Cosmic Parenting: Raising Children As A Widow With Amy Balchune

Widowhood Real Talk With Tina | Amy Balchune | Cosmic Parenting

 

When you lose a spouse that you had kids with, you’re not just losing a key part of your life. You’re also losing your biggest support in one of life’s biggest challenges – rearing your children to become the best people they are meant to be. How do you do that when you’re suddenly left on your own? Amy Balchune went through this experience a few years back, and her extraordinary grief and healing journey led her to conceptualize Cosmic Parenting, a movement that seeks to support widows who are trying their best to be good parents while navigating the grief journey. Join this conversation and learn how Amy is making an outsized impact on the lives of the women she’s helping!

 

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

 

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others. 

 

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide

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Listen to the podcast here

 

Cosmic Parenting: Raising Children As A Widow With Amy Balchune

In this episode, our guest, Amy, has some very valuable information to share with you. She wanted to jump right into the information but she allowed me to take us on a journey through her life. When we do get to that valuable information at the end, it has so much meaning and power because you’ve learned who Amy is and resonate with her and understand how the information she shares is going to be helpful for you. Let’s get into the conversation.

 

Widowhood Real Talk With Tina | Amy Balchune | Cosmic Parenting

 

Amy is here with us. I’m going to let her introduce herself a little bit and then we’ll go from there where she’s at.

My name is Amy Balchune. I am here to talk to you about my journey. I became a widow at 40 and I’m trying to navigate this the best I can. When I became a widow, I had a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. It was the height of COVID. There were a lot of things going on, a lot of uncertainty. I was brought to Tina to share my story and connect with other people.

We are going to back up a little bit. One of the things that we all find important is to realize and validate that although we may miss our spouse, we were a person before them and we continue to be somebody in their absence or after they are no longer in this world. I don’t want to start the conversation right there. I want to know who Amy is. Where are you from originally?

 

Widowhood Real Talk With Tina | Amy Balchune | Cosmic Parenting

 

I am from Pennsylvania, a little town called Duryea. I’ve been a teacher for 22 years. I went to the University of Pittsburgh for my degree.

What gave you an interest in being a teacher? When did you say, “I want to be a teacher?” Did you start with 2 or 3 other majors and then end it with being a teacher? How did that come about?

I wasn’t called to be a teacher initially. I’m this little girl living in Duryea, a teeny tiny little town, and decided I wanted to make the leap to go to a city. I went in open-minded and initially had a Psychology major. That led me to a little bit of Anthropology. I’ve always been interested in cultures and understanding why people do specific things culturally. It still intrigues me, which also is a bit of my mission as well to understand how different cultures deal with grief but we’ll go there later.

Initially, I was a Psychology student and then that led me to this idea of an Anthropologist moment. I was navigating college life and loving it. At nineteen, I was in my second year. It was winter finals and there was a knock at my door. I opened the door and my beautiful cousin Colleen was there. She gave me the most devastating news I could have ever gotten. My father died of a massive heart attack.

Very early on in my journey, I experienced this. There was a moment in which, I had a dad and then he was gone. My dad was honestly one of my best friends. He would come to Pittsburgh and hang out with me, not even bring my mom with the family. We would hang out, connect, and chill. Very early on in my life, I had to understand this idea of death and grief. I believe truly that that altered my path.

To be an anthropologist takes lots of years, money, and a ton more debt. I believe that what happened was that I went home, did what I had to do, went back to the University of Pittsburgh, and finished out that spring semester. I did go back another year but I was lost. That was my junior year but I knew that there were decisions that I needed to change and alter. Financially, I felt like I needed to get closer to my family. I was five hours away at that point.

Ultimately, I took that year to be confused and try to find myself to the best of my ability. I did move closer to home. I left the University of Pittsburgh and went to Bloomsburg. I chose the path of becoming a teacher. I was closer. I was 1 hour away from home instead of 5 hours. I’m the oldest and then my sister is five years younger. My brother was only about 9 or 10 when my dad died. I was a little bit closer to help but also to feel that comfort when I needed it. Ultimately, that shaped my path and career.

I would say so. Let’s spend a little bit of time here if you don’t mind. At this point, you’re nineteen. Can you share a memory of your dad? If you remember like, “I always remember doing this with him. I remember him doing this,” or the overall sense of who your dad was.

My dad ultimately was my best friend. He would come out to visit me in Pittsburgh by himself. We would do family trips. He would drive five hours to spend hours and then leave. I remember this one time he brought out one of my best friends. She lives in Switzerland. We lived together at the time and we didn’t have a Christmas tree. He brought a Christmas tree up for us, dropped it off, and left. I remember I scraped up some money. I would babysit and nanny.

