Signs from Loved Ones: Is there life after death?

Looking for signs after the loss of a loved one is comforting – challenging our loved ones to communicate with us can be reassuring .

Keeping an open mind, I believe we can find signs from our loved ones if we accept that it is possible.

My latest sign came from my mom on Mother’s Day.  I spent the day with my sister.  This is our third year without calling mom or sending her flowers.  We didn’t get to have lunch with her so we made plans to visit the Sarasota Jungle gardens and go to lunch with some of our family members. We both miss our mom so a sister is a good substitute.

In our family we have pretty much agreed that seeing a red male cardinal is a visit from our dad.  I don’t see them as much here in Florida, but that is our sign.  For my mom, we got a bit trickier.  She sends us white dolphins.

When the butterfly landed on my beer can and started sipping as I sat in a poolside lounge chair in Thailand on the first anniversary of Mike’s death, I took that as a sign that he was still with me. I visited a psychic medium a few months after Mike died and she told me that he send me blue jays.  Sure enough, I used to see one fly in front of my car on my 3 minute commute to work every day.  I don’t see too many blue jays down here in Florida.

Immediately after he passed, his cousin and mother started finding dimes in the craziest of places. They felt strongly that these were signs.

I spent an amazing summer weekend with the Forever Family Foundation in Connecticut the first year after my husband died. I had a positive experience bonding with other people going through grief. Several certified psychic mediums did group readings and I was fortunate to have Mike come through with messages for me during those sessions.

After the weekend, I bought a book by five year anniversary of our first date and it is true, life goes on.

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I’m here for you… Send a care package to a widow this year!

Help a widow feel the love. After loss you can show you care. Send a care package to a widow or make one for yourself.

As an overwhelmed and unexpected widow, I had no idea how to respond to the heart given cry “call me if you need anything”.

I, of course, had no idea what I would need or how much my life was about to change.

During the first month or so I was so fortunate to be gifted with gift cards, friend visits and even meals. Being surrounded by loved ones and keeping busy is helpful. But after those first few weeks, most people return to their regular lives and the new widow is beginning to adjust to her new normal.

For many people experiencing the loss of a loved one, moments of grief continue to surprise us.  More and more stories are being shared of how lonely people are after the loss of a family member.  Now with the coronavirus pandemic, loneliness is even more prevalent. As people age and find it harder to leave the home, life can become even more lonely.

I have written about fighting the fear or the reality of being a sad and lonely widow How to NOT be a Stay at Home, Lonely Widow.  But I am a young 58 year old and I am determined to enjoy my life and continue to experience all I can and find joy in each day.

That being said, I remember how when I was in my saddest moments, the kindness and unexpected notes, meals or even comments on Facebook, really made my day.

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When is it Right for a Widow to Move?

Should a widow move after the death of a spouse? Consider financial, emotional and social needs of each person before making major life changing decisions.

This question has been burning in my mind since August of 2015 when Mike died. Do I stay in our home, or do I move? The answer is different for all widows and much needs to be considered. Here is what I know.

While widows and widowers all have one thing in common, everyone has a different story and a different situation. The one bit of advice that I found helpful after the sudden tragic loss of my husband was to wait a year before making any major life changes.

FINANCIAL

For most widows, finances will play a pivotal part in any decisions made after the death of a spouse. If a large life insurance policy is available, it may take a few months to have access to the money. Using that money to pay off a home mortgage and other medical or credit card debts will be most helpful.

If the spouse was over 60, social security monthly payments may be available which will help secure money to be paid for monthly bills.

In my situation, we were both only 51 years old, so I was facing a loss of half our monthly take home pay. We still had a very large mortgage, a son just starting college and plenty of monthly bills as well. I used the small life insurance policy to help make the monthly payments, anticipating that it would only be enough for a year or two.

EMOTIONAL

Each widow feels differently about her home after the death of a spouse. Some refuse to sleep in the same bedroom and may leave his things exactly as they were. Others clear it all out soon and try their best to put it in the past and not dwell on the loss.

Memories of the home and raising a family together can be comforting or painful. The photos and reminders are always there.

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I wrote a book for widows: No Simple Highway

Last summer I saw a post that read “write a book in 30 days”. The idea of writing a book has appealed to me, but getting started seemed to be the issue. I enjoy writing stories in my blog. Wouldn’t that be enough, I wondered.

But I signed up for the 30 day on-line writing program last July before I moved to Florida. Each day I spent 1-2 hours writing. It was cathartic since the book is a memoir and tells the story about the night Mike died and the few years afterwards.

