How to Write a (Grief) Memoir

Since this post is on memoirs, a bit of shameless self-promotion: I’m teaching a memoir writing class in Ephraim, Utah on April 9. Don’t have full details as to where the class will be taught but it is part of Write Here in Ephraim Conference that will include many other wonderful authors and presenters. Stay tuned for details. If you’re in the area and want to know the ins and outs of memoir writing, I’d love to have you attend.


Ever since The New York Times slammed Joyce Carol Oates memoir, A Widow’s Story, there’s been uproar in the widow(er) community about the review with many widow(er)s saying that the reviewer just doesn’t “get” what’s it’s like to be a widow. I haven’t read JCO’s memoir so I can’t say whether or not the book is worthy of the criticism it received. Thanks to a reader’s tip, I read an excerpt in The New Yorker. Though I was impressed with JCO’s prose, I found the telling of the last week of her husband’s life and first few hours of widowhood similar to what you might find on a recent widow blog. And, in my mind, that’s a problem.

Blogs aren’t memoirs. They have a different purpose and audience. When done well, blogs are vignettes that focus on one moment and give the reader some insight into that incident or person. Memoirs have more meat. Instead of focusing on a day or special moment, modern memoirs usually focus on a major event (or series of events) where the author learns something from the experience and shares it with the reader.

Maybe when I read JCO’s work in its entirety, I’ll feel different. But the little bit I read seemed like something lifted from a personal journal. It’s interesting if you know the person but utterly lacking the depth necessary to give the reader insight into losing a spouse. (I’m going to order the book later this week. However if any readers know of any more online excerpts, please email me or leave a note in the comment section below.)

So what does it take to write a good memoir? Five things immediately come to mind. (For those looking write a memoir on a different subject, just replace grief theme with whatever the crux of your experience is about. The suggestions below still apply.)

  1. Your story needs to be unique. You lost a spouse. So what. Millions of people lose a spouse every year. What makes your spouse’s death and your journey so different that other people will want to read it? You aren’t the first person to walk this path. To get the attention of agents, publishers, and readers your experience has to something unique about their story that makes it stand out from the crowd.
  2. You need to offer new insight on the subject. Many books have been written on losing a spouse. Most of them might as well be carbon copies of each other. What has your experience/journey taught you that may not be known by those who have written or walked down the same path? For example, most widow(er)s learn that life goes on and they can be happy again after losing a spouse. While that insight may be new to the writer, it’s not an earth shattering concept to most people. To make it worth the reader’s time, you need to offer some insight or unique perspective into death, grieving, moving on, etc. that other people may not have noticed.
  3. You need to be honest. With memoirs—especially grief memoirs—authors have a tendency to turn themselves look like a tragic hero for going through the experience. They don’t want to make themselves appear human. Big mistake. Even widow(er)s have flaws and make bad decisions. You need to appear just as human as the next person or the reader will feel you’ve been less than truthful and will blow your credibility. With a memoir you never want the reader to feel that way about you.
  4. You need to know how to tell a story. Good writers know what events to include and what events to leave out of their memoirs. For example, there’s no need to include the funeral of the late spouse unless something happened there that’s important to the story or can offer the reader some bit of insight into yourself or your culture that can’t come out in another part of the story. Otherwise you’re just filling up the book with pointless information and wasting the reader’s time. Good writers also know how to make quotidian events come alive and paint a vivid picture in the reader’s head. (Side note: This is one thing JCO is very good at.) They know how to take an event like death and widow(er)hood and make it interesting to the reader instead of it simply feeling like they’re reading something they’ve read a hundred times before. Being able to do this is a very difficult talent to master.
  5. Your book needs to appeal to a wide audience. Good memoirs will appeal to their target audience. Great memoirs appeal to a wider audience. If you write a grief memoir and get positive feedback from other widow(er)s, you’ve probably done a decent job writing what it’s like to lose a spouse. However, when you start getting good reviews and feedback from those who have no clue what it’s like to lose a spouse, then you know you’ve written a compelling memoir with the depth and insight needed (see #2) to get people to look at the world I a different way. These are the kinds of memoirs that agents and publishers are interested in.

When I do get around to reading, JCO’s memoir, the above five points are the standard I'll review it against. Once it arrives via Amazon, it goes to the top of my reading stack.

Up with Grief

Up: Carl & Ellie

Note: This post was written for and posted on the Open to Hope site. You can see the original post here.

It's hard to find movies for adults that adequately deal with the death of a spouse and putting one's life back together. Fortunately, one of the movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar does a great job of dealing with the subjects of death, grief, and moving on better than any other film in recent memory—and it's target audience is kids.

The movie? Up.

In the first 20 minutes of the film we see Carl Fredricksen as a boy meeting his future wife, Ellie. When they grow up, they both want to become explorers and journey to faraway lands. Ellie shows Carl her adventure book that contains a few notes and drawings of things she's done. Most of the pages in the book are blank, and Ellie tells Carl that she's going to fill the rest of book with photos and of all the exciting things she's going to do.

Then the audience is taken on a short silent movie journey of their life. They get married and start careers. They decide to have a family only to find out she's infertile. Though the news is tough to swallw, they both decide to keep working and save their pennies for a trip to Paradise Falls in South America. But as the years pass, they keep raiding their savings to pay for car repairs and other life emergencies. They grow old, and one day Carl realizes that they've never taken the trip they dreamed about. He throws caution to the wind and buys tickets to Paradise Falls. Only they never make the trip. As he's about to surprise his wife with the plane tickets, she falls ill and dies.

The next time we see Carl he's a grumpy widower. Fed up with life and facing a court-ordered placement in a retirement home, he decides he's had enough. As a former balloon salesman, he rigs his Victorian house with thousands of balloons and launches it into the sky, determined to finally visit Paradise Falls. The only complication to his trip is that Russell, a neighborhood kid and wilderness explorer, has unwittingly come along for the ride too.

During the journey to the falls, the Victorian house becomes the symbol for Ellie. Not only does the house contain photographs and other reminders of Ellie and Carl's life together but, at various points in the journey, Carl looks up at the house talks to it, wondering what Ellie would say if only she were there with him.

As he travels with Russell, the house becomes more of a hindrance than a help. Carl's so determined to take the house to Paradise Falls that he's unable to form a relationship with Russell or even think about getting them both home safely. At times Carl seems more concerned about damage the house receives than the danger Russell and himself find themselves in.

Carl doesn't realize how much the house is holding him back until he finds himself browsing through Ellie's adventure book. As he turns the pages, he's surprised to discover that the blank pages she showed him years ago are filled with pictures of his and Ellie's life together. Suddenly Carl realizes that even though he and Ellie were never able to visit the Paradise Falls together, they did have a wonderful, fulfilling life as husband and wife. It doesn't matter that they never got to visit the falls together—the real adventure in life was the years spent with Ellie.