I got some money together and he loved The Rolling Stones. I did buy tickets for him and me to go to that concert. That was a blast. I was having conversations while driving. I remember them crystal clear. We would have conversations about life and life choices. He owned his own business so he had to make some decisions that were very courageous at the beginning of his life. I remember having him weave lifelong lessons into our drives together. The way I can describe him best is that he truly was my best friend. It’s been several years but I can still call on him whenever I need him.

Do you recall what it looked like as nineteen-year-old Amy looking at your mom being a widow? What did you see from that perspective?

My mom had to be very strong. She needed to navigate this with a lot of strength. I saw her always put herself last and us first. I saw her work 2 jobs and 3 jobs sometimes. She was a pillar of strength throughout this entire journey. My mom also never chose to move to another relationship. She still feels that my dad is and was the love of her life and she wasn’t interested in moving on. To me, in her eyes, I saw pain and suffering but she never necessarily expressed that. It was unspoken.

Did your mom have other girlfriends or have a social life outside of serving her family?

She did eventually. You should know how she’s got the coolest group of friends. They’re the coolest ladies ever. She does have a good group that’s around her but it was more family initially. I’m super lucky to have an incredibly tight family and extended family. It moved from that to eventually starting a little bit again by connecting with friends but early on, she was inundated with trying to financially support us, take care of us, and work to be quite honest.

It is called the real talk for a reason for a little bit of that. I heard you mentioned something also that we talk about a lot in the show, the financial impact when someone passes. It sounds as if you, whether on your own or being encouraged, needed to make a decision that was impacting the family financially to move from one college to another. There was financial impact and also proximity. Was that decision you identified on your own or how did that come about?

It was on my own. It wasn’t necessarily financially driven. I didn’t move locations due to financial issues. I moved careers due to that. Look at an eight-year program as an Anthropologist or a Psychologist. I thought about the fact that I needed to be financially stable myself to be less of a burden, at least not have to deal with 2 kids instead of 3. That decision was made and I adore teaching. It was my true calling but I believe that proximity was the guiding factor. My mom wanted me to stay in Pittsburgh. I needed to be closer. I needed to feel loved and know that in a moment’s notice in an hour, I could get home.

A Profound Sense Of Loss

One other question on this topic. You mentioned, “One moment I had a father, and then one moment I didn’t.” This is more looking back on your life, maybe not what you identified then but what else was missing from your life when your dad passed?

Everything. I remember the emotional feeling when I fell to the ground. It honestly felt like everything was gone but to be quite honest with you, I didn’t show any of that. Ultimately, I felt like everything got taken away at once, my sense of safety, protection, financial stability, and having a partner to help me navigate life. That identity of feeling safe and protected was taken away. With that, there are a lot of layers that feed into it.

That certainly would lead to how you would navigate life and how sure your footing would be as far as what you were 24 hours before that and what you are after that. It is always so interesting how the absence of one person in this world can impact so many other people and realize how valuable our lives are, how important it is, and how we show up in the people that are within the world we operate in.

It’s always so interesting how the absence of one person in this world can impact so many other people and just realize how valuable our lives are and how much important is and how we show up for the people that are within the world we operate in. Share on X

Honestly, when I say to you that although I felt all of that internally, I didn’t show it. It took me ten years to grieve my father because I didn’t allow that to come out. I internalized it, kept it inside, and tried to be strong, be there for my siblings, financially help, help my mom, and all that stuff. I’m the oldest so that comes with the territory sometimes. I know we’ll get there but initially, I did the same thing when Jimmy died. I internalized everything but didn’t show it. It was a pillar of strength. I found out that is a terrible way to grieve in my path. I’m not judging others.

It’s not even so much as judging others. It has proven that when you allow grief to mute you and you hold everything inside, it starts impacting your body physically. Understandably, everybody will identify what it is to let it out. It may not be a community. It may be in a journal. It may be going to the gym. I may be screaming in the house by myself or in the car but if we have the sense that, “This happened. I’m going to put this right over here, come back to life, and do something,” that will crack. It will not last depending on the closeness of that relationship. It’s not how hard-wired people are. How did you meet Jimmy?

When you allow grief to mute you, it starts impacting your body physically. Share on X

We have known each other since childhood. We went to the same school so we always knew each other but I was about 27 when I met him. I always knew of him. We both ended relationships about probably a year prior. It was more of how we ran into each other socially, reconnected, and moved from there.

