Widows and Widowers: Walking a Different Path

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How Does One Rebuild A Life When it’s Been Smashed into Smithereens?

After my husband Chuck died, I was left standing in the middle of my interrupted life, not knowing which way to turn. I remember myself in those days as feeling trapped in my body, desperate to get out. Everyday was like Groundhog Day, the same excruciating pain, the same numbness, anxiety and depression. I was going through the motions each and every day, waking up, starting a new day over again, searching for my husband, falling asleep and awakening to the same routine again.
I had developed routines, but these felt shallow and not rooted in reality, my new reality, that was taking shape as I continued to live and breathe. I became desperate with a desire to distract myself from my ever-present thoughts and to stay healthy so as not to lose my fragile mind. This was a very, very tough time, and as I entered what I like to call my “new normal” I was sure it would last indefinitely.
As the months dragged on swiftly – normal time ceased to exist for me – it was some time in the following year that I began to feel a bit more hope. I would come to realize that I was starting over, a clean canvas, but now all alone. I had an opportunity to reconstruct my life anyway I chose. I was, after all, now ONE, and all my future choices were my call. I no longer had to ask for anybody else’s opinion, or have my husband weigh in on the decisions I would make. This realization helped to drive my life forward. I began to assess everything in my life: my home, my work, my faith, my friends, my lifestyle, myself, and my purpose.

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Who was I Before and Who Do I Want to be Now?

Everyone who experiences the loss of a spouse should do a self-assessment at some point, when they’re ready and able. It’s a good thing.
You might ask yourself, “How do I want to live my life now?”
This question will help to highlight the fact that your life has transitioned from two to one (hard to swallow), and although you are alone, you do not have to spend your life in loneliness.

A New Opportunity

Although it’s understandably difficult for many widows and widowers to look at their loss as a moment in time when positive changes are just beyond the horizon, in time many will come to know that they have new options for their lives.
When you reach that point where you’re ready to create something new in your life you might want to ask yourself a few more questions. Jot down the questions and the answers in a little journal that you can refer to as you go, it will serve as a template for your new life. Here are some samples of what you might ask yourself:

1. Who am I now?
2. How has the effect of this loss changed me?
3. Where do I go from here?                                                                                                                4. Who do I want to be in my new reality.

Be truthful with yourself, as this is not about optics, but an opportunity for you to really decide in what direction you want to take your life. These questions will help to give you an idea of what you want and how you want to live. Your new life is certainly not one you’ve lived before, as you are now a widow or a widower. How small or how large do you want your future to be? How do you plan to get there? It’s all up to you.
You should also ask yourself one very practical question: What can I do to change my living space to suit my new life and needs?
I would suggest that you do not do anything drastic particularly in the beginning, but think about how you can personalize where you live so that it suits your needs now. You can actually consider moving, or making changes in your current home that you would never have thought about doing before. A fresh look at one’s surroundings can inspire you to look at making changes in other areas of your life.
I have a friend who lost his wife and is now in a relationship with someone who is different from his former spouse. Although this friend grieved the loss of his wife so sorely, after having cared for her for years, he would one day begin to yearn for female companionship again. He met someone who now complements who he is now, and they are having a great time together. He did this after nine months which brings me to this salient point: there is no discretionary time frame after the loss of a spouse to pursue one’s own desire to seek companionship again. Old rules like waiting a year after are no longer viable and whenever you’re ready to move on it’s fine. If you’re never ready, that’s fine too. Your life is yours.
We as human beings are always in transition, because the world is ever-changing, situations change, death changes those who are affected, as it should, as we become cognizant of our own mortality and the time we have left. We must not get stuck in the past and we must continue to live and thrive and be hopeful about our future. Death then, can become the catalyst for new opportunities to come to fruition in one’s life. After a time, we may or we may not come to this realization, but if we do, we must seize the time. Staying stuck in the past does not stretch us, and may do more harm than good.

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Trying a different route home, making new friends, developing new interests will unlock doors allowing new experiences to take hold. There will be bouts of loneliness, waves of grief, but the time between these episodes will increase as one rebuilds a life bit by bit.
Many people are so laden with grief that to become free of it can be unsettling, and may seem uncomfortable at first. But as one begins to feel a sense of optimism and hope as they turn their attention to living again  and move away from the constant pain of loss, they will begin to rebuild their lives in ways that suit their new normal. One may even open the door to love again if they choose.
Ask yourself some of the questions that I have posed. You will probably not be able to do this in the beginning of your loss, but at some point you will want to figure out your next move.The answers to these questions will become the blueprint that you will use as you recreate your life.
Should you choose to stumble down a new path like a newborn, you will be led in a direction beyond your loss toward a life with no labels, only to discover who you are becoming next in this new chapter, on your own terms.

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Read more about rebuilding life after loss my in book  Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse  at Amazonhttp://tinyurl.com/qghzw3e or  you can order at Barnes and Noble.

   My Shadow Grief

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When I was a little girl, I used to love to try to outwit my shadow and for that reason I really enjoyed going out with my father in the early evenings before the sun went down. Sometimes the moon would shine bright in the sky casting shadows, with the help of the streetlamps, on the cobblestone streets of South Brooklyn.

I would chase my shadow, try to jump on it, run away from it, but I was never able to escape it as it followed me wherever I went. And when I couldn’t see it, my dad would say, “You can’t see it now, but it’s there. It’ll appear again, you’ll see!” He even taught me to recite Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, My Shadow, because I was so intrigued by my own.

I remember when I first discovered my shadow, it was one of the most exciting things to me. It was like discovering that the perception of water on the road on a sunny day, while riding in a little green Fiat convertible on the way to Long Beach Island, my scarf aflutter in the wind, with a very handsome young man whom my parents loved ( sadly I did not) like Isadora Duncan, was actually an optical illusion. Oh, but then, I do digress.

Grief and loss are also experiences that are both startling and unbelievable. One can’t imagine a person you’ve loved for what seems like forever, is just not alive anymore. Here one day and then poof gone.

When my father died, the initial shock was so great I literally let out a scream. I had been out and when I arrived home there was a note from my husband left on the dining table, and it said I should call him. Deep down I knew something wasn’t right and when I called my husband relayed the news that my father had passed away.

