One Night Away from Death

As I write this, I am furiously drinking a lemon water in a panicked attempt to flush cortisol from my bloodstream so I can exit that hyper-alert state that comes upon you when you don’t feel safe or when you feel terrified. (Like when you realize you could have died, for instance.)

But let me calm down and start at the beginning. My week began innocently enough. I drove to the International Festival Gathering of Biblical Storytelling, which just happened to be happening in Dayton, Ohio. I told A Widows Tale for opening worship and it was a beautiful experience to share that story with my fellow storytellers from across the country and the world.

We spent three more days immersed in story and by Friday night we were just about glazed over from the joy of story.

That’s when someone mentioned having dinner in a lovely, vibrant, eclectic area of Dayton with fabulous restaurants. The foodies among us couldn’t resist, so we carpooled to said district and were not disappointed. We found gorgeous Thai food with an atmosphere to match, right down to the oriental letters tattooed on our well-coifed waiter’s wrist. (You can’t have fabulous food without atmosphere, right?) Then as evening fell, we wandered the district and enjoyed the ambience. We passed bars and restaurants filled with laughter and intriguing aromas, listened to street musicians and djembe drummers, visited a hat shop (this was Ohio, not NYC, so it was a hat shop, not a haberdashery), walked around a few drugged and drunk people huddled in front of a tattoo parlor, and hurried past a peep-show palace to get back to our car. (I said the district was eclectic. The peep-show and patrolling police let us know the district was clearly a heady work-in-progress.)

Saturday we had planned to return to try out the Italian place that looked promising but we were just t o o  t i r e d  so we went to a brew pub around the corner instead.

Which is how I remained one night away from death. Because you see, that district, the work-in-progress with the patrolling police? That’s where a crazy opened fire with an automatic weapon and a hundred rounds of ammunition on Saturday night, August 3. Before the police shot him in the street like a rabid animal he managed to kill 9 people and wound 26.

We heard the sirens, enough sirens to signal the end of the world. We watched the replays again and again on TV. The politicians owned by the gun lobby again assured us that more people die in car crashes each year than in armed massacres by insane people who clearly should never have access to a weapon. I’ve seen it and heard it so many times I’d become numb to it. Let’s be real, there were 3 other massacres just like it that weekend and like many of you, until then, I tuned it all out.

But I’d never been one night away from death before. I walked that street. I stood on that corner. That bullet-ridden body in Dayton could have been me or my storyteller friends or all of us. The shooter didn’t discriminate and was clearly a person whose story had not been kind to him.

Death missed me by that much. And I’m forever changed. I’m forever changed and I’m ready to do what it takes to get our gun laws changed. As one of the Australian storytellers noted, “You’re not safe anymore are you? When it happened to us, we passed a law. Don’t you think it’s time you passed a law?” Yes. I do. And I’m going to get busy and stay busy until we pass that law. Maybe you should too, because guess what? We’re all just one night away from death.

Take Time to Breathe

Summer has come to a close and there’s a busy-ness that is starting to show up.  As the busyness around ramps up, you may find that the hectic energy around you brings a stress with it that is never far away!

When things get hectic it’s time to get quiet. It’s only by finding your quiet center and acknowledging the energies that are rotating within you that you find the calm and peace you so want and deserve.

Here’s a new healing mediation made just for you to do exactly that. May peace always be yours.

A Lesson in Vulnerability

Vulnerability is hard for me. I have serious trust issues, especially since being widowed. When your life turns upside down (Which happens when you get a cancer diagnosis or lose your job or someone you love leaves you or, worse yet, dies.) it’s hard to figure out how to get your feet back on the ground. For years, I was one of those self-sufficient types who didn’t really “get” relying on others. But when death came calling I was forced to get it.

But as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a slow learner, so God has to keep teaching me, again and again, to stay connected. As my lessons continue, I’m actually learning to let go and revel in the way my tiny puzzle piece adjoins the giant jigsaw that is life.

God provided another teaching moment just this morning. It was so gentle and tender that it took my breath away. I was sipping coffee on the tiny patio of my rented condo on Fripp Island, SC and relishing the pale pastels of the fading sunrise. Thanks to the bright yellow signs that warn visitors of the dangers of feeding (or finding, for that matter) alligators I knew to be careful in the marsh and shallows. The “Lights Out at Night!” signs let me know I was in a sea-turtle nesting area. I knew sharks and jellyfish were in the coastal waters but I was rather unprepared to see a dainty family of deer appear in the dawn light. In fact, I had to blink a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. But there they were: An impressive 8-point buck, a fawn still dotted with baby spots and a lovely doe. With bobbing heads, they were nibbling the tiny strip of grass between the condo and the breakfront. Seeing deer was an unexpected joy but I couldn’t believe my eyes when the doe broke into a slow trot and led her family toward me on the patio.

