An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yvonne Broady.
Yvonne Broady aka The Blooming Widow, is a former public-school educator turned author. Yvonne lost her husband to pancreatic cancer in 2009 and her experience with grief, loss and healing inspired her to write Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse. She blogs about her grief journey and shares comforting and helpful advice for those who have lost a spouse. Yvonne co-facilitates a healing grief group at the Riverside Church in New York City.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career?
Mylife was unexpectedly interrupted when my husband and I learned of his diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer back in 2007. After he passed away in Jan. 2009, I experienced deep sadness and anxiety and didn’t feel that I could cope or get past the grief. I also discovered that there weren’t any books that explained how one would feel as they grieved. Most of the books that I found were more clinical and general; there wasn’t anything to validate my feelings of anxiety, panic, and despair. I didn’t know anyone who had lost a spouse There wasn’t anyone who could advise me or corroborate the feelings I was having. After about a year and a half I decided to author a book that would assist others as they navigated their own grief journey. I wanted them to know that what they were going through was normal and that they were not alone.
Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
During my long grieving process, people would offer words of sympathy but sometimes the things that they said stung instead of helped. They would wonder why I was still wearing my wedding rings, or why I was still mourning after only a few months had passed. One person wanted to know how it felt to be single again. I decided that I couldn’t be the only one having these intrusive, insensitive words flung at me after losing a spouse. Figuring out how to respond to painful words, when I was already in pain, was what I wanted to find an answer to. Eventually I found my voice and learned how to advocate for myself.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My goal, when writing my book, was not only to share my experience in a way that was authentic and transparent, but also to give suggestions to widows on how to navigate their grief journey, find their voice, and move beyond the acute pain. Since the book was published, the response to my writing let me know that I’ve done just that. People have written to me and have stopped me on the street and told me how much the book has helped them. I wanted people to feel as though I was talking directly to them, and I believe that I’ve achieved that goal. I feel that my story has resonated with so many in a universal way. I wanted to let people know that they too, can get through the grieving process as they begin to pick up and rebuild their lives. They might even find their new lives are richer and better than before. During the process of grieving individuals may also find that they are being given new opportunities to turn their loss into something positive. With their resilient spirit, they may decide to give back to others in some way. This is what I did, turning my tragedy into my testimony. It is imperative, however, that they face their loss, lean into the grief, and not ignore it. It will never go away until it is met head on. I also wanted to empower those who grieve as they find themselves alone and attempting to rebuild a life oftentimes in a new era. It takes determination and commitment as well as time.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
To have courage is to face insurmountable odds, even in the face of fear and to be able to push forward through adversity. I would never have imagined that I would have been faced with such a horrific loss. I found myself clawing my way out of a dark abyss toward the light at the end of it. Giving up was not an option, and every day, even though I was like a wilted flower, my desire to survive, caused me to come back stronger as I marched into the unknown, embarking on my new life journey, alone. This to me is the mark of a resilient spirit, having the courage to withstand the storm and come out stronger, enlightened, and more fearless than ever before. The ability to continue to live life comes from facing adversities and strengthening that resilient muscle that we all possess, which is there to help us confront anything that comes our way, even those events that come out of the blue.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When I think about the most resilient person I know of, it is more a group of people that come to mind. I think about Africans who were enslaved against their will. Many were determined to survive and ultimately thrive such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nat Turner, Harriet Jacobs, Frederick Douglass, to name a few. They managed to escape the shackles of a cruel and horrible system and work toward the abolition of slavery as well as assist countless others to gain their freedom. Where did they find the wherewithal, the strength, and the resiliency to turn the tables on their masters and rise up to become leaders and role models in burgeoning African American communities as well as the world stage? To face the threat of death daily, live in fear, watch others die, to be extricated from their families, to be trapped in a foreign land, they found the resources and the inner strength to make a way out of no way. I find this to be the greatest example of resiliency for a people and but for them there go I.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway?
If you tell me there’s something I cannot do that is a motivator for me. In fact, words of discouragement will spur me on to do the impossible. Once, many years ago when I was forced to move out of an apartment because my roommate had decided to leave before our lease was up, I had to scramble and find a new place that I could afford on my schoolteacher’s meager salary. I could only afford $200 a month at that time. I remember going to the New York Times building in Manhattan on a Saturday night with a girlfriend and purchasing the Real Estate section the day before it came out. We browsed the paper and found a fabulous studio apartment unlike any other in my desired neighborhood for under two hundred dollars. Everyone said, “Oh, you will never find anything in that price range.” However, with my determination I thumbed my nose to the naysayers and was successful. In the face of an unexpected event, I managed to gather all my resources and pulled off an impossible move. That was my resilient spirit in action.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
When my husband died, that was one of the worst experiences I have ever had in my entire life. Although initially I was like a wilted flower, crying, depressed, anxious, and nearly spiritually dead, I was determined to lean into my grief, feel it and see where it would lead me. After grief counseling, bereavement group and pastoral care, plus the determination that I would survive, eventually I began to heal. Soon, I was like a blooming flower full of new life and hope, it was during this process when I decided to write Brave in a New World. I felt that if I could get through this period of great loss and grief and come out more resilient than ever then anyone, with my help, could too. It’s all about knowing what to expect and understanding that there’s a normal progression through the grieving process.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency?
