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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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Bookshelf #1

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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.

 

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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

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  • 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

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

  • Margin Note: Ouch!

#22 – Relentless Love

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  • 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.

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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.

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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: Think of Me Fondly

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After Joe’s passing, I thought of him every waking moment. I did not dream of him. God in his mercy made sure I slept. However upon waking the pain returned.

He was in the basket of red geraniums, the sunshine yellow daffodils and the bright orange daylilies around the mailbox.  At some point, I did not think of him so much. Not sure when that happened. I know he is in my heart as I continue to make a new life for myself.

A Decade Later

Do I think of Joe every day? No. Usually, when something happens such as breaking news, a family event or something happens around town – like a new traffic light. I still live in the house we bought so in a way it is hard not to think of him from time to time.

Thinking of him has not stopped me from moving forward with my life.  I’ve found a new job and working on rebuilding my career with the company. I founded this blog and kept it going for over 7 years. I’ve attended networking events and met new people, who’ve become friendly acquaintances. I’ve joined an online faith and fitness group and became good friends with several of the women.

Two Options

I had two options when Joe passed, stay stuck at day one or move forward. The pain of grief is so mentally and physically excruciating that it was a no-brainer decision. I am a wuss when it comes to pain. At the first sign of a headache or sinus issues, I am reaching for the drugs. Whatever it takes because “I haven’t got time for the pain. “

It was no different with the pain of grief, I did what I had to do to get rid of the pain and that was embracing what happened and attending GriefShare. I did not take drugs for grief. Drugs and grief are a whole other topic.

Some people enjoy the pain of grief, enjoy sobbing into their bath towels or pillows at night. I did not want to be one of those people who years and/or decades later are still stuck at day one. I wanted to move forward with a life that honors Joe’s memory and live up to the words from his favorite song from Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ musical The Phantom of the Opera

 

If you
Ever find
A moment,
Spare a thought
For me

Think of Me

The Phantom of the Opera

 

And that is what I do – think of him fondly when I find a moment to spare.

 

 

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: Thy Will Be Done

One of the most important lessons you will learn, if you don’t already know, is that God calls the shots in this life.

He knows the plan and how you fit into it. Even Jesus knew God was in charge because he taught the disciples to pray

“Thy will be done.”

Matthew 6:10

 God knows the moment of our birth and the moment He is going to call us home.

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Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16

 

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This verse first brought me comfort when I was going through the GriefShare program. It also brought a lot of comfort to other people who came through the program. Comfort because there was nothing we could have done to prevent our spouse’s death. 

Now, just because God determined our lifespan, does not mean you have the right to go pig out on fast food every day.  You need to take care of the body God gave you as a way of saying thank you to Him and to have the best quality of life possible while you are on this side of heaven.

What it does mean is because you do not know when God will call a loved one home, you need to show the people in your life that you love and care about them. Show them every day. Yes, some days it will be hard. to show your love to a man who thinks he is going to die from the sniffles. (been there, done that.)

It’s a tough pill to swallow knowing your loved one has fulfilled his part in God’s plan when he’s called home.

However, you are still here which means you have not fulfilled your destiny according to God’s will.

So honor God and your loved one’s memory by moving forward with your new life.

And learn to pray

“Thy will be done.”

Matthew 6:10

because it will be done.

 

Hillary Scott and the Scott Family Singers, say it better than I ever could.

 

 

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: Hope

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

Psalm 62:5

ESV

When sudden death strikes, it seems like there is no hope for getting through grief. But there is always hope. Like the sun, hope never leaves you. It is not always visible because clouds of grief obscure it.

You will get 99% through the grief caused by the sudden passing of your spouse between 12 – 18 months. One day you will suddenly realize that you are 99% through the worst of the grief. One day just when you least expect it, you will realize the worst of grief is over.

April 17th, 2008 was the day I realize I would get through grief. My devotion was about a warm spring day with crocus, daffodils, and trees in bloom. (obviously, the warm spring day was not yesterday.)

 

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4/2/2018 – Welcome to Spring in Northeast Ohio! 

 

I stepped outside and all of a sudden I realized I had stepped into my devotion. For the crocus, daffodils, and trees were in bloom and the birds were singing their lovely song.

All this brought me hope. A trusted assurance that God would get me through the hell of grief.

And He Did.

Even though I still had bad days, I knew I would get through grief. It was work. A lot of days the most painful thing I did was to get out of bed. God saw me through the daily challenges. And He will see you through it too.

At some point in your journey through the first year, you will experience hope – an expected confidence that your joy will return.

And it will.

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Just like the crocuses bursting forth from the frozen ground, for hope springs eternal. 

 

 

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.

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