My initial idea was to write a self-help book to help other widows deal with the sudden loss of a spouse. I had been through it and maybe my words could help someone. That is what I have tried to do over the years writing this blog and people read posts daily from my Pinterest page so I know others are looking for guidance. I know I was looking for advice and even a “how to” book as a new widow. I threw the literal kitchen sink at my grief journey trying everything and anything to keep moving forward every day.

But once I started writing my story, it took on a life of its own. Sure, I had to deal with all the issues that an unexpected death entail. I planned a funeral service and met with lots of people. I figured out ways to handle the finances despite a delay in obtaining the death certificate and thus any life insurance money. I processed my grief with the support of professionals when necessary as well as my own precarious health circumstances at the time.

But I had one more issue to deal with that not all widows do, though many believe it to be true:

My husband wasn’t supposed to die that night.

When Mike left the beach to use the restroom at the beach clubhouse, he should have been able to walk out of that building without being assaulted and killed. It took two years for us to see the surveillance video of what happened that night.

Pursuing legal action isn’t easy but sometimes it has to be done. With the help of friends and family and a good legal team, I took the road less traveled. We pursued the truth and sought justice for Mike. My book will tell that story.

Stay tuned for chapter one and an opportunity to get “No Simple Highway” on Amazon!

Good Times at Yoga Teacher Training 200

Yoga teacher training 200 for an over 50 group proves to be more challenging and rewarding than expected

It’s recommended that we never stop learning and we can keep our brains from turning to mush after retirement by learning something new. I’ve tried courses available online including the history of Egypt and some writing courses. I attempted knitting but did not get very far on that venture. Pete is teaching me how to golf and I do enjoy getting outside on the course in our golf cart, but I needed something more.

One day an advertisement showed up on my Facebook feed, which I admittedly spend too much time scrolling through, for an over 50 yoga teacher training program. The yoga institute is located six miles from my house in Florida so that was a positive. I never imagined myself as a yoga instructor. Aren’t those people super flexible and skinny? Don’t they emit vibes of pure Zen and light to all who meet them? And they speak a foreign language with all those Sanskrit terms? Who do I think I am – ha ha!

So I took out my credit card and signed up for the program. All I knew was that the class would meet on Tuesdays for about six months and I would take a weekend class in my choice of aerial or chair yoga certification. I’d probably opt for chair I figured as I hit enter on the application.

I arrived for our first class in October well-rested and excited to learn. Entering the grounds of Heartwood Yoga Institute and Retreat Center is like driving into a hidden rain forest filled with oversized palm trees and Live Oak trees covered in Spanish moss. The buildings blend in nicely with the landscape. I parked and immediately was welcomed by two friendly border collies hoping I’d toss them a ball, which I did. I followed another older woman as we walked towards an elevated porch-type room with all windows looking onto the grounds.

Chakra garden at Heartwood

Denver taught us our first ninety-minute gentle yoga class and I felt pleased that I could do all the movements, especially that last resting pose called Shavasana. Her mother and owner Ginny Shaddock met us after class and gave us a tour of the property which includes a labyrinth, a chakra garden, an indoor yoga studio, a firepit area, meditation pavilion, a library, a small gift store, and enough rooms to house people who sign up for intensive classes and live on the property for up to three weeks.

The 14 classmates and I ate lunch together at picnic tables under the shade trees and then started the lectures and learning that would take up much of our time during the program.

Posture Focus:

We diligently opened our binders and took notes as the instructors broke each pose that many of us knew from classes, into bits and pieces. The most difficult for me then and now is remembering the Sanskrit term for each pose: so much easier to say “extended hand to big toe pose” than “Utthita Hasta Padangustasana” – in my opinion anyway.

We learned what parts to straighten and which parts to press into. Keeping the spine long and shoulders back, lifting the belly and dropping your tailbone are just some phrases we could use to help people do the pose correctly, if we did teach. Learning how to provide modifications for each pose or variations were given as well as how to use props. We asked to know the benefits for each pose which are plentiful and may eventually sink in as we teach. After the lecture, the opportunity to teach each pose to a small group of classmates was interesting and we began to bond as a group in our attempts at sounding like a yoga teacher.

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Back in the Classroom

“Why are you tired?” he asked.

My new 6 year old friend was curious. We met 20 minutes earlier when my former colleague introduced me as the substitute teacher who used to work at this school.

