Mar 27, 2017

Inspiring Stories: Maryanne Pope

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became bereaved?

My husband, John, was a Calgary police officer who passed away in the line of duty in 2000. We were both 32 at the time. John was investigating a break and enter complaint at a warehouse when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling, fell 9 feet into the lunchroom below, hit his head and died of brain injuries. There was no safety railing to warn him of the danger. John and I had been together as a couple for 12 years and married for 4.

What motivated you to write your book, ‘A Widows Awakening’?

I had always wanted to be a writer but for one reason or another, had never got around to putting much time into actually writing. The day before John died, we had an argument and I told him how scared I was of waking up 20 years later and STILL not have finished writing a book. He looked at me and said, “You’re probably right about that…as long as you know that will have been your choice.”

That was my wake-up call. Two weeks later, I started writing A Widow’s Awakening. It took me 8 years to get it – and me – where it needed to be. But I did it.

Tell us a little about Pink Gazelle Productions?

I started Pink Gazelle Productions in 2002, which was only a couple of years after John’s death. At the time, I knew I wanted to write books but I didn’t realize I would also be writing blogs, screenplays and play scripts. So the company is a constantly evolving entity. Our tagline is “Authentic Lives; Authentic Works” and our purpose is to create works that encourage and inspire people to be make positive change in themselves and the world around them.

You set up The John Petropoulos Memorial Fund in 2005. What is it’s mission?

Actually the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF) was started right after John’s death. Several of John’s police recruit classmates had memorial pins made and by the time of John’s funeral, more than $10,000 had been raised. So they asked me if, when I was ready, would I be interested in being part of the JPMF? I said yes! More than 16 years later, the JPMF is still going strong. We are a registered Canadian charity and our purpose is to educate the public about why and how to ensure their workplace is safe for everyone, including emergency responders.

To this end, we have produced a safety video, five 30-second ads that have aired on TV over a million times, as well as a variety of other educational resources. We also have a team of speakers who deliver workplace safety presentations to companies, schools, conferences, etc.

How important is it to you to connect with others who have also experienced the loss of a spouse?

To be honest, I wrote A Widow’s Awakening for ME. I knew I had to write it and the actual process of writing it was tremendously therapeutic. But then I reached a point where I realized it was likely going to be of help to others who were going through the grieving process. And it has been. However, as a writer, I was far more concerned with getting the story where it needed to be so that it was a strong and engaging read for any reader – regardless of whether that person was had experienced a significant loss or not.  

Because of the book and my other work, including public speaking, I do tend to connect a great deal with other people who have experienced the loss of a spouse. I was at a work-related event recently and a woman who had just lost her husband to a workplace fatality confided in me that she is inspired by how happy I am. That really made my day. At this point in my life, I AM very happy and have worked really hard to be happy again, so it is great to be able to be an example to others that the death of a spouse isn’t the end of happiness…rather the start of a new chapter.

You’ve recently started a new blog series, ‘Life After Loss’. What are you hoping to achieve with this?

With Life After Loss, I am exploring some of the topics that were touched on in A Widow’s Awakening. Now that so much time has passed since John’s death, I am able to explore these topics (grief, mental health, suicide, life after death, spirituality, destiny, soul mates, etc) far more objectively than when I was in the throes of the grieving process. With this blog series, I was hoping to get some dialogue going about some of these issues – and that is happening, so I am pleased.

Can you share with us five things which have helped you through your bereavement?

 - What one book? 

Tuesday’s With Morrie – I read this 2 months after John died and I loved how Morrie encouraged people to CRY. Such a simple thing but so important to let those tears flow…when they are ready to flow.

- What one activity?

Walking my dogs in the woods or by the river. Hands down, this is what helped me heal the most. I would go for long walks and just think and cry and cry and cry. Writing A Widow’s Awakening also really helped because it gave me a chance to find meaning in John’s death.

- What one quote?

 “The best way out is always through.” – Robert Frost

 - What one piece of advice?

Take the time you need to grieve but be aware that time is passing. Grief is a stage that a person goes through – but you don’t need to stay stuck in it any longer than necessary! 

- What one song/piece of music?

 I have 3 favourites:

  1. “Wind Beneath My Wings” by Bette Midler
  2. “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban
  3. “Good Riddance” by Green Day – not the good riddance part! I love the message: “I hope you had the time of your life.” I know John did and it reminds me to, as well.

Feb 10, 2017

Inspiring Stories: Carole Brody Fleet

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became bereaved?

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. 

