Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy New Year...Happier Blog Posts!

As 2012 winds down, I see how my life has been so blessed. With the completion of my book, I can now focus on a different track for my blog posts. My story of grief and beyond is just one story. I'd like to share other widows' stories in the coming year.

I'd also like to share information about grief. Becoming a social worker has made me realize that knowledge is helpful in grief. I plan on posting articles from others that have informative advice or suggestions relating to grief.

Please e-mail me if you would like to share your story or have an article you'd like me to post to share with other widows.
Blessings to all for a Happy and Healthy, New Year!!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Book Give Away Winner for 12/21/12....

Peggy Sweeney! Congratulations Peggy!!

I want to thank all my blog members. Thank you!! I'll continue this blog in the New Year. I plan to post grief resources along with widows' personal stories in how they pursued their new goals and dreams. We each have a different and unique story to tell.

When I was a young widow with young children, one of the best things I ever did was to read other widows' personal stories of how they worked through their grief. It felt like they were my tour guide since no one else could understand what I was going through. That is one reason I wrote my book.

For my last book give away for December, become one of my Twitter followers, and tweet or retweet my book link. I'll announce the winner next Saturday, 12/29/12.

Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

And the winner for this week, 12/14, is.....

Marisol Garza! Congratulations to Marisol who shared with her facebook friends, my book link to and won the first drawing of my December's book give away. Thank you to my other friends, Pat, Celinda, Trish, April, and Carol who also shared my link.

By sharing my story, I hope to help other widows by:

1) Providing them comfort that they are not alone in their grief
2) Giving them insight into their own journeys
3) Shedding light on the stages of grief and what to expect
4) Preparing them for the normal, emotional and physical feelings that others may not understand
5) Encouraging them to find God's guidance in their journeys

Please join my blog and become a member (if you're not already) and you'll be entered in the second drawing this month to win a free signed copy of my book. Drawing will be next Friday, 12/21/12. If for some reason you can't join (technology doesn't always cooperate!), leave me your name and contact info in the comments. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December Book Give Away

This month I will be giving a book away each week. For this week, please go to my face book page and share my most recent post on your page to be entered in my book give away. The winner will receive a free signed copy of my book. The drawing will be this Friday, 12/14/12.

I don't want to exclude anyone, so if you don't do facebook, please leave your name and contact info as a comment to this blog. Thank you!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

When Grief Subsides....What's Beyond?

Grief a major part of a widow/widower's life. Although everyone works through grief in their own way, there are still some similarities. I'd guess the majority of widow/widowers go through various stages of shock, denial, guilt, anger, depression, and hopefully acceptance. But every journey will also be unique.

Once we work through our stages of grief and accept our loss, the grief begins to subside. Then we have to decide what we're going to do with our life. There are endless possibilities of new goals and dreams for our future. Each one of us will have a different story to tell. Some widows remarry within a few years. Some widows are content never to marry again. It is all an individual choice.

I spent 14 years of being a single widow, before I remarried. The first few years I worked through grief and also wanted to help my daughters through grief without adding a stepfather to their lives. I prayed for God's direction and went back to school while I declined a marriage proposal. There were choices I had to make and I chose to follow God's plan for my life. It made living more peaceful and easier.

In my book, A WIDOW"S PURSUIT: Finding Out There's More to Life Than Grief, I wrote about my challenges that I went through in grief and beyond. How I made new future dreams and goals. I share how I conquered many challenges of being an independent and single woman. (When I had no intentions of wanting to be single again!) But once I accepted my fate, I made the best of single life.

Not every widow will experience what I did. But this is my story. A personal memoir of how I pursued my faith to overcome grief and consequences to that decision is where I discovered an amazing life after my loss. I not only found purpose from my loss but I was rewarded with God's blessings and peace in my life. He was able to fulfill and sustain me through some of my darkest moments.

Once my grief subsided, and I began to make new goals, I felt like a butterfly, about to take her first flight. Each widow from this point will have a different story to tell. A different ending and a new beginning. I hope that I can encourage other widows not only by sharing the end of my grief but also by sharing my new beginnings. My book is now available on

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A Time to Mourn, a Time to Dance...Be Careful!

My first year of being a widow centered around my grief. It was all about me. Once I figured out I couldn't do it on my own, I surrendered to God to heal my broken heart. Then I mourned. It felt like knives stabbing my chest every night. I now know how a spouse can die from a broken heart. I never felt pain so deep and raw before. But every night, I poured out my grief until I was utterly exhausted and passed out.

I soon felt God's peace filling my emptiness. There was a bit of sadness when I no longer felt the deep pain since the pain made me feel closer to Nelson. But it began to subside in the second year of widowhood as I felt some moments of joy again. I began to make plans for my future after I had grieved for my dreams that were shattered.

As I picked myself up, I signed up for a dance class to add some happiness to my life. The class was a Latin dance class and I loved the music. Once I started going to classes, I also began going out to dance clubs. This felt fun and exciting. I began to realize that this was one way to also get the attention from men that I was craving.

I met a nice guy while I was out dancing one night. Our relationship consisted of phone calls and sporadic nights of dancing. It met my physical needs when we slow danced. Soon he wanted more of a commitment. I ached for the physical touch but wasn't ready for an emotional attachment. I ended our friendship before one of us got hurt. I realized dancing with men could get complicated.

I continued going out dancing at every opportunity. It felt good. Much better than mourning and grieving. Dancing was enough for now. I was able to get the attention from men, but it ended on the dance floor. The music made me feel happy. I began meeting more people and even felt like life was coming back into me.

I reflected that dancing in the nightclubs had some drawbacks. I had to be careful not to find myself in vulnerable situations. I had a way of trusting people. I wanted to believe that men were just at the clubs to dance and have fun like I was. This single life was starting to have some fun moments but at the same time I had to keep my guard up.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Widow's Fear of the Future

It was time to plan a future. The first year of widowhood was the hardest. The second year wasn't a piece of cake, but I felt a bit of joy at times and a little less pain. Once I accepted my loss and realized I was the head of my family now, it was time to move forward. I've written on moving forward at specific times in my grief before. Letting go of a spouse's possessions is just one example. I was beyond that. I was getting ready to move forward as a single individual ready to make future goals.

In one way it was an exciting feeling. I decided to take a 3 week course at my local college called, "Fresh Start". It was a program for single women who needed a fresh start in their lives. It provided the tools and resources to decide on a future plan and actions to take to achieve that goal. I also signed up for a dance class.

I decided a Latin dance class would be fun. The night I met Nelson, we were at a night club when I was eighteen. Being Puerto Rican, he had been a great Latin dancer. Five years later, we married. Through the years he had tried to teach me the dances, and I just figured there would be more time for dancing in the future. Didn't work out that way. So now, when I heard the Latin music, I had a desire to want to dance. I think it made me feel closer to Nelson again.

I sensed adventures on the horizon. Like a butterfly teetering on a branch before her first flight. Or right before you jump out of a plane to skydive! There seemed to be endless possibilities of direction. I sensed these college courses would change my life. I felt excited but also fearful of my future. I started to reflect on my past again.

For one and a half years, sorrow had filled my life. Sometimes I didn't want the sadness to leave. It felt like I was leaving Nelson behind. I guess I felt guilty. There was something familiar and comfortable with grief in my life. As painful as it was, it was still my comfort zone. I knew what to expect....cry...feel lonely....dread holidays and birthdays...dwell on certain memories....

So now, to embark on a new future, I had to step out of my comfort zone. This was scary and unfamiliar. I was fearful of the future with no idea of what to expect. However, I could stay in my comfort zone of sorrow, for as long as I wanted, or I could explore a new experience. To me, the second option sounded more appealing and exciting. Yes, it was scary, but just like jumping out of a plane, (Which I did for the first time last year!) the fear leaves soon after the initial jump.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Praying for Direction after Loss

It took about a year and a half of widowhood to finally accept the fact that life would go on and I had to make new goals and dreams. My previous ones vanished without warning. So here I was, widowed (in other words...single) and raising two little girls. What do I do now?

