In case you like to be properly warned. This blog is part rant. But it's also part love, part vocabulary education, with a funny story added in to balance it all out.
I was out for my walk the other day and for some reason started contemplating the definition of widow balls. This amazing widow term was coined by the equally amazing Michelle Miller, see meme below. My thought process ended with, "Shit, I don't think Redneck (my suicide widow sista) and I have been using the term true to its Miller definition. I better look it up." So I did. And I found the purple meme before I found the teal meme. And then I was pissed.
Be a decent human. Don't steal shit.
I remember getting requests from Miller early in my widow days. Repeatedly. She's incredibly persistent. I'm typically very guarded in who I accept on social media and I had no idea who this "mouthymichelle" crazy widow bitch was. And why wouldn't she stop requesting me to like and follow her?!? When I finally caved I immediately regretted not doing so earlier. And so began my infatuation with her.
So I was super annoyed when I saw this knock off meme which I knew right away was Miiller's definition and had no credit given to her. Who the fuck did this person think they were?!? I felt this "mama bear" protective instinct to stand up for Miller. Maybe someone already informed my fellow suicide widow about this...I hope so. As a new blogger I was admittedly shocked. Basic human decency rules should also apply online, don't steal shit.
Respectfully request to add an alternate definition.
Back to my walk and contemplating the widow balls definition. Sure enough, Redneck and I have not been using Miller's definition appropriately. But then I thought, "hey, dictionaries have alternative definitions for words, and words with more than one meaning. Maybe widow balls can be like real dictionary words."
So today said Redneck and I set about to propose an alternative widow balls definition. To properly represent the way we had been using it lately. See meme below.
So in dictionaries they usually give an example of the word used in a sentence. For the purposes of proper representative use in this situation a short story or two are better for providing context.
Example 1: you are mowing the grass and the lawn mower breaks. You get angry that late husband is not available to assist with lawn mower repair. You take the lawn mower apart yourself and through tears of anger and sadness you fix that fucker yourself. #widowballs
Context and self control.
Example 2 comes with a #therapymoment where I was pretty damn proud of myself for displaying some self control. My filter worked for a change. Set the scene: I had just shown up at the flip and was hauling my huge ass mitre saw out to work on this deck project when a passerby started to chat...note it was getting late and I had been busting my ass all day. So I wasn't in the best of moods. This makes my display of self control even more note worthy.
Passerby: what are you working on now?
Me: I'm going to redo the deck.
In my head: what the fuck does it look like?
Passerby: by yourself?
In my head: what the fuck does it look like?
Passerby: where is your husband?
In my head: well the one that has me working two jobs to support my family is dead, the other one is working to also help me support my family.
Passerby: and you're ok to do all that?
Me: oh ya. No problem.
In my head: fucking right I am. I've been at this remarried widow gig for awhile. My #widowballs hang down past my ankles if I take off my granny support panties. Move along.
As you can see from the "almost after" picture #igotthisshithandled
And I bet you're as proud of me as I am of myself for exhibiting some self control!!
When you experience life altering change I am the first to advocate - you need therapy, with a qualified, experienced therapist. But I also believe therapy exists outside of the office. Some of my most healing experiences have happened when I have sought out opportunities for less than traditional therapy.
The flip metaphor
A harsh reality of widowhood is financial hardship. Not all widows have life insurance policies to help us get by. So a lot of us, particularly those in the "young widow" category, need to get creative in generating extra income. I chose house flipping. But it wasn't just the $$ I was looking for. I couldn't think of a better therapy for me.
When you flip a house you take something that is neglected and rundown, you smash a bunch of the old shit and then you rebuild and make it something beautiful again. Can you say "story of a healing suicide widow?"
I have yet to meet a suicide widow without serious anger issues. There is no better anger therapy than smashing shit - especially if it involves a sledgehammer. ROARRRR!!! Any form of grief will tear you down, strip you of a lot of what once was and force you to rebuild. When you rebuild you get to choose what you keep from the pre-loss version of you, what you shine up and make look new again and what you discard and opt for new. And in the end, there is a beautiful version of you.
I look for multiple ways in my flip projects to take something that once was, change it in some way and build it into something unique and beautiful. And each time I do it I honour my grief and healing process. I reflect and I heal a little more.
Here's a before and after of the front entrance in my most recent flip. The old wood was saved from the home while we were in demolition mode. Cleaned up, transformed, given new purpose. Given a Round Two.
It's not just me...phew!
Looking for therapy out of an office is not just something I needed. A quick search and you will find a lot of resources for creative grief therapy. I consider myself fortunate to be able to flip houses. You may opt for something that has a little less commitment of time and resources. The key, in my humble opinion, is to find something that let's you reflect on the grief, and more importantly, the healing process. Think about what that could be for you...
Painting? Taking a blank canvas and transforming it into a thing of beauty.
Woodworking? You start with a lump of wood and make it into something useful.
Knitting? Borders on meditative, I've dappled in this as well.
Singing or songwriting? Putting words together to share with the world!
Baking? Please send me a PM and I'll give you my address, I like chocolate.
Obviously not an exhaustive list. Are you doing something already for out of office therapy that helps heal your grief wounds?
I started on the first Thursday after I launched this page and plan to continue to post about #therapyiseverywhere or a particular #therapymoment. Below is a picture of a double whammy #therapymoment. I needed to get a floor installed, but I also needed sleep. My amazing-badass-suicide-widow-sister told me I had an hour to get it done or she would take my Fitbit from me. So I hauled ass and got it done. Sweat therapy and flip therapy in one amazing hour.