 You are a multi-award winning author with the books, ‘When Bad Things Happen to Good Women’, ‘Happily Even After’ and ‘Widows Wear Stilettos’. What motivated you to start writing?

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!

You are a motivational speaker to a diverse range of audiences, sharing your message of ‘What Now?’ and ‘What Next?’. Are you inspired by any particular group, more so than others? 

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. 

You have become a go-to expert on life adversity and grief recovery? What are the challenges involved in fulfilling this role?

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.

Do you think widows and widowers are sometimes overlooked in terms of grief recovery and life changes?

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. 

You have spoken a lot about the importance of gratitude. How have you made this a part of your life? 

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. 

Can you share with us five things which have helped you through your bereavement?

- 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

 


Feb 3, 2017

Love After Bereavement: It’s OK To Fall In Love Again

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 two people move in together there will inevitably be emotional and practical baggage that has to be accounted for. Children on one or both sides of the relationship will need a lot of consideration.
  • Accumulated wealth will need overt discussion, especially for older couples, and official arrangements put in place in the event of the death of either one of you. One thing you don’t want in the wake of bereavement is any financially driven contention from either family. You could find yourself homeless and part of your wealth being absorbed by the family of your partner. Those with children will need to ensure detailed consideration is given regarding parental responsibilities.
  • If you have both put money into your new home, then you should each have your name on the lease or deeds, and a will drawn up designating whom the beneficiaries are and what they are entitled to. If one of you has three children and the other has a cat – there could be a few raised eyebrows regarding equal shares of property among the remaining family.
  • When setting up your home together, emotional baggage on either side is to be expected and a desire to want to know all about your partner’s past life is inevitable. However, ‘snooping’ is definitely out of the question. If you’re caught prying into the other’s personal and private possessions, this will hardly be good for your relationship. Just reverse this situation!
  • Maintaining a degree of independence within a relationship is important. Having your own friends and past-times can only enhance the fabric of your life together; assuming you also have mutual friends and interests as well.
  • Being clear about who does what around the home will mean there is no imbalance with day-to day chores. You don’t want to find yourself locked in a constant demand for DIY improvements; nor do you want to be solely responsible for the cooking and cleaning. Equal shares of running the home should be paramount. It will also allow more time for you to enjoy each other’s company.

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!


Jan 21, 2017

Sex In Your Sixties: A Mature Woman’s View On What To Expect

Dating again for the first time in decades can be a daunting prospect for a mature woman, especially if sex is something that has not been on your agenda for a long while. However, rest assured that once past those initial first meetings, a romantic relationship, as a senior dater, can be life changing in a really positive way. Getting used to holding hands again and experiencing an embrace after many years of being single, can be thrilling and up-lifting.

If you’re attracted to your date, relish the moment and let things take their course. Enjoying each other’s company and discovering unique and common interests will provide plenty of scope for conversation. Hopefully, both of you will be keen to make things work and want to enjoy all that a mature relationship can bring. If it leads nowhere, at least you have experienced the thrill of expectation and will look forward to your next encounter with someone new.

Let’s assume after dating a few times that things are becoming a little more serious and you’re presented with the possibility of taking things that much further. Ask yourself, as a mature dater, how you really feel about this new man in your life. It doesn’t have to be goose bumps, but it’s important that there is a degree of positive anticipation at the thought of your next meeting. You might not have reached this quite yet, but if you’re feeling good vibes, and the friendship seems to be blossoming, there must be something worthwhile going on here.

If you or your date lives alone, then there may have already been a suggestion that sex is the next step and it will be far easier for something physical to take place for the first time. However, should you need or want to arrange an overnight stay somewhere, in order for you to properly enjoy your first night together, I recommend a location where you will not feel too conspicuous. A large hotel rather than a country inn would perhaps be more hospitable. That way, you’re blending in with the crowd, rather than imagining that you’re the center of attention.

Once settled, take some time to get used to the idea that you will soon be cuddling up with your date. Indulging in a romantic dinner and having a drink or two can help you to relax. However, don’t feel obliged to drink if you don’t want to. And don’t have more to drink than you’re used to. You wouldn’t want to pass out before the big moment!

If either of you are uncomfortable about this leap into the unfamiliar, then it is important to talk about any issues and try to allay fears or inhibitions that might have arisen. Men, as much as women, are likely to be self-conscious about their body; also their potential performance. This being the case, it is far better to bring any concerns out into the open rather than to pretend they don’t exist. A conversation will help both of you to understand these feelings, and could help to solve the problem.

