BW 091: Bearing Light in Darkness : Andrea Rivera's Dual Loss

widow interview Mar 26, 2024

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The Transcript is below.

Content warning: Sickness, Death

In the face of unfathomable tragedy, Andrea Rivera's story shines as a beacon of resilience and strength. At the tender ages of 20 and 24, Andrea found herself widowed not once, but twice, navigating the depths of grief while shouldering the responsibility of raising young children. Her journey is a testament to the indomitable human spirit and the remarkable capacity to overcome adversity.

Through the haze of loss, Andrea emerged as a symbol of grace and fortitude, embodying a spirit that refused to be dimmed by sorrow. Despite the weight of her grief, she found the courage to carry on, drawing upon an inner reservoir of resilience to navigate the tumultuous waters of widowhood.

What sets Andrea apart is not just her ability to endure, but her unwavering commitment to finding light in the darkest of moments. Pregnant during her first loss and raising small children during her second, Andrea faced challenges that would have seemed insurmountable to many. Yet, with a heart full of love and a spirit that refused to be broken, she forged ahead, determined to create a life filled with hope and healing.

Now, Andrea offers her wisdom and insight to others who walk a similar path, sharing her journey of grief and growth with compassion and grace. Her beautiful spirit and presence illuminate the way for young widows struggling to raise children while navigating the complex terrain of loss. Through her words and her example, Andrea Rivera offers a guiding light for those who find themselves adrift in the darkness, reminding them that even in the midst of sorrow, there is always room for hope.

 Andrea Recommends: 
  • Kept really busy 
  • Being outside, the fresh air, the sun, um, journaling.   lots of Epsom salt, salt baths, love my baths,  was never really alone then,  with the door open.
  • Be with them, I mean the grieving person, you know, obviously from the get-go when it happens, but continue to check in on them. It doesn't have to be overbearing or anything.


 ''It's okay to ask for help, like you can be a very prideful person and still ask for help, that's okay. And everyone grieves differently. And on their own time,  but it's okay to ask for help at any time. ''

''Give yourself grace. Like I said before,  grieving is a process or grief is a process and  it comes in waves and sometimes those waves knock you down and that's okay  and sometimes there's no waves and that's okay too.''

''People say time heals all wounds and people say, oh, in time, it gets better. Time does not magically fix those things. Time only makes more of what is. So if you're not processing, if you're not healing, if you're not working on those things, time's not going to compound that. Time is only going to compound what you continue to do.''



The Brave Widow Community is a place where you can connect with other widows, find hope and healing, and begin to dream again for the future.  Learn more at  



Hey guys, I’m Emily Jones


I was widowed at age 37, one month shy of our 20 year wedding anniversary.  Nathan and I have four beautiful children together.  My world was turned completely upside down when I lost him.  With faith, community, and wisdom from others, I’ve been able to find hope, joy, and dream again for the future.  I want to help others do the same, too!



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Andrea Rivera

Emily Jones: [00:00:00] Hey, hey, welcome to episode number 91 of the Brave Widow show. I'm excited for you to hear from a special guest today, Andrea Rivera. Andrea was at the age of 20 and 24 when she became a widowed. Not only once at the age of 20, but again, at the age of 24, it is incredible to think about her spirit of resilience and what she has been able to overcome, uh, in the years since she's been widowed and at the same time being pregnant during her first loss and raising small children during her second loss.

Andrea has a beautiful spirit and presence, and I think you are going to enjoy the insight and the advice that she has to share with other young widows who are trying to raise children and grieve at the same time. [00:01:00] Before we dive into Andrea's story, I do want to make you aware of a special group that we have going on.

Um, if you're watching this on video or sorry, if you're not watching this on video, I'm holding up the grief recovery handbook. And I have talked about this book many times on the podcast, probably not enough. I probably need to talk about it more. But this Grief recovery method program was really the final puzzle piece for me and feeling a sense of completeness in my relationship with Nathan and with my grief.

Even though I had done a lot of work with coaching and counseling and learning and being certified and doing all of the things that we think are the right steps in healing and moving through grief, I still had this sense of guilt. Of regret, and ultimately a lot of unclosed loops, [00:02:00] a lot of things that were just unsaid unresolved, a yearning to be able to have one more conversation and talk about some of those things.

