Ep #220: Advice from Other Widows

The Widowed Mom Podcast Krista St-Germain | Advice from Other Widows

As widows, we don’t want other widows to struggle in the way we have.

That’s why I asked my community for any advice they have for other widows, and I received hundreds of responses.

If you’re feeling alone in widowhood, join me this week to hear how applicable these pieces of advice are to just about any experience of grief.


Listen to the Full Episode:


If you want to create a future you can truly get excited about even after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to apply for Mom Goes On.


What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • 12 pieces of advice from widows for widows.
  • Why you don’t have to be strong in grief.
  • What is entirely unhelpful in grief.


Featured on the Show:

  • Leave me a review in Apple Podcasts.
  • Interested in small-group coaching? Join us in Mom Goes On. Click here for details and next steps.
  • Join my free Facebook group, The Widowed Mom Podcast Community.
  • Follow me on Instagram!
  • If you are a Life Coach School certified coach, I’m working on an Advanced Certification in Grief and Post-Traumatic Growth Coaching just for you. If this sounds like something you would love, email us to let us know you want in on the interest list to be notified when it launches!
  • I send out several pick-me-up emails each week including announcements and details for free live coaching sessions. Enter your email in the pop-up on my home page to sign up.
  • Heather’s Camp
  • The widows in my coaching program shared their advice and encouragement for new widows in this new book, Dear New Widow. Get your copy here!


Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 220, Advice from Other Widows.

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.

Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. It’s about Heather’s Camp time you all. I’m going to record a couple of episodes today because Heather’s Camp starts tomorrow. If that is not something that’s familiar to you, don’t worry about it, but Heather’s camp is really important to me.

It’s a camp for children who are blind or visually impaired, and it’s also the camp that my late husband Hugo was that we were returning from when the accident happened that took his life. So it’s an important time to me because I love Heather’s Camp, and I’ve been doing it for over 20 years.

It’s also an emotional time for me because it’s always, I’ve got to go by the scene of the accident, got to kind of relive some of that stuff. We give an award every year that honors new counselors in his name, so we’ve got to do that. So it’s all the highs and it’s a lot of lows too, so, mixed emotions, bittersweet, but really, truly my favorite time of year and keeps me very busy. So that’s why I’m going to record a couple of episodes for you today.

So here’s what I’ve got for you. I posted something on social media not too long ago where I asked people who follow me on social media, what advice they had for new widows. And holy cow, I got a ton of responses, I mean hundreds and hundreds of them. And I thought this would actually make a really good podcast episode because there was some good stuff in there. And it was very clear to me that so many of us, it’s not just me, as widows in general, we don’t want other widows to struggle in the way that we struggled.

So in today’s episode I want to share with you 12 pieces of advice that I got from widows to widows and I hope they’re valuable to you. I’ll also tell you before I give you that advice that if you don’t know that this is available to you, I actually have a book called Dear New Widow and it is a compilation of paragraphs written from my Mom Goes On clients. People who have done my Mom Goes On program, they’re all widows, they’re all moms. And they wrote this book with you in mind and so it’s filled with very readable paragraphs.

It’s great for widow fog because when you can’t concentrate very much and you don’t have a lot of brain bandwidth you can just read one paragraph and put it down and it’s full of them and it makes me cry in the best possible way every time I read it. So if you don’t have that, you can go to coachingwithkrista.com/dearnewwidow, coachingwithkrista.com/dearnewwidow. And we’ll put that in the show notes as well. But you can go and get that book too. It’s just lovely, makes my heart so happy.

Okay, so the 12 pieces of advice from other widows to you dear listener number one. Let your kids see you grieve. And I know a lot of times we think that we want to hide that because they’re already going through so much. And we don’t want to put anything extra on them. And that if they see us fall apart that that will scare them. And we really just should hide our emotions from them. And I’m picking the 12 things that I heard, not only do I agree with them but widows said them over and over and over and over.

So whether they learned it the hard way and wished that they would have shown their children more of their grief or whether they just happened to know that in the beginning. I totally agree. Let your kids see you grieve. When they see you have emotions, when they see you miss their other parent, that gives your children permission to do the same. The last thing we need is for our kids to think that they’re the only ones feeling all of these emotions.

It’s so helpful for them to see them in you, to see you work through them or let them flow through you to show them, to model that to them that emotions aren’t going to hurt you. That there’s nothing wrong that you have an emotion. So I agree, let your kids see you grieve.

Number two. Keep talking about your person. We live in a very grief illiterate world. It’s becoming better, but it’s still pretty grief illiterate and a lot of people in our world are going to stop talking about your person. So we’ve got to be the ones to model that. We’ve got to be the ones that keep telling stories about their other parent. That means we’re telling the funny stories. That means we’re telling the real stories. That means we’re remembering their favorite things. That means we’re remembering those silly moments.

Maybe they are stories your children have never heard. Maybe they’re stories your children have heard a million times. But keep talking about your person and not just for your kids, but for you. Keep talking about them. If other people are uncomfortable, that’s a them problem, that’s not a you problem. What I found is that for the most part, people became more comfortable when I started talking about Hugo. ‘They didn’t really know if they should be doing that or not’. They were worried that they might upset me and so they often didn’t talk about him.