Familiarity with each other, and with each other’s body, will help to improve these concerns. Holding each other, gentle touching, kissing, and sensual massage are all ways to share moments of passionate affection and can lead on to having a satisfying sexual experience. Hopefully, this will leave both of you feeling glad that you have taken this next step.

Once back into your every day routine, make a point of connecting with your man as a way of reassurance that all is still good between you. Assuming you enjoyed the experience, share this with him and tell him you’re looking forward to the next time. Hopefully, your sex life will gradually become an important part of your relationship and something special and fulfilling that will enhance your friendship as it grows.

There is no age limit to enjoying sex. As mature lovers you will hopefully find yourselves calling upon your self-awareness and experience to help you on your way to what could be a life changing and exhilarating encounter.


Jan 18, 2017

The Growing Popularity Of Widow Dating

Once upon a time, if you were widowed it was assumed you would stay widowed. Your black dresses – or widows weeds, as they were known, were your distinguishing feature and dressing up to encourage allure and admiration from the opposite sex was an unimagined practice.

Good news then, that today widow dating is as commonplace as any other dating experience and along with divorcees and other singles, it is OK to make the first move when you happen to meet another single who takes your fancy.

The interest in widows and widowers preferring to date each other, specifically, has brought about a sharp increase in the use of niche, online dating sites to meet this demand. Time and again we hear that widows and widowers feel more comfortable with those who have also lost a partner. Sharing a common background precludes the need to offer any specific reason as to why you are single and is also a ‘red flag’ that you might still be feeling sensitive about your loss and not wanting to discuss your recent past in any great detail at this moment.

Widow dating can also bring about a welcome relief. Getting to know someone else who has also experienced the loss of a partner and can relate to what you are going through will make those first few dates a lot easier. Sharing stories is an important part of forming new friendships and in the early stages opening up about the need to find fulfilment because you’re missing the closeness of a partner will surely resonate sympathetically with your date.

Making new friends and knowing when to move on will vary significantly from person to person. Moving on too soon can cause more emotional upset if someone you meet, and whom you are attracted to, chooses not to take things further. It is important to understand that everyone has their own criteria about who and what they are looking for in their next relationship, and if as a widow or widower you have decided to start dating again, you do not want to be hurt in the process for the wrong reasons.

That being said, having a reassuring arm on your back when crossing the road or a hand to hold in the cinema is a small action that brings huge comfort. Being part of a couple again can ignite wonderful feelings of ‘belonging’ for men and women and even if not long lived, for whatever reason, will make you more determined to find that special person to share your life with.

Not all relationships will bring romance and lasting friendship, but establishing contact with other widows and widowers will help you to recognize that you’re not alone. Young or old, it is always good to have friends of the opposite sex, even if it’s just for platonic friendship. Widow dating may sound like a scary prospect for some, but if you have patience and determination you will find who you are looking for and the romance will follow.


Jan 11, 2017

Inspiring Stories: Karen Millsap

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey after becoming bereaved.

I became a widow at 29 years old, my husband was murdered while teaching his CrossFit class one evening. This experience was life shattering, to say the least. As a result of his death I experienced a domino effect of other losses – my car, house, job, family, friends… I was basically stripped of everything. Unfortunately, I had to jump into survival mode to make funeral arrangements, handle the closing of the gym, and most importantly to be a “stable” parent for my 2 year old son. A lot of people would compliment me by saying, “You’re so strong!” And honestly, that would make me mad; I really wanted to say, “You have no idea what I’m feeling, and it’s definitely NOT strong.”  I know they meant well, but the truth is I was numb and on autopilot. As I continued to journey into the next few months, and even over a year, I accepted the identity people saw and didn’t share how much I was struggling with living. Again, I had experienced so many losses so I was grieving multiple events and the weight was incredibly heavy – so heavy, I couldn’t even find the words. I also, didn’t want my pain to become someone else’s burden, so I kept it all inside for almost two years. It wasn’t until I discovered that I wanted to help others in their grief journey that I realized I wasn’t being authentic about the pain I was feeling. Now, I am helping people not by being overly positive, but by being real.

Tell us more about your mission statement ‘Take my pain, turn it into purpose and pay it forward’.

