When I first became a widow a dear friend spent some time looking into grief services for myself and my daughter. She found several grief support groups and grief counseling, which I didn't even know was a thing.
My grief counselor was interested in writing and a widow herself. We clicked right away and she developed a genuine interest in me. As we got to know one another and I learned about grief, she invited me to her grief support group for widows. I was the youngest member of the group, but that was neither unexpected, nor a problem for me. The women were welcoming and warm, their journeys inspiring to me. Some were double widows, yet still surviving and encouraging me that the days would get better, the pain would lessen, and Warren's memory would live on. They shared their fears and so many paralleled mine. They also gave me advice, and I felt encouraged when they achieved something solo they had only ever done with their partners.
I attended the group regularly for about eighteen months. Once I started working full time, and my daughter's schedule began to expand, I was no longer able to make it to group. Luckily, my grief counselor stayed in touch. She sent out event announcements, inspirational quotes, articles about grief and widowhood, and book recommendations. Many of the books she recommended were written by Dr. Alan Wolfelt. He was also a grief counselor who dedicated his practice to grief support after experiencing it himself, and finding few resources that helped him feel like he was not alone. Someone gave me one of his books shortly after Warren died, and I liked the style of the writing. It was an easy read at a time when concentration was limited, and I liked the short stories included from his past patients and other grievers.
A few months ago I got an email from my grief counselor about a call for submissions for Dr. Wolfelt's newest book, When Your Soulmate Dies: A Guide to Healing Through Heroic Mourning. The term Heroic Mourning caught my attention right away. After four years of the ups and downs of being a widow, I felt more like a survivor than a victim, and heroic felt like a comfortable fit for where I was in the journey.
The submission process was simple: an 800 word essay on how Warren was my soulmate, and how he continues to inspire me. The challenge was keeping within their word count, because the topic was easy. I wrote about our first date, which was when I first began to think that perhaps I had found my soulmate, and how in life and beyond I look to his example regularly. I sent it by their specified deadline, and didn't think much about it. I was recently alerted that my essay will be included in the book.
At first, I was excited because more people would read about Warren and know what an amazing person he was. But, then it dawned on me that this would be my first publication. My writing is going to appear in print that doesn't come from my printer!
It is certainly not how I expected to be published the first time. For the last few years I have been wholly focused on book publication and my novel. The news came on the heels of a high-stress week and my spirits certainly needed a boost. It shouldn't have surprised me that while being a widow is only part of my story, it led to a version of accomplishing my dream of publication, albeit not in the way I had envisioned it happening.
My inclusion in the book feels like a conversation with Warren. I hear him assuring me that he is still looking out for me, understanding the desires of my heart, and supporting my dreams. It is his way of reminding me that life is unscripted, but that isn't always a bad thing.
The book can be pre-ordered in June and will be on sale in July on the website for the Center for Loss & Life Transition.