Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 238, Widows Unfiltered: An Interview with Darlene Barnett Carter.
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. Last time we spoke, or I guess I spoke to you, which is how podcasting works, I mentioned that Todd’s oldest was getting married and that is done. It happened yesterday, it went well. A December wedding in a barn in Kansas is maybe not the warmest, but it was still very cute and quaint and they were so happy. Outdoor pictures again in December on a windy Kansas day. I can’t wait to see them, but there’s going to be a lot of hair blowing and a lot of material flapping, but again, big smiles and that’s what really matters.
And they had so much fun with the food. They brought in a taco bar, which was fun. I had never seen that done. And also there is a local Waffle Truck that they had do the dessert, which was really fun. I never really imagined waffles as a dessert, but wow, if you have a Waffle Truck in your area I would highly recommend that you seek them out. They made Reese’s peanut butter waffles, fantastic and some sort of strawberry concoction and a white chocolate one. But it’s a really unique alternative to cake.
More than anything though, just great to see the smiles, great to see the love and weddings just the buildup. Also unfortunate that Todd’s parents, who came into town to be here for the wedding, got COVID. And his mom got over it in time to come to the wedding. His dad got it very close to the wedding, he didn’t get to come, but at least they are doing okay with it. Never exactly what you want to see, but it’s the way it goes, isn’t it, unpredictable sometimes.
And COVID is just the gift that keeps on giving. Yeah. Can you tell I just recovered from a wedding? Anyway, okay, so I have for you a guest today that I am excited about. We have just recorded the podcast. And towards the end of it, I got a little emotional. And then after we stopped recording, I got a ton emotional. And it’s just because it’s just so cool to sit back and watch someone change.
And it’s kind of, I was telling her after we recorded it, it’s kind of like how it is when you watch your kids grow and you’re so close to them as they’re growing that you don’t see it. And then you step back and you look at pictures or you reminisce and then you fully appreciate what happened. And it just happens so slowly in front of you that when you stand back and you look at it, it just kind of blows your mind a little bit.
And that’s what happened for me watching Darlene change and apply the tools that she learned. And just where she is now is just such a different place than where she was before. And I can’t wait for you to hear her story. And also I love, love, love that she talked about how she was kind of worried that her faith, because her faith is really important to her, that coaching would somehow go against her faith. And I was really glad she was willing to talk about that and I’ll let her do it.
But basically what I want everyone to know is that coaching isn’t about getting people to believe or not believe something. Coaching is about helping people create what they want. Coaching is about helping people remove obstacles that are in the way of them living into the values that they have. And so everyone I have the pleasure of working with has a different set of values. Has a different view on faith or faith traditions or religion, and none of that is my business, which is why I don’t have a program that teaches a particular faith or faith tradition.
I just want to support people in whatever it is that matters to them and create a loving environment where everybody is free to believe what they believe and respect other people who believe differently than they believe. And we’re really here to focus on creating what we want in the next chapter in post-traumatic growth and for some people that means religion, and for some people that doesn’t. And so I love that Darlene expresses how important it was to her and how it helped her in the way that she really wanted it to.
So anyway I will stop talking and you can listen to my interview with Darlene Barnett Carter and I hope you love it.
Krista: Welcome, Darlene to the podcast. I’m so excited to have you.
Darlene: I am so excited to be here.
Krista: We were kind of catching up before we hit record and sometimes I hate to do that because all the good stuff gets said but I know that we’re going to have a good conversation. So I’m excited. So, okay, I’m going to have you start. Just tell listeners a little bit about you and how you became a widow, kind of back us up a little bit.
Darlene: Well, my name is Darlene and I have been a widow for three and a half years now. I was married to my husband Melvin for almost 23 years. We grew up together in South Alabama in the same small community, so I knew him, I would say our entire lives but I knew him his entire life and for 45 years of mine. We didn’t date, so we grew up in the same community and we definitely knew each other and always saw each other. But we didn’t start dating until we were in our early 20s and we got together then.
He was a pastor by then. He’d been preaching since he was 17 and he was a pastor. So I became a pastor’s wife which is definitely not something I had thought I would ever be. So we were in ministry together until he died and that took us from South Carolina, I mean, from Alabama to South Carolina, where he pastored a couple of churches there. And then whenever he died, he was actually an administrator for the South Carolina Conference of our Denomination. So he wasn’t in the pulpit full-time like he had been.
Melvin, he was sick, so we knew that his health was an issue for about the last 10 years of his life approximately. He had increasing chronic complications from high blood pressure and diabetes that ultimately led to heart failure. I would say the last couple of years were the worst. He was still able to work though, because at this point he was an administrator. So he had more of a desk job and also the conference was extremely gracious about giving him time off, letting him work from home when he needed to.
