Sabra Robinson on Loss of a Spouse: 40 Tips for the Newly Widowed
Sabra has also written the critically acclaimed “Widowed But Not Wounded”. Here is the link to the book:
Sabra Robinson is the Founder of Black Women Widows Empowered
Sabra Robinson, Founder
I can remember when my husband took his last breath six years ago in the hospital. I remember it clearly because I had to make the dreadful decision if he should continue to live without living or die. It wasn’t easy. He was brain dead and he had always told me to never allow him to be on the respirator. He would always jokingly tell me that I better pull the plug because he wouldn’t want to live as a vegetable but I knew he was serious – just like he was the day that we drove to the hospital under the nurse’s desperate phone call after she received the results of his brain scan. The tumor had relocated from his stomach then to his spine and now to his brain. The next day, I became a widow.
Honestly, I didn’t accept the term. I couldn’t accept the term. I refused to accept the term. But eventually, I did. I – was- a – widow. I was lost and had to rely on the church mothers, prayer and Google to help me redefine myself.
This blog post is for the new widows. The widows young from 19 to 90. The day you become a widow, you’re a new widow.
I asked my online support group, Black Women Widows Empowered – Life Support Group – A Safe Place for Widows, to offer advice to the newly widowed and boy did they. The responses came pouring in. Check out these 40 tips from current widows to the newly widowed. Feel free to add yours!
1. S. Criswell – Do not let anyone alter your late spouse arrangements. Believe me, many will try. (3 years widowed).
2. A. Holmes – Journal your last thoughts together. The last words he said. Any wishes/dreams he had for you. (Widowed 5 years).
3. T. Clemons – Do NOT allow others to tell you when, where, how and how long to grieve. This is YOUR life and YOUR journey. Only those who have been through it can relate. (Widowed 4 years 12/21/2014)
4. D. Lee – Guard your finances and get them in order. DON’T LOAN MONEY! I don’t care if it’s children except in school or beginning college. Be discreet when handling financial business. (1.5 years as a widow).
5. G. Blackwell – Don’t make quick decisions – take your time to learn life by yourself. Although your husband played a big roll of keeping it all together, learn YOU and what YOU want and need (1 year a widow, married 12).
6. A. Connell – Do cry as often as you need too. There’s no limit. Do – be kind to yourself, this journey is so hard. Do – ask for help and if you can try to be specific. Do – allow yourself to be okay about not cooking or only wanting to make simple meals. Don’t – ever feel like you need to “be over this”. You will never be over this but you will learn to live again. (7 years widowed – with my guy for 25 years, married for 19).
7. M. Brown – Don’t let others pressure you into dating again. Take your time and heal from the loss of your husband; you’ll know when you’re ready to be with another man. (Widowed four years).
8. L. Henderson – Hold onto God for your strength. Pray a lot. (Widowed for 11 years).
9. M. Pannell – DO Be Easy With Yourself. LOVE YOURSELF. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Eat, stay hydrated, talk, cry AND LAUGH. Be Easy (6 months widowed).
10. S. Davis – Do consider therapy to release your thoughts on someone neutral. Do make yourself a priority. It’s time to look after YOU. Do put personal items that have your husbands smell in a sealed up bag to sniff when you need that familiar smell. Four years later the smell is faintly there for me. Put the items in a plastic bed comforter bag. Do not make any major decisions in the first year. Do not give anything away that belonged to him because someone asks. Do not mask your feelings even in front of children. They mimic what they see us doing. Let them know it’s okay to scream cry etc. we are only human. Please live again! (4 years, 2 months a widow).
11. K. Foster – Live your life. Laugh when you can. Love yourself first. Try not to make any BIG decisions in the first 18 months. This is one HELL-of-a journey. Live, Laugh, Love. (Widowed 7 years, 10 months and 6 days. 8/13/2010).
12. E. Johnson – If you can, get in a quiet place and allow God to saturate you with His love. I have been widowed almost two years August 19. Remember, you are still here for a purpose. There is something in you God can use to help others. Find out what that is and do it with all your heart – even if it is through tears!
13. M. Pittman – It’s your process and you deserve to have the moments you need to FEEL however you FEEL. I became a widow on May 9, 2010. My prayers are with you all.