About 3-4 months after my husband died, I was laying in bed overwhelmed with sadness.  Deep in my heart I heard this statement, “Take your pain, turn it into purpose and pay it forward.”  I believe I was in so much pain, it resonated with me deeply that I didn’t want anyone else to feel the way I did. At the time, I didn’t know what that meant, but I felt abandoned during the worst time of my life and I didn’t want anyone else to go through grief alone.  Over the next year I started to journal what “support” would look like, what actions were helpful or harmful, and what advice would I give not just the griever, but the people around them. We all tend to isolate after any kind of tragedy, but I believe if we had help building resilience and growing through hard times, then it would create a ripple effect of paying it forward to help others. We’re all connected through suffering – grief is universal.

How important is it to you to connect with other people who are widowed?

It’s not important, it’s IMPERATIVE to get connected with other widow(er)s. There are things we can’t talk about, or don’t have the words to describe what we are feeling and only other people who are widowed would understand. This journey makes you feel like you are crazy, but really you are just battling an internal conflict between love and loss. Hearing from others who are feeling the same heartache helps break through that isolation which helps you start to rebuild your life again.

Do you feel widowed people currently receive enough support within society?  

Absolutely not!  There isn’t enough support because society has created myths about grieving which have become barriers to healing. “Time heals, grieve alone, stay busy….” These myths force us to suppress natural emotions tied to grief, and after awhile that toxicity can start to manifest itself in unhealthy ways for the griever.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Yes we need more support, but really the ball is in our court. We have to first be vulnerable and authentic, and with that, we have to be willing to educate those around us. People are paralyzed by fear, so if they don’t know what to do or how to offer proper support, then they do nothing. But if we speak up and tell them what we need, solutions can begin to be crafted.

You’ve recently started mentoring other widows. How rewarding are you finding this process?  

The most rewarding part of the journey is not just hearing and seeing their healing, but always experiencing healing myself. You see, the truth is we never really stop grieving – we just learn to manage the grief differently as life continues. I still have moments where grief consumes me, tears flow uncontrollably, or I get angry – but all of that is okay, and normal! Now I don’t feel shame, or like I have to act “strong”; and by sharing this with others, we are healing and rebuilding ourselves together.

Can you share with us ‘Five Things’ which have helped you through your bereavement?

 

 - What one book? Mindset by Carol Dweck

- What one activity? Crying!! it’s so necessary and so cleansing.

- What one quote? “I have two choices: give up or get up.” – that’s my own quote that has helped me in dark times.

- What one piece of advice? There is no rulebook or timeline for grief, just take it one breath at a time.

- What one song/piece of music? Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United.

To find out more about Karen, visit www.thegriefconsultant.com


Jan 6, 2017

Widows & Widowers – Planning For The New Year

The New Year is officially in full swing and although there’s nothing written that says this is the only time for making changes, it is a good focal point for reappraising your successes and failures of the past year. If there have been success stories during the last twelve months, then you should congratulate yourself. Any failures? Forget them, and move on.

New Year’s resolutions are usually associated with quitting smoking, losing weight or cutting down on alcohol, etc., but while all of these are worthy causes, they can be hugely difficult to achieve. I’m a great believer in taking things slowly – or in small steps, if you like, and have always had more success when I do things this way. Factors like smoking or being overweight are not to be ignored, of course, but listing some things that are important, but perhaps easier to control, will give you a head start. This approach will be paving the way for greater achievements as you go along.

Aspiring to make small changes that will improve your way of life can be implemented in many ways: for example, walking to the next bus stop to enhance fitness, cutting out at least one of the bad things you know you shouldn’t eat or introducing a smile into the process when you thank someone. Also, making a daily ‘to do’ list and sticking to it can be very productive and it’s always great ‘ticking things off’.

Now is also a good time to look at your social life and ask yourself if there is room for improvement? Deciding to try something completely different is a good way to meet new people and to discover hidden qualities and talents.

Having family and good friends in our lives is important and the start of a new year is the ideal time to seek out those we haven’t seen for a long while. Conversely, if there are people in your life who drag you down or leave you feeling unexceptional, then maybe another resolution is to gently phase them out.

As a widowed single reflecting upon the holiday season, you may have had well-meaning friends or family asking if you have dated anyone yet. This is always an awkward question – especially if you haven’t – but you shouldn’t feel pressured. However, if you have had the occasional moment when the thought of sharing your life again seems tempting, you might want to explore the possibility of meeting someone online.

Joining a dating website is easier than you might think and gives you the opportunity to get to know other singles while maintaining an element of privacy. Once you have completed your profile, the next step is up to you. Look at the profiles of your fellow singles and if anyone sounds interesting, send them a message.

Be excited; taking this step could change the rest of your life! There are no hard and fast rules about how long you take to make a connection, if at all, and remember, it is intended to be a positive experience and one that should bring you friendship and hopefully, romance!