My son and one of my brothers were on active duty in the military at that time so I called the special number I’d been given in case of an emergency to let them know. After I hung up the phone I stood in the middle of my bedroom and let out a scream. Then, I met my husband’s sister, who is like a sister to me, and we drove up the West Side Highway in Manhattan in silence, to the Allen pavilion where my father had died just a few hours earlier. Thank goodness for my husband who was my moral support at that time. But sometime after that, I didn’t want my grief to interfere with my day to day relationship with him, so I hid it. It would soon become my shadow grief.

I would cry in secret and mourn my dad terribly right up until the day, two years later, when my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I needed both of my hands on deck to care for him. When Chuck died in 2009, I was so stricken with grief I could barely see.

Time would pass and as the pain of my second major loss in 2 years began to ease a bit, and as I began to rebuild my life trying to figure out what I was going to do next,  something interesting occurred. Although I was no longer in the throes of grief, for my father or my husband, I still knew I would never be the same again. I began to have flashbacks of childhood moments with my dad and memories with my husband Chuck that have, since that time, become a backdrop to my day-to-day life.

When I look at the towers of the Eldorado, a tall majestic residential building in New York City which is on the same Manhattan block as my parents’ home, I recalled my dad’s advice to me. When we first moved to Manhattan from Brooklyn almost fifty years ago, I told him that I got lost in Central Park and he advised me to look up and search for the towers of the Eldorado “follow them and they will always lead you home .”

That I should marry a man who gave my son and his nephews many adventures on their numerous expeditions through Central Park, the beautiful park designed by Olmstead & Vaux that Chuck knew like the back of his hand, I can feel the special link to my dad and the Manhattan life which we all held so dear. That Chuck’s last visit with me to that park would be when he laid on a bench opposite the tennis courts, and he looked up at the sky, weak from chemotherapy, while I secretly wept, is a memory that I will always have as part of my shadow grief.

I’ve become accustomed to hearing, seeing and smelling sights and sounds that harken back to special moments with both my dad and my husband Chuck. Today, I’m no longer overwhelmed or greatly saddened by these random occurrences, thoughts, sensations. I’ve gotten used to the momentary sadness, melancholia or joy that awashes me out of the blue.They’re the memories of two people I loved so that will remain with me until I leave this earth. These unexpected experiences no longer depress me or detract from my day to day life. They’re just the memories that pop up now and then and they have enriched the landscape of my existence here on this planet. I am able to weep, smile, feel the feelings and move on. What a gift, my shadow grief , the proof of lives shared with me. It is the evidence that they were here, that will remain with me as long as I am, always leading me HOME.



To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu



When the Light Goes Out Look Within

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I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. During my early years, I lived in South Brooklyn, in an area that is now known as Boerum Hill. I loved taking walks with my father and I’m sure my mother was relieved when I did, as I was a very precocious child, always talking, very curious, very sensitive. Life for me never was about the big picture, it was always about the details.

My father took me all over the city the.We rode on  the Staten Island Ferry, roamed through Prospect Park and the Zoo, the museums, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, and all the iconic New York City sites of that time. I loved going out with my dad. It was a special time between me and him. I could talk all I want, and ask a zillion questions, and he never seemed to mind, in fact he encouraged my inquisitive nature and curious mind.

On Sundays we would go out to get the papers, the Sunday New York Times and the New York Post, which was actually a liberal paper at that time, the voice of the worker,oh but then I do digress.

We never got the Sunday Daily News and, believe me, this was much to my chagrin, as I always wanted to look at the funnies. This small custom set me apart from my peers because my little school friends would chat about Dick Tracy and all the other other comic strips, and I had no clue as to what they were talking about.When I told them my parents didn’t get the Daily News, as according to their politics, they didn’t consider it a paper worth reading, my friends looked at me as if I had five heads. My mother and father, both with very strong political views , felt that this paper was an extreme example of yellow journalism stoking the fears of some at the expense of others, but, oh yes, again I do digress.

One Sunday, as my father and I walked along the cobblestone streets of South Brooklyn, we passed a church, St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, located on Sackett Street. I asked my dad, “What is that building?” He explained to me that it was a church where one went to pray to God. Now I did pray to God at night when my parents said my prayers with me but I was always intrigued by the notion of God. This beautiful, archetypal old church, where I assumed God lived, indicated by the triumphant tolling of the bells, usually as we were passing by, was a place that I was very curious about. My father said we could go “sometime”. Well, don’t tell me sometime, as I figured that meant soon which meant it would be happening imminently. I was a rather impatient little girl, a trait that has carried over into adulthood.

One day my father announced that we were going to go to Mass at St. Agnes. I was so excited, and I imagined that this meant we would be wearing masks. Hey, I was four or five….what did I know. We entered the beautiful church and found a seat in one of the back pews. The priest was so far away and was speaking in a foreign tongue; I found the whole experience to be amazing and intimidating. Anyway, I recited familiar prayers, as I smelled the incense, watched the procession of priests and altar boys and considered the sacred rituals to be somewhat of a mystery, but grand. When it was time for Holy Communion, this meant that my dad had to leave me in the pew while he made his way down the long, long aisle to receive the sacrament. Now if this were the present, I would’ve been able to go up with him, but back in those days there were many things that occurred in churches, deemed inappropriate then, but permissible today.When I looked like I was about to cry, my father asked a woman in the pew to keep an eye on me. She was very nice and pointed her finger to show me that my father wasn’t going to disappear, as it seemed to me. She motioned her finger to create an invisible trail that my eye could follow which reassured me that my dad was indeed in sight. You see, my father was my was my guiding light. I knew that everything was okay as long as he and my mother were near. I felt confident and safe.

