Wednesday, June 9, 2010

To Hell and Back

I felt such a connection to the widowed mom, Deb, portrayed in last night's episode of "Losing It With Jillian." She is in my age group (54), with two kids (a boy and girl, 10 and 12), and her husband has been gone almost six years. At the start of the show she tearfully moans that she is so tired (exhausted really), has nothing left to give (especially to herself), always has to do everything by herself, and feels so alone - all aspects that I cover on a regular basis in this blog. To hear another widowed mom say and relate those same powerful laments reduced my isolation and discontent for a brief period. I didn't feel so alone or so crazy or weak or like I'm a constant complainer. I'm a tired widowed mom struggling to make ends meet just like Deb. I'm not the only one. There is another widowed mom out there who leaves her dishes in the sink too!

There were some differences in our stories. Deb's kids are younger than mine and were only four and six when their dad died compared to my sons being nine and ten. She has a daughter whom she has relied on to fill some of the emotional void. Part of the show dealt with easing this burden off the daughter. I thought about how I have gone the other way in trying to protect my sons' childhoods as much as possible to the extent that I take on too much and just can't do it all by myself. I figure the widowed are doomed no matter what we do. We'll be criticized if we ask the kids to pick up the slack and then we're criticized when we try to let them still be kids. It ends up all being a balance. The kids do need to step up to the plate more than kids living in a two-parent home. Simply based on what has happened to the family - the dad/husband has died. I've tried to protect my sons from having to face more pain. But it has come at a huge cost to me. So in the days ahead I'll work on demanding more of a family input from the guys.

When I worked as a counselor or in social services, I was extremely kind, gentle and empathic. I have always believed that you get more from honey than vinegar. I cringed when viewing Jillian's boot camp tactics. Both last night's and last week's families are dealing with grief issues in their pasts. I say lets tone it down some for people already in deep pain. But that's my opinion. I'd also recommend some therapy or counseling for these families. It is good to change from the outside in, but to change from the inside out doesn't just happen on its own. You have to work at it.

Deb's house was very cluttered with piles of stuff. In fact, I know someone with a bedroom that looks very similar to the one Deb was living in. Although I don't have the piles in our living area, I do have storage sheds filled to the brim. It looks like next week's episode is going to deal with that issue - and again, in the promo, the featured mom says she doesn't want to part with her stuff because she has already lost too much. There it is again - that word - LOSS.

I continue to hope that people watching last night's show felt empathy, compassion and gained some understanding about widowhood. It appears there is an underlying theme connecting these families - loss. Maybe there will be a greater comprehension for the havoc loss can play in our lives. I learned something about myself last night and I felt less alone. That's a pretty good combination.

Jillian told the Deb that she'd been to hell and back already. Now she needs to go on/move forward. While I understand what Jillian meant, I also felt she was just giving lip service. For some of us the hell doesn't cease. Financial worries, working, loneliness are mainstays of my life and Deb's. There was no mention of Deb having a love life and the family even admitted not engaging in many fun activities together as a family. I can totally relate to that. So I saw a bit of that can do, get over it attitude depicted. I'll counter that it's not that easy to just turn your collapsed life around. I think some viewers last night may have had the belief that Deb hadn't tired hard enough, or she'd let herself go. So not true!

Deb - My heart goes out to you as another mom who has walked in your shoes. I get you and I appreciate you. Your courage and strength inspire me to get up off the couch and try and improve my life too. If you can do it so can I!

There is no magic wand for widowed moms unless maybe we win the lottery and even that wouldn't be a total cure. Life is still hard and grueling. Deb losing 32 pounds doesn't take away the pain of not having her beloved husband here to be there for her and the kids. But it makes her physically healthier to face the road ahead. Thanks for sharing your story, Deb. You are amazing.


  1. Interesting. I will try to watch that show next week. I had coffee this afternoon with a woman who told me a comment made by a woman whose husband left her (Okay, she's not a widow but still alone) She said, "When one door closes, another opens, but the hallway between them is a bitch."

  2. Great comment and a very wise choice of words. I get upset with the time heals all wounds mentality. The same with this phrase about one door closing and the other opening. People freely spout these words out with authority forgetting that the hallway between two doors can be littered with obstacles(hardship), dark and without light making it very scary and hard to navigate. And sometimes we get stuck in the middle of the hall!

    This woman risked a lot going public with her story and life. She is bound to be criticized by those who look at the six year period and be unable to understand her difficulties and say that she is lacking because she hasn't gotten her life back together. Six years can seem like a long time but I know that life can actually get harder and I'm even more tired and discouraged just trying to keep on living.

    It is so easy to point fingers at all that people don't seem to do in our eyes. I wish we were better able to point out all that people do accomplish and praise them for doing the best they can under trying circumstances. This woman deserves some credit too.