So when I started talking about him, that gave other people permission to talk about him and it made it so much easier. So keep talking about your person.

Number three. Oh, my gosh, so many people said this, one day at a time, and sometimes one hour and sometimes one minute. And it really is that way. It can be very difficult to imagine much into the future and you don’t need to. Just focus on today and if today feels like too much, just focus on the next hour. And if the next hour feels like too much, just focus on the next minute, little increments of time. We do not need to know how it’s all going to turn out. We do not need to think about all of it. We just need to focus on what is immediately in front of us until that becomes easier to do.

Number four. Figure out how to genuinely take care of yourself. We’ve done some self-care talk here on the podcast too, and so hopefully there are lots of episodes that help with this because it’s not just bubble baths and pedicures, but you are the asset, we have to take care of you. You have to take care of you and whatever that means for you, needs to be a priority. And I don’t mean to say that it’s a should. I don’t want you to make it feel like a burden. I want you to think about it in terms of investing in yourself, we cannot pour from an empty cup.

And only you know what it means to take care of yourself. Sometimes that means having boundaries with people. Sometimes that means saying no. Sometimes that does mean time alone. Sometimes that means getting someone to help you with the kids or help you with things around the house or whatever it is. Sometimes that means hobbies, things that make you happy and bring you joy.

When I say take care of yourself genuinely, if that feels foreign to you or you suspect that it’s not something you’re super comfortable with. Then it’s worth thinking about and spending some time on so that you can get good at it because you’re going to need to get good at it.

Number five. Don’t try to be strong, which is counter to what a lot of us are hearing. People say this all the time, don’t they, “Be strong, dear, just be strong, you’re so strong?” But really let yourself be as you are. You don’t need to be strong at all. What happens when we don’t feel strong and we pretend to be strong, it’s artificial and phony and fake. It’s hard to connect with people when we aren’t being authentic. We’re kind of trying to fool them or make them think that we’re doing quote ‘better than we are’.

At a time when we genuinely would probably benefit from connection and we show up inauthentically. We literally repel the connection that we might like to have. Being weak, first of all, is just a word but who said being strong was the point all the time? What’s that about? Why do we have to be strong? Why can’t we just be human? Humans in grief, especially widows, when you’ve lost your person you don’t feel strong. That’s the last thing you feel for most of us. You feel terrible. You feel like your whole world just shattered. You feel broken.

There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s the way of grief when it’s intense. So trying to be strong means that in my book, what’s true for you is somehow not okay and I don’t believe that. Whatever is true for you, it is okay. And if you feel weak and if you feel broken then why not be honest about that? And not everyone will understand and some people will be uncomfortable with it but those aren’t your people.

The people who you need and the people who are wanting to support you and ready to connect with you, they don’t want you to be someone you aren’t. They want you to be more of who you are. That’s who they love and that’s who they want to support. And anybody else is probably going to fall by the wayside eventually because they aren’t really there for you so don’t try to be strong, just be who you are, be how you are.

Number six. Recognize that grief is a very individual experience. And I heard variations of this several times. Not just meaning that the grief about the loss of your person is different for everyone, which it is, but also that for you, you may have lost recently a parent or a sibling or someone else that really mattered to you, and now you’ve lost your person. And that feels very different to you, the way that you are responding is very different. Or you may lose your person now and then later lose someone else and it feels very different. It doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong or good or bad.

You’re not doing anything wrong. It’s just that grief is an individual experience. It’s individual to us as humans and it’s individual to each loss that we perceive. So comparing in a way that makes you feel bad doesn’t help. Telling yourself that someone else is doing a better job with their grief than you are or telling yourself that you did a better job before with that last grief experience than you’re doing now. It’s not true and it’s not helpful. And if we could pull back and just notice that grief is a very individual experience, not just from one person to the next, but from one loss to the next, grief would get easier.

Number seven, love this one. However you feel is fine. However you feel is fine. If you’ve listened to the podcast, you know I say this 37 million times. Feelings are not problems to solve, they are just experiences to allow. You have done nothing wrong because of how you feel.

And how you feel isn’t wrong ever. It’s fine, it’s not a problem. You don’t need to apologize for it. You don’t need to hide it. You don’t need to try to resist it and squish it away. You don’t need to clamp down on it. You don’t need to do anything. You don’t need to distract yourself from it, you can, and none of those things are bad either but you don’t need to because however you feel is fine.

Number eight. It’s okay to be happy again. Truly, it’s okay to be happy again. If I had a nickel for every time I coached a widow who was starting to feel an emotion that they would classify as positive, happy, for example. And then their brain judged them and said, “That must mean they’re doing something wrong. That must mean they didn’t love their person enough. What are other people going to think?” Am I supposed to be this happy? I don’t think I’m supposed to be this happy. I think I’m supposed to be more sad?

We back ourselves into these little corners where we can’t win. If we feel a particular amount of sad, we judge ourselves for feeling too sad. If we actually start to feel happy, we judge ourselves for feeling happy. All the feelings can be part of grief. You can be happy and sad. You can actually be happy and not sad. It evolves, it changes over time, but all feelings are a part of it. So it’s okay to be happy again.