Armed with this new insight Carl is able to literally let go of the house in order to get he and Russell home safely. As a result, he's able to move on with his life and start a new and fulfilling chapter as a father for Russell. It's a message that anyone who's struggling to move on after the death of a spouse could use.

Don't let this beautifully animated film trick you into thinking it's for kids only. There's plenty in Up to keep kids entertained but with its unique plot and adept handling of more “grown up” issues, this life-affirming film deserves the Best Picture of the year award and is the new high water mark in movies that deal with grief and the loss of a spouse.

Widower Friends

Widower Needs A Friend

In the comment section of 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers, Tyler writes:

I have spent a lot of time online getting information on grieving, etc. After a wonderful marriage of 21 years, I have found myself as a widower of a big six weeks. NO-I am not ready to move on! That is a long way off. I happened upon this site as I was searching other information. As I have read these articles, however, a question has been raised in my head.

I understand that the lonliness [sic] and emptiness is a big part of the grieving process. Is longing for a friend to talk to necessarily a bad thing? As noted in some of your articles, I understand that widowers are no different than other singles in how we need to treat women. (Quite frankly I am shocked that this would have to be said.)

As with many single people who are not looking to become involved but want to be active rather than festering at home, is there an appropriate way to approach this situation? Looking at it from the opposite point of view, if I were a woman approached by a guy like me wanting a "friendship" after 3-4-5 months of widowerhood, I would probably run away as fast as I could!

In my case there will absolutely be no intimacy until marriage, so that is not the issue. I would also never even approach someone even as a friend without my children's knowledge and approval.

Thoughts about approaching a "friend"?

I highlight this comment because Tyler’s comment reflects a lot of the emotional state recent widowers (including myself many, many years ago) find themselves in: they’re not ready to date or even form a serious relationship but they want to reach out to someone (preferably female) who they can talk to and connect with. Even if they aren’t intending to get serious with someone, they’re trying to connect on an emotional level that’s bound to lead to some kind of emotional/romantic attachment on his part or the woman he becomes friends with. The result is going to be an emotional disaster for one or both people involved.

So for women who are dating widowers keep Tyler’s emotional state in mind as you start a relationship with a widower—especially a recent one. Yes, some widowers are ready to move on but a lot of them are looking to rebuild the emotional connection they had before their wife passed away. This means you need to keep your eyes wide open when you date a widower. And if you feel the widower’s not ready to move on, don’t be afraid to end the relationship and let him know that you don’t feel he’s ready for a serious relationship.

For widowers who feel like Tyler, I can understand the need to talk to someone about what you’re going through. And if you don’t have a friend that has lost a spouse, finding someone who can relate to what you’re going through can be very, very difficult. That being said, if you don’t feel that any of your current friends are the sounding board you need, get some kind of counseling. Sure, it costs money, but you can get stuff off your chest without the risk of becoming emotionally involved with someone. Friendships become strong when they’re based on enough common interests to grow and develop. Loneliness and a broken heart always make for a poor friendship foundation.

Update:Due to some comments on this post, here's the response I sent to the poster:

What is the purpose of this “friend?” you seek? Are you looking for someone you can talk to about your grief or someone you can just hang out with occasionally?

In either case, why does this “friend” have to be a woman? Don’t you have any guy friends now that you can hang around with on occasion?

Instead of seeking out an individual person, why not join a club or some other group where there are a lot of people and start making friends that way.

Friendships develop when there are enough common interests to build something on it. Loneliness and a broken heart always make for a poor foundation to find a friend.

Widowers: They’re Still Men!

Widowers: They're Still Men!

Sometimes I feel like a broken record when it comes to the issues involved with dating a widower. Widowers are men. That means they act and behave like men. And men aren’t that hard to understand. If you start viewing your widower as a man instead of a widower, you’ll be able to quickly identify whether or not they’re ready to date again and, more importantly, are serious about you.

In the hopes that women can better understand widowers, here are five things that will give you some insight into men so you know whether or not they’re ready for a serious, committed relationship.

1. Men can’t be forced into loving someone

For some reason women have this idea they can charm a man into loving them. It doesn’t matter if he’s a widower, divorced, or a bachelor. Women think that somehow they can open a man’s eyes and make them see what a great catch she is.

Here’s the truth: You can’t. When it comes to love, men will figure out rather quickly whether or you’re one they want to spend the rest of their life with. When it comes to widowers, there’s nothing special you can do or say that will make the widower snap out of his grief. If he thinks you’re worth keeping, he’ll do that all on his own.

What you can do is learn how to dress nice, flirt, and learn how to get a man’s attention so he’ll ask you out and get to know you better. Let it be known that Marathon Girl didn’t do anything to help me put the grief for the late wife aside. The first time I saw her I had put my eyes back in my head and pick my jaw off the floor because she was so damn sexy. Then, after I got to know her better, I realized that not only was she hot but she had everything else I wanted in a future spouse. I knew she was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I also realized the only way that was going to happen if I moved on with my life. It wasn’t a hard choice. I would have run 100 miles over shards of broken glass just to have her smile at me. After six years of marriage, she has the same affect on me.

And it’s not just me. Over the years I’ve been in touch with lots of widowers who have remarried and they all say the same thing: when the right person comes along, getting over grief is a cinch.

2. Men are, by nature, pursuers

When it comes to relationships, men do better when they’re the one pursing you. If you’re pursing them, you may get a few dates out of it but odds are you’re not going to get a committed relationship from your efforts.

When widowers decide to enter the dating waters after the death of their spouse, they’re often fighting feelings of whether or not they’re ready to date and if they can make room in their heart for another woman. This often makes widower hesitant to take the lead. Women can often sense this hesitancy and tend to take control of the relationship.

Don’t do this. Men need to decide for themselves if you’re worth it. Making this decision for them is only asking for heartache if you perceive the relationship as getting serious. With widowers, having to decide to ask you out or plan a date forces them to come to grips with their internal struggle of whether or not they’re ready to date again and whether or not you’re worth it. (See #1.)

Keep in mind that this applies to the early stages of a relationship where men need to decide if you’re worth it. As the relationship becomes more serious and you become more comfortable with each other, then you can step in. Once they feel like they’ve conquered the relationship and made you the center of their universe, they’ll do whatever you want.

3. Men can only actively love one person at a time

Would you date a man who was still angry over a recent divorce or getting over a breakup with his girlfriend? No? Then why on earth do you date a man who says he’s still grieving his late wife?

Men can only actively love one person at a time. If they still have strong feelings for another person—regardless of whether that person is alive or dead—you’re going to be the rebound relationship. Is that something you really want?

Widowers have to learn how to put their love for the late wife aside and actively love you. This doesn’t mean they stop loving the late wife but it means their utmost thoughts and feelings are for you. Playing second fiddle to an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend is bad enough. It’s even worse when the person is dead.

