Tag Archives: Widow

Book Review: Tear Soup

Disclaimer: Every person is different in what they find to be helpful, spiritual, humorous and comforting, which is why I include a section for general thoughts to clarify exactly what I liked and disliked about the book. This is simply meant to be a guide in helping you find the book that best suits your individual needs as a newly widowed person. I wish you peace on this difficult journey.

Title: Tear Soup

Author(s): Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen

Publishing Info: Grief Watch, Portland Oregon 1999

Helpful Meter 1-5 (1 being not at all helpful, 5 being very helpful) 4

Spiritual Meter 1-5 (1 being not spiritual, 5 being very spiritual) 3

Humor Meter 1-5 (1 being not humorous at all, 5 being very humorous) 1

Comfort Meter 1-5 (1 being not comforting, 5 being very comforting) 5

Staci’s Recommendation (1 being pass on this, 5 being read this today) 4

General thoughts and feelings on the book: I received a couple copies of this book when my husband died. This along with one other book (which is due for review next) helped me the most. Tear Soup is great for someone who doesn’t have a lot of time or doesn’t like to read. It is short and in picture book format. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s just for kids. It’s great for kids, but also covers a lot of general grief and healing for adults too. There’s a lot of emphasis on each person’s grief being different, and what you might encounter along that journey. There’s also great resources listed in the back and bullet point advice for dealing with different situations. This would be a great book to gift to someone who’s just experienced a loss (after giving it a read yourself). It scored a 3 on the spiritual meter because there was a couple pages on dealing with your faith, which I’m finding most grief books include. It’s not preachy or pushing towards faith either way. The metaphor of making “tear soup” as the grief journey is great and easy to understand. I highly recommend this book.

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Quietly Creeping

So I managed to make my deadline. My goal was to have this little book of short creepy stories published by September 30th. September 30th is when school starts for me and I knew if I didn’t have it published by then it would fall by the wayside and not get done until I had completed my Master’s program.

I’m proud say it’s done. It’s published. It’s ready and waiting to creep you out! You can buy it here.

Right now it’s just an ebook but I’m looking into making physical copies available as well.

The whole reason this book came about was because of my late husband Jordan. He was a writing enthusiast, but as far as I know, was never able to finish a story. While going through his things I found a metric ton of his writing, which included but was not limited to, poems, songs and the beginning of intricate, winding novels. I think if he’d had the discipline to sit down and write one it would have been picked up quickly and sold like gangbusters. This is not to say he wasn’t a disciplined person. He wanted to write a novel, it just wasn’t a huge priority. He was a talented man and he spread that talent over many mediums. He sometimes referred to himself as a Jack of all trades but a master of none.

One day I was reading through his many written words and I came across three stories that were similar in nature. They were dark, creepy and examined the differences between reality and fantasy. I remembered him talking about these stories. While I remembered the general gist of the stories I, of course, could not remember all their intricate details. I re-read the writing he had. I pulled them out and put them all together in a binder. I got out a notebook, highlighter and post-its and took on the task of combining and adding to the stories.

I anticipated writing a long mystery novel. What I came up with was another short story. At first I was annoyed. I already had a number of short stories I didn’t know what to do with. As I glanced over my folder of short stories I decided to re-read some of them. I realized they all shared a common theme, fear.

But not in the way you would expect. It was something more subtle. The White Room was written as I struggled with my beliefs. The Child and his Beast explores growing up and loosing something in the process. Oliver Waits for Olivia examines relationships and what might happen if what you thought was real was not. The Roommate delves into being alone and going crazy. Wake Up, 
Travis, which is the story that was born of Jordan’s writing is sort of the odd ball out. Although it does examine some fears, like not having control of your life and not being able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, it does not directly reflect a fear I’ve had to face. But I still put it in because I realized something else as I re-read these stories. All of these stories were written right before or after Jordan entered my life. I decided right then to edit and compile them into a book of short stories.

