10 Years A Widow: It’s A Wrap

Today’s post is the end of the 10 Years A Widow series and the end of JoyReturns.

Hopefully, you found the series enlightening. Remember, these posts were based on my experiences during the past decade. Your experiences and lessons learned will be different because we are two unique individuals.

Over the years I hope you found joy here while reading about my adventures after Joe’s sudden passing. I pray you understand it is possible to move forward after the sudden passing of your spouse.

A special thank you to whoever posted 10 Years A Widow: Desperate Ways on Facebook which caused this blog to experience heavy traffic for 3 days. Wow!

The last 10 years have been filled with joy, hope, peace, grief, and challenges. I’ve planed a funeral, worked through grief, and co-facilitated a grief support group. There were also other friends and family deaths (12) along with births (5) and weddings (4). Fun and laughter prevailed at Memorial Day cookouts, family reunions, and Christmas dinners.

I’ve learned to write a resume and cover letter and LinkedIn profile, as well how to network. Speaking of new skills, a man from church taught me how to be a lumberjack when we took down the 3 pine trees in my backyard – now that is on the job training! Pine trees are soft and easy to take down. However, it took me weeks to bundle up the branches into piles 6 feet long x 4 foot high for the trash man.

Friends came into my life and friends left because they were only meant to be friends for a season. However, being on book launch teams and a part of Faithful Finish Lines led to meeting people who’ve become dear friends for more than just a season.

As you can see, life has been a roller coaster ride filled with plenty of hills, mountains, tunnels, dips, twists, and turns the past 10 years – just like yours.

Not sure what will happen in the next 10 years and I do not want to know.

I will take it as it comes.

1,500+ Posts

After 1, 500+ posts, I do not believe there is anything more to write. My days consist of work and housework. My social life is pretty much non-existent. Also, Rommie is living with Joe and therefore not hi-jacking my computer while I’m asleep and writing her own posts.

 

Air_Rommie

Air “Yoda”

 

The original date for the last post was going to be 6/29 as 10 days after my 25th wedding anniversary seemed like a good date to stop blogging. But it has become clear over the past few weeks that the end needed to come sooner.

However, while I plan on this being the last blog post, God told me to start a “widows website” and He can tell me to return to it. 

Books, Books, and More Books

I will now tackle the stack of books I’ve been collecting over the years that need read. As you can see there are plenty of books to occupy my time.

IMG_20180413_130812951.jpg

This is just a partial stack of books waiting for me. Yes, the stack of books meant I needed to refresh my highlighter supply as what I have was quickly running out of light.       😉

Where’s Michele? 

Even though I will not be blogging, you can still reach me via the form on the contact page, or you can email me. You can also check out OgleOhio, my photography blog, as I plan to post scenic views there every now and then.

Start Here

There is always the START HERE page for your to explore and I created a resources page filled with recommended books and websites dedicated to joy, getting through grief, and rebuilding a career. The resources page will be updated periodically.

Thank You

Thank You for your support, words of encouragement, sharing your story, but mostly for your friendship. It does not matter if you have been here a day or 10,000 days, you have impacted my life in a positive way.

Because of you, JoyReturns has reached a minimum of 115 countries. Yes, this little ol’ blog from Cleveland, OH reached places such as Mayotte, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Costa Rica, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Austrailia, Columbia, Canada and New Zealand. Here in the states, I know readers from Maine, New Hampshire, Alabama, Texas, New Mexico, and California have paid JoyReturns a visit.

I never dreamed my writing would reach the four corners of our world.

Thank You, J.T. O’Donnell, at WorkItDaily.com for encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone and add blogging to my list of skills.

Thank you, Joe, for your love during our 14 3/4 years of marriage. There would be no JoyReturns without you. I do love and miss you but you are better off in heaven where you are healthy and living with Jesus.

Thank you, God, for whispering the words “Widow’s Website” in my ear one morning. You kept pushing me to do this even though Joe never taught me about blogging and websites before he passed. You truly do equip those you call.

You also took a couple of nasty life events (death and unemployment) and turned them into good using this website, for which I am humbly grateful.

Final Thoughts

Remember:

Life is beautiful2

and

weepingjoy_frame

Love and Joy Always,

capri48

Bio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.

10 Years A Widow: #1 Lesson I Learned

While I’ve learned a lot of lessons and had a multitude of experiences over the past 10 years, one lesson stands out as the most important. The one that I thought I would rank as number one was God being the one in charge, but it comes in at number two.

