Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dating: It’s Time To Cast Your Line and Come Up With A Keeper

Ooooo, golly. Another dating post. You know you love these. I just can’t help it. We’re all in such different places with this. Some who have moved on. Some who can’t. And some who “move on” several times a week thanks to internet dating and quarter pitchers.

I’m not judging. I’m just stating the facts.

This is directed more towards my friends who feel as though they can’t move on. Now…don’t get me wrong. I understand all of the stages I have listed above. But through all of these support sites, blogs, and what-have-yous, I have “met” some amazing people…who deserve to meet some amazing people. Because…and this is a shot in the dark…since you were married (or in a long-term relationship) before and you didn’t want to be alone then, there’s a big chance you really might not want to be alone now.


Don’t you think dating is kind of like standing on a ledge? You sweat, hoping that that bungee cord we call karma is gonna hold? Now, some of us aren’t afraid of heights and we’re ready to take the plunge. Some of us take one look at the view (which looks just fine without the addition of our innards splattered below, thank you very much) and step away. And some of us are standing on the ledge, with the cord on, but need a friendly push from a well-intentioned friend who we may be mad at while we’re swinging but once we’re on firm ground we’ll give them a big ol’ hug.


I don’t want anyone reading this post to think that I am insensitive to the fact that some people just aren’t ready. I know that and I completely respect it. But sometimes I just think that many people don’t think there are any other good fish in the sea.

So, let’s think of it like this: If you’ve cast your line before…what are the chances you caught the only good fish?

I won’t deny that during the dating process sometimes we just come up with that smelly boot. But every once in awhile, we hook on to a keeper. I understand that some people don’t want to put themselves out there, don’t want to invest themselves anymore. They don’t feel like there is anyone who will understand what they’ve been through and accept them for it. Shoot…I remember thinking, “What if I meet someone and we’re talking and I…start crying???

Well, given the number of people in the world…what’re the chances of you dating that one person who has led a perfect life?

Being where we are…it’s been hurtful. We’ve all been through transitions with relationships in our lives. Our friendships have changed…how we interact with our families has changed. But I’m betting that most of these changes really haven’t been so bad. Oh sure, the transition from who you thought your friends were to who you really bond with was excruciating.

But now that you’ve been through it…isn’t it better?

You’ve found the people you can most be yourself with. You can let your “freak flag fly” as they say in The Family Stone (I love that movie). And because of that, even if your friendships are fewer, they’re more meaningful. They’re deeper. Those friends who have weathered the storm with you will always be there. Those friends who couldn’t…well…I hope you’ve come to the level of acceptance that that’s their problem, not your’s. And if (heaven forbid) anything catastrophic should happen in their lives, I’m sure they'll think back and realize that they should’ve been more “Oprah” with you and less “Jerry Springer.”

And those new friends you have made…they know who you really are and accept you for all of it. And they love you even though you’re yourself (sorry…there’s laughing in my head right now).

So…what makes you think it would be different in a new romantic (at least, we hope it is at least a few times a week) relationship? Who’s to say that the new you might find something even more meaningful and even deeper than what you had before? Because you’re there…that’s you now.

And if you hook something you don’t want…throw it back and cast again.

I hear so many people say that what they had was perfect. That they lost their soulmates and that they will never find that again. And you know what? I’m not going to argue with that. If that’s the relationship you had, you’re right. That’s rare. But it was rare before you found it. And you still found it.

Here’s a thought.

If that person was your soulmate then and now you’re a different person (I think most of us have agreed on that)…who’s to say you won’t find the soulmate for the person you’ve become?

I think that’s the closest to Algebra I’ve ever come in my adult life. I’ll let you digest that one for a minute.

The truth is, I’ve changed so much that even if my husband met me NOW I don’t know if he’d even ask me out. I’m more independent. I’m more direct. And my sense of humor has taken a downward turn into the land of Sick and Wrong.

So…if I’m different…why would I expect to find the same relationship? Shouldn’t I expect to find someone who can handle the “new” me? Why would I want to find the exact same man, who was perfect for who I was, but may not fit the person I’ve become? And couldn’t that person just be floating out there…waiting for a hook?

Waiting…for me.

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lost in the Widowhood

“I feel so lost.”

How many times have we felt that way? How many times have we heard that from other grievers? How many times have we just wanted to pull on a t-shirt that says it, so we just don’t have to explain anymore why we’re operating in such a daze?

We all go through these periods of feeling lost. Like we’re floating out there in the world with nothing to anchor us. We make the best effort we can to find that connection…the internet, support groups, counseling…something, anything to make us feel like we’re still part of the world.

For some of us, these periods last longer than for others. It’s discouraging and we feel like, when we see others who share a similar experience supposedly “getting on with it,” that we’re failing in some way. That we’re not living up to our grieving potential. That we’ll never get that promotion from “new widow” to “widow…once removed.”

But I have a different idea.

When we lose someone, our perspective changes. In a big way. The little things become just that…little (that is, until a little thing comes along and completely runs us off the road. That’s always fun). Our connection with the world and the people around us does a complete 180. Spiritually (not necessarily religiously) our connection deepens. We seek out those who feel the same awakening because that is who we suddenly feel a connection to. It’s baffling to many of us that who we find comfort in are not those people who have known us all of our lives, but complete strangers. When we see someone in pain, we can’t look at it in the same, detached way we could before. Because their pain was once our pain. And we feel it right to the core.

