We are the “Keepers of the Flame” – Stages of Widowhood

I am a Widow, they say. I like to call us “Keepers of the Flame”, instead. Our light flickers, almost feels like its going to blow out, but it keeps burning. It starts burning stronger and stronger as we navigate through the unknown. We become the keepers of not only our flame, but our loved one, in heavens flame. We keep their flame going through sharing who they are, what they have taught us and their flame keeps us knowing they would want us to keep going. We are the keepers of the flame for the woman and men who came before us and the woman and men who come after us. Our flames together, grow stronger, burn brighter. Together we find a new burning and brightness that we all deserve, are all worthy of. Be a light seeker and start burning your flame so bright others will want what you have, knowledge and wisdom are power.

Widowhood as it is termed, is something many of you are trying to wrap your brain around.  I still try to wrap mine around it ten years later. Nothing could have prepared any of us for this.

How can this be reality? Many of us who have been on this journey for some time, still try to understand it. There is no understanding it. Its a part of life that is unfair, unreal and unimaginable to those of us who have lost a spouse, a partner, a lover, a child, a parent, a grandparent, a cherished loved one, a friend. It is never easy to say goodbye to the ones we love. It is hard if you never had a chance to say goodbye, you were never allowed to grasp and understand they were leaving. It is hard, if you sat by their bedside through the many ups and downs, the glimmers of hope for a recovery. It is hard to watch the struggle (in them and yourself), see them become someone or something they are not, watch life leave them. Whatever the circumstance, it is hard. Each loss is the hardest to you, because it is your loss, your story. Own your feelings, own your story and you will unlock and allow yourself to heal through it. Vulnerability is the doorway to healing.

So, you are here. I am happy and not happy at the same time. I am happy because we found each other. I am not happy, because I wish that you did not know this pain, this way of life. I have heard, just get over it. In those moments I could curse those people up and down and say some of the nastiest trucker mouthed things I can imagine in my head, but I take the gracious approach and say, yeah you certainly don’t understand and I don’t need to waste my breathe explaining it to your small mind and your very small heart. That is one approach, some times and depending on the situation and person, I will try to educate, try to bring across perspective, but you have to understand the audience and not everyone is worth that time, because some may never get it, and I hope they never have to.

Burn this in now, you will and you should never as some say, get over it. You may want to consider getting over them, or deciding what purpose they have in your life. I have had to sit in this many times. You see, I am awesome! Yes, I am, and you know what? I am sick of people trying to steal my colors and put me into some kind of box surrounded by walls and boundaries. I am getting off on a tangent, but the thing to take away here is do not, and I repeat, do not let others place boundaries on you! Do not let them steal your colors! Be the colorful being and person you are meant to be. I have so much to say, so much I want to share with each of you as I release and expose my vulnerabilities because sharing and opening up leads to healing and growth. It helps others while it also helps us.

You are a part of this club, this tribe. It sounds awful to call it a club or tribe, doesn’t it. Those in my mind are things you want to join, want to be a part of.  So, I would like to call us the “Keepers of the Flame” . Yes, I feel we are the keepers of the flame. We keep the memories and the legacy of our loved ones alive. We keep that flame burning inside of us forever. It is a flame that flickers, almost blows out, maybe it does blow out or feels it has blown out. It comes comes back. It does. It is a flame of love, life, light and we get to share it with the world.  At some point it willignite so bright,  it will radiate us and fill us with new hope. It can flicker and almost blow out even after glowing and growing brightly. Yes, we are the “Keepers of the Flame”.
So, my keepers of the flame, when widowed, we are told we will go through three stages of widowhood, so they say. I agree with all of the feelings, but I also think there is so much more that comes through in widowhood. I have added to these stages and will continue to add. I want you to each help me add to it, experience and various experiences and perspectives on this, will get us to the properly defined stages, which will continue to grow. I will enlist many of you to help to add to it. There are so many emotional and social issues that just are not properly addressed in my opinion. Remember, these opinions are my own and from my experience and also gathered from talking with so many of you.

When I was widowed I read plenty about grief and the stages and processes with which each book told me I would go through my pain. Many times as I was reading I would relate to some but not all because I wasn’t there yet and in the very beginning the words on the page seemed illegible to me because I still hadn’t come to terms that I was a widow.

Reading so many of your stories and learning more intimately about each of your losses has touched me. Thank you for following my blog and for joining this community who will support you through the ups and downs of widowhood. Subscribe here by entering your email, follow the Facebook page and make sure you join the private group. Stop over and connect on Instagram with me and the best compliment to my heart would be if you share this out. This community and so many widows communities are growing and just recently two woman who are a part of the Facebook group found each other in their back yard and met for an amazing lunch, I also have met many locally. I so wish I could have been there with them, but I know someday soon I will meet many more of you.

