Day 50: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.”
–Unknown Author

People will ask you, for years to come, “How did you get through that?”

 

You will tell them you didn’t have a choice, you just did it.

They will follow it up with, “I don’t know if I could have done it.”

You will tell them that they could have because in life, you just do what you have to do.

It really is exactly it. Life doesn’t ask if you are ready. It doesn’t knock gently and wait for you to answer the door. Life barges in, knocks you down, and raids your fridge.  And just like any intruder, you would be mad, sad, feel out of control and then you would dig deep, find your strength and pick up the pieces

People may not understand how to help you or how you manage to get up every morning–and that is okay. The important part is you do.

**one more thing to note: you will have days when you fall apart and you can’t find the strength to get out of the house, or even out of bed. That’s okay–it happens. Take that time to reflect and muster your strength for the next day.

 

 

Day 37: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really step to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.’” –Eleanor Roosevelt

I have faced several events in my life where I have wondered–endlessly wondered–how I could, or if I would, survive it. No one’s life is free of trouble–we all have our share of turmoil. Some have more than their fair share and some sail through life with few derailments. 

Whatever our path is, it’s ours to travel. And, no matter how we would like to climb in a hole and hope it all goes away, life just doesn’t work that way–it doesn’t. Often I have had people ask me how I have faced Randy’s death and continued on. Often I tell them the kids were my courage–and that’s true. They were definitely the reason I knew I had to stay a whole person. The honest answer to the question is I didn’t have a choice.

The good news is, with each experience you  slowly muddle through and come out the other side, you gain life skills to carry you through the next difficult experience. It’s these events–the ones that challenge us–that change us. If we do it right, we allow it to change us for the better.

There is no better time to stand up and face fear (nearly every fear you have ever had all at once). I don’t know that we ever heal completely. I am fairly certain we will never say that we are glad it happened–no, I’m completely certain that will never happen. There is a middle between happiness and climbing in a hole to wither away. What you will be able to do, in time, is be thankful you made it through and proud of the person you have become through a situation you once thought would consume you. You will be able to enjoy life again. And, whether you believe it or not, you will find blessings along this unexpected and painful journey.

Had I not lost Randy, I never would have gone to college. I also wouldn’t have ever discovered my true passions. I will never be glad we lost him (and I still miss him), but had it not been for tragedy I might have never have discovered who I am–what I was born to do. Beyond the obvious blessings, I would say learning how much strength I really have was amazing. I know now, there is little I cannot overcome. I also know even when situations bring me to my knees, I will stand again–no question–I will stand.

 

Day 21: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

“To keep our faces toward chance and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.” — Helen Keller

I can think of few people who had a harder life than Helen Keller–or at least few who had to try so hard to learn how to live life. Helen Keller was deaf and blind (and mute) after an illness when she was just a toddler. Suddenly, she was cut off from the world she used to be so in tune with.  Her senses blocked by her physical limitations. Isn’t that how you feel sometimes?

Even though she was cut off from the world, she adapted. It took the right teacher to reconnect her to the world. The illness may have stolen her senses, at least momentarily, but it could not steal her fight–beyond that, she didn’t let it steal her life. Her teacher taught her finger spelling. Her language and recovery progressed, Helen began determined to attend college. She entered school and learned to speak well enough for people to understand her and after 25 years, her determination paid off and she entered Cambridge Preparatory for Young Ladies. Helen mastered several types of language over the years and became a celebrity as well as a lecturer.  She advocated for the rights of blind people and the handicapped.

Helen Keller lived to be nearly 88 years old and remains a mentor to all who find themselves living through a nightmare. She remains a sterling example of how hard work and tenacity can bring you through the storm. You can live an amazing, albeit different from what you had planned, life full of rewards.

Day 13: 365 Days of Motivation for Widows

Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”                Matthew 11:28

I don’t know your spiritual or religious beliefs. I can tell you mine. I believe that Christ is my Savior and that he died on the cross to bear my sins. I believe in God as the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I can also tell you that on good days, this means a lot to me, but is easy to push to the side and think about something else. And, on bad days, when I find myself on my knees, this is all I can think about. Not necessarily proud of these facts, but they are honest.