My number one lesson learned is:

 

Unemployment is worse than grief.

 

While I knew I would get through grief, I did not know that I would get through rebuilding a career.

At first, I had all the hope in the world, and then it started to fade like a rainbow after a summer storm.

dcp_2189

I keep doing what I need to do to help restore my soul and hope that God will do His part.

 

Blogging

I had high hopes when I started blogging that besides helping my readers, whether they were my fellow widows, people grieving other losses or non-grieving people, JoyReturns would have an impact on my career.

It has not.

What I found is taking the initiative to learn new technology means nothing to most career counselors and prospective employers. I say most because JoyReturns would not exist without the help of J.T. O’Donnell of WorkItDaily.com. She was my mentor, guide, and encourager through the startup process.

There is one counselor, an older gentleman, who does not give a hoot about me having a blog. It is no big deal. He has one too. I really wanted to reply “Well, for a man of  your advanced age, I think it is wonderful you learned new technology and use it to help people.” 

But I kept my mouth shut.

I was not sure how God would use JoyReturns to impact my career but was so full of joy at the prospect of HIm using it.

Your Greatest Lesson 

The greatest lesson you will learn if / when you become a widow will most likely be different from mine as we are different individuals living completely different lives. I pray your greatest lesson will be different because I would not wish unemployment/underemployment on my worst enemy.

Even if you become unemployed after being widowed, your job search may be shorter and more successful than mine – just depending on your skill set.

My Prayer of Hope

Just like grief, hope never leaves. I still cling to a thread of hope for a better life and keep coming back to these verses, from Numbers 6:24-26, from time to time.

May they speak to you as they speak to me. The video is the words set to music. If you attended church growing up you will probably recognize the song.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

 

 

Coming Monday, April 23rd, 10 Years A Widow: It’s A Wrap!

 

red-rose_signatureBio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.

 

10 Years A Widow: Life’s Greatest Self-Improvement Course

(Author’s Note: Today’s post was written for employers and anyone who thinks that us widows are people who need to be avoided.)

startup-photos.jpg

Bye-Bye

The temptation when your employee suddenly becomes a widow is to get rid of them. If you do that, you will make one of the biggest mistakes in company history.

When you have an employee that works through her grief. She will be a better employee than before. In fact, she will be one of your best employees because grief is life’s greatest self-improvement course.

Let me put this in somewhat of a resume form. A normal resume would have the skills listed in two or three columns with no explanation, and absolutely positively NO Objective or Career Summary statement. A one-sentence power statement next to the applicant’s title is acceptable but not necessary. The power statement explains what the applicant is all about.

All this information would be in the Top-Fold (upper 1/3) of the resume as it is the most valuable piece of resume real estate.

Top-Fold of a Sample Resume

Power Statement: Call Center Specialist who gained new skills and a new perspective about customer service and life by choosing to work through life’s greatest self improvement course; imagine what I will do for your company.

Skills

Decision-making: Your employee has to decide whether she is going to stay stuck at Day 1 or move forward with her life taking the love of her husband with her.

Perseverance: Keep on fighting the good fight by getting out of bed every morning and showing up wherever she is needed and do whatever it takes to get the task done.

Seeks Help: Either from a support group like GriefShare or through individual counseling.

Serves Others: Finds a way to serve others in need because she knows that the best way to heal from grief is service to others. Service honors her husband and Jesus.

Vision: She either has a vision for her new life or is slowly working on one.

Taking Initiative: She takes the initiative to learn new skills to enhance her career and/or other areas of her life.

There are other skills that could be added and each skill will vary depending on your employee’s unique personality and prior experience.

 

What I’ve Learned

Let’s take a look at what I’ve learned and the evolution of my skills. In the past 10 years I’ve:

  • improved my writing skills. My style will always be conversational and never formal like an attorney or a business person.
  • improved my photography skills by taking an online course and reading a photography blog, but mostly by trial and error. I love to go to parks and take scenic pictures or get close up to a flower, bush, or animal. Photography has helped me learn to see things from different angles which carried over into seeing life from a new perspective.
  • took the initiative and started a blog that would be brighter in appearance and contain more inspiring and encouraging posts about being a widow and moving forward with a new life. However, it would also not shy away from discussing the tough issues because the journey through grief and building a new life is not all fun and games.
  • developed relationship building skills by meeting and becoming friends with people in online career chat rooms and Facebook groups.
  • learned about book launch teams by being a member of Ann Voskamp, Holley Gerth, and Kelley Balarie’s teams.
  • done a ton of networking, networking, and more networking by attending various networking events hosted by job search groups or by individuals hosting events designed to bring people from all walks of life together.
  • learned LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Powerpoint, PicMonkey, Ribbit (photo editing software), and virtual call center software.

