What A Young Widow Wants You To Know

What a young widow wants you to know is a great article written by Kerry Phillips, Proud Mom, Lover of Words, PR Executive and Widow Warrior at Huffington Post. This is an article that I completely relate to! Many people place judgement, timelines and expectations for others unnecessarily and often times unknowingly. Loss is hard, its even harder to understand when a young life is taken. I like this article because it is a lot of what I felt and went through. I think people even to this day don’t understand, how would they unless they have gone through it themselves. So if you are a friend or family member of someone who has lost a spouse at any age, understand that the grief process is a very personal one, don’t place expectations or timelines, just be a support through that persons journey and be there. If they don’t want you to be there for them, just send them messages of your support and eventually when they are ready it will be remembered, cherished and likely something that they look back on and appreciate as one of the things that helped them through. The loss of a spouse no matter what age or if you move forward will never be forgotten. The pain will always be there and becomes a part of a widows journey. So understanding that time does not change this is important, time and rebuilding help with healing but there is no replacement and no amount of time that erases the scars of losing someone you truly loved.

Read the Article: What Young Widows Want Family & Friends to Know via @HuffPostBlog

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Trust Without Borders

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The first time I heard this song, I was flying home from a conference in Jacksonville, Florida. This seems to be my thinking time, while I am in the air…unplugged…no distraction…just me, my heart and my thoughts.

I was feeling lost, broken inside…still. I thought about that first flight I took after John passed away, it was to Jacksonville, Florida. I had anxiety over this trip back there, I was remembering all of the feelings I felt then, but they were still there..though less fresh with the time and ever present healing…they hadn’t left me.

That trip in 2006, I wanted to hear the waves, somehow escape my reality. I was lost then, deeply broken and bruised…how frail and misguided I felt inside. Outwardly, I was pretending, being strong for everyone else. Inside I was hollow. How come, on this trip back 9 years later I felt the same feelings?

From that flight to this one 9 years later, brokenness…wasn’t it supposed to get better, get easier? Didn’t everyone tell me it would? How could they know that, really? People say things they think will help you, I get it…but I want the brutal truth and honesty. It doesn’t get easier! You shared a life, you were building a life, you said goodbye with no choice…its just not easy. You do eventually re-enter and re-build, finding new joy again. I have found new joy, new life, received new blessings. I opened myself to it and for me, my journey of healing was sharing, keeping Johns memory alive, remembering all that he was to me and others and being thankful he showed me how to really live and love. Honoring him and myself was never a question, I knew I needed to live and be happy. That is what he would have wanted for me.

I had started living, I had re-built, I had made my life good, I was determined..yet I was still sad. I carried scars, I had buried tears…buried them in vain because the pain was hard. I don’t share with people that I have nights I still cry in my sleep, nights I think about what my life would have been. This does not mean in any way I am not thankful for what I do have. It is just the life of a widow. I’m so blessed, my tears don’t mean I don’t love my second husband or that I don’t feel the blessing of being a mother to my amazing girls. I cry for what I had to say goodbye to, but I cry for being thankful for what I have because of it, the new course my life took does not diminish what I had. I feel lucky to have the love and hearts of two men, the love of two beautiful and kind children. I know I am blessed despite, my loss. I pray for you who may be going through this. I pray you receive blessing through loss.

I think for me, knowing how much time had gone by scared me. How fast life was moving, was hard to believe. I was so very thankful for the blessing of my new life, my new husband, my two daughters, the beautiful home we made together, the career I had worked so hard for, the picture of normal…the normal I was seeking, but I didn’t feel normal. What was normal? Was this my normal, getting further and further away from the time I last spoke to John and saw him…was normal knowing I continued loving him while also loving my new husband. How was this all normal?

I needed the ocean then and I needed it now, the waves crashed over me then and they were crashing over me still. Scars, they were left on my skin. I was stronger, but I felt weak.

This song came on in flight and I felt, it was a gift. It is a message I continue to hear through the waves of my journey. I have so much more ahead of me to do in this life. My feet may fail, but my faith will stand!

I know its ok to carry and share my scars, they are ME. My scars are personal and I will carry them my entire life, I want to! I carry and share these scars so others know, that I LIVE and choose to LIVE. I want people to know.