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My husband Chuck was also a beacon of light for me. I didn’t have to see him, but as long as he was in my life I felt a sense of reassurance, calm, and security. This is what his presence in my life gave to me; he was my source of light and strength. Chuck was my my cheerleader, my backup guy. My father was like that for me too, as he felt that I could do anything and he was always cheering me on.When I lost my dad eleven years ago I mourned him woefully until the day my husband’s doctor called and said,” We think we see something on your husband’s pancreas.” I immediately tucked away my grief for the loss of my father so I could give full attention to my husband and the long hard road that awaited us both. I wished my father could have been there at that time for me, but again, he loved Chuck dearly, like a son, and I know he would have been sorely pained by news of Chuck’s illness.
I always knew that I could count on both of them and I felt  that when something went  left in my life, I had an added assurance that dad or Chuck  had my back. They were both like lighthouses in the distance representing a beacon of light which guided my steps. I always expected them to be there so you can only imagine that my life came to a halt when they were both gone within a four year span. Soon after I discovered that all I had was myself to guide and cheer me on. It was kind of like rediscovering my ruby red slippers and hearing Glinda the Good Witch utter the words, “Yvonne you’ve always had the power.”After all my anchors were washed away, I had to go deep and find my own beacon of light to help me as I adjusted  my sail and traveled in a new direction.

After I’d  left my first Mass with my dad, I complained to him that I was tired after that long service. I also told him that I didn’t like the fact that he had to leave me to go to Communion as I was afraid he’d disappear. I told him too, that I felt my first church experience had been very overwhelming and that I’d be fine not going again for a long, long time. I added that I was so surprised that we didn’t have to wear masks at Mass. Later that day I heard my father say to my mother, “Well, I don’t think she’ll be wanting to go to church again for a long time.” My mother said, “Well that’s good.” I heard them chuckle to each other, and I just thought they were so right. I didn’t want to risk losing my father in a sea of sacred pomp and ceremony and smelly smoke.

After a spouse or loved one dies, we sometimes feel as though a light in us has gone out. The energy, personality of the one we’ve lost meant so much to us, and we suddenly find ourselves in a long tunnel leading down a lonely, bleak road to points unknown. Our beacons of light have disappeared and one feels abandoned and alone. However, when we’re ready, we can reach out to a myriad of grief and recovery resources and search until we find the right one to suit our needs. That connection with others will help us to begin to feel less alone as we begin to repair our broken hearts and create a new life and our new normal.

We might also discover that the light we miss has now become a part of us. Our loved ones are a part of us still and our own inner light and strength will soon overshadow our grief as we become stronger. In time,we will come to know that we are being guided and strengthened from within. I like to call this the spiritual legacy left us by those who have gone on. So after awhile, look within, and you will feel a familiar presence no longer in the form of the lost spouse, or loved one, but now a part of the fabric of who you are and who you are becoming which is brave in a new world.

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Want to know how you can discover your light within ? Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse   available on Amazon.com : http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu.



Many, many years ago I dated a guy who did not celebrate American holidays. It was just not his thing. He would celebrate birthdays because he didn’t see that attached to some cultural dogma imposed on others by Western Culture. Thus,when a holiday rolled around that was always the elephant in the room. Needless to say me,the Christmas Baby, was always silently disappointed that he would not celebrate with me, and let’s not even talk about Valentine’s Day. But I continued to celebrate my favorite time of the year on my own terms. My friends thought he was not really my type, but he did have other attributes that I enjoyed. In the end I had to travel my own path to enlightenment and in the process I learned that I shouldn’t have to compromise my own beliefs and values to be in a relationship. That lesson would become a part of who I was and who I was becoming as I realized that each new experience that gave me an aha moment was like being born again as long as I integrated my new lessons learned into the ever-changing landscape of my life, that is.

This past decade has truly brought many changes into my life, all which a decade before would have been unforeseen. But I’ve learned to look at my life as a series of clustered events occurring every few years, all transitioning my life in ways that have ended up launching me to the next level of my life’s experience. As I look back, each new level has brought challenges but also growth, some of which I had to overcome or at least learn from.

At the end of each of these “learning clusters”, I’ve had the realization that whatever I was to learn, I hoped I did and eventually I would move on to the next experience that would ultimately enrich my life and give me the clarity that I needed as I continued to move forward.

I call each of these “cluster experiences” my being re-born. The death of my husband (as well as my father 4 years before) was probably the worst and most difficult of these learning experiences, and because of the loss, I was forced to decide whether to die or to live again (stand frozen in time or move forward). Fortunately for me, I chose life and spent the next decade crawling out of an abysmal pit into the light of my new beginning. In retrospect, I can now see that I was born again. I took the time to learn what I was being taught along the way, so I wouldn’t wallow in my grief or remain stuck somewhere in time having to repeat lessons which I know would have become tougher as time went on. I learned to live consciously so as not to remain on a merry-go-round going round and round, almost catching the ring, missing it and then repeating the ride until I could securely grasp the ring and move on.

We are always being given an opportunity to be born again and again, but sometimes our rebirth can never materialize because we aren’t able to make the necessary changes needed in order for new opportunities to manifest themselves.

In the next decade let’s all try to take those next steps that will help us to change our lives in ways that make us accountable to ourselves, wiser, happier and put us on the path to reaching our personal goals. Sometimes we must discard old habits, ways of thinking, ways of doing and we must really ask ourselves if doing things in the same way and reaping the same results is benefiting us. It’s good to remember that it’s not how the world is treating you but more how you’re navigating yourselves in it. Discarding “old think” and old ways of doing things as well as people who aren’t serving you well or not giving you what you really want out of your life, can be painful in the short run, but in the long run you will be able to live authentic lives knowing that you’re getting rid of blockages to your happiness and opening the door to new opportunities.

Oh, once I had my epiphany about that relationship and left it, I would go on to meet my  husband Chuck and eventually we would walk off together into our shared destiny…both reborn.


To find out more about how you can heal after loss read my book, Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y38oks99

Forgiving the Dead & Others

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After we lose a spouse there is a tendency to canonize her or him. Many remember only the good traits of the person who was once a part of life here on earth. To be fair, for many their spouse was their angel, loving, kind, generous, compassionate, a comfort and support. But for many others their experience with their spouse may not have been as wonderful. After years of suffering with a not so great husband or wife, their death may have those spouses who remain breathing a secret sigh of relief.

Grief and loss are complicated. Friends and family who may have been aware that someone’s deceased partner was rather insufferable, might be confused by the depth of grief the remaining partner exhibits. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t know why she (he) is so sad. Everyone knows that _______ was a tyrant, abusive, controlling etc. It should be a relief that they are now gone.”