Exploring new ideas and resources will be rewarding and help broaden your horizons. It’s all these small, positive moves that once integrated into your life will help improve your self-esteem.

So, NY resolutions are important and if you find yourself falling by the wayside, don’t give up. Tomorrow is another day, and if you focus on how good you will feel when you’ve reached a particular goal, any minor hardship will have been worthwhile.

@mrsanimo


Dec 13, 2016

Inspiring Stories: Yvonne Broady

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Yvonne Broady and I am a native New Yorker, born and raised. I am a writer and I blog about grief matters, life matters, and love matters. I’m also the author of Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse.

What lead you to write your book ‘Brave In A New World’?

I was inspired to write this book after I lost my husband in 2009 to pancreatic cancer. His loss left me devastated and full of uncertainty as I struggled with trying to make sense of having lost my husband to this dreadful disease, in an instant, just like that. Consequently, I was forced to put my life back together again.

How much did your book help you to overcome your grief?

Writing Brave in a New World helped me to see how far I had come in my own grief journey. From the acute pain of the early days after my loss, to the period when I began to realize that I was overcoming my grief and beginning to rebuild my life, which no longer resembled the old one, on my own. This happened over many years of dedicated hard work in which I focused on ways to get past my sorrow over the loss of my husband and begin to think about how I would recreate my new life.

What topics or themes are of particular interest to you?

I wanted to share my story so that those who grieve would understand that the pain of grief is normal, and, in order to get past the pain, one must go through it. Everyone grieves differently and no one should be influenced by other’s expectations, timelines, or other limitations people put on us as we navigate our grief journeys.

You’ve had a quite a varied career. Is there one particular interest that inspires you more than others?

My book is a template for those who are navigating the grief experience. My story is an affirmation of everyone’s grief journey and encourages and strengthens widows and widowers as they begin to rebuild their lives. It also lets them know that this too shall pass, as long as one grieves and doesn’t hold it in.

Can you share with us the ‘Five Things’ have helped you through bereavement?

 

- What one book?

The process of writing Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse helped to bring an end to my own grief. It was a slow process, as it took 2 ½ years for me to write the book, but eventually, I was able to put my grief behind me. I now have a new life full of a variety of activities and fulfilling friendships.

- What one activity?

Exercising, weight training and walking were activities that helped me to purge some of the grief and assisted me in beginning to feel good about myself again.

- What one piece of music/song?

I have such eclectic taste in music it’s difficult to pinpoint one. I love Classical, Jazz, R&B, New Age and Urban Contemporary.

- What one quote?

Two quotes that have helped me on this journey, and which I frequently refer to are:

“We grieve because we have loved.”

“Keep your eyes on the target no one else sees.”

The first quote is self-explanatory and the second quote is a reminder that as you rebuild your life after the loss of your spouse, there will be those who want to tell you what it is that they think you should be doing. I suggest that you decide what you want to do for yourself. Bear in mind that you have been given an opportunity to have a second chance at living life in a new way and only you can decide what that life will look like.

- What one piece of advice?

One bit of advice that I would share with those who have lost a spouse and that is to just grieve. Cry, cry, cry, weep, weep, weep. Do not hold in your pain and sorrow, as over time this will do more harm than good. In due time the pain will subside and you’ll be on the road to your own new beginning.

To find out more about Yvonne, visit braveinanewworld.wordpress.com

 


Dec 5, 2016

Love After Bereavement: The Festive Season

If, after some years as a widow or widower, you’re sharing your life with someone new and possibly his or her children as well as your own, planning the Christmas holiday could be fraught with differences in expectation.

Your first Christmas together should be memorable and reflect the holiday spirit anticipated by both of you. There will be a lot to think about if you want things to run smoothly and if the pattern of Christmas-past does not hold the same appeal for either of you, then perhaps it’s time to look at your options.

Sharing this particular event for the first time, for both of you and your families, is an opportunity to combine ideas and create your own unique Christmas experiences. Some habits of course, will remain, because they are positive and fun, especially with young children in mind, as they will be expecting the same. Waking up to Christmas stockings and parcels under the tree are elements that I don’t think any of us would want to change. These are the magical moments that stick firmly in our minds and form part of our childhood memories.

If neither of you, or any other family members, are overly excited about the idea of all that cooking, then how about eating out? Hopefully, there will be a few restaurant options nearby, where you can anticipate a good feast and leave the dishwashing to someone else.