I knew I could not in good conscience publish this book under my own name. Jordan’s influence was in the very souls of these stories, so I figured a nom de plum was in order. The nom de plume would be a combination of my name and Jordan’s to honor his role in  each of the stories. I know Jordan would love these stories because he had read all but two of them and had told me he loved them.

I hope he’s proud of what I’ve put together and thrilled that one of his stories has been published, even if it’s in a slightly different form than he expected.

Book Review: I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping & Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One

Disclaimer: Every person is different in what they find to be helpful, spiritual, humorous and comforting, which is why I include a section for general thoughts to clarify exactly what I liked and disliked about the book. This is simply meant to be a guide in helping you find the book that best suits your individual needs as a newly widowed person. I wish you peace on this difficult journey.

Title: I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping & Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One

Author(s): Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, PhD

Publishing Info: Sourcebooks, Inc., Naperville IL 2000

Helpful Meter 1-5 (1 being not at all helpful, 5 being very helpful) 5

Spiritual Meter 1-5 (1 being not spiritual, 5 being very spiritual) 4

Humor Meter 1-5 (1 being not humorous at all, 5 being very humorous) 1

Comfort Meter 1-5 (1 being not comforting, 5 being very comforting) 4

Staci’s Recommendation (1 being pass on this, 5 being read this today) 4

General thoughts and feelings on the book: I was intimidated by this book at first because it’s quite thick. But I soon discovered it’s extremely well organized into parts and chapters. It’s also very easy to read. The thing I really liked about this book is that it’s not just a book for widows. It covers grief in losing a parent, sibling, friend, spouse among others. It also offers advice on what children may go through and how to help them. It includes insight on dealing with different types of sudden death from car accidents to suicide. It’s really nice to have all that information in one place. You can not only use this book to help you through your own grief, but also to understand the grief of others.

There’s a general feeling of “spirituality” in the book that doesn’t really focus on any one religion or set of beliefs. It does contain a chapter dedicated to faith which gave it the high spiritual score. So while it does speak a bit about God, faith and personal beliefs it is not preachy or churchy.

It has an extensive list of resources in the back pages from support groups to book recommendations. It also has exercises to help you work through your grief and contains worksheets for preparing a memorial service and eulogy for loved ones.

Even though the book is written by two women it does contain a chapter on how men cope with grief, understanding the differences between men and women’s grief journey and ways to reach out to men.

The great thing about this book is its versatility. Since it contains so much information a lot of it is mostly a jumping off point to explore your own grief. I think it would be overwhelming to attempt to read the whole thing while in the throes of grief, however it’s so well organized that it would be very easy to go to the table of contents or index and find exactly what you need. It can be a little repetitive at times (which may have come from my reading it through), but I think overall it’s a great book to have that would be very helpful on any grief journey one may encounter.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

When I was newly widowed, people had all kinds of advice for me. Some of it was welcome and some of it, not so much. Once piece of advice that I wish I had actually listened to, years and years ago, was to get some therapy. I resisted this piece of advice adamantly for a long time. Finally, just a little less than a year ago, I started seeing a therapist.

It was a big step for me and one that was much overdue. I had lots of excuses for not going sooner. Now that I’ve been going I can’t imagine what I did before. I had good support from friends and family. I had a handful of close friends I felt I could bear my soul to. But what they lacked was perspective. They wanted me to be happy. And even if they felt I was being unreasonable in a situation they were more likely to hear me out and do what they could to soothe me. What I really needed was an unbiased opinion. Someone who could challenge me to really look at myself and my motivations. Deep down I knew this was what I needed so why didn’t I go get it sooner?

For starters I think there is a stigma that exists in our culture. A stigma towards mental health, counseling and therapy. I think we’re conditioned from a young age to think that we need to “move on” or “get through stuff” or even “let it go.” (Am I right Elsa?) If we can’t do that there must be something wrong with us. If there’s something wrong with us we’re going to be singled out, scrutinized and judged. What’s worse people might view us as weak. This can be especially hard for stubborn, strong individuals (cough,myself,cough).

