Thank you for joining us on our Virtual Book Tour.
Today we Welcome Carole Brody Fleet, the author of “Widows Wear Stilettos: A Practical and Emotional Guide for the Young Widow”. Carole’s interview offers many insights and practical suggestions on how to assist a widow heal after the loss of her spouse.
Please feel free to comment or share your own experiences with grief and the healing process in the comment section below.
Widows Wear Stilettos: A Practical and Emotional Guide for the Young Widow” is featured on our Helpful Books page under Grief Support & Loss of a Spouse.
And here is our interview with Carole Brody Fleet…
1. What inspired you to write the book WIDOWS WEAR STILETTOS?
It was the glaring lack of support for widows (particularly those who are widowed at a chronologically younger age) that was the driving force behind the books, the CD and the founding of Widows Wear Stilettos, Inc. At the time of my own loss, the only books that I could find seemed to focus exclusively on grief, which is fine for awhile – but I had also had a lot of questions that no one seemed to be answering. I had questions that I was afraid to even ask. There were issues that needed to be addressed that weren’t being discussed. All of these things (and more) became the “backbone” of the book.
2. How did losing your husband at an early age change your life?
From the time we were given our first Bridal Barbie™, we have been conditioned to think in terms of being Mr. & Mrs. One-Half-of-a-Happy-Couple and that we would one day have a home and children. We will eventually retire at a “ripe old age” and regale our families with tales of the “good old days”. Nowhere in that scenario is there any mention that you could wind up as a single parent of a young or adolescent child as the result of losing your husband far too soon – which is exactly what happened to me and the millions of other women who have been affected by widowhood; regardless of age. I saw all of the plans for the future change dramatically; knowing that whatever the future held, it was not going to be the future that my late husband and I had planned together. It was without a doubt one of the scariest and most significantly life-changing seasons in my life.
3. How does losing a spouse differ from losing a parent, a sibling or another immediate family member?
Four months after I lost my late husband to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. Both losses were equally devastating; however, I was wife/partner to one and child to the other, making the loss “perspectives” entirely different and therefore individual. People tend to “lump” all loss experiences together, which is a common (and huge) error. Losses must be treated individually as the loss perspectives differ greatly. When I encounter people who have lost several loved ones and who are actually apologizing for grieving, I remind them that there are no limits as to how much grief we are entitled to feel and that since the loss perspectives were different, the losses are completely individual and should be treated as such…and without apology!
4. Is there any one thing that your family or friends did for you that assisted you through the grieving process?
Those nearest and dearest to us really did “close ranks” around my daughter and me in so many lovely and loving ways. While my daughter and I were staying with my mother immediately after the funeral (as on top of everything else, we were both very ill with the flu), unbeknownst to me, one group of friends contacted our hospice and met them at my home to clean up the scene of my husband’s last hours, so that we would not have to return to that sight and that particularly painful memory. Another group of friends and work colleagues formed a “Tupperware Brigade”; where meals were left on our doorstep every other day for over a month; along with cards, medicines and other necessities. My daughter’s friends made sure that schoolwork was delivered to her and returned to her teacher at school so that she would not fall behind in class. They also kept her entertained with cards, notes, “tween” magazines…anything to buoy her spirits. Most notably, I was allowed to grieve in the way(s) that I saw fit; which also allowed me to be there for my daughter as her own grief support. For all of these things and more, I will be forever grateful.
5. What do you wish your family or friends had done differently after you lost your husband?
I quickly found out the meaning of the words “friend” and “family” – and those who truly are the definition of those words absolutely got it right. There are things that I wish I had done differently – but our genuine friends and family were phenomenal in every way; before, during and since that terrible time.
6. What suggestions do you have for widows that are being criticized for not grieving the “right way” (whatever that may be)?