And this program completely changed my grief recovery and helped me feel a sense of completeness.

It helped me feel free from regret, from guilt, from just that yearning of wanting to resolve some of these things. So, I became certified to be able to host sessions for other people and work them through the program because it's very prescriptive. It is an evidence based program, the only one in the world, and evidence based just means that it has been proven to help people with grief recovery.

Because it's prescriptive, it is something completely separate and apart from Brave Widow. So if you're part of the Brave Widow community, it's not, you're not going to [00:03:00] find it in there. And And On the other hand, if you're not a widow or if you want to address another loss or you have a friend that's struggling with loss and with grief, the good news is they can go through this program and I would love for you to bring them to the program.

If you're interested in joining the waitlist or learning more, or if you know, you've heard me talk about this enough, maybe you've read the book or parts of the book and you know, you're ready to go through this eight week program, then you can go to brave widow. com slash grief to join. So brave widow.

com slash G R I E F. To join the wait list or to go ahead and sign up for the group. Now I lead online groups or cohorts as they're called of a maximum of eight people at a time. So I'm recording this in February. My next cohort that I'm leading is starting on April 29th. [00:04:00] I don't know when you're going to be listening to this.

But either way, I will always keep up BraveWidow. com slash grief as a way that you can go to get on the wait list or join the next available cohort. And again, this book actually covers. Many, many losses, 30 to 40 different life event losses. This is not just for someone who's lost a loved one. It's not just for people who are widowed.

It covers a variety of things and I have found it personally incredibly helpful to go through their program and fill a sense of completeness. It's an online program that we do through zoom. It's eight weeks. I cover the book and any supplies that you need for that. And really, it just requires a commitment that you show up, that you do the reading and the writing exercises and that you're willing to participate in your own grief recovery.

But I cannot [00:05:00] recommend this enough. It's an absolutely amazing program that I am honored to be a part of. So again, that's BraveWidow. com slash grief. If you want to learn more. You want to get on the wait list or you are ready. You are ready to take action and join the next cohort. All right, let's dive into Andrea's story.

Hey, Hey, welcome back to another episode of the brave widow show today. I have a special guest, Andrea Rivera, and she's going to share her story with us. And I think you're really going to appreciate the insight and perspective that she has to share. So Andrea, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

I'm so glad to have you.

Andrea Rivera: Thank you for having me

Emily Jones: now. Andrea, being a young widow is a unique circumstance, but you have what some might consider an even more unique circumstance. Would you mind to share with us a little bit about [00:06:00] what that is?

Andrea Rivera: Yes, absolutely. Um, so, 2005, um, met and fell in love with my son's father, um, and got pregnant.

And in May of 2006, actually May 16th of 2006, he actually passed away, which was two days or two weeks and two days before Caden was born. I was very, very young at that point. I was about 20. Yeah, I was 20 years old and it just felt very surreal. And then

Emily Jones: I just said, had to be really hard being pregnant, knowing that you're going to deliver a baby and there's maybe some mixed emotions there, but I imagine you're excited as the due dates get in closer and then having that experience had to be really hard.

Andrea Rivera: Yeah, I remember looking at my, you know, nine month belly [00:07:00] and just saying like to myself, I don't, I really don't have, the time to grieve right now the way I want to because I need to take care of my baby. Like, I don't want. my baby to have a sad mom. I don't want my baby to, you know, grow up with a broken mom.

So I just kind of like, hey, you know what, we're plowing through. And I just kind of put that on the back burner, I guess for a while. Um, and then fast forward to 2007. Um, I married, I married my daughter's, father and about not even two years later, He also passed away. Uh, my daughter was a year and a half and I remember just thinking, I can't believe that this is happening again.

I [00:08:00] remember when I was by him in the ICU by his bedside and just. Kind of numb and looking at him and thinking, I'm like, well, you know, God wouldn't do this again to me, you know, like kind of thing and yeah, sure enough, November 23rd 2009 and I remember walking out of the hospital and I just stood in the middle of the parking lot.

It was after midnight. And I just screamed and then I walked to my car and I don't know what happened after that, honestly, I just, just numb and just, you know, going through the motions.

Emily Jones: So do you mind sharing what happened and how your husband had ended up in ICU?

