Ep #259: Introducing Grief Essentials and Your New Widow Questions Answered

The Widowed Mom Podcast Krista St-Germain | Introducing Grief Essentials and Your New Widow Questions Answered

Early acute grief often brings with it a sense of chaos and so many questions about what’s normal or what to expect.

This time tends to feel like a roller-coaster for new widows because what they’re really looking for is reassurance, and I believe having accurate information and tools makes it easier. 

That’s why, this week, I’m sharing my answers to five of the most common new widow questions, and introducing you to Grief Essentials: my new pilot program for those of you navigating early grief. 

Listen to the Full Episode:

If you’re in early grief and want to feel supported, confident, and optimistic about the future, Grief Essentials is for you. This pilot program is starting soon and you’ll be getting a better deal than ever with reduced pricing. Click here to find out more. 

 

It’s been long on my mind to make Mom Goes On more inclusive and accessible. That’s why I’m introducing a scholarship program aimed at encouraging diversity within our community. If you identify as a widow and feel marginalized or underrepresented, we know it can make loving life after loss more complicated. To find out more, apply for Mom Goes On, then email us here for more information on the scholarship program! 

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • 5 of the most common new widow questions answered.
  • What you need most in early grief.
  • The power of building the muscle of asking for help.

 

Featured on the Show:

 

Full Episode Transcript:


Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 259, Introducing Grief Essentials and Your New Widow Questions Answered.

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 and welcome to another episode of the podcast. So I am recording this today. It’s not going to be on YouTube. I have a super fun stye on my eye, because why not. So I’m not on camera today. It’s just going to be no video for this episode but it’s still going to be really powerful. I’m going to answer some of the most common new widow questions. And I have an exciting announcement about a new program called Grief Essentials, which I will tell you all about.

Also I will say, bear with me if I make mistakes on this one. I’m a little time crunched because not too long from now we are going to have maybe some exciting and dicey weather here in the good old state of Kansas. A level five tornado risk which we haven’t had in six years, five years, something like that and potentially golf ball sized hail. So it will have already happened if it happened by the time this episode airs, but spring is always exciting in Kansas.

Okay, let’s talk about some of the most common questions that I have gotten from new widows, you might have them too. I’m going to read them, answer them. And also I want to tell you about Grief Essentials, which is a new program that I am creating specifically for new widows. So let’s get into it. Here are the five questions.

This one says, “I feel like I’m on an emotional roller-coaster since my husband passed away. How can I find some stability during this turbulent time? Is there a way to manage these overwhelming feelings?” And yes, emotional roller-coaster, that is what it’s like. And I want to normalize that, because sometimes it’s so much more intense or different than we expected it to be. Sometimes we expect it to be really intense only in the very early days but are caught off guard by the little moments that we weren’t expecting intense emotion to show up or caught off guard by the grief grenades, maybe.

And so much of what’s happening in our body is impacted by the loss, that it really is a full body experience. Our hormones are off. We’re not sleeping very well. We’re not processing the way that we were before. Our brain is literally impacted in many ways. Also, sometimes we’re not eating and drinking and moving the way that we were before. And so it’s not just the physical impacts of grief, it’s also how we’re treating ourselves and how that might be different than how we were treating our bodies before the loss.

So I just want to say first of all, that that’s completely normal for it to feel like an emotional roller-coaster. And this is not the time, which is why in Grief Essentials we’re not going to be doing a lot of thought work. This is not the time for thinking in depth about our thinking. It’s too much. It’s too soon. It’s not what we need. What we need in early grief is, how do I create some safety in my body? How do I even just start to develop the capacity to allow myself to feel what is scary but needs to be felt, how do I dip a toe in that? That’s what we’re going to be teaching.

