Happy Birthday Kiddo!

Five years ago right this very moment, my life changed forever.

Happy 5th birthday to my sweet, funny, high energy, smart, compassionate, wise,
and loving little boy. You are the raddest kid ever and make the world a better place!

Mommy loves you thiiiiiiiis much. <3

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p.s. — check back tomorrow for the beginning of my holiday giveaway series!!

What a sweetheart. Belated Happy Birthday. :)

I love your progression! It’s hard to think that my baby will be 5 one day :)

A Widow’s Body Perception, Dating, and Self Worth.

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I think I realized tonight why I have let myself go so much over the past few years.

I have allowed myself to gain weight over the last four years. Simple fact. I have stopped putting as much pride in my appearance, stopped trying to look my best. And I always just assumed it was because I was busy, because I struggled to lose the baby weight since I lost The Hubs when Little Man was just 8 months old, because I’ve had issues with some medication issues that caused me to gain weight, etc. etc.

Yes, those things played into it. But tonight I was watching a movie and something one of the characters said struck a nerve in me and I immediately burst into tears.

If you know me, you know this is not normal for me. I don’t cry easily.

Maybe it was the three vodka cranberries I’ve had tonight.

Maybe.

Anyway, I can’t remember what the guy said, but it was something sweet to a lady. And it made me realize, I have let myself go because deep down I haven’t wanted to look attractive to another guy.

Yep.

Deep breath. Let it out. Phew.

Big things here.

The Hubs used to compliment me so much on my appearance; my shape, my hair, my face. I mean, we first fell in love when we were teenagers; of course he always mentioned the physical stuff. He used to love to tell the tale of seeing me in my bathing suit for the first time when we were all hanging out at a friends house. But regardless of how my body looked or how much time passed, the hubs used to always tell me he loved my face. That was what he found most attractive, and he always let me know how he found me so beautiful.

These days, my face looks nothing like it used to. And not only because of the way time and experience has aged it.

Mostly because I’ve allowed myself to gain weight.

Yes, I’ve been on some meds that made me gain regardless of my own level of control. However, I’ve allowed myself to ignore it. Or pretend to ignore it. To be content enough with it not to find a way to break out of it, I guess.

Until recently.

Recently, my self esteem has plummeted. For my own health, my own happiness, I need my body back. I need to feel like I’m back in my own skin again. I just didn’t realize how much I’d surrounded myself with a protective layer, with a shield, with a layer of tough skin. Literally.

I know now I’ve been trying to protect myself. If no one else can find me attractive, I won’t have to deal with the true intimacy of real relationship. I won’t have to deal with being vulnerable again. I won’t have to deal with the fact that The Hubs can never again be that person who tells me I’m ‘beautiful’. And even though I really do desire a new love, a new relationship, that new partner to share my life with, perhaps before now I wasn’t really ready to face the fact that that new person may say the exact same words to me that The Hubs used to say. Maybe before I wouldn’t have been able to handle them calling me the same words, looking at me the same way, treating me the same. Maybe that’s why I covered myself up.

Anyway, now I know. And now I need to truly begin to shed my skin. Now I must truly become vulnerable. Because love requires vulnerability. I would never have been blessed with The Hubs without vulnerability back then…and he would kick my newly-fat ass for doing this to myself now.

As much as I never expected it, I have to let someone else find me attractive…and not feel like that is wrong or shameful.

Such a huge realization. Yet another layer of the widow life I never knew I’d have to live with.

But damn it, I’ll conquer it.

Oh, Erin. You are gorgeous inside and out.

I can see now how my new year’s blog really resonated with you. I’ve hidden behind weight for a very long time. It piled on after I met Kevin, suddenly relaxing. My weight became almost like an ultimatum for me – you love me fat, or don’t love me at all which really isn’t fair to anyone. It means I can’t be active the way I want to be. It sucks. I’m happy to walk this with you. I see you’re stepping away from Facebook, so feel free to check in by email for encouragement/venting/whatever. Walking with you.

