March 29, 2019

Love Belongs To All of Us: Why This Widow Chooses Love After Loss


Love.

Are we only given one chance?

We marry.
They die.
That's it.

This is the story many want us widows to accept.
You are not human anymore.
You are a widow.
You were handed a card that says "sorry honey...that was all you get."
You loved him.
You lost him.
Love doesn't belong to you anymore.

Oh no my loves.
Love belongs to all of us.
Love is a gift for all of us to give.
For all of us to receive.

Funny thing is us widows are amazing at love.
We know the pain of loss.
We know the pain of heartache and how to heal our broken hearts.
We know how to heal our children's broken hearts.
We treat love as the most precious gift we are given because we know how it feels for it to be taken away.
We cherish it.
We honor it.
We respect it.
We love hard.
We love big.

It took years to love myself again after loss.
To rebuild and accept this new life of mine.
To be open to offering my heart to another.
To not feel guilty that another could be welcome in our home and hearts.

I loved myself to let love in again.
To let this man listen to and honor my story.
Sit with me in my pain.
Accept my bruises and scars.

He didn't run.
He didn't judge.

No. No. No.

He only saw a woman filled with love.
I only saw a man filled with love.
A man wanting to share with me what I want to share with him.

My boys know I love this man.
I am happy and complete.
They want me to be happy.
I hope they will know love like I know it.
I hope they never feel, or are told, they don't deserve it.

If you choose to love again after loss. Choose it.
If you choose to not. I honor your choice.

All I ask is you love yourself.
Love is love.
Love heals.
Love fills.
Give it.
Receive it.
Please share it.
Go love.




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March 22, 2019

I Forgive Me. I Forgive Him.



A car.

The power it had over me.

He loved cars. He would choose mine. I didn’t care. Was it safe? Check. How many car seats could I fit? Check. Color? I don’t care. Just give me safe.

He hated dirt.
He needed order.
His anxiety came out in our cars.
Clean.
Always.
Black interior to hide the dirt.
Always.
Dirty boys soccer shoes taken off and put in the trunk.
Always.

We would fight about my car.
Always.
Kids eating in it.
Me drinking coffee and spilling in it.
Stupid fights.
He’d tell me to clean it out.
I’d tell him to stop the nagging.
Stop the demanding.
Stop the madness.
I started to leave it dirty to piss him off.
Resentful. Annoyed. Passive aggressive.

I see it clearly now.

The control.
His needs.
The fights.

It wasn’t about the car. It wasn’t about me. It was about him. It was his lack of control. It was about his inability to control his anxiety. Instead of me seeing it for what it was and responding with support. Instead of asking him if he needed help I would respond with anger. Disdain. Hurt.

With counseling this story has changed.

It’s not about a man trying to control his wife. It’s about a man trying to control his fears. Trying to control his environment to settle his unsettled brain. Unable to say it. Maybe he never even understood why he behaved that way.

I understand now.
Instead of black I need white.
White and light.
It calms me.
Cleanses me.
Gives me peace.

I wish I would have known what I know now.
I wish I could give him a hug and ask him if I could help him calm his head and heart.
I can’t go back and fix it but I can move forward and forgive myself for what I didn’t know back then.

I forgive that Sandra who didn’t know.
I forgive that Pat who couldn’t share his pain.
Yes.
I forgive.


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February 22, 2019

Dear New Widow: A Love Letter to My 40 Year Old Self



Dear Sandra,

He died. 

Your world has been turned upside down. Chaos will dominate your heart and mind for months, actually years and I am so sorry.

Grieve him. 
Grieve you. 
Grieve your boys father. 
Grieve the life you thought was yours. 
Grieve the life you hoped would be theirs. 

It’s going to be brutal. Yes. Brutal.

Listen to me. Even though you may think it will never get better. Even though you believe the excruciating pain will never leave your body or mind. I promise it will. I promise. It takes time. Time to get your balance again. Time to learn how to raise them by yourself. 

Trust your gut. 
Believe in your choices. 

You are their mom. Don’t let anyone tell you how to parent. Don’t let anyone tell you how to live. 

