Archive for Widowhood Posts

published in Change, Death, Financial Planning, Grief, Life After Loss, Money, Prosperity, Widowhood by Maryanne | December 20, 2018 | 2 Comments

This is the 5th and final blog in the Fall 2018 Life After Loss blog series: 

Grief & Money Go Together Like Flies & Honey

 

In other words, they don’t.

Unfortunately, they do tend to dance into our lives, hand in hand, at the same time…like some sort of poorly-matched dynamic duo.

On some deeper level, we may perceive the money we receive, as the result of a loved one’s death, as “blood money.” And because of this, much to our dismay we may find ourselves giving it away – in one form or another – as fast as possible.

But believe me, this is rarely intentional.

So what’s going on?

“If you come into big money when you’re not ready for it on the inside, the chances are your wealth will be short-lived and you will lose it.”

– T. Harv Eker

Why?

Because, as one of my all-time favourite authors explains:

“It’s hard to hold on to what we don’t believe we deserve, whether it’s money, love, or success.”

– Sarah Ban Breathnach

But why, for Heaven’s sake, wouldn’t we believe we “deserve” the money?

Because if a sizeable chunk of change has come our way as the result of the sudden death (or not so sudden) of a loved one, we may feel guilt. Even if we had absolutely nothing to do in bringing about the death of our loved one, we may still experience guilt…although we may not be consciously aware of it.

But WHY would we feel guilty?

Because we are still here…alive and hopefully healthy (although probably not very happy) and yet our loved one’s life is over. It’s called survivor’s guilt and although it is not rational, it is very real. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to last long – if diagnosed. The problem, of course, is that it often isn’t diagnosed. Rather, the fallout of survivor’s guilt manifests – often for years to come – in our choices, our lives, our actions, our habits, our relationships and oh yes, our bank account.

Whether we like it or not, our ability to make prudent financial decisions in the wake of a significant loss is often hampered by the fact that we may be spending money in an attempt to make ourselves feel better. We might be trying to fill the void in our lives – and the Grand Canyon-sized hole in our hearts – with stuff.

Does it work? In the short term, sort of. In the long term, no.

The temporary high that comes with spending does not – cannot – fill the emotional and spiritual void in our hearts and lives…although it can certainly fill our homes and closets with copious amounts of clutter and crap. As with the drug addict needing the next high, the hit that comes with buying something soon subsides and the quickest way to get that quasi-good feeling again is to spend.

I strongly suspect that when we are in the depths of grief, we also spend to feel some semblance of control. If our loved one has been oh-so-unfairly yanked from us, we learn a very brutal life lesson about just how little control we have. And I think it is human nature to not take particularly kindly to this realization. So to compensate, we may choose to go shopping and buy whatever the heck we want…because we can. We may not be able to financially afford this activity but in the short term, the sense of power it temporarily gives us seems worth the long-term ramifications.

But real power – authentic power – doesn’t come from buying things. It can’t. Authentic power has to do with our souls and our purpose for being here. Yes, money plays a significant role in us fulfilling our purpose…but the soul’s currency is not cash. It is love and service, kindness and compassion.

The next time you go to purchase something, ask yourself: what is you are really trying to buy?

Finally – but perhaps most importantly when it comes to the dynamic duo of grief & money – the reality is that we may be shocked to discover that the death of a loved one has caused a hurt that is, unbelievably, far worse than we ever could have imagined.

This passage from the book, Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, captures beautifully what I suspect may be going on below the surface in the wake of experiencing an incredibly painful loss:

“And dimly she realized one of the great laws of the human soul: that when the emotional soul receives a wounding shock, which does not kill the body, the soul seems to recover as the body recovers. But this is only appearance…Slowly, slowly the wound to the soul begins to make itself felt, like a bruise, which only slowly deepens its terrible ache, till it fills all the psyche. And when we think we have recovered and forgotten, it is then that the terrible after-effects have to be encountered at their worst.”

In other words: even though some time may have passed since our loss, the horrific hurt we have experienced – the wounding of our soul – may be just starting to make its way to the surface. Choose wisely how you handle that hurt. Spending and/or giving away more money than you can afford will, in the long run, cause more harm than good.

Money is sacred. Money is freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility.

“If you expect your money to take care of you, you must take care of your money.”

– Suze Orman

If you suspect that I speak so passionately on this subject matter because of personal experience, you’d be right. I have learned the hard way that spending money one cannot afford to spend – whether that’s buying stuff, donating to charity, gift-giving, trying to make the world a better place through funding financially unsustainable projects, and so on – does not bring a loved one back. It does not make people love you more. It does not right a wrong.

What it does do is put you in a financially precarious position that can jeopardize your future and rob you of the freedom to forge a new path of your choosing.

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one and are struggling with how to make prudent financial decisions, my wish for you this coming year is to get the professional guidance you need to get back on track…your track to a financially sustainable future.

Will I be blogging more about grief & money in the future?

You can bet your bottom dollar I will. If you want to receive these blogs, be sure to subscribe to the Life After Loss blog series (they will resume in mid-2019).

