Ep #256: Navigating Deathiversaries: A Widows Unfiltered Interview with Wendy Alcanter

The Widowed Mom Podcast Krista St-Germain | Navigating Deathiversaries: A Widows Unfiltered Interview with Wendy Alcanter

My client, Wendy Alcanter, is a mother of three who lost her husband to suicide three years ago.

She joined Mom Goes On as a busy mom and ER doctor, discovered the tools that helped her create a life she truly loves, and she’s here to tell us about her grief journey.

Join us on this episode as Wendy shares her experience of early grief, how the tools she learned in Mom Goes On have supported her, and what her life is like now.

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:

  • What Wendy found most helpful during early grief.
  • Wendy’s advice for anyone considering dating again.
  • The wisdom Wendy would offer to herself during early 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.
  • Watch the podcast on YouTube!
  • Email us here to share your thoughts on how we can help you if you’re in early grief!
  • Sunny Smith MD
  • The Tapping Solution

 

Full Episode Transcript:


Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 256, Widows Unfiltered: An Interview with Wendy Alcanter.

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. I’ve got a guest for you today. I want you to meet one of my longtime clients, Wendy. I’m not going to spend a lot of time introducing her because we get into all of that in the podcast. But it’s been far too long since I’ve done a Widows Unfiltered interview. Just kind of fell off my radar. But I’m going to get back to doing them and I hope you really enjoy my conversation with Wendy.

It has been a true privilege, a joy, an honor to be part of her grief, to know her. You’re going to love her. And I think you’re going to get a lot out of this interview. So with that, let’s jump into my Widows Unfiltered interview with Wendy.

Krista: Welcome, Wendy to the podcast. I’m so glad to have you here.

Wendy: I am so excited.

Krista: Okay, so rather than me introducing you, let me have you introduce yourself to the audience. So just tell people who you are, a little bit about you, whatever you want to tell people.

Wendy: Well, my name is Wendy Alcanta, and I live in Houston, Texas. And I’m the mom of three kids. I have two daughters and a son. They are 16, 13 and 12. I was a bilingual teacher for 15 years and then I decided to become a doctor. So I became an ER doctor, I started med school with a two year old and a three month old and then had my son second year of med school. Graduated med school in 2014 and I married my husband in 2005 when I was still a teacher. And graduated from that school in 2014 and then residency 2017 and then COVID hit in 2019. So it’s been a lot of fun.

Krista: Yeah, no kidding.

Wendy: I did not expect. Yeah, so I don’t generally do things the easy way, been challenging to say the least.

Krista: Yeah, having small children and going through medical school and then having a baby while trying to do all of that, for sure sounds kind of a crazy, crazy situation.

Wendy: Yeah. Pregnant or breastfeeding five out of the eight semesters.

Krista: Oh my goodness. What made you want to switch careers?

Wendy: I had always wanted to be a doctor. And then I just kind of got derailed when I graduated from UT in 1994. I started teaching and I loved it and it was fun and I was dating and traveling and just enjoying life and I loved it. And then I was happy, but I’d kind of maxed out in my teaching career. I’d got my master’s degree and I’d taught in public schools and private schools and charter schools and ended up at the best private school in Houston. And I still kind of felt like I wanted something else. So I just decided to try it one day and it worked.

Krista: Had you always planned?

Wendy: I thought I’d be too old.

Krista: You thought you’d be too old, yeah. Had you always wanted to be an emergency room doctor?

Wendy: I wasn’t sure what I would like. I mean that always interested me. And I remember volunteering in the ER when I was in college, at UT as just a regular undergrad. And then it was funny, in med school, every rotation I did, I was like, “I love it. I want to be an OB-GYN.” And then I was like, “I love it. I want to be a surgeon.” And I was like, “I love it. I want to be a pediatrician.” I mean just every rotation, I think because I’d waited so long to do it, everything was fun.

And so I loved every rotation and it really, at the end it kind of came down to, I wanted to be an OB-GYN. And my OB made her husband postpone his surgeries to come in and deliver my third child on a Sunday morning. And that was the kind of OB I would want to be, but not the kind of mom I wanted to be.

And so Todd, my husband, I had a lot of discussions about it. And he’s like, “You know what? If you go into ER, you’ll get to do everything. You’ll deliver babies. You won’t do surgery, but you’ll do procedures. You’ll get to see old people, young people, babies, everything.” And it has been a good fit because I do get to see a little bit of everything and it’s fun.

