New Year…New Beginnings

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This year, actually this month will be the twelfth year since my husband Chuck passed away from pancreatic cancer. It seems like a long while ago and only moments all at the same time. Funny how after you lose a spouse the time morphs into an endless stream of time: night, day, day, night. Weeks seem like days, months seem like weeks and years seem like some yet to be determined series of stages stretched out into seamlessly stitched together moments that transcend years, turning time into a flowing succession of days, differentiated only by light and dark.

The year that Chuck passed away I recall that I was anxious about leaving that year behind. I knew that I’d never be able to “feel his presence” in the same way again. I wouldn’t be able to say that he just said this a few weeks before or that he’d just done that a few months earlier. Once I stepped into the new year I felt I would no longer feel his presence, just his absence.

There were so many things to get used to after the loss. I had to learn new ways of living without him on the planet. Quantity of towels in the bathroom, setting the table, what to do with his drinking mug, going places alone were just some of the adjustments I needed to make. When it came to bouncing ideas off somebody or getting a second opinion or sharing something funny, I had to come to grips with his permanent absence and my sudden thrust into “oneness”.

But here is what also occurred as I entered a New Year, I was slowly leaving my past behind. Although I didn’t stop grieving, far from it, the new year, in retrospect, was the start of my new beginning. I was truly starting over again, from square one. During that period, I began to create new routines, develop new interests, revisit past interests, change my living space and take a good look at who I wanted to be. I decided that being me, my authentic me, was a good start and so I began to forge a new life rebuilding it brick by brick.

I examined old ideas, attitudes and lifestyles. I planned to retain some semblance of who I had been before Chuck, but I also explored fresher ways of being myself. It was a crash course in starting over and I was being taught by the world around me, which was moving faster than the speed of light. I was beginning to see everything with fresh eyes, an open mind, an open heart, and an open spirit. All of this was happening consciously and unconsciously as I grieved and continued to move my life forward.

As the years passed I could feel changes taking place within myself and in my life. I was different, my home was transformed, and I realized that I was in the midst of my new beginning.Image result for new beginnings

I knew, as I continued to mourn my husband’s death, that I didn’t want to get stuck in my grief or  “widow narrative” so, after a time, I allowed my new life to mold me. And although, in the beginning, I did not want to betray my lost husband by going on with my life, I came to understand that he was no longer here and he would never want me to spend the rest of my days mourning him. Chuck would want me to live a full life just as we did together, when he was here.

I sort of  relived that period after my husband’s death during this time of COVID. Because of the shutdown and the advice to stay at home in order to reduce the spread and contain the disease, as I sheltered in place, I was reminded of the early days after my loss. This time, however, I consciously worked on myself. Although I missed seeing people, for some reason feelings of loneliness and isolation were few and far between. I chose to take this time to do the things I had been putting off and to focus on personal goals, plans and basically the rest of my life. I knew I couldn’t maintain the discipline and the concentration I would need if I became distracted. I wanted to come out of this period ready for my new beginning as I knew that the world would never be the same after such a sudden change in routine. My period of mourning, back in 2009, prepared me for this time as I prepared to face whatever else would be expected of me. I gained new insights as I continued to live my life with expectation and humility. My humanity became renewed and my compassion for others became heightened. I became most grateful for my life’s experiences, the good and not so good, which I now know have strengthened me for the living of these days. I no longer have to talk about those things as they are what make me me, and I am grateful. I cherish my family even more as well as my friends. I lost friends all to non COVID related circumstances, and mourned each and every one. I know that the clock is ticking and it’s important to be good listeners, give those who need you your time, your actual presence. It’s important to send love to those you have in your life and to those you no longer want in your life or whom you’ve outgrown. Wish them all well, and then keep going.No photo description available.

My advice to all who are embarking on a new year of self-discovery and expansion is to treat the new year as your new beginning and an opportunity to live life differently. Discard those “obstructions” in your life that prevent you from making new friends, keeping friends, creating opportunities for new and fresh relationships, for chances to be adventurous, see new things and to take risks.

Looking for companionship? Well, stop telling yourself that the “pickins are thin“, because the Universe will give you that…..zero. Stop listening to others’ perceptions when looking for a mate, learn to tweak  your criteria and your expectations as you might miss a soulmate who comes wrapped in a different packaging than you desired. Know that the interior matters so much more than the exterior. Like little 4 year old internet sensation Ayaan Diop think of yourself “as smart, blessed and highly favored” and repeat this and other affirmations that affirm the positivity of who you are and who you are becoming. You will always be becoming…and if you have positive expectations you will reap the benefits of those thoughts. Remember mind and body are all connected. But then, how could they not be? Decide to live and think differently and this applies to those who have experienced loss as well as anyone who would like to tweak his or her life in positive ways.

Don’t allow this new year to be another missed opportunity to make changes that improve the conditions of your life. Being busy with a variety of activities is a good start to activating your new way of living. But nothing can compare to time alone, without distractions, as you think about who you are becoming at this moment in time and how you want that life to be. As long as we are able to fall asleep nightly and awaken to a new day, we’ll  always be able to start over. Use this new year, in the time of this pandemic as a time to mark your new beginning. Become introspective, no matter how uncomfortable that may feel, and then make the changes that will help you to feel productive, alive and whole again, or  possibly, even for the first time.

