BW 50 - Exploring Resilience with Alan BracegirdleOct 03, 2023
The Transcript is below.
Today I am going to take you on a journey across the pond to Liverpool, England. Just kidding. I really wish we were going there, but we are going to virtually be there with Alan. And Alan joins us today to share his story of being a young widower. He's 44, he's a father of two, and he was a caretaker for his wife.
He saw her go from a vibrant, loving, healthy lifestyle to being in a much more debilitative state. He's very open and vulnerable about the things that he went through with that experience. And then he gives some great advice and encouragement for other widows who are going through something similar or who are really struggling.
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 bravewidow.com.
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!
FOLLOW me on SOCIAL:
Twitter | @brave_widow
Instagram | @brave_widow
Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/bravewidow
YouTube | @bravewidow
Emily Jones: Hey, hey guys, welcome to episode number 50 of the Brave Widow Show. Woo! Episode 50! I feel like confetti should be falling from the ceiling right now, and lots of audience members clapping, and also Kinds of stuff should be happening because this is the 50th episode. I recorded the first episode of the Brave Widow Show and published it on November 15th, 2022.
Emily Jones: I was very optimistic then. I was doing three episodes per week which was a little insane, and I might've. I've been given a little bit of a hard time by my daughter, because as we were in Orlando at Universal Studios, part of that week, I was up early in the morning editing each podcast episode that I had already recorded [00:01:00] and was furiously trying to get those scheduled and loaded.
Emily Jones: And I don't know why I felt like I needed to take all of that on and do so many in the beginning, but hey I think it has. Worked out for the best. So we are less than a year away from when I released the first episode, which is crazy to think that in two months, it will have been one year ago. The show started.
Emily Jones: That is incredible. 50 episodes! Amazing! I love it. I've learned so much. I enjoy so much getting to talk to other people and especially now as we have had so many widows and widowers come forward and say that they want to tell their story. They want to encourage other widows that are out there. They want to build a stronger community of widows.
Emily Jones: To help other people feel less alone, less isolated, to help them feel [00:02:00] understood and to let them know that they are not on this journey alone. So awesome. Episode number 50. I'm super excited. Also want to remind you that we have lots of live events that are coming up. And I do some during the day and sometimes they happen in the evenings, but the way that you can hear about them and the way that you can know when these are going to happen is by.
Emily Jones: Signing up so you can get these notifications and the way you sign up for all of the free resources, the free live events, the things that are happening in the Brave Widow community is by going to bravewidow. com slash free f r e e. And when you sign up, you will always be the first to know what's happening in the community, what's going on with live events when, when the next one is going to be and all the different topics that we are going to [00:03:00] cover.
Emily Jones: So please go sign up today. All right, today I am going to take you on a journey across the pond to Liverpool, England. Just kidding. I really, I wish we were really there, but we are going to virtually be there with Alan. And Alan joins us today to share his story of being a young widower. He's 44, he's a father of two, and he was a caretaker for his wife.
Emily Jones: And... Saw her go from a vibrant, loving, healthy lifestyle to being in a much more debilitative state. He's very open and vulnerable about the things that he went through with that experience. And then he gives some great advice and encouragement for other widows who are going through something similar [00:04:00] or who are really struggling.
Emily Jones: So please join me in welcoming Alan.
Emily Jones: Hey, Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the brave widow show. And today I'm excited to introduce you to Alan and for him to get to share his story and some of the challenges that he and his family have had to face and overcome. So Alan, thank you for agreeing to come on the show. And it's a, it's a pleasure to have you today.
Emily Jones: Very welcome. Thank you. All right. Well, Alan, if you don't mind, if you'll share a little bit about your background and then where you're from, then we can dive into your story and our, our listeners can learn more.