Krista: Yeah. Amazing. Okay, and so your kids are 16, 13 and 12. So then let’s back up, so when you became a widow, they were what?

Wendy: It was three years ago, so Bella was 13 and Amelia was 10 still, I think and then Mark had just turned 9.

Krista: Yeah, okay. So tell us about that, whatever you’re comfortable sharing, how you became a widow, all of what led you to here.

Wendy: Yes. No one ever anticipates being here in the special club. And I’m in sort of the extra special club as you know. So our marriage had been difficult, and then I added all this extra stress. And so we’d made it through all the hurdles, the med school, the residency, we’d paid off all the debt. We’d gotten the bigger house and it kind of finally sort of arrived and we were still struggling so we did a ton of therapy.

And I actually joined Sunny Smith’s coaching group, the Empowering Women Physicians and did coaching starting in January of 2021. And did a ton of coaching, ton of couples therapy, ton of individual therapy for him and for me. And ultimately we decided to end the marriage. And so our last conversation was talking about, we wanted to proceed amicably. We’re going to try and use a mediator and just keep it where at the end of it all, we didn’t give all the money to the lawyers, and we didn’t hate each other.

And we could sit down at dinner to celebrate the kids’ birthdays and it would all be okay. Still difficult, but okay because we really did love each other. That was the hard thing. It was just we couldn’t make it work and it was hard on the kids. And so that was our last conversation. And it was my niece’s birthday in Austin and so the kids and I drove to celebrate her birthday. And we were there all weekend and the kids knew and they were sad and I was trying to help them.

And it was good being there so we decided to stay an extra day and I started reaching out to him and he was not responding to me, which he would do sometimes because he was angry. And then sometimes he wouldn’t respond to the kids because he would be busy doing a job or something. But as the day went by and he didn’t respond to pictures of them and requests from them and calls from them, I got worried and the panic just kind of grew. So I sent some friends in Houston to check on him and he’d killed himself.

Krista: And they were the ones that told you while you were out of town?

Wendy: Yeah, I mean, I pretty much had figured it out by then, I guess, I mean, I hoped for not that, but I was terrified that that could be the worst case scenario and it was. And yeah, that phone call and then telling my oldest that night and the younger two the next day was the hardest thing I’ve ever done ever. It was awful.

Krista: Yeah, and this was right in the middle of COVID?

Wendy: No, this was, I mean, it had calmed down by then. This was March 2021, so it had settled and people were doing things again and out about, so it wasn’t the middle of COVID.

Krista: Okay. So prior to Todd’s death, what had you known about grief? What had your grief experiences been? What did you expect it was going [crosstalk]?

Wendy: Not a lot. I had lost my grandparents and that was sad. And my dad died of cancer in 2006. He made it to my wedding, but he had a traig and a peg and he got tired in the middle of the father daughter dance and just walked off the dance floor. And we were like, “Okay, now what?” And so I remember the whole first year after he died. I was so sad. And it was just, I didn’t want to do things. And I remember playing a whole lot of solitaire on my computer, and Todd and I had just gotten married that October, and then he died that July.

And so I remember sort of isolating, and I did probably a lot of buffering with solitaire and didn’t really deal with it. And I found some grief books for my mom about widows and gave them to her, thought I was being helpful, but I didn’t know much. And that was probably the hardest thing I’d ever been through. So I was still in the coaching program with Sunny and EWP. And so Nora, I know you know Nora, was trying to help me and she immediately put me on your podcast because she was like, “Okay, you need to listen to this. This will help. Krista will be a help to you. Listen to her podcast.”

And Sunny, as you know, has a lot of knowledge and experience with suicide. And it was ironic because one of the other female physicians in the group had just lost her sister to suicide, who was also a physician, just the week before. And I remember being on a call at one of my slow sites and listening in and thinking, wow, this is really interesting. And just from a very academic, out on the outside peripheral perspective, learning about suicide and then the next week it just smacked me in the face, but I didn’t know how to deal with it at all.

And we have been taught in med school how to break bad news. When you go in and tell a family that their loved one has died, they teach us how to do that and things to do and things not to do. And so I knew about that. But past that I didn’t know anything what to do. I always tell the parents, “I’m here”, or the family, “I’m here if you need anything or you have a question.” But I didn’t know anything really about grief.

Krista: Yeah. What do you remember about what it was like for you in the earlier part of grief?