I imagine at the time when you lost your spouse, you had a moment where you stopped and thought, “I am a Widow?” Or maybe, it happened more unexpectedly like it did for me. I was asked if I was his Widow? It had not crossed my mind, but yes, they were correct. It was not blasphemy even though it felt like I had just been cursed at. They were not wrong in what they said. My bodies response was to pause, stare, go blank. It was something like a fight or flight response, a direct hit to my nervous system.

I was standing next to my husband who was lying in a casket when the next person in line waiting to pay their respects, said, “You are his widow”?  It took me a moment, I didn’t quite register what this man had just asked. I can only imagine the look I must have given him and the awkward silence and stare as I processed, what I had heard. Up until that moment, that word, “Widow” had never even crossed my mind or entered my vocabulary. 

I went to say, No. What I responded with was, Yes.

I have spent so much time thinking about each of you and where you are at in the journey of widowhood. I know for myself, I have found inspiration and encouragement in knowing that there are many just like you and I. We each have a unique story to tell, the story of our life. So sitting drinking my coffee this morning, I thought it important to share this message.

I thought about the beginning, when I first realized I was a widow. I thought about how people supported me and how people did not support me. I thought about the judgment and the secondary issues surrounding widowhood.  As I wrote, these words came to me.

I’m A Widow, They Say.
I’m To Cherish The Memories, They Say.
I’m To Move Forward Even Though Motion Has Left Me, They Say.
I’m To Not Move Forward Too Quickly However, They Say.
I’m A Widow, And Now My Every Move Is Scrutinized.
Don’t They Know Movement Is The Hardest Thing Some Days?
I’m A Widow, They Say.

Can you relate to this? Does this induce some thought provoking moments where you go back to, or maybe you are going through it now, the second hand grief that was placed on you by others? That second hand grief is something you also never expected to have to go through. Its easy to say, who cares what others are saying. Much easier to say though. It affects us after loss. We lost the most important person and love in our lives and then the scrutiny and criticism projected onto us by others for how we are grieving, how we are moving forward, how we are not moving forward, is ridiculous. IT IS RIDICULOUS! We acknowledge it, feel hurt by it and we grow to ignore and keep moving beyond others expectations for ourselves. It still hurts us though. This is what I would say to those who place judgment?

  1. Have you gone through the loss of a spouse? Answer: No. Reply: Then mind your own business.
  2. Do you know the pain and instability of my world? Answer: No, but… Reply: Wait hold your buts and mind your own business.
  3. Do you think your telling me to move on and to be happy, is helping me? Answer: I hope so, Im try to be optimistic for you, trying to help. Reply: I appreciate your care and concern, however I have to grieve in my own way and in my own time. I will get there and sometimes, I just want to share how I feel openly without judgement, without resolution. I just want my heart to be heard and my grieving in my own way and time to be accepted.
  4. Did you really say or question me for moving forward? Answer: Well, yes don’t you think its too soon? Reply: Too soon for you, or too soon for me? Do you think I want to stay in this place, I have to keep moving. Moving is hard, but its the only fluid thing I know right now and I can’t even think let alone know whats good for me. I will never move on, but I do know I am worthy of living and finding happiness again. I am not sure I am ready either.

There are many widows in this world. Millions upon millions, approximately 14 million in the United States. Many who have been on this journey for years, and others who are just recently joining. It is important to share each of our experiences to see where others are in their grief journey and to know that each person is different. I hope each of you remember that your spouse would want a life that is grand, a life that is good, a life that is not wasted in vain, FOR YOU. Their gift to you is this day and the next day and the next. Gods gift to you is this day and the next day and the next. His greatest gift, however will be the day he calls each of us home. For now though, I choose to take the pain of this life and allow it to mold me into my purpose. Will you do the same?

Your spouse wants you to know and feel the love in their heart for you and the value of doing something great with the time you have. They would likely say, “go out into the big world and create, do, achieve, share, follow your heart, and find out what it is that YOU want”.

I challenge you to do the things they weren’t interested in doing, the things that you really want. Fill your soul, find your new. I challenge you to also, do the things you both wanted to do. Along the way journal and write down your thoughts. Write down, what doing them meant to YOU. Write down what YOU think your spouse would have said while watching you do those things.

There are many layers and stages to widowhood. The stages of widowhood and processes and feelings laid out are not linear, not all encompassing and so if you don’t follow these stages or an order, just know there is no true order.

Stage 1: Grief

You have likely sat and thought, I am a widow, so now what? What will my life be now that my spouse is not here with me? Who am I?

