Monday, December 31, 2012

Leaving the Year Behind - Are You Excited or Dreading It?

The coming of a New Year means something different for everyone.  For some, it's a reason to go out and get crazy, celebrate a new start and make promises that they may or may not keep in the coming months.  For others, it's a chance to hunker down, watch New Year's Rockin' Eve (is it still called that or did I just date myself?), and sleep in the next morning.

Some look forward to a new beginning and some are sad to leave the previous year behind.  And that's never more true than when a significant loss is involved.

I've never been a big New Year's Eve person.  I'm more the "hunker down" variety than the "get crazy" girl.  Going out on New Year's has always made me paranoid because I worry about the people who are (as I always say to my kids) making "bad decisions" and hitting the road when they shouldn't be.  And to be honest, I really didn't care much about New Year's Eve growing up.  I would sometimes stay awake to watch the ball drop but more often than not I would ring in the New Year in my bed and snuggled under a mound of blankets.

But not in 2007.

That year - the one I can safely say was the worst in my life - I couldn't wait for New Year's Day which meant I stayed up all night to welcome it.

"This is it," I thought with more excitement than I've ever felt on a December 31st.  "The day I leave it all behind.  The start of something new."

I couldn't wait to be able to say to people "my husband died last year" instead of the heart-wrenching "my husband died a few months ago." Even though by the time the New Year rolled around he had only been gone for 6 months I was thrilled with the prospect of phrasing it differently.  That was during a time in my widowhood when I looked forward to being as far away from that dreaded day as I could get, thinking that if I could just make it to the one year mark, no one would think of me as a widow anymore.  Even me.

I don't know why I thought that.  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross certainly didn't outline it in her stages of grief.  But there you have it.

Can anyone say DENIAL???

I was certain that other widows would feel the same way I did - that getting as far away from The Bad Year is what we all wanted.  That was until I met a woman who looked at the coming New Year as yet another loss.

"I don't want to be able to say the last time I saw my husband was last year," she said sadly.  "I want to be able to say I just saw him a few months ago.  And that these pictures were taken this year - not last.  And that just this spring we took a wonderful trip together - not that it happened last year."

And when she put it that way, I could understand how someone might be sad to see The Bad Year go.

Many things about widowhood have surprised me, but really none so much as the different ways we all look at things.  Some look at the waning relationships they now have with their in-laws as a blessing, some consider it another loss.  Some look at widowhood as a chance to start anew and create something within themselves they didn't know was possible and some look at it as something so shattering that they may never be able to find their true selves in all of the debris.  And some look at it all as part of God's plan while others see it more as life's cruel joke.

As with everything in life, it's all about perspective.

But today as I prepare to welcome the New Year, I can't help but be optimistic.  I'm one of those people who usually wakes up in the morning as if life is a gift to be opened and I wonder what surprises are in store for me in the next 24-hours.  I've learned by now that some of those surprises can come in forms I could really do without, but that doesn't mean the hope isn't there.

Beginning a New Year is no different for me than starting a new day.  I do find it strange, however, when I think about that new widow, that later this year I will be able to say that my husband has been gone for 6 years (oh, how she wished she could be at this point way back then!).  It's weird to me that I've been living this life for that long.

But it's also a chance for me to look back at all of those New Year's Eves - the one I was excited about, the one when I felt so lonely because I realized how alone I was, and the ones when I've had to make the effort to stay positive - and truly think about how far I've come.  Even since last year, so much has changed in my life, some good, some not-so-good.  But what has remained constant is the change itself.

And my determination to do with it what I can.

However you are choosing to spend this evening, I wish you peace, safety, and the best start to the New Year you can possibly have.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Friday, December 14, 2012

When the Best and Worst in People Collide

So, my day started out pretty good.  I was working on an email this morning to send to a group of people I believe possess what we all strive for - kindness, generosity of spirit, and the need (not desire - need) to help their community.