Not Stopping

That is just some of what I have learned in the past 10 years. To say I’ve been forced outside my comfort zone is an understatement. While I enjoy meeting new people, I am an introvert and need my alone time to recharge my batteries.

Will I ever stop learning – no. When you stop learning you mentally die.

Don’t Give Up

So do not give up on your recently widowed employee, support her, encourage her as she works through her grief and gets back up to speed in performing her job. She is going through a stage of intense personal growth a stage that will help her become not only a better person but a better employee and a wonderful example of how a modern woman takes a punch and gets back up again.

 

Correction: The 10 Years A Widow series will end on Monday, April 23, 2018, and not Monday, April 30, 2018, as indicated in yesterday’s post.

 

red-rose_signatureBio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Years A Widow: Desperate Ways

(4/18 Update – While I appreciate all the attention this post is getting, there is a new post that was published today you will enjoy as well – 10 Years A Widow: Life’s Greatest Self-Improvement Course)

(Author’s Note: This was a difficult post to write. Please do not eat or drink while reading. Remember, this is based on my experiences the past decade. Not sure I got the words right. Rewrote this post many times.)

Widowhood is brutal.

At some point, everyone got on with their lives while I was stuck in the muck of figuring out who I was and how to move forward with a new life.

IMG_20180219_180826_989.jpg

Literally, stuck in the muck of the River Kearns.

Then one year later, life threw me another curve ball – unemployment.

My department went through a reorganization and I was booted to the unemployment line.

It made my life harder because I was too young to be a widow but too old to hold a job that enabled me to keep my covenant agreements with my creditors. The way God keeps his covenant with us.

My journey trying to rebuild a career, especially the last 4 – 5 years has brought me a deeper, more excruciating pain than Joe’s passing. In part because I live in a DIY society. Put your boots on and pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Requests for help are met with criticism, condemnation or empty meaningless cliche’s/

Most of society says life is all about self-sufficiency and not about service or teamwork.

A New Perspective

It is because of recent hard times and seeing everyone else thrive and flourish that I understand why widows:

  • die by suicide
  • attempt suicide
  • never remarry
  • become mistresses
  • marry for money

I never understood any of this while single.

But now I do.

Now that I’ve walked in other widow’s shoes and dealt with some of the hard life that other widows experienced. I can see how easily it would be to choose to do something desperate.

I have no criticism or condemnation of them. My heart is filled with nothing but love, compassion, and understanding because sometimes life gets very hard and people deal with their hard life in desperate ways.

God is using my hard life to help me understand why people sometimes react to life the way they do.

The Job Offer I Turned Down

My career took a turn for the worse after I turned down the best paying job I’ve ever been offered in my life – mistress to a CEO.

Life has been so rough the past few years, there are days I wonder what my life would be like if I had accepted that position. Would I still have career woes after a half-decade of being a mistress or would I be sleeping with the fishes?

I do not regret my decision to turn down the CEO’s offer.

Remarriage

Even before Joe moved to heaven, I was unsure that I could ever remarry. I figure it would be too much work to find someone, fall in love, combine 2 households, and combine my biological family and Joe’s family in with new hubby’s family.

Friends With Compassion

What I and other widows need are friends good at plumbing, yard work, electrical etc… who are willing to give their time to help out a struggling widow. Friends who understand that the Bible preaches love, service, and teamwork and not self-sufficiency.

Because Lord knows my main concern is keeping my job, that pays a little bit above minimum wage.

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Luke 6:31

ESV

Elvis recited a poem and sung a song about how I feel, about how we all should live.

“You never stood in that mans shoes and saw things through his eyes.

or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies.

So help your brother along the way no matter where he starts

For the same God that made you, made him too. These men with broken hearts.”

The 10 Years A Widow Series will conclude Monday April 30th.

red-rose_signature

Bio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.