They are not walking in your shoes. 
Sleeping in your empty bed. 
Living in your head. 
Learning how to let an old life go and creating a new one for you and those two. 

They are standing on the outside looking in. 
Their vote doesn’t count. 
Your life. 
Your boys. 
Your way. 
Your vote. 
Only yours.

Simplify your life. Accept you can’t do it all. Ask for help. It’s different now. 

From now on it is only about you and the boys. 
Nobody else matters. 
This is not selfish. 
This is survival. 

Dig deep. 
Find your strength. 
I know you have it.

Wants and needs of others are no longer your problem. Set boundaries. With family and friends. Boundaries will save you. You need your energy to heal you. To heal them. 

I know you are scared. 
Don’t be afraid Sandra. 
Fear will hold you back from healing. 
Be bold. 
Be brave. 

One day you will wake up and feel the sun on your face again. 
You will laugh without feeling guilty. 
You will let go of the rage and anger. 
I will be so damn proud of how far you 3 have come.

Those boys will be ok. They will smile again. I promise. 

Love them. 
Guide them. 
Be honest with them. 
Listen to them. 
Let them feel. 

I know you can do this. I believe in you Sandra. It will be so hard. For a very long time. You will struggle. They will struggle. Do the work. 

You will all heal. 
Life will be beautiful and so full again. 
Different. 
But so very beautiful. 
I promise. 
You’ve got this. 

Love, Sandra


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January 6, 2019

Want to Read More...I'm on Instagram


I have been writing blog posts over on Instagram. Why? I am sharing my story with pictures and connecting with widows around the world. Head on over to Instagram @thewidowproject and follow me by clicking here. As always, thank you for reading and supporting the boys and I with your comments and shares. xo Sandra

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October 2, 2018

Let Him Fly



Traffic.
Rain.
LaGuardia Airport.
Gridlock.
Say no more.

Charlie and I pulled up to the curb.
The Skycap greeted us.
Boarding passes please.
Here’s twenty dollars, your boarding pass and my credit card.
Take it and run Charlie.
Forget the bags.
I’ve got them.
I’ll park the car.
You can make the flight.
Jack is waiting.
I’ll catch the next one if I don’t make it.
You will be okay.

He's flown by himself before. 
We know the drill.
Yes. Text me when you get thru security.
Yes. Text me when you board.
Yes. Text me when you land.
Grab the bags and text me when Jack arrives in the Uber.

You've got this Charlie.
Go and have fun with your brother.
You have missed him.
He has missed you.
I’ll see you both soon.
I love you.

The texts arrived.
A Snapchat appeared from the Uber.
Happy brothers.
Together again.

8 hours.
Sitting.
Waiting.
I missed my flight.
I should be in Milwaukee sitting on a smelly futon in a dorm room cheering on the Brewers with my two boys by my side.
Laughing with them.
Trying to keep up with their baseball talk.

Am I upset I am still here.
Not at all.
With a latte and chocolate donut in my hand I am smiling and my heart is full.
The boys are together again.
Jack left 5 weeks ago.
My son went to college.
1,000 miles away.

I am feeling proud because I know I did it.
I wasn’t always comfortable doing it.
Sometimes I was filled with fear and anxiety.
But I did it.
Over the past 6 years I have taught them how to be independent.

What if I die?
What if something happens to me?
These questions have haunted me at times.
Sometimes still keep me up at night.

The boys will be on their own.
The boys need to know things.
They are survivors.
But do they know how to survive and thrive on their own?

Life skills Sandra.
Teach them.
Show them.
Guide them.

Let them do things on their own even when it scares you. 
Show them how to take care of themselves.
Teach them how to set boundaries, with themselves and others.
Remind them everyday to be confident with their choices even when it isn’t always what others want them to do.
Mirror to them how to adjust quickly in tough situations and calmly roll with it.

Cheer them on when they succeed.
Help them get back up when they fail.
Honor their thoughts, feelings and opinions.
Listen. 
Really listen.

I would be a different parent if Pat hadn’t died.
I would have been more controlling.
More anxious about things that just don't matter.
More worried about not parenting like the pack.

