BW 104: Ā Moving Forward: Melissa's Journey Through Separation, Addiction, and Healing

widow interview Jul 09, 2024


Melissa, a solo mom of three young boys, shares her journey of separation, addiction, grief, and healing. Melissa candidly shares her experience of separating from her husband, who struggled with alcohol addiction, and the subsequent grief she navigated following his unexpected death in 2022 while they were still legally married. 


Throughout the conversation, Melissa provides insight into the complexities of grieving a spouse from whom she was separated, addressing both the support and challenges she faced. She highlights the importance of therapy, open conversations with her children, and the crucial role of a supportive community. 


 Key Takeaways: 1. Navigating the grief of separation and unexpected loss. 2. The role of therapy and open communication in the healing process. 3. Importance and benefits of a supportive community. 4. Resources for widows, including therapy, Grief Share, and Safe Families. 5. Encouragement to join Brave Widow membership for support and connection. 


00:23 Feeling Stuck

00:59 Benefits of Coaching for Widows

01:55 Introducing Melissa

02:48 Melissa's Widow Journey

04:24 Navigating Grief and Separation

09:19 Honoring a Loved One's Memory

16:38 Conversations with Children About Loss

21:56 Support Systems and Asking for Help

26:56 Overcoming the Challenge of Asking for Help

28:17 The Two-Way Street of Helping and Healing

29:19 The Bigger Picture of Grief

34:33 Keeping Memories Alive

35:58 Balancing Family and Grief

42:02 Words of Encouragement for Widows

43:25 The Importance of Therapy and Support

46:30 Final Thoughts and Resources


Watch the episode here:




Safe Families:

(This is available in the US and also in a lot of countries all over the world)


Grief Share:

(This is available all over the US)


Facebook Group: Extremely Young & Widowed:


Facebook Group: Chicagoland Widows and Widowers:


Facebook Group: Widows of Addiction: Safe Zone:


Celebrate Recovery:

(This is available all over the US)


Some Books that were super helpful:


For Young Kids:


Kids Grief Journal:


For Adults (any painful experience, not just death):





Introduction to Episode 104

[00:00:00] Emily: Hey, Hey, and welcome to episode number 104 of the brave widow show today. I talk with Melissa who shares her story of separation, Of a spouse that struggles with alcohol addiction and her ultimate recovery and healing through grief.

Before we dive into Melissa's story, I just want to talk to you guys for a bit.

Feeling Stuck

[00:00:23] Emily: So one thing that I've noticed quite a bit during my consult calls and even some of my coaching calls with my widow clients is that as widows, we feel stuck, not necessarily even in grief, not even in sadness.

In fact, one of the top things that I hear what I would say is that therapy has really helped them process grief. It's really helped them with the sorrow and the sadness, but they don't quite know how to move forward. Now, the biggest question on their mind is what's next?

The Role of Coaching in Moving Forward

[00:00:59] Emily: So if this is you, if you're at a point where therapy has gotten you so far, where it's helped you heal the past, it's helped you process grief, but it's not necessarily helping propel you forward, then coaching is a perfect answer for you. When you work with a coach, this is a very action oriented process where your coach is going to help you set goals. They work with you one on one in a very intimate, safe, and private setting. And your coach guides and navigate you through the process of taking those next steps to actually move you forward.

So if you're feeling stuck, if you're wondering what's next, if you're not sure how to actually move forward, then coaching is a perfect option for you.

Go to BraveWidow. com and click on the one on one coaching tab to learn more about my coaching program and how it can help you. All right, let me

Introducing Melissa and Her Unique Story

[00:01:55] Emily: introduce Melissa. Melissa is a solo mom of three boys under the age of 12 years old. She works full time as a customer service and sales manager along with social marketing.

She fulfills her passion for photography with a fun and demanding side hustle as a wedding and event photographer for high end events, and she also co owns a portrait business with her best friend. Her widow's story is unique because she and her late husband were separated at the time of his death in 2022.

Therefore, not only does she empathize with widows, but she empathizes with widows whose marriages were separated at the time of death, And who spouses went through witnessing and living through a spouse with addiction links to where you can find Melissa and the resources that she mentions are available in the show notes. All right, let's dive in.

Welcome to the Brave Widow Show, where we help widows find hope, heal their heart, and dream again for the future. I'm your host, Emily Tanner. After losing my husband of 20 years, I didn't know how I could ever experience true joy and excitement again for the future. I eventually learned how to create a life I love, and I've made it my mission to help other widows do the same.

Join me and the Brave Widow membership community and get started today. Learn more at BraveWidow. com

Melissa, thank you so much for coming on the show today and being willing to share your story.

[00:03:27] Melissa: Well, thank you so much.

Thanks for having


[00:03:30] Emily: Absolutely.

Melissa's Journey Through Separation and Loss

[00:03:31] Emily: So I know our audience would love to know some about you, about your background, and then really we can dive into your story wherever you want to start.

