Support: Healing after loss can feel like a gargantuan task. However, as overwhelming as it may seem, you do not ever have to suffer alone or in silence. Seek out the support that best speaks to you; however, in doing so, be sure to “watch your reach”.
The world seems to be reeling from one crisis to another. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and social turmoil. Then there are personal traumas that people are dealing with, such as the loss of a loved one, health issues, unemployment, divorce or the loss of a job.
Coping with change can be traumatic as it often affects every part of our lives.
How do you deal with loss or change in your life? What coping strategies can you use? Do you ignore them and just push through, or do you use specific techniques?
In this series called “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change” we are interviewing successful people who were able to heal after a difficult life change such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or other personal hardships. We are also talking to Wellness experts, Therapists, and Mental Health Professionals who can share lessons from their experience and research.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carole Brody Fleet.
Carole Brody Fleet is an international speaker, a multi-award winning author of four books and a regular contributor to the iconic Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. An expert in grief and life-adversity recovery, Ms. Fleet has made over 1,200 radio program appearances to date and additionally appears on numerous television programs; as well as in worldwide print and web media.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Southern California. Growing up in a wonderfully-eclectic household, I am a classically trained cellist who also adores every kind of music imaginable; from crooners to folk; from big band to disco; from classical to heavy metal. I loved participating in competitive gymnastics and swimming, as well as spending my formative years in Hebrew school and with religious study — not to mention the nearly twenty years that I spent onstage as a Polynesian dancer. I’ve adored writing for as long as I can remember; however, when I saw my byline for the first time as a seventh grader, accompanying a poem that I’d written for the yearbook…I was hooked.
My high school years were truly one of the best periods in my life. I enjoyed being extremely active both scholastically and with extracurricular activities; including orchestra, a stint as a basketball stat girl, drill team, cheerleading and of course, writing for the school newspaper. I became the Editorial Editor as a sophomore; unheard of at the time and to the laughing dismay of the seniors. Though I did not realize my dream of becoming a full-time writer until later in life, I was able to exercise my writing “chops” as a certified paralegal and settlement negotiator; specializing in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice and wrongful death for over a decade.
In sum, I enjoyed a childhood and young adulthood filled with amazing family, an abundance of love and wonderful friendships that endure to this day; indeed, an experience that I was blessed to live.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In my early teens, my mother Eilene gifted me a plaque that hangs on my office wall to this day. It reads, “Be concerned with what you must do — not what the people think”. It is an anonymous quote, but one that certainly stands the test of time; perhaps never more so than in today’s world. In taking that quote to heart, I eventually learned to turn a deaf ear to cynics — an asset in both business and in life.
After becoming widowed, and after years spent teaching that none of us should be defined by loss or tragedy; nor should we settle for anything less than the life that we deserve, my current favorite quote is one that I authored a few years ago:
“While your past — whatever that past entails — will shape you, it does not have to define you. In other words, you do not have to settle for where you are…if where you are is not where you choose to be.”
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
1. Steadfast belief: In the infancy of my full-time writing career, I heard things like, “Who’s going to listen to you when no one knows who you are?”; “Death is a hard sell” and “You’re writing about death? That’s so depressing”. Despite the negativity, I was determined to bring my message to a community who needed to hear it; especially because I was a member of the very community that I sought to serve (whereas interestingly, the naysayers were not). I ardently believed in the project and I surrounded myself both personally and professionally with those who supported it as well.
2. Tenacity: I decided that unless someone said the words, “No, never”, I would not let rejection become an obstacle to success. Yes, rejection is discouraging; however, rejection is also a reality of the business. Further, rejection does not end; even after realizing success. For instance, despite “Widows Wear Stilettos…” reaching bestseller status, despite having an established media and speaking platform and despite the fact that my second book, “Happily Even After…” was literally unique to the genre, it was two yearsbefore itfinally sold to a publisher; one who had previously rejected the book…twice. That same book went on to win the Books for a Better Life Award, one of the top awards in publishing.