Avoid men who still clinging to the past. If you don’t, you’re not only in for a roller coaster ride but there’s a broken heart for you at the end.

4. Men’s actions speak louder than their words

Talk is not only cheap, it can be very seductive. Don’t listen to a man’s flattering words. It doesn’t matter how many times a man says he loves you or cares about you. When a guy really loves you, his actions and words will align. Not only will he say you’re the center of his universe, you’ll feel like it too.

Don’t start making excuses for a widower’s behavior because he’s still “grieving.” If he says he’s not giving you the attention, love, and dedication you want because he’s struggling to move on that means 1) he’s not ready for a serious relationship or 2) he’s simply using you for companionship, sex, to fill the hole in his heart, or a combination of the three.

Don’t settle of a second tier relationship. You deserve better. A lot better. Find someone who will treat you like a queen instead of giving you excuses why he can’t make you numero uno.

5. Men don’t equate sex with commitment

My inbox overfloweth with emails from women dating widowers who are dumped soon after sleeping with them. The women generally attribute the widowers’ behavior to some grief related issues and want to know what they can do about it. My answer: nothing.

With men, sex doesn't equal commitment. This goes for single and divorced men and widowers. If the man wasn’t a widower, most women would realized that they had just been used for their bodies. But because he’s a widower and “grieving” most women aren’t quick to what just happened.

You want a committed relationship, get the man to sacrifice for you. Have him prove his love. As Alisa Goodwin Snell, licensed therapist and author of “Dating Game Secrets for Marrying a Good Man” writes:

Sacrifice is deeply connected to love. If you are excessively available, eager to please, quick to meet his needs, and reluctant to express your feelings or needs, you will deny him the opportunity to sacrifice for you. This will turn him off to you and the relationship, due to your lack of faith and trust in him, while also preventing him from developing deep love for you.

If you’re looking for a serious, long term relationship with a guy, zip your legs and wait to see if it's you he wants or sex. If a guy’s looking to use you just for sex, he can only put a seductive façade for so long. Sooner or later the real him will appear. Better to be cautious and make sure the widower is serious about you then to end up with a one night stand and regretting it.

Remember, widowers are men. They act and behave like men. Most widower issues are really man issues. Never the term widower make you think otherwise. Understand men and 99% of any widower-related issues will be solved.

Other widower-related articles by Abel

  • Up with Grief NEW!
  • Dating and Marriage: One Regret NEW!
  • Widowers: They're Still Men! NEW!
  • 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers
  • Photos of the Dead Wife
  • 5 Signs a Widower is Serious About Your Relationship
  • How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief
  • Life with a Widower
  • Dating a Widower
  • The Grief Industry
  • Suicide Survivor
  • A Letter to Elizabeth
  • Sex and Intimacy with Widowers
  • The Widowerhood Excuse
  • How to Talk to a Widower
  • Red Flags to Watch for When Dating A Widower
  • Book Review: Sea Changes by Gail Graham

    Sea Changes by Gail Graham

    Ever since the late wife died, I've had a hard time reading fiction where the main character is a widow or widower. Thought the authors try hard, most of them don't do a good job of capturing what it's like to lose a spouse. Oh sure, most of them do a good job describing the sense of loss and grief that accompanies the death of a spouse, but when it comes to the internal emptiness that comes with it, most of them fall short.

    So when I learned that Gail Graham's latest novel, Sea Changes, was about a widow living in Australia who is struggling to move on with her life two years after her husband's death, I was tempted to pass on the book without even reading it. The last thing I wanted was wade through page after page of self-pity.

    Thankfully, I decided to give the book a chance.

    Sea Changes is about American expatriate Sarah Andrews. She lives alone in a small house. She's mostly estranged from her two children. Despite living in Australia for thirty-some-odd years she still hasn't adjusted to life in Sydney. She stays in Australia only because her daughter lives there. Sarah's only real human contact comes from weekly therapy sessions with a psychologist named Kahn. Despite seeing him for nearly two years, he's been of little help. Most of her therapy sessions involve her talking and Kahn saying very little and abruptly ending the sessions on time.

    Thinking that life holds little purpose for her, Sarah decides to swim far enough out to sea that she'll be too tired to return and drown. But as her strength fails her, a girl names Bantryd appears and takes her to an underwater world. Later Sarah wakes up on the beach and wonders if everything she has just experienced was a dream. The incident prompts a change in Sarah. She begins to see more of a purpose in the world. She also is determined to find out if the underwater world she visited was real or simply her imagination.

    Graham does a great job of capturing the feelings that come years after losing a spouse. However, she's smart enough not to make widowhood the focus of her story. Instead the story is really about the journey that comes when life suddenly changes. It's about rebirth and learning that even when we're left alone in the world, there are people and places waiting to be discovered if only we take a step out of our day-to-day routines.

    In fact, the most satisfying part of the book was seeing how Sarah finally became her own woman and changed from a woman who saw no purpose in life to one where she wasn't going to let anyone tell her what to do. And the best part? The book had the one of the best ending to a novel that come across in years. It doesn't matter if you've never lost a spouse or never read a fantasy novel in your entire life. Graham has written a beautiful novel that will stay with me for years.

    5 stars (out of five) for the unforgettable book Sea Changes.

    Should I Dump the Widower for Lying or Dating too Soon?

    Dating a Widower

    Originally published here.

    Julie asks: I recently began dating a widower who told me his wife died a year ago. I've just learned she actually died 4 months ago. I like this man very much and we enjoy each other's company. I don't know details of how long she was ill, but he did say some of his kids (adults now) don't approve of his dating. Should I stop dating this recent widower for not telling the truth or simply because it's too soon, or both?

    Abel Keogh responds:

    To paraphrase an old saying: If you see one cockroach, there are 100 more you can’t see.

    The fact that the widower started dating months after his wife’s death isn’t a big deal. Some people are ready to date again after a few months of grieving. For others it can take years before they’re ready to start a new relationship. When dating a widow or widower what’s important is that they’re moving on with their life and making you feel like the center of their universe.

    What’s disturbing is that the widower lied about when his wife died. He may have done it thinking that the truth would scare you away. I started dating 5 months after my wife’s death. It was very hard to tell the women I was dating that my late wife had died a few months earlier. Even though I was hesitant to answer the question when the subject came up, I always told the truth – even if the truth meant I didn’t get a second date. I don’t condone his lie but, if he did it because he thought the truth would end any chance of another date, I can at least sympathize with why he did it.

    Keep in mind that solid, long lasting relationships can only be built on the truth. I would seriously re-examine the relationship from top to bottom and decide if it’s worth continuing. If you choose to continue the relationship, don’t be surprised if more cockroaches surface down the road.