[00:03:42] Melissa: Okay, sounds great. So my name is Melissa. I have three boys under the age of 12, and we lost my late husband in December of 2022 so a little about a year and a half ago.

And he was, he was my husband since 2009. And then we had our oldest son in 2012. So, so our marriage was mixed with being married without children, being married with one, being married with two, and then being married with three. My youngest was a little over two when he passed. So we've had, So I've had to go through solo parenting, a toddler and an elementary age son, and then now a middle school age pre teenage son on my own.

So there's a lot of difficulties that go along, there's a lot of joy that goes along with it, but there's a lot of difficulties that go along with that a lot. And, then navigating. grief on my own while navigating my children's grief and doing that the best I can because I know this will affect their whole lives how it's handled now and just doing the best I can with that.

On top of that what makes my story, Maybe a little bit more unique and maybe more relatable to a wider audience. And what I hope to bring hope to is that we were separated at the time of his death. So we separated about a year and a half before he passed. And so I went through the grief of our separation, and losing a marriage where I just had this life that I thought.

I was going to have in a marriage. I thought I was going to have in a family. I thought I was going to have and then all of a sudden that just drops out and so I had to go through the grief of losing our marriage and losing that image they had of our family for a year and a half and then I was kind of finally kind of coming to terms with it and that he passed away and he passed away.

Before anything was legal, so I was still definitely his wife legally, and we were living in two separate places, but I was definitely still in that status of wife, and we honestly didn't really tell that many people. So I had to navigate his death. And what most people knew of us was that we were a family unit.

They didn't know that we were separated.

Navigating Grief and Addiction

[00:06:09] Melissa: And so, and another thing they didn't know was that he most people didn't know that he was also addicted to alcohol and so. Navigating grief and navigating death of someone young, because obviously. When it's someone that's 37. And that's very popular and well known in our community.

It's hard because it's very, everyone's talking about it and, but they don't know the whole story. So you're navigating it the best you can, because you're like, I want to honor his life. But I don't want it to be this lie that everyone thinks everything was perfect. And how can I honor his life, but also.

Honor his death and also maybe prevent this from happening to someone else's family. So it's this whole balancing act and I'm in some grief groups are some widows groups on Facebook and I'm learning more and more. This is actually a little bit more common than I thought. And but each of these cases, the women.

And in some cases, of course, it's meant to, but they feel so alone. They feel so isolated. And, um, and it is something that's out there. So I'm hoping to bring hope to the widows that feel alone. And any widow that is having to go through. The isolation of what to divulge, what to divulge about their family.

How do they honor this person, that past that they loved so much, but there was just, there's just so much to it that people don't know.

[00:07:47] Emily: Yeah, I am so glad that you were willing to share your story and to speak so openly about it, because I work with widows and I talk to widows who want to stay very much in the background because they don't resonate with other people who are crying over their husband, who was like, perfect and amazing.

And they have this wonderful relationship and they're over here going. Wow, this is really weird. Like, of course I have grief because it's sad and it's different, but now my life is calmer or we didn't have the best relationship and I feel guilty for speaking the truth about what was, but I still want to be true to.

What was like, I don't want to pretend that everything was perfect and fine when it wasn't, but I feel guilty because that person's dead now. And we're not supposed to talk poorly about those people. And then also somebody that was struggling with addiction. There's a lot of widows that very much feel, That, that's a stigma that, people tend to not be as sympathetic if somebody is struggling with that, or, even in the unfortunate events of suicide, people just view that death and loss differently than a person, who, who lost their spouse for other reasons.

So, yeah, I, I think it would be really helpful and really encouraging because I get this question a lot, like, well, how often does this happen? And I don't know the percentage. But I know that I do talk to a lot of widows who were separated or their relationship was not well or even borderline abusive.

And so, I'm glad that you're willing to be open to share that. So how did you navigate that in where you were separated? A lot of people, didn't know, they just assumed everything was great and y'all were a family. And, how did you decide how you were going to talk about what all had happened?

[00:09:51] Melissa: Yeah, that's a great question. So, if anyone has seen the musical Hamilton, I resonate so closely to Eliza, and I used the, she has, this verse in the very last song, so, and whoever, whoever hasn't seen Hamilton, her, her husband, they were, they were separated, and they kind of reconciled in the end, and then he passed, and so, She has this line in her last song that says she put herself back in the narrative.

And that's really, I felt like when they separated, she took herself out of the narrative and didn't want to be a part of his story anymore. And then in the very end, she's like, I decided to put myself back in the narrative and, and tell his story in an honoring way. And I really felt, I really felt that.

And so that was kind of how I went with it was I decided to put myself back in the narrative, but I decided to really. Not remember him for the last two years that I knew him, but remember him for the first, 13 or 14 years that I knew him. Not that those were all perfect memories either, but I felt like, because he died of, of chronic alcohol use, I feel like a lot of the decisions that he made in the last two years also coincided with that.