I had some apple slices so I broke off a piece and tossed it toward her. She ignored it and kept on coming, so I threw another piece, which she also passed up. Slowing down as she taxied onto the patio, she fixed me with a gaze as intense and gentle as a moonbeam, walked right up to me and extended her soft face toward mine. And I knew, somehow, that she wanted me to hand-feed her. Those dreamy dark-chocolate eyes never wavered from mine. I offered her a piece of apple and she delicately received it, and drew her head back a bit to swallow it, not unlike a nun taking communion. And then she would lower her head to my hand to receive the next piece. I threw a few for the buck and the fawn, but she would only allow a few tosses before reaching out again for my hand.

I was blown away by her soft vulnerability and quiet determination. Her tawny, toned body perched like a beach babe atop high-heeled stilts. When the apple was gone I expected her to leave but instead, she stood quietly, her dark orbs gazing deeply into mine. I was transported somewhere by them, lost in their softness. It was unspeakably beautiful. And then, she lifted her head and as magically as they had appeared, all three turned and leapt off into the marsh.

The doe was gone but her lesson remained. She trusted me and I loved her for it. She offered me nothing but gentle vulnerability and I gave her my golden delicious apple. If that’s not a lesson from heaven, I’m not sure what is.

If you’re tired of trying to recover from his death alone, schedule your complimentary call with me and let’s talk about how you can move forward into new life.


Some things make you feel like you took one step forward and then two steps back. But other things bring your life to a full halt. They’re the four-way stop signs of life and, guess what, you don’t have the right of way.

It feels so weird, right? . It’s like no one sees you’re stopped. The other drivers pause to look both ways and then blow on by like you aren’t even there. They are still living life at full-on go, petal-to-the-metal baby!

But you can’t deny that you’re at a STOP sign. The reasons vary: loss of a job, a serious health issue or accident, an intimate betrayal, or someone close to you dies. And suddenly you are suspended in mid-air and, worse yet, there’s no net set up to catch you.

Shock is the natural reaction to a full-on stop. You’re bound to say one version or the other of “What the hell just happened?!” Your mind replays the inconvenient truth again and again – as if more thinking can make sense of the unthinkable.

When you’re stuck at a STOP sign, it feels like it’s never happened to any one before, when in reality, full STOPS are the truest of human realities. It’s just that, until the STOP sign appears, you feel invincible. It’s the American Way! You buy into the super-hero fantasy of invincibility which, it should be noted, sells lots of movie tickets, Spanxs, and spandex. But when you deny your softness and vulnerability,  you deny your own humanity and cut yourself off from self-compassion.

Self-compassion is the most important part of waiting at a STOP sign.  Let’s say your car was totaled in an accident. Would you leap out and yell at it? Could you bully it into action? Would screaming, “Get it together! Stop whining. Get your front end up off that pavement and just get on with it!” be helpful? Could the car get up and put itself back together because you yelled at it? It’s laughable, right? And yet…

When the inevitable happens and a STOP sign rises up in front of you, are you tempted to bully yourself into “doing something?” Do you push yourself to action when there’s probably not an “action” you can take that will change anything?

The only solution to STOP signs is kindness. The kind of loving kindness you would offer to a lost puppy or a toddler with a boo-boo happens to be good for you, too. And the irony is that when you are kind to yourself, what really does need to happen usually does.

This is going to sound crazy, but the next time you hit a STOP sign, maybe you could just stop. Maybe you could be patient and wait and be as kind to yourself as you know how. A STOP sign is a highly personal experiences that arrives unannounced and uninvited. STOP signs don’t seek your opinion. They don’t ask if you want one or if now is a good time. It just doesn’t’ work that way.

So when the STOP signs of life appear, maybe you could try something different. Maybe you could take a deep breath and say something nice to yourself like, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry.”  That might really help because the only thing you can really control at a STOP sign is how you react to it.

If you are at a pivotal moment in your widowhood (you’ll know it if you are) and are ready to forward, then you are ready for the Widow’s Recovery System and the personal support and resources it offers. Let’s talk. Book your complimentary call now.

Got Weeds?

Weeds. Those pesky things that inhabit garden space and grow better than anything you plant. You pull them, you spray them, and you mow them down. It’s a never-ending effort and it often feels like the weeds are winning.