 

                        Happy New Year                                       

                                               

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

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Finding Joy Again and Again

Finding my joy again. In the smallest of things | by Danielle Hamner | Live  Your Life On Purpose | Medium

I believe that being a happy human is not so out of reach.My husband Chuck was a contented, balanced human being, however, I would never characterize him as happy. He had moments where he was happy, but they were few and far between.He gained great satisfaction from positive events in his life, but I rarely, if ever, saw him giddy or ecstatic with joy. It was the way he was wired. He did, however, possess a good temperament and a sweet nature, although his gallows humor could be a little tough to get used to. But that was my Chuck, not perfect, but then neither was I (although I told him I was and he believed me).

Chuck was a man’s man, tough but also warm.For example, there was the time he came home and announced that a neighbor of ours, who I knew only in passing,would be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner.I was surprised that he had invited a stranger (Chuck was not a fan of strangers) into our home for dinner. He went on to explain that the man had told him that he would be spending Thanksgiving alone, and Chuck was not hearing it. It was fine with me, my motto being the more the merrier. When Thanksgiving arrived Frank did not show up. A few months into the next year, Frank passed away from cancer.I did see him before this happened and told him we had missed him that day, it was then that he revealed details of his illness. He said he really appreciated the invitation and had every intention of coming but had been blindsided by his illness.

My husband Chuck loved to teach and advise anyone who sought his counsel, and many, many did. He would impart pearls of wisdom, with the hope that all those he taught would go forth and live successful and fruitful lives. Financial security and independence were very important to him and he felt that this was one of the keys to building a solid foundation for living a successful and productive life. Chuck would love it when those who had been the recipients of his advice would come back to him and share outcomes that were positive and successful. He felt pride in the fact that he was able to give others the building blocks for living a fruitful life, from his perspective. He did not necessarily feel happiness, but more a sense of gratification, satisfaction.Chuck was practical, a realist and very pragmatic….black and white no gray.

I,on the other hand, have always been an optimist, even under the most dire of circumstances. I rarely lose hope and always try to connect to my joy. I was and still am, a Pollyanna of sorts. It’s how I’m wired…who I am. Chuck and I were complete opposites in that way.

Although I’m not happy all the time, the happy experiences that I have had have always left me with a feeling of overwhelming joy and and at times exhilaration. I grew up in a family that expressed,unabashedly, feelings of happiness when the situation called for it. We all became giddy with excitement and I just thought that was the norm for everybody when they experienced great pleasure or good news. But I would soon learn that not all people are comfortable with expressing emotions, particularly feelings of joy or sorrow.

After Chuck passed away my soul became dead, numb. Happiness became an emotion I could no longer access. Even as I began to slowly recover, I found I had lost the ability to “feel” joy. I would soon become satisfied with just being able to put one foot in front of the other and make it through each new day. I felt as though I would never feel happiness again. In those early days of my mourning, I recalled a line from one of Langston Hughes’ poems, ‘life ain’t been no crystal stair’,which reminded me that life is not always going to be filled with good news. Many experiences that people have are full of pain, sorrow and suffering. For some,the pain of whatever is daily, relentless.  I would soon sink into the depths of depression, which is very different from just feeling sad. I felt as if I was sinking into an abyss of hopelessness and despair and thought that this was going to be my new normal, my new state of my being and it would have to be okay. So, I settled in for the day-to-day grief, with expectations of no end to the pain in sight.

Many, many months later, years really, I would slowly begin to long to feel joy in my life again. As time wore on and I became more engaged in life again, I began to notice that I had entered a new stage in my grief recovery and that being able to feel joy again might actually be a possibility.I began to experience events that allowed me to see that I could access dormant upbeat feelings.As the direction of my life changed, I thought I might be able to feel joy again.I knew that my husband would be happy for me in heaven.He knew I was his “happy girl” and on some level I believe that he envied my ability to be cheerful bordering on ecstatic when an experience or event warranted such feelings.

I do believe that being able to feel joy has to do with how we were raised, our life experiences and how we internalize and manifest our emotions. In life, we can’t prevent those random interruptions that can cause trauma and turmoil and change the course of our lives, but we can intentionally dwell on good ideas and thoughts and strive to live our lives in accordance with those thoughts. One’s emotional state of well being and positive responses can rub off on others, and inspire those around us to also begin to believe that happy is not so far-fetched. Sometimes that doesn’t always work and others may remain remote, morose, and stoic, but we, who are the optimists, must continue to stay true to who we are and try to avoid being dragged,like quicksand, into another person’s emotional response to situations that we feel are good and positive. Some folks are simply joy killers and although we may not be able to change who they are we do not want them to change who we are either. Feeing joy is critical to coming back to life again. Don’t be afraid of those feelings…..after awhile you will begin to feel that life has possibility again, and again.

To read more about my grief journey and how you can  navigate yours read Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse, available on Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu

Please feel free to write a review of my book on Amazon.