So I prayed. I figured that God knew this was going to happen. So He should have a new plan for me. But what could it be?

"God, help me hear your voice and direct me to a new constructive change in my life. I'm getting bored of the same routine."

Later  that day, I stopped by the library and ran into a recently young widowed friend. "Hi, Fran." I sat down at her table. "How are you?" She picked up a college paper next to her. "Pretty good. I just finished a class at Daytona Beach College. You might be interested." She found the page and handed it to me. "It's called Fresh Start. The class is for widows like us who need a new start in life. There's a three-week course in November."

"Is this a sign, God?" I read the course description. "It sounds perfect for me. This will help me find out what I want to do with my life."

I hugged Fran. "I think you're God's angel today. You were an answer to prayer!"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

How do we know our child's depressed in grief?

Depression in grief was sometimes hard to shake. It came in the first year of widowhood and then made another appearance in the second year. Since I wasn't normally prone to depression, it frustrated me even more that I would be in that state. Logically, I knew that I had to be proactive to pull myself out of it.

Fighting the blues meant paying less attention to my girls. I also knew I'd be no help to them if depression pulled me under. So I did whatever was in my power to fight it. I forced myself to pray, exercise, eat well, sleep enough and keep social.

I then took a trip to visit some friends. As I sat on the beach one night and gazed at the sunset, I felt God's peace. I realized I had to appreciate what I had and life wasn't all that bad. I had wonderful friends and God created such a beautiful world. My mood started to pick up and I was able to conquer my depression.

Back at home a new school year began. When report cards came out, I was shocked. "Jessica! Your grades dropped!" Jessica turned the TV on and sat down in front of it. "So." I pushed on. " need to study more." Jessica looked at me. "I don't want to." I flipped the TV off. "You have chores to do, also!"

"You can't make me do anything!" Jessica stormed out to the garage, hopped on her bike and sped down the road. I stood there, speechless. She's nine years old and running away. She hates her life. She returned 20 minutes later. After dinner, she was restricted to her room. She fell asleep early, without a fight.

Before I went to bed, I peeked in her room. She had put a picture of her daddy next to her bed. So that's what this is about! Why didn't I see it? She's still hurting and is depressed. I realized that my daughter had lived through not only the loss of her father, but also from the loss of love from her mother.

Finally out of my depression, I had to help my daughter out of hers and let her know that life wasn't that bad and I was here to love her!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dating vs. Children...What's a Widow's Priority?

I finally got to the place, in my second year of widowhood, that I felt ready to date. I had broken the attachment I had with my late husband. I found someone that I was interested in and felt some happy moments. We first met at a party and from there, our friendship grew from our phone calls. When he asked me out for our first date, I took some time to think about it. This was a big step.

Once I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be in a dating relationship, I was ready to go out with this new man. I think he sensed my hesitation in the beginning. We had to reschedule our first date due to bad weather for a boat ride so I patiently waited for the next opportunity. The day finally came. He asked me to go out that following Wednesday night for dinner and a boat ride.

Oh no! That was my daughter's, birthday. I recently felt that I had been taken care of my children's physical needs of being fed, clothed, and involved in activities, however, I also felt I'd been depriving them of their emotional needs. I already planned that I would be spending the day with Jessica on her birthday.

I couldn't believe I waited so long to go out with this man, and of all days! Why Wednesday? My heart sank. "I'm gonna have to pass. I'm so sorry. Can we do it next week?" A silent moment passed. "I'll call you back." He never did.

Our timing was off. I may have felt ready to date, but it couldn't be my priority. My daughters needed me. They didn't need their mother giving attention to a man; they needed their mother giving attention to them. I had to rebuild a relationship with my children before building a relationship with a new man.

I'm here to tell you many years later, that raising children on my own was one of the hardest jobs I've ever had to do. I was able to build such strong bonds with each of my daughters that we are very best friends today. If I hadn't taken them as my priority, to let them both know just how special they were, I'm not sure they would have the self-confidence and joyful spirit that they have today.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Broken Bond in Widowhood

My heart had belonged to Nelson. It yearned for no one else as if still attached to my former husband. And then one day it happened. I met a guy and felt an attraction. For the first time in over a year, I felt a bit of excitement when talking with another man.

Our friendship started to slowly grow as we had more phone calls in getting to know each other. Toward the end of one of our phone conversations, this man asked me out for lunch. At this point I panicked. Oh no! I don't know. I was scared. This would be a big step. I told him I needed some time to think about it.

Days passed without a phone call. A complex fear began to grow in my life. I lost my appetite and had problems sleeping. My heart struggled against my mind. I could not resolve the battle within me. I didn't understand what was holding me back. Was it because this was the first attraction to another man? I felt as though my heart was trying to escape from my hold.

I allowed myself to feel happy with this new man. Suddenly, my emotional bond with my former husband broke free like a rubber band stretched to its limit and then snaps apart. In one way I felt severely depressed about the finality of my loss and in another way my heart felt freed to love again.

Once our phone calls started up again, I was ready to see him. We made a date to go out for a boat ride. The day arrived along with a downpour of rain. We had to cancel our plans. Disappointed, I waited for our next opportunity. I was ready to start a relationship with this new man. It was as though I had broken the attachment with my former husband in my widowhood.

So where would this lead me? Was I really ready for a relationship? Would this fit into my life with children and career goals? I really didn't know, but it felt exciting. For a moment, I felt happy. I wanted to savor the feeling that I hadn't felt in quite a while. Stay tuned.....

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Widow's Time to Surrender

I had come a long way in my widowhood. As time marched on in the second year, I had a new awakening. I heard in church one Sunday that a church friend's husband had died that week from a sudden heart attack. How sad. She's going to be a young widow like I am with 2 children. I finally understood why everyone was crying for me when Nelson died. They were not only sad for his death, but they were sad for me, too. At the time I didn't get it. I was in God's cocoon and couldn't see my future.

I felt like I broke out of my cocoon and transformed to a young butterfly. The pain was finally subsiding. I had accepted my loss and felt ready to make future plans. I needed to search my options for the coming year. I sensed there was nothing holding me back. My confidence was high. And just like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, there were heights I could reach that a caterpillar could only dream of.

I began to consider that college would be a smart choice for a new career goal. I had been a hairdresser and then a substitute teacher at an elementary schoool. I had taken one Spanish class about 20 years ago which was the extent of my college background! But now, I wanted a career to help people that were struggling with pain. I knew what that felt like. Perhaps obtaining a counseling degree. I was fortunate enough to have family and friends that provided me support in my grief.

I was at a place where I had to make new dreams and goals for my life. The ones I had were shattered and destroyed. But what if I started on my way with new goals and the same thing happens? What if I invest years of time into something that never materializes? I was 36 six years old. We're talking years of homework and sacrificing much of my social life. Would it be worth the years of effort?

Then I wondered, where did God want me to start? You would think I would have gotten it by now. I believed God was in control of it all. Why did I think or even consider that I could do it on my own. I had begun to realize that if I'm living in God's will for my life, everything goes smoothly and I feel His peace. When I'm going against His plan for my life, things don't work as well. This was not an easy lesson to learn. But I realized that it was time to surrender.

And WHY should I surrender? Because I knew if I prayed and listened carefully for God's direction, he would not lead me astray. I knew that whatever He had planned for my future He would give me the strength to do it. If I went against His will, there would be consequences. And afterall, my dreams and goals were already shattered once, why try to do it my way if it wasn't going to work anyway. Might as well surrender to God and find out what He wants to do with my life!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Don't Be a Vulnerable Widow Like I Was

During my first and second year of widowhood, I trusted most men that knew my former husband. I assumed the last thing they would ever do was disrespect him or me. I felt that Nelson's friends were my friends and we shared a connection. Little did I know, there were men, that knew my husband, and would wait for a vulnerable moment with a widow.