Wendy: Oh my gosh, it was awful. I mean, it was so horrible because it was such a shock. And I was already sad. The kids were already sad. And then this showed up and it was horrible. I was in this sort of desperate, kind of panicked, super, hyper restless stage for probably months where I couldn’t sleep. I’d sleep two to four hours a day. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t eat. I would run and run and run whenever the kids were sleeping. Doing 25,000/30,000 steps a day just because I could not sit still. And I felt like I just had to move. It was this panic.

And I think a lot of it had to do with the kids and what do I do for the kids and how do I do this and what do I do? How do I manage being a working mom? And he was the stay at home dad and, well, how do I help these kids get through this? They’re going to be ruined. This is going to break them. And they were so broken at first, every night at bedtime everybody’s just sobbing, three different rooms. I had three little people just breaking down and crying and crying and sometimes I couldn’t handle it.

I would send family in, I’m like, “I can’t do it. I’m going to run away.” And I’d literally go, run, run, run and family would do it. And I just thought, I don’t know how anyone gets through this. What do you do?

Krista: What were some of the things that you found helpful?

Wendy: Well, I started listening to your podcast a lot. And I was still coaching with Sunny and Nora. Nora was great and she would coach me and she’d pray with me. And it was very supportive but didn’t understand the whole widow thing and the intense grief and the suicide. And so your podcast more and more was, new widows start here. And when it was suicide, we’d listen to that over and over. And I’d learn from it and I took notes and wrote things down and just, I clung to your podcast really.

Every time I had to go to work, I’d listen to it the whole way and I’d listen to it the whole way home. And every time you signed off with, “I love you. You’ve got this.” I was like, “I hope, I do, maybe I do. Maybe I could sometime.” But I’d listen to the ones that were relevant, sometimes five, ten times and took notes. I was like, “Okay, we’ll get through this.” And I jumped into therapy for the kids and started figuring out all the options because there are a fair amount of resources.

And I just threw myself into how do I help them and what do they need and how do I do this. So I was reading everything I could get my hands on and trying to figure it out. I had so much energy.

Krista: At what point do we actually connect? I remember, I don’t know if it was a free call, but I think you were in your car and I remember coaching you on that. What made you decide to do that?

Wendy: I think I’d been listening for a while, but I don’t know if I’d been on the Facebook. I don’t know how, but it was, oh, she has free calls. I should call in. And so I had just dropped the kids in Austin with my sister because I think I was working a string of nights or something. I couldn’t get a nanny that could stay because my schedule was so crazy. So it was the summer time so I was like, “I’m going to leave the kids with you.” Left them with my sister. I was driving back from Austin, and I was like, “Oh, no this isn’t great. I have to pull over on the side of the road and call Krista.”

I felt so bad, so I was like, “Oh, I can’t do this.” And I did apologize. I’m like, “I’m so sorry, but I’m safe, I promise I’m safe.” But yeah, I called you and we coached something about Bella and her struggle and her feelings about powerlessness. And I don’t know, it was very helpful. I reread the notes actually yesterday. And it was so helpful. And it was so clear that you got it, that immediately after we hung up, I just sat on the side of the road and completed the application. I applied right then.

And then you called me a few days later, you were still doing the calls. And you called me and I was like, “Oh my gosh, she’s calling me on my phone. It’s just me and her talking.” And so we chatted. And the cohort was starting in August 2021. So that wasn’t even that long after his death. And I tried to tell you, “Oh, it’s the beginning of school. This isn’t maybe a great time. I’m busy with homework and stuff.” And you’re like, “It’s never going to be a good time. With three kids it’s always going to be crazy. I think this is a fine time.” And I said, “Okay, let’s do it.” So I started.

Krista: You’re always such a great example of what it can look like though, to figure out how to make time. Because I just remember so many calls where you were in a stairwell or at work somewhere. And you could tell you were taking a break from work and figuring it out. So yeah, there is no great time, it’s just we have to decide that we’re worth figuring out how to make it work. You’ve, in my opinion, done a really good job of that.

Wendy: Yeah, and my mean inner critic, you know well, I still beat myself up. I didn’t do the workbooks and I love workbooks, but I keep saying I’m going to get to them eventually.

Krista: That’s also so good though, because I try to tell people, you’ve got to do what works for you. And when it comes to programs like Mom Goes On, there’s a lot in there. But there’s not a lot in there because I want people to have to do everything in order to be successful. There’s a lot in there because I want it to be more like Netflix, where there’s different options and you can get what you came for in different ways and it doesn’t have to look like doing workbooks. It can also look like coming to calls and listening to calls and so I think that’s totally fine.

