A Widow’s Story From South Africa – We Call Her Anna

Thank you for visiting A Widows World.

In this first Widow Share Episode, Tanya Smith has the honor of sharing a Widow’s story from South Africa.

Her story and her message is powerful. Her identity has to remain anonymous for cultural reasons. Please watch and leave your comments of encouragement and support for this woman we call Anna.

If you would like to submit your story, email tanya@awidows.world. A Widows World is growing into a community, which serves to inspire, empower and connect widows worldwide.

We hope you will join this movement, sharing your own experiences through the journey of grief, growth and transformation.

 

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Happily Ever After Is A Choice – Choose Happy Today

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Happily ever after is a choice! Happily ever after was created in fairytale world. Many believe in it, but happily ever after just depends on your definition of it. If your happily ever after was taken, you never possessed it in the first place.

I will warn you, you may decide to agree to disagree with me on this one depending on where you are at in your loss journey. I read a lot. Articles, books, blogs, posts, magazines, you get the picture, I read. Good for me. Does reading make me an expert? No. Does being book smart, really allow you to identify with me? No.

Experience, world experience and going through a similar struggle, struggles, that is what allows us to identify with one another.

There is a movement taking place, right now. It is one of empowerment, one that more and more are starting to grasp and hold onto. I see so many hearts taking back their shape. A new mold being created. It gets me excited and gives me so much joy for you and I. It is a movement of hope, a movement of responsibility. We have a responsibility to ourselves to hope and to feed our spirits with the right things, the right people, the right content. Our surroundings and attitudes really take on those of others, so be aware of those around you. Are they feeding your spirit, or keeping you in a place of hopelessness?

I came across a post that read, “Not everyone gets their happily ever after”. It had me really stop and think about this statement. I began questioning, have I identified with this? Do I identify with it? I think I have and I haven’t, during different seasons of my life. I simply do not believe this at this stage of my life.

It is through growing, healing, and loving myself again, that I see so much clearer.

Growing up, I clinged onto the fairytale, I waited and I found my man and believed we were going to have a beautiful long life together. Then in 2004 when he died tragically, I agreed with the statement, “Not everyone gets their happily ever after”, because I felt my happily ever after was robbed from me. During that time it hurt to see others lives moving forward, seeing them get engaged, married, pregnant, welcoming their new bundles, growing their families, seeing life move forward for them. I was so fixated on what I had lost, that I couldn’t think of anything but that. Until, I started to really work on myself and chose to see the joy in my days, the joy in what I had already had, that would never leave me, never be taken from me. If I believed my happily ever after was taken from me, that I would never have that again, then I never truly possessed it in the first place.

A love that is real, true and life altering, can not be taken from us. Although not here in the physical, we still possess that same love and we will until the day we die and are reunited again.

Happily ever after lies within ourselves and should not depend on another for us to achieve that definition. Loving, caring for, listening to ourselves and following our hearts through the struggles that life brings, will lead us to us, our true hearts.

If happily ever after lies in someone else, then we certainly will stay in the space of not being happy. It starts within us and stays within us. It is a decision, not a fate, not a destination! Happily ever after is a choice and it is up to me and to you.

Think about it and please forgive me for relating this to a tree, but grief has so many rings, so many stages. The rings of a tree are called annual growth rings and so I truly feel it a great analogy. You see, life can be pretty tough on a tree! Yes, you can relate. It can be brutally tough on us as well and has been. Trees go through drought, excessive rain, fire, insect plagues and disease epidemics, injuries, thinning, pollution. All of these acclimates leave their mark on a tree’s annual growth ring. Does this sound familiar? YES! Our annual growth is altered and affected by our surroundings, by the things that happen to us or the things that don’t happen to us. The way we grow, is altered by our struggles, our hurts, our feelings, our environments.

Your growth ring may not be growing right now, you may feel in the darkest places and spaces where time has stopped and memories flood through and surround you. It may be hard to breathe, feel so lonely, so misunderstood, so lost. You may have said out loud, lord please take me and spare me this pain. I know. Your life has paused and everything around keeps moving, and that movement feels like light years ahead of where you are. I know.

So here is what I ask of you. Silence your mind, breathe in and out slowly. Relax your senses and when you feel calm and centered, ask yourself this?

“What is my happily ever after wish for myself?”

“Who do I want to be?”