It’s frightening, this opening of the spirit. It leaves us vulnerable and insecure. And when we used to feel that way…scared and exposed…who did we turn to?

You guessed it. The person who’s not here anymore. Talk about your double-whammy.

Sometimes I think that the people who are having the hardest time, are sometimes doing the most soul-searching. We all feel loss very deeply, but I wonder if those people who can’t figure out what to do with certain areas of their lives – whether it’s professionally, romantically, or just what to wear in the morning – are actually taking the time to really figure themselves out. They’re not jumping into anything. Because jumping would imply that you have to land somewhere. And they’re just not ready to do that yet, damn it.

The problem is…everyone else around you is saying that you should be ready (mainly because the fact that you are still going through the grieving process makes them feel uncomfortable…it has nothing to do with you). They think you need to stop floating and join the real world once again. And it’s almost harder when you reach out to people who have shared a similar loss who seem to be “getting on with it” because in the back of your mind you think that you’re just not doing this right.

Sometimes I wonder if we are holding on so tightly to who we were, what we had, and what could have been…we focus all of our energy on that and let that take up so much space in our hearts that we don’t have room for the new person that’s waiting in the wings. It’s not denial…or if it is, it’s the sneakiest form. We know what’s happened. We are fully aware of what we have lost. What we don’t know is what happens next. And that’s when we start floating.

I feel like I’m making this sound more magical than it really is. This “evolution of spirit” doesn’t seem like it should come in the form of a ripped bathrobe and a bag of Oreos. When we wake up in the morning and feel like our entire body is made of lead, we don’t think, “Wow. I feel like crap this morning. I must really be doing some soul-searching.”

For me, I jumped into everything right after my husband died. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to figure out who I was, who I had evolved into, now that I was on my own. I wanted to get on with my life immediately. What I failed to recognize was that…my life was not the same anymore. That it was impossible to jump right back into my old life because my old life had taken a permanent vacation. The rules that I had followed before didn’t apply. This was a new game and in order to play it, I had to change. And change takes time.

And that’s really when I began to hurt.

I’ll never forget it. I was going about 100 miles an hour for 6 months after my husband died and then suddenly, I started to cry. And cry. And cry. I didn’t want to do anything. All of the decisions I had been so desperate to make a few months ago seemed as trivial as they were impossible. When I told my sister that I couldn’t figure out what in the hell was wrong with me she replied, “You’ve been moving too fast. And now you’re being forced to sit down and deal with what has happened.”

(Enter floating sensation and detachment.)

I guess my point is…when you’re feeling that lost feeling, try to look at it in a different way: That your damaged spirit is actually trying to take care of you while you figure out who you are. For some people this takes longer than others. For some, we’ll float back and forth between who we think we “should” be…and who we are actually evolving into. Because sometimes…that’s two different people.

And just remember…the reason we feel lost is because we’re hoping to be found.

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Trying to Beat the Birthday Blues

I hesitate to write this blog, because for some people…this little issue may not have occurred to them yet. And if that’s the case…I apologize ahead of time if it has you popping open a box of wine after you read it.

My birthday is coming up next week. I’ve never really had a problem with birthdays. I’m not really all that concerned with getting older. Maybe because I’ve always been the “baby” of the bunch (by about 4 months…but younger is younger). I don’t panic about wrinkles, gray hair, or sagging (although that muffin top is DEFINITELY not my friend). I guess one could say I’m able to embrace who I am and just go with it.

For me, losing my husband only strengthened this attitude. I feel lucky to be here and I don’t take anything for granted. To me, the signs of aging are like a badge of honor and signify the fact that I’m making it. I don’t really care if the “badges” come in the form of stretch marks and age spots. I’ll take it. It’s better than the alternative.

The only time getting older really bothers me is when I make the mistake of going out downtown with friends about once a year and I wonder how all of those 12 year olds got into the bar. And why does that music have to be so damn loud???? And why can’t I bounce back the next morning like I did when I was 21??

I feel like I got over the hump of age anxiety early. When I was 16, my best friend got a job as a lifeguard at our neighborhood pool. I just remember looking at her in amazement and saying, “How could you get that job? All of those people are so old!” And then it started to sink in that we were that old.

After that, I’ve pretty much accepted the aging process. That is…until this year.

This year I will be turning 34. And for those of you who are now rolling your eyes because you’re a few years older than me, keep reading. There’s a perfectly good reason why this is causing me to have a minor meltdown.

My husband was 34 years old when he died.

I remember even during the raw grief I felt, shortly after he passed away, thinking, “I bet 34 is going to be a hard year for me.” I don’t know if it’s difficult now because I thought that and have been anticipating it all of these years, or if it would have been hard anyway. The truth is, I kind of forgot about it until a friend of mine and I were discussing what I wanted to do for my birthday. Somehow, talking about it, sent me into a tailspin that had me tearing up just about every 5 minutes for no apparent reason.