Integrating the old with the new can create a unique experience that will become your own special way of spending the holiday. Make sure that everyone, children included, is invited to make suggestions on what they would like to do.

Start as you mean to go on, and make plans for Christmas together. The shopping, and of course, the cooking, if you’re eating at home, are all tasks that can be shared in some way. If there are children around, get them to help, too. This will strengthen bonds and create a pattern for future years.

If two sets of children are involved, this is the perfect opportunity to harmonise the families. Ask them if there is something specific they would like to do, such as going for a winter outing or watching a favourite movie or TV programme. In our house we used to get the younger children to come up with an idea for a play. They would go off for a while and return with something of their own creation, which would invariably end up with a great deal of hilarity all round.

Anniversaries and holidays can often be a time of increased stress and emotional turmoil and if this is your first Christmas together you have to make allowances for this. One suggestion is sharing any upbeat stories of Christmas past; by doing this you are acknowledging that memories of your previous family celebrations are cherished. This should allay any feelings of remorse if you’re feeling guilty about celebrating a special holiday and enjoying yourself regardless of absent loved-ones.

A first Christmas together may not be the ideal time to include your bereaved partner’s parents and other family members, but if this occurs through necessity, then use the occasion to build as much of a rapport as possible. It is likely they will be as cautious as you with this arrangement, but it offers the opportunity for all parties to accept that change is inevitable. This will show that you have not forgotten their son/daughter and that any grandchildren will always be a significant presence in their lives.

If it’s just the two of you, then introducing something completely new could be a good idea and is one way of creating a unique seasonal significance to your relationship. Taking a trip to another city or planning a Christmas lunch with a difference are just two ways of breaking with tradition.

Ultimately, the holiday season is an opportunity for everyone involved to form lasting memories together. In time, these experiences will hopefully form the basis of a new chapter in your life.

If you’re single, but hopefully not alone at Christmas, do join in with family and friends and try and look to the future. There are many other widows and widowers out there looking for someone just like you and next year could be your year.

Have a happy and peaceful holiday!


Oct 25, 2016

Inspiring Stories: Abel Keogh

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

I’m the proud father of 7 kids and husband to Julie (aka Marathon Girl), the most amazing woman in the world. During the day I work in marketing for a financial institution. At night after the kids have gone to bed, I write books. When I’m not working or writing, the rest of my time is spent playing with my kids and coaching their basketball, soccer, or football teams and going on a weekly date with my wife. There’s not time for anything else.

What inspired you to start writing about dating for widowers?

When I was widowed, I started blogging anonymously about my day-to-day experiences of being a young widower. Many of these stories included the ups and downs of dating again. My stories must have resonated with people because they began emailing me and asking me questions about the widowers they were dating. I never intended to write books about dating a widower but the emails piled up along with requests to write a book about dating widowers. I finally wrote a series of books. I’m glad I did because countless women and widowers have told me how much these books have helped them with their relationships.

What topics/themes are of particular interest to you?

When it comes to relationships, I’m very interested in how men think and act. A lot of my dating guides spend time talking about this because in order to know if a widower is actually ready for a serious relationship one has to understand how men behave when they’re in love and when they’re just stringing women along. Most relationship guides don’t pay enough attention to this.

Tell us more about your memoir, ‘Room For Two’.

It’s the year of my life after my late wife’s suicide. It’s how I put the pieces of my life back together and fell in love with Marathon Girl. It’s about how I found peace and that love and hope and endure despite the tragedies that shape our lives.

Your novel, ‘The Third’, has recently been published; any there any more novels in the pipeline?

Yes, I’m currently working on two other novels. One is a mystery novel and the other is a science fiction book. I hope to have them completed by the end of the year.

Can you share with us the ‘Five Things’ have helped you through bereavement?

 

- What one book?

I never found a book that helped me with the grief or bereavement. Those I tried to read were mostly full of empty platitudes. I think there’s a great opportunity for someone to write one that actually helps people.

- What one activity?

Running. I don’t know where I’d be if hadn’t run four or five miles every morning after I became widowed. It cleared my mind and prepped me for another day.

- What one quote?

‘There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.’ C.S. Lewis

- What one piece of advice?

Having a friend tell me it was okay to ‘cowboy up’ and move-on. I did and never looked back.

- What one song/piece of music?

The only music I could listen to after my late wife’s suicide was the Counting Crows album August and Everything After. There was something real about the lyrics and imagery that resonated with me during that time and all these years later. It’s the only music that seems to fit life not matter what I’m experiencing.

To find out more about Abel, visit www.abelkeogh.com


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