I remember asking myself this and ten years into widowhood, I can’t say I am an expert widow, but I can share with you how I grew and continue to grow and transform through my grief. There are many feelings and experiences in grief. The body and minds reaction through processing and accepting widowhood will likely bring you to feel these feelings. It is somewhat of an incubation period, although I’m not sure that is the exact term I would use. It takes time. We retreat for a time until we are ready to emerge.

  • Fog, numbness and exhaustion
  • Pain, aching pain
  • Fear, fear, fear
  • Paralyzed feeling
  • Denial, a need to lock up places of your heart too hard to explore
  • Stress, anxiety, worry, panic
  • Depression, self pity, feelings that you don’t want to live here without them
  • Anger, bitterness
  • Loneliness, longing, want
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of compassion for others circumstances and life events
  • Vulnerability, susceptibility to others persuasions
  • Loss of feeling and care for yourself
  • Self care diminishes
  • Relationships with others change and some end. We push people away.
  • Health issues
  • Trust issues
  • Self destructive moments, uncharacteristic thoughts and feelings

Stage 2: Growth

Suddenly and with no real ability to pin-point the change in you, you will begin to feel hope, you will begin to feel want and start thinking about your future. Growth really occurs when we become silent with ourselves, when we start to accept the loss we have suffered and we start to love ourselves back into existence. We no longer just want to exist, we want to thrive, we want to flourish. The fog lifts and we put into action allowing ourselves to feel new feelings. I call this our re-birth.

  • Fog starts to lift
  • Semi Acceptance of your new normal
  • Motion really feels like motion, movement and the need to move in a direction you choose, comes back
  • Fear, stress, anxiety and worry lessen
  • You start to feel hope or a want to hope for your future
  • You begin smiling again, maybe you even laugh
  • Self care becomes more important
  • Mental capacity returns
  • You can start to feel more and compassion returns
  • Forward now becomes a thing and a want
  • Support from others is much easier to accept
  • Love for yourself grows
  • You unlock some places and spaces of your heart and begin processing feelings, healing
  • You want to thrive and flourish

Stage 3: Transformation

I remember when I started seeing that I was so much more than a Widow (I never really saw myself as this, rather it was placed on me), I was a strong, courageous, bold woman who had broken the boundaries and the molds that society placed upon me and that I had maybe even for a time placed on myself. I possessed an independence and a strength that set the stage for me to really go after things in life with tenacity. I possessed a grace and a courage to continue knowing I can re-invent and transform myself any time I want to. Growing has no end. I can tell you this strength is hard for others in my life at times. I will never stop being the woman I am however. I will always continue fighting for myself and showing my daughters their wants matter.

  • A renewed energy, gratitude and appreciation for life emerges
  • A security in knowing that growth is on-going and in finding yourself
  • A confidence in yourself develops
  • A new awareness and perspective on living
  • Independence and sense of fulfillment for how far you have come
  • Philanthropic exploration and appreciation for the beauty in the world
  • An understanding that YOU matter and a love for the NEW YOU grows
  • Joy has returned, newfound joy and acceptance that you can be joyful, happy
  • Emotional healing and strength
  • Understanding that grief does not end. You don’t get over it, you continue to get through it.
  • You continue to unlock places and spaces of your heart you didn’t know needed unlocking
  • A new understanding of the person you are and continue to transform into
  • Seeing the beauty in your brokenness

I am a remarried widow and so if you were to put me in a stage, I would likely fall into Stage 3. My belief however is that categories and staging and planning out where you are, are not much help. Getting through it understanding its an on-going journey and that you can go back and between and all over the place in a matter of 60 seconds or a split second, that will set the expectation, that there just really shouldn’t be an expectation.

For example, with the ten year anniversary of my husbands passing that just recently was here in September of 2016, I was back and between all of these stages. I went back there by choice and not by choice.  There are people in this world that would say “you have have moved on, you are happy, so why dwell in the past.” The problem with that statement is that we do not move on. I believe we move through, always carrying them and the loss with us, allowing it to grow alongside us and remain a part of who we are because widowhood shapes us. It teaches us a whole new level of who we are and what life is about.  Some may be concerned with how my second husband has handled me being so open in my sharing of widowhood. Some may even say I am no longer a widow. It is ok what others think, because it doesn’t affect me. My why is because of all of you going through this. My why is because I understand and sometimes just knowing and finding one person who understands, that can make all the difference.

My message is not one of despair, it is one of hope. It does encourage me to share openly to create a space of awareness, to share what my ten years in widowhood has taught me and continues to teach me. Ignorance really is such a thing as we all know and the world is not taught how to grieve and what to do when someone is grieving.