I know that some of us experience a loss due to illness. We knew it was coming. We knew for awhile that our spouse would probably be a certain age when they died. I don’t mean that that makes it any easier…loss is sudden no matter how much notice you have.

But my husband’s death was in no way expected. So I had no clue that he wouldn’t see 35. Not that knowing would have made it any easier. But I have this image of him kissing me goodbye in the morning. And then everything stopped for him. And kept moving for me.

All I keep thinking is…this was it for him. Thirty-four. What would it be like if life stopped for me right now? What if this was all I was going to see, all I was going to do? Because the truth is…I feel so young. I don’t feel ready to be gone. And I can’t imagine that he did either.

His revenge is that he will always remain 34 to me. As I grow older and have to tuck my boobs into the waistband of my pants because gravity has taken over, he’ll still remain youthful and energetic. As my knees start to creak and my eyesight starts to go, he’ll always be ready for an adventure in my memory. As time moves on for me, he will have tapped into the mythical fountain of youth in my mind.

As I posted on the Widow Chick Facebook page yesterday: “Do you find the anticipation of a "milestone" day harder than the actual day...or the other way around?” For me it’s always the anticipation. Because the meltdown I felt last week and took out on unsuspecting strangers and friends has subsided. I feel almost ready to meet this birthday head-on and beat it into submission. But I’ll be thinking of my husband all day (as I often do) and hope that if I see him again someday, he’ll remember me as that 31 year old wife who kissed him goodbye.

Until then…I guess the best that I can do at this point is live each day as if it’s the last I’ll ever see.

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at!  

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Healing Power of "The Story"

Father’s Day Hell. Done. Kids Okay. Check. Memorial service for my neighbor….What??

That’s right, my friends.

Most of us have been just trying to get through Father’s Day weekend. Whether it’s because we have kids, we wanted to have kids, or we’re thankful we dodged that bullet…we’ve all been wading through our own you-know-what (I’m trying to keep this PG just in case my mom reads it).

But somehow, this weekend, I got a double helping of grief. Because not only did I have to jolly my kids through Father’s Day, I had to come home to a memorial service going on next door. My very sweet next door neighbor passed away a few weeks ago. He went into a doctor’s appointment on a Tuesday, was diagnosed with cancer, and by the next Tuesday he was gone. We were all shocked, to say the least.

Anyway, I always think it’s important, when it comes to these kinds of things, to just show up and acknowledge the passing. You know...give the wife a hug and let her know that how well liked her husband was. I mean, nothing makes us feel better than knowing that hundreds of people thought so much of our loved one that they decided to come over and pop open a beer with us.

Now, you would think having experienced what I have, that I would be a person who would know what to say. That I would have some magical words of comfort. That I wouldn’t be as stupid as some of the people I have encountered during my meandering walk through the Grief Canyon.

Yup. You would think.

But because of the experience I’ve been through, it makes me more self-conscious than ever that I’m going to say the wrong thing. Because if there’s one thing I know by now it’s that what one person finds comforting will make another person want to smack you. Most of the time, I just try and keep my trap shut.

So after my exhausting day with the kids, I trudged over to my neighbor’s house for (hopefully) a quick glass of wine and a pat on the back. And in my attempt to keep my foot out of my mouth (so that I could drink more wine), I started asking my neighbor questions about how they met, how long they’d been married…you know general things like that.

And then something interesting happened.

My neighbor’s face suddenly lit up (as much as it can when you’re fighting against the rip-tide of grief) as she told me their story. She talked on and on about meeting him in college and how crazy and fun he was. She asked me to go with her to watch a slide show that someone had put together of their life and as I followed her into the living room, the most obvious thing hit me.

We all just want to tell our story.

In everyone’s attempt to “say the right thing” in times of grief they’re ignoring a very simple fact that would save everyone a lot of aggravation. They don’t have to talk at all. They don’t have to worry about whether saying, “I’m sorry” is going to annoy someone. They shouldn’t even attempt to look at the bright side and say, “Well, at least he went quickly.” They shouldn’t make a pathetic stab at philosophy by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” Or our FAVORITE: “He’s in a better place now.”

They just have to ask one simple question about the person who is gone. And listen.

When I think back to when I lost my husband, I still realize that the most healing time I had was just sitting around with friends while they asked me questions about us and our life. Even in my darkest hour, I enjoyed strolling down Memory Lane with anyone who would take the time to listen. Don’t we all? I LOVE it when people ask me how I met my husband. I love it when they look at me in my younger and more attractive days and ask what we were doing then. I love it when they ask me if all of my kids were fathered by my husband.

(Now, in reality, if you had ever seen my husband and seen my kids, you would never ask that question.)

This realization has been such an “ah ha” moment for me. That listening has more healing powers than saying something that you think is comforting while making the other person feel like they’d rather be walking on glass than talking to you. It’s probably something that you all have known for years, but I’m always a little behind on the grief train. So the best thing you can do is smile politely and nod your head while you let me ramble.

‘Cause it will just make me feel better.

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at!  

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Impossibility of Father's Day

I can’t let this week pass without acknowledging the dreaded day that’s before us. For those men who take the time to read this, please replace “Father’s” with “Mother’s” and pretend I posted it a month ago. I know you know what I’m talking about.