Alan Bracegirdle: Okay. So I'm almost 45 years old and I live at home with my son who's almost 18 and my daughter who is autistic and she's 16.[00:05:00]
Alan Bracegirdle: And me and my partner, well, my wife, Jane, we met back in 2004 and we had a whirlwind romance. We were engaged after three months, married after 10 and had a baby on the way after 11 months. So yeah, it was, it was quite, quite fast and people thought quite quick, but we lasted a long time and it was, it was great while it lasted.
Emily Jones: Awesome. And how long ago was it that you lost your partner?
Alan Bracegirdle: My wife passed away on July 7th, 2022. She'd been poorly for 14 years she had acute pancreatitis after a gallstone moved from a gallbladder to a pancreas. She was on life support for nine months and then was morphine dependent for the rest of her days.
Alan Bracegirdle: So I went from being a manual work runner. Most of the [00:06:00] industry faster to being a full time carer and we went from being young 30 somethings with the rest of our lives ahead of us to pretty much a geriatric relationship overnight. And it was quite difficult to acclimatize to that. And she fought the 14 years.
Alan Bracegirdle: She was in pain constantly. I'm so grateful for that because she helped me bring up the kids. And I don't think we'd be as stable as we are today without their
Emily Jones: input.
Emily Jones: And what was that like for your kids? I mean, to see their, mom in such a debilitating state. And that's a long time to be caring for someone and being unsure, how much time do we have together and, and all of that. What, what, what was that like for you and your family?
Alan Bracegirdle: Well, the children were one and two at the time, so they never knew anything but Mum being not well, and I think they coped with it brilliantly, [00:07:00] to be honest.
Alan Bracegirdle: I think they sort of feel like they had the best child they'd ever weighed. I think they could have had so much more. They were, they were really supportive towards it and it was never easy. We couldn't make plans with Mum being poorly. It was always we'd have to get up on the day and just see how things went and anything that we did have on its head overnight.
Alan Bracegirdle: But I think the kids helped me along with it as much as I've sort of tried to help them. So they, they were a bit of relief for me, to be honest. They were always a handful and always fun loving and happy. It was never. Let's be sad about mom. It was like, let's have a joke about it and make the most of the situation that we're in.
Emily Jones: Okay. And what did you feel at times maybe overlooked or like, you were overwhelmed or just struggling with trying to navigate all of that with? with kids and being there, for your wife and how was that [00:08:00] really challenging for you? Yeah,
Alan Bracegirdle: there were times where it was really stressful.
Alan Bracegirdle: She'd have periods where she'd be in hospital and I'd have to juggle the house and the children and go and visit and stuff like that. I think you, you just, you have to sort of play the hand you're dealt. And I sort of realized that quite soon. It's tough, caring for anyone who's poorly is really hard because it's a 24 hour job.
Alan Bracegirdle: And I don't think people understand that there's no breaks from it. It's just constant. Yeah, it was, it was really difficult, but I'm not the type of character where I'll dwell on that and feel sorry for myself. I'll always just get up, fresh day, same moods, happy go lucky and defeat whatever's in front of us, really.
Emily Jones: Yeah, that's I love the positive attitude because it is easy to get into a mindset of nobody [00:09:00] understands and I'm alone in this and like you said to feel like there's no breaks from the kids and a lot of people. Maybe you don't understand that or haven't had to face that, if somebody's divorced, typically you're sharing custody, you're getting a break here and there from the kids, or if you're married, then you have somebody that can help you.
Emily Jones: But when you're the main parent and the only parent really that's there, then it is just a constant. And for me, I noticed after Nathan died that it was. And increased fear, like, Oh, the kids always have to be able to get ahold of me. I have to know what's going on. And, if something happens to me, that's it, they're just, they wouldn't be on the street, but that's kind of how it felt.
Emily Jones: Like I was just,
Alan Bracegirdle: that's my main concern that every morning I wake up and I think, what if I didn't wake up? What had happened to the kids? We've got very little support structure around us. And it's been like that for a long time. [00:10:00] And it's like, it's like that film, Who Will Look After My Children, but if something happened to me, who would look after my children?
