December’s Widowed Blog Hop!

an egg with bold letter HOPIt’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means…Widowed Blog Hop! 
 
Life is full of surprises.  There are moments when you feel like nothing good will come of it and others when a light shines on given opportunities.  I asked myself quite often how I can change or influence others in a good way.  How I can take the death of my husband and use it to benefit others. This may sound like a “crazy” question, but that is what goes through my mind.  I want other widows and widowers to not feel alone in their grief.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a journey that you will get through on your own but we all need support. I feel blessed that I have been able to connect with some great people who have something in common with me.  And that’s losing their spouse.

We are all in different places in our journey, but have taken a step forward in our life story without our spouse.   The support you get from someone who has been down your path or some variation of it is irreplaceable. 

I want to commend all of the men and women that take the time to give us a glimpse of their reality.  The words they share can bring a whole realm of emotions and that is when you know it is written honestly from the heart. 

We have some new participants this month and I encourage all of my readers to check out what they have been doing and posting. 
 
For ease, below is the list of participants in the hop. 
Thank you for taking the time to hear our stories, feelings and what we think. 
Samantha

Being Thankful!

Scrabble letter spelling out being thankful. on white background with pink flowersOn the day before Thanksgiving, I think it is suiting to talk about what I am thankful for.  There are several family traditions that happen during this holiday, but I believe the one common practice is to give thanks. 

I am thankful for my two children.  They are two amazing boys that make me laugh, cry and frustrated, amongst many other emotions.  What they do most is make me feel proud to be their mother.  They have accomplished and overcome so many things in their short lives.  They show me that anything is possible.  I am in awe at their strength and unconditional love they have for others.

The time I was able to spend with my late husband is something to be thankful for.  It was not as long as I planned for, but he taught me so much.  He helped create the person I am today and his death has created an undefined appreciation that I have for life now.  He left me with that one final gift in my life.

My family and friends have been there for me in the ups and downs.  With their help I was able to get through things in my life, I once thought impossible.  I probably could have done it on my own, but their support made it so much easier for me. 

I am thankful for the organizations that have supported my families and other families throughout the United States.  For all of you that follow me and read my words.  You give me inspiration and confidence that what I am doing is important.

I am also thankful for my admirer.  I did not think that it would be possible to love another man after losing my husband, but it is.  I am grateful he has entered my life.  We are able to look into one another’s eyes and really see each other.  He shows me each day who I am and gives me boundless love.

So thankful for all the love that surrounds me, strength, beautiful moments and joyful memories. May beautiful moments, joyful memories and love surround you during the holiday. 

A Little Regret with a lot of Joy!

Rhyan kissing a dolphinRecently we went on a family vacation.  It was something that my husband and I had been discussing to start doing in 2010.  But he died before we took our first family vacation.

Our vacation reminded me of this and seeing the joy on my Quincy kissing dolphinboys’ faces as they discovered new places was unbelievable.  It brings sadness, yet a lot of joy.  It made me realize how important I believe family vacations are.

We can come together for those days with nothing on our schedule.  No school, no work, no dishes to do.   There is only time to spend with each other.

We ventured out on our very first cruise.  We stopped in Jamaica and the Grand Cayman islands.  In Jamaica, my oldest swam with the dolphins.  My youngest was not old enough to swim, but he was able to kiss and hug a dolphin.  It is an experience that they will always remember.

Those are the memories I want my children to have, the memories that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
Kids go where there is excitement. They stay where there is love.” – Zig Ziglar

A widowed mother…

Black and white picture of Samantha and her two sons

Samantha and her two sons

Being a widow is hard, but being a parent to children who lose their dad is even harder.  When our children are born we bring them into this world with endless hopes and dreams.  Their innocence is refreshing and often time makes me laugh.  As a parent I believe our goal is to raise capable adults, self sufficient with the least amount of obstacle.

As mothers it is hard for us to not protect our children.  To prevent them from getting hurt, being sad or scared. After my children lost their father I was unsure what to do.  I could not comfort them.  I could not make their pain go away with a simple kiss.  That was such a helpless feeling for me.  Before this, I was a confident mother.  I thought I had the answers or knew how to find them. 

My oldest son was transformed into an angry child and I did not know him any longer.  He thought that he could not cry, that he needed to be strong.  After many sessions with the counselor and holes in a punching bag, he began to understand how to identify his anger.  He slowly became the son I had known for 8 years.  He was not as innocent as he once was, but his fun loving personality came back to him. 

My youngest son was only two at the time of his father’s death.  I was worried that he would not remember his father, but somehow he does.  He often says “Mom, remember when daddy used to…”.  The hardest thing to hear after his stories of his father is, “My daddy is dead, right?”