But to answer this question and so that there is value for you in this episode, not just if you join Grief Essentials, but we want to be looking for ways to allow ourselves to feel. So there are many ways that we can do that. Tapping, emotional freedom technique is one of my favorites. You can begin experimenting with the NOW process that I teach in the episode of The Widowed Mom Podcast called How to Feel Better Now. I think it’s episode three.

There are a lot of other somatic techniques we can use, but that’s where I would start. In Grief Essentials, we’re going to work on tapping. I want to make sure that everybody has that tool because most of us were not taught how to allow our feelings.

Most of us were taught how to avoid our feelings, how to try to get away from them, how to react to them. We were taught how to see them as problems to solve but we weren’t really taught coping skills about how to allow them to flow through. And that’s what we have to get comfortable doing. So totally normal, absolutely common and we just gradually ease our way into being able to stay in our body as a feeling flows through because it does flow through.

Question number two. “Some days it hits me all over again that he’s really gone, I’m relearning his death every morning. How can I cope with this recurring shock? Thanks for any advice.” This is what it feels like. And often I hear new widows describe it as, intellectually I know they died, it’s like it hasn’t sunk in. And maybe that’s what you’re experiencing.

In terms of what’s happening in our brain, I am an absolute fan of Mary Francis O’Connor’s book called The Grieving Brain. She was also on an episode of the podcast if you want to look for that one and listen to our interview together. But she explains it so well, which is that in terms of what’s happening in our brain, there’s a process of relearning that needs to happen. Because our brain had encoded the importance of our person. It could, with relative certainty, predict at any given time where our person was, when we would see them again.

It had enough exposures to the patterns of our person being there that it could predict that we would see them again and when. But then when they die, our brain is still predicting that we will see them as though they didn’t. And this is why we can go to bed knowing they died and wake up looking for them. Or in the middle of the night, roll over and expect that they’re going to be there or have a moment that we want to share and pick up our phone and start to text them and think that we’re crazy, and we’re not.

This is just indicative of the brain having not yet relearned the new reality so that it can update its predictions and adjust. And while time does not heal by itself, we do need time to pass so that the brain can have enough exposures to the new reality where they’re really gone so that it stops predicting that they should be there when intellectually we know that they aren’t. So we don’t really do anything to change this other than we normalize it as a common part of grief.

And we remind ourselves that it is not a sign that we aren’t doing grief well. It is not a sign that something is wrong with us. It is not a sign that we are in denial. You know how I feel about the five stages. We just normalize it. So dealing with it is to say, “Oh yes, this is the part where my brain hasn’t yet learned the new reality.” And keeps making predictions based off of the old information but nothing is wrong with me, this is just what brains do in grief. Okay, I hope that helps.

Okay, a question about widow fog. “I’ve heard about widow fog, and I think I’m experiencing it. What exactly is it? And do you have any strategies for managing it? I feel like I can’t focus on anything.” Yes, yes and yes, to varying degrees for each person of course. Some women don’t notice widow fog at all. Some notice it extensively. Again, a normal part of grief. Your whole system is off. Hormonally, things are amok. Again, we’re not sleeping well.

Everything is just kind of chaos in there. And so when you think about the part of your brain that does the highest level of processing, the executive functioning part of your brain, it already has a very limited bandwidth. Its job is not to retain information. Its job is just to process. It already has a very limited bandwidth and then we go messing with it in grief and we are taxing it well beyond, very often, what it is designed to do. And so it is like the spinning little wheel that you get when your computer is struggling. It’s exactly what it feels like in our brain.

And it might be difficult to read something and then remember it, which is really frustrating if you like to read. It’s noticing that the things that used to come automatically almost to you, like paying your bills or remembering people’s birthdays, things like that just suddenly start slipping through the cracks. You might even find yourself doing things that just seem silly to you, that are laughable. I can’t even tell you how many times I couldn’t find my keys or just whatever it is that I was looking for, I couldn’t find it or put things in weird places that didn’t make sense to me.

