Tag Archives: widow

What You Might Not Know About Your Local VFW : Help for Surviving Spouses of Our Armed Forces

By Maya W. Tyler

VFW HQ, Washington DC

As a widow coach, I naturally have clients that are military widows. I hear the stories and worries of countless surviving spouses, each wondering what, if anything, is the return on their family’s very costly sacrifice. They worry about the children they have to now raise alone, the employment hurdles and career pauses that deployment causes, how they’ve had to tighten their belts to survive economically, and above all the overall physical and emotional health challenges many widows have to endure alone. So, what does the military have to offer them in return?
Well, that all depends, on a LOT.

“When you think about [what we go through as widows emotionally] it makes dealing with the benefits that much harder. It’s important for widows to understand where they stand with VA, what is available to them and what part DOD (Department of Defense) plays in their benefits“.

I am a widow, but my husband was not military. So, in order to get answers to questions regarding support for surviving military families,  I sought out the help of Gabby Kubinyi, head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Washington DC Roots Advocacy Program. Gabby is a Veteran’s Administration (VA) accredited service officer and former customer support claims consultant. Because she is also a gold star widow, herself – meaning her husband passed away during active duty –  Gabby knows more than a thing or two about the complexities of the VA office; from both sides of the fence.

“The biggest issue,” she begins, “is that you just don’t know what you don’t know.”

Gabby Kubinyi, head of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Washington DC Roots Advocacy Program

 People have a hard time dealing with the VA on their own. Not because they don’t want to help, but because not only is there a LOT of paperwork, claim information and insurance history and jargon to sift through- widows are ALREADY going through Hell. It’s almost unfathomable the time, patience and strength it takes to fight for benefits you’re not even 100% sure you’re going to receive, while grieving and still caring for a family in the aftermath.  “When you think about [what we go through as widows emotionally] it makes dealing with the benefits that much harder. It’s important for widows to understand where they stand with VA, what is available to them and what part DOD (Department of Defense) plays in their benefits,” she says. 

What Is The VFW?

So what does the VFW actually do? Gabby takes me to the lobby, and proudly points up.

The sign above the entrance doors boldly states the overall mission of the organization: “Honor the dead by helping the living”.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit veterans service organization comprised of eligible veterans and military service members from the active, guard and reserve forces. Membership stands at more than 1.6 million members of the VFW and its Auxiliary.  

 Most military families are aware that the Veteran’s Affairs office provides some help. But most don’t know how to access this help.  You could just show up at a VA regional office, or medical center and ask questions, but as life changing situations arise, time is not always available.  

  “What I think is most important to understand; […]  is knowing the BEST most DIRECT route to that help… and the first step is knowing who can advocate best for you.”

  Gabby says, “What I think is most important to understand; when [widows] have an issue or claim or question, is knowing the BEST most DIRECT route to that help… and the first step is knowing who can advocate best for you.” The question is, she explains, is whether that someone is within the VA organization (who may present you with a bit of red tape and chain of command obstacles ) or someone on the outside, who can advocate for you,  push a little harder, who may have more leverage and access and know how to circumvent the barriers to get you the support you need? Knowing and having access to the documented the details of how and when someone who served passes away makes a huge difference. 

 Enter: the VFW nationally accredited service officers. 

 “There are a lot of different layers, and it’s very complicated, but that’s what’s great about VFW” Kubiyni explains. “We are not just here for veterans.” 

 The VFW aids with claims, support, advocacy, referrals and a whole lot more.  You do not need to be a member, or even be member eligible to receive answers to your questions … and here’s a little known fact: there are VFW Service officers stationed inside the VA facilities.  

Another not so well known fact is that even though the VFW are here to support veterans and qualified members have served on foreign soil… VFW still helps the ENTIRE military community, including veterans usually handled by American Legion, because they served on American soil only. So you actually don’t have to be a qualifying VFW member to get help with claims, support or consultation!

What You Think You Know: Veteran Benefit Claims

“So far in 2019 the VFW is very proud to report having helped veterans, widows, and surviving families recover over $9 billion in benefits,” Gabby says smiling. “We really do great work.” 

So what kinds of claims does VFW help with? 

The two main claims a veteran family can receive compensation for are the Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP) and the Dependent and Indemnity Compensation Plan (DIC). Remember these two. 

Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP) 

For someone who has passed:

  • active duty 
  • retiree (veterans who served 20 + years)
  • Medically retired 

Families who enroll in the program pay a percentage of their retirement pay in exchange for a guaranteed income stream to survivors, in the event of the death of a military active member or retiree. The option for this plan is extended upon retirement and a monthly premium is paid into it.

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC):

This is a tax free monetary benefit paid to eligible survivors of military Service members who died in the line of duty or eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease, or was rated 100% Permanently and Totally Disabled by VA for more than 10 years.

If your loved one passed in the line of duty, compensation usually gets sorted out pretty quickly.  But if your loved one passes after service but their death is connected to their service – claims of this nature need proof. Specific proof. The process is difficult and complicated. 

Having a VA accredited Service Officer to help is critical in order to: 

  • Translate the Correspondence Letters so that you fully understand your situation, and what your application is missing or reasons you’re being denied claims
  • Work with the spouse to collect information to ensure claim goes through
  • Work with special cases such as Agent Orange (decades ago) deaths are eligible for DIC – but a VA SO is important because they have access to the details of these older cases and can explain what needs to be done to prove eligibility, and help a spouse successfully apply and avoid denial/ repeated re-applications.

Common Problems with SBP/DIC payouts:

  • Service member may not elect the SBP option (Because it’s not in people’s plans to die! Many younger people opt out of this benefit thinking they won’t need it!
  • Issues with Payment of premiums 
  • SBP payout lasts as long as the survivor is alive – BUT the most the SBP will pay survivors is 55% of retirement pay, which is what survivors receive in exchange for 6.5% of monthly retirement benefits. Note also that SBP is considered “paid in full” after 30 years or 360 payments.
  • If the spouse dies first, no benefits from the SBP will ever be paid. No refunds.
  • If a couple gets divorced, the ex-spouse of a retiree can still be awarded his or her SBP
  • It can cost hundreds of dollars a month, and regardless of this strain on families, you don’t necessarily get back what you put in. The payout is offset by the DIC payment, dollar for dollar, to avoid being “paid for the same claim twice”, or “double dipping”. (What!?) Google the hashtag #axthewidowtax. Luckily, the VFW is working on making this right, as we speak! There is also SSIA, the special survivor indemnity allowance, which is a $318 per month payment the congress made to offset the offset. 