    10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers

    Note: I've updated a dating post I wrote a couple years ago and posted it on the Open to Hope site. The article is also reprinted below. 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers

    Dating again after the death of a spouse can be an awkward experience. It can bring out feelings of guilt, betrayal from the person dating again. It can also bring out feelings of confusion and concern from friends, family, and those who were close to the deceased spouse.

    If you’ve lost a spouse and are looking to date again, here are 10 tips to make sure you’re able to successfully navigate the dating waters.

    1. When you decide to date again is up to you

    There’s no specific time period that one should wait before dating again. Grieving and the process of moving on is something that’s unique to each person. Some people take years, others weeks, and then there are those who choose never to date again. Whatever you do, don’t let others tell you you’re moving too fast or waiting too long. Make sure it’s something you’re really ready to try before taking that step.

    I started dating five months after my late wife died. Too soon? There were some friends and family who thought so. But five months was when I felt ready to at least test the dating waters. And thought it took a few dates to get the hang of things, I have no regrets about dating that soon.

    2. Make sure you’re dating for the right reasons

    If you feel like dating again, take some time to understand why you want to date again. It’s not wrong to date because you’re lonely or desire some company. Single people date for those reasons too. However, if you’re dating because you think it going to somehow fill the void or heal the pain that comes from losing a spouse, it’s not going to happen. However, dating does give you the opportunity to open your heart to another person and chance to experience the unique and exquisite joy that comes with falling in love again.

    3. Feeling guilty is natural – at first

    The first time I went to dinner with another woman, I felt like I was cheating on my late wife. As we entered the restaurant, I was filled with feelings of guilt and betrayal. Throughout our entire date I kept looking around to see if there was anyone in the restaurant I knew. I thought that if someone saw me out with another woman, the first thing they’d do is run and tell my dead wife what I was up to. It sounds silly, but I couldn’t shake that feeling the entire evening. A week later I went out with someone else. The same feelings of guilt were there only they were less intense. It took about five dates before the feeling went away entirely and I could actually enjoy the company of the woman I was with without feeling guilty.

    As you date, feelings of guilt should subside over time – especially when you find that special someone you might want to spend the rest of your life with. If the guilt’s not subsiding, you might not be ready to date again. Give dating a break and try dating again when you might be more up to the task.

    4. It’s okay to talk about the deceased spouse – just don’t overdo it

    Unless you’re good friends or have known your date previously, he or she is going to be naturally curious about your spouse and previous marriage. And it’s OK to talk about the spouse when you’re first dating someone. Answer questions he or she may have about your marriage but don’t spend all your time talking about the dead or how happy you were. After all your date is the one that's here now. And who knows, he or she might make you incredibly happy for years to come. Constantly talking about the past, may make it seem like you’re not ready to move on and start a new relationship. Showing that you care enough to get to know them can help reassure your date that you’re ready to start a new life with someone else.

    5. Your date is not a therapist

    Would you like going out with someone who constantly talked about issues she was having in her life? Dating isn’t a therapy session – it’s an opportunity to spend time with someone else and enjoy their company. If you find yourself dating just to talk about the pain in your heart, how much you miss your spouse, or tough times you’re going though, seek professional help. Spending $60 an hour on professional help you much more than spending $60 for dinner and a movie. Besides, your date will have a more memorable night if it’s about him or her then about everything you’re going through.

    6. It’s okay to make mistakes when you’re finding your dating legs

    When I started dating again, it had been seven years since I had gone out with anyone other than my wife. Because I had a certain comfort level with my first wife, I often found myself forgetting proper dating etiquette such as opening the car door or not walking a date to her door when the date was over.

    If you find yourself forgetting simple dating etiquette, don’t worry about it. Most dates would understand if they knew it had been awhile since you dated. But don’t make the same mistake over and over. Learn from them and continue moving forward. You’ll be surprised how fast your dating legs return.

    7. Defend your date

    You may discover when once the family and friends learn you’re dating again they may not treat this new woman or man in your life very well. The treatment may come in the form of a cold shoulder at family activities or constantly talking about the deceased wife in front of the date. If you have family and friends who are doing this, they need to be told privately, but in a loving manner, that this behavior is not acceptable. If you wouldn’t let family or friends treat your spouse that way, why would you tolerate that behavior toward someone else – especially when your date could become your future spouse? Don’t be afraid to defend your date. If you can’t do that, then you have no business dating again.

    8. Realize that not everyone will understand why you’re dating again There will always be someone who will not understand why you’ve chosen to date again. They may give you a hard time for dating again or have some silly romantic notion that widows and widowers shouldn’t fall in love again. Their options do not matter. All that matters is that you’re ready to date again. You don’t need to justify your actions to them or anyone else.

    9. Take things slow

    The death of a spouse means losing the intimate physical contact. After awhile we miss the kisses, having someone’s head resting on our shoulder, or the warm body next to us in bed. This lack of physical and emotional intimacy is enough to drive a lot of people into the dating scene. Don’t feel bad if you find yourself missing these things. It’s completely normal.

    In the dating world wanting something that was part of our lives for years can become a ticking time bomb. It can force us into a serious relationship before we’re ready. The result: lots of broken hearts and emotional baggage.

    If you find that you’re on a date and it’s going well, don’t be afraid to take things slow. This isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s hard not to throw ourselves at our date if things are going good because we want to be close to someone again. We want that warm body next to ours and have the words “I love you” whispered in our ears. But it can save you and your date a lot of emotional heartache if you wait to make sure what you’re doing is because you love the other person and not because you miss the intimacy that came with your late husband or wife.

    10. Make your date feel like the center of the universe

    It’s a basic dating rule but it’s often forgotten by widows and widowers. Because we already have someone special in our lives, sometimes we forget to make our date feel special too. Treat your date in such a way that he or she feels like she’s the center of your universe. He or she shouldn’t have to compete against a ghost – even if you only have one date with that person. As long you’re out together, he or she should be the center of your universe.

    Even though dating can be awkward and difficult at times, it can also be a lot of fun. There’s no reason being a widow or widower should hold you back from enjoying a night out. Part of the reason we’re here is to live and enjoy life. And dating is a great way to start living again.


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    More widower-related articles by Abel Keogh

  • Up with Grief NEW!
  • Dating and Marriage: One Regret NEW!
  • Widowers: They're Still Men! NEW!
  • 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers
  • Photos of the Dead Wife
  • 5 Signs a Widower is Serious About Your Relationship
  • How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief
  • Life with a Widower
  • Dating a Widower
  • The Grief Industry
  • Suicide Survivor
  • A Letter to Elizabeth
  • Sex and Intimacy with Widowers
  • The Widowerhood Excuse
  • How to Talk to a Widower
  • Red Flags to Watch for When Dating A Widower
  • The Other Love of His Life

    Amy Paturel has the My Turn column in the latest issue of Newsweek which, interestingly, deals with her fiancé and herself having to make peace with the dead wife before they could move on. A lot of her emotions echo what women who are dating widowers have emailed me over the years. Writes Patruel:

    I pored over her pictures trying to learn everything I could about the woman who came before me. She would always hold a place in Brandon's heart, so I needed to know who she was.