I quickly learned that most rejections mean, “No, not now”, and that as long as I kept knocking on a door, it was more likely to open. I also understood that rejection was not personal, it bore no reflection on my work and that today’s “No” could very well be tomorrow’s “Yes”. Prior to the first book’s publication, I had pitched my story to a major national women’s magazine. They listened to the pitch with great interest, responded enthusiastically to the book’s premise…and politely said, “No thanks”. Two months after the rejection, the very same publication reached back out to me; stating that they were “anxious” to feature me in the magazine — which ultimately resulted in a full-page article (including photograph and sidebar) in the largest national women’s magazine in the United States.
The only way that rejection stops anyone is whenit is allowed that magnitude of power. I personally will never permit rejection that level of control; be it over my immediate goals or my ultimate destiny.
3. Willingness to work and make sacrifices: A writer’s job is multifaceted; a fact that many would-be writers are surprised to learn. Many writers believe that once they have finished writing their book, they can then sit back and let their agent (or publisher) publicize their book, get them booked onto national television and radio shows, featured in major press and on big-name websites and land them on bestseller lists… while the writer watches the money roll in. It simply does not work that way.
Regardless of your field, you must be willing to put in the work — and any attendant sacrifices — in order to succeed. It sometimes means working when you would rather be doing something else (and no matter how much we love our jobs, we all have those days!). For me, it sometimes means working late nights, early mornings, holidays and/or weekends. It means going on the air at 3:00 a.m. in my time zone because it’s “drive time” in a broadcast time zone. It means being willing to truly connect with your audience and knowing how best to serve that audience. It means committing to more than simply selling something — it means building relationships; ensuring that I always have something of value to offer to everyone ranging from my readership, to the media, to a live audience.
When you commit to doing the work (rather than expect others to do that work for you), the results — and the successes — will speak for themselves.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Healing after Loss’. Do you feel comfortable sharing with our readers about your dramatic loss or life change?
After a highly-decorated, record-setting career spanning twenty-eight years with his police department, my husband, Mike retired; only to be diagnosed two weeks later with ALS, or what is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. With that diagnosis came the devastatingly cruel reality that at some point in the not-too-distant future, our daughter Kendall and I were going to be alone.
Just over two years after the diagnosis, Mike passed away; at home, as was his wish. Officers from police departments throughout California and the entire southwestern United States were at his funeral; as well as officials from all manner of state and federal law enforcement and government agencies. It was a day filled with tears, tradition and tributes; the highest honors for a man who deserved every accolade offered.
Then the next morning came…and Kendall and I were alone. The funeral was over. The house was quiet. Everyone had “gone home and gone on” — which was certainly to be expected. However, the process of picking up the pieces of a life that had been utterly destroyed — the “what now” if you will — had just begun for us. Quickly compounding our bereavement, my father was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer shortly after Mike’s death; passing away soon thereafter. In four short months, the two most important men in my life and in the life of my daughter — were gone.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
As with most who deal with long-term catastrophic illness or infirmity, there are actually two “scary events” (and accordingly, two layers of grieving). The first occurs immediately after a diagnosis or the event leading to the infirmity and the second after the actual loss itself.
When Mike was diagnosed, the scariest / worst thing for me was the very concept of losing him. While he had been my husband for what most consider a short time, he had been a large part of my life for twenty years. Imagining a life without Mike was more than scary — it was completely incomprehensible. Once Mike had passed away, I was truly frightened of life. I would sit in the dark and talk to Mike as if he were in the room; saying over and over, “I don’t know how to do ‘this’ without you”. “This” referred to living life in general without him — because he had been a fixture in my life for over half of my life. I had never imagined a life without Mike in it and facing that reality was one of the scariest experiences that I will ever know.
How did you react in the short term?