He was in and out of the hospital quite a bit, so sometimes he would be working from the hospital. He just needed his phone and laptop and he was good. So he was working, but after he had a heart attack, and we found out that he was in heart failure and he was not a candidate for a bypass just because of the damage had been done to his heart. So he had a pacemaker defibrillator installed. He just was treated medically for the different symptoms and things that come up.
But with heart failure there is a progression and there isn’t an end point. It’s just a roller-coaster. So it’s really hard to pinpoint how much life expectancy you have. He lived for almost five years with heart failure. The last few months of his life, so he died on April 7th of 2020, the last few months of his life were really difficult with a defibrillator going off increasingly. It went from monthly to weekly. It was pretty rough. It happened a couple of times when he was out and about. But the last couple months it would happen at home, it always came as a shock, usually I was there and the kids too.
We have two children, so we have, our son Christopher’s 23 now and my daughter Gracie will be 22 tomorrow and they were home and saw a lot of this going on too. But he had a cardiac event and I had to take him to the ER, that time we didn’t call that ambulance. He had me drive him in a little bit later. So after the defibrillator goes off, he would usually pass out for a brief period of time. And then whenever he came to, a lot of times we’d already called the ambulance, but this had been going on weekly. So when he came to, I asked him, “What are you wanting to do?”
And he thought about it a little bit and then he had me take him. And this was during the pandemic. And so if you all can think back to April of 2020, things had just started locking down approximately in March. So when I took him to the hospital that time, they weren’t letting anyone in and there were no visitors. So I dropped him off at the door to the ER. Some nurses or techs came out with a wheelchair and that was the last time I got to speak to him. He prayed with me and the kids at the house before he left.
We were all on good terms but we knew every time he went in that there was no guarantee what was going to happen. So I dropped him off at the hospital that day. They made the decision about, maybe 36 hours later to transfer him to another hospital that was in Charleston, South Carolina where they were going to try another procedure specific, I forgot what it was now. But it was a different heart procedure that they couldn’t do there. And he was very excited about being transferred and the possibility of that procedure.
And it’s funny because we did our first and only Zoom call as a family when he was in the hospital there that morning before he transferred. And I’m so thankful, so thankful that we did that. And so we got to see him and just kind of joked with the kids for about 30 minutes. And then a couple of hours later he was transported to the other hospital. On the way to the hospital he had a cardiac event in the ambulance. And so they went to a closer hospital to get him stabilized. They kept him there overnight. The nurse called me from the ER when he was in there.
He couldn’t really talk because they had him probably on a BiPAP at that point in the ER but I could hear him say a few words behind her. And I just tried to encourage him and told him I was going to call the pastor and I would of course call his mom and update them. So he went to the CCU, I believe that night and his nurse called me, and updated me and said he was stable and that he would be continued on to Charleston in the morning.
And that he was his typical self. Melvin was always happy. The most cheerful person, the most encouraging person you’d ever want to meet. Wanted to make people laugh and feel good. So apparently he’d been joking with his nurses that night, which was typical him. So I talked to them and then updated the kids and his mom and everybody and then went to bed.
And then about two o’clock that morning I got a phone call from the ER, or not the ER doctor, whoever was on call there saying that he’d had another event and that they’d been working on him but they didn’t think he was going to come back from it. And then I got off the phone with him and then the doctor called me again in about 15 minutes just to let me know it was final. And that’s a horrifying experience, just to hear that someone’s gone, even though you knew they were really sick. There’s still no way to really prepare for that moment. It’s thinking about, oh my gosh, I have to go wake my kids up and I have to tell them their dad’s gone.
So just giving myself a few minutes and then thinking about what I’m going to do and what I’m going to tell them but I did it. We made it through. So my kids were older when their dad died. They were 19 and 20 but I don’t know if there’s ever an easy time to lose your dad, if you’re eight or if you’re 58. I don’t know when is a good time to have to hear that news. So that’s how I became a widow. And we were married almost 23 years.
Krista: Did you know, you said you prayed together before you dropped him off at the hospital, did you know that you weren’t going to be able to go in before you went? Was that something that you kind of already knew because of COVID? Or was that news that you discovered at the hospital?
Darlene: Probably the week before he had had an event where he passed out. I believe that time he passed out in the yard. So we had called an ambulance and he had been transported and I found out that visit, and I think they only kept him 48 hours that time. And I knew from that visit that they weren’t allowing visitors. And of course, everybody was keeping up with the news and hearing things.
And then hearing from different pastors and things that were going on in their church and what their congregations were dealing with. So I knew, I knew when I dropped him off that last time that I wasn’t allowed to go in. Of course, I didn’t know that would be the last time that he’d go to the hospital. But yes, I did know when I dropped him that day.
Krista: Yeah. There’s something just so horrific about that period of time and everyone that lost someone during that period of time and did not get to see them. I just have no other word for it besides horrific.