But the sorrow that one feels after losing a spouse is mired in complex emotional attachments, patterns and feelings that others cannot know. Our friends and family have no right to judge as they could never know the true dynamic of a marriage, even one that may have been tumultuous, abusive, hard, and burdensome.

I knew of a woman who was in such a difficult marriage. Outward appearances seemed as if everything was just fine. This woman was so unhappy that she would secretly wish that her husband would die. One snowy afternoon there was a huge plane crash, and although her husband was not on the plane, he became an on ground casualty as the business that he ran was hit by the plane when it careened into the building that he worked in. My friend was in a state of shock, and I can assure you that her initial feelings were not feelings of joy. On the contrary she was distraught, sad,and had feelings of guilt because of the death wish she had secretly harbored for her husband. This instant widow now had to act like the bereaved wife, which she was, but also had to grapple with feelings of guilt (which reminds one to be careful what you wish for).

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Only after years of therapy, was she able to deal with the grief, shame, relief, and huge guilt that the untimely death of her spouse had burdened her with. Eventually, she, now the single parent, raised a hugely successful son and learned that many tragic circumstances are not caused by God, but are random events that occur as a part of life. She wisely chose to seek help to assist her in unpacking and examining her mixed emotional response to her loss, and would one day create a new life while unburdening herself from a shroud of guilt.

I also knew of another woman whose life with her husband was less than great. When he became ill, she was his primary caretaker and angrily cared for him until he died. When he finally passed away she was furious with him. She felt abandoned, betrayed, alone and cheated out of whatever miserable life she had planned to live with him forever. She felt that he had left her purposefully. This woman, to this day is still filled with hate and anger toward her long gone spouse. She has not sought professional help and remains consumed with bitterness, which has prevented her from constructing a new life and taking herself in a new direction.

Bearing the burden of unforgiveness can keep widows /widowers stuck on their grief journey. Although the spouse is no longer on earth, they’ve literally moved on, the remaining spouse finds it difficult to do the same.There are so many unanswered questions and sometimes it’s easier for people to deny the truth of who their spouse really was so instead, they choose to remember only the good attributes, constructing a false memory that they’re able to live with, while still secretly harboring feelings of hurt and pain.

It would be a good exercise to write down all the hurts and acts of unkindness that one endured at the hands of a deceased spouse. After seeing all the unkind acts on paper, the first step would be to think about each, feel the pain and then forgive the individual. Feel the anger, rail, scream then let those feelings go. It will take awhile to come to a place of forgiveness, but remember the hurt and the bitterness that you’re feeling, your spouse is no longer here to witness. Thus, you’re doing this exercise for yourself because it is about you having the opportunity to open your life up to new possibilities without having to lug the baggage of your old and now forever gone relationship into your new beginning, your new life.

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I would also suggest this exercise for those who generally are having a hard time moving one’s life forward, and this goes for anyone who has long standing hurts from a former husband who may still be alive, or for a child who felt emotionally abandoned by a parent for example. Counseling can assist one to move through these life determining issues. I know of people who were in bad first marriages who went on to remarry but still carry great anger toward the original spouse. These feelings will manifest as mistrust, anger, bitterness, brittleness, intimacy issues and on and on. Let it go, because I promise you, those longstanding leftover feelings will seep into all the relationships that you have going forward. Trained counselors and therapists can help people identify the triggers of their anger and turn those bitter emotions into the fuel that will help folks to live constructive lives.

Forgiving the dead will create a pathway, by which you can lay down your anger, grief, sorrow, and heal in order to begin a new chapter without dragging that emotional baggage into the new life you’re about to rebuild.

Some say they  forgive but don’t forget but I believe that once a partner has departed this life, it is up to us to move on without dragging former chapters of an old book with us. Remembering the thoughtlessness, abuse, indiscretions of departed partners keeps them alive in ways that do more harm than good. We want our memory of our lost spouse to be one that is true to who they truly were, which will help to free us of the negative control that they may have had over us for many, many years, thus allowing one to live a new life unburdened of negative feelings and memories from the past.

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To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu


The Maze and the Shift

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I often write about the aftermath of grief. It is my own personal experience with this that inspired me to write Brave in A New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse. It’s been ten years since my husband passed, and I’ve found myself thinking about those early days right after his death. I just knew that the grief state I was in was where I would remain forever. Shared stories of loss and recent personal experiences with losing friends and family, which seems to be occurring more frequently these days, conjure up old memories as well as my own feelings from that time. Recently, I thought back to those cold, gray, hollow days following the death of my husband Chuck, and I remembered feeling desperate and full of despair.The fact that it was winter amplified my emotional state as the gray days seemed to grieve with me as I walked around in circles not knowing what to do next.

It was like being in a maze as I would awake, sometimes in the middle of the night, seeking Chuck, seeking comfort, seeking answers, searching for a way out of the nightmare that I was experiencing. I would wander aimlessly around my home, sitting in Chuck’s favorite leather recliner, hoping for and fearing a hint of his presence. I would exhaust myself before returning to sleep which was the only escape from this new, crazy, wretched world I found myself in, and this became a ritual that I would perform nightly and daily.

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I could no longer see color, or beauty. I could no longer laugh, me the happy one, the funny girl, as I was immersed in my tears and sadness. The site of flowers pained me so, as they reminded me of losing Chuck and how my husband could no longer share in the beauty of Mother Nature’s bounty. My husband brought me flowers all the time, just because and to look at the many, many arrangements now displayed on my mantle with cards of sympathy made me sad.

In the beginning, my son would come once a week on Wednesdays to stay with me. I so welcomed his visits, more than he would know, as his presence gave me respite from my new grief ridden and solitary life. Knowing that I could count on someone being there with me helped to provide a little bit of distraction even if my son didn’t fully grasp the depths of my sorrow. Everyday was the same, the tears, the rage at God, the aimlessness, the anxiety, I just knew that this was my new life. I was caught up in a maze without any escape.

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I know that during that time people phoned and came by but time has blurred many of those recollections, as all I can recall was the incredible loneliness, the nagging questions that lingered and the anger that I felt at the very fact that my husband had been snatched from this life, unceremoniously and unapologetically. My life continued like this everyday, day in and day out.