Alan Bracegirdle: So, I've got myself in shape and, I try and live a healthy lifestyle as possible, but you just never know, do you? And you've got to just embrace every moment.
Emily Jones: Yeah, you're so right. And I have noticed that I embrace and enjoy and appreciate all of those moments so much more than I did before or, maybe you took them for granted.
Emily Jones: Cause that is, that is a real worry and things that we struggle with. What. What advice would you give to someone who is like going through the thick of it, and they're in some of the toughest points, and they're feeling overwhelmed, and they just, they don't know if it will ever get better or easier.
Emily Jones: What, what would you say to that person who's kind of in the middle of that storm?
Alan Bracegirdle: It can be really dark at times, and you've got to sort of pick yourself up and get up and get on with your [00:11:00] days. I wouldn't say it does get easier. I think you learn to navigate a little bit better. You'll never forget the person that you were with, that you've lost.
Alan Bracegirdle: But you've, you've got to get on through your days and you haven't got to forget them yet. You haven't got to move on and become something different. Well, you've definitely... It's got to do right by you and your family. I had some really difficult times when Jane passed. It was, it was awful, but I sort of feel like the passing wasn't the hardest part.
Alan Bracegirdle: It was all the other stuff that bombarded me. Keeping a house together, a roof over our heads. We lost our, our vehicle. It was just, it was one thing after another. And maybe for three months, it was like a constant barrage. And then you don't even realize it's getting better. It sort of creeps up on you and then you look back and you [00:12:00] think, Well, I was doing this or I was doing that.
Alan Bracegirdle: And it was, it was awful. But now it's not as awful. And I think. I think you learn to just process things a little bit better and I think I was maybe a little bit off the rails when she passed and I didn't understand that and I didn't realize I painted the bathroom purple it looks like Barney but probably wasn't the wisest thing I ever did but I look at it now and instead of hating over it I just Embrace that.
Alan Bracegirdle: I think, well, I probably was in one of the blacker times and I decided to paint the bathroom bright purple, but it'll do. Yeah, it's, it's a rollercoaster. And I think everyone's rollercoaster is different as well. No two people have the same grief.
Emily Jones: Yeah. Those are really good points. And maybe the painting was actually therapeutic in its own way.
Emily Jones: Just doing something where you're focused on that [00:13:00] thing, you're, it's kind of a tedious process, but at least you're thinking about that and not everything else, or it brings about some kind of change. I love too, how you said, like, it's. It's awful, but then it becomes less awful and it just kind of sneaks up on you.
Emily Jones: Like, I was just talking with my kids about this last night. I used to hate cooking, like my husband did all the cooking. I was always traveling for work. So he, ran the house and took care of all that. And so after, he died, we'd been married right at 20 years. And so now all of a sudden I had to learn how to.
Emily Jones: Well, I didn't know how to cook, but I had to learn how to cook lots of different stuff, and it was something I hated doing, and last night, they were asking, do you still hate cooking? And I'm like, I wouldn't say I love it, but I don't hate it nearly as much as I used to, and I'm actually starting to enjoy it a little bit.
Emily Jones: So, to your point, it was something awful. Now it's much less awful and I'm like, okay, I've got this. I can do this. It doesn't [00:14:00] take as much mental and emotional energy to figure out, how to turn the grill on, how to get, get the propane tank hooked up, how to, do all these different things that, when you're in the middle of grief, like, every little thing just feels so overwhelming, like this huge mountain you have to climb up.
Emily Jones: It's, it's really hard when you're in the middle of that.
Alan Bracegirdle: It is. And I don't think until you experience it, you can envision how tough it can be. You can wake up and think you're having a good day and it can turn on a six months and become an awful day. And things that you enjoy, you don't enjoy anymore.
Alan Bracegirdle: I feel like I've maybe evolved myself in the little over 12 months that have passed. I feel like I've become a completely different person. It's very, very strange. It's something that. I feel like I've got no control over either. I can't put my finger on it and I've [00:15:00] tried. I can't quite process how I've ended up where
Emily Jones: I am now.