And so I feel like if he was. Completely well that some of those decisions may not have been made. And so I really had to go with what I feel. And I feel like he really wanted to be. Well, he just couldn't get there. He struggled to get there. And because of that, he made decisions. more to side with the addiction than to side with the wellness.

And so I was like, if he was well, what decisions would he have made? And I just need to focus on the things I knew about him when he was well. So because of that, and I really, I have three young boys and the two older boys were seven and 10 when he passed. And they knew, they knew that he was Um, he was not healthy and they knew, and the oldest boy and my oldest son, um, he knows about the addiction because it's something that's now in his genetics as too.

So I have to be really careful about that. I can't pretend that everything was rainbows and unicorns because they also, as they grow up, they're going to have to be careful with things that they're more genetically inclined to navigate towards. So I have to be careful about those things. And also, I don't want to, I want them to know that he was a really good dad and he tried really, really hard to be a really good dad, but he was up against a lot.

And, um, and I don't want to lie to them either. So I kind of, I wanted to go forward with that. I need to honor his life, realistically. And so, so I focused more on the first part, the biggest part of his life, more than the last few years. And I feel like, and I got that sense from, um, and from kind of like, I don't know, his, his spirit or maybe just what I knew of him but I just got this like sense when I focused more on the good that he did, um, I just got the sense of comfort with that.

Versus, anything else. So, and I felt like it was most helpful too. And that's another thing is how can I be more most helpful? How can this be most helpful? And I felt like focusing on healing was most helpful and focusing on sharing about that was most helpful. So the navigation of it, I went forward.

I didn't. Have anything out there that necessarily said my husband. So when I did the obituary and when I did the Facebook posts and different things like that, I didn't portray it as we had this perfect marriage and it fell apart or it was this perfect marriage. And now my husband is. not here anymore.

I did not portray it as that. I portrayed him as dad and I said dad and I think I may have referred to myself as wife but I really wanted to kind of keep the marriage piece out of it so it didn't look like I was lying necessarily and so I had to kind of navigate that so and then with the post I really focused on the first part.

If anyone asked, I would say that he did pass a chronic alcohol use, but I didn't necessarily put it out there. We just said he passed unexpectedly to anyone that would ask, but I did with his 1 year post with this 1 year Facebook post. I did mention there that he, I put. Instead of,, instead of giving cheers to Taylor by, uh by doing like cheers with like a shot or, or, or, you know, clinking glasses together, whatever.

Instead, the best way to honor him is to. Is to really come alongside people that are battling anxiety, that are battling depression, that are battling alcohol, alcoholism, or the battling someone that has alcoholism in their family. And then I gave links. To different organizations that can help with that, like, this is the best way you can honor Taylor's life is to go along.

People go alongside people that are going through these things. Or if you are going through these things and seeking help, like, this is the best way that you can honor Taylor's life. Don't clink glasses together. Don't take a shot for him. These are the ways that you can honor his life. And so that was my allude.

And that was me, like, putting it out there without, like, directly saying it necessarily. And I did get messages, and I did get DMs, but most of them were, actually, I'd say all of them were positive, and some, some of them were, I do struggle with alcoholism. I didn't realize he struggled with this. I struggled with it as well.

How can I get help? And that's what I wanted out of this. And that's what he would have wanted for this. He wouldn't want his friends to go through the same fate that he went through and the same struggles that he went through.

[00:16:04] Emily: Yeah. Well, first I just want to commend you on what a beautiful and thoughtful way that you chose to honor his memory and his legacy.

I think that was very gracious of you and a way that felt. Probably very genuine and authentic to who you are. And who he was, especially for, for most of your marriage as a person, as a father and someone that cares for their family. You are a hundred percent right. That people who struggle with, substance abuse or addiction, it's almost like they become a different person.

And, Yeah. And they will do anything to keep that going. That's something that some of us can't understand because we haven't had to battle that sort of, addiction to those things. But it's heartbreaking because it isn't necessarily that someone stops caring or that, they necessarily mean to, End up treating people the way that they do.

It's just very much a struggle, that they have. And that's hard to understand if we've not been there or haven't had a loved one. That's been in that situation.

Conversations with Children About Loss

[00:17:12] Emily: So what were the conversations like with your kids? And I'm sure you had lots of conversations during the separation. And obviously, They would have seen some things for themselves, but did you notice from them at first, any hesitation in talking about it or, asking a lot of questions or how, how was that just navigating those first few weeks and, and conversations with the kiddos?

[00:17:40] Melissa: So one of the best pieces, so my mom's a guidance counselor of elementary age kids, or she was a guidance counselor of elementary age kids for a long time, and so we lost our nanny due to addiction when my oldest was, I believe it was in second grade, second or third grade, and so, so my, so Taylor and I had to really figure out how are we gonna tell our oldest about About his nanny not being around anymore.