14. L. H. Dallas – If you have children don’t forget they are grieving as well my daughter was a Freshman in college and a few years later I asked what happened to our relationship and she stated you tell me you love me but you act like you have nothing to live for since Daddy died. I was tied up in my own grief and thought she was fine away at school and she wasn’t. (5 years).
15. C. May – Hold off on making major decisions the first year if you can.
Give yourself as much time as you need to grieve. Go to grief counseling or a support group. Be kind to yourself. I’m almost 7 years a widow.
16. R. Nonye – Prepare yourself to be a widow to be envied and never a widow to be pitied. Always look good and not shabby looking so that people won’t feel sorry for you. Let your Children be your priority irrespective of all odds. Always hope in God believing that tomorrow will be better than tomorrow. Though it is not an easy journey we have to accept it with faith. (A mother of three promising kids and 13 years in widowhood).
17. S. Ngonyama – The journey isn’t a bed of roses, it’s not easy. You will find people who will not be as caring anymore. (3 years widowed).
18. S. Lee – I’m 34 yrs old and my advice is to learn what makes you happy and sad. Create a grief schedule of times and triggers. Love yourself more. (10 years widowed).
19. Y. Richardson – Stay close to God. He is the only one who can bring you through this. It’s so hard being widowed. (2 years widowed, married for 39 years, together for 42 years).
20. L. Aimes – Even though the pain is unbearable, take care of yourself and love yourself the same way he loved you. (1-year widowed).
21. P. Eunice – Draw your strength from the Lord alone because the journey is not an easy one. (Widowed for 13 years with three wonderful children).
22. G. Millender – Pray continuously and do what needs to be done.
Don’t worry about how you should grieve and the time frame. Don’t give into the opinions of family and friends. Maintain a bond if possible with the adult children and if there’s conflicting opinion, pray and move on.
23. B. Yesufu – Pray, praise and pamper yourself. (8 years widowed).
24. L. Law – Take time for yourself and your children. If you are able to plan a getaway, then GO! My relationship with my girls is everything!
25. R. Butler – Press through with as much grace as you can muster. The triggers will come and find your way through. Hold on to God’s unchanging hand and know your fellow widowed sisters got you!! Much love my sisters. (3 years widowed #alwayshiswife!).
26. R. Bonner – Give yourself permission to grieve!!! I am not only a widow, but I’ve also worked as a chaplain. It’s so important for us to understand that grieving is a natural process to healing. We cannot brush our grief under a rug and act like it’s not there – suppressing all that pain, trying to go on with life as nothing has happened, that’s detrimental to our health in all aspects of our living from physically to spiritually! Take time to grieve. When we suffer a loss, that is what we are supposed to do! It’s okay.
27. Y. Peoples – Stay prayed up, grieve with grace. You are stronger than you think. Where we are weak, God is strong. He will uphold you. Praise him in spite of your circumstances. God is close to widows and the broken-hearted. Remember to self-care. We tend to forget to take care of ourselves and most of all, love yourself enough to know you can make through this journey. (3 years widowed)
28. C. Pruitt – 1) Don’t make any MAJOR Decisions during the first year. 2) Keep your accounts PRIVATE & SECURED….some family & friends come out of the woodwork looking for handouts. 3) Don’t accept friend requests from strangers on Facebook. 4) Don’t try to buy friendship from anyone. 5) Grieve on your own terms. This is your journey. 6) Find your new normal. 7) Be kind to yourself. 8) LOVE YOURSELF 9) Ignore those who may try to dictate to you how your life should now be. 10) Give yourself TIME.
29. Adrienne – Do trust in GOD and know that HE cares for you. Do know that GOD hears your tears, your cries and knows your hurt, even your silent hurt. Do take care of yourself. Do smile and laugh and don’t feel guilty about it. Do know that sometimes grief comes and goes like the waves of the ocean. Don’t make major decisions in a hurry, especially that first year. (Widowed for 3 years).
30. J. Jackson – Allow yourself to grieve. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to scream and break things. It’s okay to talk to your deceased spouse. Allow yourself time. Pray.