10 Years A Widow: Friendships

You will find out who your true friends are when your husband passes from this life into the next.

Some of them will stick around, some of them will get in a slow boat and leisurely drift off to China, while others will get in a speedboat and go zooming off to China.

pexels-photo-635534.jpeg

Why Friendships Die

There are several reasons friendships die along with your spouse:

They do not know what to do and do not want to learn what to do.

They were only friends with you because of your husband and now that he is gone, there is no reason to be friends with you.

They are convinced you have cooties. Yes, it is a return to good old Junior HIgh and that lovely game of Cooties. Your friends are convinced that what happened to you will happen to them if they stay a part of your life. So they leave you high and dry.

You are now single and therefore you are after your friend’s husbands. Yes, you have just put your husband’s earthly body in the ground and are now on the prowl for another husband and what better way to find one than to break up your friends’ marriage. Trust me, the last thing on my mind when Joe passed was finding another man.

You will be surprised at the friends that will fall into these categories. People who have been with you through thick and thin over the years or even decades will suddenly disappear.

Making New Friends

tim-marshall-114623

 

Meeting new people is nice, but do not count on being friends with them. Friends support one another and have each other’s backs. The people you meet will already have their group of friends and there is no room in their circle of friends for anyone new, especially a widow (see the above reasons). They are happy to be a friendly acquaintance but when the going gets rough in your life, they will turn their backs and walk away.

Yes, this happened to me. People I thought were new friends turned out to be only acquaintances.

People think I have a lot of girlfriends that I hang out and go shopping with and have slumber parties with along with all the other “teenage girly” things.

In reality, most of my time is spent home alone, in part because there is no one to go hang out with and in part because there is no room in the budget for dinners, movies, theatre, opera, symphony and other events.

So I and my camera travel around to parks or other scenic locations. We have a lot of fun together.

Online vs Offline

Do not be surprised if you find your online friendships are stronger than your offline network. The people I’ve met over the years being part of various Facebook groups are wonderful and I feel have my back better than my most people I know only offline.

My Prayer

I pray that when / if the time comes and you are widowed that your friends will stand by you as you move forward with making a new life. That is what is in your ultimate best interest.

However, even if your friends leave you there are 3 friends that will never leave you – God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. They are with you every step of the way, even though it may not feel like they are there.

 

red-rose_signatureBio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.

 

 

 

 

10 Years A Widow: The Way of Abundance – Review

(Author’s Note: As a member of Ann Voskamp’s book launch team for The Way of Abundance, A 60 Day Journey into a Deeply Meaningful Life, I need to write a review of the book. However, I also happen to be in the middle of this series about what I’ve learned during the past decade since Joe’s move to heaven. Hmmm….how do I integrate the two?)

I lost my identity when I became a widow.

I no longer knew who I was or what I liked. So the easiest thing to do was to do what I did before I met Joe and one of those pleasures was reading.

img_7824_blogheader_books

Bookshelf Over My Desk

 

I had always been a bookworm but did not read much when married as Joe was a big TV and movie watcher. He wanted me doing what he was doing.

 

img_7807_bookshelf_2

img_7821_bookshelf_1

Bookshelf #1

img_7810_bookpicture_3

More Books From Michele’s Collection

 

Ann Voskamp was one of the authors I discovered. (Website)

I did not read her first book 1,000 Gifts until a while after it was released. I heard everyone talk about it and see people counting their gifts but thought the book was some “chick flick” type of book. I only had to turn the first page when I got smacked up-side the head. Wow! this is not some “chick flick” “goodie, goodie” type book. There is real substance here.

Ever since then Ann’s words have spoken to me. Her new book The Way of Abundance, a 60-Day Journey into a Deeply Meaningful Life is no exception.  Carrying on the themes of The Broken Way, Ann’s devotions will speak to your soul. The questions at the end of each devotion will convict you. They will force you to ponder answers, answers that will move you towards a more deeply meaningful life.

 

IMG_20180315_091215165.jpg

 

The Way of Abundance is the perfect reason to get up early and sip a cup of coffee, tea or milk and spend time reading and reflecting before you begin your day.

I am 30 days into the book and I am changed. However, it is hard to find the words to say how I’ve been changed. One word that comes to mind is contemplative. I am thinking even more deeply about my life and how and what to do to change it.

I write the questions in a notebook and keep it by my side during my work day and IF there are a few moments between calls, I re-read the questions and write down what comes to mind.

