to grab if ever I find myself headed to the hospital or rehabilitation center.

Decided today this needs to be ready.

A dear friend was rushed to the hospital last Friday after a serious fall. Yesterday she was transported to a rehab center where she will be staying for quite some time, concentrating on physical therapy and building up her stamina. She asked me to stop by her house to gather some clothing and toiletries. Fortunately, she is a very organized individual …..every drawer is neatly arranged with socks and underwear in perfect order. I cringe thinking about anyone trying to match my socks.

As we age, it’s important to have our paperwork in order……why not our jammies, too.
So Into the duffle bag I will pack a supply of socks, undies, a robe, some comfy clothing, plus a baggie filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion, earplugs, Rolaids, cough drops, nail-clippers, etc.

This is especially important for those individuals living alone. I plan to label the bag and hang it in an easy-to-reach location……a good friend can grab it in a jiffy. I will also have instructions handy for caring for or boarding my dogs…..with all their pertinent information. And, a list of friends and family co tact numbers. A notebook binder can easily be tucked in with all the items.

Hopefully the bag will never have to be used. But, I will feel better knowing it’s there……ready to go!

Even those living with someone might consider packing a bag, especially knowing you will have what you need and like when away at the hospital.

Being prepared makes sense.” By Cappy Tosetti (Connect on Facebook!)