31. P. Mason – This journey is yours, don’t let people tell you how, when or how long you are supposed to grieve. Do what is best for you. Although we all may have experienced loss and may have similar circumstances no one feels what you feel the way you do, and you have a right to feel whatever. There will be ups downs it will never go away don’t let someone tell you that, the sting is what lessons. Be patient with yourself as much as possible. If you choose to date again early or late (or never), that’s your business and your choice. Just keep moving. I know there are days where you may feel like you want to die (at least I did) but just keep moving. Take care of you!! (I just hit 4 years June 7).
32. M. Michael – Remember all the good times, cry when you feel the pain, laugh when you know he would say or do something funny, talk to him when you need to and look to the sky when you feel his presence. Know that this is a hard journey and you are not alone. Put yourself first and live life to the fullest. (Widowed 1 year, 2 mos. Married 27 years and together 31 yrs).
33. D. Williams – Just remember, it`s ok to say his name when talking to others. (September 23rd will be 5 yrs).
34. L. Mthombeni – Don’t make major decisions too prematurely.
35. G. Lopez – Do NOT discuss your finances with family or friends. Do NOT expect people to understand…they don’t. Do NOT give any of this things away until YOU are ready. Do NOT hold back tears, God gave them to us for a reason. Be kind to yourself. This is a process. Talk to your loved one as if they were there, it really really helps. I told my husband off, I yelled at him, I told him over and over how much I loved him and how much I missed him. I had a come to Jesus with him several times. I asked his advice, I asked for his forgiveness, I gave him my forgiveness, I talk out loud to him all the time. I swear to you he answers me somehow. Just don’t do it in front of people, they think we are crazy. I will be four years in February of next year. I swear to you that he will send me my second chapter!! My husband used to do this thing to my nose and say a phrase. One night while we were laying in bed and he was talking to me he did that thing to my nose and said that phrase, gave me a kiss and hugged me tightly. That was the answer to that question.
36. S. Washington
*Be gentle with yourself.
*Know that grieving is also physically and, mentally taxing.
*Take things moment by moment.
*It’s ok to say no
*Pray, scream and cry to relieve the pressure… It’s healing
*It’s ok to distance yourself from people (even family) who drain you rather than support you. The added stress is not healthy for you.
*Do reach out for help. I have a circle of friends I’ll send an “I am not okay today” text to when the grief wave feels like a tsunami.
*Celebrate and congratulate yourself for what most would consider minor. As a new widow, just getting out of the bed is MAJOR… Even if you have kids. (Widowed 19 months).
37. M. Tyler – Do NOT Google symptoms you have during your grieving period. They range from fatigue, anxiety, to insomnia and heartburn. Lots of random symptoms. The Google will have you thinking you have all kinds of crazy Mad Giraffe Disease and you’re gonna die any minute! (LOL). Do NOT discuss your new love life with non-widowed friends and family. DO get a physical and a mental evaluation to ease your mind that you are experiencing NORMAL grief symptoms that become physical because your emotions are extreme. Go to the doc ASAP – and let the pros do what they do best. (Remarried widow of 9 years).
38. E. Jones – Don’t forget you. Its okay to cry, (Widowed 1 year, 2 months).
39. C. Barnes – Do not self medicate. See a doctor if something isn’t right. Don’t forget to eat and drink. Drink lots of water, especially if you’re crying a lot. (Widowed 4 years).
Well, there you have it. As a widow of six years, my additional advice (tip 40) would be to distance yourself from friends and family (including other widows) who thrust negative emotions your way. You don’t need it. Treasure your sanity.
(Originally posted 9/16/18)
I’m sitting here in the dark listening to the wind howl and the thunder of rain caused by Hurricane Florence.
Sounds like something is about to pop off!
Oddly enough, I’m joyous and thankful. My late husband isn’t here …(his name is Herb, Sabra…it’s ok to say his name)… I still feel safe. I’m in a new place and I’m moving forward.
I see his pictures.
I see his Nike hoody that I saved to wear for a chilly and windy day and I can see his heavenly body telling me, “It’s ok to move on, Sabra; I’m fine. I want you to be happy and safe. God needs me here.”
And so I will. I’m ok. And I smile in this midst of this storm
I’m moving on.