And she was young too. She was in her 30s. And so, so I went to my mom and I asked, like, okay, what's the best way to go about this? And she said, you've got to keep it really simple and then let them ask questions because. So much, so many times as moms and as parents, we overshare. Um, sometimes we want our kids to kind of become our little besties and help us through this.

And sometimes we just, we do, we talk to them like we would talk to our friends, cause that's what we're used to, especially with grief and with death. We're not used to talking to children about it. We're used to talking to other people our age about it. So that was the best piece of advice. And I've given that to so many parents of children since then is just to come at it with just a fact.

Just just I mean age appropriate fact and then let them do the let them do the questions. And so that's what we kind of came to that that evening. , he passed overnight and then during the day, I had to figure everything out. And then the evening after the kids got home from school, I had some friends over and that's when we told that's when I told,

our two oldest, the youngest was too young to understand, but that's why I told her to oldest and it really was just very factual. It was, overnight. Daddy passed and. We, we don't necessarily know why that happened, but he's not going to be on earth with us anymore. And that was really that was really the statement and I may put something in there.

About his health wasn't great, and we just didn't know, but, um, but really it was, and I don't even know that maybe actually came later, but that was really the fact. And then, and then we let them that I let them ask the questions after that. And a lot of them are questions. I wouldn't have thought they would ask and.

If it was up to me, I would have given way too much information because some of the stuff I want to tell them they didn't even care about. They didn't ask about 1 thing in therapy. I learned we. So, while we are separated, Taylor and I were in therapy together to improve our communication with co parenting and it's not something I think a lot of couples can do because I think in the moment you're so mad at each other, especially when 1 person wants out of the marriage more than the other person.

But I knew our counselor was also, um. There has a history of addiction therapy and or, therapy with, , counseling with the people that are addicted. And at the time, I don't think he realized how addicted he was, but I knew how addicted he was. So I was like, okay, we're going to stay in this counseling no matter what I have to do.

Because I think that this is going to come up at some point, and, and it, and it did., but one thing she taught us is children are selfish, and they should be. There's no reason for them not to. They don't really care, not because they don't love me, but they don't care necessarily that I'm grieving. They care that they're grieving and they want to know, am I going to be continuing, am I going to continue to be loved the same?

Am I going to be cared for the same? Is our house going to be the same? Are we going to be the same? Are you still my mom? Are you going somewhere? Like this happened to dad. He was 37. Is this going to happen to you too? Those are the things in the kids minds. And, um, so I really had to go at everything here with that same mindset of, They really want to know how is how are their lives going to change and is my love for them going to change and everything else is just kind of background noise that they might have questions on later and but even when you're grieving, as you know, like our brains can only process so much and it's very, very little.

It's so little. And so kids are even more so like, they can't even process what we're processing. Um, so just that was something really great that I kind of had to keep in mind. Yeah.

[00:21:51] Emily: That's really great advice. And, I think you're totally right. I took a similar approach and just telling my kids the basic information and I thought they would have had a lot more questions than they did, but it was more like, well, who's gonna watch us when you're traveling and what's, what's going to happen, you know, with our schedules and, what, Are the rules of the house going to change like it was just more about their day to day life than it was, what happened and why, and why didn't the doctors do anything?

And, , those types of things that we assume kids are going to want to know, and maybe they will as they get older. Yes. But yeah, I think that was a really great, great advice and a great place to start.

Support Systems and Seeking Help

[00:22:30] Emily: After your loss, after he died, what type of support did you have or not have from friends or family?

[00:22:37] Melissa: Oh my gosh, I am just so grateful. So many times during our separation, I felt like I should isolate because I was, I was going through grief over my marriage and I, and it was COVID. It was right after COVID. It was 2021. And so I just. My instinct was to isolate, and thank goodness I just got, I really got the push on me, do not isolate, do not, continue going to the same church, continue surrounding yourself by people that you know and that you feel safe around, continue with your friends that you feel safe around, and if you don't feel safe around someone, let them go, like now is not the time to try to like work up a friendship or like continue a friendship that isn't working.

And I'm just, I'm so It was hard in the moment. It was hard during that year, year and a half to continue, doing things I was used to doing with him, but it helps so much later on, because when he passed, I was already surrounded by safe people. I was already surrounded by a support system that I was familiar with.

And even though some of them didn't even quite know what was going on before, but, so I had, you know, Uh, I, I have 2 best friends that live close by and them and their families really came alongside and they're already like, secondary aunts and uncles to the kids. But 1 advice, 1 piece of advice that I got really early on was.

I can't remember who it was from, but they were like, don't be alone. The first, like, two weeks after you lose someone, do whatever you can. Have a friend stay with you overnight, um, or stay with you in the guest room or a couch or whatever. Have family members come and stay with you, but really do everything you can to not be by yourself.

And for me, I'm not someone that asked for help. And especially during separation, I was used to kind of doing things on my own. , And I really had to start asking people for help. And that was really hard for me, but I did, I had to, I was like, Hey, listen, would you stay with me until my mom can get here?

