Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Wonderful World of Widowhood!

Good Day Faithful Readers!

I am so excited to tell you about the weekend I just had! I tried to write this blog while the weekend was actually happening . . . but I couldn’t figure out how to get onto the internet at my hotel (go figure!) Then, Marni suggested that I write it on the plane as we were flying home, which was a great idea, in theory. The only problem was that Marni talked me into letting her have one of my Zanex (anti-anxiety pill) and I spent the ENTIRE flight from California to Ohio trying to keep the woman from climbing the walls of the airplane! She completely LOST her mind. Suffice to say, there were moments I was laughing so hard I thought I would pee my pants . . . thank goodness I only took one Zanex and not my usual two – which puts me completely out! Had I done that I’m not sure who would have kept an eye on her!

Well, anyway! I spent this past weekend in San Diego, California at the 1st Annual National Conference on Widowhood. A mouthful, huh? Well! Let me tell you – what an incredible experience!

The idea for this conference was birthed out of a woman named Michele Neff Hernandez. Michele was widowed four years ago, very unexpectedly and at a pretty young age. She set out to interview other widows all over the United States to figure out what a widow was supposed to look like and be. How do you get through it? What does widowhood look like in our modern age? Who are we supposed to be?

What she found was that there is not one specific answer to these questions . . . and . . . that widows are a breed unto their own. They are strong, intelligent, amazing women. She began teaming up with other widows to support and uplift one another and along the way formed the WidowsBond website, the Widow Match program, and the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.

Through all of that came the idea for this conference. There were 110 attendees and 25 speakers. I was blessed to be able to both speak and sing. This is a conference with no religious affiliation – so I was very excited to teach a seminar on how my faith has sustained me through my grief. When I began my presentation I explained that I am a born again Christian and that that was the premise of my talk. Two women got up and left! That was o.k.! The wonderful news is that two women came up to me afterward and told me that they have been so angry at God. . . .unable to pray or go to church. They were encouraged by my talk and were going to work on their relationships with Christ! THAT, my friends, is what it is all about!

There were women there from all walks of life! Many, MANY of them were young! What a gift to each of us . . . to find each other!

Friday evening there was a welcome reception. A very sweet young woman had just registered and turned around from the registration desk to find an empty hallway. Just then, I walked by. I could tell by the look in her eyes . . . she was so very, very lost. I introduced myself and asked her her name. Come to find out – she was widowed just three months ago. She had heard about the conference and came all by herself! My goodness! God bless her. At three months you have no idea which way is up . . . and here she stood! Wow! What an amazing woman. I met another woman that evening – with the sweetness of the Lord ALL over her. Her husband of many many years died unexpectedly just four months ago. She was a beautiful woman – both inside and out. Her daughters had brought her. How sweet to see a family clinging to one another as they grapple with the realities of this Earth.

So – what do YOU think, my friends? What does a widow look like to you? Have you ever thought about it? I sure have! I would love to hear your thoughts . . . so please let me know in the comments! When I say the word ‘widow,’ what image comes to your mind?

You know what’s funny? I still see a woman with white hair. Isn’t that weird? Here I am . . . a picture, myself, of a widow . . . but ‘me’ is not what I see.

What I see happening, today, is both a beautiful and a horrible thing . . . us younger widows are redefining widowhood! We are forming alliances and groups and support ALL over this world!

Oh yes, did I mention that there were women there from all across the globe? Friday afternoon began with a speaker’s luncheon. I sat a table with a doctor from Bagdad, Iraq! She was there to raise the plight of widows around the globe. There was another speaker there from Kenya. Hold on and fasten your seatbelts because what I am about to tell you is going to sicken you . . .

In many countries of this world, when you are widowed you are thought of as bad luck and you are then treated like the plague! In India, for example, when you are widowed they strip you of all rights and take your children away from you and place you in an area where all the widows go. Can you imagine? CAN you imagine? Oh my! I can’t! I got through my widowhood by clinging to Christ and my babies! How in the world would you make it through in a situation like that? My goodness!

A short conclusion to all of this . . . then I am off to take two cats to the vet (FUN!), clean my house, begin packing up my house to move in less than three weeks, AND . . . to keep working on wedding plans! Please check back almost daily right now! I think I will use the blog as a journal for the next few weeks as we countdown to the wedding! I am SO excited!!!!!

Well – you know that I have asked the question . . . what is a widow? I would like to tell you a discovery I had along the way this weekend . . . it is one I have had before . . . but was reconfirmed this weekend.

One of the greatest gifts that I will take away from my widowhood is gift of knowing the beauty of ‘alone.’ Last Friday I had to drive from L.A. to San Diego . . . alone. I had to deal with traffic, unfamiliar cities, and get checked into the hotel . . . alone. I had to figure out where to park my rental car, unload my luggage, and find the nearest Starbuck’s . . . alone. Thankfully . . . the Starbuck’s was right in the lobby of the hotel! What a relief!!!!! I had to get unpacked (yeah, right!), figure out what to wear to the speaker’s luncheon, and walk into a completely unfamiliar setting where I knew no one . . . alone! After the luncheon I went to the pool . . . alone. Later that day, I went shopping . . . alone.