Dizzying, right?! That’s why VFW is here to help!  Learn more about the SBP HERE.

Another little known VFW fact : There is NO statute of limitations on DIC. No one is turned away, no matter how old the case may be. If you are a survivor and not receiving DIC, VFW can assist. If you are even the grandchild of a veteran service member, you can still get help understanding any possible claim situations.

There are millions of veterans who never file claims or have served a tour or more and are honorably discharged…who get nothing when they die other than being eligible for a national cemetery burial. As far as the VA is concerned, the death must be medically connected to a condition recognized as service connected. And even then, if the death is deemed service connected, but you are not considered 100% permanently and totally disabled by the VA office, and you die from anything other than your service connected medical issue … your spouse gets nothing. 

Most people think that because a person served in the military, things like burial, funeral costs, and headstones will be free, or some sort of stipend will be automatically sent to them. Truth is, eligibility for interment (burial) costs must be met, and there are multiple expenses a funeral includes that are not necessarily covered.  This leaves many military spouses and families paying several thousands of dollars they didn’t expect to pay, and left wondering how they ended up with ‘crushing debt, a folded flag, and a broken heart’. 

Is that all they get for their sacrifices?

No! There IS more support. Much more. That’s why VFW accredited service officers are here. This is where the good that they do comes in.  They can help build legitimate cases advocating for a death that might have been service connected and perhaps overlooked. If a way can be found for benefits to be made available – this is their expertise. Service Officers also have extensive knowledge of other allowances, financial grants, and community and employment support programs that really can help – that many people have no idea even exist. 

What You Probably Don’t Know:

What other kinds of support does VFW provide?

While helping secure families with monetary compensation is money is pretty awesome, that’s actually not all the VFW does.  For families that were otherwise dismissed as ineligible or may have been overlooked and unclaimed without VFW Service Officer assistance… the VFW has still found ways to be a huge asset to military families. 

“People who have dealt with any kind of trauma need to connect with other people who have been through the same trauma.” Gabby says solemnly. “We have all been through the same pain, and through giving back at our Auxiliary Chapters, we strive to turn times of hurt into times of healing.”

The VFW has Auxiliary Chapters worldwide that support veteran families with places that they can go for help such as: 

  • Group/Community Healing and Emotional support 
  • Activities for National Observance Days (Memorial Day, poppies) 
  • Supporting grandchildren of VFW veterans 
  • Staying connected, so that families don’t feel isolated

VFW also works with and refers surviving families to stellar programs such as:

T.A.P.S. Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors https://www.taps.org

  • Deal mostly with active duty deaths
  • Grief/emotional work, widow retreats
  • Mentorship program matches widows with someone with like circumstances 
  • Good Grief Camps for kids, each child is matched with a military mentors for lifetimes!
  • Widow employment counseling

Why You’ve Never heard of them:

  • The Veteran’s office will  reach out – but with so many spam callers nowadays, many don’t realize that’s what the call is and don’t answer the unrecognized numbers.
  • TAPS will reach out to surviving family members of active duty deaths but they are not able to reach out to families of veteran deaths.
  • TAPS is only celebrating 25 years – they are relatively young, and still growing

American Widow Project – by Taryn Davis http://americanwidowproject.org/

  • Retreats, intimate setting
  • Programs and Assistance in rebuilding lives
  • Finding your strength and power as a widow
  • Preventing isolation

Why You’ve Never heard of them:

  • AWP is only 10 years old, and still growing
  • AWP has mostly online presence, so there’s a generational gap
  • The American Widow Project is a 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit that survives off the kindness of others. Meaning, their outreach programs are somewhat limited to donations, fundraisers, and local sponsors.

Other Links and Programs

Gold Star Family Program https://www.americasgoldstarfamilies.org/

The American Legion ‎ www.members.legion.org/‎ ( American Soil [Non-Foreign War] Veterans)

What Matters Is What THEY Know

…And how YOU can benefit.

VFW is and does much more than most people think.  They literally exist to use their knowledge, connections and expertise to  “Ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country.”

The VFW posts and auxiliary buildings are a place where any military family can go, to find resources, community, support, benefit help and programs, retreats and connections all over the world. This includes parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren of veterans too, not just spouses!

“We are a HUB for all military families.”  Kubinyi stresses. “We want you to know, there’s no need to be isolated and on your own, we want you to be able to be connected, healing, gaining, and giving back – together. In the midst of our losses, we are still a family.”

Visit https://www.vfw.org/assistance/va-claims-separation-benefits  for your state service officer.

If the service officer is too far, contact the Washington DC office, or Gabby Kubinyi  to connect with someone who is closest to you. 

Questions? Reach Gabby Kubinyi at :



Washington DC Office

200 Maryland Ave NE 20002

Luke 7-10: …Don’t Miss The Moment!

Luke 7-10 

This last 2 weeks have just been full of STUFF. Kid #2 has a broken ankle. Docs appts all over. Shots and physicals and therapy appointments for all 3 kiddos. Errands, house guests, house “stuff” …stubborn drains, laundry mountains and teenage stench cleansing. Family plans, vacation prepping, parties and parental chauffeuring.  Weight loss “plans” and a gym schedule that I think is really only keeping me sane, not necessarily fit. And on top of that I’m writing, promoting and launching a blog and my first business…all RIGHT now.

But this is mom life. Nothing atypical or out of the norm to be exhausted, working overtime, barely remembering to eat, (and somehow staying the ever irritating 10 lbs over my goal weight). Nonetheless in my usual rush to get my scheduled items done on time, I found myself reading my bible passage – and got NOTHING. Zero. It was completely eluding me what in the world this part of Luke, the travels and miracles of Jesus, was supposed to mean to me. I found myself rereading, trying to create meaning from my own situations, and in short coming up with nothing i felt good about.

I kept  thinking “I need to make sure other widows get something from this..I need to make it relevant…it needs to be interesting yet informative… I have to stick to my schedule… what about the 50 million other things on the schedule… ooh look – a squirrel! — and my head literally popped off. OK it didn’t. 🙂 But I did have to just take a break. Tried a different book. The devotional I normally get great insight from, wanted me to focus on the story Mary and Martha. Jesus visited them and Martha ran around like a crazy person (a.k.a. normal mom) trying to cook, prep, and be hospitable for Jesus…because I mean… he’s Jesus!! I get it!! And her little sister, was sitting at the foot of Jesus, just listening. Not helping. Not moving a muscle to even try to make things presentable for their honored guest. And when Martha finally had enough and said to Jesus, hey – make her help! Lazy self! He shut poor her down, saying that she was the one in the wrong place at the moment…and that Mary was right where she was supposed to be!