I went back this past year so that I would fully feel through and see how far I have come. I saw myself knees on the floor, hands on his legs praying fervently for him in the emergency room. I saw myself laying in his hospital bed, telling him if he needed to go, I would be ok. I saw myself, carrying like a suitcase, the cooler that held his heart to the jet that would deliver it to the lucky family on the other end. I saw myself hidden behind sunglasses as I followed his casket down the same isle of the church we were married in. I saw myself on the floor of the shower crying as the water washed my tears from my face. I saw myself stop caring for myself. I saw myself go into robotic mode and take care of all of the crazy dealings and paperwork and court and the nightmare that came after. I saw myself travel, explore, begin to live. I saw myself take on new things my heart probably never would have, but because I now felt I had nothing to lose, I had nothing to lose. I saw myself laughing and loving again. I saw myself become a wife again. I saw myself become a mother. I saw myself achieve and achieve and achieve. I saw myself, lose myself again. I saw myself, almost walk away from my marriage when we stopped putting us first. I saw myself remembering what was important and making changes. I saw myself seeking God and trusting in him more. I saw myself! I really saw and loved the woman I had become through all of the moments of my life. I found that through the rights and the wrongs, I forgave myself, because my maker had forgiven me.

So, today I bring good news to you, you have a caring friend in me, caring friends in the community of those of us who are growing in numbers and coming together. You are not alone, even though you feel alone. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News” – Romans 10:15

Trust is so hard. Understanding is so hard. “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.: – Proverbs 3:5-6

You may be in a place where you can not trust, you can not feel hope. That is ok, start out by praying in those moments for a peace to carry you through. Turn your pain into your purpose and remember that when you are ready, vulnerability is the doorway to healing!

That is all and that is a lot. So have a wonderful day all of my keepers of the flame.

Tanya Smith

 

 

 

 

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Widow Defined – I Will Hold My Head Up High


A widow defined, is a woman who has been through hell losing a spouse, but holds her head high with a quiet strength that can be felt by all who are in her presense.

I remember the stares and how I could feel the touch of them on my skin. I showed nothing in return and if I did maybe just merely it was a nod or a glance of acknowledgment to close the gap. Then I would discretely move back into my hollow shell, my place of protection. Blank space spanned in between me and everything and everyone around me. I stood still, so still and the world kept moving, spinning, going on. I remember thinking how can this be, is this a dream world? Would the darkness ever end? I would curl up into myself in the night, willing my swollen eyes and the loneliness of my mind to give in to rest. I would wake each day, to the sun peaking through the pale yellow curtains and then be greeted with the shocking stab to the heart as my reminder of what was real set in. Then, I would get to it, start my day surrounded by his things, but not him, only to get through the mundane chit chat that would surely ensue as others tried to cheer and bring up anything, anything but my current hell.

Slowly, very slowly, motion started to return to me. I could feel my hands though frail, I could see my face, though pale, I could see light, though it shown too bright. What was this light shining down on me? Why was it warming my skin, bringing color back into my cheeks?

The light had never left me, and so I believe all things are connected and contrived for us. Today, as I was reading I came upon this verse, “Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my Light.” ~ Micah 7:8

How amazing is this message? So much of what is put on my heart encompasses two opposite sources, darkness and light. If we never went through darkness, how could we fully appreciate the light? I remember as a young girl in Sunday school, one of my favorite songs was, “This little light of mine, Im going to let it shine. This little light of mine, Im going to let it shine. Everywhere I go, Im going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” Just singing it as I type, brings me warmth. Yes, warmth even knowing what I know and going through what I have gone through and continue to go through. I feel the warmth and light of this life, and you can to. Believe it and come on this journey with me back to the light.

And so today, as I was thinking, I wanted share these feelings to open a glimpse of the world of a widow or someone who has lost profound love in their life. So, go with me ten years back in time, if you will. The word Widow had never even fell upon my lips, or if it had, I didn’t understand the coldness, the solitude and cruelty of it. I think about all of the woman I have met that are a part of this misunderstood tribe. I see so many that carry the look of strength, but when I see them I see them for who they are and not what they have been marked with. I see a quiet grace, an unspoken sadness, a dignity and appreciation for what is true and real. I see the compassion and understanding, that we know the loss that we have experienced changes us and will continue to change us as we grow into our own right, into our light. We know we are beautifully broken and we don’t see ourselves as needing to be fixed, or needing to just get over it. It will never leave us and this is something, we are just fine with.

We will go through a re-birth if you will. We will not have to relearn everything, but we will have to take steps in our own time to relearn the life we will build for ourselves, a new life. When we get to a place of healing and readiness for what’s next, all I have to say is watch out world!! Widowed woman are strong woman, bold woman, brave woman and will see through bullshit a mile a way. We won’t bind ourselves long to people and things if they do not serve us or better us, we will have learned the importance of time and filling it with people that lift us up and support us in our journey, rather than those that cut us down or are the nah sayers. Yes, we don’t have time for the nah sayers.