This Thanksgiving

I must admit that 2020 did not start off very well. Kobe Bryant’s tragic death two days after the 11th anniversary of the passing of my husband was just a terrible, sad, tragedy. Although I have never been a big sports fan, I felt that loss like everyone else, a big punch to the gut that left us all reeling. Soon after I would unexpectedly lose a friend, Shelly, and the year would proceed like that. I felt that if I could just get to summer and Martha’s Vineyard’s beaches and sands, fun and sun, parties and laziness, all would be right in the world. But that was not going to happen for me as the world was hit with a global pandemic which would change life as we know it, filling many with fear, anxiety, fatigue and despair.

I began to take stock of my life, again. I say again because I do this often.It helps to keep me grounded and to stay the course. Although I can veer off course and that’s when I have my greatest adventures, oh but then, I do digress.  I had a friend once who you used to call these moments, What’s it all about Alfie? moments.

I proceeded to look at my list of to do things and got cracking. I cleaned out closets, pantries, I ditched old books, papers, photographs just everything that was no longer relevant to my life. Why was I holding on to text books from my undergraduate years? Would I ever pick them up and read them? Never did. What’s the point in having them in my library? The number of books you have doesn’t mean anything unless you read them or they have a personal meaning to you, the reader. I had made a decision that at this time I wanted to pare down and recreate my surroundings so that it reflected who I am now as well as who I am continuously becoming. No more extraneous stuff tucked away hidden to be discovered by others after I am gone. I would hate for people to find tons of items stacked mixed in with clothing wrapped in neat little bundles hinting at my serious flirtation with hoarding. Don’t laugh, it has happened with folks who have passed. So I figured that with this uninterrupted time I would ditch, purge, and donate when charities finally opened up. Who would be able to identify people in pictures or care about what role they may have played in my life. Mementos from high school, tokens from young pals whose names I no longer remember. They meant something to me at one time, but I never look at the items so why hang onto them. They have lost their sentimental value and no longer conjure up relevant memories. I’ve gone on to live my life and no longer feel attached to those days that came before the NOW.

Web Directory of Charitable Organisations in the Western Cape | Western  Cape Government

As soon as the city I live in experienced a lockdown, it became whisper quiet….no planes, cars, trucks, no school noises…nothing. Lots of moving vans however, as people sought refuge in “safer zip codes”, or moved back to Kansas with red shoes and Toto in tow. But how do you escape a ubiquitous invisible enemy, a potentially deadly virus which we were learning more and less about daily. There was daily information mixed with misinformation. But for me it was like being away, an urban-suburban experience. The quiet soothed my spirit which was truly rattled by everything that was occurring around me. I wasn’t going out anywhere. I was going to do what I was asked to do to keep myself and the few around me safe. I am a pragmatist, although I do rely on spirit, so acknowledging the fear helped me to get a handle on it as I figured out how to cope during a most perilous time. So today, I am most grateful for patience, strength, fortitude, direction, God, and the hope I needed to get through these days. My intuition, which is my spirit, allowed me to know the right thing to do while we all waited.

After George Floyd’s death, in your face for the world to see , the social unrest that followed was reminscent of my own activist days back in the late 60’s. Old issues, new issues, this generation said ,“Enough! Black Lives Matter”,while my generation said,“March on, we are with you.” Many of my friends marched with them proud to be a part of a movement for true change. The truth is that African Americans in this country have always had to think about white people in order to shield ourselves from daily, subtle and not so subtle racist remarks and acts of bigotry that we have dealt with on the daily. While we have had to be on guard as we figured out how to maneuver in different situations, white people have never had to consider African Americans, except when deciding where to live. And unless the decision was to be in a diverse community, then the sky was the limit for those seeking homogenized communities. They can move wherever the please, they can eat wherever they want, they can go someplace and not have someone mistake them for the help. They can go into a store and not have someone direct them to the sales rack or follow them throughout the store. These are just basic degrading, insulting, disrespectful experiences that black people have had to deal with for decades.

In order to stay safe while traveling we had various safe routes that we were advised to take to avoid encounters with Klansmen and other white supremacists who might want to do us harm. White people didn’t have to worry about taking those routes, or being barred entry to places like Freedomland Amusement Park. They didn’t have to worry about being caught in a sundown town which could be a matter of life or death for Black folks. They could just be, live life and not be fearful that the color of their skin would find them in the chokehold of a policeman. They don’t have to worry about their sons,but we do.And to watch people pass laws and institute restrictions that deny black folks access or limit how far one can progress,is truly hateful and a blight against this country.This period has allowed so many to see what we’ve always seen.Now the young people, Black and White, have taken up the cause for justice. They are not going to take no for an answer and have said enough is enough. Today, I am thankful to see how people are taking up the mantle of justice fighting for human dignity, equality, the inalienable right to be able to live and survive in this country, on this planet. People are fighting for human dignity, to reverse injustices that black people have had to endure for decades. I am so grateful that we live in a time where finally we will probably get some resolution to a lot of experiences that have plagued us and hampered so many from moving forward. I am thankful that the whole world is watching and there is no turning back now.