Many months passed and then one day I had a realization that my life was beginning to change. I suddenly noticed that I had no one else to consider except myself. Nothing was as before. My son was working and in school and really needed his time so we agreed that he could stop coming to mommy-sit. This shift actually helped me to become more acclimated to being fully on my own as I began experiencing a rebirth of myself. I was at the precipice of a new beginning and it was this epiphany that helped me to slowly close the door on my old life and tip-toe into the new one that had landed in front of me.

As I began to settle into my aloneness I soon realized that I no longer had to hang two sets of towels in the bathroom, our monogram in full view; I no longer needed to set two places at the dinner table anymore. And, in time I came to know that I no longer had the need to hold on to every item of my husband’s, because the truth was, he was gone forever and was never coming back to this plane. Each new realization caused me pain and brought down the tears, but I was also getting used to my new normal.

I began to make changes in my home that suited my tastes and my needs. I no longer had anyone else’s opinion to consider. This was a little hard at first, as I was used to getting feedback from Chuck, having conversations before big decisions were made, sharing ideas. But what I was learning, as my new reality set in, was that I could now do whatever I wanted. I was writing a new chapter, this was my new beginning. There was no joy in this realization, only a need to move on, live life, my new life, to do good and most importantly, to survive.

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When you lose a spouse your world as you know it comes to a screeching halt. You look around and there’s dead silence with only faint whispers of your life with another, that has suddenly vanished. You are full of despair and sorrow, and may even feel nervous, anxious, agoraphobic, and other unidentifiable feelings that make it seem as if you will never be the same.

But here’s the good news-you won’t be the same and are not meant to be. The shift taking place in your life was what this loss was meant to bring. The challenge for you is to get through your grief journey, wallow in it, feel the pain, walk through the grief maze repeating it over and over and over again until you’re done.

It’s all a process and having been through this experience I can assure you that once you endure it, a new life awaits you. I can’t guarantee that it will be better, as in my case, but I can assure you that your new life will be all about you and you will be the author of the 1st chapter in your new beginning. You will have choices and you will be able to make decisions that will carry you into your future. Eventually, you will see that the remaining essence of your lost spouse becomes a part of a new foundation that will fortify you, inspire you and motivate you out of the maze as your life shifts and you start over again stepping into your New Beginning.

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To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5




There Will be Signs

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Back in the winter of 2009, about 4 months after Chuck had passed away, I’d decided that I was ready for a bereavement group. I set up an interview and when I arrived the facilitator asked me to tell my story. I immediately found myself weeping uncontrollably. My husband had been treated for his cancer at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City, and this was my first trip back to the facility since my husband had been discharged and put on hospice care at home. I automatically had flashbacks of that time leading up to his death. I hadn’t anticipated that this ordinary interview would be so jarring, but it was. The facilitator handed me tissues, I cried and cried as I wiped away the constant flow of tears. When I was done and deemed ready for a group, I left feeling drained as I walked out onto the street.The late winter air had turned a bit cooler and very windy.

I walked across to Park Ave. and hailed a cab. As I was riding up Park Ave., I decided to close my eyes, which were still bleary behind my huge black sunglasses. Because of the sudden shift in temperature I rolled the window up and left maybe 1/2 inch open for a little air. I was immersed in my sad thoughts when suddenly, a bunch of pink cherry blossoms flew into the window and landed on my lap. I was so startled, I let out a small scream. At that point, the cab driver eyed me through the rear view mirror curiously.The little blossoms floated in for about 30 seconds and fell onto my lap. I knew, in that moment, that that was Chuck sending me a sign of comfort and reassurance. I wept silently all the rest of the way home.Another time  I was in my elevator with a woman whose son had been taught by my husband. She was talking about  Mr.Loftin and recalling memories of times she herself had spent with him in his classroom and on class trips. As she got off at her floor, the overhead lights in the elevator began blinking, kind of like a Morse Code. I was startled and about to call the woman to witness what was taking place, but I couldn’t recall her name (widow brain). The doors shut and the lights blinked until I reached my floor, then when I got off they stopped.I would continue to have many of these occurrences and, initially, right after Chuck had passed, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me that they might be signals from my husband. However, when I became aware that these events appeared intentional and not random, I began to pay attention.

One night, I had risen and gone out into my dining room to sit at my table and watch TV; it was around 4:00 o’clock in the morning. At that time, I used to have a beautiful fan above my dining room table. It was controlled by remote that I kept on the wall in a remote  holder. That morning, it was a freezing in the dead of winter and just about a few weeks after Chuck had passed. As I sat watching TV, I suddenly began to feel cold. When I looked up the fan was whirring above my head. I was astonished and quickly retrieved the remote to shut the fan off. I shared this experience with a  friend and she suggested that I talked to Chuck and tell him that I appreciated “ hearing from him” but that I’d prefer if the signs came in the daytime and that they did not make me feel uncomfortable. At that point I was willing to do anything and soon after having “spoken” to my husband the signs became less frequent and were confined to the day.  Eventually the frequency of them diminished greatly and  I took this to mean that Chuck’s spirit did not want to hamper my recovery, because, after all, he was no longer here and I still had a life to continue on this earthly plane.

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One of the gentlemen in my bereavement group called these occurrences supernatural experiences. He felt that this was a great way to describe unusual occurrences that happened after a loved one passed away and that the name did not necessarily have to be attached to any kind of religious experience. Some folks have them and are reluctant to talk about them, while many never have them or do not make the connection that a sudden unusual occurrence  might be a signal from their lost loved one. Still others have them and will talk about them freely if they have a receptive listener or audience. Many, however, dismiss the whole notion of spirit and spiritual connections or signs from the dead and all of these responses are just fine.

I do believe that after we lose his spouse, we can still connect with them although they are no longer here with us. We might even get answers that come in the form of  dreams, random thoughts, discovery of  surprise treasures around the home, or through nature or any experience that brings peace, surprise, comfort or makes one feel that their loved one is near.The same gentleman from my bereavement group spoke about how he would go to bed at night and feel the covers being pulled up on him when he was falling off to sleep.He soon found that when he shared his experience with his daughter,she told him that she too had been having the same experience when she fell off to sleep. They concluded that it was their wife/mother who was tucking them in as they slept.