Grief is like that, too. Recovering from death is a daily process that requires patience and energy (things you’re a bit short on as a widow). Just when you think you’re done crying or screaming or staring out the window at a world that doesn’t feel real anymore, grief pops up out of nowhere and rapidly gains ground.

Like the weeds in your garden, grief doesn’t go away on its own, you have to actively tackle it. But you don’t have to do it alone.

The Widow’s Recovery System gives you one-on-one support and helpful resources to help you rebuild your life.

It’s easy to get started! Here’s how it works:

  1. You set up a free phone call with me to talk about where you are in your widow’s journey and where you’d like to be. (The whole program takes place in the privacy of your own home. You don’t have to go anywhere or get dressed up.)
  2. You order the program online.
  3. You’ll receive the link to 7 Recovery Audio Recovery Courses that provide valuable insights. As you listen, you’ll learn about the different phases of grief and gain a deeper understanding about the challenges of your recovery and rebuilding process.
  4. Your Recovery Workbook has practical exercises to release grief and rebuild a compassionate relationship with YOURSELF step-by-step!
  5. I’ll be there for you to get your back. Every other week, we’ll talk by phone, just the two of us, about how things are going. This gives you the support you need to move forward!
  6. And, you’ll receive unlimited email support for the full seven weeks of the program!



This amazing poem, that so speaks to what we have all experienced as widows, was written by Widows Recovery System client Karen Kuester of Hawaii. Thanks to Karen for giving me permission to share it.

by Karen Kuester

After he died
I rearranged my bedroom furniture.
There were indentations in the carpeting.
Where nightstands and the bed once rested
For the last twenty years.
There were indentations on my life
That we had shared.
My life was suddenly rearranged
Just like the bedroom furniture.
It was hard adjusting
To the rearranged furniture.
It was hard readjusting to my new life.

The Widows Recovery System is here for you. It helps you rearrange your life. Email me and let’s talk about how it can help you.

Honor What You’ve Lost

My husband would have turned 63 this week had he not have died from a stroke. That stroke took a lot from me. It took his life, but took a lot from me, too. It robbed me of my plans and dreams.

I found myself baking a key lime pie (his favorite) and grilling him a birthday meal. Only a few of us still remember his birthday. Our son (of course) remembers.

Like the other anniversaries that come and go each year, this one threatened me with darkness. Our son had just completed another life milestone and his Dad wasn’t here to share it, and that’s always painful. There’s an exquisite tenderness to a milestone or success our son has that I know my spouse would have been, in the words of his brother, “Obnoxiously proud of.” I can see his lopsided grin now.

The stroke that took him down gave me enough sorrow to last a lifetime. I don’t need or want to borrow any more from it or spend anymore time tripping around in the darkness of my own heart. So I’ve developed a flashlight system for times such as these.

When dark times or anniversaries (which are often the same thing) arrive, I shine my light around and find a good memory to polish up and display. This time, on his birthday, the happy cocktail was remembering the first key lime birthday pie I ever made him.

Our son was five. Birthday cakes are extremely important in the life passages of a five-year old so he had asked his Dad what kind of cake he wanted and he had said, “I don’t want a cake. I want a key lime pie!” And our son decided it was imperative that we honor this, because, well, he was five and to choose what kind of birthday cake you want is a sign of maturity and power when you’re five.

So, I dug around and found a recipe in an old Southern cookbook and we went to the store in search of limes. (Of course, since it was an old cookbook, it neglected to mention that you could just purchase key lime juice.) We bought 2 bags of the hardest little limes I’ve ever seen and commenced to rolling them around on a cutting board to soften them up. Then we sliced their hard shells in half and “juiced” them.

He squirted me in the eyes first. #%@! that juice hurt! Then I squirted him, not meaning to. #%@! We both squirted Mr Kitty, our giant black and white cat-dog who was perched on a stool at the counter helping. When the juice hit his eyes, he knocked the 2nd bag onto the floor in his haste to escape the pain. Those dang limes went all over my kitchen. It took the two of us (well, one of us was only five) all afternoon to juice those #%@! key limes.

The effort was worth it, because you have never seen a prouder smile than the one our son wore when he carried that key-lime birthday pie to the patio, covered in an entire can of whipped cream “squirts!” and blazing candles. He stuck it up as high as he could to reach the table and proudly sang “Happy Birfdays to you, happy birfdays to you, happy birfdays dear Daddies, happy birfdays to you!” And then with a rush of words he added, “Me and Mommy squeezed them all for you and I put the squirts on all by myself!”