And I don’t have a great memory anyways, let’s be honest but even worse than normal, would go to the store and absolutely buy something that I just bought yesterday, things like that. That’s normal. That’s widow fog. And again, there really isn’t much that we can do to solve for it, but we can normalize it. We can be kind to ourselves as it does what it does. It will pass. I won’t say that it’s linear either. Sometimes it kind of flares back up again and sometimes around deathaversaries can be a little more intense.

And again, it’s different for every person. I don’t want to make generalizations, but for the most part I have not met, well, I don’t think I’ve ever met a widow who says, “It never went away.” Most people experience some alleviation there. So can we put in place some systems and strategies to help make sure that the important things don’t fall through the cracks? And can’t we be kind to ourselves when silly things happen? Can we give ourselves more space when it comes to high level thinking? Can we maybe limit the amount of big things we try to do at a time?

Instead of expecting ourselves to perform at pre grief levels, can we give ourselves a break and remind ourselves that, hey, in grief sometimes widow fog happens? And that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or that you’re doing anything wrong. But we do want to adjust our expectations of ourselves, make sure that we’re talking kindly to ourselves. If we need systems and strategies, we’re coming up with those. And anything we can do to take good care of ourselves in terms of, do I have a good sleep routine? Am I actually drinking enough water? Am I eating?

I remember in early grief, my family just buying me smoothies because they were worried that I wasn’t eating. Adjust, I was just not a smoothie person prior to that but I can drink that. So how do we take good care of ourselves? Can I get out and go for a walk and get some vitamin D? Can I get nature? Those kinds of things. So those are some things you can do. Remind yourself it’s temporary. Be very kind to yourself. Laugh it off when you can. It’s not going to last forever.

Okay, this question reads, “I know I need support, but I find it so hard to ask for help. I don’t want to bother anyone and I don’t want to be a burden. How can I get over this feeling and actually reach out?” Yes. And some people don’t have this concern at all. But for those that do, I want to remind you that the people who love you actually feel pretty powerless. They’re watching you go through this and they don’t like it and they don’t know. They know they can’t fix it, but they don’t know what to do about it.

And so it can be really easy to think that when other people help, it’s just for us. But I want to offer that it’s actually for them too. So when you give people the chance to help you, it actually feels good to them. When you don’t ask for help and people are telling you that they want to help, you’re robbing them of something that actually would feel good to them. It’s not just about you, it’s about them too. And we’ve got to stop measuring ourselves by our ability to get things done. We’ve just got to stop that.

Being able to do it all does not make you more valuable. Asking for help does not make you less valuable. Your value is fully intact. It has nothing to do with how productive you are or are not. And I realize that most of us were socially conditioned to believe that it does have something to do with our value. And we do tend to measure how well we’re doing based off of how much we got done or how little we asked for help. That is a philosophy that keeps us in constant productivity. That is a philosophy that burns us out. That is a philosophy that keeps us away from community and support.

That is a philosophy that encourages isolation and one upmanship, in my opinion. And listen, I used to be in that camp, so I have been there. If I’m just doing it, I want people to think I’m doing okay, so I’ll just keep doing the things. Which also I later realized was kind of my way of proving to myself that I was doing okay. I didn’t really fully believe I was doing okay. And so it seemed like it was about making sure that other people didn’t worry about me. Making sure that I still had a job to come back to so that they wouldn’t worry about me, but a lot of it was me worrying about me.

And so if you’re worrying about you, I get it and also don’t measure yourself based on how much you’re getting done. Don’t measure yourself based on how independent you are, how little you ask for help. Consider letting yourself ask for help. In Grief Essentials we’re going to actually develop plans for this for those of you who are struggling with it. And we’re going to talk all about the other barriers that get in our way because there are more so that we can accept help, so that we can ask for it if we need it.