Emily Jones: Yeah, that's very common and something initially in the beginning, I felt very alone in is, is trying to explain, like, I feel like a different person. Like I feel, even if Nathan was here, I don't know that I would want to be married to him just because I'm like, I'm not even the same person. I don't even like the same things.
Emily Jones: Like I have changed. So much and not like you said, maybe a hundred percent of a different person, but just in so many ways we were more mature and resilient as people we look at life through a very different lens. Like, we're no longer naive to death and, what, what life is really about, I've reprioritized a lot of things, but yeah, it is a very strange, surreal feeling to feel like I am [00:16:00] no longer the person that I was when I was married to them and to be so young and to think about all the plans I had for the future.
Emily Jones: Now, do I still want to do that? Do I want to come up with new plans? Do I want to, even think about making new plans for myself? Do I want to have the same plans I did before? Like, it's a lot to process and take on in such a short amount of time. Yeah, and I
Alan Bracegirdle: sort of feel like you're expected. It's like people put a time scale on stuff, so you should mourn for 12 months and then you should move on.
Alan Bracegirdle: There's no set script for this. I think you've just sort of got it. Be yourself and do what's right by you. And I feel like a lot of people want to have an input, but aren't willing maybe to put any effort into that. You're just expected to sort of follow this process. And it's not like that at all. I think it's something natural, but it'll just form itself in you along the way.
Emily Jones: Yeah definitely [00:17:00] as a culture, especially I would say here in the States, but a lot of places we just don't, we're not well educated on how to help people process loss and grief and a lot of what we're taught about processing loss is like, oh, you'll get over it, you'll be fine, or you'll find somebody else, or, you yeah.
Emily Jones: Difficult, but a lot of times people just really don't know what it means to process grief on your own timeline and why everybody kind of has a different timeline why it isn't just the same for everyone. So, I know there are a lot of people out there trying to help educate on how to support people that are going through that, but you know, what, what would you tell someone, let's say.
Emily Jones: They're a family member or a friend of someone who's been widowed and they want to help, but they don't really know how to help. They don't want to feel like [00:18:00] they're overstepping. What, what kind of advice would you give them on how they can support someone who's in that situation?
Alan Bracegirdle: Really difficult. I think, I think people want to try and help, but I sort of feel like people, as you said, they're not educated.
Alan Bracegirdle: And I think They may be a bit fearful of you as well because they think you're really delicate or you're something that they can't fix. Family and friends can be the greatest asset you've got. or the worst enemy. I feel like the in laws and the family around me were very little help and yet some of my friends were the most support I could have asked for and more.
Alan Bracegirdle: I think it really defines you as a person and the thing that I found most is sort of took me a little while but I'd sort of seen my home as our castle and I need to protect everything that's in that castle. [00:19:00] And everything outside the castle walls will sort of sort itself out. I think people maybe have the best intentions for you, but they're not always what you need.
Alan Bracegirdle: So I don't want people to isolate themselves, but I think just be happy in your own home. Make sure you're doing. All the right things for you and everything else will find its own way and find its own place and you'll get there in the end and it does feel really dark. It's like a solitude.
Alan Bracegirdle: It's just being sat in your own little bubble, but your bubble can get bigger and you can get out and about. But I think the main thing for me is follow your own head and follow your own heart because you'll always do right by yourself. In the long run, and people's intentions aren't always right, but your own intentions are to you.
Alan Bracegirdle: Follow yourself. [00:20:00]
Emily Jones: Yeah, and I liked how you talked about viewing your own house as your castle and worrying about what goes on there. I know for, for a lot of widows, there tend to be caretakers. They tend to be people that give and give and try to do for other people. And sometimes that's hard when, you can barely function and you're trying to figure out.