When the doctor initially diagnosed Mike (after fully one year of testing), I felt as though the life that we had built, knew and loved was finished; that our entire life together had just been thrown into a blender and set to “puree”… while Mike was trying to absorb the enormity of being diagnosed with a terminal illness. I was unable to begin any rational thought that did not start with “How?” How was I going to break this heartbreaking news to a nine-year-old child? How was I going to continue working, while also providing the level of care that Mike would need? How would we go on living our lives, when to our minds, life as we knew it had just ended?
How could I possibly face a life without Mike in it?
After Mike passed away, I reacted as do many bereaved. Consumed with grief, I literally did nothing and went nowhere. Outside of Kendall and my mother, I spoke to almost no one. I had no idea what to do or where to start; not that I had any ambition to do or start anything. I did not even get out of my pajamas; preferring instead to stay on the couch in a dark living room for two weeks…crying most of the time.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use?
My reaction to crisis situations tends to be the same: I first absorb the situation, followed immediately by, “Okay, how do we work with/fix this?” Once Mike had received the diagnosis, my natural first instinct (and my go-to coping mechanism) was to assume control over a situation where we’d had little control. I felt a time-urgent necessity to put as many support systems into place as I possibly could. I immediately contacted our local ALS Association for education and resources. I contacted Kendall’s teachers, so that they could support her emotionally and scholastically. I contacted our synagogue, who instantly became part of the family coping dynamic in numerous ways. Mike and I were also determined to keep Kendall’s life as “normal” as possible under the circumstances… and I am proud to say that together, we succeeded in doing so until he passed away.
After Mike’s death and the two-week, “dark living room” period had passed, I realized that although I was still in the throes of overwhelming grief, taking first steps back into life was a necessity. Fortunately, I also realized that those steps did not have to take place all at once; a lesson that I teach today.
Can you share with us how you were eventually able to heal and “let go” of the negative aspects of that event?
Understanding that the term “let go” is entirely subjective, for me it meant “letting go” of the toxic aspects that can unfortunately accompany a loved one’s death: abandonment by those once in our lives; judgment as to how a bereaved handles the aftermath and so forth. Letting go of those hurtful elements was essential to our own personal healing — and years later, I learned that many bereaved endure similar experiences; so much so that it is sadly considered commonplace.
“Letting go” also taught me that energy is indeed a finite resource and that my energies and emphases needed to remain on our healing. I thereafter stopped concerning myself with those who chose to willingly leave our lives and instead focused on those who were supporting us as we moved through our grief.
The lesson here is simple: It is incredibly difficult to let go of relationships on which you may have once heavily depended. However, if people consciously choose not to be a supportive part of your healing, let go you must. Just by nature of what loss or life-adversity brings, you are already dealing with enough negativity. If those around you are unable or unwilling to be part of your healing process in a supportive, positive and uplifting way, they do not get the privilege of being a part of your processes — or your life.
Aside from letting go, what did you do to create an internal, emotional shift to feel better?
Frankly speaking, I “got serious about getting better”. I realized that while no one can control life and death, I could control my reaction to it. Even while sitting in that dark living room; even after all of the tragedy that had befallen us, I was determined not to stay in that place. I had two primary goals — first, to begin healing in a healthy way and slowly move forward into the life that we had been handed. I also wanted to demonstrate to Kendall that we could get knocked down by life, but that we could also get back up and move forward into a life that was whole, healthy and happy. The biggest lessons that our children learn from us are “caught”, not “taught” — and this was an important opportunity to model honest, healthy grief recovery to my child.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
There are two people who were instrumental in setting me on the road to healthy grief recovery. My mother gave me “permission” if you will, to outwardly acknowledge the feelings of despair, depression, fear, anger and exhaustion; something that I had refused to do. I felt horribly guilty at feeling any of those emotions; let alone admitting to and embracing them. When I finally found the courage to timidly admit out loud to my mother that I “might” be depressed, she replied, “Carole, it would be weird if you weren’t depressed”. In that moment, I understood that I could be authentic in my feelings (both during Mike’s illness and after he died), which made it far easier to move forward in a healthy way.