Erin

Although I wish you didn’t have to, I’m glad to have your understanding. Walking beside you as well. Let’s definitely encourage, hold accountable, and feel comfortable sharing all parts of this journey. <3 (I’m sure I’ll eventually be back on FB, too! ;) )

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I have so much to be thankful for. Not just today, but always. My health, my happy and healthy son, my wonderful family, my amazing friends. The roof over our heads, food on our table, clothes on our backs. The daily norms that are so easy to take for granted. While it is easy to focus on the absence of those we love, today let’s be thankful that we were blessed with their presence while they were here and continue to be blessed with the memories we still hold dear. Today I wish you many things to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving with love, from our home to yours.

Helping Yourself Heal: An 11-part Series

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I made a brief mention a few posts back about a very big step I took recently: I started counseling. There are several things that pushed me to take that step, but my therapy journey is something I have decided to keep for myself. I share a lot on this blog, but some things are better kept close.

However, I am certain that along the way there will be valuable insights I’d like to share. Regardless of where we are on our “grief journey” (does anyone else kind of dislike that term?!), we can all learn from each other and support one another through this experience. That was one of the goals of this blog, connecting and sharing…and although I may have moved forward in many ways, I do still experience grief and I am still learning which coping techniques are best fit to help me carry this load for the rest of my life.

That said, I’d like to share something with you. My sweet counselor likes to provide resources for me and has given me several sources of literature on the topic of grief. If you are a widow involved in any sort of widow ‘group’ or follow the ‘widow circles’ online, you’ve likely read many already and know that some miss the mark, some repeat themselves, and some are cliche. But some are helpful, and one of the handouts I read through recently summed things up in very real practical terms (an 11-point list, to be exact). Having already lived through a lot of it (and still striving to reconcile some of it), I’d like to recommend these steps and examine them further.

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For 11 weeks, starting in January,  I will address each of the suggestions on the list, explaining why I think they are important and sharing my personal experiences with each. I hope this series will be beneficial to someone out there… I want you to know you are not alone, and there is hope. You can heal yourself. You can find happiness again. But please (and believe me here, because I have taken the long route), you have to do the work. You can’t avoid it or shove it down. Trust me, it will find it’s way back up eventually.

So, from an understanding heart to yours, let’s examine some ways to help yourself heal.

Helping Yourself Heal When Your Spouse Dies
a list adapted from Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph D.

  1. Allow yourself to mourn.
  2. Recognize your grief is unique.
  3. Talk out your thoughts and feelings.
  4. Expect to feel a multitude of emotions.
  5. Find a support system.
  6. Be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
  7. Take your time with your spouse’s personal belongings.
  8. Be compassionate with yourself during holidays, anniversaries, and special occasions.
  9. Treasure your memories.
  10. Embrace your spirituality.
  11. Move toward your grief and heal.

Please join me over these 11 weeks as we explore these areas of grief work and share ways to work through devastating loss. Let’s be open: share your experiences in the comments or with your loves ones, encourage other widows to tune into this series, and really look deep into your “grief journey.” Because even though we may not like that term, it is pretty accurate. It is a journey, and this trip takes work. But you don’t have to travel alone. Let’s wander together.

Big step – way to go :)

Found you through a link on AWP. I look forward to this 11 part series! Thank you for sharing what you have learned with those of us who are new to this journey.

[…] Welcome to the first installment of an 11-week-long series here on WSW called Helping Yourself Heal. In this series, we will be examining a set of practical steps that I have found to be helpful and relevant to the grief of a widow. (Read more about the origins of this list and my reasons for this series here.) […]

Random + TobyMac Weekend

How about a random update?