I got what the devotional was hinting at. Busy is not always the blessing. Sometimes the blessing is the moment – not the work it took to prep, create, or deserve the moment.  Sometimes what you prayed for is right in front of you but you miss it, trying to make it perfect or perform the duties expected with it. And in this was a good lesson… but I still felt like wanted a little more from this. I decided to take the book’s advice and try being still, like Mary, to see what I was really meant to get from this. 

I walked outside and just stood with my eyes closed. Probably looked like a nut, but I tried to only be mildly affected by that. I felt the wind caress my arms. Heard the trees swish in the evening breeze. I just waited. Since we know meditation takes practice and I’m no guru… silence in my head was not happening. But among the buzz of others…one thought did occur to me. I have another book! My mom had gifted me another book by John C. Maxwell called Wisdom from Women In the Bible a few weeks ago. I went back inside to find it.

I opened it and, would you believe the first page I opened to was Martha and Mary?? I’m no longer as surprised by God’s intentional “coincidences ” in my life, as I am humbled that he’s ever even taking the time to be bothered with tiny me. I digress, I read something a bit different here, and 3 lessons I got from this do correspond with the devotional message…but they had a slightly deeper and more personal meaning worded this way.

1. Be Still and Let God Lead

There was a point in the book made about moments when “God is in the house” to just sit at his feet and let him lead. This was tricky for me to decipher at first but it came to me later in bed that night.  For me, God is “in the house” when I’m doing the work I know He set for me. Not when I’m creating the website, planning events, looking for bookings and stressing like a headless chicken over everything – But when I’m on the phone with that widow and there’s that moment of “I totally get you!” and I start unknowingly validating her prayers. When I know I’m being used and the words are not my own, they are just spilling forth and she’s Amen-ing and the vibe is just gold light and fire!! That’s when God is in the house. That’s when I need to just throw away my talking points and just get IN that moment and let God lead! I prayed and prepped for these moments so that they could lead to a blessing – but the blessing is HERE in the moment! So I say that to you: The blessing IS the moment – not the prep or just the takeaway. Rejoice before and after yes- but don’t forget to stop prepping and stressing – just pause and BE PRESENT and let Him work in the moment, when God is HERE. Slow down and Enjoy the moment!

2. Moments Expire!!

Another thing about fleeting precious moments, is that they reside not only in times where God “is in the house” but in life!  Truly loving people lies in the moments with the people, not their corresponding “to do” lists: Jesus said to a disciple — who had also fussed at Mary for wasting perfumed oil, which could have been sold for money for charity, not used to clean feet — that poor people are always going to exist. He would not  always be here for her to show her love to. This resonated with me because in taking great care to feed, clothe, transport, and care for my children… I’m in danger of missing the moments I cannot get back.  Sure, some things need to be done to ensure my little human blessings reach adulthood and independence…but the blessing of seeing, cherishing, and spending time just enjoying the moments with them while they are children… will be gone one day when they are independent adults. Moments Expire!!

3. Busy Women, Natural Givers

And lastly there was the message about being a woman and our natural gift of doing-everything-ness. We don’t all scrub and bake til dawn to show love, but most of us seem to have something in us that we selflessly give. Time, Money, Energy, Wisdom, Help, Affection, etc…we tend to give and give with no regard for ourselves until we begin running almost empty. And that empty feeling feels like lack of appreciation.  And the human parts of us start looking for folks to blame or compare our efforts to. (Ahem, Mary’s lazy buns) lol. Mary definitely wasn’t being lazy but Martha was giving Jesus what she thought was 100% of her best! It must have stung a bit when Jesus pointed out that Mary was doing the right thing and that Martha was pouring her own efforts into the wrong pot. This is where I discovered that in that same moment, she probably realized she wasn’t mad at Mary at all. She was upset with herself. She was running in circles, so busy being busy- she’d missed the point of Jesus’ visit. It was to be with him. To learn from him. Jesus had not come to take anything she had prepped, cooked or cleaned. He had come to give her something.  But her hands, were full. Sometimes as women we give so much, we forget that we have needs too. We forget that life has gifts and knowledge and love to give US…but our hands are too full to receive. Our hearts are too weary to hope there’s something for us too. We didn’t even look for it! Our minds are too busy creating reasons for why we need to do more, (or explanations for why others aren’t) that we don’t think there’s time to stop and receive.  We miss it completely! Stop missing it! Get what God came to give you! Slow down sometimes, and see if God is in the house – and if he is: put everything else aside. It will be there when you get back – that moment might not be! Stop and get your moment! He’s here for YOU.

Whew!! It is MONDAY ya’ll. That took me 4 days to unpack! 4 days to really receive the full message…and even though I’m a bit off my schedule, I’m glad I took time to wait for each point. I’m a very busy person – as most of us mothers are- but this lesson helped me slow down, and really dissect that moment Martha had with Jesus. I’m grateful for the wisdom that came with it! <3

Thank you Jesus for giving me so many things to appreciate! Help me trust you more, enough to know that your intention is more important than my to-do list – and help me see the moments you create for me! As hard as I try to give so much of myself, showing my own way of love – help me to remember you have gifts for me too, and that I am important to YOU. Whether its wisdom, love, people, or whatever gifts you have for me to stop and appreciate- help me see that I need to slow down and give my 100% attention to them when you present them – and not miss the moment!! Amen.

Luke 6: Solid As A Rock

I read Luke 3-6 but the most value I got was from the last verses of 6. Jesus talks about exactly how he wants us to be. Specifically actually. He talks about blessings and woes (6:17), love for enemies (6:27) judging others (6:37), handling your heart and it’s true fruit (6:43) and then about the foundation of your faith (6:46). All this sounds really good, like all things in the bible that Jesus says; clever, wise, repetitive so you don’t forget and purposefully worded to paint a picture in your head.

It wasn’t, though, until I read a devotional in reference to the last part of chapter 6 – about the foundation of the spirit and using what Jesus teaches in times of storm – that I realized WHY he was saying these things. The devotional asked me three questions:

  1. What storm is threatening to sway you?
  2. How deep is your foundation in Jesus? How much deeper would you like it to go?
  3. What will you do to develop a deeper, stronger foundation?