I learn something new every year and I am PROUD! Im proud of John and who he was. I’m proud of the love we shared. I’m proud of the scars I bear, I’m proud I’m not afraid to speak about him, who he was to me and about my journey. I’m proud of my second husband, Dave and how he loves me never once worried about my scars, my healing, the life and love I shared before him that ended without my choice. How he continues to love me through it. He may not understand, how could he. He does however, love my posts and recognize the days that are hard…saying “todays Johns birthday, I saw your post, how are you?” I’m proud that through our journey and the trials we have faced, we have kept working on us, we know we aren’t perfect, but we have learned what we have is worth fighting for, working on, we don’t pretend we have perfect, we are open that we have lost site of our marriage at times and who we are to each other. This to me is real life, real marriage. Picture perfect, is not always reality. Love takes work, takes time. I’m thankful for your love Dave and the life we are living together. No one needs to understand that or us, because this is our life.

So, thank you for following me…for listening to my heart. I hope this encourages you in your journey knowing there are many waves and many blessings ahead. Open your heart to really living without borders.

Now, you must do me a favor and turn this song up…LOUD…feel the words and how they speak to you! MY VERY FAVORITE PART IS IN CAPS, below.

{Lyrics}

 

 

You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown. My feet may fail..and there I find you in the mystery, in oceans deep…my faith will stand. And I will call upon your name…and keep my eyes above the waves…when oceans rise…my soul will rest in your embrace…for I am yours and you are mine.

Your grace abounds in deepest waters. Your sovereign hand will be my guide. My feet may fail when fear surrounds me, you’ve never failed…and you won’t start now. So, I will call upon your name…and keep my eyes above the waves. When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace….for I am yours and you are mine.

(Repeat and pray this fervently, believe it, feel it and know that whatever you are going through in life, let your trust be without borders, let him be your guide.)

SPIRIT LEAD ME WHERE MY TRUST IS WITHOUT BORDERS, LET ME WALK UPON THE WATERS WHEREVER YOU WOULD CALL ME. TAKE ME DEEPER THAN MY FEET COULD EVER WANDER AND MY FAITH WILL BE MADE STRONGER, IN THE PRESENCE OF MY SAVIOR.

My feet may fail, but I will at least know I followed my heart by really living and choosing to live, how could I fail!

~Tanya Smith

A Widows World

 

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Loss Cripples You

IMG_3669Loss cripples you, it settles a fog over you.  It completely changes you. I remember looking in the mirror after I lost John and my reflection was a stranger. I couldn’t recognize who I was, let alone comprehend who I was going to be without him.  I tried looking ahead, but all I knew, was what was behind me. The life we had. The life we were building and the plans and dreams we shared for our new adventure in marriage and creating our forever.

Almost ten years later, I look at my reflection and I see me, well the new version of me. I’m forever changed, but I’m proud of my scars and my journey. I see that once I started focusing on each day and living to honor John and myself and not take a moment for granted, I started to really live. I honestly have reminders all of the time, after all we are human. We are not perfect and despite loss we can and still do lose site of what’s important.  I learned it was ok to dream again, feel again, love again, be happy again.

Focus on what’s in front of you rather than looking too far ahead. When I did this and lived day by day, taking pressures off of myself I started to be less afraid of what was ahead. I started focusing on the day and making it a good one and that overflowed into the next day…I began to find my joy again. New joy!

It was not easy, I stumbled a lot, I feel like I still do, I felt lost a lot and at times I still do, I was afraid and at times, I still am. I was afraid, because I lived through just how fragile life is and so with that, I felt fear for letting myself love again. I was young, it was likely that I would find love again, if I opened my heart again and once I got to a place I was capable of loving another person.

Fear also cripples us, it holds us back, it makes us question ourselves constantly. This is the fear we hear within ourselves, but also the fear that others project onto us.

The fear inside of me was thinking, “what if this happens to me again”, because lets face it, it could! What would the point be in getting close to someone again? The heartache that could come.

The fear projected onto me, was society and peoples beliefs for how I should handle my grief! How I should stay in it for others. People become very uncomfortable with strength, when you don’t fall into some social norm. There is no manual here people. Grief is personal and affects us in different ways.