When he would first ask me that question, I would cringe at those words coming out of his little mouth.  Now it is part of our lives and somehow seems like a normal question.

He also has his father’s walk and does some of the same movements with his hands.  When I watch him I see so much of Mike that it makes me smile.

Sometimes my children would play and I would get angry.  I thought they were not grieving properly until I educated myself and understood it.  Finally I began to play with them and it was therapeutic for me.  I was able to become a part of their world for moments at a time.  It was as if my brain was able to rest from all the pain and anguish that ran rapid through it at the time.  They allowed me to be silly.

I believe being a mother is one of the most rewarding things on earth.  My children have taught me a lot.  They taught me to not feel sorry for myself.  They were victims, but did not use it as a way to earn any special privilege.  They have continued to grow, mature and love their life.  They have embraced something you would not want your children to bear, but they do every day with a smile.

The different journeys during the healing process.

Woman with white coat, hand on her forehead sitting in graveyard leaning on headstone.  With grey skies

We have our own journey to healing.

If I were to compare my own journey with others during our healing process they would vary in some way.  You might have a mother that lost a son, a sister whom lost a little brother, a son that lost his father and a wife that lost her husband.  Each of these people will be impacted differently.  They can be impacted by what role their loved one played in their life story:

  • A mother who gave birth to her son who is not supposed to die before she does
  • A sister who grew up with her brother and was at his side through many accomplishments; you might say they were best friends
  • A son who relied on his father to protect and comfort him
  • A wife who made those sacred vows with her husband and made so many plans together

All of these individuals will have their own personal struggles, but will definitely have one thing in common and that is the loss of their loved one, the fact that they will miss the presence of them and will have a long journey of healing.

As a widow, I thought as I was meeting other widows during their journey that we would have experienced our healing the same way.  The fact is: we don’t!  During my journey, I have met many other widows, and each widow went through her own individual process of healing.  We will likely experience some of the same things, but not every thought, feeling, or experience will be the same.

There are so many factors that will affect the way a person heals.  I noticed things that, I believe, have affected the way in which someone has healed or is healing. If they have children, that can impact the process.  The widow/er will need to be a mother or father to the children as each of them is healing. Maybe a spouse died before the couple could have a child; then the spouse left behind must deal with the fact that they will never have a child with their spouse.

How the last moments were spent with their spouse alive, as well as the marriage overall, impacts the healing process.  The couple’s financial status can have a very big impact on how a widow manages through the process.  Other factors that will impact healing are how well you get along with your in-laws, friends that you have and the overall support of the people around you.  

Another thing will be how the person died.  You may not think that it could play that big of a role in the healing process, but it does.  What if the person left one night and did not return or you might have watched your spouse suffer from an illness before dying?  Maybe they were murdered or they could have taken their own life.  These instances bring different questions and trauma with them.

In the end, after you watch your spouse’s casket being carried away, you realize that you are left alone; without the person you had dreams with, the person who was a part of your everyday life, the person who brought you purpose, the person you love. This is when your journey of healing begins.  The one where you will meet many crossroads and where you will have to choose a path.  Choosing your path is difficult; the whole healing process is difficult.  There is nothing easy about it. 

This trauma brings you to your most vulnerable raw state as a person.  The people around you will really get to know the person you are and watch you transform as you walk the journey of healing.

Crazy Courage: A Young Widow’s Survival Guide

Crazy Courage, the book that I wrote has been released for about a month now.  I am really excited about this!

It is about how I found my crazy courage as I faced the unexpected, unfamiliar life after my husband’s untimely death.  He was killed at the age of 32 by a drunk driver in the line of duty. I was faced with a decision…do I hide under the covers or do I face my new life as a widow.  Through my journey I learned many valuable life lessons that I wanted to share with the world. With intimate details and anecdotal stories I hope to encourage others to use their own crazy courage!

I wrote the book in the most simple form I could.  I remember trying to read and comprehend things when I was going through my tribulations.  It was very difficult to understand or remember anything, unless it was in given to me in a direct manner. I thought about this as I was putting Crazy Courage together when I as working with the publisher.

I have been asked by a few people why I wrote the book and I want to share this with you…

Writing Crazy Courage was something I wanted to do to help others. I read quite a few books about grief and losing someone close to you. Some of them were helpful; but I never found one that was written in the present as someone was feeling those emotions.

After losing my husband I wanted to connect with something and not feel so isolated. I had my family and friends that supported me. There were a lot of organizations and other widows that reached out to me, which was such a blessing! Yet there are some things I dealt with privately or even didn’t feel comfortable sharing with others. The fear of being judged and the state of vulnerability I felt was scary.