It is hard to figure out what’s real and what’s not or what to make of these “experiences”. Some might call them little miracles while others might call them weird. I’m sure that when people have these experiences it’s not easy for them to share only to  face ridicule from friends and family. I believe it’s a good idea to record each sign so that after a while you can look back on what you’ve seen and heard and possibly find answers or just comfort in what you have witnessed. I did find each experience a little scary and unsettling. For example, there was the time right after Chuck had passed away that every time I passed my elevator it opened and closed on my floor over and over while I walked by in the hallway. There was also the discovery of a Mother’s Day card, never sent to me signed by Chuck the day before the first Mother’s Day.Over time I became more used to these signs and I believed it was Chuck letting me know he was keeping watch and that I would one day be OK.

Which brings me to the pink flower petals found on the rug under my air conditioner in my bedroom this year. It was a day or two before Chuck’s birthday and there on the rug lay a beautiful bright pink flower petal. The window was closed and there weren’t any flowers in my bedroom. It wasn’t a silk petal but a real pink flower petal. Later that day, I came across another just like the other on the floor of my balcony. I took them and saved them adding them to my now faded cherry blossom petals that had found their way through a teeny opening flown into my lap so many years before.

I believe, with certainty that these were all signs from Chuck. In the beginning they were to bring comfort to me, but as time went on and the signs became less frequent, I realized that Chuck was sending me a signal that he wanted me to move on with my life. I believe that the sudden gift of the flower petals was his way of giving me a thumbs up on my progress. He wanted me to go on with my life, and I have and he is satisfied.

Many people who lose a spouse will have signs from their loved ones, and many more are eager to share stories with the receptive listener. Some chalk these experiences up to wishful thinking, active imaginations, etc. But still others relate stories of loved ones appearing on a beach, or by their side, or of a dog appearing to guide one through a tough neighborhood and then disappearing. Sometimes people can smell the scent of a loved one, they hear their loved one called their name, they see someone on the street that looks like the deceased person and they feel these are all signs of reassurance. However the messages come and the signs are manifested, if we do not notice them, we miss the opportunity to connect with our lost loved ones once more.

I would suggest, particularly to those who have become fresh widows, that you try to be open to indications that your spouse is sending you signs of love. For he or she as they struggle to acclimate to their new plane, want you to know that you are still loved, that you will grieve and soon recover, and that you must continue on with your new life knowing that the love you once had is still with you and that is where it will always remain.

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Fresh blossoms from Chuck


To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5

Grab Your Girls & Go

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Several years ago, I was at an outdoor event chatting with friends. I had just begun to write Brave in a New World and I was talking with a gentleman who, after having expressed his condolences to me, shared that he didn’t know what his wife would do should he die first. He went on to explain that his wife was very close to him and to her siblings but she didn’t have any other friends outside of her family. Apparently, she spoke to her sisters by phone nearly every day. He worried that should anything happen to him, she would not have friends of her own to support, embrace and comfort her. He went on to say she belonged to a church, and yes the congregation would be there to support, but having friends who could really be there for her in the hard times, was an area in which she was lacking. He said he encouraged her to seek out girlfriends, but she was reluctant to do so as she only felt comfortable with him and her family. I know that this a common issue for many.
When widows write me, often they’re looking to reestablish their lives, and meet people, but they’re clueless as to how to begin the process of connecting with new men and women.
I’m here to tell you that along with everything else that a widow or widower has gone through, the loss, the grief, acclimating to the loneliness, and the absence of their spouse, when the dust settles and they want to branch out and meet new people, the thought of putting themselves out there can be a daunting one.

Ring around the Rosie back in the day

When my husband passed away, I suddenly realized that the world had changed drastically. First of all, I was older, second of all many of our friends had been couples. I found myself thrust into an age when connecting and communicating with others was vastly different than it had been many years before. It wasn’t easy and I felt like a fish out of water. But luckily for me I’d had lots of girlfriends whom I’d remained close with over the years, and true to form, most of them rallied around me after my husband Chuck passed away. In the beginning of my loss, seeing friends became difficult for me because I didn’t want to burden them and I actually wanted to be alone most days.

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Soon, I found myself forcing myself to get out and meet those pals who were available. We’d have lunch, dinner, go to museums, meet after church, and see each other often. After awhile the meetups died down and there was the occasional phone call , but I was on the recovery journey and not quite sure where I’d land next. Luckily, I managed to make new friends which led to more new friendships. I found these people had fresh ideas and were tuned into living life in fun new ways. They had adventurous suggestions, and were available to meet, drink and be merry. After a while I began to see a future for myself as I enjoyed life more and more each day, while distancing myself from my grief and seeing life as filled with hope and possibility.