Darlene: Yeah, it was very hard not being able to go see him in the hospital, especially whenever he had an event. And I would have went to that other hospital to see him [crosstalk] and they wouldn’t. But they did tell me I could come because I really wanted to see his body. I wanted to see him when he died. That hospital was a good two and a half hours away from our house. And I was in no shape to drive, no shape to drive. And I asked my kids, I was like, “Do you want to go see your dad?” And they didn’t want to.
And so I just let it go because I was like, you know what, it just, I don’t have to see him, it’ll be okay. They would have allowed us to come and see him then.
Krista: What do you remember about those early days for you, well, I know, I mean it’s different for everyone but what do you remember?
Darlene: I remember walking around my house crying. I remember just that intense sadness and grief, just again, even though I knew that he was sick, just still not being prepared. Still I would be waiting for him to call me saying, “Okay, Darlene, they’re letting me go, come and pick me up.” Waiting for that phone call, waiting for him to come home. Your brain is still expecting all this stuff that it had been used to. So it was just very hard.
And then because we’re in the pandemic and people didn’t know, there weren’t people around us. Also we live nine hours away from family. So it was April and so both the kids were home with me. If you remember, a lot of colleges closed early that semester. They sent the kids home four to six weeks early because of COVID. And so Christopher was home. He normally wouldn’t have been. I was thankful that they had that last about two weeks together that Christopher wouldn’t have had with him.
So I can take my mind, look for things to be thankful for and things that I was happy about. But at the same time, just that disbelief, that widow fog sets in quick and just trying to survive and just sleeping. And then my kids telling me, “Mom, you need to eat something.” I was like, “I don’t even care. I’m not hungry.” But just that intense sadness and not being able to figure stuff out, still not fully believing that I wasn’t fixed to get a phone call or text from him.
Krista: Yeah. How did that experience compare to what you expected it would be? Because most of us come into a grief situation with ideas about what it will be like and then it’s not like that.
Darlene: I don’t think I expected it to hit me quite as hard as it did. I knew I’d be upset that my husband died. And he was my best friend for nearly 50 years. So I knew that. But I had been dealing with anticipatory grief for several years. So whenever he actually died, it was still intense. I think I thought that it would be a little bit easier, although easy may not be the best word. I didn’t expect it to hit quite as hard as it did. I think I was more distraught than I expected. It was still just hard.
I don’t think there’s really an easy way to lose someone. So it was different. It’s so different when you actually lose your spouse and become a widow, even though I had met widows before. I’ve been a pastor’s wife. You deal with a lot of life and death all the time, events at church. So I would think back to, oh my goodness, I bet I said some of the dumbest things, the most unhelpful smug things to other widows. Oh, my goodness, I just didn’t know. I just didn’t know.
So now when people are like, “I can’t imagine.” I’m like, “No, you can’t imagine.” You just honestly can’t imagine until you go through it. There are no words to describe it.
Krista: Yeah. And if I had a nickel for every widow who said, “I regret all the things I said before.” I would have a lot of nickels. It’s a pretty universal experience because you just don’t exactly know what it’s going to be like until it’s there. And I’m so glad that you said that even though you expected because you had had some anticipatory grief that it would be easier, and then it wasn’t. I think that’s really good for people to hear because a lot of times we don’t talk about that out loud.
We just kind of shame ourselves or wonder if there’s something wrong with us because we’re having a more intense grief experience than we thought because for whatever reason we thought we saw it coming or could anticipate it in some way. But just because we could anticipate it, doesn’t make it easier.
Darlene: No, it was still horrific. And then I think from a church and faith standpoint, so many times you hear that he’s in a better place. He’s at peace now, things like that. And I want to be like, “I know he’s in a better place. That doesn’t mean I’m not sad. I still miss him.” It’s not that I don’t know where he is. And I was very thankful that he was no longer in pain and that he was no longer dealing with his defibrillator going off all the time and all these just awful things.
I was thankful for that. I’m still thankful for that, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t sad and that I didn’t miss him and that I didn’t wish he was still here and I didn’t wish that I could have one more conversation, one more hug.
Krista: I think that’s a great example.
Darlene: Those are totally separate things.
Krista: Yeah, I think that’s a great example of what it’s like to live in the and where, yes, you did find comfort in knowing where he was and also that doesn’t take away sadness. Sadness can coexist with gratitude. Yeah. So fast forward for me a little bit or walk me up to the point where you crossed paths with me or the podcast. How did that happen?
Darlene: Okay. So let’s see, he died in April. The first few months are such a blur and so much going on, I started looking for grief resources because I didn’t want to stay where I was. And I needed help moving forward and figuring out what to do. And so the first couple of places I looked, I don’t know, it may have been random Facebook groups or random Google searches about grief. You’d have these poor windows that are like, “My husband’s been dead 15 years, every day is as bad as the first one.”