Our rabbi, Michael Mayersohn was also a vital part of our family dynamic; both throughout Mike’s illness and after he passed away. Just as important as the spiritual guidance that he provided, he helped us create a “roadmap” to cope both emotionally and practically with a terminal illness in the household. After Mike’s death, Rabbi Mayersohn continued to counsel both Kendall and me as we moved forward into our new life; providing guidance on everything from Kendall’s return to school after the loss of her dad, to my initial feelings of overwhelming guilt prior to the resumption of dating two years later.
Were you able to eventually reframe the consequences and turn it into a positive situation? Can you explain how you did that?
Shortly before Mike passed away, he and I were discussing all of the awful-but-necessary things that must be discussed at such a critical time. We knew our time together was coming to an end, and along with his last wishes and what he wanted for Kendall and for me going forward, Mike specifically expressed one strong desire. He asked me to “take this experience and use it to the good by sharing it with others”. I promised him that I would, while having absolutely no idea how I was going to fulfill that promise. How on earth could I turn this insidious illness into anything positive?
Five years later, it occurred to me that there must be other widowed looking for the same direction and support for which I had been searching when I was first widowed — and similarly had absolutely no idea where to turn. Even after five years, I still could not find the sort of guidance that I had sought…and as I am fond of saying, “If you can’t find it — create it”.
I then began jotting notes on a legal pad, consisting of everything that I could not find: advice on how to help grieving children, how to prioritize and effect legal and financial transitions; how to cope with not-so-supportive people surrounding the widowed, dating again, loving again, “intimacy again” — even tips on subjects like how to return to the workplace while grieving and how to regain health through healthy diet and exercise. When I had finished, I wound up with what became the Table of Contents for “Widows Wear Stilettos…”, which isnow going into its second edition. The rest, as they say, is history. I like to think that in serving the widowed community, we have fulfilled Mike’s final wishes…and I like to believe that somewhere, Mike is smiling.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? Can you please explain with a story or example?
I first learned (and now teach) that it is not a sign of strength to attempt to cope with loss on your own; nor is it a sign of weakness to say, “I need help with this”. There is an abundance of help available for handling both the practical and emotional aspects of grief (both anticipatory and post-loss) and you should never hesitate to seek it out.
Throughout Mike’s illness, I had received numerous offers of help — with meals, with the household, with transportation for Kendall…and I initially turned down each and every one. I saw acceptance of assistance through a lens of failure to adequately care for my family, while continuing to earn a living and run a household. When my own physical health was eventually threatened, I finally began accepting assistance with caregiving, help with the day-to-day routine of the household and respites for Kendall.
It was not until after Mike’s passing that I truly absorbed what we had been through and what it took to survive the toll that his illness and death took on us; emotionally, mentally, physically and financially. Through that reflection, I then learned that while the circumstances were undeniably tragic, most do not ever get to discover the true depths of their strength, their mettle, and the resolve that it takes to recover from what may be the most tragic experience of their lives. I now take comfort in the knowledge that whatever curveballs life throws at me, I have the strength and the tools to hit those curveballs right back…as does anyone who has suffered through profound loss or life-adversity.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give others to help them get through a difficult life challenge? What are your “5 Things You Need To Heal After a Dramatic Loss Or Life Change? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Reality Check: The most important thing that one needs at the beginning of any healing journey is an honest, forthright, reality check. Grief and life challenge recovery is not fast; nor is it particularly easy. As badly as we wish it were otherwise, grief recovery is also not “Point A to Point B” linear; nor does it occur in neatly packaged, chronological “stages”. Throughout your healing journey, you must be realistic about that which you have suffered through, what you are currently enduring and that from which you are recovering. Your journey will differ from those of others…and it will even differ from loss experiences that you may have faced in the past. Remember that it is impossible to remain the same person you were “before”; your experience changes you forever. Realistically and lovingly embrace who you are now and who you are becoming.