It happened to me one evening at a friend's birthday party. I knew everyone there and most of them had been Nelson's friends, also. I wasn't ready to date but I did enjoy the conversation and attention from other males.  My first mistake was trying a new drink that made me a little tipsy.

Caught off guard, a sympathetic friend, that knew Nelson, sat next to me. While we talked, he casually touched my shoulder and arm now and then. It seemed very innocent and I didn't think too much about it. But then, he touched my leg! Oh no! I didn't feel that was proper. I froze. Maybe it was an accident. He was married!

It happened a few more times. I felt it was inappropriate but I couldn't say anything to him. There were people all around us. How much more obvious could he be? I excused myself to the bathroom. When I stood up, I quickly grabbed the chair to catch my balance. Whew! I shouldn't have had that drink.

When I exited the bathroom into the dark, master bedroom, he was there... silently waiting. As he approached me, I slowly processed what was going on in my fuzzy mind. He clenched my arm. I pulled back. He tried to quietly convince me that I wanted and needed him. HOW DARE HE! I jerked away and escaped his hold relaying the message that I wasn't interested.

I bolted out of the bedroom. How could he think he'd get away with that? I should have said something on the first improper touch. That was the one and only time that ever happened to me. So widows beware!! If anyone else has a story to share that might help a vulnerable widow, please share.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

My First Date....What about my rings?

With conflicting feelings, I made the decision to go on my first date, on July 4th, in my 15th month of widowhood. I couldn't believe I was actually going to go through with this. I was both nervous and excited. I felt like a little girl preparing to step out in the big world. There was a part of me that was very scared.

I found my manicure set and began pampering myself. I studied my hands. My wedding rings...still on my left hand. I should at least move them to my right. I solemnly switched them. This was a step toward my independence. How interesting that I was changing them on July 4th...Independence Day.

It seemed like the right time to move forward. To me, changing the rings to my right hand signified that I was no longer married, but I still couldn't bear to take them off. It symbolized the love I lived for so many years. I felt that if I kept them on my left hand, it would show disrespect to my former husband and to my date.

I wasn't exactly sure why I wanted to date. Especially since I had been so set against it. I guess part of me wanted that male attention. Phil picked me up and we went to a very nice restaurant. Even though I was bombarded with thoughts of, "I can't believe I'm doing this!", I felt very comfortable in Phil's company. My need for male conversation and attention was met during dinner. It stopped there.

I wasn't sure if Phil expected more but my body language spewed out frigid phrases as: "Don't touch me!" and "Don't even think about a kiss!" He was a gentleman and I believe he read my body language very well. Although the evening had fun moments, I realized I wasn't ready for dating.

My heart still ached for Nelson. Maybe one day I'd be ready, but not now.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Should I or Shouldn't I....Date?

I was 15 months into widowhood. My girlfriends were my source of friendship and socializing. Up to now, I had no intentions of getting remarried, or to even go on a date. My friend Lisa introduced me to a single man and a group of us went out for lunch. I was only interested at this time to have a friendship with a male.

About a month after our group lunch, this man asked me to get together for July 4th. At first I agreed, but as the day got closer, I cancelled. That would've been too much like a date! I couldn't do it. What do other widows do in this situation? I decided to read about other widows' experiences with this topic.

I read about a widow that was 30 years older than me. It was interesting to find out that she did not rely on the Lord like I had, but instead used resources such as support groups. I realized that regardless of how we each worked through grief, we still had similar feelings.

This woman told of one of her first dates on July 4th, in her 15th month of widowhood. As she nervously prepared, she yearned not only for finding a male friend but also to have more physical contact. I was also going into my 15th month and how coincidental that I could go out on my first date on July 4th. I really just wanted some attention from a male and have a male friend. Nothing more.

The following day, I called my "male friend" and told him I'd get together with him for July 4th. "Great, let me take you out to dinner." I accepted his offer. Suddenly, I felt this would be more than just a friendship dinner. It was going to be a date. Should I or shouldn't I? It was a little bit too late to back out. There was something inside me that felt excited about it. I couldn't believe I was going through with it!

Life quickly got more complicated. I recently said I didn't want to date. No one was ever going to take Nelson's place so why would I even date anyone. But I also liked the attention I was receiving from this man. What was so wrong with that since we were just friends? Couldn't we remain friends? So if we were just friends going out to dinner, would this actually be a DATE??? Any comments?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

I Just Wanted a Male Friend

Is there such a thing as having male friends when you're a grieving widow?? I guess it depends if that male is satisfied with only being a friend. As simple as this concept seemed, it felt more complicated. Having an enormous void in my life, from my husband's death over a year ago, I didn't want any committed relationship but a male friend would have been nice.

My new friend, Lisa, wanted to help. She had a single man in mind. In a vulnerable moment, I agreed to meet this man. The day landed on "Memorial Day", and it was a memory I'll never forget. We decided that both our families and "Phil" would meet at the pizzeria. This way, it wasn't actually a date.

My daughters, Jessica, 8 yrs old, and Nicole, 7 yrs old, intuitively knew something was up. Throughout lunch, they kept a close eye on me. Phil had a great sense of humor like my husband did. I liked that. But he wasn't as tall. I realized I was comparing Phil to my former husband and knew this wasn't fair to Phil.

"I had a good time, Phil," I said as we walked out to the parking lot. "It was nice meeting you." Nicole pulled on my arm towards our car to end any more conversation. Jessica glared at me while she fastened her seatbelt. "'re never going to marry again!" Nicole then added from the backseat, "And I'll kill anyone that tries to marry you!" As I replied, "He's just a friend."

Poor Phil...our first victim. A little over a week ago I said I wouldn't date anyone. I only wanted to meet Phil to become friends. But why did I want a male friend? I wasn't sure, but meeting a new man was kind of exciting.

I had started new relationships with girlfriends and decided it would be nice to have some guy friends. This I thought would satisfy a void. And could I stop with just being "friends"? I was hoping I could. Can any other widows relate?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Awakening in Grief - New Friends

Once I accepted being a widow and life would never be the same, I knew challenges were on the horizon. I was focused on my loss for over a year, feeling as if I was in a thick fog, and could only see a few feet in front of me. Now the fog was lifting and I could see different scenery. One of my first experiences was making new friends.

Lisa and her family moved in across the street from us. When I told her my widowed stories, she empathized with my loss. When I spoke about Nelson to my other friends that were grieving him also, I felt his absence.With Lisa, she just listened to me and felt sorry that I was a widow.

New friendships began to feel good. It signified my life as an individual and brought more independence to my life. I couldn't rely on Nelson to keep the conversation going. Besides, Nelson had been the life of the party. My new friends never experienced that so it was easier not to have to fill those shoes.

Lisa thought I should be dating since it had been over a year. I didn't feel ready for dates but I did contemplate male friendship. Was that possible? Nelson was my best friend, so I never needed any other male friends. Of course, my girlfriends' husbands were my friends, but I wouldn't call them up on the phone to chat.

I was still content with just my girlfriends. My social life increased as I accepted more get togethers with new and old friends. This was a huge step. The first year of widowhood I preferred to be around familiar friends in small gatherings. Now, as God placed new people in my life, I saw the value in new friends.

Having new friends, meant new adventures. It was a way to keep moving through grief. God brought me new friends for different reasons. My new friend Lisa had an agenda. She did not want me to remain single. Read more next week when Lisa talks me into meeting my first male friend. Do other widows have friends like this?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Look How Far I've Come. What Next?