I’m drinking tea. I don’t want to hear some, “We met at 27 and moved from there.” You see the pattern here. You met at 27. When was the next date? I’m going to dig in.

We were out socially and met. He asked me to dinner so we went out to dinner. It was maybe two days later. We reconnected and fell in love quickly.

From the dinner to the proposal, how long was that?

It was about two years. We had both been out of a relationship for a year, navigating newness, navigating all of what a 27-year-old is doing, building a career, and all that kind of stuff. It was about two years later when we got engaged and married.

You’re trying to speed us along. Come back. How did he propose? How did this happen?

He proposed in front of all of my family and friends. It was shocking. Everyone knew but me so I was surprised.

What were you told compared to what happened?

We were hanging out watching a game. I didn’t know but everyone else knew. He popped the question. It was nice because everyone was there to celebrate with us.

He proposes and has some from there to the nuptials.

About a year later, we got married. I had Logan, my first son, a year after we got married. We didn’t live together prior. We went on our honeymoon and moved in. It was a bit hazy but that’s how we met.

At what point did you start becoming a school teacher? Was it right after graduating from Bloomsburg?

I was 23 when I became a teacher.

 How has teaching changed from then to now?

In my opinion, the kids haven’t changed at all. I teach fourth graders so they’re 9 years old to 10 years old, right at the cusp of finding independence but still want to keep that innocence. It’s this beautiful match of wanting independence but still not wanting it. I don’t feel like the kids have changed at all. I still adore and love my job but I do feel like the pandemic altered a lot socially for our kids. Also, a lot of use of technology.

All of our kids have Chromebooks. It increases the amount of exposure they have to things. That’s my biggest thought process but to me, the heart of the kids is where it’s at and they haven’t changed a bit. That’s why I do my job. I always tell them, “Thank goodness I have you because you make me adore my job and make me a better person.” I don’t feel the vibe of kids has changed but I do feel society has shifted a lot for teaching.

I’m going to shift you back to Logan being younger, Jimmy, and your second child. What does life look like for a while for you in that perspective? What is your everyday life? Jimmy, the children, what does that look like until we start getting towards the time when Jimmy is no longer here? What does that in-between space look like?

He was amazing because he ended up altering his entire career to support our family and for the best of financial reasons. What ended up happening was I would go to work all day and then we would cross paths. I would come home, he would stay home with the kids, and then go to work. I worked all day and then he would stay home with them. He went to work until about 12:00 and then would crash.

He altered a lot of his life for us to have great financial stability for our family. A lot got altered quickly once we had children. When you do have children, you need to make choices and decisions based on them. That’s what life looked like. It was a lot of sleeplessness, like what we all went through. It was a lot of fun but it was a lot of work.

He would stay home with the kids so we didn’t need the expensive daycare. It’s a mortgage. As soon as I would come home, he would go to work. That’s what life looks like. We always said we were like two ships passing. It was filled with love and joy. That’s why it’s so incredibly difficult on my children, especially my youngest because he was with him all day.

A Tragic Loss

Their relationship was very firmly established. I don’t want to burden this part of the conversation with a lot of questions but I would like for you, whatever you’re comfortable with sharing, what led up to Jimmy’s passing and then to go from there.

It was tragic in nature. The night before he passed, my sister got married. We were all at the wedding. We came home and I needed to attend a funeral the next day. He stayed home with the kids. He started to feel unwell. I came home. The kids and I were downstairs. I remember it like it was clear as day. We were putting together a puzzle. He was lying down because he didn’t feel well. Something came over me.

I also had this beautiful, peaceful moment. I was exhausted. I had my sister’s wedding and needed to get up the next day and be there for people who needed me and were grieving. I had work the next day. I was trying to manage all that with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old. There was this moment that came over me. To be honest with you, the same thing happened when my dad passed, when I didn’t even know he was dead.

Right before my dad died, I remembered in Pittsburgh, I had this beautiful window. It was huge. I remember looking out at the clouds and thinking, “This is stunningly gorgeous.” It was this peace that came over me. It was the Sunday of finals week. My roommate who I love in a dorm, Maria, came in with a cup of coffee. She asked, “Are you ready to go?” I said, “Yes, let’s get started.” I remember something came over me and I had the same feeling. I had this sense of, “Go check on Jimmy.” I had the same peace. I’m putting together a puzzle with my kids but I remember this feeling.

I went upstairs. I thought he was sleeping. I grabbed him and quickly realized that there was something very wrong. I immediately realized that he wasn’t breathing. He was lifeless. Unfortunately, my kids were there. My mom was near. I called to her and said, “Mom, I need help.” She came and got the kids. I realized I needed to call 911 and begin to resuscitate. We did that. The ambulance came and he ended up in the ICU. They were trying to figure out what was wrong.