This all came about because yesterday I sent out the monthly newsletter for to let everyone know about a new program we are hoping to put together in 2013.  In general, we're working to provide those who are interested in starting support group get-togethers in their communities the tools they will need to make it a success.  I didn't offer much in the way of details about the program and just said that if anyone was interested in starting something, to let me know.

Immediately after sending out the newsletter, emails began downloading into my inbox.  I teared up at the sheer goodness I have found in this widow(er) community and their willingness to make a difference.  That a bunch of people would say, "YES!  I want to do this for others" and not one of them asked the question, "What's in this for me?" was a humbling moment.

So, I was feeling pretty good.

And then I turned on the news.

As the whole world knows, a horrific thing has happened, one that I'm still trying to wrap my head around.  Details are still coming in, but a man opened fire in an elementary school in Connecticut killing many, the majority of them children.


Now, I'm crying for another reason.  I've had to turn off the TV because I just can't process this yet.  I'm in my office writing this, but what I really want to do is go to my kids' schools, take them out, and hug them for the rest of the afternoon.  I'm itching to start shopping around for someone who can put bars on my windows and ask King Soopers if they will just start making regular deliveries to my house so that none of us have to leave its safe walls again.

Diane Sawyer reported that the evacuating children were told to close their eyes as they left the building and hold on to each other.  And I can't help but picture my own children - all elementary school age - being told to do something like that.  While we are all grateful for those who survived, we know that those children will never forget this day.  And they have just learned that the world can be an evil an age when all they should be thinking about is Santa and the magic of the holiday season.

I know I'm not alone in how stunned I feel.  I also know that, like many people reading this post, I've had to shut my mind off a little because like anyone who has experienced loss or trauma knows - the lives of many have just been changed in an instant.  And we can't bear to think of the road that some of them have ahead.

I don't know what it's like to lose a child.  I hope I never know - losing a husband was enough and I'm hoping that Fate has filled my Tragedy Punchcard.  But I don't know that that's true anymore than anyone else out there.

This morning - with both the good and the evil in people visiting me within the same hour - was yet another reminder to me to hold those I love close when I can, hug them fiercely, and appreciate each moment.

That every minute we have with each other is a gift.

And now, I'm going to get back to emailing all of those people who embody the good.

Because the bad is too much to bear.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Post-Holiday Slump

I should actually re-title this.  Because it doesn't just happen after the holidays.  It happens after every milestone, birthday and, in some cases, Tuesday.

The Slump.

Now, this didn't happen to me in the beginning of my widowhood because, frankly, everything left me slumping.  I was in a two year battle for my sanity which had me completely exhausted.  Every day was tiring because every day was a milestone and I would find myself flopping on my bed after all of the kids were in tucked in, simultaneously proud of myself for making it one more day and annoyed that I was going to have to get up and do it all over again the next.

These days I don't do that.  It's partly because I'm into my 6th year and partly because I can no longer flop on my bed.  I just bought one of those Tempur-Pedic mattresses which does not allow one to flop.  It's got that memory foam in it which will allow you to slowly sink in, but does not have the springiness of a pillow top.  I realized this when, on the first day I brought it home, one of my kids did a running jump/flying leap combo that had her landing flat on her face on a mattress that just doesn't give.  At which point she stood up, rubbed her nose and said, "What the heck is wrong with your bed?"

I like this mattress for two reasons:
1.  My back feels better.
2.  Mom's room is no longer fun so let's not hang out in it anymore.

Ah, peace.  They should really put that in the commercial.

But I digress (I know that shocks you).  Aside from the memory foam, I'm no longer flopping as much as I used to.  Oh, I still have days when I don't want to get up but they've become less and less.  The problem is that when they don't happen as often, you really don't expect them.

Take this summer for instance:  I was so proud of myself for getting through Father's Day (which starts my personal month from hell because my birthday, his death, and our anniversary follow in rapid succession).  I felt good.  I thought I had this widow thing licked.  And then....