While folks were all facing this pandemic, social unrest, climate change, loss of income, and countless deaths due to COVID-19, I was having my own personal challenges. My left knee was giving me problems and right before the pandemic I had been trying to make an appointment to schedule surgery. Having to wait, with increasing pain, when pandemic restrictions eased in my town, I figured I’d schedule surgery. The date given was going to be soon. I had the surgery and I’m recovering and healing well. The date of that surgery was the perfect time as there were no planned events or activities to interfere with the decision to improve my quality of life. No more daily ibuprofen, cold compresses, heat in the AM cold in the PM. The surgery went well and in two days I was home rehabbing and healing. Having been through this before I knew what to expect, but when you’re in the throes of excruciating pain it’s hard to see the end in sight .When I arrived home I had a lot of help and even my cats,Smokey and Zoe, were so happy to see me, they set up sentry at the foot of my bed, ensuring that I would not leave them again anytime soon.

But the sweetest part of this time for me is that my girlfriends, my sister girlfriends were conspiring to ease my burden. Several of them decided to send me dinner everyday for a week. They texted me menus, asked me what I wanted and had it sent. I couldn’t believe how kind and generous they were. Pizza, chicken, paella, black beans, one bestie even went so far as to bake a lasagna and brought me beautiful flowers to brighten my time spent healing. Someone brought me a beautiful bouquet of Lilies along with other fragrant flowers. I was really overcome to tears. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by the most incredibly compassionate, loving individuals and they just stepped up unexpectedly because this is what they do. I am thankful that at this point in life I am surrounded by girlfriends who just unselfishly stepped up and said oh we’re gonna do this for our girl. One person texted me and said we got you. All my life I have been blessed with good pals, but at this point in my life to feel that there are people who are so generous that they can anticipate what you might need and make it happen, was an act of love like no other. Not just them, but so many offers to help out, check in, send flowers, cards and words of encouragement. One person actually saw my FB post and he IM’d me with helpful words of advice and comfort. This time let me know that when people step up like that they are truly caring and compassionate individuals. A friend once told me years ago, when I had been deeply hurt by the actions of some whom I called friends, that some people are very generous with themselves while others are able to give in ways that touch a person’s soul. That is empathy.

It’s the small things that turn out to be big things and it means something. Over the years we have been there for each other,these ladies and I. I am thankful for the loving individuals in my life, not only my girlfriends, but my guy friends who checked in and offered advice and words and stories of encouragement via email and text as if they sensed that I could use a word on a particular day. One such friend sent me emails of encouragement before my surgery just as he did eleven years ago, then, sensing that facing a big surgery without my husband by my side I would be feeling extra anxious and alone. He was right and I am truly grateful for his kindness. I am thankful for all the unselfish love that surrounds me from family and friends. There is an unbroken bond between me and the people in my life who help to make my life extraordinary without wanting anything in return. No tit for tat here, just true love.

This Thanksgiving , even as I’m still digesting the loss of three more precious souls who were in my life, in my orbit, for a while, at various periods, I thank God that my 92 year old mom is well, my family is well, and my life is still full of joy. As I regain mobility I am grateful for the friends who found the time to be there for me when just getting the occasional check in text was enough for me. I am thankful for those who I have lost and grateful that they were in my life for a time as I learned lessons from each and every one, lessons that have remained with me as I move forward in my life.

I hope you too will find something to be grateful for in 2020. Whether it’s the medical professionals who have sacrificed and risked their lives to save lives, or the essential works who have also risked, many having lost their lives to keep essential services running to benefit all of us. Or whether it’s a friend or a relative who has survived COVID-19. It may seem like a hard exercise but think about and remember that you’re still here, and the alone time forces you to befriend yourself, go within and recreate your life in a way that enlightens your stay here as you find meaning for your life before your journey home. It will make this odd twilight time to have not been for naught. It will help you to look beyond the physical as you attempt to figure out what the year 2020 really means to each of us and to the collective “us”.

Thanksgiving Message from the Superintendent/Principal | The Henry Viscardi  School

To Risk Love

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When I first met my husband, the guy I didn’t  know would end up being my husband, I knew he was the one.He had practically every quality I would have wanted in a mate at that time. He was a gentleman, handsome, kind, brilliant, generous, and successful. He knew things I didn’t and we had many interests in common. Years later I would realize that we were actually rather different in a lot of ways, but in the beginning it appeared as if we could have been twins, fraternal of course.

After six weeks of dating, Chuck told me I was the “one” and he was in love. I was rather stunned, it seemed so fast, but we decided to take our time and see. Back then in the late 80’s we had time…. it was on our side. I welcomed and cherished his love and I loved him back, with all my heart. But there was a part of me that was a little frightened. I was aware of the direction in which our relationship could go and the thought of being with him forever was scary. I also wondered all sorts of things like: what would happen if it didn’t work out, what if we fell out of love, what if we couldn’t get along after a while, what if this, what if that. As time went on, we decided that we were going to get married and, by then, I was sure it was right and was willing to take the risk and marry my beloved.