And you know what’s really awesome about developing that muscle of asking for help? Is that it’s not something that’s going to serve you only now. It will serve you now. But it’s going to be a skill, a muscle that actually helps you for the rest of your whole life. And I don’t just mean by taking things off of your plate. I don’t just mean that. I mean by offering you another way to make deeper and more meaningful connections with humans that matter to you.

And sometimes to realize that some of the humans who you maybe have been doing a lot for maybe don’t intend to reciprocate. And sometimes that can mean letting some of those relationships come to a close which, while painful, can then open space for new relationships that maybe you haven’t even had the space for yet. One of the opportunities in grief, and I use that phrase sparingly because it’s a little cliché and I kind of want to gag when I say it sometimes.

But there really are opportunities and grief in that you have been through something that if you let it, can be a way of assessing and realigning with what matters to you. So that your life going forward is even more aligned with what you value than it ever has been before. And that is not a commentary, that is not a criticism of anything in the prior chapter of your life. That is not to say you didn’t love your life. That is not to say you wouldn’t take it back in a heartbeat.

But it is to say that most of us get to a place where, without intending, we are kind of operating on autopilot. We’re going through the motions of adulting. We’re doing the things that adults do day after day. And sometimes we’re falling into or have fallen into patterns in relationships where maybe the people that we’re in relationship with really aren’t the people we would choose if we could start over. And I don’t necessarily mean that in terms of your spouse, although that could be true and is for some.

What I really mean is that in terms of your circle, your support group, your people, the people you’re spending time with. Some of those people might be people that if you could just start over and start fresh you might not choose them. And that’s not, it’s not to say that you don’t love them, but maybe you just don’t align anymore. Maybe you’ve grown in places they haven’t. Maybe you now value things that they don’t. Maybe they value things that you don’t. It’s reciprocal sometimes.

But let this be a chance if you want it, to reassess, to redecide what is important to me? Who do I want to spend time with? What relationships are lifting me up? What relationships are dragging me down? Who is giving me energy? Who is sucking my energy? Who only is there for me when I reach out to them? And listen again, you get to decide who you want to be in a relationship with. And maybe those people will stay exactly the same but for many widows, they don’t.

For many widows, we realize, actually this isn’t the relationship I want to be in anymore, this particular friendship, perhaps this particular family member. We aren’t aligned anymore. And asking for help can be one way that you start to see those opportunities.

Okay, last question. “I’ve read that sometimes the second year of grief can be harder than the first. I’m terrified of what’s ahead. How can I prepare myself for what’s next? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.” Okay, so let’s stop telling ourselves that any year is worse than the other. There are nasty rumors floating around that say the second year is worse, the first year is worse. And I don’t really think that’s particularly helpful.

Here’s what I have seen. If we go through the first year thinking that time will heal and all we have to do is stay busy and just focus on the kids, focus on the job, stay busy. How many times was I told that, stay busy, the first year is the worst? Then it makes sense that the second year can be worse than the first because we didn’t give any attention in the first year to the things that would make the second year easier. We didn’t actually learn how to support ourselves when we’re on the roller-coaster. We didn’t learn to feel our feelings. We didn’t learn healthy coping tools.

We just distracted ourselves. We didn’t deal with whatever it is for us and our loss that needs to be dealt with. Did we figure out who we are again? Did we figure out what our purpose is again? Did we figure out how to take good care of ourselves? Was our inner critic raging the whole time? Did we figure that out? There’s so many opportunities, and they might vary from one of us to the next.

But if all we do is buckle down, hang on, you can visually see the white knuckles. I’m just going to grip, hang on, first year, as soon as I get past the first deathaversary, surely that will be the worst part. Well, not necessarily, not if you grip your whole way through it. So it is not a problem to grip. It is a problem when all we do is grip. It is not a problem to avoid. It is a problem when all we do is avoid.

In Grief Essentials we’ll be talking about different ways to use the dual process model which is, how do I let myself look at the grief? How do I do the things that are related to the grief and also find a healthy balance in oscillating back and forth between the activities where I’m not looking at grief, the restoration activities? Because that’s really what we’re striving for is the balance, we want to go back. And it’s not even a balance really. I don’t want to say balance. I really want to say oscillation.