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Here’s the difference between new and old pals. Some of your longterm friends see you as you once were, now the widow. But you will be changing and the subtle nuances that are manifested may be missed by those who have known you for a long time. None of my old friends had lost a spouse, some had never married, so although they recognized the loss and sympathized with me, they sort of missed the internal metamorphosis that was taking place within me. The reason for this is because they carry your history and see you through that lens. Newer friends see you as you are, the widow, but also as who you are becoming now, therefore their impressions of you aren’t influenced by who you once were. Your tastes, likes and dislikes may begin to change once the veil of grief begins to slowly lift. For example, I may have loved to go antiquing thirty five years ago, but now I just want to search for modern accessories for my home. I may have loved to watch old movies, but because my husband was a movie buff I no longer enjoyed that pastime. Watching old movies just filled me with grief and sorrow and reminded me of losing Chuck. I once loved very light colored woods for my home, blonde shades, light oak, but my tastes changed with the times as I found myself gravitating toward darker wood stains and more contemporary styles for my home. I also discovered that friends who were a bit younger are less apprehensive about doing activities that longtime friends and peers may not encourage you to do. Online dating is a great example of one of those realms that younger pals will be more open to and will encourage you to do if and when you reach a point where you decide that you want to start dating again; but, then again, that will be up to you. Part of this shift in norms is because younger folks (even as little as 7 or eight years your junior) have grown up in an age where online dating is normal and they’re not as fearful of this new approach to connecting with people. They are also more willing to take a risk when putting themselves out there and will encourage you to do the same.This does not hold true for everyone, but it has been my experience as I recreated my life after death.
One must learn how to navigate new and old friendships, as you reshape your new alone life to suit your needs, and your lifestyle. But for those who find themselves at a loss for companions and would like to get out and do more with friends, here are some suggestions:
1 If you’ve never pledged a sorority this may be a good time to think about it. There are many graduate chapters of sororities and fraternities. This is a great way to meet new people and to have fun in the process. Check each fraternity and or sorority for guidelines and requirements for joining.
2 Become more involved in your place of worship. If you don’t belong to a place of worship and you’ve contemplated becoming a member of one, this would be a great time to visit a few churches to find one that’s suited for you. Many churches have social activities for different age groups, and they zero in on a variety of interests. I know that my church offers movies, Bible study classes, young adult get togethers, senior groups, and many opportunities to volunteer. Investigate and find a faith home that is comfortable and welcoming and explore becoming a member of a faith community. It’s a great way to connect with like minded individuals.
3 Look up old friends. Sometimes our lives become so busy especially when we’re married. We bump into people, old pals, and even discover former friends on social media. We promise to connect, but never do. After losing a spouse, this is a great time to reach out and connect with long lost friends and acquaintances. They will be so glad to hear from you and will be happy that you reached out. They will want to listen to you and be there for you as you tell them about your loss. I found that people I didn’t know quite as well, offered me the kindest words, and a patient listening ear. Sometimes, they have experienced a loss as well and the new connection can help you both to heal as you make future plans.
4 Bereavement Groups -a wonderful place to become a part of a like minded community. They’ll “get” you. You’re looking for a place where you can feel safe and steady. After several meetings your group will soon become your extended family. In my group, when the requisite sessions finished, we didn’t want to leave each other so soon, so we continued to meet for dinners for several years and even though eventually we all went our own way, we all felt stronger and better for having met each other.We had given each other the strength we needed and the encouragement to heal and to look forward to a new life without our spouses. Anything we wanted to do was encouraged by our group.We’d been through so much and we just wanted to now live our lives unrestricted and without judgement.
5 Volunteer -there are many organizations, religious communities, schools, hospitals, senior homes, and non profit organizations that would love to have volunteers. What a wonderful way to give back and begin to feel a part of a community of people again. It’s a great distraction from your own sorrows and it’s a great way to rebuild your self esteem.You will also make new friends and develop new social ties. It’s nice to meet people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Sometimes this can open you up to a whole new world that you never even imagined and soon you will be learning and partaking in activities that broaden your horizons… all this, as you reclaim your life.

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My Wedding Party

Part of becoming a part of life again really is hastened by one’s connections to others. Whether old or new bonds, friends will guide you along the path of not giving up and inspire you to continue to live life to the fullest even though your spouse is no longer here.

It’s a good idea to develop friendships your whole life through. You don’t want to face life without your spouse totally alone. Even children will not provide the solace that a good friend will give. They will offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, a helping hand. Some will be able to be there for you 24/7, others may not be as reliable. But if you have several pals you will be able to share the burden of your loss with a few and not overburden just one. A good friend will not interrupt your tears, and will listen to you as you repeat over and over again the story of your loss as this is a part of one’s bereavement process.
After you’ve begun to venture out and make connections with men and women, whom you have things in common with and whose company you enjoy, you will begin to heal.
Then grab your girls (guys) and go-wherever, whenever, as you follow the path to your new life and your new beginning.

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Ten Years Later A Tree Still Grows

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It’s been 10 years since my husband Chuck passed away. Clarence C. Loftin III was a brilliant, hard-working, tough, matter-of-fact, gentle soul. He was a venture capitalist, adjunct professor in finance, 5th grade science teacher, Marine Biology educator as well as a wonderful brother, son, stepfather and husband. Those memories of him will never be erased.

Chuck was the Yang to my Ying. Over time, I’ve come to know that it is his untimely death that spurred me on in a new direction, putting me on a different path of counseling and helping other widows and widowers to heal after loss.

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Every person who has come into my life in these past 10 years, and has taken the time to stay a while, no matter how brief, has helped me to heal. And every person who has guided me through the thicket of sorrowful thorns has been God sent, and that is what I believe.Image may contain: 4 people

My journey to recovery was long, slow and very tough. Sometimes it felt like sheer torture and there were times when I thought I would not survive my circumstance, but eventually the pain did subside. After much thought I realized that there had to have been many other people who lose a spouse and aren’t able to express or figure out what they’re going through. Unfortunately, in our society death and loss as well as the aftermath of loss are not topics that are easily spoken about. The well-meaning folks around widows and widowers often do not understand another person’s grief experience and want to see them get over it. Sometimes those who are the victims of a loss want to see themselves get over it quickly. When they don’t, they’re in a quandary as to what to do or where to turn.

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With Sister Cathy

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At a friend’s gathering in the late 80’s


There are many who lose a spouse and are able to get past it and move on with their lives in short order, while still, there are others who literally take years to figure out how to manage the pain and to rebuild their lives. I figured out early on that the latter are the very people who need extra support, because death, loss, grief, and recovery are not part of a competition. One should not have to measure one’s ability to recover from a loss against others who may’ve seemed to have recovered more readily. I felt that it was incumbent upon me to at least begin the conversation about what it is that one feels after they have lost a spouse and to offer suggestions on how they can get through the grieving process and begin to rebuild their lives.

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Speech on behalf of the Central Park Conservancy

This opportunity to be able to assist others with their grief would not have been possible had I not had Chuck Loftin in my life. It was the very experience of losing him that opened the door of opportunity for me to do something that would help others. I hoped that I would be able to make a difference as I sought to help widows and widowers navigate the anger, confusion, and despair that I knew that they were feeling after losing a spouse. I also wanted to give comfort, encouragement and assurance and let them know that what they were feeling was normal. They also needed to hear that in time, with work and perseverance, they would be able to step into their “new beginning”.

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It is in this pic that I noticed something different in the summer of ’07


I believe that this is the legacy that my husband bestowed upon me. My tragedy became my testimony as I wrote Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse and I became The Brave and Blooming Widow.

My work at Matthew 5:4, which is a grief support group here in New York, founded by the Rev. Deborah Northern, has supported and validated the work of affirming those who’ve lost a spouse. She, along with Bob Ellison, author of First Snow and myself are guiding widows and widowers along their grief journey and beyond.