Love always involves risk. The most well-intentioned, compatible couples, never really know what the future will bring to a relationship. You can never know how time and unforeseen circumstances will impact your union. Because of this uncertainty, many people are afraid to take that risk. Past relationships, personal family histories can impact how one feels about coupling, so some remain solo, not willing to take that step and risk love. Individuals get used to their lives being neat and tidy and after years of being alone, they become unwilling to complicate their lives with the messiness and complexities of loving another, and that’s just fine for them. Some even claim to want to find love, but somewhere within them there is something, a childhood experience, a past love experience, something that sabotages that desire. Thus, they keep saying what they want without really believing it will happen.

For some, after losing a spouse and the veil of grief has fallen away, one of the greatest dilemmas that one faces is whether one should take the risk to love again. Early on, in my bereavement group, we discussed the possibility of finding love again. For me, during that period, my grief was so raw that that idea was far from anything I could’ve ever imagined doing ever again. Some of the people in the group felt they’d had their “one”. Still, for others, whose grief was still fresh, that thought seemed kind of creepy. We also discussed the fact that if we were to consider falling in love again, there was always the possibility of losing another spouse or partner. We had all been through so much watching our spouses deteriorate as they battled various forms of cancer, so we were not so sure if we were willing to take another risk of losing a loved one again. For myself, personally, I felt that I could not ever survive another death of a spouse. The pain from losing Chuck was so intense, that I dismissed the possibility of love in my future, at least at that point in time.

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Recently, I received a lovely note, in response to a note I had written, from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. I had written her to thank her for a book she had given me at Chuck’s funeral, which was the only book that really addressed what I would soon be experiencing. The woman had given it to me because it was a book she had used when she was grieving the loss of her second husband. In this note she went on to explain that after a few years she met a wonderful guy, married again, but after nearly 8 years she would have to return to that book for comfort again as she buried her third spouse, who succumbed to the same illness that her second husband had. She questioned why God would have had her repeat that experience. I know that my friend was really afraid to risk loving again, but in time she met a new gentleman and they are now happily married. She had decided, after a time, to take another leap of faith.

With love comes many risks. We never really know how things will turn out, but we have the highest hopes for the best. People rarely go into a marriage thinking that their partner will leave them, that love will turn sour, that their spouse will get ill or die. We are hopeful that our unions will be fruitful, full of love and last forever. The fact that one day it will end never enters our minds as we begin a new journey with a husband or wife.

We must make every attempt to live life to the fullest and to avoid playing it safe. Living has to do with jumping in there, taking a leap of faith, putting aside fears and taking a risk. When you do, life has texture, and color, and meaning and is full of surprises and wonder. When we play it safe our hearts may never get broken, but we will never know the wonderfulness of connecting with someone intimately, loving them and opening our hearts, and allowing someone else to care for it. That’s when one must have trust, have faith and be willing to be brave.

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The folks in my bereavement group have become an extended family. Since that time in 2009, many have made big changes in their lives. A few have decided to take a risk and are now happily ensconced in new relationships. It is what our lost spouses would want for all of us, to carry on, be unafraid and, maybe, risk love again. Just like my friend, who risked love a second time, and a third, and a fourth which added to the beautiful mystery of what we call life, her life. After all, she took a risk when she married my husband, he was her first, and I took a risk when I married him too, as I was his third wife. For me it was a risk well taken as I opened my heart up and entrusted him with it.

Now, after all that I’ve been through, having lost Chuck, I may be willing to do it all over again. It was an experience that has enriched my life, increased the depth of the scope of my vision as to what life has to hold, and it has allowed me to know that it is “better to have loved than never to have loved at all.” A big risk, as I forge my new beginning but, in the scheme of things, what is life without risk?

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Read more about how I rose from the depths of grief in Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/qghzw3e

On Being Alone

Black Women Are Exhausted - The Riveter

After my husband passed away in 2009, I would face many challenges, one of which was being alone. When I was a teenager, I yearned to be free of the responsibility of caring for my younger brothers and sisters. They were wonderful, but sometimes devilish and a handful. Many years later, I would have that desired time to myself which would last at least four or five years. After that period in my life, I would never live alone again until my husband passed away.

I got used to the rhythm of my life with my husband and son: academic life, social activities, work life, family time. Chuck and I rarely spent time away from each other and we seldom went away without one another. Once he went on a weekend Marine Biology retreat and another time when his beloved dad died, he spent the weekend at his parents’ brownstone in Brooklyn. I went on several girls’ trips to the spa, the beach, but I always, always missed my husband Chuck and couldn’t wait to get home to see him again. He was my lifelong partner, my compadre, my everything. When I cared for him when he was ill I was the devoted caretaker fulfilling my vow “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”. I have often thought that he would have taken much better care of me as that was his nature, to take care undauntingly, willingly, lovingly, steadfastly, but I gave it my best.