No one likes this time of year. If you have kids, it’s just an impossible day. If you don’t have kids…it’s still an impossible day. This is the epitome of “family bonding” and whether you’re with family or without…it really sucks. It’s just another reminder of what might have been…for everyone.

It starts early, doesn’t it? Those advertisements to not forget your loved one on this special day. The friendly announcers trying to convince us that our spouses would be completely happy on Father’s Day if we just got them a brand new grill and a riding lawnmower. The hot dog commercial showing the perfect family scene with the kids running around the yard and Dad at the grill (I guess that would be the new grill he’s about to get). The tearful dad opening the perfect Hallmark card from his loving wife (hopefully it’s not one that plays music…what’s that all about?).

I’m sorry. I don’t mean to sound so bitter. Oh wait. Yes I do!

I feel bad now, that my own dad’s Father’s Day seems to be overshadowed by our need to go visit my husband. He never complains about it, but who wants to spend their “special day” in a cemetery? You can bet your ashes I wouldn’t if I could get out of it. But he’s always a good sport and comes along even though I spend about a week providing him with excuses just in case he would rather do something normal. Like nap.

Random fathers I don’t know very well are the lucky recipients of Father’s Day cards from me now because I can’t seem to stop buying them. I am a HUGE fan of humorous cards and Father’s Day is just full of them. My husband was all about the sweet, caring, mushy Mother’s Day cards and I could never seem to step away from the cards that somehow tied Father’s Day in with beer and potty jokes.

I guess, in my mind, it seemed more appropriate on Father’s Day rather than Christmas, so I better just take advantage of it.

Anyway, as we creep closer and closer to Father’s Day (insert theme from “Jaws” here), I can’t help but think about the first one I spent without my husband.

My husband’s remains are buried in a beautiful spot in the Colorado Rockies. It’s not easy to get to, but it’s a destination and I am constantly thankful that my children look forward to going there. They can explore in the woods, throw rocks in a stream, and wreak a little havoc in this nice, quiet cemetery in the mountains.

Our first Father’s Day without my husband was nearly a year after he had passed. We packed up the “family truckster” and headed west to partake in a little bonding while we paid tribute a great dad. The kids cheerfully talked and giggled in the backseat while I kept my sunglasses on, swallowed about 20 times per second, and watched the road with the intensity of a brain surgeon.

When we’d finally parked and started down the mountain towards my husband’s final resting place, it really hit me.

I’m not supposed to be here.

I mean, this is a joke, right? I thought, “I’m 32. He’s only 35. We should be at home watching him laze around in a recliner until we’re due at some family function we don’t want to go to. He should be realizing we don’t have enough propane to properly burn the burgers, just like he likes them. He should be trying to balance the soggy cereal the kids have given him in bed while they use him as a human jungle-gym. I’m not supposed to be sitting next to some tombstone with my kids. This is ridiculous.”

I still remember to this day…it felt like a complete out-of-body experience.

Father’s Day without a father and Mother’s Day without a mother are just…cruel. People who have not been through this kind of loss automatically assume it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving that are impossible to get through, but I think they’re underestimating the power of the Parental Days. Because nothing says “SOMETHING IS WRONG” like a day that is specifically designed to celebrate a parent…and not have the parent be there.

The day drowns us a little, doesn’t it? If I hadn’t been through this, I wouldn’t think twice about how hard teachers work to make sure the kids have some craft to give to mothers and fathers. I loved that stuff when he was around and now it almost feels like an unintentional right hook to the jaw. These days are the main reasons why I still (3 years later) tell every new teacher my kids have that their dad has passed. I don’t want them to get blindsided making some pinch-pot when one of my kids says, “Who the hell is this for? I don’t got one of those.”

(My kids don’t actually talk like that.)

I will say that, over the years, the shock of not having him here on Father’s Day has lessened a little. It still hurts, but it’s not that sucker punch to the stomach that it used to be. That has been replaced by an anger that I can’t explain and that I take out on innocent bystanders. We still go to the mountains and I hope it’s a long time before my kids really realize that this is an odd thing to be doing and that not all families celebrate the day by going to a cemetery. Because right now they love it and they look forward to going as a part of a series of “Daddy Days” we have every year.

So to the fathers who once were, the fathers who should have been, the dads who are still here to help us pick up the pieces, and the mothers who now find themselves as fathers too….

Happy Father’s Day. I’ll see you on the flip side.

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at!  

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's All In How You Word It

Okay people. It’s time to put our thinking caps on. This has bothered me for years and I sometimes get the feeling it bothers some of the rest of you.

The word “anniversary.”

When we’re talking about the day our spouses passed, we always seem to put that word in quotes, don’t we? Which to me signals that it’s not really the right word. “Anniversaries” are supposed to be fun. They’re supposed to be a celebration. They’re supposed to commemorate something positive…like not killing each other in the first 10 years of marriage.

I don’t know about you, but…I can stretch this definition to include the “celebration” of my husband’s life, but “fun” it is NOT.

(I hope I don’t get called on overuse of “quotations” during this blog.)