Wendy: The calls were so good for me.

Krista: Okay, yeah, that was going to be my next question, what was it like to listen to other widows in their coaching?

Wendy: So helpful. I was reading through, because I have a notebook that I initially was taking notes on the podcast. And then when I joined the program, every call I sat and would take notes on the other people. And I tried initially to take notes when you were coaching me but when you’re in the spotlight, it’s hard. So then I would write down the date and try and go back and look. I still have some I need to go back. But what I found was when other widows were talking, it was like, that’s my problem. Well, let’s see what she says.

And it was so much easier a lot of times to sit back and listen to someone else. And it wasn’t always exactly the same, but it was close enough that you’re like, “Wow, okay, one, I’m not crazy. Someone else is saying the exact same things.” I’ve been thinking and telling myself I’m crazy and what’s wrong with me and how come I’m feeling this and how come my brain is telling me I’m so weird for feeling this? But wow look, she is too. And other people on the chat are saying me too, me too, me too. So that was so validating.

And then to be able to just sit and actually listen to you coach was so helpful because I could just freely take my notes and listen. And a lot of times you’re addressing their specific situation and I would be tweaking it to my situation. So it was perfect coaching for me because it was similar enough that I was like, okay, I’m writing about one of my kids or work or my boss or something. And it was perfectly relevant. Which at first coming in, I had done with Empowering Women Physicians and Sunny, they have group coaching but they have one-on-one.

And I was really thinking, well, why doesn’t she have the one-on-one? I really like that because I get to do my stuff and they really address me and I liked that. But very quickly I realized, no, it’s fine, I don’t need it.

Krista: And it’s so funny from my perspective because I did one-on-one coaching for so long. There is no amount of convincing people that they’re normal, that the coach can do. It’s only when you see your experience reflected in other conversations that you actually settle into, it’s not just me. This is not a me problem or a flaw, this is just a common experience in widowhood. And that only started happening when I got people together in groups, just couldn’t do it one-on-one.

Wendy: Yeah. But the solidarity is lovely.

Krista: What kinds of connections have you made? What’s that been like?

Wendy: So many. That’s one of the best things about it.

Krista: You just lit up.

Well: Well, I have, I get teary talking about them. There’s so many people, these women are my people now. I’m sorry, I’ll try not to cry.

Krista: Crying is welcome.

Wendy: Yes, I know. The feelings are all good. But a podcast, you want to try and hold it together. No, you think, it’s a coaching group. You’ll sign up to the calls and then that’s it, on the days you have a call, that’s it. But no, literally I text these ladies every day. We have multiple threads. We have the special suicide widows, which is a fun one. And we send each other dark humor and dating disasters and whatever comes up and ask about, are my kids normal? What’s going on? Is this normal?

And then I have one-on-one conversations, Carrie is one of my favorite people. She’s lovely. And I love Jo now. She’s one of my favorites, too, and Sherri. We all bonded so much. And then we have the whole thread from November this year. And even just on the calls, the ladies that I haven’t even met yet in person, they’re like friends and you sign on and you’ve heard their stories and they’ve heard your stories. And you hear them coach and you feel for them because you’re like, “I know how that feels.” And you type little notes or you direct message later.

And you may not have met them, but they’re still your friend. When I was in Hawaii last summer with the kids, Suzanne and I met up. We kept texting and trying to figure out, when can we meet up? We want to do dinner or a hang out day on the beach and it just never worked. And we ended up meeting in front of a grocery store. And her kid is standing there and my kids are standing there and my boyfriend’s standing there. And we’re hugging and crying. And then we talked for an hour and a half or two hours and the kids are standing there going, “Oh, geez, moms, come on.”

But at the same time, they got it. My kids totally got it. They’re like, “I understand why you love this woman so much, even though you’ve never actually seen her in person. And we understand why you need to stand there and talk to her in front of the grocery store for an hour.” And it was just so beautiful because she’s my friend and I finally got to hug her. And when I met you the first time, that was amazing.

I joke about winning the best widow contest in November 21. And people are like, “What’s the best widow contest?” I’m like, “It’s not, actually.” But when I got to come and see you and be there and meet Carrie, that’s when I met Carrie and Sherri and a bunch of other lovely ladies. And we were in your house for the coaching and the dinner. And we went back to your restaurant, and it was so special. And that group still chats all the time. And then going back for coaching on the couch this November was amazing.