My parents never hid their emotions. They were strong but they didn’t believe in keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity. I always felt comfortable crying and showing emotion if I needed to. As a result, I believe that real strength lies not in the ability to “hold it in,” which only makes one cold and brittle, but it is having the ability to show emotion and let it out. Allowing others to express their grief and sorrow, however they need to for as long as they need to, is an example of giving grace to others without trying to compound another’s grief with admonishments like, “Don’t cry” or “Just hold it in.” As a result, I have been able to deal with misfortune by meeting it head on as opposed to tucking it away and ignoring the accompanying feelings. I believe that my ability to face life’s difficulties has helped to strengthen my resilient spirit.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are five steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
When it comes to being resilient these are five things, that will help:
1. Continue to build up confidence, as you will draw on that to help withstand any adversity that comes your way.
2. Develop trust and work on overcoming the fear of the unknown. You are stronger than you know, and the Universe will meet you where you are to assist you in challenging times.
3.One must be willing to feel all the emotions that come with facing huge obstacles in times of adversity. Don’t block the sad and stressful emotions. Let it flow.
4. One must not be afraid to reach out and share with someone what they’re going through. Asking for help is the first step toward healing. You are not expected to do it all alone.
5. Find your voice and do not allow others to poke you as you heal from whatever circumstance you may find yourself in. Speak up, set boundaries as you let people know that you draw the line when it comes to what people can say and what they can’t. Stand up for yourself and tell people to stop when they say things to you that you find unacceptable.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I personally had to gather all my physical and spiritual resources to survive after I lost my husband, Chuck. It was the greatest undertaking of my life, but I was determined to not be swallowed up by my grief. I would want to tell all of those who are facing loss or any other tragic circumstance, that it is imperative that you make a conscious decision to not sink but to swim. If there is one thing that people need to understand it is that the key to surviving adversity is within them. At some point, not now, not even in the near future, but at some point, they will look back on what they went through as a watershed moment, and hopefully it will catapult them into a new direction as they enter a new chapter in their life. One’s resilience will help them to embrace new opportunities, which will be an outgrowth of a negative experience. We want to be able to embrace these second chances with newly gained confidence, fearlessness, hope and resilience.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement, it would be to encourage all women sixty plus to share their stories of resiliency, the lessons they’ve learned and the obstacles that they have had to overcome in their lives. Older women have the breadth of their lives in which they have gained wisdom, resiliency, insightfulness, intuitiveness, and the lessons that they’ve learned from lives long lived. Many have created something out of nothing. Some have had ideas born from the challenges that they’ve faced. After going through a great challenge and coming out on the other side, sharing stories could be the cautionary tale or the tale of encouragement that someone younger, who may be experiencing a life challenge, might need to hear. I would encourage others to start telling their stories. While there are many young people who are making great strides in the world today, older men and women, who are often discarded or ignored after a certain age, have a great wisdom to impart. Listening to how older people have faced challenges will inspire young people. Hopefully, a story heard will help someone as they face the challenges, that they will undoubtedly have in life. Hearing survival stories, like my own, may strengthen another’s ability to persevere in the hardest times and not give up. Many who have felt defeated at some point in their lives, because of the challenges that they have had to face, could be encouraged, and change course, if they know that there is hope for them and their situation.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
If I could meet with one individual it would be Oprah Winfrey. I truly admire how she didn’t allow her unfortunate childhood circumstances stop her from fulfilling her dreams. When she came on the scene in the early eighties, I had just gotten into metaphysical thought. A lot of her guests like Shakti Gawain, author of Creative Visualization for example, were aligned with where I was in my own spiritual journey. So, I got affirmation from her shows and life, particularly the shows regarding the spirit, visualization, and other metaphysical topics. I grew exponentially in my spiritual journey and always felt my feelings validated by her wisdom, and astute knowledge of how this life isn’t just about the physical plane. She may have been learning with me, but I was learning from her. She represents not only a resilient spirit, but she is an affirming, encouraging, enriching individual who has helped to upgrade the lives of women all over the globe. I began to see life not only in the physical but also in spiritual terms. I always felt aligned with her agenda as she stripped away the shackles of limited expectations and helped her followers embrace the freedom of being empowered.
All is possible, we have the power within us, like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, we all own them, we must just remember to click our heels. Oprah Winfrey taught me this. She is my mentor and one of the greatest influences in my life. She is an example of someone who, through the fruits of her labor, is, for me, the epitome of strength, fortitude, and resilience.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
One can follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YvonneBroadyAuthor/
On Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thebloomingwidow/?hl=en
They can read my blogs and follow my inspiring story of grief, hope and resiliency at: https://braveinanewworld.org/
They can also find healing guidance in my book Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/x522n57m
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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