    A chill came over me when I visited her memorial page and read through the online guest book: "No one could ever fill her shoes," someone wrote. That launched me into my next search: "dating a widower." Every site I visited warned of men who disappear after a few months out of guilt, those who constantly draw comparisons to their late spouse and those who live in the tragic state of "what if?" Brandon hadn't done any of those things.

    But then I read this: "If he has pictures of her on the walls, clothes of hers in the closet and trinkets of their life together on display, he is not ready."

    Brandon insisted he wanted to move on, that she was dead and he was not. He even avoided the red flags I had read about. About a month into the relationship, the ring came off. Pictures were tucked away and replaced. Slowly, her clothes began to disappear from the closet.

    Yet I still grappled with the feeling that I might never measure up to what he lost. In his mind, she will always be 33 and beautiful. Me? I'll get gray hair, wrinkled skin and flabby thighs. What's more, their relationship will remain perfect, frozen forever in newlywed bliss. In six short months, they didn't weather the storms that come with age and time: sleepless nights caring for newborns, arguments over money, in-law drama.

    Her essay is a good vignette on what it takes for both people to find peace and start a new life together.

    You can read Paturel’s essay here.

    (Thanks for the link, Erin!)

    Widow’s Friends Disown Her for Having New Relationship

    In my latest post on the OpentoHope site, I answer the following question from Anne: I lost my dad and husband within a week of each other three years ago, and life has been a battle. My dearest friends (a couple that my husband and I used to do everything with) won't accept the fact I am seeing another man and have been for nearly two years. The husband told me the other day never to come back and see them. I have given them space and continue to love and support them, Please help. I am just so sad about it. I have tried talking to them but they won't. I am also their daughter's godmother and she is heart-broken her parents are doing this. Help me.

    You can read my answer here.

    My Life: Seven Years Later

    My latest post on the OpentoHope site was posted today.

    November tenth is a day that creeps up on me now.

    It wasn’t always this way.

    In past years it was a day heavy with memories, emotions, and unanswered questions.

    Now it’s a day just like any other.

    This year it wasn’t until after lunch that I looked at the calendar in my office and noted the date. Suddenly, I realized what day it was. I pushed my laptop to the side and looked out the window at the green grass and sunshine. In seconds the memory of hearing a gunshot from our bedroom and finding my late wife’s lifeless body flashed through my mind followed by a tinge of the raw terror that flowed through my body that afternoon.

    You can read it in its entirity here.

    The American Widow Project

    On the way to work this morning, I heard a fascinating report on NPR about the American Widow Project – a non-profit organization for (young) military widows. The American Widow project was started by Taryn Davis who was just 21-years-old when her husband was killed in Iraq. Feeling alone she took a camera and started making a documentary that ended up being turned into a national support grow for other widows. It’s a moving story and you can listen to it here. Though I’m not a military widower, I remember wanting resources that could help. Now it seems like there are more and more of them. I hope young miliary widows can find the support they need through this group. You can check out The American Widow Project here.

    Update: Here's a trailer to their documentary.

    Widow’s Friends Don't Want Her to Date Again

    My latest post on the OpenToHope site is up. I answer the following question. Ann from Michigan writes: My husband of 23 years and my dad died within a week of each other. It was awful. We had a large circle of close friends who were great to me, but when I met another man, they were not happy and were always looking for faults with him and trying to tell me not to be with him. They don’t understand that I am just trying to move forward with life. I will always love my husband, but I know I must move on. I can’t go back to the way it was before March 2006. Some people have even broken off their friendship with me. Why can’t they understand and support me?

    You can read my answer here.

    How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief

    My latest post is up on the OpentoHope blog. It's a brief look on how Sen. Joe Biden, at the age of 30, lost is first wife a month after being elected to the U.S. Senate, overcame his grief, and put his life back together. You can read it below or here. On November 7, 1972 a relatively unknown lawyer named Joe Biden pulled off a big political upset. By just over 3,000 votes he defeated two-term incumbent U.S. Senator J. Caleb Boggs and, at age 30, became the sixth youngest Senator in U.S. history.

    Despite the amazing victory, he almost never took the oath of office. On December 18, 1972 while Biden was in Washington D.C. looking at his new office, his wife, Neilia, took their three children shopping for a Christmas tree. They were involved in a fatal automobile accident. Neilia and his infant daughter, Naomi, were killed. His two sons, Hunter and Beau, were critically injured.

    His life suddenly and unexpectedly changed, Biden suddenly found himself as a 30-year-old widower and single father. He also found himself filled with anger and doubt. In his memoir Promises to Keep Biden wrote, "I began to understand how despair led people to just cash it in; how suicide wasn't just an option but a rational option ... I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry."

    A career in the U.S. Senate suddenly didn't seem that important as being there for his two sons. He considered resigning before even taking the oath of office. Beau recalled his father saying, "Delaware can get another senator, but my boys can't get another father."

    Eventually other U.S. Senators like Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy convinced Biden to take the job the people of Delaware elected him to do. In January of 1973 he took the oath of office at his sons' hospital bedside. However, because he still wanted to be there for his sons, he gave up his the home he and his late wife were planning to buy in Washington D.C. and commuted by train to and from his home - a practice he still continues.

    Still, life wasn't easy for the young Senator. At first he did the least amount of work required for his job. "My future was telescoped into putting one foot in front of the other ... Washington, politics, the Senate had no hold on me," Biden wrote. Senate staffers began placing bets on how long Biden would last.

    No one would have blamed Biden for quitting. After all, he has lost half his family. But Biden didn't quit. Despite his grief, Biden he hung on and slowly began rebuilding his shattered life.

    It wasn't until 1975, however, when Biden met Jill Jacobs that the pieces really fell into place. Falling in love again renewed Biden's interest in life and politics. "It had given me the permission to be me again," Biden wrote in his memoir. Two years later they married.

    With his renewed passion, Biden continued what was to become a successful political career. He was re-elected five times to the Senate. He served as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1987-1995 and currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. In 2008, after a second failed attempt to become the Democrat's presidential nominee, he was asked to be Sen. Barack Obama's Vice Presidential running mate.

    "Failure at some point in your life is inevitable but giving up is unforgivable," Biden said during his Vice Presidential acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

    It's impossible to say what would have happened to Biden if he had decided to give up.

    But he didn't.

    For those who have lost a spouse, Joe Biden's story is one of hope. If you continue to put one foot in front of the other, no matter how difficult it may be, there are better days ahead. Despite the challenges and obstacles he faced as a 30-year-old widower, Biden rebuilt his life and his family.