Andrea Rivera: Yeah, absolutely. Um, he was feeling ill for a couple months and, you know, he would go to the doctors [00:09:00] and, you know, nothing, they couldn't find anything wrong with him.

And then the one day. I looked at him and I said, Steve, you're yellow. Like when someone says someone is jaundice, like everything is yellow. Yes. His eyes, his skin, he was like a glow worm. And they said, Steve, you need to go to the doctor, actually probably to the hospital at this point. Um, at that point I was working as a CNA, so I was kind of.

Versed in, um, you know, in healthcare and knowing that his liver was literally failing him. You can see it. And he refused. And then, I want to say a day or two later, he actually had to have the ambulance called and taken away. And that was on a Friday and he was gone by Sunday. Like it was just, he turned septic and it just went from there.

Emily Jones: I can't [00:10:00] even, I can't even hardly imagine what it had to be like. Here you've got two very young small children at this point. You yourself are still really young and you're faced with, you know, your husband's in ICU. Maybe there's a point where you think he's gonna make it. He's not gonna make it. I can't believe this is happening to me How did you even find a courage to try to move forward or to?

think that a Life for you would ever be possible past that point. I mean that that had to be devastating

Andrea Rivera: Oh, it definitely was. I, I honestly don't know what thoughts exactly I had in my mind at that time, just knowing that I had to pick up the pieces and, you know, do it all [00:11:00] for the kids. I, that's just what I had to do.

Um, I didn't have that time to grieve. I did on my own time. I never allowed the kids to see myself grieving, which may or may not have been a good thing. I don't know. But, um, that's what I did. That's how I, you know, coped with it. I kept really busy with them and with work and that's really what I, what I did for myself.

Emily Jones: And did you have a lot of support of people around you, maybe family or friends that stepped in to help? Or did you feel like you were somewhat alone in just trying to survive after that?

Andrea Rivera: I want to say a little bit of both. Um, I didn't feel very supportive, but supported, but I feel like also that might've been my fault as well [00:12:00] because people tend to look at me as a very strong person. And maybe not needing that because I don't ask for it and I don't, um, come off as me needing it. So they probably thought, well, she's fine, you know, like, it's okay.

So, and that way, not really. I feel bad saying that though too, but I mean, I just, I, when I look back at it, I'm like, man, I really didn't. Yeah. Much many at all. So,

Emily Jones: yeah, well, we're I'm working with a group of folks to the grief recovery method and they have a concept that's called the Academy Award recovery, which is exactly that right?

Like, we have our acting face our game face on. And you know, I'm, I'm smiling as you're talking because I resonate a lot with that, which [00:13:00] is I'm fine. Everything's fine. You know, I've got it because you feel like you have to be strong and you have to be there and you have to like, you should be able to do it all.

You should have to ask for help is how I felt anyway.

Andrea Rivera: Right. And, and, and I also hate when people feel sorry for me. I don't ever want to feel like that, you know, and I know that maybe that's a prideful thing, but I just, I, I don't like that. It just doesn't feel good. So,

Emily Jones: yeah, I, I. Completely understand. And at the same time, I think, you know, my, my kids were older when I lost my husband and I'm thinking about you maybe having to potty train and change diapers or, you know, kids when they're that young, what your son was probably around three or so,

Andrea Rivera: um, yeah, he was, he was three, just three.

My daughter was a year and a half. Yeah.

Emily Jones: Yeah. So a three [00:14:00] year old and a one and a half year old, they're very needy. You know, they can't necessarily go fix their own snacks or pour their own drinks, or, you know, they need a lot of mom time and support. And were there times that you just felt like. You never got to shut off.

You never got a break. Like you were just always had to be present whether it was at work or with the kids or did you find that was a struggle for you?

Andrea Rivera: It definitely was. I definitely had my moments. Um, with that, like coming home and when I finally would get him to bed and I was sitting on the couch like, Oh my gosh, you know.

And just thinking, like, gotta do it again in, you know, seven, seven hours or whatever it is, just not really feeling like a relief, I guess. Um, a lot of the jobs I took, though, When the kids were young, like I was a daycare teacher, so I could be in the daycare with the kids or a lunch lady. So I could see him during the day.

Like, [00:15:00] that's what I done. I just did what I had to do to, you know, spend my time with them, but also make the money that we needed to survive.