Since this past January, I've shared with you my first year of widowhood. Which also meant, living through the hardest part of grief. It was all about me and trying to see through the fog that had engulfed me. It was like, I couldn't really see where I was going. I made some wrong turns, went off course, (sometimes waaaaayyyyyy off course), got back on track, then stumbled on my way again.

Looking back, part 1 of my journey was over. It was similar to walking through the thickest part of the forest and I was beginning to see light filtering through the trees. I still had a ways to go as I continued on. I had to make a new life in part 2. This required accepting I was a widow. Hated that word! I preferred to think of myself as an independent woman that had an agenda to pursue.

In pursuing new goals and dreams, there were new awakenings that caught me off guard. I began making new friends but ran into problems when I not only made new girlfriends, but wanted male friends, too. This became very confusing. So then began new experiences of dating, a vulnerable situation, new male relationships, and what to do with my rings.

And just like I had no idea what to do in the first steps of being a widow, the second part felt just as foreign. Please continue my journey with me as I figure out where I want to go in life. How do I make new dreams? What kind of goals is God leading me to? What are my new priorities in life? And how do I reach the completion of grief and go beyond to find abundant joy and purpose?

I do confess that by this time, in my second year, I'm trying to follow God's plan for my life. And where I end up, I couldn't have been happier or more purpose filled. You'll soon find out that I've written a book and I'm currently in the process of getting it published. Again, it's all in God's timing.

Stay tuned next week for the beginning of part 2 of the new challenges I had to face. You can also type in your e-mail address (see blog's right side) and automatically get my blog posts e-mailed to you every week. Also, please join my site if you're able to. This shows me who stops by and reads my posts. That means a lot to me:) 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"I'll Never Marry Again!" (Did I say NEVER?)

So it was just over a year that I became a widow. I was doing ok. I had my good days and my not so good days. But over all, life was tolerable. I was getting use to being a single mom and accepting the fact that this was my new and permanent life.

"Are you dating anyone?" A family member innocently asked me. I CAN'T BELIEVE HE ASKED ME THAT! "No, and I don't plan to," I said. "Nobody will ever take Nelson's place, and I'll never marry again." He looked at me doubtfully.

I didn't understand why people would ask me that question. Couldn't they understand if you love someone with all your heart you won't desire anyone else. I already felt the Lord would always take care of my family. I clung to the Scripture verse that stated it was better to stay unmarried:

1 Corinthians 7: 8-9 "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say; It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am, But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion."

If I could continue to have self-control, this is what the Lord would prefer. I had to understand that everyone had their own opinion. It didn't make sense to argue. I knew in my heart that I would remain single to probably the day I died.

Well, I did remain single for many years until seven years into my widowhood I met someone that I couldn't live without. As much as I had enjoyed my single life and independence, there still wasn't anything that beats having someone to love and to be loved in return.

I've been remarried now for three wonderful years. One lesson I've learned is to treasure every relationship every day because we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Nothing is permanent, it's just temporarily beautiful!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Child's Time to Grieve

As an adult, in a dangerous situation, we put the oxygen mask on ourself first, and then we give it to our child. Well, widowhood was like a disaster that hit my life. In the first year of grief, I needed everyone else's help before I could help my children. My daughters, 6 and 7 at the time, not only didn't have a father that first year, but their mother was absent as well.

I felt depleted. I was emotionally unavailable to them and wrapped up in my own grief. The little sense I did have, I made sure they met with their school counselor. I had no idea how they were processing their grief and if they were even doing ok.

We also had some family conferences with the guidance counselor. My daughters were able to talk about their feelings. The counselor reassured me that they had a healthy understanding of what happened. This relieved me since I had been consumed with my own thoughts. Even though we lived under the same roof I had no idea how my children were coping.

I kept going that first year mainly on faith. I didn't feel death was final when I had hope in eternal life. I know my girls heard me say that alot. I also think God was carrying them that first year. I imagined they were cradled in His arms as a protecting Father until I was well enough to meet their physical and emotional needs. I think the spiritual needs were covered.

Once the first year of widowhood was behind me, I felt stronger. I thought more about my children's needs. My oldest daughter attended a weekend hospice camp, for children who had lost a loved one. The day I picked her up they had closing ceremonies. Each child shared an experience from the weekend. I didn't know whether to feel happy or sad for them. It was tragic these children suffered a loss but fortunate that they found joy again.

The following year, both my girls attended the hospice camp and also went to a children's eight week hospice grief support group. A counselor told me it can take children up to four and a half years to work through grief. So after the first year of it being ALL ABOUT ME, for several years after it was then ALL ABOUT THEM. There were times I was ready to move on, to new goals and relationships, but I backed up and sacrificed moving forward until my children caught up.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Year Gone By

I don't know why, but I felt like it was a big accomplishment to make it through the first year of widowhood. I wanted to scream, "I made it!" (Whatever that meant.) It was a milestone. It was one full year of living through every holiday, birthday, anniversary, and season without my loved one. It had to be the worst year ever. And it was finally over.

With a sigh of relief, the time seemed right to clean out the rest of Nelson's possessions. Whatever I couldn't keep, I gave to family or friends. This was done of course on my good days. I moved in life as though in waves. Sometimes I'd forge ahead a little happier with energy, and then just as quickly, get drawn back into sadness and knocked down in despair.

During this time, I recognized my friends' compassion, who knew our situation, and how much of a difference this made on our family. A few months ago, what seemed like a good idea to move out of state, I realized it had been a terrible idea. "Thank you, God, that I listened to my friends who told me not to do anything for a year." Now, I couldn't imagine life without our friends' love and support.

I began accepting more social invitations. I noticed that the more outgoing I became, the more sociable people were towards me. As my self-confidence grew, it became easier to fight my negative feelings. And those depressed feelings were sometimes right around the corner. At times I had control over my emotions and at other times I'd lose control and feel like he just died the other day.

One of the hardest situations I still had to face, was attending my children's school functions. I proudly watched as they participated in the end of the year talent show to show off their dance and gymnastic abilities. I was on cloud nine watching them but once it ended my mood sank as I watched the other dads applaud. Knowing that my daughters will never experience their father's approval again, how sad is that?!!

So I began giving myself the "Blessing Lecture" every time I felt like I was going down. God blessed us with a certain amount of years with Nelson. When Nelson was on this earth, he filled us with more love than some people hardly find in a life time. We had wonderful memories of him as a husband and father. This helped me to pick myself up, brush off my tears, and saddle back into living life. Living life with amazing daughters, a wonderful family, and irreplaceable friends!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Widow's Commemoration

I would imagine that most widows dread the anniversary day of their husbands death. Especially the first year. Kind of like a holiday or birthday, it's a BIG one. As the day approached for me, I contemplated what to do. It felt too big of a day NOT to talk about it. But who would really bring the subject up?  I realized that I would have to make the effort to talk or suffer alone in silence.

"I'll invite our friends to go out on the thirteenth, in memory of Nelson. Why ignore the day? It would just make the pain worse. This way, we can be together to comfort each other." For our night out, my friends and I went to a neighborhood pizzeria. It was four couples and myself, which accentuated Nelson's absence all the more. Our evening consisted of sharing our memories of Nelson.

The evening seemed healing for not only me but my friends, too. Not one of us had wanted Nelson to die. He was a wonderful person. We all had funny memorable stories to share. We laughed together and I felt a sense of joy to have these wonderful friends in my life. I bought a round of drinks and toasted to everyone's glass, "I couldn't have done it without each and every one of you this past year."

I felt Nelson was close by. I wondered if our feelings and soul could connect to the spiritual world. Or did I just want him here so badly? I knew I wouldn't know that answer until I died. So for now, I decided to enjoy the relationships of family and friends that were presently in my life. And this special night would become a new memory. A memory of how much my friends loved me.