When I looked up “death anniversary” on Wikipedia (I know…who knew there was such an official thing listed?) it mentioned several countries where it’s tradition to mark the weeks, months, years since a loved one has passed. And guess what? America was not one of those countries. Go figure.

Now, in India it said, “According to Indian texts a soul has to wander about in the various worlds after death and has to suffer a lot due to past karmas. Shraadh is a means of alleviating this suffering.”

Well, that sounds like a downer.

I personally liked Vietnam’s custom. They said “it is a festive occasion, at which members of an extended family gather together. Female family members traditionally spend the entire day cooking an elaborate banquet in honor of the deceased individual, which will then be enjoyed by all the family members.”

Now, that I can get on board with. But I’m originally from Louisiana, so anything that involves food sounds like a great idea. As long as it’s fried.

Since America is obviously not on this list (and neither is Canada or England, so for my blog readers over the boarder and across the pond, we really need to make this an international movement), I vote that we work together and come up with our own word. After all…countries that don’t even have cable TV or iPhones have, so why shouldn’t we?

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and I’ll be the first to admit…I’m stumped. I mean, we can’t say, “It’s been one year since I experienced the change” which is really kind of what it is, but any man out there who says it will get some odd looks, to say the least.

We can’t say, “It’s been one year since our life together ended” which is, again, what it is but depending on your tone when you say it, might land you in a psyche ward somewhere.

So we need something that’s not too depressing because, being the good widows that we are, we don’t want to make all of those outside our new world uncomfortable. We need something that suggests a small element of “crazy” but not too much because we don’t want to be monitored for the rest of our lives. We need something that helps us remember our loved ones, celebrates their life, and acknowledges how different our own is now.

I know that everyone’s traditions are different and no one handles these milestones in the same way. Some prefer a quiet day to reflect and remember. Some prefer a loud party and think the best way to commemorate their loved one’s passing is to tap a keg. And some fall in between the two and like to invite friends over for a quiet glass of wine.

Given my previous posts, some of you may know where I fall. I’ll give you a hint…it involves a cork.

I realize that how we all choose to remember a loved one’s passing is as individual as the person who’s gone. But I still wish we had some other universal phrase that would explain to the outside world that we’re remembering, we’re celebrating….

We’re just really not all that happy about it.

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at!  

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Define "Loss"

I’m going to go out on a limb with this one. And I really hope I don’t irritate any of the caring and compassionate people I’ve “met” while working on this blog. But this is something that’s been on my mind.

The pain of death. And the pain of divorce.

Now, you all know I can speak very long-windedly about the pain of death. I don’t like to think of myself as an expert on it, but I guess we all kind of are. What I can’t speak to is the pain of divorce. Because I’ve never been through it.

I personally think whether we’re talking about the loss of a husband, child, or marriage, no one likes to have their grief or pain compared to anyone else’s. This is not a contest. Or if it is…none of us are winners.

Many of us get really bitter when what we have been through is compared to what someone who has been divorced has been through. But I have come to realize, it depends on the situation. When someone says something stupid like, “You’re so lucky you don’t have an ex to deal with”…well…yeah. That’s annoying and incredibly thoughtless.

But if I have a friend who says something like, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. But going through my divorce has been really painful.” That I can’t argue with. Because I’ve never been through it. And if they’re insightful enough to realize that what I’ve been through was agonizing even though they personally haven’t experienced it…why shouldn’t I extend them the same courtesy?

I think one of the more obvious reasons why we don’t like to hear ourselves compared to divorcees is because our partner is gone. We make the assumption that all marriages end because both parties choose to let go…and that’s a choice we would have never made. We get upset when people complain about how awful their spouses are because we would give anything to have our own here even if it meant fighting with them one more time. We get frustrated because it seems like in a lot of cases, people get divorced for really petty reasons.

I’m no different from the rest of you. When I hear that someone is getting divorced because their spouse just never learned how to cook their eggs the way they like them…it’s annoying. We live in a society where people expect life to be great 99% of the time. We want instant gratification and a happy ending. People forget that life is a journey. We all think we’re a part of a Kate Hudson movie where there’s a small problem with an obvious answer at the end.

But that’s not life. That’s a Kate Hudson movie. And there’s a reason why they only get 2 stars.

The issues that people have are not always that trivial. It would have never occurred to me, when my husband was here, that we weren’t in this for life. That some day he would come home and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore” and walk out the door, leaving me without any control over the situation. And you know what? If he had, I would have been shocked as hell and completely devastated. Kind of like I am now.

I would hate for one of my friends to not be able to come to me if she or he was having an issue because they thought that what they were going through didn’t compare with what I’ve been through. What kind of friend would that make me? I’ve had some friends stop before they tell me how upset they were when they had to put their dog down or something. Now, like most of you, I would be really annoyed if they compared putting their dog down with my husband’s death. But that’s different than someone saying, “I know this isn’t in any way the same thing, but this was really upsetting for me….” Of course I’d understand. I’d be upset if I had to put my dog down too.

I guess my point is…life is hard for almost everyone at some point. Would it make any of us feel better to say to a friend who is going through a really painful divorce, “Oh yeah? Well, if he died, you would know what real pain is.” I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think it would.