I was like, “Oh, sweet Lord. No, if this is what I have to look forward to, please kill me now. I can’t live like this for the next 20/30 years if this is really what I have to look forward to.” And those comments are all over the place, all over the place. And it’s sad, and it’s depressing. Now that I’ve come further in my widow journey, I feel for those women and I wish I could help them. But there’s so much just horrible grief stuff out there and people sharing their feelings, which is great.
But I was like, “There’s got to be something else out there than just these horrible, sad things.” I had recently started listening to podcasts that year. So I was like, “Maybe there is a podcast for widows.” I think I just put the word ‘widow’ in the search bar and one came up, it wasn’t you. It was someone else who had a podcast. And so I listened to a couple of hers and they were really good. I was still sad and I would cry during some of them because some of the stuff she said, it’s not all the roses and lollipops and things that you want to hear. But it was sweet and it was kind and it was still encouraging.
So I looked her name up and looked at her certification because I’m like, “Well, what makes them think they can tell somebody anything about grief or being a widow?” Although she was a widow. So then that led me down a path to look at her certification. And when I went to The Life Coach school, I saw you come up as a coach. And then I think you had an email newsletter that I could sign up for and maybe your podcast had just started, something like that. So that’s how I found The Widowed Mom Podcast.
So I started listening to your podcast. I thought it was great. And I started getting your emails. And I was like, “Yes, this is good. This is the kind of hope and encouragement and okay, there is going to be a way to move forward.” And my brain can’t wrap around it. I couldn’t see it then, there’s no way. But at least it’s something positive, loving and encouraging that you can hear while you try to figure out what you’re doing. So that’s how I found the podcast.
Krista: I love it. I’m so glad we live in a world where information is so readily accessible and there are things like podcasts out there. Because a podcast changed my life, then it changed yours and this podcast that we’re doing right now is going to change other people’s lives. I was thinking as you were talking and you said, “I wish I could help those widows who are so sad.” And I was just thinking, you know what, you are. Just by being here and sharing your story that is helping.
The people who need to hear it, they’re going to hear it. So what made you decide that you wanted to join Mom Goes On? And I know you’ve told me about some reservations that you have and I’d love to hear about those too.
Darlene: So I found out about your coaching program, again that may have come from some of your emails because you had newsletters you could sign up for. And I was like, “Wow, that might be something that would really help me.” But then it was really scary because I’d never done anything like that before. And I knew a little bit about coaching. I’d heard of life coaches. My husband actually did a little bit of that with his counseling that he did so much. So I knew a little bit about it, but I’d certainly never signed up for coaching or anything like that.
So I think I just responded to the email that I might be interested. At that time you were doing phone calls with people for intake. So I was like, “Well, I can talk to her and I can find out more about it and then I can decide.” So we did that initial phone conversation and I thought it was great. And that’s also where I found out how much the coaching program cost. And I was like, “Oh my goodness, that’s a lot of money.” And so that was one big red flag for me, was how much it costs because it is an investment and for something completely unknown to me to invest in.
And then the second thing was my faith is so important to me and my Christian walk in being careful of the things I do and say and listen to and read and the things that I allow to speak into my life. I was like, “Well, this may just be some crazy new age anti God crazy stuff.” So that’s what I was thinking. And so I thought about it and I prayed about it. And I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to do it, and I’m going to have my guard up at all times and be ready.”
Because you also offered, I think a money back guarantee and [crosstalk] want to, I can get out of the program and I’ll just figure it out. But I was scared half to death when I signed up for it because it was such a big leap for both of those two reasons. So, I came into it and everything was great. The workbooks are wonderful and the Slack channels and the coaching and everything’s good. But I was ready, if it was going to be something that went against my faith values, I was like, “I cannot be part of that.” So those were my big reservations starting.
Krista: At what point did you, relax maybe is the right word or kind of realize that no, this actually doesn’t go against anything that I want for myself or believe?
Darlene: I don’t think it took very long, maybe a few weeks. I started in December, which was a crazy month with the holidays and everything. So I wasn’t intensely as much in the workbooks as I wanted to be. But it took a couple of weeks and then I would read stuff or I would be listening to a coaching call. And you would say something and I was like, “Well, that kind of sounds like this scripture over here in the New Testament is the exact same thing Krista just said, but she’s not quoting scripture.” But that thought process is exactly what I’d read in the Bible.
So that happened a lot for me, where there would be something in coaching that came up. And I was like, “Well, that just ties in with this scripture over here.” And so I think after probably a couple weeks of that, I really relaxed. And I also reminded myself that I knew who I was outside of the coaching program. I know my faith defines everything about me. So I wasn’t worried about all of a sudden becoming anti God or something. I was just more worried about negativity towards my beliefs.