Emily Jones: Oh, that's, that's a great idea. I was going to ask, you know, what suggestions you had for. For someone who's in a very similar situation to you, who maybe just lost their spouse or their second spouse and they've got these young kids and they're trying to figure out what to even do next.

What else were maybe some things that helped you during that time?

Andrea Rivera: Being outside, the fresh air, the sun, um, journaling. Um, lots of Epsom salt, salt baths, love my baths, was never really alone then, with the door open and then, you know, mom, what are you doing? But I mean,

Emily Jones: fingers under the door.

Andrea Rivera: Oh, like I never know.

That's the thing. [00:16:00] I always kept the door open, bathroom door open because it never fails. Every time you go, Hey, mom, what are you doing? Hey, you want to see this? You know, like, just, it's like, okay. Okay. Okay. At this point, just everyone, we're partying in the bathroom when I go. So come on in.

Emily Jones: Oh, exactly. Well, those are, those are really some great suggestions.

And you know, I like the way that you look at it as you're trying to carve out at least a little time for yourself. And you're also trying to structure your life in a way where You can still be present at times with your kids, whether you're working in daycare or as a lunch lady and you get to see them during the day.

I think that was a really creative solution that, you know, a lot of people have that fog and haze when they're first in grief and it's hard to think clearly, but that was, that was a really creative solution that you put in place. Thank you for that. Appreciate that . Yeah. So I, if you can [00:17:00] remember, um, back then, what, what was maybe a point where you felt like you were getting your feet underneath you and you could start to think about rebuilding your life or feeling that there could still be a good future for you and your family?

What, what was that experience like for you?

Andrea Rivera: I don't necessarily think it was. Any, um, particular moments. I feel though throughout the years, every year has gotten better, um, emotionally and financially, for me and the, for me and the kids and my kids have even said that to, like, we've, we've moved it. So we've moved several times, unfortunately, but, um, it's always been.

To like a better location, a better home, better school, and we've been able to, you know, travel a little bit. So never one [00:18:00] particular moment. It was always just, you know, Doing better, like one more step. Let's keep going, you know, just keep trucking and just kind of let it fall where it's going to be, but it's always for the best.

Emily Jones: Oh, I think that's great. A lot of people tend to struggle with not having any hope at all or feeling like, well, what's the point? You know, my person's no longer here, but I love that. You took those steps out of faith, like, you know, Okay, somehow we're going to create this life again, and I don't know exactly what it looks like, but I know if I just keep moving forward that we're going to eventually get there.

Yes, 100%. Yeah, so I know everybody will be curious to know having lost 2 people that you are so close to. Did that impact you? Did that give you a sense of fear in any way? Like, I don't want another relationship or, you know, maybe there's [00:19:00] a reason why this keeps happening to me, or did you have any of that mind drama or any of those thoughts, okay.

All right. Tell us about that.

Andrea Rivera: Yeah. I, that was always a fear and it still is a fear. And honestly, that fear has. kind of seeped into me thinking about my kids too, like, oh my gosh, what if something happens to them? I really try my best to not dwell on that on a daily, but I do think about that daily, I do.

But I think that's just part of my grieving, my grieving process, like, because we've lost so much at, in such a short, you know, amount of time, and while they're so young now, it's. Now that I'm older, they're older, I'm actually able to process the grief that I didn't process before too.

Emily Jones: Mm. Yeah.

Andrea Rivera: Because I didn't, yeah, I didn't allow myself to do that fully, um, [00:20:00] because I had kids to raise and that was my, I know that's not for everyone, but that was my mentality.

It was like, I've got, I can't do this right now. I have my babies and this is what we have to do. But now that they're older and they're starting to have their own lives, my daughter's almost 16, my son's almost 18. Now I have more time where I'm like, okay, cause you know, I'm going to a friend's house or mom, I have to work and now I can sit and process that grief the way that it should have been years ago too.

Emily Jones: Thank you for that. Just vulnerability. Um, because I think a lot of people don't realize that it has to be processed at some point and they think, well, Time just magically heals all wounds. Time will just make it better on its own. But as you said, we find that we have to come back to it, feel it, process it, and then move forward.