One of our big sticking points as widows (and this is something that I completely agree with) is that most divorced parents are not single parents. They’re co-parenting. They share their children and are, oftentimes, able to get a break on a regular basis. I don’t like my parenting obligations compared to divorced people any more than you do.

But…reverse the situation for a second. Is that always easier? Is it harder to be completely on your own…or to hand over the most precious thing in your life to someone you don’t even trust anymore? I honestly don’t know. It’s hard raising my kids by myself…that’s obvious. But if I had to give them up to someone I wasn’t positive would be good for them…I’d be a wreck all the time.

I’ve never been cheated on. I’ve never lived with a spouse who has an uncontrollable drug problem. I’ve never been married to someone who has hurt me. And until I have (and I hope I never do), I am in no position to say that what I have been through is any worse than what someone else has been through.

I don’t know what it’s like to feel like someone I trusted has suddenly turned into a different person. I don’t know what it’s like to actually fight for my children. I don’t know what it’s like to worry every weekend whether or not my kids are safe with someone else and really have no control over it.

There is a common thing that ties divorced people together with those of us who have lost someone: Not ONE of us stood up and said our vows years ago, thinking that we wouldn’t make it. We didn’t plan on our spouses dying. We didn’t plan on separating. Those dreams of raising a family together, picnics on Sundays, and rocking together on the front porch in our old age are gone for all of us. Time together has been replaced by a custody exchange in a parking lot or a visit to the cemetery.

The bottom line is…we shouldn’t compare pain. With each other or with someone outside the bonds of widowhood. We have all agreed that we all grieve and cope in completely different ways. And losing the life you thought you were going to have is a loss…whether it’s due to death or divorce. There is a grieving process that goes along with that, too. Of course it’s not the same.

But it’s not the same for any of us.

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Who Knew the Monster Lurking in the Closet Was…Love?

There’s a fear that lies deep in the heart of every widow. It’s not something we talk about a lot. Most of us probably don’t even realize how scared of it we are, but if you can show me one widow who’s not afraid of it, I’ll buy you the winning lottery ticket. Are you ready? Deep breath….

We don’t want to do this again.

I would imagine that most of us, at some point or another, have had a fear of dating. Some widows got over it early and some will never get over it. We talk about how we know we’ll never replace the person who is gone, we don’t have the energy to get out there, and, frankly, how we’re just worried about all the nutjobs that are in the world and would rather not sit down and have a beer with one.

But we don’t often talk about how scared we are of going through a loss again.

One of the hardest parts about losing your spouse is realizing how fragile life is. And that just because something like this has happened once, doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. I often wish, if the universe were a fair place, that once you hit your quota of bad luck, it wouldn’t happen to you anymore. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Not that it would have made losing my husband any easier, but in the end, I could have at least taken a deep breath and thought, “Whew, got that over with.”

But life doesn’t work that way.

Now I’m worried that it’s possible to earn the nickname “Black Widow” before I turn 40. I already can’t stand the idea of chin waxing and I can’t figure out the mysterious popping noise coming out of my right knee. I don’t need another dead spouse.

I’ll never forget talking to a friend of mine a couple of years after my husband died. What started out as a normal conversation about the new house she had rented, slowly turned into her verbalizing a nightmare I’d had since taking the plunge into the dating world.

“Yeah, our landlord lived in this house until her husband died. Then she started dating her neighbor, married him, moved into his house, and then he died. But she just decided to stay over there and rent this house out.”

You may insert your own expletive here.

It takes a lot of guts to get out there and take this risk all over again. And kind of like divorcees…it’s learning to trust again. But it’s not a matter of trusting someone else. It’s being able to trust fate not to send you up you-know-what creek without a paddle again. ‘Cause this time your boat’s a little leaky.

I mean…can you imagine? What if something happens and you’re at the hospital with you second spouse as a doctor is trying to explain what’s going on? Do you just put your hand up in his face and say, “Yeah. I’ve seen this before. You can go about your business”?

You would think they would at least give you a punch card or something at that point.

Now, I didn’t mean to write this to promote this insecurity that we all have. And I certainly didn’t mean to make light of it. This is a real fear. And I’m just as worried about it as any of you. Humor is just my defense mechanism and the only way I can keep myself from going completely around the bend. I think.

Guess we’ll see.

But what I hear from most widows is that the times we had with our spouses were the best times in our lives. We wouldn’t trade them for anything. All of the pain and sadness we have been through cannot equal the amazing experiences we've had.

You cannot love without taking a risk. But if you had shut yourself into a box years ago, you would have never met the person who gave you all of those great times in the first place. I know that getting back out there, after losing someone, is a huge risk. But what if…what if…those good times are not gone? After all, marriage was a 50/50 deal so that means we had to be at least half of the good times. What if we could get to the point, look past the fear, and know that the other half just might be out there again?

We are all people who are capable of great love. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t have lost so much. It’s there. It’s in us. Those people who have decided not to take the risk again…that’s okay. But it’s not because you can’t. You’ve already proven once that you can. We are all in different stages of getting past that fear and, honestly, we’ll probably be working through that for the rest of our lives.