And it’s just these deep connections where you know that they get you. I remember one of the other ladies who lost her husband to suicide was getting coached and it was hitting hard. And I was just crying and crying. And I’m sitting next to someone that I didn’t really even know about her, I hadn’t heard her coach much or we just hadn’t crossed over much online. But she’s sitting next to me and she just reaches over and holds my hand, and it was Linda. And it’s just, okay, yeah, she gets me, she knows. And it was just little things like that. They’re so amazing.

And then the dark humor. We got in the Ubers, oh, my gosh, we got in the Uber, I don’t know if anyone told you this story, but to go to dinner with you on Saturday night, it’s all women. I can’t remember if it was 10 or 12 of us, but we had two Ubers, they are completely filled. And we hop in and our driver looks over. He’s like, “Wow, 12 ladies going out on the town Saturday night.” And we’re like, “Yeah, it’s really exciting.” He’s like, “Did you all ditch your husbands?” 

And we all start laughing and MK busts out with, “No, they ditched us.” And he’s like, “What do you mean?” She’s like, “We’re all widows.” And this poor guy was horrified, I mean, he was so horrified. And we’re just cackling, because sometimes you cry, but sometimes you have to just laugh. And it’s just funny.

Krista: I love it.

Wendy: You can’t always cry, sometimes you have to laugh. And they get it. And we all thought it was hilarious.

Krista: I love that for you. And just for other listeners too, Mom Goes On does not necessarily mean you get to come to my house, but sometimes we do special programs that Wendy has participated in where we have done in person coaching and celebration events and such, but I love it. So okay, if you could go back, I always like asking people this. If you could go back, knowing what you know now, if you could go back to yourself in early, early grief, what would you tell her? What wisdom would you offer her? How would you encourage her? What would you say?

Wendy: Well you know my inner critic is very harsh and mean. And so that’s still a working progress. I’d tell myself to be kinder. And the biggest source, I think, of grief that I added to myself was the worry about the kids. They were so broken and their grief was so deep that I truly just, I didn’t see how they would ever be okay. And every day was such a struggle from the time they woke up. And I’d see it in their face when they’d wake up and they’d be happy and then they’d realize and their face would crumple, and they’d remember my dad’s gone.

And then just all day long, the reminders and they’d see kids with their dads and just all the stuff, just everything all day long. And then everybody’s sobbing at bedtime and feeling just so overwhelmed. And I thought, they’re never going to be okay. And people kept telling me, a close friend of mine [inaudible] Sheryl Sandberg. And she called me, and she talked to me for a while and explained because her husband died suddenly. And she had two kids that were around the same age as my kids at the time.

And she kept telling me, “They’re going to be okay. They’ll be okay.” And I thought, no, how? How can they be okay? And so I think I added a lot of grief or suffering to our grief because I was so worried about that. It may have kind of motivated me to really take action on getting them therapy and pursuing the coaching and really getting all of that in place and putting tons of support for them. But I think it added to my suffering because I was so worried.

And of course now you know, it’s not perfect, but we’re three years out and so much better, so much better. We just had the three year deathaversary a couple of weeks ago, Good Friday actually. And I went back and I was re-reading my notes yesterday. And you had coached me right before the first deathaversary, and it was so awful. I was reading through what we were coaching on, in my notes and where the kids were and where I was and I was just horrified.

And I’m like, “I remember being bad, but oh my goodness.” And I went, “Okay, we have come a long way and they are okay.” Not perfect, they’re teenagers. We have our struggles and the angst but they’re going to be okay. And I wish I could have told myself that because really it’s been a lot of worry. And worry pretends to be necessary but it’s not.

Krista: I keep reminding myself of that too sometimes, sage advice, yeah. When you, I don’t know, maybe it was even before you decided to join a coaching program specific for grief. But what did you imagine the end game was? Because I know for me, the reason I’m asking this question is I vividly remember thinking well, I’ve had my shot at happiness. I’m just going to live for the kids now, and I’m just going to make sure they’re okay and I’ll be okay. I’m probably never going to be really happy again but I had my chance. So my goal was pretty mediocre at best, the bar was maybe on the floor. Where was it for you?

Wendy: It was weird because I was so, so sad, but in some ways there was relief because I’d been so unhappy in the marriage. And there was a little bit of relief in that sense and the safety that came with that and so that, it is very contradictory. And I had a hard time wrapping my head around all of that and the coaching definitely helped with allowing all those feelings. And I don’t know what I was exactly looking to get. I just knew that you had what I needed.