Finally, understand that you are not defined by tragedy and sorrow is not a destiny. You have a choice in how your life will be going forward — make the choices that will take you toward the life that you have earned and richly deserve.
2. Proactivity and Tools: Rather that reactive coping (i.e., responding to the demands or expectations of others around you; operating in impulsive, knee-jerk fashion, etc.), instead choose an attitude of proactive coping. This is simply choosing to take conscious control of your healing journey. It is yours. Own it. In taking that control, you also must acquire the appropriate “tools” to begin (or continue on) your path to healing.
Most of us have heard the well-worn cliché, “Time heals all wounds” at least once — to which the typical reaction is: WHEN? When is time going to heal what just might be the deepest wounds that you have ever endured? When does the pain go away? When does time indeed “heal all wounds”?
The truth is that time alone cannot, does not and willnot “heal all wounds”.
Have you ever had surgery? If so, I promise you that your surgeon did not make an incision, conduct the surgery and then walk away, saying, “Time will heal this wound”. The surgeon used tools to complete the surgery. They checked on your healing process. Eventually, with proper attention, care…and time, the wound from your surgery healed; likely leaving a scar.
Now let’s look at your loss or challenge the same way. Are you truly waiting for only the passage of time to heal your enormous loss-wound? Are you waking up every day, thinking, “Well, time has passed and everyone’s telling me that time heals all wounds, but I don’t feel ‘healed’ –what’s the matter with me?” The reality is that if you are simply waiting for time to heal your wounds, the only thing that will be accomplished is a whole lot of waiting.
Just because grief is not a physical wound does not mean that it is not a wound all the same; one that will leave a “life-scar” — and time alone cannot be the only factor in your healing process. As with a surgeon, you need tools too! What tools have you utilized in connection with your recovery? Have you used books, magazines, audio aids, seminars or conferences (virtual or otherwise); the Internet, counseling, coaching, in-person or online support — anything and everything to get you moving toward healing? If your answer is “no”, then you are the patient on that operating table with a wide-open wound that time alone cannot heal. Reading articles like this is a great start, but it is merely a springboard. You must be proactive in your commitment to healing by gathering as many relevant tools as you possibly can.
3. Eliminate Recovery Myths: Loss and life-challenge recovery comes with a lot of myths that too many believe to be fact. Following are three of the most widely-believed myths which you must commit to ignoring going forward:
MYTH #1: “CLOSURE”
Have you been told, “Now you’ll have closure” (or words to that effect) at any point? This particular myth is horrendous (enough so that I have discussed it in four books); yet it continues as one of the biggest myths surrounding grief recovery. I wish to save you time and frustration in the search for closure by sharing a secret:
There is no such thing.
Closure is what happens to a freeway during construction. Closure is what surgeons conduct at the conclusion of an operation. However, in this case, “closure” apparently means that you have either the desire or the capability to forget the loss or challenge altogether. Basically, “closure” has become a polite way of saying, “Get on with it. You’re done now. It’s closed”…because people are either uncomfortable with you or do not wish to deal with what you have experienced.
The truth is that loss is something from which you move forward. The experience becomes a part of you, like a body part.You do not “close” it. You do not quit speaking of it. You do not quit remembering it. Rather than think of your healing journey in terms of achieving non-existent “closure”, I encourage you to think of your loss as the life-altering event that it is and from which you move forward.Do you want to leave the horrible feeling of raw grief and anguish behind? Of course you do. But “slam the door” on your past? Absolutely not.
MYTH #2: “BAGGAGE”
At one time, baggage was merely something that we hope shows up at the airport after we have landed. These days, the word “baggage” has become almost accusatory. There are two reasons that I have an issue with this word. First, the term is reductive. Secondly, negative life experiences are not “baggage” in and of themselves. Does this mean that emotional “baggage” doesn’t exist? Of course it does, but we need to put it into accurate context. Emotional “baggage” refers to emotions that we refuse to deal with; either inhibiting or eliminating the ability to move forward.