"Cindy, these are for you." Sal handed me a bouquet of roses. "Nelson would have bought them for you." Tears filled my eyes. "All of you are so sweet. I couldn't have made it through this day without your company." And to this day, many years later, I have memories of that evening. Of the first anniversary of my former husband's passing. Memories that are so sweet. Good memories.

There are other ways to commemorate. Coming from another widow's blog, Heatache to Healing, read Joanne's post, "As Time Goes By - Celebrate and Remember". She begins; Do you remember the song “As Time Goes By?” it was made famous in the movie “Casablanca” and hundreds of artists have performed it over the years. Time going by is a fact of life and yet when you are grieving the loss of a loved one time can feel as if it stopped.

So if you are contemplating what to do on that memorable day, I hope you don't suffer in silence. Call a friend and make a plan. Share stories of your loved one. Laugh, cry, and reminisce. You may find that you'll be making new memories, too. And it may help to soften the pain just a little more. "Cheers, to you and your support system that keep you going!"

Saturday, July 28, 2012

When PTSD Strikes in Grief

As if going through the emotional stages of grief aren't enough...shock, denial, anger, depression, and guilt. Then I found out there are physical symptoms of distress. The first year of widowhood is just crazy!

I didn't know at times if I was coming or going but I couldn't stop moving. Sometimes this meant traveling the U.S. to visit our family and friends. Other times it meant talking on the phone just about all night because I didn't want to go to bed alone. The adrenaline I had pumping through my body felt like a steady flow of caffeine. Eventually my body said ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

As the one year anniversary approached, that I became a widow, I caught a cold. Not only did I feel tired and fatigued but I ended up physically and emotionally drained. At first, I didn't understand why I felt so run down and couldn't get better. I was told from a friend, who had also experienced a tragic loss in her life, "It sounds like post-traumatic stress disorder." She explained that stress from a past event will bring the illness on. Your body breaks down from all the pain it's lived through.

I realized that I had neglected my body pretty badly this past year. I had multiple sleepless nights from anxiety, as if I had drank endless pots of coffee. "And you traveled the world, never stopping to catch your breath," my friend, Carol reminded me. "You were probably scared to stop, to face what happened." And once I thought about it I realized that I didn't want to stop. But now I had to. My body was too exhausted. But I felt better that I now had a logical explanation.

It was now a time to rest. The Lord says in Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." I knew the time had come.

My blogger friend, Ferree, from Widows Christian Place, raises an interesting question as her blog post this past month....

Does Resting in the Lord Equal Trusting in the Lord?
Ferree writes....I came across the following passage and thought it fits perfectly with my Saturday's theme of urging widows to rest. Grief drains, exhausts, and stresses people out emotionally, spiritually and physically. Rest in each of those areas is essential. Here's a good here for the rest of Ferree's post from Widows Christian Place.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Joy After the Mourning

One of my first sighs of relief, came right before the first year anniversary of my former husband's death. It felt as if I had been on a very long journey and I got to finally stop and rest for a short while. I was tired of mourning. Grief in the first year of widowhood was just down right exhausting!

Instead of withdrawing into sadness as the one year anniversary approached, my busy schedule kept me moving ahead. I reached a new stage in my grief journey where for short periods, I could find comfort and happiness. I found a weekend to myself when my daughters had a weekend sleepover.With no parental responsibilities, I made up my mind to go out and have fun.

I went out dancing and socializing with some friends and it felt good to have some excitement back in my life. This may have been a turning point and revelation that there was more to life than grief. I also began to realize how powerful the mind is when you put your mind to something.

I knew there was going to be more sad and depressed days. More disorientated feelings of ups and downs. This was natural. But I was satisfied that I could find 10 to 20 percent of my days becoming more joyful than I had within the last year. Some people would say,"Oh, I still feel sad and depressed most of the time...80 to 90 percent of the time". I saw my glass 10 to 20 percent filled.

I'm a believer that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% in how we react to it. It's in our attitude. What good does it do to beat ourselves up over becoming a widow? Can we change anything back? No. And of course we didn't want this to happen. In fact we wished it never did. But unfortunately it happened.

Now, I was in the middle of a transformation in my life. I wasn't sure at this point what I'd be changing into, but I knew that I was in the process of finding a new me. And I knew deep down somewhere that I wanted to be happy again. God promises us that, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5 NKJV).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Everyone's So Happy...It's Sickening!

The higher the enthusiasm at the dance studio rose, the lower and more depressed I felt. I didn't want to be part of this excitement. Most of the dancers' fathers went to the competitions. I had to go by myself. The lonely widow. It wasn't fair!

"Mommy, how do I look?" My seven year old daughter, Nicole, stood in front of me ready to join the eight other girls in her lyrical group for her first competition. "Like an angel." I smiled. I was happy watching her during the performance. It didn't matter if they even won. It just gave me comfort while I watched her dance.

But as soon as the song ended, my comfort vanished. I didn't want to be there. Everyone was so happy, it was sickening. I just wanted to hide in a corner and cry. I didn't feel like I belonged sitting with the parents. Nelson should be here like the other dads. Here I am--alone again! It's almost a year and it still hurts.

My friend, Dinah, and her husband, Arturo, were at the competition with their daughters. "Come sit with us for the awards," Dinah said. "Are you feeling OK? You're awfully quiet." I sat down next to them and stared at the stage. "I'm fine."

I just wanted this over so I could leave. And the minute the awards concluded, I stood up to go. "Do you and Nicole want to go eat with us?" Dinah asked. "No, I just want to go home." I quickly left before having to talk to anyone else.

I realized how lonely and sad I still felt at times. And I also knew that I still needed my friends' help. Why would I push Dinah away when she was trying to help me? It's hard enough having a widow friend, then to have a sad and depressed one that's pushing you away. I felt awful and knew I had to apologize to her.

Even after this realization, I still went through periods of not wanting to be around "happy" people. Especially when it came to recitals and activities that other fathers were a part of. But I always liked being around my friends, even if they were happy. They were there to gently guide me back to a healthy state of mind. They loved me unconditionally until one day, I could love again and be happy, too.

And now I'm one of those "happy" people. And I'm sorry if any one reading this is sickened by that. There will come a day...when happiness reigns again for you!

P.S. Next week there will be no blog. I'll be on vacation, and I'll be visiting my "happy" friends, Dinah and Aruturo. And I'll be very "HAPPY"!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Moments of Comfort in Grief

There were dreams, and then there were dreams that brought me comfort. Dreams where I'd see my former husband, Nelson, and know without a doubt that he was close by. I dreamt one night that I could see what he was doing in heaven, and that he was happy, healthy, and youthful. Other times, I'd cry to God for a sign. God never let me down. Nelson would come to me in a dream and wrap his arms around me. I'd know it was him by his embrace.

These moments of comfort kept my hope for eternal life alive. As the one year anniversary of Nelson's death approached, there seemed to be more moments of final comfort along with higher anxiety levels. These moments of comfort and anxiety were magnified in my life.

About 2 months before this monumental event of completing my first year of widowhood, my youngest daughter, Nicole, would be celebrating her seventh birthday. It would be the first birthday party I'd have to throw for one of my daughters by myself. Nelson always loved throwing the girls' birthday parties but now it was all up to me.  I didn't like it one bit. But it was time to suck it up and make it a memorable day for my seven year old.

We celebrated Nicole's birthday at the bowling alley, the day before her birthday. All of Nicole's friends showed up along with many of mine and Nelson's. The presence and support of my husband's friends emphasized Nelson's absence but also brought me peace to know how much we were loved. 

The comfort came the following morning. Nicole woke up on her birthday in a daze. "Mom!" Nicole's eyes opened wide. "I had a dream of Daddy! I was surfing at the beach. A huge wave came crashing over me and then Daddy came. He wrapped his arms around me and saved me! I felt him holding me, Mommy, he really hugged me. I could feel it!" Joy burst into my heart. Nicole felt a moment of comfort, too. And what better day but her birthday!