Cause my parents lived in New York. And she's like, yes. And, and her husband stayed with her kids and he took over that role. And so she could come stay with me. And I'm so grateful for that because that was the calls you have to be on. Oh my gosh. As next of kin, it's insane. Like I was on a whole call after call with the banks, with life insurance, with just insurance, just all of it.

And with the funeral home and trying to figure all that out, it was so much, like, it was really, there'd be times where I'd just be on call after call. And I would just be hoarded up in my room because I didn't want the kids to be in on those calls. And so then my friend would be playing with the kids in the living room.

So I was very grateful, even though it was really hard on me, I was so grateful that at least I had someone where the kids could be in a safe environment and be away from that. Um, For anyone, and my church family was amazing. I mean, I'm just, I was very lucky to have just such a safe church family that I just really, they came alongside and they were so supportive and they started a meal train and that was amazing and I really, I resisted at first and I was like, fine, let it happen.

And same thing with, oh my gosh, the finance thing where people can donate money. I'm spacing on GoFundMe GoFundMe. Yes. I first I was like, no, I don't need a GoFundMe. And then after a few days, I was like, you know what these life, like the life insurance money may not come for a while. And, um, the social security money may not come for a while.

Like, I'm like, Ooh, yeah, actually I might need that after all. Like, okay, let's start that. So it was really just like starting to say yes to things like. And so, so my biggest piece of advice is to say yes. Say yes to any help that you can get. Um, even if you don't think you'll need it, you, it doesn't hurt.

And, um, and just surround yourself with safe people. , if you, that I learned there's,, so I did Grief Share, which I cannot heavily recommend enough. It's a national program. It is faith based, but it's not, faith pushed, I guess. And it, And it's, yeah, it's a national program. You can look it up. It's in most areas.

It's in most states. And that helped so much, but we really learned. There's different people that will come alongside you in your faith, in your grief journey.

Accepting Help and Overcoming Pride

[00:26:48] Melissa: And some people are just there, we call them thimble people, but some people just kind of come in, and they just help, they just come alongside you for a little bit, they're not necessarily the person that you're going to divulge your whole life about, but, and those people are few and far between, and that's great.

That's okay. And, and it's okay to say no to people say no to people that don't really feel safe,, but definitely say yes to the people that do feel safe and that can come along you and help you.

[00:27:15] Emily: Oh, my goodness. There's so much good advice and what you had to say. And one, one of the big key things that I hear from a lot of widows is they have trouble accepting help and they almost

never will ask for help. So what helped you get over the pride, the fear, the, challenge of being bold and asking for help? And then even accepting help, like what helped you get over that so you were able to do it?

[00:27:48] Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. It, it, it took, it took a minute. It took a hot minute, but once I kind of found, so I, I myself am also a helper.

Like I heal by helping others.

The Two-Way Street of Helping Others

[00:27:59] Melissa: And so Someone came up, I was, this one woman in our church, we call her Grandma Joy, her name's Joy, and so she was dropping off a meal, and she said, listen, if you ever need someone to watch your kids, then I would be happy to do it. And we got that from a lot of people, and I was like, okay, okay.

Um, and then when she was dropping off the food, she texted me, she's like, listen, I'd really like to meet your children, because there's no way you're going to let me watch your children if I never meet them ahead of time. And I was just kind of floored by that. I was like, Oh, okay. She's like taking this one, one step further.

So, when she came over, I invited her in, she met the children, I met her, and instantly, like, I just felt, like, very safe around her. And, within a week,, my oldest son had an orchestra concert, and I didn't want to bring my two younger ones, especially my toddler. And so I called her up. I was like, Hey, you know that thing you said that you would watch my children.

Do you want to come on Wednesday? And, and she did. And so she was able to come over and, and it was wonderful and it helped me so much, but I was talking to someone in our church later and she said, you know, her children, her grandchildren live in Indianapolis. So she doesn't get to see them very often.

And by watching her children, it brought her so much joy. And she's retired, and so she does, so she has her own things going on, but she really misses being able to watch other children, because she's far away from her own children. So it was really seeing, like, not only is she helping me, Which is her main initiative, which is her main goal, but also it's helping her as well.

The Bigger Picture of Grief

[00:29:26] Melissa: And I was just like, it is a two way street when someone asks you for help. Of course, their goal is to help you. It's not for a selfish reason, but it's really a two way street. It also helps them as well. And so, I was helping someone which is healing for me by them helping me. And so it was just this great roundabout moment where it was just like, wow, this is so beneficial on so many different sides.

And it really just shows like, it's such a bigger picture, like grief is such a big picture. And when you're in it, it's so small. Like you're just really, you can only focus on so much, but once you're out of it, that first year that, or as I am a year and a half later. I'm starting to see the bigger picture and I'm starting to see people that came alongside me and helped me how it actually ended up helping them as well or help someone else and, um, and I think that that is really the best thing that I can do with my grief is help others because I have to make, there has to be a purpose for the pain.