We will go through all different stages and waves and all at once or one at a time. We will love deeply and expect more out of others and at times that will hurt us, because we can’t expect people to see the world as we do. We will feel things deeply, more deeply than a person could possibly think they could feel and we will not care what others perceptions are of us, because we get who we are, or we understand we are getting to where we hope to get to.

So, because music has been such a part of my journey, this song completely enveloped me when I heard it. It took me to thinking this, this right here explains some of how I felt, still feel when I look back at the quiet strength I showed.

Wherever you are in your walk of widowhood, or grief journey in losing a loved one, please believe in your heart that the light will come back to you, if you open yourself to receiving it. Please be encouraged by this and at least impress upon your heart that you will be open to what is next for you.

The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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Keep Believing Even When Your Prayers Hit The Ceiling

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My Faith Had Lost All Meaning

Keep believing even in the moments you feel you don’t have an ounce of belief in you. I remember when I felt my prayers had hit the ceiling. The night my husband was taken to the hospital, I fell to my knees at his bedside in the emergency room. I prayed with conviction and authority in my heart, that god would heal him. Although, he came back to us, he was not going to get better. My prayers were not answered and that was something that I could not understand. I had become something I never imagined or thought up for myself, I became a widow. During that time, I lived in a fog and complete haze. Loss and the aftermath it presents is something that you can not explain or help people to understand. Unless a person has experienced loss for themselves, it is hard for others to comprehend. I saw the unanswered prayers as god failing me, life failing me. Because of that, I lost confidence in my faith and I stopped praying and believing.

You Kept Me Believing

I’m thankful that God and my family kept me believing.  I came back to my faith and as I did, he started revealing to me the plans he had ahead. I’m blessed that I can stop and look back at my life, even the struggles, and see the joy that has been restored. Through my journey of loss, I have become to know myself. I am confident in who I am, although I am still growing into the person I hope to be. I am blessed to have leaned into life and to have designed the life I want for myself. My design continues to change, but I think that is completely normal for people who open themselves up to growing.  I sometimes fear for what pain may be ahead, but I think that will always be present, because loss changes perception of life. Challenge yourselves to look to today and have a grateful heart for moments and breaths.

There is a song that goes with this. Music has been such a big part of my journey.

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Rainbows All Around Me

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I saw that there was an amazing rainbow in Chicago yesterday. I’ve taken so many snaps of rainbows through my journey. This one in Chicago is amazing..but mine have been more amazing in my opinion along my journey and that’s because they were meant for me.

A rainbow is a sign of hope and peace and they certainly do bring those feelings for me.

My husband was an organ donor. He and our families chose to give the ultimate gift to five others waiting for their miracle. The night before my husbands organs were to be taken, there was a beautiful storm. He was a storm chaser, so that is why I call it a beautiful storm. The heavens were rolling. The thunder and lighting were loud and amazing..though nothing at the time was amazing. I remember thinking, this storm is for him! He would have had me in the truck, chasing the heart of it. After the storm was the most amazing rainbow. I wish I had a picture.

The next day was the worst day of my life. I woke up at my best friends house, because I could not sleep alone in our bed. I can’t explain the pain of knowing he was gone, of waking up with such a heaviness in my heart, thinking of him on that operating table knowing his organs were being prepared for someone else, knowing this was real and he was gone. My heart had left my body at that time.

I went home and took my first shower and dressed myself. I looked in the mirror and I truly couldn’t see myself, I looked so different. It’s crazy what you remember, but it’s so vivid for me those days..I know down to my shoes what I wore that day. I can see myself, which is hard to see. I was so broken. I drove to the airport. The jets were flying into the DeKalb airport and our families could come. Gift of Hope was so amazing and compassionate to us. I remember standing on the side of the runway, unbelieving. Looking at my life and thinking how can this be happening. Coolers, there were coolers with my husbands heart, lungs, kidneys. Regular coolers. There were two jets with life flight nurses and pilots. Amazing and again compassionate people. The pilot autographed a photo, which I have tucked away, not sure if it’s a memento I want to look back at, but I have it still. In between those jets though was a perfect rainbow. A rainbow that in such a hard time had me believe he sent it for me, for our families. Telling us I’m ok, be ok.

Even writing this I have tears flowing. Life is hard…so hard..but what’s so awesome about it is knowing true and real love…feeling so much that it, makes you feel. I wouldn’t trade my life for one second. As hard as saying goodbye was, it was equally hard to start again..but i did and not without struggle, or continued struggles. Life is just that and we should not waste it.