I don’t know that I had a specific goal. I just knew I needed help figuring out how to do this and how to manage all these really intense emotions that I didn’t know how to manage and my kids, how to help them do it. Because that was really my main focus, honestly, like you said, I’m just going to live for the kids and help them. And I wasn’t there because I was still doing things for me. And early on, I tried to focus on, put the mask on yourself first. And I continued coaching the whole time and then therapy and all that for me as well.

But I don’t know that I had a specific goal. I just knew that listening to you on the podcast, you had what I needed, whatever it was. And it was more, I think it was a lot with the feelings was probably the reason I signed up. And that’s what you started with, figuring out the feelings and learning to identify them and the 100 felt feelings and the feelings wheel and just naming them all. And learning that feelings aren’t problems, it really helped. Because when my kids would cry I would be like “No, no, no, no, it’s okay.” Pat them, “No, no, no, don’t cry, don’t cry, it’s okay.”

And now I’m like, “Heck, cry, scream, punch the pillow. You want to cuss? Cuss if you need to cuss. I’m not going to get upset. You have these feelings, you need to honor them. Let them out, cry away.” We learned that two liters against the wooden fence really help with anger. You just bang an empty two liter on the wooden fence. And so learning all of that was so helpful. And I think I felt that I needed that, but I don’t know that I had identified that specifically.

Krista: That’s awesome. It’s always helpful for me to be reminded of how powerful the feelings work is. I know that it’s important, but it’s always so validating to hear it from other people too, because sometimes I feel it’s not necessarily met with a lot of enthusiasm when you’ve just had a whole lot of intense emotions, kind of the last thing that you want to look at again. But it’s great to hear that that was valuable for you.

Wendy: Yeah, I resisted them a lot. I didn’t want to do it a lot of times, ugh, these feelings. But I look back at my felt feelings and I’m like, “Okay, yeah, I was learning.” And now I get it. It’s useful. And the process wasn’t fun necessarily, can’t say I loved it, but I realized the value early on and so I committed to that. I don’t think I got to 100. I keep saying I’m going to finish that too.

Krista: Listen, you’ve come a long way, no matter how many numbers you counted, it doesn’t really matter. So what’s life like now? What’s changed?

Wendy: It’s a lot better. I mean, there’s still the hard days. Obviously, we just had the hard period, the lead up to the deathaversary and then the actual deathaversary and all the memories around that and then remembering the early times is hard. That’s one of the hardest times of the year. And then there’s just random times that are hard, random things that just hit and those feelings come, the anger and the regret and the resentment and all those negative feelings, even though there’s technically no negative.

But they’re feelings that you kind of tend to want to resist and so that all still comes up, but everybody’s way healthier. We’re all in a way better place because they know how to come to me for help. I know how to help them. We do a lot of tapping when things get really intense. And overall, I mean we’re doing okay, the grief is still there. You never get over it and the stages are not a real thing. But yeah, when it’s hard, we do the dual process model. We’re like, “Okay, let’s work on this and talk about it and cry and really feel our feelings and now go play TikTok or whatever.”

Not play TikTok but screen out for a while and forget about it. And then we’ll come back together and have family dinner and we’ll talk about it again. And so when it’s hard, we do it. But then there’s a lot of times that it’s not hard and it’s lovely. And they’re turning into these amazing human beings that are okay and their dad wouldn’t even recognize them I don’t think at this point. And that makes me sad.

But it’s also a beautiful thing because they’re beautiful people. And I’m proud of the human beings that they’re turning into. And I’m proud of the way that I’m able to show up for them. The deathaversary, I was really happy because I did a lot of coaching ahead of time and a lot of therapy ahead of time. And thought through it all and had plans and had contingency plans. And I ended up being way more sad than I expected to be. But I showed up exactly the way I wanted to for them and I was really happy about that. And so to me, that was a huge success, okay, yeah, we’ve come a long way.

Krista: So if somebody’s listening and they’re like, “What is she talking about? How do I do that for myself? How do I prepare myself for a deathaversary?” Can you kind of explain what helped you and so maybe other people could leverage that?

Wendy: Yeah. So I have all these ideas about how we’re going to honor him because I go back and forth between, it’s not something to celebrate, obviously. We’re not celebrating their dad died like yay, but it’s an important day. And so we have to remember it. I remember that one of the first birthdays I tried to ignore it and forget it because I was hoping they would forget it because I was working and it totally backfired. It was a disaster. Bella realized at school because she had some memory on some electronic forum.