Reflexively, over the years of widowhood, I tend to think of my storm as.. well… widowhood. And everything that came with it. But as I stated in the last chapter of John – I really do feel that that particular storm is finished. Thing is – what scares me is the old saying, “the only thing constant is change”. I’m sure there are more changes, more storms to come. I’ve had some over the years, unrelated to, but still complicated further by widowhood. My life has been “no crystal stair” to climb upward – still I have to acknowledge that upward is indeed the direction I’ve been climbing. I’m no longer shouting in the deafening storms of grief and depression. I’m no longer fumbling in the dark with the problems of those storm clouds. My life is pretty amazing. As awesome as that feels to say – I think the threat of new storms and how that fear affects me – THAT’S the storm I’m battling now. Call it PTSD, if you will. I’m better than I was, and I’ve healed my own way by making sure I’d always be mentally prepared to rebuild from whatever comes next – but I’m still very aware and fearful of the possibility of new pain, new setbacks and God forbid – new grief.

Interestingly the main things a single mother has to worry about like money, future planning, grief counseling, single parenting, new relationships,  running a household, and stress management – these are what I help other people build stronger, smarter foundations for. These are balanced and managed in my life, thank God – and I’ve (literally) made it my business to create systems to help myself and others keep these foundations intact and their lives less stressful.

My storm has to do with worrying about the things I CAN’T control. It threatens to sway me every time. My imagination gets the better of me and I’ve come up with 800 scenarios of death and chaos, casting looming gray shadows over the things I CAN’T organize, manage, counsel away, or plan for in this wonderful new life I’ve created. It’s the main reason I started reading this bible. In the beginning of the journey I said – I wanted a deeper foundation. I’d want it to go so deep I don’t even bat an eye at storms like this. So what will I do to develop this? The devotional says this:

“We know that sooner or later storms will come in one form or another. If we don’t put Jesus’ words into practice, we are on shaky ground. But if we build our spiritual lives on what he says, we can withstand anything that shakes us. And what strong words has Jesus given his followers?

New Women’s Devotional Bible NIV – Zondervan 2010

Yep. You guessed it. Scroll up. 🙂 First paragraph. “He talks about blessings and woes (6:17), love for enemies (6:27) judging others (6:37), handling your heart and it’s true fruit (6:43) and then about the foundation of your faith (6:46).”

I don’t have the answers as to exactly how these will specifically help me in the future of storms, because like most people, I bet, I can imagine a million possible storms, but can never predict or prepare for the one that actually comes. I will say, it’s probably better to have Jesus in your arsenal than nothing at all.

Meditation: I know I can’t control everything, and storms will come whether I’m worried or not,  weak or strong, tired or ready. In which case, my worrying is pointless. My strength is in my obedience to keep reading the Word. My readiness is my ability to use the armor of the Word.

I’ll trust in the Lord, and keep building my foundation on his Word. He will be my rock, my solid foundation.

Luke 1-2: Never In Their Wildest Dreams

This week I started Luke. I’ve always liked that name, so when I saw that the next “recommended book to read after John” were Mathew, Luke and Mark – I picked Luke. Cover Art Painting: The Amazing Minjae Lee.

The chapter starts off with the births of both John and Jesus, and how Elizabeth and Mary (their mothers, respectively) were cousins. Something interesting about them that I picked up on, was that neither of these women were “supposed” to be pregnant. Elizabeth was very old, and told she was barren. Mary was a virgin that was only engaged, not yet married to her fiance Joseph. It’s interesting to me because it seems like God likes to be “unpredictable”. In Elizabeth’s case, she was old – and had ‘lived her life’, and probably wished for younger days and babies along those long years. Even though Elizabeth was said to be filled with the holy spirit, and a good woman, she was still barren. Back in those days, infertility was seen as a bad omen, or being unfavorable to God. Shame was attached to infertility, and she lived most of her life with that shame. She probably thought her l ife was almost over, and that there would be nothing “new” or exciting to look forward to, because the things she really wanted were no longer possible. Never in her wildest dreams had she even considered that she might become pregnant and raise a brand new baby at this age!

In Mary’s case she was probably pretty young and had no idea what being married would be like. She might have daydreamed and pictured her life as a wife, an the “duties” of creating eventual children, but it’s doubtful she imagined immaculate conception – and having to explain that to her friends and family! What a crazy impossible shock that must have been to her life – being chosen to mother the son of God! And what about the rest of the situation? How strange things might be between her and her husband after breaking the news, or not knowing how that dynamic was going to play out with Joe not being her child’s biological father, and how that might make him feel for the rest of Jesus’ life. How would Joseph feel when his son walked the earth talking about his father – and never mentioning the man in the shadows that raised him?  It must have seemed incredibly impossible, the whole idea of it all. Not in her wildest dreams was this even a “thing”.

Bringing this back to me, and my perspective as a widow, its pretty obvious that no one would ever even think of their spouse passing away – especially not the way mine did. I’ve heard so many stories of how crazy, unexpected, downright impossible things have happened to claim the lives of spouses, young and old, healthy or not. But the kicker here is that I thought my surprise was his death. While it was a HUGELY unexpected and life changing blow, that wasn’t even the part that I would have never imagined. THAT part happened as a result of his passing. I never had any aspirations of being a speaker, inspirational leader, teacher, coach, or creator of anything like what I’m doing now. I never had any idea I’d be able to be sitting here, on my deck on a Thursday, writing – living the life I created around a passion that didn’t exist until he passed!! I feel like I’m a completely different person after Jason passed. That woman didn’t believe she could lead, teach, love again, inspire or be anything more than what she was. That woman didn’t have the faith, the wisdom, the self confidence, the motivation, the trust in others, or the energy to pour into others and relish in stretching people’s imaginations to see their own potentials. Never in my wildest dreams did I think THIS would be my life. Not when I dreamed as a kid, not when I met him and knew he’d be my husband, and not at the altar when we’d said “forever”. I’d never imagined THIS.

I wonder if Elizabeth and Mary were changed souls as well, after such a turn happened in their lives. They sang songs of joy and worship, knowing that their God was real and He had made them special. He had changed their lives. And yes, Mary would have to witness Jesus die. And yes Elizabeth though blameless, had to live most of her life with the shame of thinking herself broken, people whispering behind her back that she was unable to perform the one thing she was “supposed” to provide. There was tragedy attached to His plan. But there was also joy, and life and amazing grace – beyond their wildest dreams.


Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37).  Think about the things in your life you have experienced that were just beyond anything you could have imagined – and then what was the result? What changes have changed YOU – or your life – beyond anything you could have predicted?

Widow Fog: A Breakdown – What You Need To Know #WidowHacks

First: Understand It

I: Know This

  • You are normal.
  • WF can vary in duration and intensity among individuals.
  • WF is not permanent. You can function normally again.
  • Understanding what’s going on will help you to begin the process of moving out of the fog.