This is the height of COVID. This is October 2020. I had to be alone in the emergency room because no one was allowed with me. Plus my mom was with my kids. My sister was coming but she wasn’t allowed in. She was outside on the phone. She got married the day before. I remember being pulled from room to room because they were trying to test his heart and figure out what was happening. We ended up in the ICU and he wasn’t responsive but his heart was still beating.

What they tried to do was cool his body to a cooling temperature to try to regain any cellular activity in his brain. They tried to cool his body to save whatever they could to jumpstart the body. They made me leave because of COVID restrictions. I went the next morning and they didn’t have good news for me. That started the process of ultimately going through test after test until they declared. Instead of having a cardiovascular death, he had something that’s called a brain death so his brain wasn’t functioning.

That was difficult to navigate. When I held and grabbed him, I knew that he was lifeless. To be quite honest with you, that feeling I got down with my kids, I feel like that was his energy giving me strength. I feel like I knew that but I needed to be incredibly sensitive and understanding to other people coming to that same realization. The people that surrounded us, I’m still friends with his ICU nurse. They were an amazing group of people that helped us navigate this. It was about two days until he was declared dead.

Thank you for sharing that. Sometimes we can share that very briefly over a cup of coffee and we move on. Sometimes it’s like we are right back there. Having this conversation in parallel with the discussion with your dad is a different conversation than maybe you’re accustomed to. I don’t take it lightly your willingness to share, be so transparent, and do that. In that first year of Jimmy’s absence, do you remember much?

No.

That part right there, somebody that’s highly functioning doing all these different things, how did you deal with that struggle of operating in that grief fog, the wave, the prefrontal cortex, operating and doing what it does versus the amygdala, you go from this place where I know how to function to now. How does all that work for you?

This was a blessing but it was a very difficult blessing. I feel that God gave me this blessing because during that time when everyone was trying to navigate the situation, when I went to the ICU nurse who so incredibly beautifully, not only took care of Jimmy but unfortunately had to, there was this energy of intense sadness and confusion that she navigated so beautifully.

I said to her early on, “Whoever you can put in my path to help me navigate this with my kids, please send them. If it’s a counselor or whomever you can have me sit next to and begin talking this through, please send them.” They were amazing. They sent wonderful, amazing people in my way who spoke to me with compassion but also such truth and honesty.

In a very interesting way, that gave me power in a powerless situation, which is a part of my passion for Cosmic Co-Parenting. There was this power that I was given by the grace of God, these beautiful people that came my way. I asked the question, “Do I take them to the funeral? They’re 2 and 5 years old. What does that look like?” They said, “Developmentally, this is what it looks like for them. If you choose to do this, these are the things I suggest you do. If you choose not to do this, these are the consequences.” They weighed it all for me. They wrote it down for me to process.

I asked, “How do I tell my children that their father is dead? They knew he was sick. They knew he was in the hospital but 2 and 5, they couldn’t understand everything that was going on. How do I go home and say this to them?” I rehearsed it with them. They had me rehearse what I should say, how I should say it, the way I should navigate it, and what I shouldn’t cut out that’s so tough to deliver but what is important to say. I was blessed with that.

If I was in that moment where I grabbed him and he was lifeless, if I needed to deliver that information to my children then, it would have looked very different than having two days while doctors were doing what they needed to do. We needed to make sure we tried every single thing for the doctors to declare him dead because he was still alive. We needed to come together as a family, his mom, his dad, and his brothers, hear the information, listen to it, and process it in our time. The pact that I made with them was that none of us were going to make that decision or have a doctor make that decision until we all felt comfortable with the knowledge.

I knew they needed time to process that, it gave me time to process how I was going to go home and do this job. Now that you know about that 19-year-old way of dealing with grief and the 10 years that I was not getting it out, that was true Amy style. “This does not happen and I’m going to be strong. I am going to line up everything I need. I had my sister already calling psychologists for me. I’m going to do this. This is fine. I got this,” but learned very quickly, I didn’t.

How long were you able to hold that up?

I went to work a week after I buried him. I delivered his eulogy. I put it on the front so well. I’m going to say it was probably this summer. I knew I had to work. He didn’t have life insurance. It was the height of COVID and money was tight. I kept it and he did not. It was a joint decision and a bad decision. I needed to work. I needed to keep that front. I feel like there were levels of things that needed to get broken down for me to feel. The time to process allowed me to help my children.