And then one of Amelia’s friends came up and hugged her. And she’s like, “I’m so sorry. I’m thinking about you today.” And she’s like, “Why?” She didn’t even remember and so that was horrifying. And then Mark realized two days later, I was like, “Okay, that doesn’t work, just ignoring it, we have to acknowledge it ahead of time.” And then I have ways that I think, we should do this and we should do that. But I’ve learned that, especially if you have younger kids and mine are all teen, preteen, they have strong opinions.

And so probably a month out I started prepping them and saying, “Okay, we’re coming up on the deathaversary. I’ll need to think about what you want to do. You don’t have school this year because it’s Good Friday. So I don’t have to take you out. You’re not missing anything but think about what you want to do. Do you want to stay here? Do you want to go to your aunt’s house where we were when we found out? Do you want to just be home? Do you want to plant the garden because that’s what we used to do with him? Do you want to go eat barbecue because that’s what he liked?” I just planted seeds.

I said, “I don’t think we should just ignore it. So we’re going to acknowledge it but think about what you want to do.” And so we had a lot of conversations leading up to it, more of one-on-one, me with each kid. And then I had all these ideas through coaching and therapy, I wrote them all down. I had ideas of what I wanted to do, but also remembering that they’re teenagers and they may just say, “We don’t want to do anything.” And being okay with that.

And when it came down to the garden, which is kind of the big thing that I like to do to honor him, the girls said, “Mom, we don’t want to do that. That’s your thing. We don’t want to.” And so I was like, “Okay.” And it made me really sad and I was like, “You know what? That’s okay. They’re communicating their feelings. They will honor him in a different way.” Mark helped me go buy some dirt and plants. And then I went out and worked on the garden by myself and cried a little. 

But I was like, “Okay, this is what they need. This is what I need and we do this.” And so I think preparing myself mentally that it might not go the way I wanted it to and being okay with that and having lots of different ideas worked out well. And dinner ended up not being what we had planned at all, but it ended up being something that we all felt, yeah, this is a good way to remember him and so it worked. I don’t know.

Krista: I also love that you said that you felt sad and then you let yourself feel sad.

Wendy: Yeah, I just sat in the garden and cried.

Krista: That they didn’t want to do it the way you wanted to do it. And yeah, I think sometimes, at least this is what I thought in the beginning. I thought the goal was to get rid of undesirable emotions, to think myself out of them to just think, essentially think happy thoughts.

Wendy: Yes, toxic positivity.

Krista: Yeah, that doesn’t work, but letting ourselves be human and letting ourselves be okay in our humanness, does work.

Wendy: And to have the and, I was really sad but I was also happy because the kids make me happy. And the next day my boyfriend came and took me out on a really nice date and I was happy and it’s okay.

Krista: Yeah, the and. Was there anything else that you had hoped we would talk about today?

Wendy: The dating is fun.

Krista: Yeah.

Wendy: That’s always fun. So those are the fun coaching calls sometimes.

Krista: Any pointers for the listeners?

Wendy: Everyone’s going to have lots of opinions about that. So definitely you have some good podcasts on that, that I listen to a lot. Yeah, everyone will have lots of opinions on your dating, your kids and family and friends and everyone. So like your own reasons, know your reasons and have your own back on that. And you can always stop and pivot, I pivoted, I re-pivoted. But knowing your reasons and having your own back there is very important. And having fun, I mean, it is fun.

Krista: And you are fun.

Wendy: Thank you.

Krista: I can’t imagine you not having fun, you’re so lively and vivacious.

Wendy: Well, remember I had issues with fun. I didn’t allow myself to have fun. I went back and you coached me on that. And you said, “I think you have a lot of rules about having fun.” And I realized that, and so I’ve kind of worked on that.

Krista: I love it. The last time I saw you, you were in a taco costume.

Wendy: Yes, that’s right. We were going to tackle about it.

Krista: How did that come to pass? Because you wear this with your kids, right?

Wendy: Right. No, Bella and I were shopping. It was sometime around Halloween and we weren’t shopping for that. She found it and put it on. She’s a really funny person. She and I are so much alike except for that I’m not really very funny at all. I try and tell a joke, I ruin it. And it’s so funny because of how badly I ruin it. But she’s actually a really, really funny person. And so I turn around, she’s wearing this thing and sort of dancing around, and we both were hysterical in Target. We almost fell on the floor laughing.