Grabbing that cooler handle that had Johns heart in it was something I will never forget. I released my husbands heart to the care of that jet and nurses to take to that family waiting so desperately on the other end. I cannot tell you how hard that was, even though I did feel for them and think of them and the anticipation and hope they were feeling in that moment. It gave me peace in a way that he helped so many live, though I had no real peace since he was not with me, or us.

I can say I am so very thankful. What we had was real and true even if it was taken too soon. I’m proud of him and us. I think he would be very happy for me and how I have chosen to honor him and myself by living. I’m thankful for how he taught me to love and live so openly. I never imagined being his widow. I’m truly thankful for my second hubby and where we are at now, how much he supports and loves me through my journey and how blessed we are with our girls. I never have to hide who I am, nor would I for anyone and that feels good. #widow #widowhood #awidowsworld #lovedeeply #lovetruly #giftofhope

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Have Courage

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Courage! Having the courage to step out and take action can be so hard sometimes. Truly though, the decision leading up to you actually taking that first step is the hardest, isn’t it?

Don’t we all agonize over just that part.

Once we take the leap, doesn’t everything have a way of working it self out? Maybe not the way we expected, but somehow it could lead to something better than we could have hoped for. That is at least what I have experienced.

Obstacles will always be in front of us, but I guess for me, the having no regrets part is the biggest thing. If you don’t follow your heart, I will ask you this, how can you truly be whole?

If you are struggling with something today, I would say, trust in yourself! Listen to your heart and where it is leading you. Don’t make a decision impulsively or hastily (I know this from experience), think things through, but not to the point you drive yourself or others around you mad (I know this from experience also haha) :). If you are constantly worrying or doubting what’s ahead, give it up to god and start praying for the signs to lead you to your whats next.

Comment below #iwillhavecourage if you are going to commit to figuring out your next step!

Pictured are my daughters who teach me what courage means everyday. If I had not had the courage to start again, I would not know the amazing love and joy they would add to my life. I commit to raising these two to be strong woman who are confident in themselves and go after their dreams. #lovinglife #addelise #widow #courage #awidowsworld #rebuilding #livingthroughloss