A week later, I twisted my ankle, got something stuck in my foot, my knee started swelling, and I got sick.  At that point I went to my therapist who asked one simple question:

"What the hell have you done to yourself?"

I'll tell you what I did.  I got too cocky, too confident.  I actually thought that by successfully getting through one holiday, I could get through them all.  That was when grief peeked around the corner, saw that I wasn't expecting it, and WHAM!  Knocked me on my ass.

We've all done it.  We start concentrating so hard on getting through whatever milestone is in front of us that we forget there is often a price to pay.  We get tunnel-visioned on that one specific day and use up all of our energy to just get through those 24 hours.

And then we wake up the next day sick, sad, and exhausted with an unfloppable bed.

I just did it myself.  My husband's birthday and Thanksgiving were 4 days apart this year.  I sailed through his birthday, so proud of myself that I felt better this year.  Thanksgiving went well, thanks to my sister's family and our participation in the 4 mile Turkey Trot during which we wore the most fashionable head gear.  The Monday after the holiday weekend, I felt a little tired but not too bad.

And then this morning I sat down to read for just a minute and 2 hours later I woke up.

I don't do that.  Sleep during the day???  There's too much to be done!  For a moment, when I sat up from the couch I felt so guilty about everything I should be doing.  And then I stopped because I realized I obviously needed it.

I've always said that my body starts grieving before my mind does.  The crazy thing is that when I actually pay attention to what's going on and what my body is trying to tell me, I'm usually the better for it.

So I don't care that I fell asleep.

And I really don't care if the breakfast dishes are still out, I didn't make it to the gym, and a shower might not be in the cards for me today.

In fact, I just might go test out the floppableness of that new mattress.

So, there.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Monday, November 19, 2012

His 40th Birthday. But Instead Of Over The Hill He's Under The Ground

Okay.  Tacky title.  Sorry.  I was trying to come up with something witty and I think I missed.

Another November 19th has come and gone.  For most of you, it's just another fall day spent at work or at home or dreading the family that's coming to visit you later this week for Thanksgiving.  But for our family, it was our 6th annual Daddy Day.

Otherwise known as my husband's birthday.

This year he would have turned 40 and for the past few weeks, I have been longing to have him here so that I could tease him about how old he looks and how he hit 40 four years before I did.  But that son-of-a-gun went and died on me which means that I'll hit 40 someday and he never will.

I can hear his laughter echoing in my head right now.

I invented Daddy Day 5 years ago (not 6 because I was in such a fog on that first birthday I could barely even pronounce "balloon" much less have it together enough to buy some and release them).  My husband's birthday was such a hurdle for me, the mere thought of it reducing me to a big, fat grieving puddle.  So I convinced myself and the kids that it was a day that should be celebrated and, being the toddlers that they were, they totally bought it.

It took me a few years of trying to get through Daddy Day, but I think I'm starting to buy it, too.

I haven't done many things right on this journey through the widdahood, but I'm pretty proud of how I've turned my husband's birthday around for the kids so that it's something they look forward to every year.  I take them out of school and we all play hooky, eat junk food and do whatever we want.  Daddy Day is much more exciting when it falls on a weekday because we all think we're doing something rebellious, but we enjoy it just as much on the weekend.

It's our day to be together and have fun no matter what.

For the first few years, Daddy Day was filled with misfires because I tried so hard to make things perfect, which is pretty much impossible with 3 small children.  But now that the kids are older, we can be more flexible with our plans and if something doesn't work out, they're no longer at the ages where they will sit on the floor of the movie theater and wail because Mommy got the movie times mixed up.

Yes, that's happened.  Twice, actually.

We did our usual this morning:  went to the movies and ate junk food and smiled at each other thinking about those poor suckers sitting in classrooms all over town while we cheered on Wreck-It Ralph.  And then we piled into the car and headed up to the mountains to "visit Daddy."

Ugh.  I hate even saying that.