Like, and we may, I may never know why he died. I mean, I know the logistics of, I know the autopsy report, but I may not know, like, why. And I have to, I have to come to terms with that because I can't live my whole life, like, investigating or questioning God or questioning, you know. whatever, I just have to come to terms with, I may not know, what am I going to do with the pain?

What am I going to do with this? And if I can answer that question with, well, I helped, I helped with that. And I was never, I never thought I'd be in the widow world. I never thought I'd be in the separated wives world. Like these are two whole different, like there's like little doors in our life. And I never thought those two doors were just always like way over here.

I never thought about them, never imagined what those, that life was like. Behind those doors. But once those doors are open to me, I'm like, okay, I, now I see these worlds and I can't unsee them. And I have to do something with this.

[00:31:27] Emily: Yeah, that is, that is really good. I love what you said about helping others is how I heal.

And I know even for me early on. Even through the pain, I was like, how can I help someone else? Because going through this is terrible. This is horrible. So I, definitely wanted to be able to help other people and you're right, allowing other people to help us or to serve us. First of all, it helps them feel good about themselves and you know, what they're able to do to help you.

And then it allows us to feel good about them feeling good about helping us. And a lot of times I'll tell people just pay it forward. And some of those people who want to help that may be where they're coming from, where someone has helped them in the past and they feel like, Oh, this is my time now to step up and to help pay this forward.

And if we deny them that opportunity, then. It discourages them from, wanting to offer that in the future. So I'm so glad that you were willing to like take people up on it to accept the help. And then even like with your friend asked for help, when you know that you needed it.

[00:32:39] Melissa: Yeah, it really, and when I was in grief share, so when I was in grief share, I was a little over a year out.

Because it was this past January and it just ended in April and there was another girl there and she lost her fiance exactly a year after I lost Taylor and so she was like, right there. Like, she was at the very, very beginning and she was like, you know, and I mentioned early on, you know, after six months.

It's almost like you're in a car and all the windows are fogged up, and then you put the defrost on, defrost, yeah, on like one, like just the first one, and it just starts like the, the first, the windshield, like it just starts to defog, like at the very, very bottom, like where the windshield wipers are, where if you had to, if you absolutely had to, you could drive, you'd be going like this, but you could not, and I said that's kind of what six months felt to me, like it's, it felt like it was starting to get a little less foggy, it wasn't completely defogged, like there's no miracle, But it was starting to get a little bit less.

And, and I just said that for my own observation. I was, and she told me two months after that, that that made such a huge difference in her life. Like she's like I was really thinking is this gonna be my whole life. It's just this complete fogginess. Just this complete like Minute by minute like you're really just going like minute moment by moment really and it's just so hard in the beginning I mean, it's so hard, but in the beginning, it's just so so hard and she said just knowing Now I had a six month timeline to shoot for.

Now I had a six, like, it's not like the one year. It's that six months. She's like, that seems so much more doable than thinking of everything as one year. And so, so yeah. And I was like, I had no idea. I had no idea that would help someone so much. And I do know it helped me a lot, but I just, um, I didn't know it would mean so much to someone else.

So I was just like, oh my gosh, I'm so glad that I could, I could help with that.

[00:34:42] Emily: There are so many seeds that we plant along the way that we don't know whether or not it's going to make an impact. A lot of times we assume that it won't, but it is such a good feeling when somebody comes back and they're like, Hey, remember when you told me about that a couple of months ago, like that made just the biggest difference.

And so I think it's awesome that you do that. Now that it's been about 18 months. Right.

Honoring His Memory

[00:35:06] Emily: How, how do you choose to honor his spirit? How do you still try to keep the memories of him alive for you and for the kids?

[00:35:17] Melissa: Yeah, absolutely. So a lot. I mean, with the kids, they're very, we're very open household. You can, I want you to say his name.

And that's 1 thing. I think that just in grief in general, there's kind of the mantras, say their name, say their name, like, keep their memory alive and keep their lives alive. And so, so, in our house, it's very open communication. And with my friend, it's very open communication. Yes. Let's talk about it. For my case and for anyone that had a separation or a divorce before the death, it's hard because there's some hard feelings that go along with it.

Like you said, it's not like they, it was this wonderful marriage and they died. That's such, and I'm envious of those situat and 90 percent of the time I'm envious of those types of situations. And sometimes it is, it's really hard to hear about like these great marriages. And then the next day he passed because it's just like, Oh, I wish I could talk about him that way.

But the only advantage was that. I got, I got used to a certain type of grief. It's not the same grief, but it's grief. And, so I was kind of in that mindset of grief when he passed. So it just went over to kind of like a different mindset of grief, but, but I did have that experience, I guess. So with, , keeping his, his memory alive and his honor alive, I'm very, I'm still close to his family.