For me, I’m just trying not to take it personally that one guy I know uses the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” as his ring tone when I call.

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at!  

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Uselessness of Emotional Clutter

I have come to a very annoying realization. After 3 years of widowhood, my house is still filled with crap that I don’t know how to use.

I realized this when I was walking into my garage and I spied a horseshoe set. Now, this was not my deal. I’ve played it a handful of times in my life, but I never set it up. That was my husband’s job. I don’t know how far the stakes are supposed to be set apart. How to get them in the ground so they don’t fall over on the very small chance I should happen to get a horseshoe even close to them. I don’t even know if I really know how to play. And if there is a possibility of throwing a horseshoe like a girl…well…I just hope my neighbors aren’t watching.

Those people should just wait for me to mow my lawn if they really want some entertainment.

That little game caused me to stop, take a look around my garage, and really check out all of the things I have taking up room that I wouldn’t even know how to plug in, much less turn on and use.

My husband was a handy guy. And, actually, I have gone through and cleaned out my garage about 3 different times, hoping to create some space. I’ve had friends of his come over and really help me weed out what they think I will never be able to figure out and what I could maybe use some day. Or hire someone to maybe use.

But I still have a lot of crap in there that, should I meet Mr. Right, will impress the hell out of anyone who braves my garage. I mean, what guy wouldn’t want a woman who owned a chainsaw? I just hope he never actually asks me how to use it. That would be an abrupt end to any fantasy he might have of me, standing in a bikini with safety glasses on.

Actually, if he ever saw me in a bikini that would pretty much end the fantasy right there.

I’ve got an air compressor that takes up a fair amount of space and should probably be my requirement for finding Mr. Right. On a first date, I should just come out and ask, “So…what do you know about blowing out your own sprinklers?”

And if he replies, “Oh, I could do it. If I had an air compressor” then I would know that this guy has possibilities.

I have power tools and non-power tools. I have a welding helmet and I pipe-bender, should I ever run into a pipe-bending emergency. I have manly remote controlled toys that cruelly tease my children every time they go in there to dig out their scooters. I have one of those tandem bike things that can hook on to the back of a big bike so that a little kid could pedal right behind me.

Only problem is, I also have horrible balance, so my 4 year old would probably be better off just trying to ride a 2-wheeler on her own, rather than have a large person attached who would completely throw her off.

Is this symbolic? The junk I have in my garage? Is this all a bunch of stuff that I’m scared to get rid of, but is just taking up space? Do I have an air compressor and a shelf full of power tools within me, taking up room and not doing me any good?

It’s quite possible. But what I can’t figure out is…unlike the stuff in my garage, I can’t get rid of it as easily. I can’t stick a sign on the corner, pointing to my house, that says, “Guilt and confusion for sale! Buy one get one half off on occasional useless feelings of anger! Sadness is free!”

In reality, I can recognize what I’ve got going on is emotional clutter. And if that’s taking up so much room, there’s not enough space to fit in something else. If I got rid of the air compressor, would I be able to get something that I could actually use? If I got rid of the anger, would it create space for something better?

Just like my emotions, there are some tools I can’t get rid of. I mean, a set of screwdrivers is kind of a necessity. And just like my tools, there are some emotions that are here to stay. It would be unrealistic to think that I could get rid of all of the sadness.

But I’m about ready to have a fire sale on the rest of it. Time to make some room.

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Widowhood: Only the Lonely

Loneliness is not a surprising by-product of widowhood. I mean, even for the people who have never been through it…it’s a no-brainer. But frankly, I think that “lonely” is not a strong enough word.

There is a deep silence that comes with losing your spouse. And it doesn’t matter if you’re standing in the middle of a crowded room…you will still notice it. It’s the quiet that comes when you don’t have that familiar voice, whispering in your ear at a wedding, “Can you believe she wore that? I mean, what was she thinking?” It’s the missing sound of two glasses clinking together on your anniversary. It’s the absence of someone breathing soundly next to you as you go to sleep at night.

Our friends are so good about trying to make sure that we know that we’re not alone. And we know we’re not friendless. We could call up any number of people if we just wanted to hang out. But we are alone. Our marriages were amputated in the prime of our lives and, for some of us, there is no prosthesis.

A lot of us, since our loss, have found comfort in chat rooms and support websites and that has helped relieve the discomfort of the amputation a little. It’s like taking two Motrin after extensive surgery. It eases the throbbing a bit, but when we look down, the limb is still missing.

We’ve found anonymous support from strangers who don’t know us but are as close as we can come to confiding in people who know exactly what we’ve been through. We tell these strangers some of the most intimate details of our lives, knowing that out of thousands of people one person might understand us and out of thousands of people, no one will be heartless to enough say, “You did what??? You’re crazy!”

Because, if nothing else, we all have crazy in common.

It’s an anonymous way to just let our widowed freakiness spread its' wings and fly. We get support from people who understand what REAL retail therapy is. People who get that a sleepless night with a newborn is one thing…a sleepless night with a dead spouse is a whole other deal. People who understand how guilt, anger, frustration, and sadness all come in a beautifully wrapped package with our names on it, signed “With Love, Widowhood.”