All the way up there, I noticed these little cabins tucked into the trees, smoke pouring out of chimneys, and envisioned happy family scenes in each one.  I was jealous of all of those people who were breathing a sigh of relief that they might have the entire week off to spend with each other and I remembered days long ago when I would have been so excited for this week because my husband wouldn't be traveling.  I felt something hollow open up - almost like homesickness, very much like loneliness - and I wanted to turn the car around and abandon Daddy Day for Mom-Is-Going-To-Stay-Under-The-Covers-Day.

I always try and gauge how the kids are doing on days like this.  I don't like to pressure them into talking because they really may not have anything to say.  But I wonder what children who were 5,3, and 1 when their dad died and who were for the most part too young to truly understand what was happening at the time, think about now that they're old enough to articulate their feelings.

Do they miss him?  Is a milestone like this a big deal to them?  Has this affected them in a huge way or is our family as it is now just so normal to them that they don't think about it much?  Someday they might let me know.

I wondered the same questions the other day when we sat down to watch an old home movie.  My son had unearthed it in the depths of the storage room and put it in the VCR - I had no idea that we had it.  My heart stopped when I heard my husband's voice for the first time in 6 years and then my eyes wandered over to my kids, wondering what they were thinking.

My oldest stared at her 3-year-old self and laughed every now and then at what she was saying.  She watched her father pull her around on a sled and talk to her from behind the camera.  My son looked at himself as a newborn being held by a younger me and cuddled in a way he wouldn't allow now.

And my youngest?  The one who was too young to really remember him?  She sat there with a little smile on her face but I wondered how it felt to know that she got the least amount of time with him and that she wasn't on the video at all.

I caught her today when we were at the cemetery, having a quiet moment at her dad's headstone.  She didn't know I was watching her as she stacked rocks next to him as if wanting to leave something behind of herself that would keep him company.  She sat there and stared at the lettering on the rock until she caught me looking at her.  And then she giggled as if she had done something silly, raced up, and took my hand.

It wasn't until later, when we were sitting down to dinner, that she kind of let me in on what she was thinking.  I brought the kids to Country Buffet for the first time in their lives because it was a very "Daddy" kind of place, and I thought it would be fun for them to just go crazy and get what they wanted - I didn't care if they spent the entire time at the Dessert Bar - this was Daddy Day, dammit.

At that point, my daughter's eyes got wide and declared it a "food wonderland." 

Plate after plate of food came and went and then, while the two oldest were up getting food, I sat there with my 6-year-old daughter and she said with a mouth full of ice cream, "You know when daddy died?"

I watched her carefully.  "Yes?"

"That was a real heart-breaker, huh?"

You said it, kiddo.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finding Home

I was looking at my personal page on Facebook the other day (something I haven't done much in 2012 thanks to the election) and I saw a post from my friend Karen Turner, Founder of ASK (Acts of Simple Kindness) that said:

"Today, I'm grateful that I have a ♥ home ♥ -- not just a house. When Steve died, our house felt like four walls on a rocky foundation -- he brought such life and energy and when he died, it was just so quiet and empty. Over the past five years, it's become a home again thanks to a crazy kitten, a puppy with way too much energy and a tornado of a happy and healthy boy. It's taken some work, physically and emotionally, but it's also gone from 'our' house to 'my' house which has been bittersweet but necessary to move forward."

I sat there at my computer for a minute and thought, "Good for her."

And then I sat up when I realized, "Wait.  Me too!"

I don't know when it happened.  I mean, I know exactly when my house stopped becoming my home and became just a structure that kept us warm (something that I'm always grateful for).  It was the day that death walked in the front door and sucker-punched us, leaving us all breathless.  But...when did it become a home again?

How could something so important - so monumental - happen in a way that I didn't even notice?

Well, I guess it must have been gradually.

I've passed the 5 year mark.  I got through it this summer.  On Monday I will celebrate my husband's 6th birthday without him, a day that is usually filled with adventure because I take my kids out of school and we do completely frivolous, mind-numbing, junk-food-eating-til-we're-sick stuff all day in order to celebrate his life.  (I'm sure he would approve.)  And I've chosen the word "adventure" because otherwise I would have to say "this day really sucks and makes me want to crawl into a hole with my favorite sweats, a box of Puffs plus, and a family-size bag of Doritos."