I had no control over Pat dying.
I have learned my own life lesson from this.
The only thing I have control over is me.
My words.
My actions.
How I react to others.
How I honor and love myself.
How I honor and treat those I love.

Control.
It creates stress.
Anxiety.
Fear.
In them.
In me.

I had to let it go.
Let go of the control.
It would have eaten me alive.
The boys too.

Let them grow.
Let them learn.
Let them heal.
Let them fail.
Let them find success on their own.
Let them be who they want to be.
You do you boys.

It worked out.
For all of us.
Independence is confidence.
Independence is freedom.

When I let go your wings grew.
You've earned those wings.
Now go fly boys.


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June 6, 2018

Kate Made Me Live Colorfully


A woman named Kate died yesterday.
She had a beautiful smile.
She had her own style and owned it.
She built a business that offered something to women that made them feel special.
Her creativity and ability to make you feel special was bigger than her.

I never buy pink but I did when I bought her phone case.
It makes me feel alive.
It makes me feel feminine.
It makes me laugh because I stepped outside of my box.
Kate's ability to MAKE ME FEEL AGAIN made me buy pink.

Kate was a beautiful woman.
A mom.
A wife.
A family member.
A friend.

Kate died.
Her family and friends will forever feel pain and her loss.
They will grieve.
They will suffer.
Their world's are now turned upside down.

I hope as time passes they will find peace.
Peace in their hearts.
Peace in their minds.
Peace in their whole self.
I pray for them they find peace.

I hope Kate is at peace.

Mental illness takes over one's mind.
Just as cancer takes over the body.

I hope people wake up.
Mental illness is a disease.
It is not a choice.
Cancer is not a choice.

People are quietly suffering because we don't treat mental illness as an illness.
The stigma is real.

I hope the media someday changes how they report on suicide.
There are no answers.
A note doesn't give one.
A death cannot be explained in a paragraph.

The story is simple.

A daughter lost a mother.
A husband lost a wife.
Family and friends lost a woman they loved.

All that needs to be said is...
I am so sorry for your loss.


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May 25, 2018

The Backpack



Dear Jack,

Today was the day.
Your last day of high school.
You walked out the door this morning wearing the blue backpack you have worn everyday since your first day of kindergarten.

I smiled when you put it on.
I remembered your first day of kindergarten.
A blond boy carrying a backpack half his size smiling as he walked into his first day of school.
A mom and dad watching you smile, anxious and proud as you walked away.

13 first days of school.
13 last days of school.
So many days in between.
That backpack has traveled with you through this thing called life.
Smiles.
Accomplishments.
Heartache.
Pain.
So much change.

That backpack was on your back on days I never imagined would have been in your life.

The day you walked back into school after your dad died that backpack was unbearable on your back. 

The day we boarded a plane a month before your freshman year to move to a new town, new school and new life that backpack was suffocating. 

The days you had to walk out the door and I know you knew I was going back to bed because I was so lost in my grief. It was so heavy on your back and there was so much heavy in your heart.  

But you never let the heavy load you were carrying crush you. 
Instead every day you grew stronger.
Every day brave and resilient.

The backpack never got lighter Jack.
Your back just got stronger.

You have a strength you never knew you had in you.
You now carry that backpack with ease and grace.
You put it on every morning and take whatever comes your way.  

Everyday you put that backpack on and walked out the door you taught me something.
You taught me I had to be brave and resilient just like you.
You gave me the courage to make bold decisions and keep trying even when I felt like I was failing you and Charlie.  

I hope that backpack felt light as air on your back this morning.

You said you wanted a new backpack for college. 
I agree. 
It’s time to let it go.
Go live a life without anything from your past on your back weighing you down. 
The past is the past.
Honor it.
Learn from it.
But know your big, bold, beautiful future is waiting for you.

We all carry around heavy loads every day.  
Isn’t it time for all of us to let go of whatever it is we carry that weighs us down?
Isn’t it time we stand up straight, honor how strong we are and love ourselves enough to let it go?  

Thank you Jack for being my son.
Thank you for adding light, love and laughter to my world everyday. 

Now go and live your life with a new backpack. 
Your future is yours.
Go live it.

I love you.

Mom


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