You prepare how to deliver this life-altering information in such a way that you could maybe not damage them anymore because you didn’t know the right way to do it. There’s a difference between getting in a car for the first time, driving a stick shift down the road, and doing all that versus someone training you how to shift the gears, move the manual, and do all that.

It sounds like you wanted to be able to do this better than getting in the car and learning how to drive a stick shift as you go along. You knew 19-year-old Amy what that looked like but you didn’t know 2-year-old and 5-year-old Amy what that would look like and how to talk to these babies with such an adult conversation. That was wise to take the help. You started the community very early on in this grief journey and did not do this solo. That was wise.

I needed to phase out layers of that safety because that safety net got pulled away like when my dad passed. I needed to make sure that I was able to work. That was phase one. I told myself, “Amy, you got to get yourself together. You need to work. Kids need insurance. You need money.” Once I got that going, I thought, “Phase two.” The district where my son was was fully virtual until March 2021. He was in kindergarten all day learning virtually.

Thank goodness for my mother, who knew exactly what I was experiencing and going through. She stepped in. I don’t know how she did it. Logan’s learning virtually. Mia was a part of the class, a two-year-old doing The Pledge of Allegiance. Layer two was Logan’s educational experience since he wasn’t going on a bus and going to a brick-and-mortar school. Once that got a flow and I figured out I was able to financially keep it together and make sure Logan was able to learn, we got through every day.

No one could come over because it was the height of COVID. Holidays were always a letdown because someone always got sick or there was always an issue. Initially that first holiday into 2021 was a total blur. Honestly, that’s where I was living, financially keeping it together, and making sure my kids were okay. In the summertime, I was finally off of work and I had time to process. That’s when I collapsed. I did do therapy early on.

I have this way of psychoanalyzing myself, which I learned from the initial ten-year period of not grieving. I did therapy early on and then I didn’t keep up with it because of time purposes. COVID also altered all that and what that looked like. I ended up reaching out and realizing that life coaching was a little bit better fit for me.

What did the breakdown in the summer look like? I don’t want that word. This is because some of the people reading who are in this widowhood are holding up this front. There may be somebody reading this conversation who lost their spouse this week or maybe yesterday. Somebody said, “I know this conversation. This lady named Amy is sharing about hers. This will help you not to put on a charade.” What did breakdown look like for you because, for everybody else, those words don’t always mean the same?

My body was out of control because I came to find out that I have an autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto’s syndrome. I always knew that I had thyroid issues but never realized it was due to autoimmune purposes. I thought my thyroid wasn’t functioning properly. My thyroid levels were crazy. I would get my testing done and it would be at a level 9 and then the next round of testing I’d be at a 0. My body was so incredibly stressed. It looked like I would get this rash that would travel. I didn’t feel well. It was difficult to eat because I felt exhausted. I didn’t even enjoy eating because I was shutting down.

Mentally, I couldn’t focus. I was very scattered. I was coming to terms with the fact that I was living to live and take care of my kids, making sure that I was there for my kids and I was able to financially provide for them and that’s it. There were no other joys. I realized that I needed to do that. Ultimately, my vision was clouded and I couldn’t see my children’s grief because I wasn’t dealing with my own. There was no more room in my heart to accept their pain because my pain was so deep. I struggled to see their grief clearly. That has also become a passion of mine to share my message because in my opinion, until you grieve yourself, you can’t reach the depths of your children’s grief.

 

Widowhood Real Talk With Tina | Amy Balchune | Cosmic Parenting

 

The Turning Point

What was the turning point to bring you into a different place after breaking down?

It got worse too. My daughter at two missed her father. It was so incredibly difficult for me to watch. She remembered everything about him, “Daddy’s cup. This is the way Daddy did this.” She crystal clearly remembered everything about him and missed him so much. I did a panel of blood work on her because she was looking pale. She wasn’t eating properly. She wasn’t eating the way that she used to eat. I ended up getting blood work done in the lab and called my doctor. We thought she had leukemia. Her levels were incredibly low. They admit her to Hershey Medical Center and we’re in the Oncology unit.

You’re thinking, “Here comes round three.”

I am. Thank goodness, it was just that she had a lot going on in her body we needed to do. She’s anemic. We needed to do iron infusions but they needed to make sure that anemia wasn’t related to other things. She’s back and better than ever but that was tough. After all of that happened, I was about to lose my mind. I needed to find the depths of strength that I didn’t know existed. I ultimately needed to surrender to God and say, “Please, I am done. I cannot take any more. I surrender.”