It never, time [00:21:00] just makes more of what is. Time doesn't just magically heal a wound or, or fix things. And, um, it sounds like you're having some time now to process that, which I think really is great.

Andrea Rivera: Yeah, it's time is definitely it's almost like a reflection back of all the time that you've lost. I feel like, you know, like, oh, you know, you should have been here for for that.

And just it's every like, you know, because my son's going to graduate this year. So I think back, you're missing, you know, graduation, you know, like, I know you're here, but it's just it's kind of like a bittersweet. It's bittersweet. That's, that's what it is. The time loss is bittersweet.

Emily Jones: Yeah, it is. And it's the loss of, you know, the dreams and the goals and those milestones where we think, oh, their dad should have been here and should be able to see this.

And that can, that can [00:22:00] be really hard.

Andrea Rivera: Oh, 100%. 100%. And there are some times where, you know, I think it was more so when the kids were younger that I would sit at their, you know, Christmas carol or whatever they were doing at the time or reward show and just like, you know, a little tear would just, you know, stream down just thinking of like, you should be here.

I know you are, but it would just be nice, you know, just being proud with me physically, I guess.

Emily Jones: Yeah, it's just different. Yeah, it is very different. Um, so as you're being a solo parent and you're raising these kiddos who are very soon going to be adults, which is a little bit crazy.

Andrea Rivera: Yeah.

Emily Jones: Um, what. Advice or suggestions do you have for, you know, other widows that are raising kids and looking back, is there anything you would have done differently or that you think might've helped you or you [00:23:00] wish someone would have told you about raising kids and having this experience?

Andrea Rivera: I would have asked for help, or at least time to cry, or for a hug, something. I think that would have really helped. It's okay to ask for help, like you can be a very prideful person and still ask for help, that's okay. And everyone grieves differently. And on their own time, but it's okay to ask for help at any time.

Emily Jones: And, and what would you tell someone, let's say they want to help, but like they have a friend that's widowed and they want to help, but they don't know how, they don't know what to do. They don't want to overstep or maybe that person is like you and they're like, I'm strong, I got this. I'm fine. Um, What advice would you give the friend or the support person to say, you know, look, even if they say they're strong and they're fine, here are some things that maybe you could do, or maybe just don't give up [00:24:00] asking.

What would you say to that person?

Andrea Rivera: Um, I would say, you know, at first, when it first initially happens, I first, I feel like everyone is. Oh, you know, let's, let's help. Let's help. Let's help. But checking that person, you know, three months, six months, a year down the road, not just initially, um, Cause you know, after the funeral is done, people kind of, you know, people go on with their own lives and that's no fault to them.

That's, it's their lives. But, then you, you start to feel forgotten. So, for those people that want to help out their friends, I feel like, yes, be with them, obviously from the get go when it happens, but continue to check in on them. Um, it doesn't have to be like overbearing or anything. Um, my cousin actually, unfortunately, uh, lost her husband to suicide.

About a year ago, and her mom actually had inboxed me and told me about it. And [00:25:00] so, you know, every so often, I'll just be like, I'll message her, Hey, hope you and the kids are doing well. You know, it doesn't have to be a question. It can just be thinking of you. Love you. And that's that. That makes people feel less alone.

And initially, though, I feel like Meals, especially if there's young children, if the person wants to, you know, cook a meal and just drop it off or a gift card to, you know, Subway or whatever it is, um, and not necessarily have to see the person, but just be like, hey, I left something in your mailbox for you or hey, I left something on your doorstep for you.

So it's not like intrusive. It's like, but hey, like I care. And when you're ready, we can sit and talk if you want.

Emily Jones: That's great. I think of people that supported me and still do. I kind of feel like they adopted me. Maybe [00:26:00] they adopted me as a widow and they, you know, constantly send messages like you don't need to respond, but just know that I'm thinking about you or they religiously send cards on birthdays and anniversaries and big days.

And. To your point. Some of these people I haven't sat down with and had lengthy conversations, but it's just a really good feeling to know that you're not forgotten, that you're not unseen, that people do care about you and want to be there for you, and that it just stands the test of time. You know, that's, that's really amazing.

Right. Yeah. So any other words of advice or encouragement, maybe for a widow that's just in the aftermath of loss and trying to figure it out? What final advice would you give to that person?