I recall once when I had gone out with girlfriends and became suddenly ill, later attributed to something I had eaten, I had to leave the restaurant unexpectedly. A dear friend of mine hopped in a cab with me and rode with me home. When I arrived, there was my Chuck ready to greet me. He wasn’t repelled by my disheveled appearance, he just took my hand and led me upstairs, helped me undress and saw to it that I got cleaned up and put into bed straight away. He washed my clothes, and fed me crackers, he even called our doctor, and talked to me till I fell asleep. I didn’t have to ask him if he could take care of me, he just did and knew the right thing to do. It comes with the territory you know- love, commitment, caring for the one you love.

black-couple-hugging | BARONEZA

Years later and a short time after Chuck had passed away, when I was living all alone, I came down with a virus. As I lay in my bed writhing with pain , I had that moment where I came to the realization that I was truly alone. The one person I could rely on to be there for me emotionally and physically was gone. That stark reality at that time led me to weep in my pain, tears of enormous sorrow. But that incident was also the beginning of my slow awareness that I would have to be there for myself from then on. No more consolation, no more words of comfort, no more kisses, no more hugs. It took awhile to acclimate myself to my new way of living. Alone, alone, all alone, just me, myself and me again. Soon I would come to appreciate my time spent with me.

This brings me to the time we’re living in now. We’ve been asked to stay home during this pandemic, and as the outside world begins to open up people are understandably anxious to get out and get on the move. Still others remain cautious. Most people I speak to have recreated their lives in ways that prevent them from getting cabin fever or going stir crazy. A daily walk, masked, and then back home again. Sitting out in the yard in a controlled space, and terraces and balconies in urban settings, are very essential at this time.

For me, this time, reminds me of that period of my life when I had lost my husband forever, and had to figure out how to navigate my aloneness and see what that would be like; it was a process. Like then, after we were shut in, on lockdown, I felt untethered to my known world anxious to hear my friends’ voices, but soon after I’d retreat to my space, choosing to become re-acquainted with myself, my work, my home, my life, my soul.

This moment in time, I believe, is meant for us all to get re-acquainted with ourselves. Putting down cell phones, giving social media a break, re-evaluating our material possessions, reconnecting with books, thinking, doing and knowing, and experiencing the unbearable lightness of being. It’s time to face regrets and fears and demons and it’s a good place to renovate ourselves so that we come out of this better. This is the time when we must think about the unthinkable, but the inevitable, our own mortality, and how we make our time left, whether 10, 30 or 50 years more meaningful.

Why are so many people afraid of getting to know themselves more fully, more intimately? Probably because they’re afraid of what they may encounter hidden within the crevices of their subconscious. The rush, rush of the daily no longer exists in this time, so what excuse do we have for not connecting with the one person we are closest to, ourselves? There’s only so much ZOOM, FaceTime, Go To Meetngs, etc., keeping one connected to others, still outer directed, that we can do until it becomes another distraction from being one with ourselves. We should be able to find contentment within, once we take the time to excavate our souls. This takes undivided attention which this unanticipated fortuitous time provides. No need to be anxious even as loneliness sets in. You are meant to care for yourself as no other person can. You will slowly begin to be with others again overtime, but who will you be, what will you have learned, who do you have to forgive, what do you have to forget? How will you fulfill your purpose, the reason that you are here?

Setting Self-Care Intentions: The Guide Women of Color Need

We must seize the moment to step into our inner sanctum, amidst the quiet and solitude. Some have probably never visited that place before because it’s too scary to deal with the parts of us that lie dormant waiting to be awakened, given attention, looked at closely and made peace with. The human touch, your human touch, is there for you at this time as you practice self care, since no one else is available to care for you, but you. Our normal lives are full of distractions, so in this unusual time that is not what we need. One day someone may be put in your stead who can be there for you in that way but don’t count on it. In the meantime you will have to care for yourself, and you can do it, no matter how much of a people person you say you are. You can vibe on your alone time and cherish it when you’re done. Do not focus on the loneliness but on the happiness and the joy that you will find as you enter your inner sanctum and turn your loneliness into wholeness. You may have to step on prickly thorns along the way, but that is what this life is meant to be,uncomfortability leads to growth if we push through. Then when this incredible time in history comes to a close you will feel as if you can step into the next chapter, knowing that time was not wasted, as you walk into the new normal that awaits YOU and Us.

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

Signs of Love II -Mother’s Day

Anyone who knows me well or who has at least read my book, they’re familiar with the fact that I do believe that the dead can communicate with the living and vice versa. My belief is based on my own unexpected experiences immediately after my husband had passed away. There were actually, once I became aware of what was occurring around me, several cluster events in the very first two years. They were unexpected, sometimes frightening, reassuring and/or comforting.

I also believe that through these events we can develop a new relationship with a spouse and even get answers to lingering questions that remain with a widow or widower. Once you realize that you’re experiencing what I call something supernatural, after the initial shock, you can begin to talk to their spirit as if they were still alive. You’ll find that this practice might actually assist with your grieving process as it becomes a tangible outlet for you anxiety and sorrow. You’re not just holding in your feelings but you’re giving them a voice. You may soon hear, find or see answers to many questions coming to you as a sudden thought or in a dream. You might even stumble across a tangible item or piece of information that resolves a gnawing question or brings closure to issues that may have been causing you anger, angst, or regret.