Years ago, I once (and only once) went out with a gentleman who spent most of the evening talking about his high school sweetheart who dumped him in high school — thirty years earlier. This is an example of emotional baggage; the refusal to confront, deal with and move forward from hurtful events to a place of healing and renewal. However, to assume that we are automatically dragging baggage behind us simply because we have endured and survived profound loss is patently unfair.
Do not let anyone diminish you in such an insensitive way. You have suffered the loss of a loved one or otherwise endured a core-shaking challenge. It may very well be the worst pain that you have ever encountered. This is not “baggage”. This is your reality.
MYTH #3: “GETTING OVER IT”
Many who experience loss or adversity are reminded by others of how long it has been since their life-changing experience; followed by, “You just need to get over it”…or words to that effect. The sad reality is that a large majority of bereaved have heard this phrase at least once — as if you really needed someone to remind you of the event that has caused unimaginable pain.
Those who use these (or similar) words may fail to realize the enormity of your experience. When you hear these words, you are likely thinking, “But, I’m not over it, so clearly there is something wrong with me.” Here is what can happen: Your brain locks in on the “There’s something wrong with me…” part of the thought and that is exactly where your focus trains. We gravitate toward what we focus on and if this thought becomes your focus — and subsequently your mental gravitational pull — you will actually begin to believe that something is wrong with you. The truth is that the majority of people who tell you to “get over it” are saying this because it would be easier for them if you “get over it”. It’s easier for them if you would hurry up your healing processes.
You may have lost a loved one. You may have lost a job, a home, your health, a business, financial security… even a pet. Though all of these events (and many more) have highly individual grief complexions, they are major losses nonetheless. All losses are subject to grieving and how you choose to grieve your particular loss is entirely up to you; regardless of how it may appear to anyone else and despite how much or how little time has passed.
Now, if you feel seriously compromised in your recovery; if you are unable to function in everyday life (at work or at home); if you either are or feel as though you want to cope in a destructive manner, you should immediately seek help. Otherwise, please quit worrying about those who are telling you that you should be “over it”. Instead, embrace that you are going to move forward from your loss or life challenge — and that you are going to do so in your way and in your time.
Remember the life quote that I mentioned earlier: “Be concerned with what you must do — not what the people think”. Rarely is that quote more important than during grief recovery.
4. Support: Healing after loss can feel like a gargantuan task. However, as overwhelming as it may seem, you do not ever have to suffer alone or in silence. Seek out the support that best speaks to you; however, in doing so, be sure to “watch your reach”.
Whether it is at work or at home; in our daily routine or during times of challenge and regardless of who or what we have lost or what challenge we face, we each have three distinct directions of reach from which to choose when seeking help and support:
a. Reaching down: Without even realizing it, too many people listen to the wrong people and allow their influence to couch one of the most emotional and important journeys that they will ever experience. This is “reaching down”; allowing the wrong people to inform your healing journey. Reaching down means that you are potentially involving negative people and nothing positive comes of a toxic influence.
If you are wondering whether or not to share your healing journey or life-challenge with someone, or if you have already encountered what I refer to as an “Energy Drainer” on your healing journey, perform this quick mental exercise:
Think of one person who is quick to negative opinion, judgment or use of the words, “You can’t”, “You shouldn’t”, “Get over it”, or words to that effect. Now ask yourself:
“Why am I sharing with them?”
“Why am I listening to them?”
“Why am I lending importance, significance or gravitas to what they are saying?”
“What are they bringing to my healing journey in terms of support?”
