By education and degree, I am a paralegal / settlement negotiator and after fifteen years in the legal profession, I left for an upper management position in the beauty industry. My husband Michael was a 28-year veteran of his police department and in 1998, was looking forward to retirement and his next chapter. Our daughter Kendall, was nine years old at that time. In September of 1998, Mike was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and battled the disease for just over two years before passing away.
Ten days prior to Mike’s death, our uncle very premeditatedly committed suicide. Three weeks after Mike’s death, I collapsed and subsequently underwent the tenth of what has since become thirteen major abdominal surgeries. Shortly after I recovered from surgery, my father was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and died nine weeks later. All of these events transpired within a period of four months.
Five years after Mike passed away, I was thinking about how little there was in the way of guidance and support for the widowed and began making notes on a legal pad. When I’d finished, I had written what eventually became the Table of Contents for my first book, “Widows Wear Stilettos…”. “Happily Even After…” followed and is a question-and-answer book for the widowed, while “When Bad Things Happen to Good Women…” addresses all manner of loss and challenge”. In short, there has been a “work in progress” on my desk since 2005!
Each group is unique and I am always humbled by the reception and the response of the audiences. The one common denominator is a willingness to learn how to move forward from a place of pain and challenge to a place of peace and it is an incredible privilege to play a small role in that journey.
Anyone who works in the self-help arena wants to help as many in need as possible. The challenge is realizing that no one person can appeal to absolutely everyone. I always encourage people to seek out that which best speaks to them and moves them in a positive healing direction, as healing must remain the most important focus. However, the reality of not appealing to everyone in need does not remove the desire to help as many as possible.
Absolutely. We are a loss-denying society and from how a widowed “looks” (i.e., “You don’t look like a widow/er”) to belief systems regarding dating / falling in love post-loss, moving homes, changing careers, etc., the stereotypes and stigmas surrounding widowhood unfortunately remain constant. It is easier for the world at large to try and sweep the widowed aside as if widowhood is a contagious disease; rather than treat it as a life-altering event that deserves acknowledgement and compassionate support for those affected.
Every night, I stop and review my day to find the blessing in it. I’ll be honest; there are days where I have to look really hard for the blessing – but the blessing is always there; even on challenging days. My attitude is always one of gratitude, because I have lived and continue to live a very blessed life.
- What one book?
It’s a tie between “Living Judaism” by Rabbi Wayne Dosick and “Seven Prayers That Can Change Your Life” by Dr. Leonard Felder. Both books were instrumental in helping me let go of the anger that I experienced going back to when Mike was initially diagnosed.
- What one activity?
My “quiet time” each evening, designed to help me cope with the grief that we all “set to one side” during the day in the interest of work, children’s activities, etc. Whatever “front” that I had to present during the day came off at my designated Quiet Time – possibly the healthiest thing that did for myself during grief recovery. It is a tactic that I recently and tragically had to re-employ…and it still works.
- What one quote?
“While loss or challenge will shape you, it does not have to define you”. It is my own quote and one that I both teach and live by every single day.
- What one piece of advice?
I had been widowed for a year when my mother gave me very wise advice. She told me to stop and look back at how far I had progressed since Mike’s death. When I actually examined how far I’d progressed to that point, I began truly appreciating the healing that I had accomplished. To this day, I still pause and look back at how far I have traveled since that horrible season in time when I thought that I would never see light or know love again.
- What one song/piece of music?
A beautiful South African lullaby called, “Thula, Thula” (“Hush, Hush”) that I grew up listening to (we were a musically eclectic household). After Mike died, Kendall and I would often cuddle and I would sing the song to her. We still turn to that song for solace and for peace.
To find out more about Carole, visit www.carolefleetspeaker.com
As a widow or widower there may come a time when living without love and romance leaves you feeling as though life has become devoid of substance and meaning. Love is an essential part of life and without it the feeling that a large part of you is unfulfilled is not something you should ignore. This is not a sentiment reserved only for young widows and widowers and nor is it something that all widows and widowers experience.
If this does happen, you shouldn’t feel guilty. Losing someone we love is one of the most difficult experiences we have to face, and learning to live without your partner can take more time for some than for others. However, after a while you may find yourself quite literally in the arms of someone new.
This can happen at any age, and if it does, enjoy the experience and make the most of every minute.
It is hoped that in time your friendship will grow and a loving bond will be established. If and when you reach that point and you find yourselves considering moving-in together, or remarriage, now is the time to give your relationship some serious thought. Dating and sharing the odd weekend away is not the same as sharing a home and it is important that you’re totally aware of the pros and cons of co-habitation with a new partner.
The following points are intended as suggestions that may not be relevant to everybody, and there will most certainly be other points that are relevant to you and your partner exclusively:
When a marriage or ‘live in’ relationship starts to go wrong, it is often the little things that have been the cause. I had a friend who married a man she had only known for a few months. Initially, things went very well, but after a while although his feelings appeared to be the same for her, she was rapidly becoming aware that her initial affection for this man was on the wane.
She told me that she found some of his habits clumsy and annoying; small things that became unreasonably irritating when happening on a regular basis. Despite trying hard to overcome these feelings, the marriage only lasted a matter of months and then the drawn out process of divorce took over.
Often, those who are bereaved can have all sorts of unresolved emotions about the death of their partner and the more they try to ignore them, the more they tend to surface. Finding yourself enjoying another relationship can help you come to terms with these feelings and meeting others who are also bereaved could make that pathway easier to navigate.
Giving your relationship plenty of time to grow and develop before rushing into something more serious and permanent is important, and will give you the opportunity to enjoy the fun of dating and fully getting to know each other.
Get to know each other really well, and enjoy all that follows!