The questions remind me that not only am I broken but I need to gift it forward today to the many customers and the few drivers I talk to because they are just as broken and in need of a g.i.f.t. as I am.

Do I succeed every day in being a g.i.f.t. – uh, no. It’s impossible to be a g.i.f.t to people every day when you work in a call center, whether virtual or a physical call center.

You can not work in a virtual call center and not throw a box of Triskets up against the wall once in awhile (I only did it once) out of frustration. (A wall that is scheduled to be painted Sherwin Williams “Relish.”)

 

My Most Highlighted

All devotions have been marked up with a highlighter to some degree. However, there are about six devotions (so far) that I marked up the most with pen and highlighter. Here are three of them.

#11 – Risky Living

IMG_20180410_205031626.jpg

  • Quote: “The only way to the abundant life is to love the right things in the right way.” pg 56

  • Margin Note: How can I change if I do not love?

#20 – Holy Happiness

IMG_20180410_205013595.jpg

  • Quote: “What frees you to fully live is letting yourself be fully crucified with Christ.” pg 87

  • Margin Note: Ouch!

#22 – Relentless Love

IMG_20180410_205116043.jpg

  • Quote: “Stego-come in and be safe.” pg 99

  • Margin Note: Amy, Gina, Jim, Renee, J.T., Pat and Laurie, Kim and Darren, Melissa and Chris, Patrick and Kristen, Elizabeth, Emma, Evan, and Brooklyn, Mom, Dad, Joe, Rommie etc…

 

Truthfully, I could write numerous blog posts based on Ann’s words in The Way of Abundance. 

If you are tired, weary and longing for refreshment then pick up a copy and sit and contemplate each day’s devotion before your day begins. You will find yourself being moved to a more deeply meaningful life.

 

Thank you, Ann, for your God-inspired words. 

 

 

red-rose_signatureBio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Years A Widow: Comparing Grief

Society LOVES to play the “My grief is worse than your grief.” game or the “Well, your grief is not as bad as their grief” game.

While it is not right to play those games, it sometimes can’t be helped. It is our natural tendency.

Game Over

Well, folks. Stop playing the comparison game. Whether you are going through grief or know someone who is grieving.

pexels-photo-236229.jpeg

Because:

All grief is valid.

All losses are worthy of being mourned.

Instead, develop an appreciation for grief.

Appreciative Grief

While I did not love my grief, hearing about other people’s circumstances made me appreciate my grief and the circumstances surrounding Joe’s passing.

Just hearing who other people lost and the circumstances that caused their loss was enough to make me say to myself

“While what I am going through is excruciatingly painful, I will keep it.”

There is not one grieving person whom I’ve met during the past 10 years, with whom I would trade places.

We need to accept the grief and live with the circumstances that caused our grief. Then we also need to accept and respect other people’s grief and their circumstances. Grief from the loss of a spouse, child, parent or any other loved one is still grief and is excruciatingly painful. It’s the circumstances that are different and none is worse than the other.

For example:

One woman said she considered the loss of her husband worse than the loss of her child because her child came into being because of her and her husband. Wow!  never thought of seeing the death of a spouse and a child that way. There is nothing wrong with her perspective, it’s just her perspective based on her experience. You might have a different perspective if you lose both your husband and child – and that is perfectly acceptable.

My New Appreciation

I started having a new appreciation for my grief when I started attending GriefShare in June of 2008. The first 5 minutes of the video smacked me upside the head and helped me take one step forward in my grief recovery.

I appreciate the hosts’ losses and would not want their experience.

I gained a new appreciation for my grief and decided I would keep it as part of my life.

Now just because I gained a new appreciation does not mean I did not struggle with grief and have bad days. Boy did I have bad days.

Just resurrect my 2004 Saturn Ion and ask it how angry I was one summer day in 2008. My driver’s side door took a licking and kept on ticking after that summer day. At least up until August 2015 when I got rear-ended – then it died and I mourned the loss of another beloved friend.

Grief Sucks.

Grief is excruciatingly painful no matter who has passed away.

So look at other people’s losses to gain a better appreciation for your grief and quit playing the “my grief is worse than your grief” game. 

Instead of game playing, ask if you can walk alongside them through their grief journey. 

No one wants to walk alone through this grief – and no one should.

brian-mann-16600

 

red-rose_signatureBio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

« Older Entries