I believed that her father could have come to her and held her even if no one else believed it was real. The dream comforted us and helped us to go on. My children had their own grief journeys they were on and deserved to have their moments of comfort, too! Do you believe that dreams in grief are real, too?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tossed Back and Forth in Time

How can it feel like it happened yesterday, but then seem so long ago? I'd been a widow through the first year of holidays, summer vacations, birthdays and our would have been 12 year anniversary. In one way I felt like a conqueror but also anxious for the year to be over. I felt like a year marker would be some sort of a relief. Like, "I DID IT! I made it through one year!"

I reached the point in my grief where it was time to put away the rest of the sympathy cards. As I read each card again, it brought me back to yesterday (10 months ago). It still seemed hard to grasp. Felt like it happened just the other day. Where did the time go? I knew it was time to let go if I wanted to move forward. I put the cards with the others in the funeral book.

I looked around the house; time had taken its toll. I realized I had to maintain it by myself now. "Do you and your husband want all the carpets cleaned?" the carpet cleaner man asked me as he brought his cleaning machine into the house. "Actually, I'm a widow." After a pause and some embarrassment, we shared a few stories and laughs. It felt like ages since my husband had died.

I wasn't ready by any stretch of the imagination for a relationship. In fact, I still had my mind made up that I wasn't even going to date. It was just nice to have some casual conversation and a few laughs with a male. How I missed laughing with Nelson. It felt like just the other day I was having laughs with my best friend. Now I'm laughing with another male in my home.

It wasn't time to let go of the comfort from thinking about my former spouse. He brought smiles to my heart. He was still a part of my life and my heart still felt connected to his. I would always remain faithful to him. I would wait until we were together again. It wouldn't be long. The ten months that went by, was like a day. Like it had just been yesterday.

And so was my life for a while. Feeling like he had just passed yesterday and then feeling as if it had been so long ago. When it was yesterday....I'd feel his closeness. I relished the memories that were so close that I could practically touch them. And when it felt so long ago, I'd look to the heavens and see where God would lead me next. There was a sadness in that time of letting go, but there was also an element of curiosity. What is the plan for my life now?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When Widows Should Heed Their Friends' Advice

During my first year of widowhood, most of my friends had no idea what I was going through but they had more common sense than I did. I did know I was crazy for awhile. I realized I was feeling and behaving in ways that were so out of my character. For the most part, I did what I wanted to do, went where I wanted to go, and seldom considered the consequences. And for the majority of the time, my friends stuck with me and just let me be me.

So when a time came when I was on the verge of possibly making a huge mistake for my family, my friends, being friends, gave me some advice. When my former husband died, we lived in a single family home, in a neighborhood with many friends. I had promised my daughters that we would continue to live there. Nine months or so into my widowhood, I felt as if being tossed back and forth. I knew I had to let go of the past, accept what happened, and move forward.

With bi-polar feelings, there were still days I'd wallow in tears. I knew I couldn't go back but I cried for the memories. Then, on possibly the very next day, I'd be looking forward to and planning what my next move would entail. My parents and only sibling lived in the Carolinas. Living in Florida, I felt further away than I wanted to be from my family. I came up with what I thought was a logical idea to move to North Carolina where my family lived and have a support system.

My friends came to my rescue. There's a saying for the widow..."Don't do any big moves in the first year!". Some widows don't have a choice but to move. However, in my situation the cons for moving outweighed the pros. My support system were my friends. They were like sisters to me. My daughters were happy in their school, in their neighborhood, and involved with dance and gymnastics. A lot of people in our community knew our situation, and that alone was comforting.

I listened and considered my friends' advice not to move for at least a year. Well, I thought, that's only 3 or 4 more months. I can wait it out. And as the last couple months of the first year winded down,  I realized how much it didn't make sense to move at this time. It didn't mean at all that I didn't love my family. It meant why would I uproot my daughters and myself when we were surrounded by people that already loved us. Why would I subject my family to another change so soon?

When a year was up, the last thing I wanted to do was move. I believe one purpose for having friends in grief is listening to their advice because they have more sense than the grieving widow. I was still in a fog and couldn't see the whole picture. So in my case it was true, I wasn't ready to make any big decisions until a year had passed. My friends knew that and loved me enough to tell me. That's what friends are for!!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lesson Learned From Widowed Friends

As a widow or not, we all have different groups of friends. I have school friends from grade school through grad school. I have coworker friends from different jobs as well as neighborhood friends I've made throughout the country. I have my Christian friends and church friends to feed my soul along with my special friends that are with me for the long haul. I can't forget about my Facebook and Twitter friends. And last but not widow friends.

Now all my friends hold a very special place in my heart. And each one has a purpose in my life. Soon after my late husband died, I consciously looked for any of my widow friends to find out what life was going to be like. Now days, there are widow blogs and other social networking means to find a multitude of widows. Back in the day, I only had a few widow friends that I could talk to.

It made a world of difference to talk with others that have been on that road. It was a common bond of widowhood. It felt healing to share each other's experiences and recognize that life goes on. Reading other widows' stories helped me to understand some of my crazy feelings and unhealthy behaviors. Grief makes you do crazy stuff. So when you hear other widows that have gone wild, then you don't feel as crazy. I guess it's a little comforting to know that we're all looney!

There was one huge lesson I learned, from other young widows. It was easy for some of them to get involved, almost immediately, into a new relationship. For some it worked out but for others, it was a mistake. I understood very quickly how widows could easily fill their void with other men instead of living through the pain that's necessary for healing. I made up my mind, our healing would come first.

I lived single for another 14 years as I raised my children. My two daughters were 6 and 7 when their father died. Though I was totally against getting remarried for quite a while, God did bring another wonderful man into my life that I couldn't resist. However, this man was wise and he waited until my girls were adults before he proposed. And I believe that because my girls had their time to grieve with much of my undivided love and attention, they are now happy young ladies.

I understand that each widow's journey is different. I know some widows that are very happy and never remarried. I think the majority of widows do remarry because God made us to be relational. The lesson I learned here was when was my family's grieving period over so that I was ready to remarry.  Because I pursued God's will, I remained single and loved my children first. Now they are happy and on their own, and I'm happily remarried!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

No Fear After Death

When death took my loved one, my whole life was turned upside down. In the first 6 months of widowhood, I could have cared less if I died, so I could be with my loved one. I lived with little fear. I wasn't fearful of flying in planes or the approaching hurricane I lived through while visiting Puerto Rico. I had a calm inside me that gave me freedom. I was free to experience life without being afraid of anything.

Then little by little as the years went by, fear slipped into my life again. I believe this was healthy. It meant that I was living life again after accepting my loss and I didn't want to die anymore. I was hanging on to life and feared what could possibly happen. But I really don't like to live in fear and I try to fight any fears I do have.

So when my daughter gave me a Christmas gift to go skydiving with her, how could I resist! I'm not a big fan of flying in airplanes, but I love amusement park rides and the thrill of riding on motorcycles. I fought the fears inside and took a leap of faith (out the airplane door). It was an experience I'll never forget!

Yes, it was crazy! AND INSANE! But a lot of fun and I'm happy to still be alive. We might as well live life now with as little fear as possible and enjoy it. Because eternal life might be here before we know it!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How I Celebrated My Steps in Closure

As I proceeded through grief, after my spouse died, the ultimate goal was acceptance and closure. Closure began when I started putting away the sympathy cards and cleaning out the closets. As one door closed behind me, another would open in front of me. After 15 months, I finally changed my wedding rings from my left hand to my right hand (a big step in closure). And then I went out on my first date.

It felt like walking up a staircase. I had never been at the top of that particular staircase, so the closer I got to the top, the more exciting it became. I really didn't know what to expect but I did know it was a place that God had been leading me to. And at the top, I knew there would be more celebrations!