, and when I was making, when we were making decisions, because as a lot of people can unfortunately relate to is planning the funeral, planning the services, planning the cremation or the burial, like all these big planning, the money, all these big decisions can really tear apart families. And I was just like, you know what, we survived a separation for a year and a half and obviously his family knew about the separation.

We survived like so much in the last year and a half. Like, I will not let this go down. I will not let this separate our families now. Like, we've been through so much. Like, I refuse to let that separate. And I, and I read a lot of stories and heard a lot of stories about how it did separate families. And I was like, no, this is, I'm not good.

I will compromise. I will give up things before I let that happen. So that was kind of my mindset going into it was we are doing things to honor not only his life, but we're all left behind and we're all grieving. So we also have to honor the grieving. And I think that that often we get so bogged down by we have to honor their life.

We have to honor their life. We have to honor their memory. That sometimes we forget that we're the ones left behind. We're the ones grieving and we also have to do what's best for us too. And so it's a balancing act. And so, so when planning for the funeral and planning for the services, planning for the burial and just all of these things I really had to.

There's what I wanted. There's what his family wanted. Um, he didn't leave behind a will, so there was very little that we knew if he wanted or not. So we had to really balance, but we had to really balance the three. And that was really important to me because in the end, I need a relationship with this family because that's how I can really, and they were, they were a safe place too.

I should mention that if you feel like your in law or you feel like your in laws aren't a safe place, that's a different conversation. But for me, they were a safe place. So, I really wanted to balance that with me, because in the end goal, I need a relationship with this family, because I want my kids to still have their grandparents.

I want my kids to still have their uncle and aunt and cousins. And, um, if that means that I have to compromise more than I was willing to, or thought I was going to, then okay, so be it. Um, and so, so I did do that. So we do go down and we visit often. And so, by his parents having a relationship with their grandparents, he's still alive.

And that's really important to me. Um, the other thing is that I'm really big on. Well, I'm a photographer. I'm really big on photo albums and I really want my kids to to physically see, um, not just in their memories, the memories with their dad, but also have something they can hold that's tangible. Um, so when he passed, my best friend made these books, um, and each one, this is Nolan and Dad, that's my youngest, and each of the kids have this beautiful book, and it has just like their pictures with their dad, and so they can keep this with them forever.

their whole lives. And I have two resources that work with consumers. I work with a professional company because I'm a photographer, but I have two resources that work with consumers. If, you know, if anyone's interested in something like that, but I really just feel like the kids and I keep them out in the open too.

So the kids, anytime they want to go back and look at pictures of them and their dad, they just pull that book and they can look through it either with me or on their own or with somebody else. And I just feel like that's a great way to keep the memory alive. And I was able to pick the pictures. Well, my best friend, but I was able to pick the pictures that went in there.

And so there's, there's There's these great memories, these great moments, and especially for my youngest, who is two when he passed, these are going to be essential because these are going to be his memories. Um, so I really, I recommend, um, anyone creating things like this. And we have journal books, like they have great, on Amazon, they have great journal books for kids where they can write down memories, where they can write down things they're grieving, um, and those have been great.

But really just. doing the best I can by our children because they are his walking legacy. Like that, that is his legacy is these three beautiful children. Um, and so it's really what, what's best for the kids. And a lot of times when my in laws and I read odds over, what do we do with the burial? Like, what do we do with the grave site or whatever?

It was, Okay, what is going to be best for the kids? Because we were at odds. I want to do one thing, they want to do a different thing. And really, we were like, but what's going to be the best for these three boys? And because Nolan's two, I mean, he could have 98 more years on this earth. And so like, what, what's going to be the best for him?

And so that was really where our mindset had to go a lot of times when we just could not compromise. Figure it out.

[00:41:34] Emily: Yeah. Well, that photo album is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you. Yeah. And I think it's such a great idea to have a different book for each child, um, because then that becomes very personal to them and something that feels like, oh, this is just me and dad.

This isn't like all the family together. So I thought. What a thoughtful idea. Like that was really amazing. And you bring up a good point about compromise. I do see a lot of families that get split or at odds with each other. I had a great experience with my in laws, but I know that a lot of other people do not, or feel like they're having to compromise way more than what they should, or they feel guilty because they don't know, like, what's, the right thing, or they later regret how they handled,, some of those situations.

But it sounds like you all had the kids, like, front and center, what's going to be best for them. And, so I think that's a really great, a great way to look at it.

[00:42:33] Melissa: Thank you.

[00:42:35] Emily: Yeah.

Final Words of Encouragement

[00:42:35] Emily: So what, what final words of encouragement or what is something that you would say to a widow that's, that's struggling with where you were, maybe they were separated or they didn't have the best relationship or their person was struggling with addiction and they're just trying to navigate how they're going to write this narrative, how this is, is going to look, what words of encouragement would you give them?


[00:43:02] Melissa: Well, to anyone going through, watching someone go through addiction, and anyone going through, Watching someone kind of pass either through unhealthy habits or, or even right after the past. I mean, the, the biggest, the biggest thing I would say to them is it's not your fault and that's something that I had to repeat to myself daily that it wasn't my fault.