Tough questions, right? Maybe you don’t know, you feel blank. Thats ok, keep silencing your mind and keep asking yourself these questions.

Happy is a choice, healing is a choice, living fully is a choice. Choose yourself today because unlike a tree, we have the power to stand up and move our roots, change our surroundings and take back our power.

This life is what we make of it, so be a maker.

I am sending love, light, worthiness and prayers your way. My disclaimer in all of this, is that grief is on-going and unending. It sneaks up on us in even the most unapparent moments. You won’t conquer it, you won’t get past it. You will get through it however, in your own time, your own way. It is unique to you, so give yourself the grace to understand that and take it easy on you.

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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All We Ever Need Is {LOVE}

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We were young and restless
Pockets full of stars
Chasing down the moonlight
Till the night was ours
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

Think you have the answers
Dreams bigger than the two of us
We took a lot of chances
All the things we did
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

Sometimes those memories
Can be hard to take
We all remember the times
Before you ever felt your heart break
You never are the same

All the hurt and missteps that came
I have no regrets
I know what the truth is
I will not forget
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

I wake this morning ten years late
The night closes in every eve
A dream that just can’t be my fate
I see your smile a sight to take
I feel the warmth it will be alright

The darkest cloud will split and fade
Two hearts added three one day
You follow me I feel you here
The warmth of the sun upon my face
The whisper of the wind in the still
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

I hope your proud of the woman I am
I never believed I would begin again
Thank you for loving and showing the way
How a heart changes when it breaks
All we ever wanted, all we ever needed was love

I woke to my daughters cries in the night
Laying beside her, comforting
I feel the warmth it will be alright
The sun is here to stay
I will never stop finding my way

On this day, I celebrate you
All the things we grew to know
All the life we lived and shared
All the light that came from dark
Broken is a beautiful place

All we ever want
All we ever need is love

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The Classification of a Widow{er}

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I want to share my thoughts on the classification of a widow or widower.

By societies standards, that little status box we have to check each year on many applications or tax return filings is what technically classifies each of our marital statuses. You know them, single, married, divorced, separated, widowed. It categorizes us to doctors, banks, schools, government, census, the IRS, etc.  It however has nothing to do with who we are and what we have gone through. It has no direct meaning or correlation to how people identify with us. It tells no real significant story of our life and experiences.

In 2004, I checked single. In 2005, I checked married. In 2007, I checked widow. Then in 2009, I checked married again.

So, based on my re-marriage in 2009, I was no longer a widow by societies standards. This is fine, and its not fine in the same token. What people don’t understand is that the journey of widowhood will follow those of us affected by it, FOREVER! 

Woman and men in the world that are widowed or become widowers and that decide to remarry, will continue to be affected by widowhood through remarriage and for the rest of their lives. I can tell you this from my own experience. A loss as significant and devastating as losing a partner will carry through into all aspects of life. I know that one day, god willing, when I am older, I will look back on my entire life and remember John and our love story. I know I will remember it with the same love, fondness and tears in my eyes as the day I said goodbye to him. I also know I will look at the life I built for myself, I will look at the struggles I went through, I will give thanks that I took the chance and lived.

Last night for example, me, my second husband and my two daughters through our marriage went to a birthday party for our friends son. These friends were my and my late husbands closest friends and really more than friends because they became family. I saw so many people I hadn’t seen in such a long time and it was warming to my heart, but I also left in tears. Happy tears because I saw them and because my second husband has been so embraced and accepted by them. Sad tears because of all of the memories of me and John with them that will always be there, and also for how much time has gone past and how fast time continues to go by where I don’t see them much. We still speak and try our best to stay connected, however its not as often and its not the same as it was. Despite that, I know we will always be close, always be connected and have love for one another. I know I will always be a part of their family as I hope they also know they will always be a part of mine. Through time and re-building and schedules and ultimately letting things slip and get in the way, it is different. I know I don’t want it to be different though and maybe some of that is my fault. I for a time had such a difficult time with everything that reminded me of John and our life. Life started really happening for all of us. Between marriages, having children, living in different states or cities, careers and just growing into our responsibilities as young adults, we were all learning the juggling act of life.  It gets crazy and navigating the crazy is sometimes very hard and draining. I know my heart is constantly feeling pulled, because I want to be everything to everyone. I also know this is not realistic if I am to remain a sane person. The sane part may even be questionable from time to time. I want to have connected relationships and friendships. It is important to me. I continue to have this, but not at the level I wish for. This struggle is real for many of us. We do our best and sometimes, maybe we fall flat, but we do continue to try. I’m very blessed that every single one of my closest friends and my family understands this same struggle, and we can pick right back up where we left off not holding anything against the other, because we get it. Life gets complicated and busy.