I would love if you join me in posting about your #therapymoment. Find your therapy and tell us about it, who knows, maybe it will help someone in need.
This month I will pass a milestone that people typically either rave about getting to or loath that it’s happening to them. The big FOUR-OHHHHH, my 40th birthday. I’ve been watching those blessed to be born in ’77 reach their dates for months and have been patiently waiting for my turn. And I’ve been reflecting, sometimes quietly, sometimes publicly, about what this milestone means for me. The conclusion? I already have my “40 badge”…because grief, and healing the wounds of grief, gifted me that badge awhile back.
If you scroll through some of the holy shit I’m gonna be 40 blogs, or the 40 is the best age on earth blogs, there are some common themes. I’m certain my badass widow tribe will agree with me and shout – we got this shit handled already, regardless of the number on our birth certificates. And yes, I know a lot of widows who are under the age of 40.
Here’s what I see as the top three 40 is awesome claims, and how healing my widow wounds already granted me my 40 badge.
1 – turning 40 gives you confidence, a better sense of self and this general “comfortable in your skin” sentiment
This one is prominent in most of the 40 is the best age blogs. Its one of my favourites and the rationale behind it is often something along the lines of learning to love yourself and not be as critical as you were of yourself in your “younger” days.
Here’s how widowhood already gave me that confidence…
The moment I received the news of my husband’s suicide my world came crashing down, and so did I. Literally a fell into a heap. I then spent about a year sobbing into alcoholic beverages on my kitchen floor. But I kept functioning, through immense pain, and grief often is physically painful, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Caring for my children and rebuilding my life. Anyone who experiences profound loss knows they have experienced their absolute worse day on this earth. Waking up every morning I give thanks for my life and I know, with confidence, and in my heart that I can handle anything this day tosses my way. Grief teaches you what you are really capable of. You cannot manufacture that kind of confidence, and you don’t need to wait for a magical birthday to get it either. Grief shows you your absolute ugliest side and then teaches you that to heal you need to love that ugliness. It makes you want to literally scratch your skin off and then shows you the beauty of what you still have, including that skin you so wanted to remove.
2 – at 40 you are seasoned and experienced
What the blogs say about turning 40 is that you have now magically entered a phase of life where you are wise enough to begin giving advice, instead of just taking it. And that this is some sort of privilege reserved for the 40+ crowd.
Widowhood catapults you into the land of the old wise one…
This one I didn’t expect at all to be given by grief. Actually it wasn’t grief itself that gave me this one, it was the healing. Once I got beyond being able to just function on a daily basis, and slowly began to thrive again, suddenly I was an expert on a wide range of topics. People called me bizarre things, like “inspiring” – yikes! Even as a remarried healing widow there are days when I can barely manage to scrape myself off my kitchen floor and I’m inspiring?!?
I started to get asked for advice on a variety of topics that I didn’t expect. It seems as though people thought – if she can do IT having lived through THAT then she must know a thing or two. “IT” topics included parenting, relationships, exercise, job choices and other random topics. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, widowhood causes a near instant loss of filter. So my ability to spew opinionated advice on such a variety of topics is pretty damn impressive.
Overall healing through grief gives you an unparalleled perspective on the world as a whole. While I would never wish the kind of pain I have endured to get to that perspective on anyone, I do wish more people in the world could embrace what I know as truth. So when asked, I’m happy to spew away.
3 – when you turn 40 you stop worrying about what other people think
Read this a lot in the 40 is awesome blogs. Usually before this one is covered there is a long list of all the not-so-nice body changes that happen when we age, then a list of carefree clothing choices (I stopped wearing a bra!) and then the proclamation, I stopped caring what people think of me.
This attitude is a prerequisite if you are to thrive in widowhood…
Here’s what happens when you are a widow. People think widowhood is contagious. They look at you like you have 3 heads. After the initial “acceptable” grief period when everyone shows support, people drift away (check this blog by the amazing Michelle Steinke Baumgard) And when people do start to drift away you begin to feel like you have the black plague. In the healing process you will learn that it’s not about you, it’s about them. And you literally have no choice but to stop caring what people think if you want to keep leading a normal functional life.
Then…healing, and…GASP…remarriage!! Make that 4 heads with medusa snakes added in for that “oh no I can’t even look at her”. Those living the reality of widowhood are judged most when they make the terrifying decision to love again. Two amazing widow bloggers prove this with their most popular posts, the incredibly brave Erica Roman here, and the queen of widow dating Kerry Phillips, here. Widows/widowers that walk this road absolutely must let go of caring about the opinions of others. No need to be 40 to stop, if are have lived through grief, you already have that ability. You work your ass off mentally to achieve it, regardless of the age on your birth certificate.
Like I said, I got this shit handled. The stuff people rave about that your 40’s will give you…grief and licking my wounds gave me that perspective already. And the stuff people fret and worry about when they hit this milestone…I’m too damn busy enjoying the daily gift of life to be worrying about that shit. So big FOUR-OHHHHH…Bring. It. On.
I am Michelle. Above all I am a mother of four incredible little beings. I am a certified Personal Trainer and Healthy Eating Coach, an educator and a real estate investor. I am a coach who also participates fully as a fitness enthusiast, a runner, and a swimmer. I speak from the heart and have no filter left to tolerate bull shit.