I tried to do that one year but I didn't have the energy to actually dig the hole.

Anyway, I've learned throughout the years that most of the changes we go through in the widdahood are so jarring that it takes us months to realize what has actually happened.  But, as we move forward, changes actually take months and it's the realization that's jarring.  So when Karen published that post, it took me by surprise.  Because I suddenly realized I felt the same way.

I know that I'm one of the lucky ones.  I wasn't forced to move from my home right after my husband's death and for that I'll always be grateful.  I remember my realtor telling me once, "There's nothing more stressful than moving, except maybe death or taxes."

So what happens if you hit the trifecta?

The truth is that right after my husband died, I was itching to move.  Actually...I was itching to do just about anything as long as it kept me from thinking about what had happened.  For some reason I thought what I needed was change and I rationalized that moving made sense.  But deep down I think I knew that I was just trying to run away.  Trying to break free from the grief I felt I had suddenly become a slave to.  

Trying to get away from the walls that contained so many dreams that would never be realized.

But I didn't move.  I asked for a sign one day and said, "If I'm supposed to move tell me now."

I won't tell you what the sign was, but it came about 5 minutes after my request and took no interpretation:  STAY WHERE YOU ARE.

So I stayed in the house that was no longer a home and I changed a few things.  I changed my bedroom.  I painted here and there.  I bought a new TV.  I, in an act of defiance, put a chair in a place that I knew my husband wouldn't approve of.  I took what we had and slowly made it mine.

Actually, I made it ours.  But not the "ours" that we were before.  I took this house and made it home - for the family fate forced us to be.

And then there were the "stuck" years.  The years that the house tied me so tightly to my husband I felt I could never break the bond.  The years when I actually envisioned being in this house alone because I would choose it over anyone who came my way.  The years that made my house a territory to be protected - which is much different than a home.

In the last few months, I've started entertaining again.  I stopped doing that for a while and I'm not sure why.  It could be that in the first couple of years, I entertained non-stop trying to convince myself of something I didn't quite feel yet.  And it could be that in the last couple of years, I stopped entertaining because it seemed so empty - I knew that bringing our friends here would not bring him back.  

And that didn't just make me helpless.  It made me feel hopeless.  And, in a spiritual way, homeless.

But now.  My house is filled with laughter.  Filled with hope.  Filled with the faith that comes from knowing that we are a family, even if our original vision of "family" may never be realized.  It's warm and comforting with my husband's old leather chair in the corner and the kids' most recent artwork on the walls.  This house is a part of my husband because I can look around and see all of the things he's fixed.  All of the things he's painted.  And all of the things that we have kept because we love him.

But I can also see things that we, the family we never thought we would be, have done.  I can look at things I've fixed.  And I can see the things that are broken that will make me call a repair man (and curse my husband's absence while I'm doing it).  I can look at his picture, still hanging on the wall even though recently I've been thinking of taking it down because I'm ready to.

And then I know.

I'm home.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Ghost of Halloweens Past

So, I was talking to my neighbor at the bus stop (where I get all of my good gossip) and she was asking about our Halloween plans.  Frankly, I love talking to this neighbor because she is constantly telling me what a magical single parent I am to be able to keep 3 kids on the straight and narrow.

"I don't know how you do it!" She says.  "I can barely manage with one let alone three!"

The kids and I don't go down to the bus stop every day.  But when I start questioning my parenting skills, I go for a little pick-me-up.

This morning she asked about my plans and I told her, "I've got to get some work done.  But I'll be in and out all day trying to make it to the kids' Halloween parties."

"I don't know how you do that all on your own," she said.

I thought about that for a minute and then told her, "Well, I always have."