When I started therapy, one of my first thoughts was about the ease in finding the actual office. I didn’t want to have to ask anyone where the Seattle Therapy Alliance office was because I didn’t want anyone to know I was going to therapy. When friends would attempt to schedule things on Mondays, when my weekly appointment is, I always said I was busy but never mentioned what with. I’ve since gotten over that. I think almost everyone knows I’m in therapy. And you know what? I don’t care. I feel so much better now and I attribute a lot of that to being in therapy. It gives me excellent perspective on myself. I can vent about things that are driving me batty and not dump it all on my friends. What’s more is I don’t feel weak or broken at all. I feel empowered. I feel as if I’m getting better at understanding and loving myself for exactly who I am, which has not been the case in the past.

Another excuse I used was my past experiences with therapy, which were not good. Way back when I was 16 one my best friends died. Needless to say many of my friends and I sort of went a little crazy with grief. My mother was worried and sent me to a psychiatrist. I know she meant well and was at a loss as to how to help me, as I rebelled all over the place. But this guy was awful. Simply terrible. He violated my trust and didn’t really listen to what I was saying. I could tell he was sort of an ass from the very beginning and never really took it seriously, which I’m sure didn’t help. He didn’t seem bothered by the fact that I was basically just reciting what I thought were the “right answers” during our sessions. He prescribed me some medicine that made me feel nothing. I was walking around totally numb. I mentioned this to my mom and we didn’t go back and I stopped taking the pills.

My second experience with therapy was very shortly after Jordan died. People kept pushing me to find a therapist, or at least talk to someone. I was still going to church at this point, desperately clinging to the shredded remains of my faith. I went to a counselor associated with my church. Which, I think was my first mistake. I was already questioning my faith so much, that any time he spoke about God or trusting God or prayer I inwardly cringed and ignored that bit of advice. He was also someone who worked with Jordan and knew him well, and in turn knew me somewhat.

The main reason I was being pushed to counseling was this issue I spoke about in a previous post involving another man who had worked with Jordan. We had some sort of relationship going on that was confusing and weird and made worse by the involvement of too many people. The counselor I went to see also knew the man I was having issues with. It all felt too close and too personal. Jordan’s death was still so close and I didn’t feel like I could be real with this person. So again I said what I supposed to be the “right answers” and wasn’t honest.

In both of these bad experiences I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t feel even a modicum of trust. It’s not even really that these two men were bad at their jobs. I was just not letting them through my walls. I think what made me so upset about these experiences is it seemed to me they didn’t even try.

Here’s the main thing to remember about therapy, not all therapists are created equal. There are a variety of methods and theories out there. You might have to look around a bit before finding a therapist that works for you. Is that annoying and frustrating? Sure, but I tell you, it’s worth it. Once you find a person you can really open up to, who you can trust, it’s amazing how much you learn and grow. Of course letting down your walls has to be something you are willing to do and work towards.

That was the biggest missing piece for me. Therapy was never great for me in the past not only because I didn’t find a therapist that worked for me, but also because I was never open to the idea. I went in with the walls up and armored. No one was going to get to see the real Staci. To be honest I really didn’t want anyone to see the real Staci for a long time after Jordan died. Part of that was because I wasn’t sure who I was without him. Another part of it was because I didn’t want anyone to relate to my pain and grief. I didn’t want to talk to women who had experienced similar situations. My grief was unique, it was mine and at that time I felt it was all I had. I didn’t want it to be lessened by being “normal.” I didn’t want the pain in me to be diluted by someone else relating to me. It was mine and I wanted to keep it for awhile.

That was all part of my own grief journey. Holding on to that grief was what made it real for me. I said earlier that I wish I had started therapy earlier, because of how wonderful I feel now. But I’m not convinced that if I had started earlier I would feel the same way. Because like I said, I wasn’t ready to let go of the grief. If I had forced therapy on myself too early I don’t think I would have let myself be as open.