This question made me smile as I have actually written an entire article on the subject (“What’s ‘Right’…What’s ‘Wrong’…and WTF??”). In short, I remind the many widows who encounter this situation that in each loss scenario, there is only one widow. There is only one person with that particular loss perspective. Therefore, she is the boss. She is in the driver’s seat. As long as she is not grieving in a destructive manner (i.e., alcohol or drug abuse, compulsive behaviors, etc.), whatever she chooses to do and however she chooses to do it…is the “right” way to grieve. Comments such as, “You’re not grieving right” or “You don’t visit his grave? Didn’t you love him?” (excerpted from actual letters that I have received from widows) are uncalled for at best and inexcusably insensitive at worst. The widow must “take charge” of her grief and send that message to those who surround her – and if at all possible, make sure that the people who surround her the majority of the time are those that are going to be part of the solution (healing); rather than part of the problem (criticizing).
7. What is one thing you would like your readers to take away from your book?
8. What are your top three suggestions to help people move forward in the grieving process after the loss of a spouse?
3. Surround yourself with people who are going to support you in your healing process. Limit your time with those expressing negative opinions, observations and insights – they will serve only to hold you back and cause you to doubt your own best judgment. Most importantly, listen to that little voice inside you – it will rarely steer you wrong.
9. Our website focuses on providing tips to friends and family members on how to support a loved one through the grieving process. What would be your top three suggestions on how to positively support a widow that is grieving?
My top three “Do’s and Don’t's” are:
1. DON’T say, “Call me if you need anything”…that call will never come. The widow is not in a clear frame of mind and she further does not want to be a “burden” to anyone by asking for help.
Instead, DO be proactive and take the initiative to be of help – bring over a heat-and-eat meal or two; put groceries in the house; ask her for a list of errands that need running; tell her that you are going to be taking care of getting kids to and from school or activities – these are just a few suggestions that will help a widow tremendously while she is trying to re-establish some sort of routine in the household.
2. DON’T say, “I know how you feel”. First, you don’t know how she feels; even if you yourself are a widow. I will tell a widow that, “I get it” or “I’ve been there”, but even though I have lived the widow experience, I will never say, “I know how you feel” because I am not her. Secondly, the moment you say, “I know how you feel”, you have not only just trivialized her feelings, you have now made the conversation about you. At that moment in time, it is not about you; let the focus be on her.
DO say, “I’m so sorry, I cannot imagine what you must be going through right now and I am here for you”. This is the most sincere and comforting thing you can possibly say at such a difficult time. Most importantly, after you have told her that you will be there for her…
3. DON’T disappear! There is so much activity and hubbub surrounding a loss, the funeral, etc…and then poof! Everyone is “gone”. Widows naturally understand that people need to go on with their lives and their day-to-day; however, one of the biggest complaints that I receive is that once the funeral is over, everyone seems to “disappear”.
DO check in periodically – email is OK; telephoning is even better. Volunteer to come over for coffee or better yet, see if she is up to getting out of the house for an hour or so for that coffee or for a meal (which will help her own healing processes immensely).
10. What do you want our readers to know about you and your book?
I have always firmly believed that we gravitate toward what we focus on and my focus is and has always been on healing. However, even though I have moved into a new life that is once again wonderful, I will never forget being that widow who could not get out of her penguin pajamas with the feet in them. I will always relate to every part of a widow’s Healing Journey and the book reflects that. Readers will find that some parts of the book will apply to them “right now today” and other parts of the book will apply later on in their Healing Journey – but the goal was to create a “roadmap” for widows to help them start out and / or continue along on their Healing Journey; rather than simply focus on grief and pain. I hope that I accomplished that goal.
About Carole Brody Fleet
Carole Brody Fleet is the award-winning author of the critically-acclaimed, “Widows Wear Stilettos: A Practical and Emotional Guide for the Young Widow” (New Horizon Press) and “I’m ‘Heeling’ One Day at a Time: The ULTIMATE, One-and-Only Question, Answer and Reference Guide to Life After Widowhood” (due in 2011); as well as the author and executive producer of the best-selling CD entitled, “Widows Wear Stilettos: What Now?”. Recipient of the Embrace Life Award from State Farm Insurance Companies and the Board of Directors Outstanding Service Award from the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, Carole has been featured on national, regional and local television and regularly appears as a guest expert on numerous radio programs nationally and internationally; as well as in national and international magazines, newspapers and websites. To learn more about Widows Wear Stilettos; including the newly formed “First Month” Foundation as well as Widows Wear Stilettos’ nationwide in-person support groups, visit www.widowswearstilettos.com.