March 7th, 2012 marks the day that the lives of my 2 daughters and myself changed forever. We started that day off with a family swim and went on with a day like any other and it ended with my husband dying of a sudden heart attack.
The early days are a blur of shock and disbelief like life was happening in slow motion. There are so many things I can’t even remember; I call it “widow brain”.
Him dying seemed so surreal. Sleepless nights trying to grasp what had happened. I felt a sea of emotions ranging from extreme sadness, loneliness, fear and anger. There were so many mornings where I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed and my daughters were left to their own devices to get ready and go to school on their own. I took them out of their activities and it seemed like a very long time of doing not much more than surviving.
How was I going to survive without him? How was I going to take care of our family? Our home maintenance? Could I afford to keep our home? How was I going to find a job that would pay for our expenses after being a stay at home Mom for 10 years with limited time available to work while my kids were at school because I had no one to cover for me outside of school hours? How was I going to do all of this all on my own?
The weight of the world seemed heavier that I could bare on my shoulders alone. Overwhelmed doesn’t even come close to describing how I was feeling about the daunting task of how I was going to navigate this new reality and life without him. I grieved the life dreams we had created together that would no longer come to fruition. I tried to satiate myself with food and wine that resulted in gaining 20 pounds. Life just felt unbearable and I felt like I would never have a happy and normal life again.
I remember feeling so utterly exhausted and sleep deprived. I was desperate for a peaceful nights sleep but no matter what I tried I couldn’t get a solid restful nights sleep without a gazillion thoughts, worries and feelings racing through my head. I felt a constant feeling of fear taking over my body, especially in my stomach. I found it hard to catch my breathe at times. What brought me the most anxiety was the fear and worry about how to provide the life we had been committed to providing for our two beautiful daughters. They had lost their Dad and I wanted to do my very best to provide them the kind of lifestyle and opportunities they would have had if their Dad was still here. I put a lot of pressure on myself trying to meet these expectations. Over the coming years life proceeded to throw curve balls with 2 more close family members dying unexpectedly.
A turning point for me was when a friend of mine shared with me that she had asked my daughter how I was and my daughter said “My Mom’s fine… I just wish she wasn’t so sad and crying all the time”. This was a wake up call..
While I believe that it is very healthy to cry and to be vulnerable and open with your children through this process and show them it is ok to cry, I realized that I had allowed my grief to take over and I saw how much of an impact it was having on my kids. My children had not only lost their Dad but they had lost their Mother too. I always knew that my husband would want me and the girls to be happy and at that moment I decided it was time to start LIVING my life again. He would have wanted that.
I decided I wanted to be more present for my kids, that they needed me and that we all deserved joy. Now this is not to say that I still don’t have sad moments or that we still aren’t grieving but I have found a way to grieve and to enjoy life and redesign my life the way I wanted it to go.
Prior to Doug dying I had been a huge believer in Lifestyle Design (creating your life the way you want it rather than letting it happen by default). What I started to do was implement what I knew as a coach and from past personal development and training and I Re-designed my life. I started to get really intentional with how I wanted things to go. How I wanted to be as a parent. How I wanted to feel. How I wanted my children to feel. How I wanted my home to feel. How I wanted my finances to be handled. What kind of work I wanted to do. What I would want in a relationship. I took control of my happiness and life and embraced my grief and I was no longer a victim!
As a result of implementing my lifestyle redesign plan I cleaned up many complicated business/legal issues my husband had left unresolved, dealt with my husband’s belongings in a way that felt good, I created many special ways of honoring him in our lives from day to day as well as special occasions such as Anniversaries that I believe have had a very positive impact on how our daughters have dealt with their grief. We planned some fabulous trips on a very limited budget. I re-entered back into the workforce after being a stay at home Mom. I helped guide my daughters to find their passions in horseback riding and softball (which intentionally meets the needs of therapy and positive male mentorship). Developed a loving relationship with an amazing and supportive man who loves our daughters and navigated through the process of them loving him back.
I created this Life Coaching Program for Widowed Moms because while I had many options for support around me including great mentors and coaches no one had gone through what I had gone through. Even support groups I found the facilitators were trained in grief but they hadn’t experienced what I had experienced. Most people attending had lost loved ones but I found it was unique to have lost a spouse in my 30’s and it was rare to find others that could relate to having to navigate the path of parenting through this process. I wanted to create this program for woman like you to be able to offer support, someone that truly understood what it was like and to be able to help guide you through the process with a lot more ease and relief than you would otherwise have, therefore a more direct path to a life that is fulfilling and joyful again.
I am now am very active in working with a very carefully select, handful of women that can relate and agree it’s not as valuable to get help from an academically trained grief counselor in favor of working with someone who can actually get them a real result by just being able to relate.