He tapped my arm again as I attempted to engage the 3 children on the remote computer screen with the yellow worksheet I had passed out to the kids in the classroom.

Being back in the classroom was fun and even a bit challenging with all the masks. The kids fidgeted as they wrote their names on the paper behind plexiglass desk shields and students at home looked eager to learn in the zoom-like frames on the laptop in front of the class.

“I’m not tired,” I absently smiled at his sweet face. I didn’t think I looked tired.

Then it occurred to me. His teacher had introduced me and he wanted to know why I RE-tired! At that moment I couldn’t think of an answer.

What do you do in the First Year of Retirement?

Procrastinating during the holidays is Sometimes a Good Idea

Procrastinating during the holidays can help the widow deal with grief and loss on her own time.

After Thanksgiving it’s easy to get caught up in the rush and frenzy of Christmas. Keeping busy may be helpful, or maybe you just don’t feel the holiday spirit after the loss of a loved one.  It’s Ok to not do anything somedays.  Other times, you may find yourself lost in a copy of the book that resembles, “If you give a mouse a cookie” by Laura Numeroff and spend the day chasing squirrels.  That is OK too.  Widows get a pass on living up to the expectations we women have burdened ourselves with.  It’s been six years for me now, but I enjoyed reading my post about the second year when I wanted to get back into the swing of the holiday season, but needed a little help.

Decorating for Christmas was definitely on my to do list, I just kept putting it on the bottom.  The idea of digging out all my favorite memories that I had collected over the years for the Christmas tree, kept me frozen with apprehension.

My first year as a widow I avoided the Holidays and traveled. I ran away and didn’t participate in many of my favorite traditions. The cruise during Christmas week to the Caribbean with my 2 sons was perfect for the first year. I never put out any decorations and I was fine with that. A Different Christmas is OK, especially after the loss of a loved one.

The decision was made to decorate on this year 2 and I was planning to do it.  I was going to do it… after I made myself some breakfast.

While I was making home fries, an omelet and coffee, I searched for a piece of paper so I could make a to do list.  After brunch, my puppy started barking.  I was sure he needed a walk so off we went.

When I got back from the walk I noticed that my yard needed a good clean up.

I took out the power tools – a noisy leaf blower.  I started blowing leaves all over the back yard. Once the deck was cleared and the rest pushed to the sides of the yard I thought I would start decorating inside.

But then I noticed the bird feeder was empty.  I have a thing about blue jays and cardinals.  I feel like  my husband and my dad send them to me to comfort me.  It was time to get some bird food.  That was really important.  So I found the car keys and put on a hat.  Off to  do some shopping.

At the garden store, I picked up 20 pounds of bird seed, 75 feet of white pine roping and a 15 inch fake Christmas tree.  I wasn’t ready to pull out all the boxes of ornaments but felt that the small tree with some pretty new decorations would spruce up the house.

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Must widows change their name?

Must a widow change her name back to her maiden name? Or do we keep the married name?

Growing up in the 1960s, I hated my name. I was the only girl in my school, at that time, named Kristin. My teachers were confused. They insisted on calling me Christine. Some people called me Christian. They spelled it wrong either starting with a C or ending with “en”. Even my last place of employment, where I worked for 21 years, made the consistent error of spelling my name with an “en” despite my many efforts of correction.

I really wanted to fit in and have a name like the other girls ending in the “eee” sound. Why couldn’t my mom have called me Julie, or Debbie, or Heidi? Years later when I asked her about this, she told me she thought people would call me Kristi. Really? No one ever did. I think you have to initiate that nickname if you are the mother, I told her.

To top it off, my mom decided to use her name as my middle name. Another name I was sure no one except for Austrailians have heard of. Adelaide. Kristin Adelaide was the most obscure name and I was embarrassed to share that top secret information with others.

Of course, my mom never went by Adelaide with her peers. Only her sister called her Adelaide, and it always sounded like she was saying it in a most mocking manner. My mom went by Addie, so even she preferred that “eee” sound at the end of her name. She was popular, and never had an issue fitting in!

Then I grew up with a famously infamous last name. Once people heard the name Sanders, they immediately asked if I was related to the KFC colonel and had a good chuckle over their cleverness. It was easy enough to spell and pronounce, but I did not like that I was always near last when things were done in alphabetical order in school. Being a first born and natural high achiever, being last was not my favorite thing to be.