I’m not a wordy person; never have been. But when it comes to prayer, you can’t shut me up.
It’s been six years and some change since his death. Six years of trying to fill a void with a little happiness here, a little fakeness there followed by creative activities, book reading, being a mom, taking cheap (but fulfilling) day trips, and retreating to yearly family outings.
I’m not going to lie and say that I’ve been incredibly happy and festive since his passing because I haven’t. But after his passing, I allowed my volunteerism to become an illusory phenomenon. (I had finally talked him into partnering with me to minister at the Alzheimer’s facility prior to his death. He awed the patients and staff with his tender words of comfort. His ministry had returned but it wasn’t for long).
I did the only thing that I felt would make me happy, which was a bit atypical for me. I threw myself a catered birthday bash a year after his death, complete with a Christian comedian, neo-soul band, and praise team. I’ve been on two cruises which enabled me to see six amazing islands. I’ve met some wonderful people, attended retreats and held non-traditional widowed events for my organization.
But don’t get it twisted, I’ve experienced incredible loneliness as well. I had downtime that I didn’t know what to do with other than to binge on Netflix movies and listen to inspirational messages (yes, I’m a movie buff).
But then there comes a time when you think that enough time has passed to be that consistent, level-headed, and focused widow everyone (especially the Church) expects of you. If this thought has ever crossed your mind, you’re not alone.
The pit is a disgusting place – a place where you can’t seem to be lifted from. No matter how athletically toned you think you are the pit will still grab hold of you no matter how many times you try to leave. There is no average length of time while in the pit. No, it’s nothing like the NASCAR pit the pit crew performs to recharge, refuel and repair; they only get 12 seconds to complete the job. This pit, well, you can best believe one would need more than several seconds to overcome. Withstanding a tire change is easy but enduring a turmoil of emotions is not. This is where the pit materializes. The pit you’re experiencing is virtual but it’s just as real as the real deal.
You plan your move and begin to climb but you hit obstacles. Your tendons and ligaments begin to give way as soon as the first pull-up is performed; one leg, then the other.
You hit that one major obstacle. You acknowledge that it has kept you from coping with everyday life. That obstacle: anger.
You begin to think of all of the rage you’ve felt since his passing. How dare he leave you alone with the children, the bills, the housework, the loneliness, the lack of intimacy, the lone seat at worship, and even the dealings of the widespread oppression, aggression, and high-profile racial incidents that have seemed to emerge – thanks to social media. You’re either too afraid or too introverted to talk to someone about it, let alone the doctor, so you continue on and pretend everything is fine – until everything is not fine. “I can manage this,” is repeatedly buzzing in your head. But you can’t manage it because you never know when it will hit you.
You fall down into the base of the pit and give up hope, but then there’s a ball of brightness that radiates down from the sky and passes through your prized strands – warming the melanin you’ve grown to applaud. You take a deep breath and realize that you DO need help and you can’t manage this by yourself. Tears begin to flow and you suddenly become energized. Not physically, but spiritually. You get an unction to talk, to chat, to pray. You realize it’s not you but another source that is working in you and through you. Your heartbeat begins to retreat and you feel a sense of comfort, peace, and happiness. Your lips have already begun to move, your tongue begins to flex in parallel and you begin to hear your own voice. You close your eyes. You’re praying and you like it. You love it. You respect it. You own it. You begin to ask for things you dare not ask friends, family, co-workers or even church members for. But this time you feel OK; it feels right to ask.
You finally open your eyes. You find yourself in the darkness, but this darkness is the closet. You had rearranged your shoes prior to beginning your prayer time in a way that would allow you to lie prostrate before God. You now remember what put you there. After reading a quote from E.M. Bounds, “Prayer is not learned in a classroom but in the closet,” you decided to tap into your spiritual side. And now you feel good. You trust Him. You feel pushed and motivated. You want to be better.
You leave the closet with determination and pick up the phone: “Hello, I’d like to make an appointment. I need help.”
You’re angry no more and you realize that you’re going to be OK.
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Founder/VisionaryBlack Women Widows Empowered
Fiscal Sponsor: The Carla Rose Foundation
“Empowering widows back to wholeness”