If you cannot come up with solid reasons or positive responses to these questions — you have your answers. Do not ever reach down; particularly at such a vulnerable time.
b. Reaching out: I strongly encourage you to reach out to others in similar circumstances; your peers who are (or have been) where you are, in order to share thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This is how you discover that whatever your loss experience or challenge entails, you are truly not alone.
c. Reaching up: When it comes to seeking specific direction, help and guidance, always reach up. Reach up to those who have gone before you; they are the people who will listen with open hearts to your stories, your challenges, your fears, your goals and your hopes. Reach up to those who will celebrate the triumphs on your healing journey; no matter how incredibly big or seemingly small. Reach up to experts; those in whom you can trust to provide wise advice, counsel, actionable ideas and suggestions on how to make your journey as peaceful as possible.
5. Community: As society finally begins to acknowledge both the short and long-term effects of loss and the need to provide support, finding a like-minded community is within reach for everyone. The options are vast — in addition to in-person support groups, there are also a myriad number of online support groups that speak to virtually any kind of loss or life-challenge. Even if you are not a “talker” or someone who particularly enjoys group participation, you might be surprised at how much education, direction and comfort is available. You can participate as much or as little as you choose and just the knowledge that there is at least one other person who understands will bring a measure of peace to your heart.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I appreciate the compliment! Over the last sixteen years, I have been privileged to play a small part in mobilizing a cohesive community; one that has been largely overlooked and underserved. I will continue bringing education, support and direction to those who need it most. I would also love to see an expansion of financial assistance and resources to the widowed community; so many of whom are in need. For too many reasons, (age, technical marital status, issues concerning children, time constraints, etc.) many widowed do not qualify for financial assistance and the need for such assistance is great. Using just one example, headstones and grave markers are not included in the cost of a funeral; a fact of which many are not aware. Millions have had to choose between purchasing a headstone and feeding their children or paying a mortgage and such a choice should not have to be made. No one should have to delay or even forego such an important component of saying good-bye; yet too many widowed cannot afford it…sometimes for years.
Meanwhile, I continue my activism with state and federal officials to rid the widowed community of so-called “widow penalties”. It is a shock to many when they learn that as ridiculous as it sounds, the widowed are practically and/or financially penalized; just for being widowed. For instance, automobile insurance rates are oftentimes increased for the widowed. Federal income tax rates can also increase (after a two year, “special filing status” period expires). Widowed immigrants can be subject to deportation if they lose their spouse prior to issuance of a permanent resident card (‘green card”). This deportation can occur regardless of the widowed’s career status, home ownership status, how long they were married and/or having children who are survivors of their American spouse.
The widowed already endure unimaginable grief and pain after spousal loss. They are already stigmatized and feel a sense of isolation. That there are any “penalties” imposed upon the widowed is unconscionable to me and I am proud to be active in efforts to change these laws.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
At the top of my list is Katie Couric; whom I would love to thank for lighting the way for those of us who have followed her.
Not only was Ms. Couric widowed at a younger age and left with two young children to raise, she became widowed in the public eye. She endured all of the pain, grief and challenge that all widows face and did so on an enormous stage; not to mention the oft-forgotten period of time spent caregiving to a critically ill spouse and the physical, emotional and mental toll that frequently accompanies caregiving. I was so taken with how Ms. Couric coped with her widowhood, she actually inspired one of the chapters in my third book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good Women…”; entitled, “While the World Watches: Loss in the Spotlight” — which in turn inspired writing and speaking in support of other high-profile widowed, such as Celine Dion and Patton Oswalt; both of whom suffered through losing their spouses and endured abhorrent treatment in the public arena.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
If you or someone you know is widowed and/or bereaved, please visit here for resources, tips, news, and more. For information on additional works and appearances, topics on which I both write and speak, information for the media, organizations of all manner, hospitals, hospices and those who serve the bereaved community, please visit here. I also welcome everyone to visit Facebook at “Carole Brody Fleet” for hot-topic discussions, inspiration and affirmation, current news and more. We additionally host a private page on Facebook for widowed women only, “WWS Peer-Led Support Forum”, which is a safe haven for the widowed to discuss feelings and experiences; seek support from other widows and offer suggestions and advice to those in need.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!