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Positive Encounters

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Every encounter in life matters. Every encounter leaves us with a chance to reflect looking at where we have been, where we are now and where we want to be!
I have had several encounters over the last couple weeks that really allowed me to stop and look back at my former broken self and see where I am today. The biggest thing I have seen lately is how so many things are being revealed to me. It is because I have opened my heart, my mind and I have been praying more directly.
First Reveal
When my my first husband John passed away, I was working for a wonderful company. They were sensitive, supportive, and understanding of the tragedy I had gone through. The week following Johns passing, we were supposed to be on a trip to Vail, Colorado with everyone. A trip that I had planned and John and I were very excited about. Needless to say, we did not get to go on that trip and all of our plans we had would never happen. I went back to work a week and a half later, because I had to financially. Though it was hard, it helped focus my mind on something that I knew, my job. I had so many moments I would be crying in my office. I felt broken and afraid of what my future was going to be. I was lost without my partner and best friend. I felt bad for my family, friends and co-workers who had to see me that way, even though I knew they understood. I eventually made the hard decision to leave and take time off to find me, the new me. I had sold our lot that we were going to build on and so I had a little money to take me through a few months time while I waitressed, until I figured things out. I closed a chapter that I needed to close at that time to start writing a new one. It was the right decision for me.
Recently, my old co-workers reached out to catch up.  As I was walking into the building emotions started flooding over me. I continued through the lobby and saw my old office. As I waited for some of them to greet me, I had a moment that made me stand still and stare into the office window. I could see my former self, sitting there so frail, beyond devastated and lost. I was the most lifeless version of myself at that point in time. So uncertain of what my life would be.  I immediately turned back to where I am now.  Feelings of thanks and pride washed over me. If anyone had told me I would get through it back then and have the life I have now, I truly would not have believed it. It was not without struggles, I struggle to this day. Looking at myself today, I was standing in that same spot but now I was a strong, confident woman. I was remarried, had two beautiful daughters and I had built an amazing career. I saw someone who didn’t take no for an answer and it showed in many areas of my life. I now carried a smile and an evident love for life. There will always be an underlying sadness behind my smile, but I am happy in my heart. Happiness is knowing John would be happy for me too.
Message: Remember to take care of yourself. Listen to what you need and not what others think you need.  Take time for your heart to heal. It will take years and years. Parts of my heart are healing still. It won’t heal completely and your hurt will always be there, but listen to yourself and what you need to move forward. Allow yourself the chance to at some point in time stop and look back with pride for how far you have come. 
Second Reveal
On July 3rd, we hosted a Fourth of July celebration at our home. I was running all week making sure the plans and preparation would come together, but also just telling myself, “Hey, these are your friends and family, just relax and enjoy that everyone will be getting together.” I was headed to the grocery store to pick up the buns and potato salad the morning of, you know the last minute fixings. I came to the ketchup isle with the pickles and then it happened! A man around my age late 30’s, maybe early 40’s says, “Is your name Tanya?”
I stop and take a look at him, not recognizing him and I say, “Yes” He then says his name, and continues, “I know you.” I clearly don’t know this man from recollection, so I am visibly feeling bad because I do usually remember people, so I say, “You do?”
The next line brought me to instant tears, “I knew your husband, John, I was friends with him and also know your dad.” I quickly apologize for my tears which maybe even were sobs….yes sobs. See, even ten years later, unprepared for running into someone, I did not have my guard up. I was not prepared. I immediately felt bad and said, “I am so sorry, I do this sometimes, I am OK.” His family was staring in shock and I quickly recognized that everyone was looking at me, thinking why is this woman crying in the ketchup and pickle isle. I pull myself together and hear him say, “Be blessed.” This encounter completely shook me. I always have outwardly been strong and wore my smile. I broke down. I had let myself break down and show my true feelings, the sadness of losing John, it will always be there. Most people that know me, will say that I am very open and almost transparent when it comes to how I am feeling. This is true, but I have held a lock on my heart, ever since John passed away. I locked up space, that I let no one see, because it is hard. I have been opening up this space, because I’m ready to. Sharing has been beyond amazing for me, I always wanted to do this, but I had to be ready. The timeline is mine and no one else’s.
After, I left the store I instantly wished I would have been able in that moment to have a conversation with this man, to let him know that even though I showed my tears, my sobs…I am good. I am good within my self, I am good within my soul and I am so proud of the life I have built and continue to build.  A life that my first husband would be proud of. I wish I had had the chance to brag on my second husband and how that despite trials we have faced in our marriage, we are in love and good. That I feel John picked him for me because they have so many similarities, yet are each very different people.  I wish I would have showed him a picture of my two amazing daughters. I didn’t though, because I allowed myself to break down and it was exactly what I needed to do, to see that I am good. I have continued to peel back the layers of my pain, revealing a trueness to myself and an outlook that is life focused. I hope that maybe I will perhaps have the chance again so I can share this part of my story.
Coming out of that experience, it helped and touched my heart.
Message: I remember when I used to say I was OK, because it was so much easier than explaining that I really was not. When I started crying, and I said, “I am OK,” I really meant it this time. I will always cry, sometimes sob over the loss of my first husband and best friend, but I have stopped hiding behind my pain. I am taking care of me, opening my heart, sharing who I am. I have learned that being vulnerable and real is OK. More people need to see that in this world, more people need to be shown it is ok to move past your grief and that life is a gift that none of us should waste or throw away. 
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Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People

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I truly must admit, it is hard at times to lean into God’s word and trust in his plan, especially when you can not understand the heartache or the trials you are presented in life. I have had many people ask me “If God is there, if he is real, why do so many bad things happen to good people?” I struggle a lot with this question, I think many of us do.
 
For instance, I could say, “Why did he take John away from me and his family at such a young age? Why are babies born still? Why did that loving couple continue to experience miscarriage after miscarriage? Why do some of the most caring people who just want a child to love, experience infertility? Why do innocent children get abused? Why do so many girls and boys get sexually assaulted? Why do good couples that once had extreme love in their hearts for each other become filled with resentment with no resolution in site? Why do we watch some of our loved ones suffer and their bodies and health deteriorate? Why do we turn on the news and see mass murders and killings taking place, so much hate in the world?” The questions of why could go on and on and the answer to that question is, I don’t know. 
Its a hard question to answer and so I have looked into it so that I can help others understand. I found a writing on this that I would like to share for those interested. It is by a Christian author and apologist (a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial), Lee Strobel. I have included the link and just one excerpt below of many I found to be helpful: https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2012/07/why-does-god-allow-tragedy-and-suffering/
 
“But if you doubt God’s promise, listen to what a wise man said to me: God took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe — deicide (the death of God on the cross) and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in the history of universe, the opening up of heaven to all who follow Him. So if God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can he not take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?
 
He can and He will. God can use our suffering to draw us to Himself, to mold and sharpen our character, to influence others for Him – He can draw something good from our pain in a myriad of ways…if we trust and follow Him.”
 
I personally am learning more and more to trust and pray asking him for specific things in my life that he can show to me. Things he is showing me, even as recent as this week.
 