    Each day we make the decision to push forward or give up. Each day that decision will bring us closer to rebuilding our lives or falling back into darkness. Though difficult, Biden chose to live again and reaped the rewards of his efforts.


    Enjoy what you read? Subscribe to Abel's e-mail updates and be the first to learn about upcoming books, essays, and appearances.

    More widower-related articles by Abel Keogh

  • Up with Grief NEW!
  • Dating and Marriage: One Regret NEW!
  • Widowers: They're Still Men! NEW!
  • 10 Dating Tips for Widows and Widowers
  • Photos of the Dead Wife
  • 5 Signs a Widower is Serious About Your Relationship
  • How Vice President Joe Biden Dealt with Grief
  • Life with a Widower
  • Dating a Widower
  • The Grief Industry
  • Suicide Survivor
  • A Letter to Elizabeth
  • Sex and Intimacy with Widowers
  • The Widowerhood Excuse
  • How to Talk to a Widower
  • Red Flags to Watch for When Dating A Widower
  • Blogging for the Open to Hope Foundation

    A couple months ago I was approached by the Open to Hope Foundation about writing a blog for those who had lost a spouse. (I was a guest on the foundation’s radio show last November. You can download the MP3 of the program by right-clicking here.) I was hesitant to accept. Between my widower blog (no longer updated) and Room for Two I didn’t think I had anything left to say on the matter. Besides, I’ve been happily married to Marathon Girl for five and a half years. I haven’t thought of myself as widower since the day she agreed to marry me. In a lot of ways, I’ve put that sad chapter of my behind me. Thought thoughts of the late wife and daughter occasionally enter my mind, 99.9% of my thoughts are on making a better life for me and the family I have now.

    I also have a novel and other writing projects that take up most of my free time. Even if I had something to say, I was unsure I’d have the time to write regular blog posts.

    Then I checked my email.

    There were three new emails in my inbox. Two were from women dating widowers. One thanked me for writing an essay that helped her see that her widower boyfriend wasn’t ready to commit to a serious relationship and she was going to finally end it. The other was from a woman asking for advice about her widower boyfriend’s behavior and whether or not she should be concerned about it. The third was from a young widower who thanked me for my website and telling me it had given him hope that he could one day again be happy.

    These kinds of emails flood my inbox every day. (I’m not complaining about them – just stating a fact. If you have something to say, you can contact me here.) In the back of my mind, I thought the number of widower related emails would stop after my book came out and this blog focused on other things than widower related issues. But every day there are new emails in my inbox similar to the ones above and I realized there are a lot of people that are hurting out there.

    And I thought back to a wintry afternoon six years ago. I had just spent most of my Saturday afternoon searching for something – anything! – online that would make me feel that I wasn’t the only young widower in the world. Something that would give me hope that tomorrow would be a better day and if I just put one foot in front of the other and stuck with it.

    I found nothing.

    And in that brief moment of grief and anguish I vowed if there was some way I could help someone else from feeling the pain and loneliness I felt at that exact moment, I’d do it.

    So I called to the foundation’s director and expressed my concerns about writing a blog and we came to mutual agreement. I will write an occasional blog post (three or four times a month as time allows). And instead of making it a traditional grief blog, I’m going to focus on putting your life back together and moving on instead of becoming bogged down with self pity and the “woe is me” attitude that infects so much of grief literature and makes it completely worthless – often hindering people from putting their lives back together.

    It’s going to be very different from typical grief blogs. It’s going to have an attitude.

    So be warned.

    If you’re content wallowing in grief and self pity then the blog’s not for you.

    If you don't want to think of yourself as anything other than a widow or widower, then find another grief blog to read.

    If you don’t want straight up advice about learning to put your grief aside, making the most of your life, and becoming happy again, then do not read it because I’m not going to mince words.

    Finally, though I have permission to do so, I won’t be reposting the content on this blog. However, I will post the first paragraph or two and link to the latest entry for those who are interest in reading it. (As soon as I complete some other projects, I will create a URL on this website for them, however.)

    Also, I have about 30,000 words of material that I cut from Room for Two before it was published. Some that content will probably find a home there – in a slightly modified form. (My first entry is a part from my book that was cut from the book and tweaked for the blog.) For those who have read the book and want to read vignettes that were cut between the first draft and the published manuscript, I’ll let you know when those are posted too.

    The website I'll be writing for can be found here.

    You can read my first entry here and my second one here.

    I’ll let you know when the third one is up.

    Young Widows Unite

    Ember sent me an interesting article that appeared in the (Ogden) Standard-Examiner last month about a young widow support group.

    After Kimberly Love Killpack's husband died, she didn't want to see anyone but her immediate family -- and the stranger who sent a book to her during the viewing.

    The book, "Tear Soup," was left to help comfort Killpack. Inside was a picture of another young widow by the name of Kimberly Kemp and her four children.

    "I immediately called her," said Killpack, 43, of Pleasant View.

    "She came up that night, and we talked for hours. It was so nice to talk to someone who said she knew how I felt and really meant it."

    Kemp, 45, of North Ogden, said she knew she had to reach out to others because others had reached out to her…. Kemp told Killpack about other widows she had met, and they decided to arrange a time they could all get together.

    "I met Michelle from a group in the Layton/Kaysville area. Her husband passed away two weeks after Sam. I knew I had to include her," Killpack said.

    "Tonya was on the news a month after Sam died, and I had this overwhelming feeling she would be an important part of my life. I had known Angie's family ... We all became soul mates -- and we saved each other."

    The group has grown from two women to more than 40.

    Two thoughts.

    First, I’m glad there’s a group like this out there. I know I would have liked another young widower to talk with after the late wife died. I felt so alone during that time it would have been nice to have another person to talk to who understood what I was going through. I think the service these women are performing is a vital one for those who have lost a spouse.

    The second is because of the differences between men and women, I wonder if young widowers would ever form a group like this. I can see a couple of young widowers getting together and talking for a night over food and drink. However, forming some sort of social group that meets monthly (or on a regular basis) doesn’t seem like something most men would do. It seems like after an initial meeting, asking questions, and getting things off their chest, they’d lose interest in the group.

    Awhile back Nothing Good About Grief belonged to a widow group in Florida that met occasionally. I remember reading about the gatherings she occasionally attended but, like the Utah group, it seemed to be comprised of just women. I don’t ever remember her mentioning men attending unless they were dating one of the widows. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

    Thinking back to my own experience, though I would have appreciated someone or a group to talk with all those years ago, I doubt I would have met up with other young widowers more than once unless I became good friends. But I would have been happy with the fact that I talked with another young widower and could have emailed him if a future question or issues came up. A monthly meeting with other young widowers wouldn’t have been necessary for me.