You know what I have found? It is that while I love my friends and family . . . while I am so thankful for the gift of Practice and ALL that he has brought to my life . . . while I can’t believe the friend that I have been given in Marni (and a fabulous travel companion, by the way!) . . . I have found that I am o.k. . . . alone! I am alright . . . even great . . . as just ‘me!’ I can conquer the world . . . and drive through Los Angeles . . . .ALONE! I have found that there is not much I cannot do . . . alone! What a gift I have found in my widowhood!


Paula S said...

Thinking of you, I'd say a widow is:

Death's shadow
Overcoming great sorrow
With great strength

Sarah Schieber said...

Wow Paula! Written like a true lyricist! I love you!

Cheryl said...


I used to be like you where I thought that a widow was an older lady with white hair. I have learned from reading your blog and Jenny Coin's blog that a widow can be any age. This has made me think and realize that I could be a widow. I don't take my husband for granted like I used to. I also have started thanking God everyday for Scott. Thank you for opening my eyes and making me not take my life for granted anymore.


P.S. Congrats on wedding plans. PLEASE post pictures after the big day.

Jen said...

Ok..first thing I have to say is I actually laughed out loud when I read the title to your post! "The Wonderful World of Widowhood!" made me laugh!

WOW!! It sounds like the conference was an amazing time. I wish I could have gone. Maybe next year.

I too once thought that a widow was only somebody with white hair. For some reason I always thought of the Golden Girls when I thought of a widow. The Golden Girls, yeah, that was my definition of a widow. A bunch of 'old' ladies sitting around a house together becoming great friends, only because their husbands were no longer with them.

Well until that was my definition until August 18, 2008. That day will forever change my life. That was the day I became a widow at 30 years old. Since then my definition of a widow has changed. You don't have to have gray hair and live with 3 other older ladies to become a widow. It can happen at any time. It happened to me!

Now when I think of a widow I think of becoming a stronger person. When you become a widow at any age, but especially young you learn many many things. You learn things about other people, you learn how to do things you never used to do, you learn to become an independent person and you learn to be you without being attached to someone else. The last 11 months I have learned about ME. I know I still have lots to find out about Jenny, but I think I'm on my way. Finding me and who I am without Shawn is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life. But yet,I'm doing it every single day.

Like Sarah I too went on a big trip last week. I flew for the first time by myself in an airplane. Not a big task for some, but for me it was HUGE!! I had to sign in by myself, carry my own luggage, find baggage claim, switch planes, find my way to my connecting flight, switch planes again and do the same thing on the flight back home. But you know what? I did it!! I was so proud of myself once I found my connecting flight I was about skipping down the airport! If you would have asked me 11 months ago to go and visit a friend alone, I would have laughed in your face. However, things change...I have learned to be alone, I've changed. And like Sarah while I'm so amazingly blessed to have my family and great friends in my life, and while I imagine the day when I will fall in love again I now know that I will be 'ok' alone until that time comes, if it ever comes. There are times when I actually like the stillness of being just be and being by myself. I'm even considering getting my own place after getting some money saved up. I know I can do this and actually looking forward to it. Living through the death of Shawn has made me a stronger person in so many different ways.It has taught me so much about myself, things I don't know I would have figured out before. I want Shawn back with me every single day. While I still don't understand the 'why's' too all of this I'm trying. I just have to be open to the possibilities of what is still yet infront of me.

So if you asked me 11 months ago who a widow was I would have said someone like the Golden Girls. Now 11 months later I have a totally different understanding of a widow. It's a strong woman, who in the face of death and the worst time of her life choses to move forward, to keep breathing, learning to be strong, make it through the hard times, and while most important learn about herself in the process.

Phew that was a long answer to your question...but it has given me a thought for my own blog post one day.

I love you and miss you so much!! Hope to see you really soon!!

Sarah Schieber said...

Jenny! You are so strong! Congratulations for making it through the toughest year of your life . . . and for finding the strength to find . . . YOU! I love you!

Cibele said...

I always thought that widow were older ladies with gray hair, until widowhood was totally redefined for mw when 5 years ago my baby sister became a widow at the very young age of 23, after being married for only 10 months, after dating for 6 years with her young love. Widowhood will never look like the same for me.
As for being alone, even though I am not a widow, I am a woman alone, a single mother (not by choice) that came the realization that I can do many things that I never thought I could do it alone, learning that God's grace is enough.

Can't wait to read more about the wedding

Anitra said...

How awesome that you were obedient to the Lord in speaking at this conference! It is exciting to see how God is using you to bring Him glory!

Kate said...

Hi Sarah. Have just found your blog and I love it so far (this is as far back as I've got....) I became a widow nearly 4 years ago at age 26 with a 5 month old baby, I still vividly remember the first time I had to fill in a form and tick the box labeled 'widowed' all I could think of was the grey brigade and how I totally didn't fit. I am happy with being alone and certainly now tend to prefer it. Everything happens in it's own time. Good luck with marriage may it provide everything you and your family desire of it.