I had to climb 2 huge staircases. One was the grief journey from losing a husband, and the other one was raising my daughters. In both situations God was leading me and I was trusting in Him to get me to the end. I'm not sure I would have finished if I didn't have His help. Or both situations wouldn't have finished so wonderful without God's help. I have experienced many closures in both situations.

When it came to a year's anniversary that my husband had died, I made it a point to celebrate his life. A group of our friends went out for the evening to reminisce his life. It was a milestone in my grief journey. We did the same thing at the two year marker.Two years were just the first few steps in my staircase.

It wasn't until 5 years that we made a permanent move to a different state. This was a significant life change in my grief closure. I went back to school and earned a master's degree. It wasn't until I was widowed for seven years that I met my second husband. He waited for me until my children were on their own and then married me. What a celebration and reward after truly completing my grief journey!

Raising children as a single parent was just as hard. That staircase felt never ending at times. We had celebrations as they reached their milestones with dance recitals, gymnastic meets, and high school graduations. As my oldest daughter recently started her own family, and my youngest just graduated from college, I have finally reached parental freedom. And what will be my celebration to this closure? I'll be skydiving tomorrow with my daughter!! (Hope to be back for next week's blog!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Writing the Memories

During my first year of widowhood, memories of my husband flooded in from happier days. They were crystal our family vacations. We frequently flew to Puerto Rico to visit his parents. They would occasionally babysit and we'd run off to the beach for some time alone. I'd lie on the beach and listen to the Salsa music playing from the close-by, beachfront establishments. Nelson would play a few games of pool and then bring me back some yummy food.

Then there were the memories that came before the holidays. I'd remember Nelson just loved Thanksgiving! The more family and friends around him, the merrier he was. I reflected on one particular Thanksgiving with our friends, Lisa and Sal. We laughed so much that day that probably our sides hurt. Maybe you won't think it was as funny. But there are those times that you just had to be there.

Nelson and I arrived for Thanksgiving dinner just as Lisa ran out of milk for mashed potatoes. An hour later, when Lisa poured more milk in the cold potatoes to mash them, all she managed to get were lumps. Giggles in the kitchen became contagious. When the turkey was done, Sal lifted up the gizzard bag that he forgot to remove. Once we composed ourselves from laughing, we sat down to eat. For Lisa's next birthday, I included a box of instant mashed potatoes!

I could tell more stories. It's been 17 years since my late husband passed. I can remember the details because I wrote them down. In the first year of painful grief, every day I wrote the memories while I cried many tears. This helped me to progress through grief and now I have these memories forever with me. From the happy times to what I remembered when Nelson was dying in the hospital.

I believe that writing your memories is one way to become unstuck in your grief. I think sometimes we don't want to forget special moments we've had with our loved one and we keep our thoughts constantly on them, clinging to every detail. If we can get in a habit to write them down, it would be easier to move on. We would know that if the memories are written down, whether in a private journal or public blog, we could go to them whenever we felt the need.

Writing down memories takes time and courage. It's making a conscious effort to make it a priority. It takes guts, too. The tears will come and this helps you grieve. As you write the past this makes it easier to let go and move forward. These treasured memories will always be with you. And one day, as you read them, instead of crying tears, a smile will spread across your face!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's OK to be Depressed:( Sometimes

During the first few years of my widowhood, when I was working through my grief, I'd occasionally have to tackle the monster of "DEPRESSION". Of course the most obvious times were around holidays, special days of birthdays and anniversaries, and lifetime milestones of dance recitals, proms, and graduations. Then there were the longer episodes of depression when I was tired of doing it all alone. Times when everything seemed dark and I didn't want to be happy.

If the depression was caused by the anticipation of a special "day" or holiday, I could usually pull myself out of my slump once the occasion was over. Or, I'd be depressed to a certain degree when Friday and the weekend came but then relieved on Monday morning. My problem with depression was when the circumstances were constant. When every day I had to be mother, father, nurturer, and disciplinarian, etc. It was usually when I couldn't find relief that I'd slip into a depressed state.

I don't think depression is all that bad. I believe it's a healthy part of grieving. I'm not talking about clinical depression that requires medication. I'm talking about depression that you can shake off in a couple weeks. There were a few times I felt myself going down. I'd get stuck in a rut of some sort and just want to wallow in my sadness. I didn't want to be happy and I didn't want to be around happy people!

As I sank into my depression, I had enough sense to know what was happening. I knew it wasn't a good thing to become stuck in this stage. I knew somehow I'd have to pull myself out. Common sense told me, "get enough sleep", "eat well", "exercise" and "pray". This wasn't all, but it was a start. The key is finding out what works for each of us to break the force. For me, I had to change my routine. I would usually take a trip to visit friends or family that would make me feel happy again.

There are different degrees of depression. I've always been fortunate to pull myself out before it reached a danger zone. I believe a certain amount of depression is healthy now and then. It's part of a range of emotions that God created within us. Perhaps there are good reasons we are meant to temporarily go through the valleys. During these times we feel alone and have no one but God to call upon. 

So do we call upon God to help us through our depression? Or do we call upon a drug, a drink, or a person? From my experience, I'd call upon God to guide me out of my despair. I leaned on him and trusted him that he'd pull me through. He may have nudged me to take a trip or visit a friend. Of course He knew better than I did what it would take to pull me out of my darkness and back into the light.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Yearning for my Past. Why?

 I wanna be a little girl again. I wanna play with my friends, swing on my swing set, catch lightening bugs on warm summer nights, play hopscotch in the middle of the road, and run through my neighborhood playing tag, until my mom calls me home at dusk. I was happy back then. I'm not always happy now. I don't want to be a WIDOW!

During my first year of widowhood, I had to visit my childhood neighborhood. I wanted to reconnect with past relationships. "Cindy! What a surprise!" Cathy hugged me and then looked at my daughters whom she never met. "They're beautiful! Please, come in and visit." I entered the living room and memories raced in from over 25 years ago. Their 2 daughters had been my first friends. I remembered playing dolls in their house and running outdoors playing hide and seek in the back yard.

Their daughter, Rachel, lived close by, so I decided to surprise her, too. "Surprise!" I smiled at my childhood friend that I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Rachel's familiar face was still as pretty as I remembered. "I can't believe it!" Rachel's eyes widened with shock. "My mom told me about your husband. I'm so sorry. Come in." Rachel was one of my sweetest friends. It was a warm reunion making a new memory.

One of my uncle's, who I hadn't seen in years, lived a few minutes from Rachel. I contacted him next and we met for lunch. Remembering past family reunions brought up memories of me as a little girl. Now with children of my own, our relationship had changed. During our meal, my thoughts drifted between conversations. I realized time doesn't stand still. I was on a search to connect with my past. But what was the purpose to connect with long time family and friends?

I soon realized Nelson didn't consume all of my past memories. There were a lot before I met him. Connecting to childhood family and friends helped to put my grief in a different perspective. My late husband was only part of my life...not my whole life. I had been happy being a child but I was also happy being a wife. And now I was finding bits of happiness reconnecting to my past before I was even married.

I think sometimes in our grief, we are so consumed with the loss of our loved one that we can't see any other joyful moments we've had in life. When we realize that our loved one is only part of our life, and not our whole life, we can begin to live more independently. I didn't even know Nelson for the first 17 years of my life. I came to realize that I was very happy at one time without Nelson. Then, I was happy for the years we were married. Now, I'm learning how to make more happy memories for my future as a widow. Time doesn't stand still. Let's strive for happier moments!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

First Birthdays in Widowhood

My 35th birthday came a month into widowhood. One of my best friends took me out to dinner that evening. You really know who your closest friends are when it comes to celebrating birthdays and holidays in the first year. After all, how do you make it a celebration? Why would I want to celebrate my birthday on the first year of being a widow? Well, thank God for shock in the grief process. At least I was still numb when my birthday hit.