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This week is a busy one. Loads of homework, playing chauffeur to school and practices, getting my car fixed that decided to go on the fritz, disassembling my old bed, getting a new one set up, coordinating pickups for the things I’ve sold on Craigslist, baking for Little Man’s school Thanksgiving Feast, volunteering at said Feast, writing a research paper, all the while cleaning and prepping my house, packing, and getting ready to leave on a road trip. Oh, and let’s not forget errands, housework, and trying to get a few runs in there.

But even though my days are busy, they are a good busy. An oh-so-blessed busy. I’ve been taking some steps the past month or so to lighten my load, to simplify my life and remove some things that were weighing me down and putting pressure on my mind and heart. This, along with some other shifts in focus, has made me feel freer and more peaceful than I have in a long time. I’m feeling, dare I say, content these days. I don’t have everything figured out; hell, I barely have anything figured out. And for once, that is okay. I’m happy just to be.

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This weekend Little Man and I had a special adventure: I took him to his first grown-up concert! The JoyFM is a local(ish) contemporary Christian radio station that has been such a blessing in the past few years. When we aren’t listening to what Little Man calls “Mommy’s songs” or “the kids songs” on the iPhone, we are listening to The JoyFM.  Little Man knows all the words and we have some serious singalong jam sessions in the car pretty much daily. :) One of his favorite artists is TobyMac, who sings Little Man’s favorite song ever. So when we heard that his Hits Deep tour was coming nearby, I knew we had to go! The concert was Sunday night and I made a little adventure out of it, staying over in a hotel after (even though we were only an hour or so from home) and playing hooky from school yesterday. Little Man had a BLAST!

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The lineup was great: Capital Kings (I definitely have to get more by these newcomers, loved them!), Chris August (He voice is even better live and he is so funny), Colton Dixon (Yes the guy from American Idol, he had great energy), Jamie Grace (She is so down-to-earth and has such talent for 21!), Brandon Heath (He is so amazing live and felt very genuine), Mandisa (Holy wow this woman has some spirit and what.a.voice. No words!), and of course TobyMac. I love what TobyMac did with this tour; he really brought everyone together, with each artist introducing the next and all of them coming on stage at random times to perform some amazing unexpected duets. TobyMac himself is so genuine and has an awesome heart for God with the right attitude about it. I loved him back in his DC Talk days and I just love what he has done with his new direction. There was so much spirit and fun in this concert. And oh man, his Diverse City Band is insane (in a good way).

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Even though the concert didn’t get out until nearly 11pm (4 hours past his bedtime), the kiddo was up and dancing the entire time! He told me the next day that he was wishing that TobyMac would see him so he could go on stage too, haha. He had a little fan club in the seats around us, with some of the adults cheering him on. My cheeks hurt from smiling at how he was getting into it, and several people stopped us on the way out to say how much his enthusiasm touched them. I tried to get some of his ‘moves’ on camera:

After crashing late that night, we made a fun day out of our extended weekend the next day. We savored a sugar-laden breakfast, took a trip to the Museum of Science and History, went to the mall for lunch and a stop at the bookstore (and bonus!photobooth fun), and then finished up the afternoon at the movies and Starbucks. It was pretty much awesome, as evidenced by the Little Man’s prompt passing out in his carseat on the way home.

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This mini-adventure blessed my heart so much. Having some quality time with my kiddo, letting go and living in the moment, smiling and singing my heart out and acting silly: all of it just added fuel to the ‘happy fire’ that has been growing in my heart, and I am carrying that into my busy week. I am so blessed to have this life, the trick is to have the perspective and ability to see it for what it is. We all struggle, we all have rough patches and pain and sadness and experiences that wreck us. But we also all have something beautiful: this day and a God who loves us. And really, that is all we need.

You and little man’s faith really inspires me. I’m so glad you had this trip together and he got to experience some of his faith through music.

Just being – working on that too. Take care!

Sarah

What a beautiful post! I am so happy to hear that you and your little guy had an amazing time. I loved his dancing! You inspire me so much everyday to just live in the moment – feel blessed everyday and for that I thank you!