In the meantime, you may find our Potent Prosperity Principles daily quote cards of use (but if you are taking my advice and curbing your spending, you don’t have to buy the cards! There is a link in the blog where you can read all 30 quotes).

But if you do wish to order a set of the quote cards ($7.95 for set of 30 cards), please visit our Etsy store.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here

 

 

 

 

published in Christmas, Death, Gratitude, Grief, Humour, Inspiration, Life After Loss, Widowhood by Maryanne | December 13, 2018 | 2 Comments

This the 4th blog in the Fall 2018 Life After Loss blog series:

The Gift of Happy Memories – May a Memory of Your Loved One Make You Smile This Holiday Season

 

John & MA (to right) at rehearsal dinner, prior to their wedding, July 1997

“Memories are perhaps the best gifts of all.”

– Gloria Gaither

A couple of weeks ago, I had a table selling my wares at a Christmas market in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta. I had a lot of fun over those four days, meeting new people, visiting with dear friends and reconnecting with some old friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

One of those people was Cheryl. She’d seen a Facebook post about my table at the Christmas market so brought one of her daughters, Dani, to come by and say hi.

MA & Cheryl

Cheryl and I go way back. Cheryl’s husband, Brian, is an old friend of my husband, John (they met in Junior High). Although I hadn’t seen Cheryl in years, we’d kept in touch via e-mail and social media. But seeing her in person was different, of course. It was like no time at all had passed and the fun memories of our party-days came flooding back.

One memory in particular stood out, so I thought I’d share that with you…partly because it is a funny story 😊 but also because it is a great example of the gift of a happy memory.

The Glass of Water

Brian was the first in John’s group of buddies (“The Boyz”) to get married. John and I were in early twenties at the time and I can remember the two of us dancing at Brian & Cheryl’s wedding like it was yesterday. But it was what happened after the wedding (ahem) that really sticks in my mind.

John’s older sister, Stacey, had her own apartment but she was out of town that weekend, so John and I crashed at her place the night of Brian & Cheryl’s wedding.

I won’t divulge details but let’s just say that when Stacey came home to her apartment complex the next day (John and I, of course, were long gone), she ran into her downstairs neighbor in the stairwell. The neighbor was an older woman who stopped Stacey and said something to the effect of, “Oh my…what a night YOU had! After listening to you & whoever you were with, I had to get up and get a glass of water.”

Stacey (who, I should mention, was also the Resident Manager of the apartment complex) was mortified…and puzzled. But she quickly figured out what had happened. “That was NOT me you heard,” she said to the woman. “That was my BROTHER and his damn girlfriend.”

When Stacey later told John the story, he roared with laughter. So did I. Eventually, so did she.

MA & Stacey in Paris, Apr 2018

Now that 18 years have passed since John’s death, more often than not when I think of him, I find myself smiling or laughing at the wonderful times we shared as a young couple. For so many years, when I thought of him, I tended to focus on his death 🙁 or, when I did recall a happy memory, it often made me feel sad because I knew it could never be again.

And although that is true, that doesn’t have to be sad. Memories are a portal to the past…we can go for a quick visit any time we want. We don’t have stay long/stuck. But when we do go, WE get to decide what we are going to take from that memory…and perhaps even how we are going to feel.

The older I get, the more I choose to feel happiness when I think of all the fun & goofy things I’ve experienced with the people I have loved. For I have also learned that how I feel in this moment seems to play a role in how the future unfolds…almost as if the energy of joy and laughter attracts more of those types of experiences.

May you, too, experience the gift of a happy memory this holiday season.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To subscribe to the Life After Loss blog series, please sign up here

 

 

published in A Widow's Awakening Book, Change, Christmas, Death, Grief, Life After Loss, Saying NO!, Widowhood by Maryanne | November 27, 2018 | No Comment

This the 2nd blog in the Fall 2018 Life After Loss blog series:

Taking Death to Parties – Mentioning Loved Ones Who Have Recently Passed Away

 

Unfortunately, it’s usually up to the person grieving the recent loss of a loved one who gets stuck bringing death to the party. 

’Tis the season for celebrating

But guess what? If you have recently experienced a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, you may be in a rather fragile state (to say the least) and “getting out of the house and being around other people” is not necessarily the wisest option. But if parties do seem to be in your near future, then read on.

If you have recently lost a loved one and this is your first Christmas without that person:

Please be aware that the people who you are spending the holidays with may not realize the importance of mentioning your loved one. Instead, they may think that by not mentioning him or her, this will be better because they don’t want to ‘hurt you’ or ‘make you cry.’

Now, this may be okay with you…

But if it isn’t and you discover, to your growing disbelief, that everyone is politely avoiding the elephant in the living room—the fact that you have recently lost a significant person (or pet) in your life—you have four choices:

#1. You say nothing and internalize the hurt and anger (not recommended).

#2. You say to someone that not mentioning your loved one really hurts.

#3. You bring up a memory of the person yourself and share it.

#4. You leave—either in agonized silence or after a spectacular hissy-fit (highly recommended… please see below).