At that moment, an angel came into my life. I was getting my hair done and this woman was listening to my struggles. She came over and said, “You need my sister.” I said, “Okay, I need your sister.” She ended up texting me, my life coach who transformed a whole bunch for me. Once I was able to get in contact with her and start to build my foundation again, things started to finally, not get easier but I was able to find joy again and begin to deal with all of the things that I needed to deal with.

It was awesome too because we found a way that on my drive home, I was able to speak with her weekly. I needed to make it a priority. Before in therapy, I didn’t make it a priority but this time around, I prioritized to make sure that I was dealing with things. Honestly, I feel like the biggest gift she gave me was finding the foundation of who I was.

I did need to do this journey alone. I had a beautiful community to surround me but at the end of the day, I needed to get well to serve myself, my children, and the community around me to the best of my ability. Finding exactly the foundation of who I was, what makes me tick, and defining that was the start. From there, I was able to dive into the depths of grief.

Thank you for sharing that. What did it look like helping your children manage their grief? Probably that’s a life process but early on.

Early on, I was clouded. There were tragic moments that I remember of things. We would sit and cry together. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it but there was no fixing it. Ultimately, I’m glad he would say things because I was his safe container. With the 2 and 5-year-old period, until I started to get help, it was us coming together, them being open and honest with a lot of tears and hugs. That’s morphed into a whole lifelong journey.

I’m starting to realize that there are different developmental times in my kids’ lives when they’re able to understand something differently and that opens up a whole new jar of questions, uneasiness, and sadness. I don’t think that there’s one way I can answer your question but it’s the truth. I can see them where they’re at in the depths of their sadness. I can meet them there and allow that into my heart. We can talk about it and come up with a plan together as a team for how we’ll navigate it.

It’s a constant discussion. We talk about it all the time. We check in every night. We call it a blob tree. It’s eighteen different blobs on a tree with different emotions and they’re numbered. I don’t care what time it is. At the end of every night, we sit in my bed together and check-in, “How are we feeling today? Are we missing Daddy? Why are we missing Daddy?” My kids are super spiritual. They feel like he is all around them.

There are different types of things but to answer your question specifically, this is a life journey. I’m learning that at different times, developmentally, they need different things and we have a team around them like psychologists. My son experienced a lot of issues with food too so we have food therapy. There are tons of therapy happening but developmental milestones trigger different things and they need to write their narrative.

The Calling

You mentioned something about serving. You served your children. How was this morphed into serving in other ways?

Right when I started my life coaching journey, I honestly remember this moment. I was sitting at Starbucks in the morning and my mom was watching the kids so that I could do this. It was summertime so I was off. I was journaling before. I feel like God came to me and said, “This is something you need to share with the world, your experiences, thought processes, and rebuilding from the depths of nothing.”

My life coach always said, “You could be heartbroken or get your heart cracked wide open.” I feel like my heart cracked wide open. I know that’s a good one, isn’t it? Since my heart was wide open, I was able to fill it with listening to others and making connections but ultimately, I feel like God told me this was a mission that He wanted me to do. I needed to try to set up some things that are lacking in our system for widows who lose someone at any moment in their lives. Specifically, I started to research. I journaled a lot.

As I started to navigate this and think about that small population, I never realized that only 5% of the population loses their spouse in my age group. Since that’s such a small population, I found that it was difficult to find people who were dealing with things like me. When you’re a widow or a widower, I feel like there are similar connections that we all have. A lot of times, those people die tragically. There’s this other level of a tragic loss and having young children and navigating that. As I was going through this process and realizing, there was nothing out there. I felt like that’s what God was calling me to do, try to find ways to help people in this powerless situation to find a little bit of power.

In your specific demographics, how is that going?

It’s going well. The term Cosmic Co-Parenting came to me when I was journaling and it resonated with me. I feel like it did because I call on Jimmy all the time to say, “Please, take the wheel. I need your help on this one. Please continue this.” There’s this idea that when you lose someone, you don’t feel like they’re completely gone. There’s an energy that continues. When you have this bond of being a parent, there’s an energy that’s created. You struggle as parents. You go through good and bad times. The energy isn’t gone. I felt like that didn’t go away.

As I navigated this process, there were some things that I realized that I needed to do, specifically in that 5% of the population. I feel that I need to promote this idea and thoughts. I lost Jimmy in such a tragic way. I was so young. A lot of times, I harbored a little bit of confusion like, “Why did you go? Why did you leave?” I needed to continue that conversation with him and become neutral with him to feel like, “I’m in a space in my life with him. We’re good.”