Andrea Rivera: Final advice? Um, [00:27:00] I would say give yourself grace. Um, like I said before, grieving is a process or grief is a process and it comes in waves and sometimes those waves knock you down and that's okay and sometimes there's no waves and that's okay too.

That doesn't mean that you don't feel less for that person that has, you know, your husband or whomever has lost, that you've lost, um, and just self care as much as you probably do not want to do it. Take five minutes out of your day to do something for yourself, even if it is to wash your face or to put deodorant on that day, whatever, how small it is.

Just do something for yourself.

Emily Jones: Excellent advice. I love that. Well, Andrea, thank you so much for coming on the show today and being willing to share your story and encouragement for other widows. I really appreciate it. Thank you so much for having [00:28:00] me.

Wow. It's incredible to think about trying to cope and survive and thrive with two almost back to back losses at the age of 20 and 24 while raising small children. Uh, what an incredible spirit of resilience Andrea has, and I'm so proud of where she's come in that amount of time. Now one of the things that she mentioned that I want to talk to you about and make sure that you're aware of is that even now, 15 years later, she's finding that she has to go back and process grief that she never processed when both of her persons died.

And the reality is. You know, people say time heals all wounds and people say, oh, in time, it gets better. Time does not magically fix those things. [00:29:00] Time only makes more of what is. So if you're not processing, if you're not healing, if you're not working on those things, time's not going to compound that.

Time is only going to compound what you continue to do. I thought that the timing for this was incredible because I'm actually leading a cohort or a group of people through the grief recovery method program now. And I have another session starting on April 29th. I would absolutely love to For you to be part of that, it's an amazing opportunity to process your grief, to let go of the guilt and the regret and the missed time that you have with your person that Andrea mentioned.

And for me, it was the key, like the final puzzle piece in being able to feel free. of guilt, of regret, of all the [00:30:00] things I wish I would have been able to say to Nathan. Of all those unclosed loops and unresolved emotional things that were happening inside of me, this program helped me to feel a sense of completeness and closure, which I had not been able to do before.

A significant amount of time, so I have the grief recovery handbook here. I've talked about it many times on the podcast. I cannot recommend it enough. It's an amazing book. The program is even more amazing, which is why I'm starting to teach it now because the grief recovery program is evidence based, meaning that it's been proven.

To help people through grief, to move forward with a sense of completeness, it is the only one in the entire world that's evidence based. So because of the [00:31:00] structure and because it's so prescriptive, this is something I offer outside of the Brave Widow community. Now if you're in the Brave Widow community, you can still participate, but you do not need to be a Widow.

You do not need to be in Brave Widow community. You do not need to even have lost a loved one to participate in the grief recovery program. It is a program for anyone of any kind of loss, pet loss, job loss, health loss, financial loss, any sort of loss or grief, anyone can participate. So if you're interested or you know someone who would be interested, I would love for them to join us.

As we walk through this program, there are only eight spots available. And I don't know, because I'm recording this, In February, when you're going to hear this, I don't know when we're going to have continue to have spots available or how many will be left. But [00:32:00] for the online group sessions, we are limited to 8 people per cohort or per group.

Um, and if you would love to be a part of that, or if. The spots have been filled and you want to be on the wait list to participate in the next cohort. Then you can go to brave widow. com slash grief G R I E F and sign up to be on the wait list or go ahead and join to participate in one of the cohorts.

It's an eight week session program. I provide the book. I provide everything that you need to go through the program. And it really just requires a commitment from you that you were going to show up. To the meetings and that you are going to participate in the reading and writing activities again. I cannot say enough how much this program has helped me and I would love for it to help you too.

Whether you find yourself just having had a recent loss or whether [00:33:00] maybe you're like Andrea and 15 years later you're like, You're still processing your grief. You're still struggling. You're still having those really tough feelings in some of those big events. Then this is the program for you. It's amazing.

Go sign up for it. Brave widow. com slash grief. Thanks guys.

Emily: Are you a widow who feels disconnected? Do you feel like you're stuck or even going backwards in your grief? Widowhood can be lonely and isolating, but it doesn't have to be. Join us in the Brave Widow membership community and connect. We teach widows how to find hope, heal their heart, and dream again for the future.

Find your purpose and create a life you love today. Go to bravewidow. com to get started.