II: Symptoms

  • Feeling disconnected
  • Having many thoughts but lack the ability to organize and focus on one
  • Compromised ability to recall, reason, and plan
  • breakdown in train of thought, simple tasks seem overwhelming.
  • Grief makes the EB work overtime, trying to make sense of the magnitude of emotions through rational thinking
  • Just when you think you’re settled, an assault of feelings and thoughts blasts everything back up into the EB, and now it has to try to sort everything out all over again.
  • Meanwhile, you’re on autopilot – only able to perform the routine tasks—if you can even remember to do them.

III: What’s Going On:

  • Your brain has an area called your Prefrontal Cortex or your “Executive Brain”, (EB). Its main functions are to:
  • Understand, Decide, Recall, Memorize, Inhibit
  • Your Executive Brain can only process one thing at a time.
  • Your EB uses up energy and exhausts quickly.
  • Normally your body naturally avoids using your EB too much, saving energy by performing Routine activities (laundry)  instead of complex activities (planning).
  • Widow Fog is your EB, flooded and exhausted.
  • Widow Fog keeps overloading the EB by forcing it to process too much information- so it fails trying to think rationally and make sense of emotion.
  • This hurts your ability to understand, decide, recall, memorize and inhibit.

IV. How We’re Making It Worse…

  • DON’T Ignore your feelings!! You might think “feeling less” would solve the problem – it doesn’t. This makes it worse! Expressing emotion is a natural reflex. Suppressing emotions weakens your ability to pay attention, solve problems, and it actually makes you feel worse emotionally and physically. When you suppress emotions, your brain can’t make sense of these signals, so you will begin experience frequent and intense threat signals. (ANXIETY ATTACKS!) Most of them are false alarms, but threats trump positive signals!
  • DON’T Overthink things. I know it sounds almost belittling, be hear me out. You aren’t crippled or less smart. You are using your executive function for OTHER THINGS right now. So you simply don’t have the bandwidth for over complicating things. Overthinking complex problems gets you stuck in ambiguity. Feeling stuck can make you feel anxious.

Here’s what you can DO to FIGHT BACK:

I. Emotional Labeling – Choose Your WORDS

Emotional Labeling reduces emotional suppression and means to define an emotional experience in a word or two. Choose one or two words to best describe your experience. That way you prevents yourself from repressing or bursting with emotions at not-so-great times.

Define your experience, not your story. Telling yourself or another the story often makes you feel worse and muddies the essence of your primary experience. First get clear on defining your initial emotion in one or two carefully chosen words.

  • Equip yourself with an expansive emotional vocabulary by using lists or charts of words that cover the full range of emotions.
  • use these words every day in your thinking and communication, including your own journal.  
  • understand then decide on the word or two that best fits your experience. Then you choose to file your experience in your memory with the clarity of one or two excellent descriptors. Emotional Labeling reduces the noise.

(SO that’s why therapists are always saying “How does that make you feeeeel”! Or “Use your words!” )

II. Re-framing

  • Re-framing is changing your interpretation of an event to create opportunity for you. Employing this strategy is absolutely necessary for resolving strong negative emotional events. People who learn to quickly re-frame their experience enjoy more optimism, positive relationships, mastery of their environment and overall life satisfaction.

Remember when raw emotional information is sent to your PFC for interpretation, threat signals dominate your attention. The challenge is to keep your PFC from being hijacked by telling a different story. ( not a FALSE story – you’re not stupid. A DIFFERENT, HIGHLY POSSIBLE angle of the story.)

Stories are not facts. Stories are how you interpret and explain events. Consider that facts make up 5% of the story, and the other 95% is your interpretation. Really understanding this is essential to learning the art of you telling yourself a much more beneficial story. The key is applying what Tony Schwartz at Harvard Business Review calls “Realistic Optimism”. He explains, “That doesn’t mean putting a happy face on every situation, which is just blind optimism. Rather it means intentionally telling the most hopeful and empowering story in any given situation, without subverting the facts.”

Successful reframing requires suspending judgment and creating alternative explanations for exploration.

  • look for multiple ways to view it as if there is no right or wrong way to see things.
  • When you’re stuck believing your initial negative reaction, you actually believe your story is true and you are powerless to improve your experience.
  • If you generate two interpretations of the event, you can’t suspend judgement. It will be either right or wrong and that just creates a mental conflict. You want more than two perspectives from which to choose.

As a simple example:

a stranger honking his horn

You’re taking offense

consider the facts.

you heard someone honk a horn.

consider possibilities such as “The honk was accidental” or “It was another car” or “There was a dog in the road” or “That was an old friend in a new car saying hi to me”.

choose the perspective that feels most beneficial

Emotional Labeling helps you choose how you are going to express and feel about each emotion that comes to you, and helps you beat widow fog by freeing up your mind ( your Executive Function) for more important things.

Re-framing helps you beat the effects of widow fog (depressing, self sabotaging “self talk”) by allowing you to let go of the distress, distraction and defensiveness to put your attention where you choose.

Lastly – Find A Support System

You have a new array of social threats to navigate on this journey. You’ve got gatherings, labels, work, public places, paperwork and information processing to change your on-paper life to match your physical one, etc.

Being widowed left you isolated in so many ways. In addition to losing your spouse, you lost other relationships. You lost your sounding board, and you’re left with others’ misunderstanding and unsolicited advice. People try to change you, or “make you feel better” by pushing you to suppress your feelings, which triggers threat signals, and you respond by avoiding those and possibly other people. You spend more time in your head, and tend to get stuck in mental self-defeating loops. Due to this, you need a support system. Enrolling others in your growth plan is necessary for progress.  

Facebook Support Groups for Widows I love:

Be patient with yourself. Growth is a life-long process, not a destination. Widow Fog is VERY COMMON. Knowing what it is, what it does to you, and how to cope – helps you grow, heal, and move through the fog FASTER. <3

Young Widows With Children

Young Widowed & Dating

The Grief Toolbox

Finding #NextYou Widow Community & Sister Circle << My group! ❤

Here’s to THAT,

Research on Widow Fog summarized with author’s permission. Further Reading: Understanding Widow Fog by Corey Stanford

End Of John: It Is Finished.

Of the last sayings of Christ on the cross, none is more important or more poignant than, “It is finished.” Found only in the Gospel of John, the Greek word translated “it is finished” is tetelestai, an accounting term that means “paid in full.”