I’m not an expert, I just have my own experiences to draw from. If there’s anything to take away from this post it’s that there is hope and if you’re open to therapy, it can be helpful in finding that hope. But don’t force yourself to go down a path you’re not ready for. If you need to hang on to the grief for awhile, do that. Go ahead and be sad, it’s your right and it’s not bad, weak or broken. It’s part of the process. But when you are ready, don’t be afraid to pursue therapy because of what others might think. Or because you think it’s been too long. I was widowed five years ago and didn’t start therapy until almost a year ago. It’s never too late.

Don’t pursue therapy because it’s what everyone else is saying you should do. While I think therapy can help every person in some way it’s a very personal choice to make. You should make that choice for you, not for anyone else.

Book Review Grief Sucks…But Love Bears All Things: How Grief Tore Me Apart And Put Me Back Together

Disclaimer: Every person is different in what they find to be helpful, spiritual, humorous and comforting, which is why I include a section for general thoughts to clarify exactly what I liked and disliked about the book. This is simply meant to be a guide in helping you find the book that best suits your individual needs as a newly widowed person. I wish you peace on this difficult journey.

Title: Grief Sucks…But Love Bears All Things: How Grief Tore Me Apart And Put Me Back Together

Author(s): Gayle Taylor Davis

Publishing Info: Quill Driver Books, Fresno, CA 2014

Helpful Meter 1-5 (1 being not at all helpful, 5 being very helpful) 3

Spiritual Meter 1-5 (1 being not spiritual, 5 being very spiritual) 5

Humor Meter 1-5 (1 being not humorous at all, 5 being very humorous) 1

Comfort Meter 1-5 (1 being not comforting, 5 being very comforting) 4

Staci’s Recommendation (1 being pass on this, 5 being read this today) 3

General thoughts and feelings on the book:

I really liked this book, however, it is not a self help book. It will not help guide you through this tumultuous time, nor does it offer any advice on dealing with grief. It is one woman’s experience with the death of her husband.

What I liked about this book is the open, honest and raw emotions. I imagine it could be helpful for some people to realize they are not alone in feeling like a completely insane person, which seems to be very common among widows. But I can also see it going the opposite way and bringing someone down too far. The author is a very talented writer and includes a lot of her own beautiful poetry.

It’s very obvious that the author is a Christian, however she wasn’t a “ram it down your throat” type. She merely spoke of her faith as the driving healing factor in her grief journey.

The comfort rating is higher because, as I said before, many people may find it comforting to know they not insane but are, in fact perfectly normal. Grief can do a number on your emotional stability. Knowing it’s common might be comforting.

Overall it was a beautiful and heart wrenching book to read. I found myself tearing up quite a bit. It’s only about 85 pages long so it is a quick read. If you’re feeling crazy and alone this could be a good book for you. But keep in mind that it is full of raw emotion.

How to Help a New Widow

(Through most of this post I refer to widows and women. I know there are widowed men out there. While the advice below may be helpful to widowers, I couldn’t really say for sure. I don’t know how the male experience of being widowed compares to the females.)

After a huge loss many widows are going to need a helping hand, daily encouragement and a positive force in their life. It is extremely difficult to know exactly how to help a new widow, because many do not know what they need help with. Since they can’t articulate exactly how you can help them they will seldom ask. Make sure your newly widowed friend is aware that you want to help. And remember that every bit of the advice I give in this post should be done gently and with care. When you offer your help or advice there are few things to keep in mind.