It's true.  Even when my husband was alive, very rarely would he be home for all of the Halloween merriment because he was constantly traveling for work.  We were one of those dreaded houses that just put a bowl of candy on the front porch while I took the kids trick-or-treating on my own, just praying that our pumpkins would all be in one piece when we got back and not the victims of disgruntled teenager pumpkin violence.

One year in particular will probably be my favorite Halloween memory as an adult - and somehow, even though he wasn't with us, my husband is a big part of that memory.  He was gone (of course), leaving me with a 10 month old, 2 year old, and 5 year old to get ready for Halloween.  Because our neighborhood is not really trick-or-treat friendly (especially for little people with short legs), my sister had decided that we should meet up near downtown Denver for a trick-or-treat street.

"It will be easy," she said.  "All of the stores on the block will hand out candy so all we have to do is take the kids up and down one block and be done with it.  Simple."

For some reason it didn't occur to me that this might be hard, given the fact that we live way out in the 'burbs and that we would need to get to the festivities right when they started so that I could make the long trek back home and get all of the kids to bed on time.  And, having lived in Colorado for most of my life, I really should have thought about the fact that it might be a little hard to get everyone ready for 20 degree weather, then put them in the car for a 1 hour drive, figure out a way to parallel park, load people into strollers, and meet my sister and her husband with their two kids at our appointed time.

Rookie mistake.

At 4:30 PM I eyed my kids and mentally put together my plan of attack.  I pointed to my oldest daughter and said, "Head upstairs and put on long underwear, sweats, and then your costume.  I'll do your face paint in a minute."

She trotted off while I put the baby on the floor and proceeded to make her into a mini-version of the Michelin man with 2 layers of clothes under her Blues Clues costume.  She squirmed and started to whimper in discomfort as I stood up and ran to the kitchen to make her a bottle.

"Ready!" said my oldest, waddling down the stairs in her fairy costume, stretched to the max over all of the layers.

"Okay, go sit in the recliner over there and push it back.  I'm going to give you the baby and you're going to feed her while I get your brother ready."

She happily sat herself in the chair and I handed her the baby and the bottle while I put the required number of layers on my son.  My husband, by now relaxing in a hotel room in Virginia, of course called in the middle of this chaos (do they have the best timing or what?) and the conversation consisted of me saying, "Hi.  I love you.  We miss you.  Actually I'm really annoyed that you're not here.  Gotta go.  Bye."  Click

By the time I got the kids loaded up, they were all sweating and cranky.  I slowly made my way downtown through the traffic with the air conditioner on high even though it was freezing cold outside.  We finally made it to where we needed to be, got everyone unstrapped and loaded into strollers, and then spent all of 20 minutes trick-or-treating before all of the kids were too tired and just wanted to go home.

That Halloween, I was irritated, exhausted, tired, and annoyed.  Now when I look back on it, I can't help but laugh at how we all must have looked - like the Griswalds on Halloween, trying to make the perfect memory, thinking in the moment that we were falling short, but ultimately making the most perfect memory.

And what does that have to do with how much I miss my husband on Halloween?  I mean he wasn't even there!

Well.  I'll tell you.  It's strange how you can miss someone, just the fact of them, even if they weren't physically there to make that memory with you.

Because you still remember missing them at the time.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Saturday Night Widows: The Story of One of Our Own

 You all know that I love to pass on books that have an impact on me and I never write about something unless I think it's worth spending your hard-earned money on.  I know we all have our own taste when it comes to "widow reads" - some like the more self-help approach while I, along with a few others, appreciate a good story.  This is why, in the last few years, I have only written about a few books (Two Chai Day, When You're Falling, Dive) because I don't like passing on something that hasn't impacted me in a positive way.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a woman, Becky Aikman, who is no stranger to the writing process, but who is new to our bank of "widow lit."  In the email she said, "My new book, Saturday Night Widows, is being released by Random House on January 22. Advance copies have just come in from the printer, and I would be delighted if you would let me share one with you and tell me what you think."

And of course I only had one response:  "Heck, yeah.  The sooner the better."

