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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.