And I never found that, I never found that. The principles and the things that you talk about, a lot of them were just, I was like, “Well, I’ve got a scripture that says the same thing, they’re not contrary.” And then if I did hear something on a coaching call or someone else said, “Well, obviously we have completely different faiths or completely different values.” I’m just like, “Whatever, we’re all different, it’s okay, we’re still getting value in this coaching program.”
Krista: Yeah, I love that. That’s really important to me. I’ve always wanted to create a space where everyone feels welcome and where everyone is encouraged and allowed to have their own values and express those values. And sometimes I don’t think people like that because they want to be told what to do in a way that aligns with what they already believe. And that’s not what I want to do for people. I want somebody to be able to come in and say, “Here’s what’s important to me. Here’s what I believe. Here’s what I value.”
And then I can say, “Okay, what’s in the way? What’s in the way of you getting to create what it is that you want next in the next chapter of life based on what’s important to you?” Knowing full well that that might not be what is important to me. And that might not be what’s important to five other people on the call, I don’t know. But can we create a space where we can all be open and honest and we can all get the coaching that we need and we all love one another. And it’s not driving a particular belief set. It’s just helpful.
And so I’m really glad that you had that experience, because sometimes I think people don’t join because they’re worried it will be religious or don’t join because they’re worried it won’t be. When really it’s just something I hope people don’t have to worry about at all. So, okay, tell me about some of the major shifts that you’ve noticed in yourself since, so it was early December, I guess when you started. So that would have been, I’m doing the math here, April to December is when you joined. So what’s happened since? What are some of the things that you’ve noticed? What’s different about life?
Darlene: Well, just it’s so hard to pinpoint what’s the biggest things from coaching. I would think one of the biggest things for me is learning to put down my manuals for other people and things. I see everything. I’m a very black and white, tend to be blunt type of person. And I like my manuals. And like you were talking about, people want you to tell them how to do it. I would have loved it if you had a how to book that said how to get through the first year of grief and everything be awesome after.
I would have probably done it, yes, I just need a guidebook. I just need some rules because I like rules and regulations and everything is crystal clear. But that’s not how it works. So I learned a lot about putting down my manuals and my expectations from other people. I think that’s been one of the biggest things I took away from coaching that’s helped me not just with grief, but just in day-to-day life. Also, about your feelings coming from your thoughts and about choosing your thoughts on purpose. That has been amazing and I remind myself of that a lot.
I do a lot of self-coaching now, but then some days I don’t have to remind myself quite as much because it’s become my habit in just who I am. So that’s been a big shift. And when I first started, and you talk about have a life you can love again. And I’m thinking to myself, I don’t even care if I love life. I just wish I wouldn’t wake up every morning, wishing I could crawl in a hole and die because that’s what I felt for a couple months. And I didn’t tell everybody that. But I had a couple of close friends who were like, “Darlene, how are you doing?” And I’d say, “I wish I could crawl in a hole and die, that’s how I’m doing.”
So I’m like, “If I can just get one notch above that, I’ll be happy.” Forget loving and all these amazing life things. Just get me past that point. And that point were so many widows on the internet apparently still are after 5, 10, 15 years. So it was hard to wrap my mind around being able to love life again, even being able to imagine that at that point in grief, I couldn’t see it.
Krista: Where do you feel like you are now with it?
Darlene: I think I’m still growing in that area, but I definitely have a life that I love. I don’t want to crawl in a hole and die anymore for sure. I’ve definitely moved forward and able to embrace life and also give myself a lot of grace because there’s still a lot of things I don’t have figured out. There’s things I wish I had figured out, and I really thought I would have figured out this many years after grief and I just don’t.
And so just learning to be like, “Well, that’s okay, I’m just going to make another choice and make a decision and keep moving forward and just have confidence in myself and have faith in God that I’m listening and I’m moving forward. And that’s what is important, that I am moving forward.
Krista: Yeah. And I think that it isn’t useful if we look at loving life again as some sort of destination that we reach because it’s not how I’ve experienced it. It is a constant thing that we are doing. That opportunity is never going to go away and we’re always going to continue to be presented with new challenges, many of which at this point we can’t even see coming. So it’s an opportunity that we have in the moment to figure out, how can I love what is? How can I be more of who I want to be? How can I live in a way that is more of what I value? But it doesn’t ever end.
Darlene: No, it doesn’t. I still remind myself that I’m choosing and that I made this choice because I still have grief bombs and grief days, nothing like before but still. And I would just remind myself, not so much now, but even maybe a year ago, no, Darlene, remember, you’re choosing to do this. You said you wanted to be in coaching and you wanted to work on this, and that’s okay but remember, you chose this. Or if I [inaudible] whenever I decided to start dating and things were [inaudible], I’d be sad.
I’d be like, “Well, remember you chose to do this. You said you wanted to move forward and this is what you wanted to do so just remember that. And you can make a new choice or you can choose to keep doing hard things this way.”