So we decided we’d have to buy it and we’ll answer the door wearing the taco costume occasionally. So I was packing that night and kind of stressed out because I was rushing and it was late. I had to wake up early and fly and do I have everything and ah.  And she walks out of my closet in the taco costume and I start laughing. I’m like, “I should wear that and tell Krista we’re going to tackle about it.” And she’s like, “Oh, you should.”

Krista: You should. It’s awesome.

Wendy: Or maybe she suggested it, I don’t remember, but somewhere we decided we needed to tackle about it.

Krista: Totally unexpected and hilarious. And it’s funny how we perceive ourselves so differently than others perceive us. Your rules about fun, to me, you are just so fun. And so it’s interesting to see how we see ourselves differently sometimes or have rules around how we’re allowed to be.

Wendy: Cruella tells me lots of things.

Krista: Cruella, your inner critic. I love it, yeah/ I had one more question while you were talking. You were talking about how your kids like tapping, and then you mentioned the dual process model. So all things I know that you’ve learned from the various resources that you have surrounded yourself with, coaching and therapy and all of that. How much of that do you explicitly talk about with your kids versus just role modeling?

Wendy: Probably a lot explicitly. We listen to your podcasts in the car on road trips, more earlier on, not as much now, but every once in a while if there’s a really good one, I feel would speak to them, we listen. And then Bella, for a while I was paying her to listen to them and take notes because I thought it would be useful when I make suggestions and she listened. And then the tapping, I’ve just found that it’s very helpful, when they’re really, really overwhelmed with emotions. And then to go to bed, Mark loves it, to go to bed, the bedtime one, I have the tapping app or whatever.

Krista: The Tapping Solution app?

Wendy: Tapping Solution app, yeah. And I’m doing some challenges and I find things are useful. And Amelia has it on her phone and likes the app. And so it’s been more explicit, I think, probably. And because they’ve been in all this different therapy, there is a trauma and grief center here in Houston that they’ve done therapy through. I think they speak kind of the same language. And so they’ve learned some of it that way. Yeah, I explain things pretty explicitly with them and in detail, but they’re a little older. And now as we go along, it kind of changes, the conversation does.

Krista: Yeah, as it should. I love it though, there’s different approaches. Some people just role model it and that works brilliantly. Some people explain some things and then kind of gauge interest and some people are a little more explicit so whatever works. But it’s nice to see different ways of doing it.

Wendy: Yeah. I definitely just role model some stuff too, but sometimes they teach me.

Krista: Is there anything that’s coming to mind?

Wendy: I get cranky a lot because I’m tired and my back hurts or whatever. And they’ve gotten really good, especially the girls, about just calling me out. And I remember one day, Amelia, I was really cranky and she was trying to help me with some stuff. And she finally said, “Mom, I have been nothing but helpful. I don’t like how you’re talking to me. I’ve just been helpful.” And I stopped and I looked at her and I’m like, “You are so right. I love you so much.” And I just gave her a huge hug. I’m like, “Thank you so much for fixing my attitude.” And then everything went on much more beautifully.

Krista: Wow. If we could all communicate like that, what a different dynamic a lot of us would help with our kids, yeah.

Wendy: And she’s a 13 year old.

Krista: And kudos to you for just, for hearing it and receiving it and not immediately getting defensive.

Wendy: Well, and I think a lot of the feelings stuff with you has helped with that. And calming down my inner critic to be more kind to myself allows me to be more kind and receptive to them.

Krista: Yes, that is exactly it. People are like, “Why do I need to do the inner critic work?” Well, you don’t need to, but when you do it’s a lot more pleasant to be in your own brain, and it’s a lot easier to connect with other people and show them compassion too. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

Wendy: You’re welcome.

Krista: I’m so happy. If people want to connect with Wendy, so I know that this happens sometimes, you can email me first. Sometimes I ask for contact information, but I don’t do that anymore so people can email me if they want to connect with you. Okay, alright.

Wendy: I’m on Facebook.

Krista: There you go, but you have a special name on Facebook, you don’t use your regular name.

Wendy: I do, I have my family name. They call me Wendita because I’m little and I’m Hispanic on the inside. So it’s Wendy Alcanter.

Krista: Okay, cool. Alright, I love it. Alright.

Wendy: But I think I’m pretty easy to find.

Krista: Okay. Well, thank you so much for telling your story. I much appreciate it. I love you. I think you’re amazing.

Wendy: Thank you. I love you too. And we’ve both got this.

Krista: We’ve both got this. I’ll talk to you soon.

Wendy: Alright, 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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