I can continue this process with him and we still have a relationship together. We can continue to parent together but until you get to that point where you feel peace, a feeling of being neutral with them, you can’t get there. You’re a bit clouded. This idea came to finding and building resources for people in this situation. We talked about developmentally, where are your kids at with grief? What do you do if your spouse dies? What does it look like at the funeral?

All of those things that those people gave to me because I had those two days are the types of things I want to try to gather for people, unfortunately, in a situation like I am. I interviewed hundreds of ICU nurses, trauma care nurses, and doctors. Unfortunately, there’s nothing out there. I started this process by interviewing, listening to medical professionals, and asking, “What can we offer people?” Ultimately, it comes down to nothing.

There are no resources to give unless you can find someone and pull them from the oncology unit like they did for me but there’s not a team to sit and support you. My passion stems from trying to put something together and work with hospitals to give people in the same situation as I am some resources to make the decisions that are best for them and their family

You’ve done the research. You have the concept. Where are you going from there?

There are different social media outlets I have, as well as a website that I’m building but I’m also working with hospitals. I did team up with Jimmy’s ICU nurse. She and I worked together. She was my first contact and call. We go in and pitch our ideas to try to set up a trauma care team to support people in these situations. On my website, I’m putting together resources for people to be able to use and navigate and try to strengthen an impossible process but unfortunately, we will all deal with it at one point in our lives. I always have this quote by me. This quote is something that I often think about and it’s by James Clear from Atomic Habits. It says, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” I go back to thinking, “What system do we have for us?”

You may not know the answer to this. Have you given yourself a timeline or when the website would be available and people can start utilizing it?

It’s up and running.

How does it feel?

It feels good.

I have a few more questions. Thank you for this conversation. What gives you joy?

So much. I’ve got to be honest. I didn’t realize how important it was to allow myself to grieve, feel, and love myself. Once I did that, so much opened up for me. My kids are flourishing. They give me incredible joy. They’re honest but they’re doing a great job of navigating this incredibly difficult situation. We have highs and lows but we’re open and talking. That’s the most important thing. That gives me incredible joy.

My career still gives me tons of joy. This new process that I’m starting in this new company that I’m beginning to navigate gives me joy because it’s that creative side that I’ve been missing from my life. One of the most important things is I did find the love of my life. I am also in a new relationship. That is also giving me tons of joy.

That’s a part two conversation. We can’t even do that justice so we’re going to put a pin in that part.

That takes a lot of courage as well. To be honest with you, I told everyone, “I don’t need anything else in my life. I learned to love myself. I am good. I was not looking.” He fell right into my life and I still wasn’t accepting it. I was like, “I am good.” I was journaling and reflecting. After Christmas, I always take myself to dinner. I go to myself, “I did it again. Christmas happened.” I journaled the things I needed to journal. I paused, stopped, and thought, “Do I want to give this a try?”I said, “I do.” We connected. Honestly, he’s the love of my life. It’s very interesting how life has turned but that takes a lot of courage. That’s a whole other set of steps to navigate.

It takes a lot of dealing with your grief before you can show up in a new relationship. A new relationship doesn’t solve the grief situation. If you’ve not leaned into it, it will create another scenario. Another thing you said is grief cannot be fixed because the only thing that would fix it is for the person we love to come back. That option doesn’t exist so learning how to manage our life outside of our existence in this physical world becomes the work that people are afraid to do because it’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt because it’s going to hurt. If you could pick any time in your life and speak to Amy, when would it be and what would you tell her?

Widowhood Real Talk With Tina | Amy Balchune | Cosmic Parenting
Cosmic Parenting: Grief cannot be fixed.

 

To go back and teach her a lesson, give her advice, or celebrate?

Whatever you want to be.

If I could have gone back to Amy at 19 and 20, I would have told Amy, “You need to deal with your grief, love yourself, and find your foundation.” When I felt like all of that safety was taken away from me, instead of putting on the front, I should have patched the foundation and built Amy. I should have dealt with my grief. With Amy now, I would celebrate for doing that, getting to the heart of who I am as a person, and dealing with the incredible sadness that came my way.

You need to deal with your grief. You need to love yourself and you need to find your foundation. Share on X

What is the name of your website?

It’s CosmicCoParenting.com and social media as well. That’s linked too on my website but also you can go to Cosmic Co-Parenting on social media and you will get there as well.

I have been able to ask you a lot of questions and allow you to share your journey. I’m going to flip it a little bit and see if you have any questions for me. You’d be the host for a moment or so.