Krista: Yeah. And look at you. It’s super fun for me to sit back and watch the whole trajectory of it. I didn’t get the internal experience that you had where those moments of wanting to crawl in a hole happened. But all the coaching conversations we have had over the time that you spent in the program and then in master’s, you seem in a pretty different place to me.
I remember times where it didn’t seem like you could imagine that you could do the things that you are currently doing. And that’s so normal, where we don’t have the vision exactly for what we want or what that could look like or how it could be possible. But you just keep going and you just keep leaning into the belief that it could be possible and then you make it so, which you did.
Darlene: Yeah, leaning into that discomfort. There’s so much discomfort, so much discomfort and just allowing it and leaning into it and choosing to keep doing those uncomfortable things.
Krista: And you did a lot of that in the program too, and I hope you applaud yourself for that. And by that I mean you regularly got coached. Sometimes people come into the program and I don’t even really get a chance to know them because they don’t show up on calls and they don’t tell me what’s going on for them. And you were always willing to be coached.
You always had something on your mind that you were willing to talk about, which of course not only benefited you, but it also benefited everybody else in the program because they got to watch your journey and learn from it. And so I applaud you for that. I hope you applaud yourself for that.
Darlene: I appreciate that. We are going into a coaching program, but especially for group coaching, thinking, what do you mean, I’m going to be in a group with a bunch of other people listening to me talk about my feelings or these are strangers. And it was very weird for me going into that. But yeah, once you get on a call and you see, you’re like, “It’s okay, it’s comfortable and everyone’s loving.” And I never would have believed before how much value there was in listening to someone else get coached.
You would have thought, I’m only on the calls that Krista coaches me. That’s where the growth is going to happen. I don’t think that’s where the most growth happens. Usually for me, it would be food for thought and then I would probably forget half of what you said to me when you’re coaching me. But then it would be on the calls with other people where it would be reinforced. And I would sit back and be like, “I’m dealing with the exact same thing, let’s see what Krista says about this.”
So it was nice to still have that growth even when I wasn’t the one being coached. And then just nice knowing I’m not the only weirdo in the group, pretty much all of us have the same thoughts and feelings. And that’s not as crazy as I thought it was because every other widow in the world, it seems, had the same thoughts about things.
Krista: I love that you’re saying all of these things because people will believe you, and sometimes they don’t believe me. And it is just true. There is something about the way the brain works when we’re being coached. It’s kind of hard to receive it sometimes. And when you’re not the one in the spotlight and you’re watching other people get coached, your brain is not so defensive. And you can hear it differently and it lands differently and you see yourself reflected back to you in other people’s struggles.
And it’s just really validating and normalizing, but not in a depressive way, in a hopeful way so I love that. Suzanne was having a conversation with someone pretty recently who was really hesitant about group coaching because in her mind it was going to be, talk about your problems to a group of people, and then everyone in that group is going to tell you what they think you should do. But I kind of get it because if that’s what you expect coaching is going to be like in a group. Not many people are on board for that.
We have already got people in our lives telling us how to live them. You don’t need any more of that.
Darlene: Yeah, we’ve got plenty of other people’s opinions and one of the nice things about coaching, although I still wish there was a rule book you could have given us. But on the other hand, the good thing about coaching is that you never told us what to do. We would talk about things and we would maybe do a thought model and you would ask us what we wanted or how that made us feel. But you never said, “Darlene, this is what you need to do.”
You always bring it back to us and what we want for our lives and how we see moving forward and that was wonderful. But again, at the beginning, it’s hard to see that because it’s like, oh, please, just someone tell me what to do.
Krista: Yeah. And I totally get that and I feel that sometimes. And also I’m not the authority. It’s not me. It’s not me and I don’t ever want to be that for somebody. So I’m glad I didn’t tell you what to do and I’m glad you still figured out what was best for you to do. If you could go back, so I’m thinking of the women who are listening, and maybe they’re in early grief, if you could go back and you could talk to that early version, Darlene. What kinds of things do you think you would tell her based on what you know now?
Darlene: I would probably try to talk a lot nicer to her than I did at first. And I would remind her that she’s loved and that people care and that there’s hope. And to just keep trusting and praying and making tiny, tiny, tiny baby step choices and moving forward and it’s going to be okay. And even though you can’t see how it’s going to be okay, just trust that it’s going to be okay and that you’ll figure it out.
Krista: I love that. Is there anything you wanted to talk about that we didn’t talk about?
Darlene: Did you want to jump into dating or remarriage?
Krista: Yes, totally. Totally forgot. Yes. I feel like we covered all of that before we hit record. We should let the other people in on it, yes.
Darlene: Yeah. So do you just want me to tell you how I started?
Krista: Yeah, the whole thing would be great or whatever you feel comfortable with.