Today is 10 years. 10 years since Jason passed away. Yesterday I was reading the end of the book of John… and the passage that stuck out to me most was “It Is Finished”. The Last words of Jesus before he died. Not at all comparing myself or my journey to Jesus’. It just led me to think more about what really transpired here – not just the passing of my husband, which was traumatic in itself- but more the turning point in my life. The moment that changed my life. That moment has come full circle. And its moving me to the next moments. This moment – this feeling that I’ve completed my first 10 year lap as a widow, its something I just wanted to take a moment and expand on.

July 26 2003

It’s more emotional than I’d expected! I guess life is just funny that way. I remember everything from that day. And I remember the following days, feeling numb and hopeless, praying for THIS time in my life to “hurry up and come”. Praying to be “over it”. For the pain to stop. For my “comeback”. For my happiness- if there was going to be such a thing, to just hurry UP!

Thankfully… it DIDN’T. It took its time. It made me LIVE, CRY, SCREAM, SHARE, LOVE, and PUSH thru all 10 of those years so that I could HEAL properly.

In those years it took to get here, I became MORE than just a widow. In my years of single parenthood I became an Author, a Speaker, Home Owner, a Landlord, and Entrepreneur, Life Coach, Happiness Engineer lol… that last one I gave myself. I’m in a wonderful place right now of new beginnings, joy and growth in my life!!
But there is a touch of bittersweet-ness. Because there is a part of me that even though it was not always the BEST part of this journey – it is still a part of what makes me who I am now.

“… even though it was not always the BEST part of this journey – it is still a part of what makes me who I am now. “

That part was Hopelessness. Its gone now. It is finished. It made me sad. Took my control. Drove me to anger. Anger and frustration enough to say, ENOUGH. It pushed me. Mocked my usually cheerful disposition. Exhausted me. Reminded me I had no were else to go but FORWARD. And so forward I went. And I found SO much on the other side. I am so grateful hopelessness is gone – but so grateful it made me who I am today.

Danny, our new baby Aria, and the boys 🙂

I have more growing and sharing and crying etc. to do!! I have more to give!! My journey is still ongoing!! But the hopelessness part – the part where I didn’t know how to “bounceback” from life’s body slams — It is finished. And I am thankful. Shot out to my partner, my Next chapter, my love, and my best friend for loving my crazy tail, and being there no matter what. Love you. Danny Hunter

RIP Jason Tyler I pray you are celebrating up there – your 10 year Heaven-iversary. <3We miss you and love you. But we’re OK. <3 <3

John 14 – My Assignment? What MORE Could God Want From Me?

Among many other tasks, Jesus’ main assignment was to be “the way” to bring people to God for man. Along with his goodness, his teachings, his struggles with a world who mocked him, his miracles on earth, and his unwavering faith – he was STILL literally going to have to go through Hell and high water to fulfill His purpose.

What is YOUR Assignment? My assignment?!? What MORE is there for me to endure, God? I get it. I understand the overwhelm. I get the fear, the PTSD of it all. Like maybe a fear of what MORE pain or struggle your future could hold. Or maybe the feelings of skepticism when you think about a God that would ask you to carry on through this pain and suffering- and then STILL carry out some mission– after all this? It’s a lot to consider. That God is not done with you YET. That your service to Him, your faithfulness, and the ups and downs of your life BEFORE your spouse passed, feel in all in vain now- now that you’ve been asked to do THIS too. Kinda scary, to be honest. To know that God, even through the hardest trial of your life so far – is STILL not done with you.

And our assignments don’t have labels on them, to warn us in advance which ones are the HUGE life changing ones and which ones are small and stay small. We really only see in hindsight – if we ever see at all – what ripple effect God intended our assignment to create in his grandiose plan. Being a widow, I thought, was going to be my biggest, most insurmountable assignment. Only in hindsight did I see that losing my husband was actually not the hardest part of this assignment – and it was HARD. But raising children in his absence, having to keep alive the memory and details of Jason, which broke my heart to have to do on command— for young children that didn’t remember and NEEDED HIM SO MUCH —THAT was my hardest battle. My assignment was to make the difference in these kids’ lives. To be the bridge between them and their departed father. To make sure THEY didn’t break or grow up broken. And guess what – I did. Still am. It worked out. Still is. All for our good. I became better – for THEM. They are strong, intelligent, and beautiful now! I would have NEVER imagined things would have bent and twisted and cleared from our paths to create such a fortunate and positive future. I would have never believed my pain had such a worthy cause. I was afraid. But it turned out alright. My sons clearly have important assignments as well- the world needs them. And the ripple that created their futures, started with my assignment.

Of course I have other assignments, as I’m sure widowhood has given you all as well. I guess my message here is to help you realize that no matter how crazy, unsuccessful, overwhelming, or even insignificant your assignment might sound – Don’t give up. Don’t be afraid! Do it scared if you have to! God has plans for all of us, and as ‘cliche’ as that sounds, ALL of our missions are immensely important. It is ALL for our good!! The success of the mission; size, scope, and impact – are HIS responsibility. Our job is simply to be obedient and carry them out.

Meditation: Where has widowhood brought you? Do you see a mission in this new identity? Is there someone who you might follow your example, be comforted by your empathy, or motivated by your perseverance? God does not deal in coincidences. Jesus said that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father’s notice (Matthew 10:29) You are where you are – on purpose.  Think about what is going on in your life now, and where you may be being called upon – your specific circumstance and position –  to serve in His Divine Plan. Don’t give up. THIS- as unbelievable as it might sound – is all for your good. You gon be aight!

Matthew 10:29

Keep Going,


Widow Hacks : BEATING Anxiety Disorder

Dealing with anxiety disorder can be hard enough unprovoked; but when dealing with them in conjunction with lack of sleep, grief, or constant stress, it can be much, much worse. Enter: Widowhood. In my case, I was dealing with physical and mental stress, leading me to a prescription dependency, and upon my husband’s death, it got 10x worse. I had to somehow get myself back together, and be able to function enough to raise two kids and work full time. Since the prescription antidepressants and ‘calming’ meds weren’t allowing me to be alert or independent…I could not focus on work, handle the pressures of single parenting, drive for long stretches, or even simply be alone! I was so afraid I was going to die from the symptoms of each attack – and doctors couldn’t do much for me other than give me more meds!

I had to somehow get myself back together, and be able to function enough to raise two kids and work full time. …I was so afraid I was going to die from the symptoms of each attack – and doctors couldn’t do much for me other than give me more meds!