    Questions from Weber State Univesity Students

    Weber State University

    Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to a literature class at Weber State University that is using Room for Two as one of their books. I was very impressed with the students and their questions, comments, and insight they had. The following are some of their questions and my answers I thought others might find interesting.

    Q: What audience did you have in mind when you wrote Room for Two?

    A: I was trying to write for a very broad audience. I wanted to tell my story in such a way that even those who have never lost a spouse, child, or had a friend or loved one take their own life could enjoy it. It seems to have worked. Though I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from young widows, young widowers, and suicide survivors, most of the emails I receive have been from people who don’t fall into any of those categories. No matter what group the reader falls in, however, the vast majority of respondents tell me the book has touched their lives in very positive ways.

    Q: Why did you write Room for Two?

    A: The biggest reason was that I read or, rather, tired to read a lot of “memoirs” about losing a spouse soon after my late wife’s death. I found most of them to be completely worthless. Most of the time the writer would try to make him or herself out as a “wronged hero.” I felt authors were being less than honest about their experience and were hiding their own faults and imperfections. Because of this, I had a hard time relating on any level to the story they were trying to tell. I wanted to write a book that, in my opinion, showed the human side of the surviving spouse as well as the pain that that accompanies the death of a loved one.

    In the case of books that dealt specifically with losing a spouse to suicide, I thought the authors were trying to make excuses or justify the actions of their loved ones that killed themselves. Some of the books went as far to romanticize suicide. I find that to be extremely dangerous. The reasons people take their own life is very complex and trying to rationalize or validate their actions is impossible without being able to talk with that person. And since they’re dead, that impossible. Instead of justifying the actions of my late wife, I tried to portray the devastating effect suicide has on those left behind.

    Q: There’s a strong religious undercurrent in Room for Two. After reading the book, one can tell that you’re very religious but you don’t much in the way of specifics about what faith you belong to. Was that intentional?

    A: Yes. Outside of the mountain west, most people don’t know much about the LDS (Mormon) Church. I didn’t want to alienate or distract readers who are unfamiliar with the church. Hence the reason I used very generic terms to describe my religious affiliation. Those who are familiar with the LDS church will, I think, know what faith I’m a member of rather quickly.

    Q: If you were to rewrite Room for Two for a Mormon-only audience, what would you change?

    A: Nothing.

    Q: How did you come up with the title for your book?

    A: The working title of the book was Running Forward. However, that never seemed to fit with the story I was telling. One day I was editing a part of the book where I was struggling with making room in my heart for another person. Though the exact phrase “room for two” doesn’t appear in the text, while reading that paragraph, those words formed in my mind as I read it. I immediately knew I had the perfect right title for my book.

    Q: I really enjoyed reading your late wife’s poem “Ten Toed Children of Eve” that was in Room for Two. Have you considered about publishing the rest of your late wife’s poetry?

    A: I’ve thought about putting a website up that contained her poetry and some of her other writings. Right now it’s more of a time issue. I have other writing projects are more pressing.

    Q: Which writers have influenced you the most?

    A: Orson Scott Card, Ethan Canin, and my dad.

    Q: How do you find the time to write?

    A: I make time. Once my kids are in bed, I spend some time with my wife and then write until I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s easy to talk about being a writer but hard to actually put in the hours required to write something worth publishing. I went to school with a lot of “writers” that were more talented than me. However, I’m the only one with a book. Though talent has something to do with getting published, most of it has to do with dedicating the time to writing, editing, and rewriting your manuscript.

    Q: Are you writing more books?

    A: I’m currently writing a work of fiction. If I can hold to my self-imposed deadlines, I should have a publishable manuscript sometime this summer.

    Q: Do you have any plans to write a follow-up to Room for Two?

    A: Yes. After I complete this work of fiction, the plan is to write another book that picks up where Room for Two left off. The main focus will be on the early years my marriage to Julie. The working title is Seconds because the book is going to focus a lot on second chances, second marriages, second loves, etc.

    The Broken Hearts of Widows and Widowers

    The Broken Hearts of Widows and Widowers

    HitCoffee posted a link to a news story about the affect of grief on one’s health. The article states:

    Doctors have long understood the impact of grief on one's health. Now, a new study has revealed how fragile a broken heart can really be. Researchers in Britain have found that bereft people face the risk of death in the first year of being widowed.

    In fact, men are six times more likely to die of a broken heart than women. According to lead researcher Dr Jaap Spreeuw of the Cass Business School in London, the study has confirmed the existence of 'broken heart syndrome.

    "We all know that the death of a loved one will have massive impact on the life of the husband or wife left behind, but this shows it will have direct impact on their mortality. It statistically proves that people can die of a broken heart during the earliest stages of bereavement," he said.

    "The effect is stronger for older people who have been married longer. The good news is that after the first years of mourning, the chance of dying goes down," Dr Spreeuw added.

    My first thought was that I already knew this. In fact I remember reading about a similar studies of widows and widowers in college though I don’t recall that study specifically mentioning men as being more venerable than women of dying after the death of a spouse. But I do remember it mentioning that people who were married longer, say 20 or more years, did have increased odds of dying soon after their spouse than those who had been married five years.

    That being said, I think anyone who has lost a spouse can understand how easy it could be to die of a broken heart. In Room for Two I wrote:

    In a college communications class, I had read about couples who spent most of their lives together. After one died, it was common for the other to pass on soon after, even if he or she was in good health. At the time I couldn’t comprehend how someone could lose their will to live after their spouse was gone. But I began to, at least partially, understand how they felt. Krista had been a significant part of my life for seven years—four as my girlfriend and three as my wife. My life had become completely entwined with hers. Now that she was gone, I didn’t feel complete. I had to force myself to live.

    Things I had done willingly before Krista died, like going to work, became a chore. Though my job hadn’t changed, without the prospect of supporting a family, work was boring. There was no incentive for me to put extra effort into my projects. I did just enough to get by. I didn’t care if there were any raises or bonuses in my future. I resisted the urge to walk into my supervisor’s office and quit only because I knew being unemployed and doing nothing would ultimately be worse.

    The other thing that intrigued me about the study was how after the first year of a spouse passing the odds of dying from a “broken heart” decrease.

    For my own experience, there was something psychologically helpful about making it through the first year. It wasn’t just because Marathon Girl was now a major part of my life (though that was part of it), but there was something about having gone through holidays and other special dates without the late wife once that helped me realize it was only going to get easier the second time around.

    Getting Over Grief and We Are Marshall


    Anyone looking for a good DVD to rent this weekend might want to consider the recently released We Are Marshall.

    For those who are rolling your eyes thinking that We Are Marshall is just another sports movie about a team that has to pull together and win, you're only partially right. The movie is about building a new football team from scratch after most of the players and coaches of Marshall University are killed in a tragic plane crash in November 1970. But that's just the setting of the movie.