I was very honest in my book. I shared my internal thoughts and feelings. The book is about lessons I learned in my “first year”, first year being relative. Mixed with these lessons are my journal entries and thoughts. This was hard for me to do, but I feel being authentic is how we can connect with others.

I know each person and situation is unique. I will be happy if a widow/widower picks up my book and even one sentence in it makes them feel encouraged, inspired, or not alone.
As I was writing Crazy Courage, it helped me get through some of my own challenges.

I also wrote the book with intentions to help people gain some insight on what someone’s mind might be going through after they lose a loved one. It’s hard for those that are trying to help or provide support to families and widows/widowers. By reading my book, I hope it provides them with some understanding or insight they need.

In general, people do not discuss mortality. Mortality is sad, awkward and unknown (amongst other things) territory and it can be a scary topic. I do not believe anyone knows the exact right thing to say, but I bet a widow/widower can tell you what they do not want to hear.

I have received so much help and support in my new unfamiliar life that I wanted to give back somehow. I believe I have begun doing this through my book.

 

Those Little Whispers

hand covering a mouth whispering in an earI think we may have all experienced the whispers.  The whispers are when you walk into a room or a general area where people are whispering about you.  They may not be saying anything negative or maybe they are, but  you know that they are talking about you.  It’s the quick glance that you get that usually gives it away.  What unconscious immediate reaction do you have?  It is a feeling that there is something wrong with you.  You begin to look back at the last time you saw these people and have a mini playback in your head.  You confirm that you did nothing that would cause these whispers.  Then you might check yourself out to see if something is out-of-place.  You do this as stealthy as possible as not to alert them you know they are talking about you and you are uncomfortable.  We do all these things, because it is in our nature. 

I am guilty of the whispers.  We learn it in grade school when we are discussing a classmate, accept then it normally came with a large amount of giggles.  This is likely something our parents taught us or we developed the trade somewhere along the way. 

As a widow, I felt these whispers.   They may or may not have been there all the time, but I saw the glances.  These glances might have been from the unfamiliar territory all of us were in.  They were probably all wondering what in the world do you say to someone who lost their husband.  While I remained guarded not wanting to face anyone or at times facing what these whispers meant.  

There was a time when I was on the other side.  I was not the one that lost their husband, but was an acquaintance of someone who had.  I knew very little about this person before they lost their husband.  I only saw them around.  One day, I went to a public place where I was immediately informed of the husband’s passing.  It was not from the widow, but from others spreading the word through their whispers.  It was the first thing said to me when I arrived.  It was as if it were the breaking news at 5 o’clock.  I sat back and listened to these whispers spread like a wildfire.  I heard each person’s perception.  It actually made me sick to my stomach listening to this.  I was not sure if it was due to the nature in which the discussion was happening or if it made me realize that this is how the news spread of my own husband’s death. 

There are also the whispers that spread like the game telephone. When they get back to you after they went through the gossip train you only hope they were distorted towards the end.  These are people’s judgments exposed to the world around them for each person to interpret.  Their perception combined with their judgments are spread to any listening ear. 

Judgments are cast on people like a plague at times and I am unsure why.  The judgments people make about your life and decisions are their judgments to own.  They are not yours and you should not let those judgments impact how you feel and what you are doing.  Unless they are positive and make you feel a bit better about yourself.  Keep those close to create a found confidence that keeps you motivated to accomplish what others have only spoken about!

The People You Meet

hands with blue backgroundAfter I became a widow, I met some very inspiring people.  I met other widows that showed me their strength and their desire to live life.  I watched them all grieving in different ways, but their desire to help others was astonishing.  It made me realize that there are so many unselfish people in this world.  That people are able to put themselves aside and give you the support you need to make it through your new life.

I also met new sides of people who I had known for years.  We often take on roles in each others lives and are very comfortable with that.  When something turns that balance around and you begin to take on a new role in the relationship it can cause some complications.  In my situation it happened so seamlessly that I did not notice any role changes until after it was over.  Most of the roles have returned to normal, but knowing that people are capable of such great things really provides the comfort that you need.

There are organizations that provide support without asking anything in return and for someone who has been in a role of giving, not receiving can cause some discomfort.  So it can be challenging to get used to.  All I can say about that is know that is okay to ask and genuine people will not ask anything in return.  I met with some individuals of an organization last week and they provided me with the guidance I needed to move forward with a project that is very important to me.

This past weekend I met up with some really great friends.  It is great to be able to enjoy each others company. Being able to discuss life without feeling like there is a white elephant in the room.  It really made me feel like I am continuing to move forward in my life and am creating the social environment that is important to me.

I am fortunate to have those friends and organizations that support me and what I want to accomplish.

I want to continue to live this life with such passion that when I leave this world I will know my life will be celebrated!