I think there are times when everyone second guesses their faith, no matter what their faith is. When something tragic happens, like the death of a young person, it’s hard to understand. There is no way to make sense of it. When I found myself widowed and alone, I didn’t second guess my faith, but I did wonder how the pieces fit together. I couldn’t bear my worries by myself, so I asked, or begged, for answers. I begged for help, understanding, and strength.

I didn’t get the understanding, at least not for a long time, but I did get the help and strength. God carried me when I could not stand on my own. I was distraught and couldn’t see a way out, but He showed me. He gave me strength to go on. I was doing all the right things and didn’t know how I was doing it–that’s God. I wouldn’t say I felt restful, but I would say much of the heaviness lifted.

I know there are some, or many of you, who think this sounds strange because you don’t have a belief in God. You might not agree with anything I just said or you might angry that I would put such a testimony in this post. That’s okay–that is where you are and this is where I am and that is okay. I am not thrusting my beliefs on you or condemning yours. I encourage you to seek options. If what you are doing isn’t working or you don’t know how to find what you are seeking, now might be a good time to ask God for a little help. It couldn’t hurt. If you are a Christian or spiritual, but haven’t been close to God, I hope you reconnect with that side of you. If you are a devout Christian, lay your worries at His feet. Above all, I hope you find solace, understanding, and strength no matter what you believe.

Uniquely Young.

My first post was a long and emotional. It was as hard to write as it was to read and living it was almost unbearable. The whole process of grieving is absolutely complicated. Every person, even in similar circumstances, have very different grieving experiences. That’s perfectly normal.

I couldn’t lean on my family. When someone young dies (he had just turned twenty-five 4 days before that), it shakes everyone’s foundation. Young people are not supposed to die. My in-laws were devastated beyond comprehension. I’m not sure what I would do if I lost a child. Probably wish i were gone too.My parents and grandparents felt like he was a son, so they had a similar reaction. Plus, watching me, their own child, suffer was probably almost worse than their grief. For my friends, his death was hard because they could see themselves widowed, with children. They felt grief for Randy, sorrow for me and our families, and worry for their own families. My kids and I talked about missing Daddy and how sad we were. I wanted them to know it was okay to be sad. I couldn’t share my burden with them though. I truly had no one I felt I could share that burden with, besides God.

Believe me, I know that God carried me on days when I couldn’t find the strength to walk. There were many of those days. I did grow deeper in my faith. I needed to find my path and do the work. No one could do that for me, not even God. I looked for resources to help me. I couldn’t find any that were designed for young widows or young widows with children. I felt like I had to do it on my own. I don’t want you, or anyone, to go through this alone.

Don’t get me wrong. People stepped in to help me. More than I could have ever asked for. All of my stuff had to be moved back from the new house. My brother-in-law and friends did that. Before the move we had given away some furniture because we were replacing it with new when we moved. My family helped us do that. People watched my children whenever I wanted so I could go be by myself and do what I wanted. I just couldn’t, or wouldn’t, dump my emotional garbage on them and leave it for them to sort through. They had their own.

I think feeling like you have no one to share the burden with happens more for young widows than other widows. A young widow is also responsible for her children’s healing too.  The moment he died I was a single mom of three children under 7 years old. I didn’t have an education. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t know how long we would have healthcare. On top of that, I was dealing with lawyers to get bills paid that my insurance denied (I had to SUE my OWN insurance company to make them pay our bills from the accident that was caused by someone else, even though we had carried uninsured and under insured insurance for many years). Plus, there was a criminal case since he was ticketed for drunk driving. He (who is to remain nameless so I don’t somehow get in trouble)was charged with reckless homicide. He plead guilty. He was sentenced to probation (yes, probation), loss his license for 2 years, and would carry a felony conviction with him forever. I also started receiving nasty phone calls. I had tracing devices on my line and had to have a security system installed. That’s a lot for a person who wasn’t sure how to put both feet on the floor in the morning and cried herself to sleep at night.

I did find THREE things that helped me:

First, I donated my time to a Christian Pregnancy Center. Another passion of mine is teen moms because I was one. That was tough even with support. There are so many girls who do not have that support and I wanted to help. I couldn’t make myself feel better, so I thought I could help someone else feel better. Being there did help.