First, as I previously stated, you need to be sure your friend knows you’re willing to help. A strange thing happens when a person is widowed. They are absolutely surrounded by people for about a week or two. Family comes to town for funeral or memorial services. Friends are calling, texting and messaging their condolences. Sympathy cards are pouring in through the mail slot and many promises to check up on and take care of the widow are being uttered. These are all very comforting things. Then as suddenly as it all started, it stops. Usually a day or two after the memorial people gradually stop calling, sending cards or reaching out. Of course this is normal, people have their own lives. I think most widows understand this, but it’s painful and difficult when everyone seems to stop caring. (As a note, we know in our brains people care, but we don’t feel it, which are two different things.)

If it’s been weeks since the memorial service and you suddenly think of her, reach out to her. Even if you’re busy, send a text or an email. Give her a call if you are (and she’s) a phone person. Let her know you’re thinking of her. I had several friends who would think of me and say a prayer. Which was fine, I suppose. The thing is, I couldn’t hear prayers. So while everyone might have been praying for me, thinking they were being caring, no one was actually contacting me directly. If you are a spiritual, praying person, that’s fine. I’m not saying don’t pray, I’m saying go ahead and pray and THEN reach out to the person you’ve just prayed for. Perhaps God put this person into your mind not because you needed to say prayers for them but because they are having a hard day and need encouragement. I might have felt ten times better if people texted me each time they said they had been praying for me.

Don’t let no response discourage you. Unless you said something outrageously offensive in your text, email, or voice message it’s more than likely that she’s just feeling overwhelmed. Keep sending little notes of encouragement and love. It’s a very lonely time right after your spouse dies, knowing your friends are still there helps a bit.

If you offer your help, be specific! Don’t just say “I’d like to help.” As previously stated the widow might not know what she needs. There’s a million things to take care of and she probably doesn’t want to do any of them. So when you contact her be really specific about what you’re willing to do. Some suggestions might be prepare and bring a meal for the family. If you’re close friends offer to do a load of laundry, offer to take the kids out so she can have alone time, or time to get things done. Offer to clean, as much or as little as you’re comfortable with. Offer to take her to out to dinner or coffee or to come over and play cards or just chat. However big or small it seems, be specific. Again don’t be discouraged if she says she doesn’t want help with what you offer. Each person is different, she might want to do it all on her own. Just make sure she knows she doesn’t have to.

If she calls and asks for your help and you can’t due to other plans or obligations offer another time to help. One turn down can lead to her not trying again. You don’t have to give her a novel length explanation of why or apologize all over yourself just something like “I’m so sorry! I’m taking the kids to soccer practice then. But can I help you with that tomorrow/in a couple hours/next week?” A response like that will let her know you still want to help even though you can’t right at that moment.

Those are the more practical aspects of helping. You can also help her emotionally. This can be even more touchy than the practical helping. Because if you are not a widow you can’t understand her pain and she knows this. Reaching out to help her heal emotionally could cause her to shut down and shut you out. I’d only recommend trying to help in this way if you’re very close friends or close family. Remember, never, ever push her or try to force her to take a certain path. This is her grief journey, you are there to ease it not make it worse by instilling guilt, doubt or bitterness in her.

Let me share a bit about my own journey. Very shortly after Jordan’s death I began to develop feelings for another man. It was a man who was close to Jordan. I had my own reservations about it and felt weird about feeling attracted to someone so soon after Jordan passed. To be honest I’ve always been a little “boy crazy” so I wasn’t surprised to find myself attracted to this person.

I shared these feelings with some close friends. They had the knee jerk reaction of telling me it was not appropriate and I was not allowed to love anyone else right now except my infant son. While I understand why they reacted that way, that was pretty much the worst thing to say to me. Here I was a grown woman being told by people a few years younger what I could and could not do, who I could and could not love. I am a stubborn person and a bit rebellious. So when I heard the “you can’t” everything inside me said “Oh yeah? Fucking watch me!”

With some distance I now understand my attraction to that man a little better. I now know that I was clinging to him because when I was with him I didn’t feel like “Staci the widow” that people tiptoed around. I didn’t feel like “Staci the struggling single mother” that people pitied. I didn’t feel like “Staci the outcast.” I just felt like Staci and that was fantastic. It was great to be valued and cared about beyond being a single widowed mother. There wasn’t a terribly sexual feeling to the relationship for me until I was told not to “go there” then all I wanted to do was go there.

When he was around there was a feeling of comfort, a feeling like myself again. I don’t blame my friends for my bad choices in that situation. I do think that if the situation had been approached with more care, an attempt at understanding and less negativity towards my “motivations” for spending time with him things might have been different. Maybe we would have come to the conclusion that we were not meant to be together romantically but were meant to comfort each other through this loss that we were both enduring.

Now, I know the time for new love is not right after a spouse passes. However, if your friend does meet someone and begin pursuing a relationship shortly after the death of their spouse, approach this subject with caution. Instead of pushing your friend or telling her what she may and may not do, since she is in fact a grown woman, ask her what about the man or relationship makes her feel better. Is it a matter of companionship, sex, relieving feelings of loneliness or something else? Try to help your friend see her own motivations. If she is using this man to ignore her grief try to help her see that, but gently. And never make it seem as if you’re judging her actions or choices. That’s a sure fire way to make her write you off. If after talking with her, you can see that it’s not an attempt to ignore the grief she’s feeling then just let it go. Like I said before this is her journey not yours.

The last piece of advice I have is don’t treat her as if she’s made of glass. After awhile the pitying looks, deep sighs and tender hugs or pats on the arm got tiresome. I got so tired of people screwing up their faces and asking “How are you holding up?” This was especially annoying if I was arriving at a party or get together. I wasn’t fine all the time, but if I was dressed, out of the house with makeup on, chances are I was looking for a good time not a pity party. After several months I was trying to find a new rhythm to my life and felt these sorts of reactions didn’t help me in my attempts to move forward and find my new normal. Of course I still needed positive support but being treated like I might break at any second didn’t make me feel good. It made me feel weak or rather that I should be weak. As I get farther along in the journey I am realizing I am made of tougher stuff. I can take what this life throws at me.

This is advice is based off of my own personal experiences. You know your friend best and so should know how best to help them. There are no two people exactly alike in how they cope with life changing events. Hopefully the advice above has given you a better idea regarding how to reach out and support a newly widowed person.

A Book Review: Widows Wear Stilettos

Disclaimer: Every person is different in what they find to be helpful, spiritual, humorous and comforting, which is why I include a section for general thoughts to clarify exactly what I liked and disliked about the book. This is simply meant to be a guide in helping you find the book that best suits your individual needs as a newly widowed person. I wish you peace on this difficult journey.

Title: Widows Wear Stilettos: A Practical and Emotional Guide for the Young Widow

Author(s): Carole Brody Fleet with Syd Harriet, Ph.D, Psy.D.

Publishing Info: New Horizon Press, Far Hills, NJ 2009

Helpful Meter 1-5 (1 being not at all helpful, 5 being very helpful): 5

Spiritual Meter 1-5 (1 being not spiritual, 5 being very spiritual): 1

Humor Meter 1-5 (1 being not humorous at all, 5 being very humorous): 3

Comfort Meter 1-5 (1 being not comforting, 5 being very comforting): 4

Staci’s Recommendation (1 being pass on this, 5 being read this today) 5

General thoughts and feelings on the book:

This book covers the very practical aspects of being a widow such as, dealing with social security, life insurance payouts, notifying many entities of your spouse’s passing and obtaining lawyers, therapists or other help when needed. However, it also focuses on the different aspects of moving forward and embracing life. There are areas to journal and keep records and a few pages in the back for notes.

The author also attempts to instill a bit of humor into the book, which may be welcome by some people a little farther along in their journey. It made me smile a few times but I never laughed out loud.

She doesn’t speak much about spiritual or faith based recovery short of suggesting talking to a member of clergy if you feel it would be helpful.

Overall the book covers many of the “real life” aspects of being a widow in addition to the healing process.

Click here to purchase.