When I’d finally decided enough was enough ( 10 months later ) and since meds were not helping proactively, only as a band aid fix in dire situations; I had to wean myself off of them, go thru withdrawal, and then learn how to naturally cope with anxiety attacks without meds. It took some time, therapy, and a LOT of patience, but once I got a routine down, and my coping mechanisms became second nature- things got a LOT better.  I got my life back.
Finally now, and for the past 6 years, I’m back at work full time, I can live alone, be fully present for my kids, relationships and even get thru my loneliness being a widow. Because so many other women go through this silent agony, with no visible symptoms and usually have no one close to them who can really relate,  I wanted to share  some of the techniques I was taught -that actually worked.

First, Know Your Symptoms

  Anxiety disorder is so hard to diagnose properly because it is the “phantom” symptom king. My symptoms could at any given time range from shortness of breath, sudden heart palpitations, numbness and tingling in my fingers and/or left arm ( and yes, thinking it could be a heart attack only made the symptoms WORSE! ) to sudden fatigue, chest paints, dry moth or heartburn. I really was feeling like a HOT mess! BUT – once I explained all these wide ranging symptoms to my therapist, it helped to know that she was familiar with them all – and they were NOT life threatening. They are “false alarm” reactions that your brain has “learned” at some point for whatever reason during some event that you’ve encountered as a natural reaction to mental or physical stress. The good news is, you can UN-learn that sequence of reactions with practice, patience and coping mechanisms. 
For your own peace of mind here is a link I found a while back, listing all the many symptoms of anxiety. It made me feel less freakish, less alone, and less afraid that my symptoms were unique enough to be some undiscovered life threatening alien disease. 🙂

Figure Your Triggers

Allergies, over the counter medications ( NSAIDs) , auto immune diseases, food intolerance and stress can all cause temporary chemical imbalances in the body that can trigger anxiety attacks. After quite a bit of nutrition research, some guidance from my therapist, allergist, and OBGYN (I know right!) I realized there were several factors that could play in throwing the body off balance and alerts your nervous system that something may be wrong. Thats when anxiety finds the loop hole and attacks –  while you’re weak.
 Getting my allergies in check was the first thing i had to do, as a “sensitive” so i could stop sabotaging myself.  Then came the meds… which to take? NSAIDS – Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs are known to mess with your system there are warnings on them about taking with anti-depression or anti-anxiety drugs. And then there’s decongestants – which before I had anxiety attacks I typically used at least one dose of those DAILY. Oral decongestants may cause anxiety, restlessness, problems with sleeping, and being aware of a fast or fluttering heartbeat. So there’s that. Here’s a list of things to think about when the goal is to eliminate things your body may be taking in every day- but silently sensitive to:

  • Allergy Meds with the -D in the name
  • Decongestants (use saline sprays and humidifiers instead, much more effective!) 
  • NSAIDS (Tylenol, aspirin… here’s a list! )
  • Foods with common (SILENT) Allergic/Gastrointestinal reactions (Which, is a process of elimination, unfortunately, but – usually the culprits are Dairy products, wheat, eggs, peanuts, some processed foods like chips/candy, white refined SUGAR, or white flour products.
  • CHOCOLATE and other CAFFEINE products ( I know, just shoot me, right? Caffeine is my MAIN sensitivity. Feel sorry for me, collectively please!) 


A deficiency in B vitamins such as folic acid and B12 can trigger depression and anxiety in some people.  Vitamin D supplements were also the FIRST thing my allergist prescribed for me after being diagnosed with anxiety. You can take a vitamin supplements or eat foods (< — LINK! ) that are rich in B and D vitamins to ward off anxiety.  Foods with tryptophan, omega 3s, and herbal teas can help you fight back! These include:

You can ALSO cause POSITIVE chemical reactions on your own, with simple safe tricks that calm and can protect your system from those “false alarm” alerts.

Breathing Exercises :
The 4-7-8 method WORKS BEST for me! In times of high stress ( Driving! that’s mine) swear by it! 

  1. Breathe in thru nose 4 seconds ( I double my count (8) just in case my 7 is not REAL Mississippi seconds lol ) 
  2. HOLD 7 seconds (14 for me! )
  3. BLOW out thru mouth, forcefully but slowly like a rushed whistle. 8 seconds. ( 16 for me!) 

Click for more Breathing Exercises!

  • Yoga before bed <—- Here’s a video! 
  • Exercising at LEAST twice a week  – I know with me if I don’t get that “extra energy” out, I’m in for an Anxiety attack at some point in the next week or so! I MUST do some cardio ( usually Zumba)  for at least 25-30 min 3X a week. I know. But try not think of it as a chore – Think of it as your way to FINALLY fight back!!! This is REAL solid prevention! 
  • Sun light – for a boost of Vitamin D

Quick Fix HacksMLXLS

Finally, you can do your best but you cant ALWAYS control everything. Here’s what I do when I have an attack even if I did follow my prevention steps – or if I snuck a piece of chocolate. 🙁 I have a bad habit!! My faves are the ones that work fastest for me!

  • Hot showers – Normally I can reset myself if I cant sleep or have let the attack escalate. 
  • Rooibos of Peppermint Tea
  • Tart Cherry Pills ( For sleeping) 
  • A glass of very warm milk (Cow Milk has a natural enzyme that relaxes you. )
  • Homemade EASY Tumeric Tea ( warm milk (cow, almond or soy is fine) , turmeric powder, ginger, cinnamon). Mix with a whisk for better taste. Works WONDERS for instant relaxation. Be prepared to SLEEP. 
  • Eating Peppermints – Altoids, something with real peppermint oil, not candy. This helps if I’m driving for long distances. #trigger Note: The Altoids minis do not contain peppermint. Get the originals!
  • Run Hot Water over hands in bathroom
  • Lay on left side ( Quick heartburn and gas relief) 
  • Lavender (Natural) Oil or Body Spray –  After that hot shower I spray this on and I go Night night! You hear? You ever go night night ?  lol 🙂
  • Walk around
  • Call someone on the phone and talk

All in all – these methods are not brain surgery – they really follow the same premise as getting healthy! Being healthier IS a side effect – and I’ll be the first to admit; it HELPS TREMENDOUSLY. 
I hope this helps someone! 



More Links for Help






Coping With Post Loss Anxiety: There’s More To the Story #DearWidow

Your anxiety is understandable.
You feel out of control, like you’re missing things, and out of sync with the whole world.
You might feel like slightly selfish for wanting to be free of the burdens of adult-ing for a little while.

Anxiety comes from feeling out of control…and playing a narrative in your head that you’ve accomplished nothing, you’re overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. It feels lazy and pitiful and hopeless and you just wish you could press reset – back to when things were normal.

Just. Breathe.