I remember a friend getting me out of the house weeks after John had passed. I didn’t want to leave my place of mourning and safety, but they were kind enough to know, I needed to put my mind on something else even if just for a minute. Escape my reality, even though it will never escape me. We attended a Halloween party and a woman my age at the time cornered me knowing what I had just been through. I didn’t know her, but she acted as if she knew me. She said to me words I remember plain as day. She said “Don’t be afraid to stay at home”. My face I could feel in an instant turn white, what? What should I say? So I mekley said “ok”, while inside I wanted to claw at her. I wanted to say what do you mean by this, explain! Why did she feel the need? Was I asking her for her opinion? No! Had she just lost the person she loved the most in her life, and was now suddenly some expert in grief? No! I was angered and wanted to leave. I was visibly upset and hurt by her words.

You see, though what I have learned through this is that people they don’t know what to say, they don’t understand, they can comprehend. They feel sorry for you. You see it in their eyes and you feel it in their words. Words that honestly can hurt you more than help you. Words that sometimes make you feel they are minimizing your loss. When this happens to you, there is no bright side…there is nothing that comforts you and you don’t want to hear how you will be ok someday…because you are not ok. This is not ok.

I see that now though she just didn’t likely know what to say.  Its simply that people have no idea how they would handle a loss like this, they can’t comprehend it and when it is a young life I think it’s even harder for them to grasp. Any loss is hard though regardless of age. Time! Time shared will never be enough, even when someone has lived a full life, the memories there that were made and the person you mourn who impacted you and had some part in the person you are…it’s never enough.

I heard what people were saying when I decided to start getting out. I had to put my shield of armour on. I had to toughen myself in ways I never thought because I was a caring, compassionate and sensitive person. I had decided, I was not going to stay in my house for others, stay in a place where walls and flooding memories were closing in on me. I woke up every day and that was 100% for me at that time, just getting up. There are moments where I feel I lost time, I can’t remember. This is normal. This is real. A piece of my heart, of who I was and am is gone, but does live on through me. Through my sharing and my heart.

There was a particular day about a year and a half after losing John that I felt like I woke up.

During the time when John passed away, we were living with my parents. We were getting ready to build our home and break ground we had hoped that weekend. After losing him, I went back to work a week later because financially I had to. We were young, we hadn’t planned for this. It helped to put my mind on work, I had so many day I would sit in my office and cry, sob! People were kind though and they gave me my space and they showed their concern and care. Six months later, I was done. I needed a break. I needed to feel, or feel nothing. I just couldn’t pretend. I had to immerse myself in my loss. I had sold the lot that we owned, so I had some money to get me through for a short time until I decided what was next. I moved into a little house, which I quickly became very fond of. My first place living on my own. It was very lonely. It was also very good for me. Skipping forward though, I went back to work about four months later finding a new job. It was somehow easier for me to start new rather than have people look at me with pity, though they may not have been doing that I felt it. I needed to start new or at least as new as I could.

So getting back to the day, I feel I woke up. I was upstairs in the finished attic space of my house on a Friday working from home. I went to head down stairs to get some water. I lost my footing and I fell from the top of the stairs all the way to the bottom. It took my breath away, I was balling and the pain was stabbing. Then the next instant shook me. I instantly felt like God was saying “stop”, “wake up”, John was also saying “please stop being so sad”, “live”!

It was such a powerful moment for me. I saw clearer and I knew it was time for my re-entry into the life I could have, if I would let myself.

I woke up and I started to rebuild. I used to put so much emphasis on what others felt I needed for me. I quickly grew a back bone. I quickly stood up and put a wall around me, protecting myself from others judgments or thoughts for how they now wanted me to live. I was not staying in this place of loneliness and self pity another minute.

I have met many widows along the way, I truly feel like god has brought them into my life. They have enriched my life. It does help knowing that I am not alone, even when I thought I was. I see the grace of god in my story, I believe he carried me through even when I did not know he was there. Even when I turned away from him. I’m thankful, I did not turn away for long, but even when I did, I felt his protection. His love.

My heart is happy today, though I have so much more healing and life lessons to learn! I have an open heart and am not afraid of living.