    We Are Marshall is really a movie about dealing with death and loss and how individuals and communities cope with the loss of loved ones. It's a movie about those who choose to move on and those who want to let the past hold them back.

    And the desire to be held back by some sense of mourning is tempting. The university considers canceling the football program but only the quick thinking of one of the surviving football players convinces the board of trustees to let the football program continue.

    Then there's Red Dawson (Matthew Fox), the only member of the coaching staff who wasn't on the plane because he opted to drive home and make a recruiting stop on the way. He's wracked by survivor's guilt, the loss of his mentor Marshall's head coach Rick Tolley (an un-credited roll by Robert Patrick) -- and the fact that he personally recruited many of the players who died after promising their mothers he'd watch after them while they were on the team.

    After the program is reinstated, Dawson is offered the head coach job. He turns it down and spends his time building a shed in his back yard. Returning to football -- a game that he loves -- is something he doesn't want to do.

    Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) takes the job that no coach in the country wants: building a football team from scratch in the shadow of dead players and coaches. Not only does he have to field a team, he has to help Dawson (who finally agrees to be an assistant coach for one final year) and the university president, other players, and members of the community to know that the best way to accept their loss and climb out from under the shadow of the dead is to play football.

    In one emotional scene following the blowout loss to Morehead State, Dawson tells Lengyel that they aren't honoring the dead because he thinks the team is playing poorly and losing. Lengyel fires back that the Marshall football program isn't about winning right now but healing the community and the individuals who are still mourning over loved ones. He tells Dawson that building a football program, even one that's only marginally successful is about giving the people a chance to rebuild their lives. He tells Dawson:

    One day, not today, not tomorrow, not this season, probably not next season either but one day, you and I are gonna wake up and suddenly we're gonna be like every other team in every other sport where winning is everything and nothing else matters. And when that day comes, well that's...that's when we'll honor them [the dead players and coaches].

    In another scene, the morning before Marshall's home opener, Lengyel takes his team to the resting spot of six unidentified players. He gives them an inspiring speech about the dead players and coaches but at the end proclaims, "The funerals end today!"

    His message is clear: stop living in and thinking about the past. Instead start doing what you were put on Earth to do and start living again.

    Despite the dark and sad feeling that penetrates the movie, we see how players, individuals, and the community are slowly moving on with their lives.

    We see an unopened case of beer that was to be used to console the players before 1970 teams' win before the fateful crash, sitting untouched until a new player opens a can and is joined by others. We see the fiance of one of the dead players take the advice of the should-have-been father-in-law and leave Hunington, West Virginia to move on with her life and not be held back by the past. And we see how the community celebrates the re-built team's surprising victory against Xavier by staying on the field for hours after the game.

    Sadly, not everyone makes the decision to move on and we are shown how their decisions contrast with those who move forward.

    Losing a loved one can be difficult and We Are Marshall portrays that agony in very heart wrenching scenes. But it contains a message of hope and shows how an individual and community can move on after the tragic death of a loved one -- even many loved ones -- and become stronger in the process.

    We Are Marshall

    How to Talk to a Widower

    Note: Though I wrote this, the real author of this piece is Marathon Girl. Most of the insight in this essay comes from her. When you're in a relationship with a widower, some widower-related issues are bound to arise. For example, the widower might seem like he's having a hard time moving on. Maybe he spends an inordinate amount of time thinking or talking about the late wife. Perhaps you've become quite serious yet his home still looks like a shrine to the deceased. Knowing how to approach and talk to him about certain subjects can be difficult. Below are some suggestions to be able to effectively talk with the widower about problems that may be hindering your relationship.

    Pick the Right Time

    Finding the right time to talk to the widower is critical. Don't do it when he's upset or otherwise in a bad mood. Wait until he's in a good frame of mind. This will help him be more receptive to what you have to say.

    Marathon Girl is very good at knowing when to talk to me about anything that needs to be addressed in our relationship. If I've had a stressful day at work, she knows its best not to talk about it until I've had a chance to unwind. She knows I'll listen better and be more receptive to dealing with the problem if I've had an hour or two to play with the kids or write. She also knows that if I'm in an extremely good mood (say the Detroit Tigers just won the World Series) that it's probably best not bring up a serious subject until I've had time to celebrate.

    The key here is patience. Most issues don't have to be addressed immediately. Just wait for the right moment to bring it up. If he's in an agreeable mood, the widower will be more likely to listen to what you have to say -- an important first step to resolving the problem.

    When Talking About the Late Wife, Don't Act Jealous

    Sometimes widowers say and/or do things that make you jealous. Maybe he tells a story about a trip they took or a fond memory of her. Maybe he keeps a lot of photos in the house of her despite professing his love to you. Whatever he's doing, it's driving you crazy because you feel like you're competing with a ghost.

    When you talk with him about this it's very important that you do not come across as jealous even if that's the only emotion you have at the time. You can't expect the widower to stop loving his first wife. (You should, however,expect him to treat you like the number one woman but that's another essay.)

    You need to tactfully let him know that you want a strong, loving relationship with him but it's hard to when he keeps talking about or doing things that show his love for the late wife. Let him know that you're not resentful of the love he has for her but that you need to know he feels the same way about you. Nine times out of ten the widower is unaware how his actions are affecting you. Not coming across as jealous will make it more likely that he'll listen and change his behavior.

    Know What Problems You Need to Solve on Your Own

    There are going to be some widower-related issues you need to deal with on your own. This doesn't mean you can't tell the widower about them but if you do, you need to let him know that he can't help solve them.

    After Marathon Girl and I became serious enough that we were discussing the possibility of marriage, she let me know it was sometimes hard for her to think about marrying me because a lot of the things that would be firsts for her (marriage, honeymoon, buying a house, having kids, etc.) were going to be seconds for me. Even though she told me about her feelings, she also let me know that this was something I couldn't solve for her. She told me it was an issue she had to work through on her own and would let me know from time to time how she was dealing with it.

    I really appreciated her doing this. Not only did it let me know what was going through her mind but it set an example for me. If Marathon Girl was willing to put the time and effort into working on problems, I should be willing to work on mine as well.

    Solve One Issue at a Time

    If there are multiple issues you need to discuss with the widower, pick the most important one and work on that first before bringing up the others. No matter how much a guy loves you, he hates being dumped on. Men are much better at being receptive to what you say when we only have to deal with one problem at a time. When you start going off on multiple issues, we start blocking out a lot of what you're saying or start thinking of you as a nag.

    Back when we were dating, there were times when Marathon Girl had several issues she wanted to discuss but wisely picked one at a time. When she felt the time was right brought up another one and we worked on that. She knew that telling me all the issues at once would make me defensive and make it less likely that they could be resolved.

    Effectively communicating and working on the unique issues that arise with a widower can make or break the relationship. Knowing a little widower friendly psychology can be a good first step in having not only having open lines of communication one but a successful, loving relationship.


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