The addiction was not my fault. There was nothing on this earth. I could have done to prevent it. And I tried. Everything to, take out to, help. I tried everything I could to help, but really that person needs to help themselves. There's nothing you can do. There's nothing. It's not, I could not be a good enough wife, mom, person, best friend, friend.

To get them out of addiction, like there's nothing on this earth I could do to do that. And so that his addiction was not my fault and it took years. Also therapy. I cannot recommend therapy enough. Luckily, I was in therapy for about a year and a half before he passed. So I already had a therapist. that I trusted and that I just adored and that spoke the truth to me.

But I just, I can't recommend therapy enough. And it's okay to therapist shop if you're with a therapist and you don't feel comfortable or something feels off, it's okay to keep looking. It's kind of like house shopping sometimes. Um, so I, but I can't recommend. Therapy enough and there are programs out there for anyone that's financially struggling.

There are programs if your insurance doesn't count cover mental health, which is an enraging topic, but if it doesn't cover it, there are programs out there. There are therapists out there where you can get it for a reduced rate or sometimes even free. So, and I recommend therapy for children as well.

It's helped my oldest so much. So that, that, that was just something I had to throw in there. But, yeah, it's, it's not your fault. And, and the death, in 99% of cases, unless there was some, a court case involved, somehow it was not your fault. And in so many cases, there is absolutely. I've talked to widows of cancer survivors, and I've talked to widows of suicide, and I've talked to widows of malpractice suits, and, um, it's, we get stuck, and it's easy to get stuck in the what could we have done, and to relive that scenario over and over again, and it's okay to get stuck in the beginning, but at some point you really need to, part of the healing is getting unstuck from that moment.

Um, because you'll just cycle and cycle and cycle around that moment, and you're not going to heal, and the goal is to heal. Um, the goal, the goal of your life after someone passes. is to learn how to heal from it and honoring them is a beautiful, wonderful thing. , but you are still here and you are still so important.

And so your healing is going to be Needs to be the most important thing, really. And if you have to say no to things, that's okay. And if you have to, say yes to people helping you and you're not used to saying yes, that's okay because that's part of the healing journey. And eventually that's the goal is for you.

No, one's ever going to be fully healed, from grief because. Grief is an everyday thing. It's an ebb and flow. Some days are great. Some days are not great, but, but really it's to just continue that healing journey and to just keep moving forward and, we're not letting go of them. We're not, but we are moving forward.

And that's the biggest thing I say to. People that don't know the situation and for them, they're like, oh, well, you just lost Taylor a year ago, but you're already doing this, this, and this. It's I'm not leaving him behind. I'm not letting go of him. I'm moving forward and moving forward honoring him and he would want me to move forward with my life.

He wouldn't want me to stay stuck. And so that's really, the goal is to move forward. And,, faith has been such a huge part of my grief journey and, I encourage anyone that's interested to pursue looking into to a faith for themselves as well and for their families, whatever that means to them.

Resources and Support Systems

[00:47:18] Melissa: And,, and then there's also a lot of authors that are faith based that that's been very helpful to me as well as reading different books, , on struggling with grief and healing, , And,, grief share has been really great. I recommend grief share. And if you don't have a. A family unit around you or friends unit around you to help.

There's also an organization called safe families, and, um, they, they're instrumental and when you are struggling, you can call say families and whether it's you need someone to care for your children for a week. Or just an afternoon or you just need someone to come over and help you watch your kids.

So you can make these tough phone calls. They can provide that for you. It's a free service. It's all volunteers. They've been through training and, but they can step in and they can help you with this. And it's not a government thing. It's not foster care or anything like that. , their goal is actually to help before.

Some families would need foster care or just to help in general, but, it's a really, that's an amazing organization as well that I can't recommend enough, for people that don't have help or,, when you get to the point where you can ask for it, that's a great organization to ask for it if you don't have it around you.

[00:48:36] Emily: Oh, I haven't even heard of that organization. So I wrote that down. I was like, yeah, definitely going to have to check that out. So that sounds amazing. And I love how you said it is not your fault. Yes. Yes. It was so beautiful. Well, Melissa, thank you so much for coming on the show and just. Openly sharing your story.

You have a beautiful spirit and I just love how you're choosing to live out your life in honor of your late husband.

[00:49:07] Melissa: Thank you so much.

Thank you.

And thank you for this podcast. This podcast is a huge resource to feel seen.

Conclusion and Call to Action

[00:49:14] Emily: All right, guys. I hope that you enjoyed that episode with Melissa and I, and as you heard Melissa say, one of the keys to her success was getting therapy. It was getting that direct input and feedback from someone that she met with routinely. It was joining grief share or having a supportive group of other widows to help support her.

So if you need coaching, if you need community, if you need a good support system of people around you, then I encourage you to join the brave widow community today, you can go to brave widow. com slash join. See you there. 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.