I have faced many challenges as a re-married widow. Some of them people may not understand or get, but they are what I have been through and so I can share them from my own experience and the experiences I continue to have. I have also come to terms that people don’t have to get me, because I get myself.  Don’t classify a widow{er}. If you are of the mind that a widow or widower just gets on with their life and is no longer classified or part of the widowhood journey, after remarriage, your thinking is incorrect and so I hope this helps others understand and take to heart that widowhood continues on in those of us affected indefinitely.

A widow who re-marries will be presented with new and different challenges.

  • The war within ourselves because we remain in love with our spouse that passed, but we also are in love with our new spouse. I remember when I realized I was starting to fall in love again and what a very strange feeling it was to know, I loved two people. I can’t explain how surreal it was and I can tell you the exact moment this realization came to me.
  • The struggle that we go through feeling like so much time is passing, but we are making new memories. The overwhelming feeling that the new ones are replacing our old ones, that we are replacing our late spouse that passed. Even if we know we will never replace or forget them.
  • Speaking of time passing, for as quick as time passes, it is also hard to know how many years have spanned to where we are today. Knowing the last time we spoke to them or saw them was so long ago, can be hard. Time and distance can present new feelings and emotions and so the saying “time heals all wounds,” it’s not really true.
  • Making our relationships with new people that come into our life open, so they know and support that our journey is on-going. We worry about others placing certain expectations on us, when we may not know what to expect from ourselves at times in the grieving process.
  • We may have a hard time communicating when their are times of frustration and possibly anger, linked to an event or a date. Certain periods of grief can elicit this and it is normal. It may even be a subconscious thing. I know certain times in the year when I am feeling funky or just down, I can stop and say oh It’s around my first husband birthday or our wedding day or the anniversary of his passing.  Its also important to be open with your new partner so they can know that the cause of those feelings and your emotions are not directed at them or caused by them.
  • We can hold things in that hurt us. Its important to try to be open with our feelings and share them so the people closest to us can try to understand us more and what we may be going through.
  • People connected to our first spouse and a part of the life we shared, may have a hard time with our moving forward with our lives. They may not be accepting of a new partner.
  • Making sure the new people in our lives don’t feel threatened by our continuing to share the person we lost and still love because they were and are still and important part of who we were and who we continue to be.
  • Making sure we do our very best to not compare our new partner to the one we didn’t choose to say goodbye to. Sometimes we may not even mean to.
  • Communicating what it is we want for ourselves in our new relationships, so its clear and a new partner understands. They need to know we must share our journey, who we were, who our partner we lost was. It’s important so we can feel whole and safe in moving forward.
  • Clearly sharing with a new partner that there will be hard days, tearful and difficult days. Days of remembrance, milestones and even those just because sad days.
  • Remembering that our new partners likely will not know how to empathize or be there for us in those times of remembrance or important dates. We cannot expect them to, so if we want them to show support, then we need to ask them to or share with them these times.
  • Understanding that a widow will always love her husband that passed. Death and time do not change that.
  • Remembering that no one love is the same and seeing the uniqueness and finding thankfulness for both is very important.
  • The blending of families and children. I did not have children with my first husband, but I do have several woman that are my friends whom are widows and do have children. I can not speak to this personally, though they share with me the struggles.
  • For me, I have already started explaining to my children I have from my new marriage that I loved someone and had committed a life to someone before their father, that I still love them and will continue to because they are important to me and who I have become to be as their mom. I will teach my daughters that this is ok and I will share with them my story and how thankful I am for John and how thankful I am for Dave. I will teach them that love comes in many forms and not just the way society shows it, or the way we expect it to be.
  • Making sure the children you had with your spouse that passed, feel open to talking about him and sharing him without fear for hurting the new partners feelings. Giving them a place of comfort and trust to know that their fathers memory will live on. Again, I can not speak to this, I only know from what my widowed friends have shared.