It is, I can look at it and think about it and deal with it and then I can take a break from it. And then I can come back and look at it and think about it and deal with it and then I can take a break from it. And how can I take a break from it without feeling guilty? How can I be compassionate as I take a break? How can I plan my breaks so that I’m not beating myself up or worried that I’m avoiding? That’s what will make it a lot easier. It’s not all or nothing, it’s the healthy intentional oscillation back and forth, back and forth.

So the second year does not need to be worse than the first, the first year does not need to be worse than the second. We just could stop labeling it all. And the more we learn to support ourselves and the less we avoid, the easier it all gets, the easier it all gets.

Grief Essentials, so if you’ve listened to The Widowed Mom Podcast for any length of time, you already know that I have a program that’s been around since 2019 called Mom Goes On. It is a group coaching program, intimate group, but group nonetheless. And it is designed for women who are past acute grief and they are kind of stuck in the grief plateau, but their widow fog has lessened, They are actually at a place where they are ready to think about their thinking and they’re ready to dive in and really do some intense life changing, get ready for chapter two and love your life again work.

That is Mom Goes On, it is creating post traumatic growth. It is figuring out what’s in the way. It is doing the work that you’re ready to do because for the most part all the chaos of early acute grief is waning but that has left a gap for those who are in early grief. And I have, at least for the early years, was a little bit intimidated by that gap. Because I don’t want to set people up to be in an online program when it might be too much, too soon.

And so I have given a lot of thought to create something that addresses the sucky early experience that most of us have in early grief. The roller-coaster that we’re going through, the time where we don’t need to be thinking about our thinking. What we need is to figure out how to feel safe in our bodies. We need to be reassured knowing that we have accurate information about grief because we live in a culture that is so misinformed. We need accurate information. We need hope.

We need tools that are actually helpful when the emotional roller-coaster is intense, when the widow fog is intense. We still want to be connected and supported. We want to feel secure, but we need help in that. We need to know what’s normal, what to expect, so that we’re prepared to navigate it, so that we create more ease as we navigate it. So that’s what Grief Essentials is all about.

We are about to start our pilot program. If this is something you are interested in, I want you to go to coachingwithKrista.com/griefessentials. That is where all of the information will be. Because we are piloting this first, we’re going to keep it small and we will have reduced pricing. So how’s that for an incentive, it’s going to fill up pretty fast because I’m keeping it small, but it’s also going to be a better deal than it will probably ever be because I’m going to reduce the price as we do a pilot.

And of course knowing that, and again if you’ve listened to me for any length of time, you know that I teach we learn by doing. So we’re going to go through this together and step by step, lots of support calls will be recorded in case you can’t attend live, very easy to consume, perfect for those with widow fog. Not super intense or long. Exactly what you need, no more, no less. So that’s what Grief Essentials is going to be. So coachingwithkrista.com/griefessentials.

By the time this podcast airs, that information should be available to you. If you have any questions you can reach out to us at support@coachingwithkrista.com and let us know. But I really want you to have the experience in early grief where you feel absolutely supported, you feel confident, you feel optimistic, you know that you have the right information at the right time. You don’t have to worry about what all the who knows what Aunt Sally is telling you about what you should be doing in grief.

You don’t have to worry about five stages. You don’t have to know any grief theory. You know that you are in a container that is appropriate for where you need to be, that is full of other widows that are in the same place that you are in. That’s what Grief Essentials is. And I’m so happy to finally bring it to you. I’ve been thinking about it for so long. It’s well past due. So I’m excited to offer it.

Alright, that’s what I have for you this week. Remember I love you. You’ve got this. Take care and I’ll see you next week and maybe inside Grief Essentials pretty darned soon. Alright, 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 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.

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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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