Finding these groups has buffered the fact that, with our spouses gone, most of us have lost the person we would have leaned on when the worst thing we could have possibly imagine happening...happened. It’s almost like we need to roll over in bed and say in utter disbelief to our spouses, “Did you hear that you died? And you were so young!” This would be followed, by a hug from them, a pat on the back, and the murmuring of some comforting words while we cried on their shoulder.

But when we roll over…well…our spouses already know that they died. It kind of spoils it a little.

I don’t think that most people who haven’t experienced loss truly understand that element of solitude. And that’s the very foundation of what makes us so lonely. The person who cared when something really great or really bad happened is missing. The person who was just as excited and saddened by the milestones of our kids is someplace else (I hope…I’ll leave that one up to you). The person who was just as invested in our lives and the decisions we made is now (again, hopefully) enjoying everlasting comfort while we slug it out down here on our own.

Do you remember the moment that you truly felt the change? (And for my handful of very brave male readers…don’t worry…I’m not about to talk about “The Change.”) I mean, the time when you realized that this was it? When you catapulted from married to involuntarily single?

For you, it may not have been a moment. But it was for me. I was leaving Wal-Mart (where so many of my breakdown moments occur) when I noticed that “Wild Hogs” was about to come out on DVD. Now, my husband and I had had many failed attempts to go see that movie in the theater, so when I saw that big billboard up at the store, I automatically got really excited. I thought to myself, “I can’t wait to get home and tell him it’s finally out!”

I think there was an audible “thud” as reality came crashing down on me standing next to the stale cookies that were on sale.

As most of us feel, I would give anything for just one more day, one more conversation with my husband. I’ve had dreams about it. Where we’re just lying in bed and I’m telling him all about what the kids are up to. We both know that he’s gone, but I’m filling him in anyway, like we’ve never missed a beat.

Those are the mornings I wake up and feel the most alone…the most like I’m missing that appendage. And even though there are so many people I could call who would commiserate with me, they’re just not in my head and in my heart living my life.

And does it make sense when I say…when I’m feeling this way…sometimes I just want to be left alone?

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at! 

© Catherine Tidd 2010

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Support is Like a Good Bra...You Don't Realize You Need It 'Til You're Sagging

Let’s face it. We’ve all reached an age where we come with some baggage. I don’t care if you’re divorced, married, widowed, or single. We all have friends who have had marital problems, fertility problems, and financial problems. Chances are we’ve all seen some things. It would be next to impossible to get through early adulthood without tasting a little of the spice of life. (In my case, I’ve tasted it, but due to some cheap beer while we were in the military, I don’t remember all of it.)

Those experiences have shaped who we are, the decisions we make, and the way we live our lives. Those experiences have determined what we like and what we look like (thanks for those extra 10 lbs., Cheap Beer). Those experiences have made us more conscious about the people in our lives and who we really invite in.

I’ll admit it. I’m getting pickier. I’m pickier about what I wear, what I eat, and I’m starting to like wine that doesn’t come in a box. I know that I can’t tolerate snoring or people who sing along with the radio when they don’t really know the words. People who can’t go with the flow and who obviously have their own agenda with no room to maneuver usually don’t make the cut.

As I get older, my friends are getting pickier too. They’re going through the same spiritual growth spurt I am. Which means, if you do the very complicated word problem I’ve laid out for you, who we hang out with is who we all really want to be with.

With pickiness comes a little bit of stubbornness. We know what we want. Our decisions are made based on our own past experiences…things that we may share with our friends, but not in 100% the same way. The decisions that I make are not yours. If they were, I’d be you. My decisions are mine and have come together because of the life I have led. I haven’t led your life. You haven’t led mine. So let’s stop trying to lead each other’s.

As we get older, we don’t always have to agree with what our friends do. And they sure as heck don’t have to agree with what we do. But there is one thing that keeps us all together.


I don’t think most people understand the definition of support. It doesn’t mean that you agree. It doesn’t even mean you have to encourage. It means that you trust your friends to make the best decisions possible…for them. If you start off a sentence with, “Well…if it were me…” then you should stop. Just stop. Because it’s not you.

I would love for everyone to repeat after me.

I support you. And I want you to be happy.

Don’t go any further. No “buts.” No “have you thought about?” No “what ifs?”

When you stop with that one phrase, you’re leaving the door open to be asked your opinion. But there is a difference between being asked and just blurting out what you think. Because when you are asked, your friend wants your opinion. When you offer it without consent…you’re implying that what the other person is doing is wrong.

I know that I’m speaking from the widow’s point of view. I can’t help it. It’s what I know. Most of us widows have been through a very hurtful process when the people we thought were supporting us, were really thinking they would do better if they were in our shoes. And I hope those people never have to really find out.

I thank the friends of mine who have taught me this lesson on how to really be supportive of someone else. I didn’t come up with it on my own. I used to always be the “well, if it were me” gal because I thought everyone should be doing what I was doing. But after so desperately needing just unconditional support and receiving it from a select few, I’ve realized how rare true SUPPORT is.

But "if it were me”…I would have been supportive all along.

For more blogs and articles from other widow(er) writers, join us at!  

© Catherine Tidd 2010