And listen, I know some of you are like, “Yes, they would want you to be happy.” And maybe for you that works. Sometimes that’s not the case. It’s okay to be happy again even if they wouldn’t have wanted you to be happy again. It’s just okay to be happy.

Number nine. Even if it feels like you hardly know who you are, nothing is wrong with you. Even if it feels like you hardly know who you are, nothing is wrong with you. Repeat after me, even if it feels like you hardly know who you are, nothing is wrong with you. Nothing is wrong with you.

Almost everyone that I know and I have had a lot of conversations over the years of doing this work, went through a space, a moment, the length varies for everyone, where you see yourself in the mirror and you know that it’s you.

You see yourself and also you believe you don’t know who you are or that you hardly know who you are. Now, there are reasons for this. A huge part of grief is our brain relearning the reality of what has happened. And when it comes to really important partnered relationships, our brain encodes the other person. Our identities start to overlap and so there was them and there was you and then they overlapped and it became us and that’s normal. So when your person dies your brain is still relating as though they are a part of you and it takes time for that to change.

So it’s no surprise that many of us feel like we hardly know who we are. It’s no surprise that we have to redefine our identity and relearn and rechoose and familiarize ourselves with the version of us who isn’t living life with our person. That doesn’t mean anything was wrong with you. If you thought of yourself as a confident person before your person died and then your confidence took a nosedive and you barely recognize yourself, that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong or there’s anything wrong with you.

That is a very common experience in grief and confidence can be rebuilt 100%. I teach people to do it all the time. I see them do it all the time. I know it can be done. So if it feels like you hardly know who you are, don’t freak out, nothing is wrong. This is just grief. This is what it’s like to lose your person.

I love this one, number 10. Cookies for dinner is perfectly acceptable. Someone wrote that, but several people wrote, show yourself grace and to me it’s the same thing. Cookies for dinner are perfectly acceptable. Listen, when your whole world gets upended, that’s how it feels, some things are going to slip through the cracks. You’re not going to do things to the same standard you did them before because now there’s one of you, before there were two, but also because grief.

So can you give yourself some grace? You’re doing the best you can and sometimes the best you can, it’s cookies for dinner. Totally okay, everybody’s going to survive the meal even if it’s cookies. Grace, grace, grace.

Number 11, I like this one too. Another person won’t fill the void, proceed with caution. I love this one and I could tell that the women who were writing it were the ones who didn’t proceed with caution, who did try to fill what they perceived as a void with another person and it didn’t work out. And so from experience they are telling you, proceed with caution. Now, if you want to go out there and date and date and date and date, do it.

Also, though, don’t be surprised if the reason that you’re doing it is to try to fill loneliness or sadness or any part of your grief or what you may believe is a void or a hole. It won’t work, it just won’t. It might distract you. It might be fun, and that’s okay, but probably at the end of the day, what most widows realize is that the contentment, the satisfaction, the peace, the good stuff has to come from the inside.

And when we keep trying to find it on the outside. It makes sense why we do that, because we really want it and maybe we think we have found it there before but usually we’re disappointed because we’re looking outside of ourselves. So if you’re thinking another person will fill the void, proceed with caution. They probably won’t.

Alright, this last one is super practical, but I thought it was so valuable, which is, don’t cancel your person’s phone until the estate has been handled. And this is really good advice because there are many things during the estate process, all the paperwork that we have to do that require authentication and sometimes that’s on your person’s device. That happened to me. Thankfully I didn’t turn off the phone and thankfully I knew Hugo’s password so I could get all of those dual authentications done. But holy cow, there were a lot of them and I was surprised. So I like that one.

And then another one that goes along with it is before you turn off their phone, record their voice. I did that too and I thought that was really good advice. And also by the way, you never have to turn the phone off if you don’t want to either, PS, please don’t make that a should. But if you do feel like you’re ready to turn off the phone, wait until after the estate has been handled and then you can always record their voice.

Okay, I hope those are helpful for you. They’re applicable in lots of different places in grief. If they resonated with you, another thing I hope you’ll take from this is that you aren’t alone. Hundreds of widows responded to this post that I made, and so many of them had very similar things to share that they had to learn the hard way. And clearly, even though it feels like we’re really alone, we’re all going through a lot of very similar things and learning lessons kind of the hard way.

So I hope this helps you learn a little bit easier maybe in some of these areas. Alright, that’s what I have for you today. Go get Dear New Widow if you don’t have a copy of it, coachingwithkrista.com/dearnewwidow, you will love it, I promise, I love it. Alright, take care. I love you. You’ve got this and I’ll see you next week. Bye bye.

If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence.

Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click work with me for details and the next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.

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About your coach

I created a new life using small, manageable steps and techniques that made sense. The changes I experienced were so profound I became a Master Certified Life Coach and created a group coaching program for widows like us called Mom Goes On. It’s now my mission to show widowed moms exactly how to do what I’ve done and create a future they can look forward to.

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