When I was married at 25 years of age, the idea of women hyphenating their name with their husband’s was all the rage. I considered this fad, but having a background as a teacher, I decided it would be easier for our children if we all just had the same name. Coming from a family of traditionalists, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. I changed my middle name from Adelaide to Sanders, and my new last name became Divers. It was easy to spell. Surprisingly, people often had trouble pronouncing it – like they expected it to be some strange sounding word like Dee-vers. No, I would explain. Like a scuba diver. Best of all, I was thrilled to be listed near the front of the alphabet, whenever that was relevant.

For 30 years I taught in elementary school and I was known as Mrs. Divers. I taught kindergarten for 21 of those years in the same neighborhood where I lived. Lots of families remember their child’s kindergarten teacher. I would often walk through the supermarket and be stopped by 3 or 4 families with a look of excited surprise as they would see me and exclaim, “Mrs. Divers” across the store. I didn’t always remember the child’s name until I was driving home. It was a bit like how movie stars must feel, and I soon started to do my grocery shopping in the next town after 9pm.

Over the years, generous parents created signs and bags with the name Mrs. Divers on them. I had name stickers made to insert into my collection of children’s books that I would let colleagues borrow as needed. On occasion, the secretary would announce over the PA system, “Mrs. Divers please call the main office”. I was Mrs. Divers, and Mrs. Divers was me.

After Mike died, I didn’t really think about my name much. I had lots of paperwork to deal with and everything was in both of our names. Taking him off the bank accounts, credit cards, car loans, and mortgage took time and effort. Changing my name back to my maiden name was never considered.

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What do you do in the First Year of Retirement?

“Anything I want”

Haha. That’s the smartass answer, but what do you really do in retirement?

For someone like me who worked steadily out of the home 40 hours per week, all this time at home is a significant change. Back when I had a busy family and house to run, I felt like I was never home. In retirement, you spend more time around the house. This is only my first year, so I am not an expert on anything. This is just what I’ve done so far.

It has been a peculiar time for everyone. We had the pandemic that never left. That caused many activities to cut back, especially international travel, which I have enjoyed over the past few years, and I hope to continue soon. I managed a few getaways this past year, but like most people, I haven’t left the country.

I moved. That was a full-time job. Going through all that stuff. Selling big items. Giving things away. I thought I really purged until I moved to Florida. Now, unpacking and settling into a new home is a full-time job. We both brought too much stuff, and we need to set up our home with new furniture. It takes a little while, and it is coming together nicely. Not sure when the dining table will arrive, but we saved a folding table and chairs for now.

With time on my hands in a new town, I have been actively seeking ways to keep busy.

I must admit, I enjoy sleeping in these days. Pete and I got up early for work for years, so the luxury of getting up when you feel like it has been nice. After my second cup of coffee and breakfast, I take Harry for his morning walk around the pond behind our house. We pass a dog park, so we will stop for a quick visit if someone is there. Harry smells his new friend, then basically ignores the other dog. I am starting to see repeat dog owners and I try to remember the names.

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Remembering loved ones on their birthday

It has been six years since Mike has been here to celebrate his birthday but I always think of him on his birthday, the fourth of July. He loved having his birthday on the fourth as people always celebrated and had a party on that day, even fireworks! This year he would have been 58 and for 30 plus years we shared those holidays together.

Mike always remembered to hang up the American flag on his birthday. He grew up in a family where his dad made everyone stand and salute when the national anthem was played at the beginning of a sports game. His respect for our country was admirable and Mike loved to read about the history of our country. Celebrating our democratic process and understanding the importance of our laws led him to pursue his undergraduate degree at UCSD in political science and then his law degree from Hofstra University.

After living in San Diego for 8 years in our 20s, we moved back to New York so Mike could attend law school and we lived at home with my parents. Those days were wonderful and filled with the laughter from our two young boys. In 2002 we moved into our first home as a family in the same school district where I worked as a kindergarten teacher. It was a 1960s high ranch with a big yard on a quiet street, everything we could want.

While the house was great, it was a bit outdated. The countertops in the kitchen were a pale pink formica. I covered the vinyl floors in the kitchen with checkered black and white, peel and stick tiles. We ripped out the old carpets to discover wood floors which we could not afford to sand and stain yet and the white shingles on the house were turning a deeper shade of gray.

That didn’t matter to us. The best part about this house was that the yard had a pool! It was a large above ground 30 foot in diameter round structure. Most people could stand in it since the depth was about 4 feet. I had never had my own pool before and to me this was the status symbol that we had made it. We had a swimming pool.

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