If you are hosting a party or family function and one of your guests has recently experienced the loss of a loved one:  

Here’s an excerpt from my book, A Widow’s Awakening, that you might find of use (the following scene took place two months after the sudden death of my 32-year-old husband):

“HE’S GONE!” I scream, “BUT HE’S NOT FORGOTTEN!”

Then I run out of my cousin’s front door, leaving behind a house full of family trying to celebrate my mother’s seventy-fifth birthday. However, since there’s a snowstorm on this particular evening in early December, I have to stop at the front door, after my embarrassing outburst, to put on my jacket, mittens and boots. Only then do I charge down the icy front walkway, stomping as angrily as possible in my new ridiculously high-heeled boots. I climb into my car, slam the door and slowly inch my way home on icy roads.

“They didn’t toast Sam!” I blubber into the phone from my living room.

“Adri?” says Dawson, on the other end of the line. “What’s wrong?”

“I was (sob) at my Mom’s birthday and my family didn’t even include him (sob) in the toast before dinner. I just can’t believe them!”

“Do you want me to come over?”

“Could you?”

A few minutes later the doorbell rings. But it’s not Dawson; it’s Dale’s wife.

“So they sent you, huh?” I say.

“Yup.”

“I’m pretty pissed off.”

“Oh, we gathered that.”

“I can’t believe my own family. Not one person mentioned Sam the whole night – not even at a goddamn toast to my mother.

My sister-in-law winces. “Everybody feels just terrible about that but I think we all figured we’d try and give you a break from the hurt.”

“Hah!” I give a shrill laugh. “Well that certainly didn’t work.”

“You’re right. We screwed up and I’m sorry.”

“Mentioning Sam’s name and talking about him,” I say, “is really important to me because if we don’t, he’ll be forgotten.”

“You do know, Adri, that at that dinner table tonight, Sam was on every single one of our minds?”

I shrug. “If no one says anything, how would I?”

The doorbell rings. I let Dawson in.

“Well,” she says to him. “We messed up.”

“It happens,” he replies. “It’s hard to know what to say sometimes.”

“Here’s a tip then,” I say. “Not mentioning Sam is gonna bury him a hell of a lot faster than the dirt they threw on his grave.”

I get the double-goldfish (both mouths drop open). Is the nice-widow façade finally crumbling?

And there you have it

If you are honest and open with the people who love and support you, then most people will try and do better—if they know better. Unfortunately, it’s usually up to the person grieving the recent loss of a loved one who gets stuck bringing death to the party. Even though loss and grief are facts of life; they can be significantly alleviated when shared memories—instead of avoidance—are put on the table.

Because an elephant in the living room should not be ignored.

Some parties aren’t worth attending anyway

If you feel obligated to socialize during this festive time of year, do be aware that someone’s casual (perhaps callous) remark might feel rather like that elephant has just sat on your chest. This excerpt from A Widow’s Awakening reflects the ultra-sensitive state a newly bereaved person may find themselves in:

At the Christmas party, I soon realize that being the widow of a fallen officer watching her dead husband’s teammates trying to party is a like a drug addict in rehab, watching other addicts shoot up. I’m not emotionally equipped to observe the reality that life is going on without Sam. So off to the buffet I waddle.

With a heaping plate of food in one hand and a beer in the other, I find a seat in the living room and a woman I’ve never seen before sits beside me.

“And who are you?” she asks.

“Umm…my husband was the police officer who just passed away.”

“Oh now, which one was that?” she says loudly, waving her wineglass. “There’s been so many lately, I get them all mixed up!”

Her callous reference is to another other young police officer who died three months before Sam. He’d been struck and killed by a drunk driver on his way home from work, leaving a young widow and two-month old daughter behind. Both Sam and I had been working the night that officer died. I’d taken a report from the officer over the phone a few hours before his death; Sam had attended the scene of his crash.

“When they pulled him from the car,” Sam had said to me the next day, “and I saw his uniform, it was brutal. I was so angry.”

When Sam had first arrived at the collision scene, it was believed there had been two people in the vehicle that hit the officer. So Sam and several other officers had searched for that possible second person. As it turned out, there was only the one person in the vehicle: the drunk driver who died at the scene.

“So you thought there might have been two bad guys?” I’d confirmed with Sam.

“Yeah,” he’d said, “and I totally wanted to catch whoever had done that to him.”

Recalling this conversation now makes me realize that the ‘bad guy’ isn’t always a person. Just because the drunk driver died didn’t mean there wasn’t a bigger issue to be addressed. One less drunk on the road isn’t the end of impaired driving. I think about the map in Sam’s duty-bag, folded open to the location of his death. Maybe it is a clue pointing me in the direction of the ‘bad guy issue,’ whatever that might be.

After the party, Nick, Angela and I trundle clear across the city to yet another one. I still haven’t mastered the use of the word ‘no.’ Friends and family are obviously concerned about me, judging from the number of social invitations coming my way. But the busier I allow myself to be, the more anxious and upset I am when alone again.

‘No’ is one of the most beautiful words in the English language

Consider giving the gift of ‘no’ this Christmas. If you don’t have the energy to bring death to parties, stay at home and focus on activities that bring you some semblance of comfort and joy.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To subscribe to the Life After Loss blog series, please sign up here