As the years have passed since my Chuck has been gone, I no longer have these experiences on a regular basis. I do believe that for myself whatever signs Chuck sent me in the early days after his death, the purpose was to bring me comfort as his spirit made it’s way onto it’s new world and I forged a new path on my own. Once I recognized these unusual occurrences as something more than routine, I was very reluctant to share what I was experiencing with others, except with a close chosen few. Actually, the first time I revealed my experiences was in a chapter in my book, Brave in a New World , called The Supernatural.

This new reality in my new world did not only mean I had to adapt to a new way of being but I also had to navigate another realm, one that seemed on the precipice of life, while I made sure I wouldn’t be engulfed in it.

I have found that in recent years, particularly as people begin to lose loved ones, folks are more open to the possibility of communing or receiving messages from the dead. Once, I had a doctor, after I had completed a visit, turn to me and ask,”So, have you had any apparitions from your husband?” I’m asked, on occasion, if I’ve received signs from my husband. I even recall aunts and my grandmother discussing how they’d been visited by brothers, sisters and parents. I was young and just thought this was “crazy talk”, but now I find that people do not summarily dismiss this possibility and are even eager to share their own experiences with me. So I conclude that when it comes to signs  from those who have passed onto the afterlife, anything is possible as long as one is open to that possibility. Some are not and that is fine.

This all brings me to this Mother’s Day 2020. When my son was born he was the beautiful boy with the deep dark pools for eyes. So many people saw him as an old soul who might have even been here before. At the time of his birth a couple of people said to me,“We know you wanted a girl but God sent you a son. He was sent here to help you, you’ll see.” I’ve never forgotten those words and my son has proven them to be true. He is the reason that I am a mother and a proud one at that. As I continue to live each day during this odd, surreal year with this Corona Virus Pandemic, I’m managing to feel pretty okay with an occasional bout of anxiety.

I’m pretty transparent about my feelings,as I don’t see the need to be the stalwart, the strong one with the the stiff upper lip. This is a scary time and although I have a strong faith, I still can feel vulnerable and admit it. I meditate, work on writing projects and I have a myriad of house projects to keep me distracted. One of my projects that I have going, is to weed out some books from my library. This past week , as I pulled out a few from a shelf, out fell a card, a Mother’s Day card, with a beautiful pop up flower in the center bearing Chuck’s signature. I have no idea how it got there or where it came from. It seemed familiar, but to have it appear now, when the world we live in is going through the worst of times, where everything seems so tentative and fragile, was a comfort amidst the chaos. At this time when life seems interrupted and the future uncertain, it is what my soul needed, craved really, a sign of reassurance and Chuck did not disappoint. If he were alive, he would have been the protective loving reassuring person I’d married and whom I miss, not always,but at this moment in time. Thus, this sign, allowed me to know that he was still near.He’d been quiet for years, but sent a sign when I needed it most. It assured me that I am not alone and that no matter the outcome all will be well.

In the sacred busy-ness of your day, whether, purging ,organizing,reading,exercising, you may find yourself feeling anxious or uncertain about what the future may hold. There’s this stark reality that your partner is no longer here to accompany you on this journey.I suggest you get quiet, reach out, and see what the universe gives you back.  It will always give you back what you need even if you don’t know in what form that will be. For me it was this beautiful Mother’s Day card five days before Mother’s Day in this uncertain time. The reassurance that someone is looking out for me, practicing Divine Social Distancing, along with my son, let me know that whatever the future holds all will be fine with me.

                     

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

 

I’ve Lost My Spouse….And Now This

When my husband passed away in 2009, I was so sad and devastated I could barely breathe. As I tried to adjust to my new life without him it was touch and go for me everyday. The  chaotic emotional aftermath of his loss became my new world, my new normal, and consumed my life at that time. I could feel myself experiencing severe anxiety and sometimes felt off balanced. Thus, the day to day struggle to breathe and remain present took every bit of strength I had in me.

A few months after he died I went for an eye exam and it was discovered that I had cataracts. The shock that I got from hearing that news made me feel even more alone, vulnerable and hopeless. “How could I have cataracts? That was what old people got”, I mused. Then a brutal reality set in that I was no longer young and that I actually qualified for many senior citizen benefits. Who knew?In the world that Chuck and I lived in together we seemed immune to the signs of aging. “I wondered,”Like, what is that?

“Also, to top it off, my right knee, which had been a problem for me over the years, really began to give me a lot of pain. After a visit to my MD and after a slew of X-rays I was told that I would eventually need a knee replacement. This operation would eventually take place two years later. When that time arrived, I was fortunate to have had great friends and family around to support me. Someone, out of the blue, even offered to accompany me to the surgery as they understood I would be missing the presence and assurance of my husband. This person offered to be a stand in of sorts so that I wouldn’t feel afraid or alone. At that moment in time that meant everything to me.

I say  all of this to say that each new disconcerting health issue that popped up, filled me with anxiety and also drew my attention to the fact that Chuck was no longer present. Hence, I began to miss him more and on another level  felt myself begin to slip away, as I confronted the fact that I was falling apart and facing my own mortality. Death, at that time, seemed a welcome respite from all the bad news I’d been receiving health wise in those early years. Death would at least allow me to be with my husband again, I theorized, back then.

How do I overcome my fears and not let worries overwhelm me and ...