First of all… nobody has control over how their story goes, ends, or begins again. Its all  a free fall. That’s not comforting. What IS comforting to ME is that, I can regain control by changing the narrative to point out what I CAN do in my response, or evidence of what HAS worked in the past. If it means I need to stop, breathe, and make a concerted effort to remembering the GOOD, doing something positive in response, or resolving to just make new goals from the broken pieces of the last goals… so be it.  What is also helpful is to stop using ONLY the bad parts of my situation of widowhood… and every “down” I experience hereafter to define ME. I define me. The GOOD stuff – the wins, the triumphs, the times things DIDN’T go all to hell – they happened too! It took ALL of the things, good and bad, to make up my story. ALL of them helped me see what defines me.

What is also helpful is to stop using my situation of widowhood… and every “up and down” I experience hereafter to define ME. …
It took ALL of the things, good and bad, to make up my story. ALL of them helped me see what defines me.

And then there’s the worrying and the imagining of horrible outcomes being a survivor of death. The worst use of imagination is worry. Worrying is for people with time to waste. Because that’s all it is. A waste of time. Its hard to enjoy anything anymore because you worry its going to be taken away, like your husband was. You don’t want to love anyone else or start anything new because whats the point?! I get it. You’re worried that rug is going to get pulled out from under you again. And that’s understandable.

When Jason died I blamed myself for not being outside playing with him and the kids at the time. If I’d been out there ….. you know the rest. When my son got a D on his report card, I labeled myself an inattentive mom and got angry at myself. When my other son got pneumonia I felt helpless and worried incessantly… maybe I wasn’t giving him meds enough or using the humidifier. Why do I have HAVE children – one day they are just gonna go – just like everything else… and on and on…

But….even though THOSE are the parts that replay in your head and keep you up at night – that’s not all there is to the narrative!

Faith is an interesting thing. We use it for everything. We have faith that if we flap our arms we wont fly. Faith that pain hurts and bad things happen. Faith that tragedy and mayhem are real and we cant control them. Faith that things live and then die. Because we have proof.

If that’s the case, what about when things go right? What about the countless amount of evidence we have that MOST of the things we worried so hard about yesterday – didn’t happen? And the day before that… and the year before that…. Why do we never use that as ammo for our anxiety? Regardless of if we worried or not – we still had to wait and see didn’t we? And sometimes, it does turn out OK. Probably just as many times if not more – than when it doesn’t, right? Where is our faith in the God that provides the GOOD times, too? Its like when the kids are mad at you for saying “no”. And you’re the worst mom ever. What about ALL the 50-eleven times you said yes!!! Dont you wish they remembered that? God wants you to remember THOSE things too.

You just cant live life getting rolled by “what ifs” and “maybes” and “what’s the points”. You are not made of your fears, your worries, or your current marital circumstance. You are MORE than that. Life is not only pain and suffering. You KNOW that. Play the GOOD times in that narrative too. Remember that YOU control who you are and what you do in response to all the things good or bad. You can decide what defines you, and how you get through ANY thing life throws at you. And regaining control of the narrative – THAT is the best weapon against anxiety.

Hang in there, dear widow. Keep pushing. We got this.

John 10 – Widow Walkin’ Into Higher Purpose : Servant Leadership

As I read of the miracles Jesus performed, in John’s account, I see there’s a pattern. Jesus puts emphasis at the very end, before he dies, on being a “servant leader” and gives his disciples the task of loving each other as He loved them. The devotional portion after the chapters goes on to talk about the meaning of servant leader and how Jesus implicated this in his teachings. The questions after  ask me – How have I been called to be a servant leader? The “servant” part is pretty easy for me; I know I’ve been called to help other widows. I understood what I’m doing and building wasn’t going to be easy. I knew there would be long working hours, a ton of writing, and a lot of time in front of people, being an example, and being way outside my comfort zone. I knew I’d have to spend a lot of time and energy in mental spaces and among emotions I’d purposely removed myself from, to help others find their way out, too. This all still, sounded better to me, than working a 9-5 job building something I didn’t care about. Wasting my life on someone else’s dream, collecting a check to pay for a home I’m never in. Starting my own business doing what I love –  I jump out of bed everyday with the conviction that I’m doing what I supposed to be doing; learning new things, helping people, using talents I’ve always had, for a purpose I was given.

What I didn’t expect was the leadership portion. I’ve never wanted to be a “leader”, per se. I’ve always steered clear! Being a leader at work was the LAST thing I wanted – because of what I expect of a leader.  When I meet GOOD leaders I respect them deeply, because GOOD ones are hard to come by. A good leader knows EVERYONE’s job, and can do it at moments notice, just in case they need to. A leader plans the beginning, middle and end steps of the whole project – and makes contingency plans just in case. A leader knows they don’t know all the answers – but knows exactly where to find them and how to say so without fumbling or seeming incapable. A leader is responsible for being an effective communicator, speaking clearly and expertly so that the team knows exactly what is expected of them and is able to perform without issue. A leader makes the team feel as if each person has equal importance in their roles. A leader motivates others with her own real life experiences, empathizes using the golden rule, and energizes with the idea that anything is possible if a positive “we” attitude is applied.

That’s a BIG role to fill. Bigger than being queen of IG, bigger than being an awesome blogger, and bigger than having followers in a facebook group. Bigger than playing small, staying safe inside my own sandbox. And I will admit – that scares me. But.. in the same token I feel like I’ve always known this role would be required of me. The fact that I even know what it takes, ( from having some not-so-good leaders as well as excellent examples) makes me suspect I might have this knowledge for a reason. I know I could be a great leader. I just know its a LOT of work!

Being a widow forced me to take point in my own home, and in ways I didn’t even realize my husband was leading – I had to l learn to fill in. I had take over, and do well in order to lead my children in the right direction going forward, and earn their respect and obedience performing both parental roles. My own mother, devoted her life to education and really helping people (and she’s one of those “in the trenches”, whatever-it-takes, I’m-not-gonna-let-you-fail type of leader)  – and because of her I know exactly what “servant leader” means, all that it entails, and how to employ it. I’ve already become some thing of a “thought leader” in writing my book and spreading a message of hope and renewal for widows after loss.

But am I ready, to apply this to BIGGER work? Is my walk with widowhood a doorway to leadership? Is Jesus’ example a guide?

After Thought…

Has being a widow  pushed you to become a leader? In your home, or at work? Did you adapt quickly or did it take you a while? Do you feel like lessons learned in this arena could be used elsewhere in your life, perhaps even as part of your purpose? Are you employing a servant mentality in your leadership?