Now fast forward seven months and Nelson's 35th birthday was upon us. The shock had worn off by then. I was still trying to accept my loss and move on. Somehow, I had to make it through the day. "Girls, let's have a birthday cake for Daddy and invite some of our friends over," I suggested before they darted off to play. "Can we have ice-cream too?" Jessica asked as Nicole squealed with approval. "Yes." I smiled at their happy faces.

I invited Angela and Sal's family from next door along with Kelly and Joe's family from across the street. It was a bittersweet get-together. We all sang "Happy Birthday" to Nelson and then blew out a candle. The kids ate their cake and ice-cream then ran off to play. We sat and reminisced of our memories we had of Nelson. I needed this day of reflection with some of my close friends. It validated a beautiful marriage I had and a celebration of Nelson's life.

I was no expert, but I believed our celebration of Nelson's birthday had a healing effect on all of us, including our friends. It gave us an opportunity to reflect on favorite memories we had of Nelson. It brought us sadness, joy, and laughter. This in turn helped us take another step forward. We didn't have to forget and not talk about our grief of losing a loved one, rather it gave us all a chance to share how much this person meant to us. A gratifying experience.

We kept this tradition alive for many years. Of course as life goes on and changes, this ritual eventually ended. It served a purpose during our years of healing. Whether it's a birthday cake, or another way of celebrating your loved one's life, it's an important part of healing. It's a way to validate how important this person was in your life and shows your children that their parent is not forgotten!

I'm curious to know what others have done on their loved one's birthday. It might give other widows some ideas who have that date looming in front of them at this time. Somehow we have to get through the day. We can ignore the elephant in the room or we can accept the fact that though our loved one is no longer with us physically, they remain in our hearts forever. Let's share the love with others. How did or will you celebrate his birthday?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

First Male Caller- Poor Guy! I've Come a Long Way!

Friday the 13th this month...this year. It's been 17 years since the passing of my first husband. Seems like a life time ago. But when I open my book, that I condensed from my journals, I remember clearly how I felt during my grief journey. I have special memories that live close to my heart. Yes, I grieved deeply because I loved deeply. When I became a widow, for a long time I wanted to die a widow. No one could ever replace Nelson. No one could ever make me as happy!

About 6 months into my widowhood, I received my first phone call from a male. He was one of my friend's relatives that wanted to help me out. If he was one of Nelson's friends, I wouldn't have minded. But he didn't know Nelson, so why did he call? He left a voice message and freaked me out!! I didn't want the girls to hear a male's voice on our answering machine and I didn't want to talk to him!

I hysterically called my friend. "Tell him not to call me!" My heart was beating fast. I didn't want any man calling me unless they were Nelson's friends. Such a small matter in my life loomed like a skyscraper. You would have thought he was trying to force me to marry him. I never wanted to talk to any males on the phone, or date any males, and of course, NEVER marry anyone else. I told my girls that we didn't need any men around, and certainly didn't WANT any around either!

So how did I ever get remarried?? Here I am, 17 years later, happily married again and looking forward to our 3rd anniversary this June. I look back on those first couple years of widowhood. I wasn't going to budge. It was a process. And I do believe that for some widows, it is better not to remarry. There's nothing that feels more protecting than having God our father fill in as our husbands.

But there's this thing called human nature. I desired to love and to be loved. It took me a while to understand, but I finally realized that our hearts our big enough to love many people. Just as I love each of my daughters 100% each, I found out I could love another man 100%. Just as one child could never replace another child, my second husband will never replace my first. But that doesn't mean I love either one of them any less. It just means I'm blessed to have had 2 wonderful husbands!

What I did learn though, was that in order to love the second one 100%, you have to grieve the first completely. Each widow has her own time table and I recommend God as your guide. I could have made some really bad choices for our family but I choose the path less traveled by most. Continue on this journey with me and find out how I made it this far, with God's blessings, in a beautiful second marriage.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Widow's Protection- Don't Mess with Her

After my husband died, and I was ready to go through his belongings, I had to decide what to keep and what not to keep. I came across his .357 magnum. It had been locked in our safe for a half a year before I could make a decision of what to do with it. When my husband first bought it, I was horrified and mad. WHAT DID WE NEED A GUN FOR? In my opinion, we didn't have the money and there was no sense in purchasing one. But he loved this gun!!

I peered into the safe at the firearm. I didn't even know how to use it. There was some sense of power of having it even though it scared me. The idea to keep it seemed more logical now for protection. It was the three of us girls living by ourselves now. We had our Chow and I had a .357 magnum. The girls never knew about the gun. It remained locked away and out of their reach.

I decided that if I was going to keep it, I better learn how to shoot it. I called a local gun shop and arranged a class. The instructor tried to get more info from me but all I knew was that it was an automatic. "Well, when you come in," stated the instructor, "just make sure it's unloaded." "Umm...I don't know if it's unloaded," I replied. "And I have no idea how to check." I was petrified of it and thought that if I held it the wrong way, it might accidentally go off and shoot me!

Cautiously, I placed the gun on the front passenger's seat while I drove to the shop. "You have a .357 Magnum," the salesman said with a smirk, "and it's loaded." So what should I have said...I didn't know because I'm a woman. I am woman! And don't mess with me! I made up my mind that I was keeping it and would use it to protect my family if I had to!

The class had 2 sessions. The first session consisted of a video and how to operate the firearm. The following week, we'd go to a shooting range. I was unable to attend the 2nd session but my friend Trish suggested I practice with her uncle who frequently target practices. This sounded like a good idea, so a few afternoons later, I met up with her uncle for target practice. I was amazed at how well I shot. This boosted my self-confidence even more.

After this, the gun remained untouched in my safe for maybe another 7 years. Another spring cleaning episode caused me to rethink if I should keep it. I probably forgot how to use the darn thing! I had given up on the protection plan it originally offered so I gave it to my brother-in-law, who was a policeman. The only protection I needed was God's protection. And there's none more bullet-proof than that!!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Letting go to move forward

I'm sure my friends wondered why I still had the sympathy cards up 6 months after my husband died. I found them comforting. It visually confirmed all our friends and family that cared for my daughters and me. I wasn't ready to put them away. I needed to find a special place for them and decided one day I'd get around to it.

The closets were still untouched. One of Nelson's shirts had a musty smell. Had it been that long? My husband died in April and now it was October. Many friends offered their help. I knew they just loved me and wanted me to move on. Was I afraid that if I moved forward I'd have to let go of the past? Material things weren't important to me, however, I felt very possessive with Nelson's belongings.

Perhaps I was stuck in grief at this point. I think God knows how to nudge us when it's time to let go. Mornings were getting a little chilly. My friend, Dinah, called me one day to ask me what I was planning to do with Nelson's leather jacket. Dinah and her husband, Arturo, had been our very close friends.

My hand clenched the phone. "I hadn't thought about it," I said. "Well, Arturo was planning to buy a leather and if you're not keeping Nelson's, could Arturo have it?" Dinah asked. Our conversation caught me off guard. What if I wanted to keep it? But it was too big for me. The sleeves covered my fingers. I had no reason to keep it other than for sentimental reasons. It was Nelson's favorite coat!

Of course I gave the coat to Arturo. But when I did, I felt a part of Nelson go. God knew it was time and I had been holding on as long as I could. When Arturo picked up the jacket, my tears came later on that evening. In the midst of my painful cries, I suddenly felt God's peace flow through my body. He was my comforter.

The process of letting go became easier after this point. Closets got cleaned out and I felt like it was the right time. Now the cards were a different story. I waited until Christmas cards came in, then I replaced the sympathy cards with the Christmas cards. This was my way of adjusting. And I always did things my way! (With God's gentle nudging and guidance of course!)