At some point,however, I did decide that I wanted to live and not die and that I had to face each ensuing bad news head on, bravely and resolutely. As I did, and as I realized that neither diagnosis was going to lead me to certain death, I gained the courage to face each and every new challenge as best as I could, sensing Chuck’s spirit was with me, placing the right people in my path to assist and comfort me, even if for a brief moment in time. I was never disappointed and always grateful as my life continued to change.

Several people would contact me to let me know of folks who’d had replacements, and they all assured me that I’d be better off than before. When it came time for the surgery I was fortified and ready to get it done, and I never regretted that decision, as I was able to walk better than ever. Five years after I’d been diagnosed with a cataract and it was time for that surgery, little did I know that this girl, who has worn glasses since she was five years old, would be able to see clearer than ever before.

Which brings me to today, the NOW, the very moment we’re in. One day it’ll be known as in the Time of Coronavirus, but now, for many of us, it’s a state of being locked down & shut in for an indeterminate amount of time. We’re washing our hands, spraying everything we touch with antibacterial solutions, wearing masks and pondering our futures a lot.

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How long will our world be this way? Who can tell? It’s like Groundhog Day, everyday. We have to adhere to guidelines and wait it out. We can look at countries that have gone through what we’re going through a little before us here in the US, and as we watch their experiences, trial and error, trying to recover, moving forward into their “new normal”, we are also learning  that new symptoms and challenges of this virus arise daily. It’s all so much to take in, and can affect all of us in ways that are unsettling. However, for those  who have lost a spouse, maybe two years ago, four years ago, last year, last month, 10 years ago,  10 days ago, this  must be the very last thing you could ever imagine being a part of. The added loss of freedom of mobility and independence, close contact with loved ones, and the fear of contracting an invisible disease is compounded by the fact that you’re experiencing all of this without your husband or wife by your side. There’s also the fact that you might feel more anxious, nervous, frightened and unsteady. Plus you’re social distancing at a time when you really could use a hug. When a spouse dies one is often becomes confused and out of sorts. The events of today, with the disease spreading around the globe, afflicting thousands upon thousands of people, makes those who are grieving feel more insecure and unsteady, shaking one’s very foundation. Please remember that although we’re going through the worst, having lost our spouses, compounded by this unprecedented event, history shows that if we follow guidelines and use common sense we will survive these uncertain times.

What Should We be Doing During this Forced Confinement ?

I believe it’s an opportunity for us to focus on our lives without our partner and think about how we’re going to lead and create a new life going forward. We must remember that this life never promised that we would be exempt from adversity. We must continue to focus on grieving, but plan for the future as this pandemic will usher us into a new normal.Those who have been grieving for a while are already used to this new normal. As we live our life on pause we can take this opportunity, one which we will probably never have again, to reassess our lives.We can focus on adjusting to life without our spouse, and we can have conversations with ourselves, as well as with our departed loved ones, creating a new relationship with them and with ourselves. We should assess every aspect of our lives and  move in a direction that feeds our souls and helps us to feel for others as well as ourselves. This practice will bring forth answers from our spirit that will guide us into our next chapter. This next phase of our lives should be more fulfilling, authentic and full of empathy for others. You may also find your grief compounded by new losses from this disease. Take this time to grieve those lost souls, and try to get a handle on the fear and anxiety, which is normal, because this is a scary time. To say that it is not would be disingenuous.

 

The familiar rotation of the stars and planets continue and the sun and the moon remain in their familiar place in the heavens. Know also the seasons are still changing and all of the familiar yearly seasonal signs are still occurring, which assures us that all is not lost. The earth hasn’t exploded, and as we care for it going forward, it should continue to be a reliable source of comfort as we wrestle with and make peace with our new normal, post pandemic. Although this has proven to be overwhelming and challenging, we will learn from both of these events, the loss of our spouse and this pandemic. We will learn great lessons which will inform our lives as we step into our new normal along with the whole wide world. With each passing day we will see that we have survived, that we have gained a new strength and awareness, that our hope to be able to pull through is continuing to unfold.We will feel a new confidence with the knowledge that we are brave and will survive it all.

Be present with your feelings, don’t judge them or hold them in contempt, but let them come and go as they are a part of who you are, a part of how you feel life. You must now know that anything you do in your daily life has a ripple effect across the world. We are all connected and maybe this knowledge will help us to do better, be better, live better. Rest assured in the knowledge that you will not die, but live stronger than before having come through these anxious times walking by faith and by sight.

Change is Coming | Athlete Movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 where I lived until I was seven.

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 Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, My Shadow, which I would recite often, 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 like Isadora Duncan, with a very handsome young man whom my parents loved (sadly I did not) ,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, 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 some time 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. I then 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 4 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 deep 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow me, The Blooming Widow on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/thebloomingwidow/

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. 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 landmarks and monuments that make New York City what it is. I loved going out with my dad as it  was a special time between me and him. I could talk all I want, ask a zillion questions, and he never seemed to mind, in fact he encouraged my inquisitive nature and curious mind.

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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. 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 very low brow, racist and an extreme example of yellow journalism, stoking the fears of some at the expense of others, but, oh yes,  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.