Darlene: Okay. So, in the program sometimes, especially with some of the widows who are a little bit further down the road you’d hear them mention dating. And occasionally it would be brought to a coaching call. And it’s always fascinating. It’s the thing where you want to get some popcorn and just sit back and listen to the story and how it’s going to unfold because you never knew what you were going to hear. So it was fascinating. So I would think at first, I’m like, “Well, good for them but that’s not, I mean I’m only eight/nine months in, we’ll just see.”
But I did know that I wanted to hopefully find love again and be in a relationship again. I wasn’t even 50 when my husband died, so considered a young widow in my 40s. We had also talked, me and Melvin about, he knew what his prognosis was outside of a miracle, he knew. He had talked, we had talked together about me hopefully one day moving forward and me finding love again and remarrying one day. So it was always in the back of my mind that I hoped that that would happen but I wasn’t going to force it.
I wasn’t desperate for it, and I’d figure it out when the time was right. So since Melvin died during the pandemic, that was April 2020, back then you weren’t allowed to have big funerals and things. So we had a graveside service where we were allowed 10 people. So we had 10 people at the graveside. But like I said earlier, we were both from a small community in Alabama so the community came out. They had lined the sides of the roads as we were driving. They were behind the fence at the cemetery. So they were there and they were present, but it still wasn’t a funeral.
Also, we were naive in April 2020 as to how long this was going to last. And so I talked about, well, by the end of the summer, we’ll have a real funeral. Well, of course that didn’t happen because there’s still just ongoing COVID and different lockdowns and restrictions. But I still knew that I wanted to have an actual funeral for him. We did do a televised or a Facebook Live service in South Carolina that fall, shortly before I moved. But it wasn’t the same as a funeral back home, so that just kept on the back burner.
But in my mind it was always unfinished business until I had that complete for him. And we finally had his funeral in June of 22, so over two years later, where we had that service back home. And it was like an immediate peace when I finally did that. No one had told me I had to do this funeral, I wasn’t making myself do it. I wanted to do it. But it was amazing just the relief I found after we had that service. And it’s like, okay, I’m done. I can make that next step forward. I’ve done what I wanted to do.
So it was probably in July of 22 that I was like, “I think I’m ready to try dating.” So I had a lot to learn about dating because it had changed a lot in the last 30 years. So I hadn’t been on a date in 25 years and I was scared to death. And I had certainly never used a dating app before. So all the crazy stuff you hear about. But then I did meet someone on an app and had my first date and I made myself physically sick that day leading up to it. I was scared half to death, scared half to death.
Ended up having a wonderful date, a really nice man, weren’t a good fit but it was a really good experience. I was proud of myself for getting through it, sickness and all. So then I continued on the app some and then I would have frustration with, why doesn’t anyone just come up and say, “Hey, what’s your number?” All these little, I guess, high school type things from 30 years ago. I guess no one meets that way anymore.
So I met a couple of nice men on the dates, had some nice times. I was pretty blunt about my faith on the app and who I am as a Christian. And I also learned a lot of people define Christian differently than I do. So yeah, learned some lessons that way.
Krista: Were you pretty outspoken on the apps about being a widow as well or did you not show that?
Darlene: I was when I first made my profile. So the first app I tried was Bumble and when I made my profile I did not mention I was a widow because I was still just very protective of that part of my life and that season of my life. And I had heard pros and cons either way of if you should say you’re a widow or you’re not. So I initially did not put that, but it would come up pretty quick, chatting in the app or something like that. So I didn’t really try to keep it a secret, I just wasn’t bold with it.
But then I think maybe after a few weeks I changed my profile and put that I was a widow. And I still probably couldn’t say which is better to do. That’s just what I decided to do. So I got really frustrated with Bumble and the quality of men I was meeting. And so then I tried another app that was actually recommended by another widow in our group, our sweet Belinda.
Krista: Belinda, we love you, Belinda, we miss you.
Darlene: So I was like, “Well, I guess I’ll try it.” And that’s where I met Steve. So Steve was living two and a half hours away from me in Murfreesboro. I’m in Chattanooga now. So I moved from South Carolina to Chattanooga in November of 2020 to be close to some of my family that lives here. And he was in Murfreesboro. He is a widower. So it’s kind of neat that we have that in common. We also share the same faith values and our faith is very important to us. So we cliqued pretty good from the beginning just on the app.
But then I had to do a lot of thought work too with reminding myself that he’s a widow and he’s grieving too. It’s just different, some of the things that you deal with, but then it’s great because we can talk about grief. We can mention our late spouses, it’s no big deal. We’re not threatened by them. We understand if someone has a grief bomb or just wow, I don’t know why that hit me that way and that was just kind of out of the blue. It’s really nice that we can share that and we get it, all the weird grief things, he gets them too.
Krista: I love it.
Darlene: So I met him. Our first date was in September. We met on the app in August. Our first date was in September. He would drive two and a half hours each way for every one of our dates and we dated a lot.
Krista: That’s commitment right there.