Emily Jones: All these new responsibilities you've got and kids and pets, maybe, and all these other things, you have to really give yourself grace and minimize expectations you have for yourself so that you can focus on you and your kids and getting to a place where eventually you can, contribute. But in, in the beginning, that's really tough and, and really where your focus needs to be.
Emily Jones: For some people, it's really hard to let go of that. Yeah, I think
Alan Bracegirdle: people struggle to say no as well sometimes I look back and I think maybe [00:21:00] I should have said no a little bit more. We had friends and family, it was like, come on, we'll feed you. We didn't struggle to feed ourselves, but it was, come and do this.
Alan Bracegirdle: And I think we just needed to, to heal ourselves before we expanded out. But yeah, expectations are a big thing. I think you're expected to sort out. Be needy and that's not always the way, I'm really grateful for my kids because they've been a massive, massive support to me and they've got me through the rougher moments as much as I've supported them through their rough moments.
Alan Bracegirdle: But I sort of feel like I prioritized other people as well, where I should have just said no, we'll sort ourselves out, but to learn and experience, and I think as you go along, you learn what's right for yourself, and you have to do that. Saying no sometimes is the best thing for everyone.
Emily Jones: Yeah, [00:22:00] and that's, that's so true, and something that was hard for me I lost my husband in July of 2021, and it would be things like, I can't host Thanksgiving this year. I'm just not going to do it. I'm not gonna put myself in that, situation. But it's. It was this weird balance of I didn't want to say no and I didn't want to be mean and then on the other hand, I'm like, I don't even care at this point.
Emily Jones: I just, I can't, it's not worth all the additional stress. And at the end of the day, the people who really care and the people who really do.
Emily Jones: And you also made a good point about the people who come around you and support you a lot of times. It's not who you think it's going to be, or it's not who you expect it to be. It's friends or distant acquaintances. And I've been so surprised at how persistent some people are showing up when they're not even my closest [00:23:00] family.
Alan Bracegirdle: So true that, the people who. You may be rely on let you down a lot more than the people that you've got no expectations of. And that, that was a massive thing for me. People, 50 miles away. We're checking in on me daily and we're just making sure that it was okay. And we're not putting any pressure on me with the people.
Alan Bracegirdle: that live closest with little to no help at times and added to the stress and heartache that I was feeling. It was bizarre, but I think it enlightened you as well to what's going on around you.
Emily Jones: Yeah, definitely. Well, what parting words of encouragement or advice would you want to leave our viewers and our listeners with as you think about just your experience?
Emily Jones: You are what, just a little over a year out. And What, what would you share with people has been helpful to you as [00:24:00] you're healing and part of your journey?
Alan Bracegirdle: Not to force anything. I think you can try and say that you want to heal yourself, but don't put any pressure on yourself. To heal, be you, to function.
Alan Bracegirdle: The massive thing for me is self happiness. And to make sure that the kids are happy. And as long as that's the case, I think I'm winning. So, just, just be you, be yourself, but don't let anyone force you to be something that you're not. There's no script that you've got to follow, and there's no timescale to fall in line with.
Alan Bracegirdle: You've just, do you, and be happy.
Emily Jones: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show today and being willing to share your story and some words of encouragement for others that are in your situation. I really appreciate it. You're all very welcome. Thank you.
Emily Jones: [00:25:00] Hey guys. Thank you so much for listening to the Brave Widow Podcast. I would love to help you take your next step, whether that's healing your heart, finding hope, or achieving your dreams for the future.
Emily Jones: Do you need a safe space to connect with other like-minded widows? Do you wish you had how-tos for getting through the next steps in your journey, organizing your life or moving through grief? What about live calls where you get answers to your burning questions? The Brave Widow Membership Community is just what you need.
Emily Jones: Inside you'll find courses to help guide you, a community of other widows to connect with, live coaching and q and a calls, and small group coaching where you can work on what matters most to you. Learn how to heal your heart, find hope, reclaim joy, and dream again for the future. It is possible. Head on over to brave widow.com to learn more. [00:26:00]