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Chuck and my Dad-Buddies especially after Chuck’s dad passed.

This is the last year that I will post on my personal page a piece honoring my husband on his anniversary. For me the past 10 years have been the most transformative of my life. I have literally been reborn and am living my new life with joy, enthusiasm and the knowledge that there is life after death. I have made new friends, traveled hither and yon, and received so much love from so many. I feel a great satisfaction knowing that my little book is helping others. And as fate would have it, I have met a wonderful man and we’re having a great time together.  This is proof that love is never ending once you are able to put the past behind you and walk fearlessly into your future.

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Gentleman and a Scholar

I no longer wish that Chuck could experience this event or that special occasion with me as I once did early on. I know he’s gone from this plane for good. I also  know that only through, perseverance, determination and consistent work, plus the willingness to face the pain of loss and not act like it doesn’t exist, will new opportunities and experiences present themselves, helping to turn everyone’s tragedy into their testimony.

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At Monticello in Charlottesville,Va.

There will always be a part of me that misses my Chuck, but now it is not attached to the pain of the past, but is instead a healthy memory and a sense of how lucky I was to have had him in my life for a time.I believe that he was destined to meet a girl who grew up in Brooklyn “with a tree”, with whom he’d live out a time in space, and in the end , when he was no longer here, she would go on to create a living legacy that would give back to those who grieve after loss, in his honor.

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A sweet time in Southampton,NY

To have had this opportunity, to have been entrusted by God with Chuck’s care was what I consider to have been my sacred responsibility. And when he soared away to heaven January 24, 2009, I had no idea what awaited me as I stared with a wilted and broken heart at the casket of my beloved. I was blessed and honored to have had such an individual in my life and, as my work takes me now in a different direction, I will continue to honor that legacy as the Brave and Blooming Widow giving guidance and support to those who lose but have a deep desire to win.

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The Dead-Are They Really?

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It was a very long time before I was able to use my husband Chuck’s name and the word dead in the same sentence. I rarely do even now, nine years in.
After he passed away, my mind couldn’t  process the fact that this was a permanent departure. It seemed as though he had just vanished, disappeared out of his body, and in some part of my brain I imagined that he might return.

I was not familiar with what death looked like up close and personal.When I saw my husband’s lifeless body I wasn’t sure where he had gone or what had just occurred. So I waited for his return and didn’t want to jinx the possibility of that occurring by saying the word dead. I chose to think he’d just vanished, which on some level opened up the possibility that he could come back again. That was the beginning of my grief journey. It was a ball of confusion, a world that I misunderstood as I entered a realm of uncharted waters laden with electrified barbed wire.

Months before my husband had died, a colleague of mine passed away suddenly also, coincidentally, from pancreatic cancer. I attended the memorial and as I was leaving and standing in the elevator with one of her four children, I expressed my sympathy, and he responded with, “We’re just trying to figure out what happened here.” At that time, I thought I knew what he meant. A few days earlier his mom had been alive and breathing and now she was gone without a trace, nowhere to be found. My husband was still alive so even though I thought I understood what my friend’s son meant, I actually didn’t grasp the full gravity of his situation until I was left to grapple with my own loss 10 months later.

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I would eventually come to know that part of my not being able to use Chuck’s name in the same sentence as dead was out of my reluctance to come to grips with the finality of his life. If I didn’t say that word, I thought, then it wasn’t really true. Chuck wasn’t dead, his spirit had just left his body, which I saw as his earthly costume, and maybe he was still hovering near. So it was better for me to think that Chuck had just vanished into thin air, therefore he hadn’t really died, he had just disappeared. I even began to think, in the altered state that I was in, that he could possibly “come back” and that I would be here waiting for him. It was an odd sensation that coincided with this silent gap between when he was alive and after he had died. I had feelings of fear, anxiety, and trepidation along with a sense of expectation as I wondered what would happen next. I almost felt suspended in space and time surrounded by an air of expectancy. I began to understand what my friend’s son had meant, as you’re not quite sure how to make sense of having a living breathing loved one alive and then gone, in a flash, just like that.

What was I expecting exactly?

My friends tried to understand as they offered condolences, but it’s hard to understand an experience that you’ve never had. Plus, so many people grieve so differently that my reaction might have been seen as over the top. I know that people felt,”Chuck has died, but you’ll get over it.” And of course if you mentioned that you thought your spouse was not really dead understandably people would believe that you were experiencing a serious case of denial. But it wasn’t that at all; I found that there is a sacred period,a space between life and death, which is accompanied by silence. This interval leaves the person that is left in a numb netherworld, trying to figure out exactly what has just occurred.

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What should happen next?

At the time of my husband’s passing I actually did not know. I was clinging to Chuck’s life hoping for his return. Thus, I wasn’t ready to acknowledge that he was gone forever as that seemed unfathomable to me.

I began to think that I was probably the only one who felt this way, but I soon came to the realization that I was not alone. In my bereavement group there were several individuals who chose not to use the harsh word dead. They used gentler euphemisms like “she left, went away, disappeared, vanished, he’s not here anymore.” These people, just like me, felt that once the word dead was used, that all hope was lost and they would then be faced with the reality that their spouses were indeed gone forever, never to be seen again. This was a bitter reality for most to face, particularly at the beginning of loss.


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I am happy to inform all that time eases the burden of grief and only those who have been through losing a spouse can attest to that. There is no space between love and time. Love is ever present as is time and they’re both intangible, existing without permission, forever. That sacred space between love and death is immeasurable. During that time that’s when the world that we once knew shifts and one must adjust to the unknown, wending one’s way into a world caught between life and death. It’s a new realm entered, to know and believe someone is dead. It becomes one’s haunting theme that hangs over those who grieve.

And until they’re able, it’s alright to posture loss into palatable, gentler terms. He’s just gone; she’s just disappeared; he’s not here anymore. Passage of time and what is done with that time along one’s grief journey will inform one as to how how they’re able to come to terms with the death of a spouse. Friends should not attempt to shatter that belief as the bereaved are fragile and need to be able to process their loss in their on way. One day they may hear themselves say,”He’s/she’s dead”, and by then hopefully they will have made peace with it, in their own time and on their own terms.

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To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5