Now, usually, when I'm writing about a book, I like to pull a few quotes from it.  And while I read Becky's book, I underlined and dog-eared pages so that I could include them in my blog.

But then I liked the book so much, I loaned it to my mom who is still reading it.

Becky Aikman is like so many of us - not willing to take her widowhood lying down, she decided that there must be a better way to work through the grieving process than sitting around with a group of people, drinking bad coffee and comparing horror stories.  In a bold move, she gathered a small group of women she didn't know to get together once a month to  Through the course of a year, this group of women who, in the beginning, had very little in common other than the fact that they were widows, dove out of their comfort zones and back into the pool of life.  

What will appeal to so many is the personalities in the group and how different each of their experiences are:  Becky's husband passed away from a long illness while Denise's husband died suddenly in her home right in front of her.  Marcia's husband died of cancer while Tara's estranged husband died from alcoholism.  Leslie was shocked when her husband took his own life and Dawn was left with two young children to raise after her husband died in an ATV accident during a weekend with friends.

Yup.  When it comes to widowhood, these women cover a lot of bases.

But what I love most about this book is her approach.  A writer by trade, Becky took her widowhood on as the ultimate research project.  In the beginning, she participated in studies about grief and interviewed experts, trying to figure out why we do what we do and how we might be able to do it better.  As I type that, it sounds like it could make for some dry material, but she writes in a way that is so perfectly interwoven in her story that it doesn't come across as clinical.  And as I was reading the book, over 5 years into my own widowhood, I had several "ah ha!" moments that either confirmed that what I was doing to get through my grief was right on track - or that there were a few things that I could do differently.

I read this book over a particularly rough weekend - the end of my 3 1/2 year relationship, the most serious relationship I've had since my husband died.  And what was interesting was that, while I related to Becky's story as a widow, it actually helped me with my break-up.  One of the lessons she learned (and I'm paraphrasing here - again, Mom still has the book) was something that I really think pulled the kids and me through:

If you're having a sad moment, don't dwell too much.  
Immediately try to replace it with a happy one.

I took that advice to heart and as I told the kids about the change that we were about to experience, watching their faces fall and tears well up in their eyes, I stood up and said, "Get dressed.  We're going on a hike."

In the sunshine and in the presence of just each other, the kids and I talked about this transition but not in the way we might have if we had just stayed home and wallowed in our sadness.  We were happy.  We were together.  And even though this is a rough transition, I believe it was easier because we made the effort to be happy.  While I will never forget how hard that weekend was, the memory I actually have is following my kids on a trail through a canyon, breathing in the pine-scented air, and watching them help each other over a rocky path.

So, Becky - you may not have meant for this book to be "self-help."  But in telling your story, it certainly helped me.

GREAT NEWS!!!  Becky's publisher has offered 10 free advance copies of her book "Saturday Night Widows" for the next 10 people who sign up for any Widda Getaway!  Email to book your trip and receive your free copy!

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Flying Solo

Years ago, when I started writing this blog, I swore I would do it honestly.  I would write about my life as a widow - the ups, downs, changes, and what I learned from it all.  And in those early years, people related to those posts because they were raw at the beginning of my journey.

Now that I'm past the 5 year mark, I find that less people can relate to what I have to say.  In the beginning throes of grief, so many of the fundamental elements are the same for us all.  And as we move further away from that dreaded day, our lives expand, becoming more complicated and, therefore, more our own and less for everyone else.

But I still write.  Mainly because I can't help it.  I've given up on the idea that people read it and use it as sort of a diary.  Because this blog has been a map of my life and I need it more than anyone else.

Last week I ended a 3 and a half year relationship.  It wasn't without drama, but it was for the simple fact that it wasn't working.  No one did anything wrong and neither party was a bad person.  It just happened.

It happened.

I'm wondering if that's the hardest kind of break-up - the kind where you can't say that someone else was horrible.  The kind that you have to admit the basics aren't there. What I am starting to understand about that kind of parting is that it makes it harder to explain to other people when both sides of the relationship are basically good in their own way.  Just maybe not good together.