I can still see my husband’s six-foot-two frame reaching down and wrapping itself around that happy little boy and the birthday pie. Still see them grinning at each other as he let him help blow out the candles. And in my heart, I honor us in that moment. I honor the love we shared that birthed that five-year old, I honor the crazy woman who squeezed two bags of #%@! key limes to make that first, all-important birthday pie, I honor the son who took such unimaginable joy in putting on a whole can of whipped cream “squirts” and I honor the me that never planned to lose his Dad.

When the darkness comes to you, find a flashlight. Shine it into your heart until the joyful moments reveal themselves. Keep shining your light on that memory until it sparkles brightly enough to block out the dark. Remember the love and refuse to borrow again from the pain. You’ve suffered enough. When you honor the dreams you have lost and still choose to live in joy, you honor yourself and others.

Schedule your complimentary call about the Widows Recovery System and let’s shine some light into your darkness!

Waiting for the Fireworks?

“Your ability to re-frame my negative thinking into positive action steps I can take is so valuable. I can feel the changes happening inside me.” Sue R, Nevada

Having trouble getting into the spirit of the holiday? Feeling left off the invitation list? Feeling like celebrating but don’t know where to go or how to do it?

It’s time to create a new normal. One where you plan ahead for events like the 4th of July and either throw a party or get invited to one. A new plan where you put your happiness in the driver’s seat and watch the fireworks that follow!

Holidays are usually difficult for widows (As are birthdays and anniversaries, but you know that already!) The key is to map out a strategy that lets you grieve who isn’t there (your spouse) ahead of time. Get a plan in place for how you want to celebrate and actualize that plan.

If this sounds like a lot, it is. But it’s so preferable to getting ambushed by the holiday and finding yourself alone. Alone stinks.

In the Widows Recovery System we’re all about making plans and talking through what’s coming up in your life. That’s how you heal and move forward. You have to acknowledge where you are, what you’re feeling, and then move toward where you want to be. It’s a proven system. It’s helped a lot of other women, make an investment in your future and let it help you.  Schedule your free call.

Isn’t it time to feel better and move forward?

Are You Tired of Pretending?

Still putting on that happy face, remembering that old adage, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone?” Trying to smile instead of weeping because you sense that probably is true?

Well, that depends on who is supporting you. If it’s friends and family, you’re instincts are right. Most of our friends aren’t trained in grief recovery, they don’t know how long it takes to “get over” the death of a spouse. (A. You don’t “get over it” you learn to live with it. B. The psychologists say 5 years to normalcy. Or longer, much longer, if you don’t do the work of grief and rebuilding.)

Your well-meaning friends and family will worry if you aren’t “feeling better” in a month or two. They’ll wonder out-loud if there’s something “wrong” with you. (And since they don’t know what to do, but want to help, they often do and say the wrong things!)

But feeling sad all the time isn’t the answer either, is it? No. It’s not. As you grieve and rebuild you’ll do the one-step-forward, two-steps-back dance. Some days it feels like you’re dancing to a soundtrack only you can hear.

With the Widows Recovery System, you’ll receive personal support from Certified Grief Recovery Specialist who has already danced her dance and is ready to guide you through the two-steps of recovery.

You’ll receive fascinating audio courses, a practical workbook where you can digest your feelings and examine your life, personal support calls at times you arrange, and unlimited email support for those moments when you just need to reach out and know someone who understands is there. And you do all of this at the times that suit you  in the privacy of your own space. Learn more and schedule your complimentary call today!


Are Memories Holding You Back?

“Memories… of the way we were.” Love the song, hate getting stuck there. When a life that was lived with another for 10, 20, 30, 40 years or more ends, the memories are everywhere. It’s easy to get lost in them. But to think that’s all you have left in life is tragic.

You’re not dead. (Pinch yourself and you’ll see!) You’re alive honey! Even when the memories are overwhelming, especially on days when there’s an unexpected trigger.

What can you do to release yourself from this cycle? You can process the memories, keep a few, and let go of the rest to make space in your mind for the present moment and your future.

It’s like finding that dusty box of old slides in the attic, holding them up to the light to see what’s recorded there, getting a few printed for frames, and putting the rest in the trash. The Widows Recovery System has a proven system for processing your memories and healing from your grief. It supports you as you live in the present moment and plan your future. It gives you awesome information and loving support, by phone and email.

“After each conversation I know where to go and how to get there.”

Get a proven system.

Your future is worth investing in. Join RECOVERING TOGETHER!

This new group program will provide you with real support and information from July 1 through Labor Day in September. Check it out and register today!