There are so many more, but these were just some I wanted to share.

I have a girlfriend that I met in my travels who lost her significant other. They were not married and so thankfully his family embraced her and recognized her loss. I feel a different status needs to be recognized for the woman and men who are the girlfriends/boyfriends or life partners, of the passed. There are many woman and men, who were also with their partner for years. Maybe they did not get the chance to officially marry their partner, or they had made the decision that they did not need a certificate to acknowledge their commitment. They have no classification. Many of these woman and men are not recognized for their loss in the way that they would have been if they had officially been married. I recognize them, because they loved and knew the love of their partner that they lost. They experienced the same or similar loss as many of us who were married and widowed or became widowers. In today’s age, more and more people are deciding to not get married, so we need to see that girlfriends/boyfriends and life partners who have experienced loss, matter. That they have the same grieving journey ahead, though they are not recognized as widows. I embrace them as the same as me.

It was put on my heart to write this blog because I have seen articles written that discount, discredit and make woman or men who have remarried or who were not married to their partner feel as if they should just move on, renounce the fact that this devastating loss has happened and because we have moved forward, we no longer care or we are magically healed. This is unfair, untrue and ridiculous.

I was 26 when a bee or hornet changed my whole world, something as small and relevant to nature, the nature that we love and do our best to preserve, reminded me that in life there are no guarantees. It was beyond my control or understanding. Although, John and I were only married a little over a year, we had shared seven life packed years together. I feel like there were people that saw we were only married a year so they started forming their own opinions, like somehow that one year was not long enough and I would be fine. It was seven years, we spent building a relationship and a foundation of love. Whether its months or years, or decades, I hope this provides insight and new thinking if you are the family member or friend of a widow{er} or unwed widow{er}. No person should ever discount others relationships or discredit love.

I am and will always be a widow, because I am John’s widow.  Widowhood is something I know and also don’t care to know, but it has defined me and the person I am today and the person I will continue to grow into. I share my journey as a widow openly because it is who I am. It is a part of me and my life with John and no check box or person will tell me differently. I share it because I have also made sure my new husband understands my journey and he has always been open and continues to support me through it. I will be a widow and know widowhood until I die, EVEN with remarriage. I will be wise beyond my years, because of what I have been through and continue to go through. To this day, I remain John’s wife; I am his widow, he is my late husband.

The way widows are viewed and socially embraced is changing. I am thankful for this, especially in a very uncertain time in our history where we see so publicly the amount of lives that are lost unnecessarily. The amount of woman and men, who are now a part of this journey, it breaks my heart. I pray for all of the new widow{ers} as a result of the recent terrible shootings and killings throughout the United States and Internationally.

When I became a widow, there was not much in the way of support or avenues for widow connection. Social media has now changed that. The widowhood connection is much stronger and growing. It is growing for widowers and girlfriends/boyfriends as well. It’s amazing to me all of the empowered woman and men I have started to meet through social media, that are sharing their journey and have been sharing it. The bravery and courage behind that is amazing to me. The vulnerability and bravery of it!

When we stop hiding, we can truly be who we are.

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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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My Rose Colored Glasses Disappeared

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I will never see through rose colored glasses after going through the loss and life trials that I have. There have been moments I have woken up and thought how did I get here, how is time passing so quickly. Those moments help me stop, reflect and realize that through my own strength, determination and want to live, I made it to where I am at. I had to make that decision for myself, no one could do it for me. It certainly helped having the support of my family and friends and clinging to my faith. Having faith was very hard and I lost it along the way, but I’m glad it didn’t lose me.

This life is hard, but it’s so worth it! That’s all I can tell you at this point in my widowhood journey. It took a lot to get here and it takes a lot to stay here. Once you find your will, your strength and your hope again, you find yourself. You will continue to get to know yourself and piece by piece you heart will become close to whole. Take the chance, you are worth it!

 

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It Was Written

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Looking back on the past ten years and how fast it has gone by, I have a grateful heart. I understand what life means and I am still learning. I’m thankful for what was written in the sand for the life I shared with John and I’m thankful for what was written in the sand waiting for me after loss. I’m blessed for everyone in my life that helped me along the way. Live your life so fully through the seasons of it. Feel through the pain and don’t hold yourself back for fear of the hurt that may be ahead, because you will be missing out. Make an impact in your life each day.

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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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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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