So here I am...over 5 years since my husband died.  And for over half that time I've been in this relationship in which I've invested not only my heart but my precious time and visions for the future.  The other party asked at one point, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

And I had no answer.

I spent the beginning of my widowhood afraid of being alone.  Insecure with myself, my baggage, and what I thought I didn't have to offer I needed someone to tell me that, yes, I was worth something.  That I was dynamic and down-to-earth at the same time.  To give me worth when, for some reason, I felt like I had none. 

It's strange to say that becoming a widow probably made me feel as abandoned as someone else might feel going through a divorce.  But it's true.

So now what?  Here I am, single for the first time since 2009.  The kids have lost the only father figure they really remember because they were so young when my husband died.  There have been tears and hearts broken that I hope will mend.  There are things around the house that I don't know how to fix that I was once dependent on my husband for, then a boyfriend, and now...who?

I guess that would be me.

If there's one thing I know about myself at this point is that I can be alone. Yes, I was in a relationship for a while, but I was alone before that.  If I don't know how to fix it, I know who to call.  I know where the plunger is.  I know how to start a lawn mower.

These are all vast improvements from my early widow years.

All I can think is that with every heartbreak - whether it's from death or the loss of a relationship - there is something to be learned.

It could be what we want.

It could be what we miss.

Then again, it might just be what we find out about ourselves through the barrel rolls of life.

Monday, October 8, 2012

2013 Widda Getaways!

When we go through something so traumatic, it can be hard to remember to take care of ourselves.  But this is your chance!  Give yourself something to look forward to after the holidays.  Still not sure?  Here are some things that attendees from previous retreat weekend have had to say:

“I met amazing women who could identify and relate in surprising ways.  I felt connected and support in many spiritual and emotional ways.”

“I was nervous about coming here to meet up with unfamiliar people….From the first moment I felt comfortable with everyone.  Being able to just sit and talk for hours like we’ve been friends forever was amazing!”   

With each trip we will be asking for a refundable deposit at least 30 days before the trip in order to get a better idea of how many people are coming.  We will have a minimum number and if that number is not met, your deposit is refunded back to you.  The reason we are doing this is to give you the best travel experience possible.

Click on each title below for more information:

February 22-24, 2013
(Deposit must be made by January 1st to guarantee space.

Wondering if these getaway weekends are any fun?  Well, many of the attendees from past weekends are joining us in Vegas, so I think the answer would be YES!  These weekends are designed for you to have time alone if you would like to or hang out with the group if you feel like it - it's YOUR time so you should enjoy it!


June 6 - 9, 2013

I'm really excited about this weekend because I LOVE this hotel.  It's in the perfect location so that we can spa, shop, go to great restaurants...all within walking distance!  

June is a GREAT time of year to be in Denver (and if you're living in a humid climate - you just can't beat the weather).  

Take care of yourself for once and join us for a weekend and relax and have a glass of wine.  You won't believe how much better you'll feel being around other people who understand what you're going through.  You'll leave this weekend relaxed and rejuvenated and with new friends who "get it"!

October 2013

It's no secret - you all know that I love to relax with a glass of wine.  (And it's no secret that I know a lot of you do, too!!)  Here's our chance to do it together!  Melanie Pahl with Distinct Destinations is an EXPERT at putting together wine and food trips.  She is customizing this trip just for us and it's sure to be a success.

Picture this:  It's fall and you're already dreading the upcoming holiday season.  But wait!  You were smart enough to book a trip that will allow you to get away before the madness starts!  You'll come back from a long, relaxing weekend ready for what the holidays are about to throw at you.  And even better!  You'll have new friends you can talk to who will understand what it's like to tackle those tough months.

Join us!  It's the best thing you will do for yourself!

DON'T FORGET!  I still have a few early copies of Saturday Night Widows - your copy is FREE if you sign up for any one of the Widda Getaways!  Just email 

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.