I can look back over the last ten years, since losing my first husband John and see the moments where my footprints were not imprinted on the ground, where God was carrying me, protecting me and revealing to me the life he would restore for me, if I trusted in and leaned into him. I have not always been faithful to this and I will be very honest about that.  See, I am human. I follow my human ways and I am flawed. Me and my family have been hit with low blow after low blow. Some of the worst and unimaginable things, we have experienced. Things so painful you just ask why? Even in our why’s we trust and I can’t explain at times why we do this, but we do…because that is all we can do. Trust and get through it, putting it in Gods hands and supporting each other.
 
I see things that have happened to me along the way that helped me get to a better place, a place where my joy started to return and I started to love myself again. I stopped loving myself after John died. I was on a path that could have been destruction and was for a short time, because I didn’t care. I was so beat up and broken that nothing mattered. I felt nothing and therefore I cared for nothing and especially not for myself…because I was numb. Despite this, I see I was being lifted up, I was being protected and loved by my family and friends and mostly by God. He is the defender and protector of widows. There are many verses in the bible that affirm this, such as Psalm 68:5, “A Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”
 
I hope this helps even just one person today. We don’t have the answers to our why’s.  It is not for us to understand God’s plan or will for our lives. Loss is personal, your experience is different than mine. Mine is different than yours, because we are all different people and process things differently. We will never understand the why’s until we are taken home to live eternally.
 
I encourage you to try to not focus on the why’s. I encourage you to find your light, share your smile, talk about your journey. If we can shine our light, so that others know its OK to live and be happy even after devastation, it is OK to challenge yourself and be strong and courageous, maybe we will encourage someone through their own journey, maybe we will start believing in our smile again and the person we are and can be because we value living. Maybe we will learn to live fully because we allow ourselves the chance to.
It is most definitely an example to stand up and be more than just a survivor. Be a lover of life. I know I am very hard on myself at times, I need to stop that so that my light can shine, so that people can know my heart and with out a doubt understand what it is I stand for. I will re-read all of this when I need the reminder..because lets face it…we are human and we need to have continued reminders.
 
Here are some more verses that encourage me, that I hope will encourage you. Thank you to Odyssey Online for this message that popped up in my feed this morning, its funny how these little nudges come, that follow what has already been put on your heart to share.
 
http://theodysseyonline.com/longwood/8-bible-verses-for-the-overthinker/325723
 
1. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. – Philippians 4:6
 
2. Whenever you feel unloved, unimportant, or insecure, remember to whom you belong to. – Ephesians 2:19-22
 
3. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? – Luke 12:24
 
4. Because He bends down I will pray as long as I have breath. – Psalm 116:2
 
5. Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
 
6. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:33-34
 
7. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
 
8. She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future. – Proverbs 31:25
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Sleep soundly! Tanya Smith
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International Widow’s Day June 23rd

Today, June 23rd is International Widow’s Day!

It is a day very close to my heart as I became a widow at the young age of 26. Becoming a widow at any age, is difficult, so I would like to take this time to recognize all of the widows worldwide and honor them this day, by acknowledging the struggles, the heartache and the journey of widowhood.

Widowhood is not easy and truly no matter how much time passes, the journey is ever present and the feeling of sadness, missing, longing, loving and reflecting on the time that was shared will remain. I have found remembering and letting yourself be in  and feel through those tough moments is not only good for the soul but also very healing. My journey as a widow will be ten years this September. There are days it feels like yesterday and days it feels like it was so very long ago, but the feelings remain. We did not choose to say goodbye. Maybe the loss was was sudden, maybe it was known and the time was looming, no matter the circumstance when we love someone and lose them to death we will never feel we had enough time.

I encourage widows out there to live, take chances and go after the things that matter. Don’t stay in your sorrow and grief, honor your loved one lost and yourself by living a life that would make them smile and be proud. We all deserve that.

Background on International Widows Day

International Widows Day takes place every year on June 23rd. It was initially launched by the Loomba Foundation whose focus is caring for widows around the world, in London in 2005.

International Widows Day (IWD) is a global day of focus for effective action to raise awareness and help widows and their children around the world. In 2015, there were an estimated 259 million widows and 585 million children in the world affected by widowhood, together with their family members the number is well over a billion people. For more information on the Loomba Foundation visit http://theloombafoundation.org/international-widows-day/

The Loomba Foundation put together a report in 2015 that details the research they performed to gather information on the number of widows per country. I have used Esri’s ArcGIS for Office solution to create an interactive map that allows you to visualize this data worldwide. Although, this is not 2016 data, this is the most current information I was able to gather. I credit the Loomba organization for their research, adopting this day, and the care and support they offer to recognize widows worldwide.

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