Darlene: Commitment. And then we went exclusive in November of that year because when we first started I was dating other men still because I wasn’t ready or desperate to settle down. I was like, “Well, I’m just, I’m taking notes. I’m curious about what’s out there. I’m in no rush.” And I had very specific things that I wanted and expected from a man. And I was like, “I’m not going to settle.” And the number one thing for me was my faith and our shared Christian values.
And after being on the apps a very short time I was like, “Lord, I don’t know how this is going to happen. I don’t think it’s going to happen with an app but I’m open to meeting people in real life, I’m open.” So yeah, it was kind of amazing that we found each other through an app. So we went exclusive at the end of November that year. And then he decided to move to Chattanooga and he moved here in May of 23. Then we got engaged in August of 23. Then we just got married on October 28th of this year.
So I went from being just a widow to now I’m a newlywed again and trying to figure out all the newlywed stuff. And still trying to get everything at my house packed up and moved into the apartment that we’re sharing. So it’s been a whirlwind.
Krista: I love what you mentioned too before about how, you said you kind of thought you might feel differently on your wedding day than you actually did. Can you talk about that?
Darlene: Yeah, I did. I was, that whole last week leading up to the wedding, I was so excited and Steve was so excited. The closer I got, the day of, I was just practically giddy with just excitement. So excited to be getting married and so excited about Steve and I together and our life and possibilities. I did not expect that level of excitement and girly giddiness from a 51 year old woman getting married again after being a widow.
I don’t know what I expected. I mean I expected I would be happy, but just that level of that excitement and that giddiness I really take it as a gift, just such a gift to see that it’s still possible [crosstalk] to make those choices and be excited about love and about life.
Krista: Yeah, it so is possible. I wonder if I had known, if I could have, in the early days of coaching, if I could have said, “Okay, Darlene, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to do all this work on yourself and you’re going to get yourself to a place where you’re okay without being in a relationship and you’re going to date and you’re going to find someone on October 28th, 2023. You’re going to be giddy.” I wonder if you would have believed it. It seems like a huge progression.
Darlene: Yes, I would have thought you were crazy and it’s just a little bit crazy. That sounds good, but I don’t really think that’s going to happen. If I can just get one notch above hopeless in sadness, I’ll be good. I can stay at that level, it’s okay. It doesn’t have to be amazing, just better. So no, I wouldn’t have believed it if you told me back then. That would have been hard to believe.
Krista: Really fun to watch. And here’s what I don’t want people to hear, I don’t want people to hear that coaching makes you not human and you don’t have problems anymore. You still have the ups and downs of being a human on this planet. There are still many challenges yet to come, and also we don’t have to settle for one notch above. Yes, let’s get there. Let’s start there. And also I don’t care what the resources that people ultimately end up using, what I care about is that women don’t settle for a subpar life that is less than what they want because their spouse died.
Darlene: Not settling for the status quo and just barely surviving. You can thrive and it’s going to be hard. The work is so hard. Just that mental work that a lot of people have done a lot of it because they’ve been in therapy or in stuff before, but that mental work is not easy. And you have to choose to do it. And there were times I reminded myself, but Darlene, you said you wanted to move forward. You said you wanted to work on this. And just these little reminders to myself about, I’m choosing and I’m figuring it out.
But yeah, I’m glad that I didn’t just settle for barely surviving and think that that was good enough. And like you said, there’s still a lot of hard days. I still have grief bombs. There are times I still cry about Melvin and I really miss him. And I think before coaching I would have thought, oh, my goodness, there’s something wrong with me. He’s been gone almost four years. I should be better. I should be above this and beyond it.
But learning how to hold space that you can be really sad and super excited about the future at the same time and it doesn’t mean anything about you. That’s something I didn’t understand before. And so now it’s funny and me and Steve talk about it too. We’re really excited, but we’re still kind of sad about this and that’s okay and they just all work together.
Krista: Yeah, it’s not either or, it’s and. Yeah, I love that. Thank you so much for being part of my life and for being on the podcast and sharing your story. I feel all teary but really a joy to watch.
Darlene: Aww, thank you Krista. I’m so thankful for you and thankful that you established your program, that you made changes in your life to move forward. And made a big pivot as to what you wanted to do moving forward so that you could help other widows. And that’s been such a blessing to me, such a godsend. I’m so thankful to you. I’m thankful for the tools that you’ve given me, the things I’ve learned from you, the things I’ve learned about myself. Just I thank you for lighting that candle of hope and shining it forward for other widows. I’m very thankful.
Krista: Thank you. I receive that and I tell you that I get just as much out of it as the women I get to work with, I am convinced of that, in fact probably more. So thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
Darlene: You’re welcome. I love you.
Krista: Okay, alright, we’ll talk soon.
Darlene: Okay, bye.
If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about even 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 what you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click Work With Me for details and next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.