I don’t want to call it advice because oftentimes, people like to give advice and we don’t need it. What is the best piece of information that you received from doing this that was most impactful in your life or journey?

When you say doing this, I believe you’re referring to the show.

Your grief journey.

What is the most impactful bit of information I received was when a friend gave me this book, I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye, because I wasn’t. That was not my plan. We were on a weekend getaway but this was the start of me reading, researching, understanding, and digging into myself how to show up for my children. This was the beginning of going, “There are books and information out here.”

I had the what to expect when you’re expecting. “We’re about to get married.” It was like he was dead and I’m still alive. I understand funeral but everything after that, this was the beginning of me starting to change what was on my bookshelf and what became the things that I needed to start leaning into. It led to me early on leaning into my grief very quickly and being intentional about that because I didn’t want to be stuck in my life only thinking about the moment Mark died.

I never want to forget him. I too have found someone else. I remarried but I still have Mark’s last name. I found a gentleman and we talked about that. He said, “Your children would not have a parent with the same last name on this earth Why would I want you to change that?” I knew in so many things that he understood what was important and still does to me. This book right here was the beginning of me going into this situation with my eyes wide open and not get my head into the sand that he is no longer here. Every day, I needed to be about the business of living and that was helpful for me.

One of the things I took away as well when I was looking at you is you oftentimes give that to widows. That is so beautiful. It goes back to that whole moment of finding power in a powerless situation, doesn’t it?

It does. A lot of times, people are not ready to sit in a therapist’s office. A lot of times, the grief is so raw and edgy. You’re not ready to tell someone that you feel unbalanced and disheveled. The world is scattered because no one’s saying that on a regular basis out loud. If you can read that in the privacy of your home and then there’s an accompanying journal to go with that, you start flushing out your details instead of holding it in. It starts preparing you to start determining what life will look like if you choose to navigate it.

Everyone chooses to do this differently. Some people are in a place where their loved one died yesterday in their mind but it’s 30 years later, and they’re still in that space. The idea of leaning into grief is painful but the part about that, if you have broken an arm or a major joint, you never had it taken care of, it manned in place, and then later you go see someone, they may have to re-break it to make it a clean scenario and put it back in place.

We may have chosen to stay in that moment where it happened that when we do try to move forward, it can seem excruciatingly painful because it has to be broken and reset. There is good on the other side because you’re still alive. That means there’s purpose and there’s a reason why you’re here. Finding that and still being able to celebrate this person you love, that duality can exist. I can love Fred and enjoy every moment yet have this foundation, showing up and honoring Mark, being there for other people, and having that space. Our capacity to love as human beings can expand as wide as we will allow. Any other questions?

There is good on the other side because you're still alive. That means there's a reason why you're here. Share on X

How soon after that tragedy did you realize that this was something that God was calling you to do? My question is how long after your husband’s passing did you begin this process of realizing that you needed to do something with all this information?

It was in 2022 and Mark died in 2017. This wasn’t like, “He died. I’m going to make purpose out of this.” No. I want people to know that because we are a few days away from the day that Mark died. It does not impact me how it did but it sure does still impact me. When Mark was gone, I started thinking about different things that happened and where I am mentally compared to that day when I was at the end of the hallway losing my mind and the medics were working on him.

That woman did not foresee this was possible. It was survival. How do we make it through the next 24 hours and do that? When this did become an entity and God made it clear, it was the right time for me. Somebody may go through their entire grief journey and never feel like they haven’t gotten purpose out of it. Every time you have a conversation with someone who is grieving, and you show up and know how to sit there with them like nobody else does, you have a purpose. Everybody’s way of showing up in the world is different.

If you get up every day, you are honoring the person you love and you are making purpose. I thank you for this conversation because being vulnerable is not on your checklist of things that you wake up wanting to do and be transparent. I know you probably wanted to say, “Let’s get to the good part about Cosmic Co-Parenting.” It’s like, “No. We’re going to come to that.” You allow me to do that. Thank you for not saying, “No, we’re not doing any of that.” We just did it. Thank you for being so kind to share.

Thank you for getting me there because there was such a connection between 19-year-old Amy and 40-year-old Amy.

I will allow you to close out this conversation.

I truly appreciate our time together. It’s always interesting how as I reflect on things, I learned things about myself that I didn’t know because of our conversation and journey. It proves that continuously talking, reflecting, and thinking about these things is so incredibly important. I want to say thank you for giving me this time. This process is cathartic in itself. I truly appreciate you.

You’re so welcome. Widowhood, thank you for being here with us. Have a wonderful day.

 

Important Links

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide