I can remember when my husband took his last breath six years ago in his hospital bed of the Intensive Care Unit. I remember it clearly because I had to make the dreadful decision if he should continue to live without living or die. It wasn't easy. He was brain-dead and he had always told me to never allow him to be on the respirator. He would always jokingly tell me that I better pull the plug because he wouldn't want to live life as a vegetable but I knew he was serious - just like he was the day that we drove to the hospital under the nurse's desperate plea. She received the results of his brain scan - and it wasn’t good. The tumor had relocated from his stomach, then to his spine and landed in his brain. The next day, I became a widow.
Honestly, I didn't accept the term. I couldn't accept the term. I refused to accept the term. But eventually, I did. I - was - a - widow. I was lost and had to rely on the church mothers, prayer and Google to help me redefine myself.
This e-book is for the new widow, whether you’re 19 or 90.
I asked my online support group, Black Women Widows Empowered - Life Support Group - A Safe Place for Widows, to offer advice to the newly widowed and boy did they; the responses came pouring in. So here they are - 40 real-life tips from current widows to the newly widowed. Feel free to add yours!
1. S. Criswell - Do not let anyone alter your late spouse's arrangements. Believe me, many will try. (3 years widowed).
2. A. Holmes - Journal your last thoughts together such as the last words he said or any wishes/dreams he had for you. (Widowed 5 years).
3. T. Clemons - Do NOT allow others to tell you when, where, how and how long to grieve. This is YOUR life and YOUR journey. Only those who have been through it can relate. (Widowed 4 years 12/21/2014).
4. D. Lee - Guard your finances and get them in order. DON'T LOAN MONEY! I don't care if it's children, except in school or beginning college. Be discreet when handling financial business. (1.5 years as a widow).
5. G. Blackwell - Don't make quick decisions - take your time to learn life by yourself. Although your husband played a big roll of keeping it all together, learn YOU and what YOU want and need (1 year a widow, married 12).
6. A. Connell - Do cry as often as you need to. There’s no limit. Do be kind to yourself; this journey is so hard. Do ask for help and if you can try to be specific. Do allow yourself to be okay about not cooking or only wanting to make simple meals. Don’t ever feel like you need to “be over this”. You will never be over this but you will learn to live again. (7 years widowed - with my guy for 25 years, married for 19).
7. M. Brown - Don’t let others pressure you into dating again. Take your time and heal from the loss of your husband; you’ll know when you’re ready to be with another man. (Widowed four years).
8. L. Henderson - Hold onto God for your strength. Pray a lot. (Widowed for 11 years).
9. M. Pannell - DO Be Easy With Yourself. LOVE YOURSELF. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Eat, stay hydrated, talk, cry AND LAUGH. Be Easy (6 months widowed).
10. S. Davis - Do consider therapy to release your thoughts on someone neutral. Do make yourself a priority. It’s time to look after YOU. Do put personal items that have your husbands scent in a sealed bag to sniff when you need that familiar smell. Four years later the smell is faintly there for me. Put the items in a plastic bed comforter bag. Do not make any major decisions in the first year. Do not give anything away that belonged to him because someone asks. Do not mask your feelings even in front of children. They mimic what they see us doing. Let them know it’s okay to scream cry, etc. We are only human. Please live again! (4 years, 2 months a widow).
11. K. Foster - Live your life. Laugh when you can. Love yourself first. Try not to make any BIG decisions in the first 18 months. This is one HELL-of-a journey. Live, Laugh, Love. (Widowed 7 years, 10 months and 6 days. 8/13/2010).
12. E. Johnson - If you can, get in a quiet place, and allow God to saturate you with His love. I have been widowed almost two years August 19. Remember, you are still here for a purpose. There is something in you God can use to help others. Find out what that is and do it with all your heart - even if it is through tears!
13. M. Pittman - It's your process and you deserve to have the moments you need to FEEL however you FEEL. I became a widow on May 9, 2010. My prayers are with you all.
14. L. H. Dallas - If you have children, don’t forget they are grieving as well. My daughter was a Freshman in college and a few years later I asked what happened to our relationship and she stated, "you tell me you love me but you act like you have nothing to live for since Daddy died." I was tied up in my own grief and thought she was fine away at school and she wasn’t. (5 years widowed).
15. C. May - Hold off on making major decisions the first year if you can. Give yourself as much time as you need to grieve. Go to grief counseling or a support group. Be kind to yourself. (I’m almost 7 years a widow.
16. R. Nonye - Prepare yourself to be a widow to be envied and never a widow to be pitied. Always look good and not shabby looking so that people won't feel sorry for you. Let your Children be your priority irrespective of all odds. Always hope in God believing that tomorrow will be better than tomorrow. Though it is not an easy journey, we have to accept it with faith. (A mother of three promising kids and 13 years into widowhood).
17. S. Ngonyama - The journey isn't a bed of roses, it's not easy. You will find people who will not be as caring anymore. (3 years widowed).
18. S. Lee - I’m 34 yrs old and my advice is to learn what makes you happy and sad. Create a grief schedule of times and triggers. Love yourself more. (10 years widowed).
19. Y. Richardson - Stay close to God. He is the only one who can bring you through this. It’s so hard being widowed. (2 years widowed, married for 39 years, together for 42 years).
20. L. Aimes - Even though the pain is unbearable, take care of yourself and love yourself the same way he loved you. (1-year widowed).
21. P. Eunice - Draw your strength from the Lord alone because the journey is not an easy one. (Widowed for 13 years with three wonderful children).
22. G. Millender - Pray continuously and do what needs to be done. Don't worry about how you should grieve and the time frame. Don't give into the opinions of family and friends. Maintain a bond if possible with the adult children and if there's conflicting opinion, pray and move on.
23. B. Yesufu - Pray, praise and pamper yourself. (8 years widowed).
24. L. Law - Take time for yourself and your children. If you are able to plan a getaway, then GO! My relationship with my girls is everything!
25. R. Butler - Press through with as much grace as you can muster. The triggers will come and find your way through. Hold on to God's unchanging hand and know your fellow widowed sisters got you!! Much love my sisters. (3 years widowed #alwayshiswife!).
26. R. Bonner - Give yourself permission to grieve! I am not only a widow, but I've also worked as a chaplain. It's so important for us to understand that grieving is a natural process of healing. We cannot brush our grief under a rug and act like it's not there, suppressing all that pain, trying to go on with life as nothing has happened, that's detrimental to our health in all aspects of our living from physically to spiritually. Take time to grieve. When we suffer a loss, that is what we are supposed to do! It's okay.
27. Y. Peoples - Stay prayed up, grieve with grace. You are stronger than you think. Where we are weak, God is strong. He will uphold you. Praise Him in spite of your circumstances. God is close to widows and the brokenhearted. Remember to self-care. We tend to forget to take care of ourselves and most of all, love yourself enough to know you can make through this journey. (3 years widowed)
28. C. Pruitt - 1) Don't make any MAJOR Decisions during the first year. 2) Keep your accounts PRIVATE & SECURED (some family & friends come out of the woodwork looking for handouts). 3) Don't accept friend requests from strangers on Facebook. 4) Don't try to buy friendship from anyone. 5) Grieve on your own terms; this is your journey. 6) Find your new normal. 7) Be kind to yourself. 8) LOVE YOURSELF 9) Ignore those who may try to dictate to you how your life should now be. 10) Give yourself TIME.
29. Adrienne - Do trust in GOD and know that HE cares for you. Do know that GOD hears your tears, your cries and knows your hurt, even your silent hurt. Do take care of yourself. Do smile and laugh and don't feel guilty about it. Do know that sometimes grief comes and goes like the waves of the ocean. Don't make major decisions in a hurry, especially that first year. (Widowed for 3 years).
30. J. Jackson - Allow yourself to grieve. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to scream and break things. It’s okay to talk to your deceased spouse. Allow yourself time. Pray.
31. P. Mason - This journey is yours, don't allow people tell you how, when or how long you are supposed to grieve. Do what is best for you. Although we all may have experienced loss and may have similar circumstances, no one feels what you feel the way you do, and you have a right to feel whatever. There will be ups downs and it will never go away. Be patient with yourself as much as possible. If you choose to date again early or late (or never), that's your business and your choice. Just keep moving. I know there are days where you may feel like you want to die (at least I did) but just keep moving. Take care of you!! (I just hit 4 years June 7).
32. M. Michael - Remember all the good times, cry when you feel the pain, laugh when you know he would say or do something funny, and talk to him when you need to and look to the sky when you feel his presence. Know that this is a hard journey and you are not alone. Put yourself first and live life to the fullest. (Widowed 1 year, 2 mos. Married 27 years and together 31 yrs).
33. D. Williams - Just remember, it`s ok to say his name when talking to others. (September 23rd will be 5 yrs).
34. L. Mthombeni - Don't make major decisions too prematurely.
35. G. Lopez - Do NOT discuss your finances with family or friends. Do NOT expect people to understand, they don't. Do NOT give any of this things away until YOU are ready. Do NOT hold back tears; God gave them to us for a reason. Be kind to yourself; this is a process. Talk to your loved one as if they were there, it really really helps. I told my husband off, I yelled at him, I told him over and over how much I loved him and how much I missed him. I had a 'come to Jesus' with him several times. I asked his advice, I asked for his forgiveness, I gave him my forgiveness, I talk out loud to him all the time. I swear to you, he answers me somehow. Just don't do it in front of people, they think we are crazy. It will be four years in February of 2018. He will send me my second chapter!! My husband used to do this thing to my nose and say a phrase. One night while we were laying in bed and he was talking to me and he did that thing to my nose and said that phrase, gave me a kiss and hugged me tightly. That was the answer to that question.
36. S. Washington
*Be gentle with yourself. *Know that grieving is also physically and, mentally taxing.*Take things moment by moment.*It's ok to say no.*Pray, scream, and cry to relieve the pressure - it's healing*It's ok to distance yourself from people (even family) who drain you rather than support you - the added stress is not healthy for you.*Do reach out for help. I have a circle of friends I'll send an "I am not okay today" text to when the grief wave feels like a tsunami.*Celebrate and congratulate yourself for what most would consider minor. As a new widow, just getting out of the bed is MAJOR - even if you have kids. (Widowed 19 months).
37. M. Tyler - Do NOT Google symptoms you have during your grieving period which can range from fatigue, anxiety, to insomnia and heartburn - lots of random symptoms. The Google will have you thinking you have all kinds of crazy Mad Giraffe Disease and you're gonna die any minute! (LOL). Do NOT discuss your new love life with non-widowed friends and family. DO get a physical and a mental evaluation to ease your mind that you are experiencing NORMAL grief symptoms that become physical because your emotions are extreme. Go to the doctor ASAP - and let the pros do what they do best. (Remarried widow of 9 years).
38. E. Jones - Don't forget YOU. Its okay to cry, (Widowed 1 year, 2 months).
39. C. Barnes - Do not self medicate. See a doctor if something isn't right. Don't forget to eat and drink. Drink lots of water, especially if you're crying a lot. (Widowed 4 years).
Well, there you have it. As a widow of six years, my additional advice (tip 40) would be to distance yourself from friends and family (including other widows) who thrust negative emotions your way. You don't need it. Treasure your sanity.