I’m truly so very thankful Johns gift to me was teaching me that life and love are worth EVERYTHING. Because of this, I opened my heart when I was ready, on my timeframe and no one else’s and I have a wonderful second husband Dave and two unbelievably loving and sweet daughters that show me each day how truly blessed and loved I am.

Healing is on-going! Learning is constant. Embrace your journey and honor your loves lost by LIVING!

~Tanya Smith

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Happy Birthday John!

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You would have been 37 today. Know you are being celebrated today!! Today is one of those dates every year that I always shed a tear and emotions wash over me. I think of all the birthdays we were lucky to have shared, though never enough, we were lucky to have those days.

Tonight I celebrate my daughter Addison’s graduation from pre kindergarten. I find it warming that on days that make me sad, God has also brought new meaning of reason to celebrate. It helps my heart and makes me feel both him and you are watching over me.

Love you forever and always! Thank you for being a big part of who I am and a huge reason why I have moved forward rebuilding, finding new love, new life and new purpose.

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ALWAYS TAKE YOUR SPARKLE WITH YOU

IMG_3633This is a long one! ???????

This weekend my girls were playing in the sandbox while I gardened. Addison had her sparkle shoes on and I said don’t wear those into the sand box babe. As soon as I said it, I caught myself thinking…why not? The logical mom in me was thinking, I don’t want them to get ruined. The widow in me however was saying they are just a thing…let her take her sparkle everywhere with her.

This may sound silly, but it did cause me to pause, think and reflect. So here is the message I have to share…get ready for this deep thinking. ????

I feel like everything has me thinking lately about life, about dreams, hopes…about what’s next!

The sandbox of life is so full of unknown, of possibility!

Our lives will be touched by so many people through the course of it. We will have gone through so many things our heart could not have imagined or prepared for, but doesn’t that also make life magnificent and unique? If we knew what was ahead, it would cause us so much angst before we even let ourselves begin. We would fixate and possibly try to change our course.

It’s how we handle those unknown moments in life that define us and help us write our story!

For a time, I stopped writing mine.

I’m thankful I didn’t stay in that place too long, I’m blessed I didn’t let it steal my spirit or darken my heart. The loss of my first spouse and best friend forever changed me, in so many ways.

I was an innocent. I no longer am. I was naive to the way of the world. I no longer am. I was disillusioned to the fairytales that we grow up believing. I no longer am.

So much of what we see growing up in movies and media is glamorous, beautiful, perfect with some version of a happy ending. Most lives are just not this way, life is dirty, messy and full of twists and turns. I have as a mom decided to let my daughters believe in fairytales to a certain point, but the real live version of them.

Real is a life we build and decide to make for ourselves, real is how messy and hard life can be, real is being our true self and not being afraid for others to see us and our hearts as we are. real is not fitting into a mold or a perception that people have for us. Real is being authentic and not being afraid of that. Real is being kind and humble, but also having a backbone to stand up to wrong and things we don’t believe in. Real is following God and leaning into him and his word, which i admit i don’t always do, but i try to. Real is understanding that God is not of man nor evil and he does not make the bad in our lives happen, he does carry us through if we follow and lean into him. Real is understanding that not every cloud has a silver lining, real is knowing that if a door closes, you get back up and open the next one taking advantage of your time here and following your heart. Real is understanding that grief has no time limit, real is not judging others because we don’t know their circumstances!! Real is celebrating moments and opening our hearts to love and possibility, but knowing that love takes work, time and effort. Real is showing our sparkle ? through the hail storms in our lives, sharing our smiles allowing people to see that just because something bad has happened it doesn’t mean we have to live there and stay there for others!

Ten years after losing John, I feel called to share my story, share the sparkle ? I have regained and found hoping to spread it as others go through their journey.

So throw a little sparkle ? someone’s way today. I always believe being kind and real to others or taking pause to see how someone else is, helps people in turn do the same.

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September

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September….it is a month of beginnings and saying goodbye. At 19 i met my soul mate, John. At 25 we were married and at 26 I said goodbye to the man that made my dreams real.

Since then, I have experienced many waves in life. I feel lead to create this page and community so we can share our journey of loss together.

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