Thank you to the women and men who had the courage and conviction to share their stories of loss and transformation. The Grief Project is here to offer companionship, comfort and hope to those who walk the widowed road. By sharing their stories, widowed people pay it forward to help others traverse the desolate and lonely road toward hope and healing.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
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My name: Cindy Stensland
Dear friends that I have not met yet, My name is Cindy and I just turned 57. On August 15th 2015, my husband Rich (58) and myself and Richs parents Bob (87) and Mary (85) were in our car (a big 2003 Cadillac Deville) traveling on that Saturday morning to a family reunion of my father-in-laws down in Story City Iowa. We had stopped at a way side rest 30 minutes north of Story City and we had merged back on the interstate 35. I was driving and Bob was in the passenger seat. Rich was behind me and Mary was behind Bob. A 34 year old woman was in a toyota 4 runner with 2 children ages 6 and 8 fighting over a cell phone. She tried to down load an app to entertain them. She was behind us and was distracted. She ran into the back of our car in the right lane. She admitted to g0ing 76 miles per hour. Both cars went in the ditch. It was 10:44 AM, the sun was shining and the road was flat. All 4 of up were knocked unconscious. Rich died instantly, Mary had a broken shoulder, ribs and hip. Mary was air lifted to Mason City Iowa and she died 49 hours later. I had a concussion and required 20 staples in my head and had bruised and later inflammed ribs that took almost 2 months to heal. Bob had some sore ribs but was otherwise unharmed. The passengers in th 34 year olds car were unharmed. My husband and his mother are now in heaven, of that I am positive. I am trying to put my life back together and am sad and lonely. I miss Rich so much I physically ache. We had a wonderful marriage of 36 years. I loved him with all my heart. I am feeling the need to reach out to other people and am spending a lot of time in my bible and praying. I know that God is still good and in control and that I will see my beloved again. I just need comfort from people who have walked in my shoes.
https://www.facebook.com/carlamanne…As a grief & loss counselor, coach and educator, I have come to understand the profound misconceptions of loss. As a formal funeral director, I specialized in loss that is present with death. I grew increasingly troubled to work in an industry that profited from death, yet offered little if any support for grieving families. The funeral home I worked in did not offer any after support or care. I decided to return to school in 2009 to become an expert in grief, loss and healing. As the summer of 2010 was coming to a close, I finally had to address some long term health issues that had plagued me. It was during my treatment a tumor was found on my pancreas. After addition testing I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I can’t even express the fear and overwhelming dread that filled my mind and the sadness that filled my heart. That Saturday afternoon, I began the process of thinking about my death.I tried to keep my secret, not to burden my children or family, but realized every minute I kept the secret, was a minute of love and support I lost. Time became both my enemy and friend. It took me weeks to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I have cancer”. I knew pancreatic cancer was fast moving, deadly and my time could be short. I had taken care of many wonderful people in my community that did not survive. It was this revelation that provided an opportunity for me to evaluate my life, history of loss and unresolved issues of grief. While I prepared for surgery, my head was wrapped around the losses my death would bring, not thinking about my children, family or friends. As a single parent, I couldn’t imagine the loss of not being present for my children. I could not comprehend living without their unconditional love, daily hugs, big kisses and the infinite joy they brought me. How could I miss their future marriages, grandchildren, milestones, laughter and memories? It wasn’t the fear of death that I thought about.. It was the immeasurable losses.My journey back to restored health has been filled with good days, hard days, tears, pain and a renewed sense of profound gratitude for life, loss and suffering. In every sense I have become a different (changed) person. I can’t help but think of the dear families I had the opportunity to serve when death called. At the time I wasn’t aware of the other significant losses and issues of unresolved grief in their lives. The cemetery became a hallowed ground for people trying to express what they couldn’t say in life. Loss is a universal experience. Some will lose trust, others will lose their innocence, families will lose beloved pets, relationships end, families are broken. In reality these compounded losses are equally as painful and in many cases more complicated by addictions with drugs, alcohol, self-medicating, eating disorders, food and sex. It’s time to acknowledge the damage caused by compounded losses and unresolved grief throughout a lifetime. Death is not the only loss, but it is the final loss.Today, I have a master’s degree in social work and gently guide people through their darkness (loss) helping them acknowledge, resolve and heal their grief. I believe loss is a universal experience and grief is the profoundly personal expression of your journey.
Alone for the first time in my life, I struggled to figure out who I was— a question most people asked as teenagers. The sudden death of my fifty-four year old husband brought our twenty-eight year marriage to an unexpected end. Living at home during my college years to save money and marrying my husband with never living alone left me clueless on how to survive on my own. Coupled with a grief ridden heart, trying to face my life alone as a widow pushed me into a process of figuring out where I was headed in life. Sometimes I even wondered if I wanted to keep going.
When my husband and I struggled with infertility early in our marriage in the 1970s, we considered the limited options. We thought about adoption, but decided to pursue other medical possibilities that could lead to a child of our own. Eventually, after almost losing John during a minor infertility surgery, we gave up and placed the decision in God’s hands.
Years passed by with no babies appearing, yet John and I grew even closer as a couple. We enjoyed traveling and spending our time together. Eventually, we accepted that we weren’t meant to have children and would grow old together. We seldom gave much thought of what would happen to either one of us if we were left alone. I guess we thought we’d live forever.
After John’s death, I questioned our decision not to adopt children. Hindsight is a great teacher too bad we can’t rewind the clock of life. Alone, I pushed through the loneliness and loss with varying degrees of success. I took on a new job two weeks after the funeral. My literacy coach position required me to travel around the country to training sessions with my new colleagues, then return to our school and train teachers. The new job provided many new opportunities and at the same time added stress to an already overwhelming grief process.
For six years, I took on the challenges of single life. I tackled home improvement projects, traveled alone, discovered new interests and at the age of fifty-six even tried dating. I found dating in my mid-fifties a whole different experience than when I was in my twenties. Not sure where I was headed, just I kept going. In the process, I realized grief sucks and that it takes a lot of time and energy. I also discovered the healing value of solitude and the resiliency of the human spirit.
As painful and hard as the grief journey is, the positive energy and time invested eventually reveal a new path and new you. People may tell you to “move on” or “get over it” but be brave enough to invest your energy in the challenges and struggles the grief journey presents, get support from others and take the time to find yourself again. Keep going, a bright sunrise and new direction is waiting for you.