Secondly, I sought counseling. I was already reeling from Randy’s death when Sept. 11th happened It was less than a month later. I found myself sitting on my bed while the kids were in school, rocking and crying as I watched footage of people jumping from towers.

In my mind, I had just lost my past and my entire future and now, the world was on fire and people were jumping from sky scrapers. I knew my situation was bad, but those people and their families, had it worse. I felt like I was drowning. I was having panic attacks, although I didn’t know what they were at the time. I called Randy’s EAP and found a counselor in my area. She turned out to be a Godsend! Her sister had also lost a husband to a drunk driver. The kids went when they wanted. I went alone when I felt I needed to. The anxiety would build up every week, every appointment had its challenges, and every time I left that building, I felt better. We continued counseling for over a year. My counselor navigated everything WITH me, even the beginning stage of dating.

Later, about month 2 maybe, I did one more thing. I started working out. I had gained weight. It’s amazing how that year went. In January I was still pregnant and I gave birth towards the end of that month. By May, he thought he had a job over an hour away. By June, he was in his new job, we had found a brand new house (wasn’t even finished yet), and we were preparing ours for the market. By the weekend of August 14th, kids were registered in new school and all of our stuff was in the new house waiting to close. On that Saturday, August 18, Randy died.

I was having trouble with my periods. I thought it was all stress related, but all my kids had was me now. I had to be the best me I could be. Plus, I wasn’t sleeping and had SO much anger. I thought maybe working out would let me release some anger, take off some weight, and wear me out enough that I would fall asleep. It worked, on all accounts. I did get back on track and so did my periods.

Every experience has things happen that you could never predict. For me, some of these were amazing and restored my faith in humanity. Others, left me hurt.

I never could have predicted the wake  would be comforting. The outpouring of support was so uplifting. They estimated about 475 people waited in line for over an hour and a half to see me. I expected this to be torture. I cried, but not as much as I had expected. What I found was he was loved by many. What an impact we have on others. They all had their own message to relay and usually involved a story or three about Randy. How amazing. Comforting. Also, many people donated money to help us through. Amazing donations from people who might not even be able to afford it. It restored my faith in humanity. It showed me that when the chips are down, people, even strangers will step in.

On the flip side of that, there were some things that happened that broke my heart. I would go to the grocery store and see people I knew. It was a blessing and a curse. Part of me didn’t want to talk. I was just miserable. Part of me felt comfort when they would over to talk.  I can’t count the number of times I saw a person that normally would come talk to me, but instead, they looked at me and walked the other way. Hurtful. They didn’t mean to hurt me. I later would talk to some of them and say, ‘Hey, noticed you at Wal-Mart a while back, but I guess you didn’t see me’. Many said that they wanted to talk to me, but they didn’t know what to say to me and that it was just too painful to look at me. They explained that there was so much pain in me that it couldn’t be hidden.

As you move towards living again, you start wearing a smile. It’s fake, but you wear it because it makes other people feel better. People have preconceived ideas of how long a person should grieve. Some think you can grieve, but you have to be ‘normal’ again. They have no idea the depth of grief that lives in us. At first, people will call and they will make an effort to stop by. By the 6 month mark for me, I stopped getting visitors and calls. I actually had some people tell me that I needed to get my act together, it had been a long time. Who in the world are they to tell me how I should feel or for how long? It’s hard not to let that kind of stuff bother you.  It’s just as important to not let that kind of stuff bother you. This is your journey on your time and if you want to go the long way instead of taking the short cut, you should do it. In fact, I recommend it.

I don’t want to bore you with little details or every single step I made.  I don’t plan on taking you day by day account through my grief. Or even month by month. I would like to take you through some important aspects of my process. Just giving the highlights makes for an emotional and long read. I have some things I wrote way back then. I plan on sharing those, too. It’s interesting to look back at where my heart was then. There is something very unique about being a young widow.  We may be different and walking on different paths, but we share that bond. There are those who came before you, those who walk with you, and those who will follow you. May you find kinship and comfort in that.