• Terrell Whitener

Being A Widower 100: Four Key Lessons I’ve Learned

Unlike so many of you, I have had four years since my wife Robyn passed away. With the anniversary of her death occurring recently, I took some time to reflect on the ten biggest lessons that I have learned as a widower. I want to share the first four lessons with you as the basis for this article.

Lesson # 1:” It’s Hard but It’s Fair”

I first became acquainted with this thought through my high school football coach Mr. Glen McKinney. The football conference that we competed with was mostly made up of schools that had larger populations than my school, thus had larger football squads than we had. Secondly, Coach McKinney was a tough man. This reputation led to several athletes in our school choosing not to play football. With that being the case Coach McKinney believed through superior conditioning and mental toughness we could prevail. I have found aspects of grief recovery to be similar to his philosophy.

It takes mental toughness at times to fight through the sadness and at times anger associated with the loss of someone we love. While it can be difficult to do, we must find the resolve to fight through. Upon reflecting about the lesson, I learned while running those hills at the end of most practices, the coach was preparing me for life after a loss with his memorable declaration, “It’s Hard but It’s Fair”.

Lesson #2: Many of Our Friends Were Really Her Friends

One of the most revealing outcomes of my wife’s death was how many of our friends disappeared along with my wife. It was probably a bit naïve of me to think that I would still be considered ‘part of the group’ when my wife was the focal point of most of our interactions with our friends. At this point, I really don’t give it much thought but have learned that almost every funeral result in multiple losses.

Lesson #3: I Miss the Small Things the Most

Among the numerous things that I have learned over the last four years is that it is the small things that I miss the most. The calls to me at the office just as I was trying to beat traffic. The way she took forever to get to the dinner table at times is just a couple of the things I miss. What I wouldn’t give to see her standing in the window smiling and waving when I got home. It was this small gesture that signaled to me that she had experienced a good day. For many people, it remains the big days, the anniversaries, the holiday’s, etc. This is understandable, but for me, it is the little things that create the small sighs occasionally.

In the early days after my wife’s death, I expressed how much I missed the Sunday morning ritual of fixing her pancakes. A wise friend of mine solved that problem for me in an instant that day. “Just fix pancakes” he would reply, how brilliant! I no longer fix pancakes as often as I used to on Sunday mornings, but when I do, I smile, and occasionally every I fix an extra one for Robyn.

As stated earlier the birthdays, anniversaries and holidays will continue to come, we will find ways to endure these sometimes-difficult moments. However, I find myself among those that reflecting on the little things as much as the big moments.

Lesson #4: Take Time to Heal

Most of us want to have our period of pain to last as short a time as possible. It is hard to discern the difference between physical and emotional manifestations of grief. Just as physical wounds take time to heal, emotional wounds take time also. In many ways, I like many others attempted to rush the emotional healing process in the beginning. Looking back on it today, I realize how foolhardy and dangerous that could have been. I oftentimes wonder what I was trying to prove. I was working against nature. Reshaping our lives takes time. Coming to grip with the gravity of significant loss necessitates making certain adjustments. In my book The First 365

, I discuss the need to be loving to ourselves. As we mature in the newfound role of a widower, we must learn to transfer a bit of that love we had for our spouses and partners to ourselves. While this in many cases will not make us feel completely whole again, eventually it will make us feel better.

I have just shared four of the many lessons that I have discovered since becoming a widowed man. I would love to hear some of the lessons many of you have learned as well. Take the time to reflect on these lessons as they start to galvanize in your lives. Many of these lessons will help to shape your new normal. Do the work, it’s worth it!!!!

Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss. Terrell can be reached at, LinkedIn @terrell-whitener or through the Widow Support Network.

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