Managing Grief Through Art: The Canvas Of Life, Death, And Love With Noemi Beres

WRT 40  | Managing Grief Through Art

 

The grief journey is full of streaks of dark and bright colors blended with the wonders of pain, love, and hope. The journey of loss doesn’t have to be dark; it can be a colorful spectrum when we are managing grief through art. In this conversation, Noemi Beres, the co-founder of Podcast Connections, paints us the picture of how her painful journey of loss changed through art. When grief drowns us, other aspects of our lives, like health, slowly deteriorate, so Noemi provides us with some artistic therapeutic mediums for healing. In that place of grief, she shows us hope that we can live life again. If you want to learn more about how art can help your healing process, then this episode is one you won’t want to miss. Walk with Noemi in her journey and see how she casts the colors on the canvas of life, death, and love.

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

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Managing Grief Through Art: The Canvas Of Life, Death, And Love With Noemi Beres

Hello, Widowhood. Our guest is Miss Noemi Beres. She is the Cofounder of Podcast Connections, but she is also an artist. She is best known for her unique and witty mixed-media hand-sewn collages on canvases made from old photos, postcards, colorful yarn, textiles, and old buttons. She had a group exhibition in Italy and Cyprus. She collects small bits of pieces she finds fascinating and incorporates them into mixed media collages. They usually have a vintage vibe. She sews her memories together. She is happy to discuss how art helps her cope with grief and stress in changing the world. Let’s get into the conversation now.

 

WRT 40  | Managing Grief Through Art

 

Noemi, welcome to the show.

It’s lovely to be here.

Where are you at right now?

I am visiting my mom in Hungary in Central Europe, but I usually live in Cyprus. It’s a 2.5 to 3-hour flight from there.

Are you there with family or did you go solo?

We’re visiting with family.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. I appreciate that. I wanted to have this conversation for a couple of different reasons and bring you to the Widowhood. One is the business that you do. It can be intriguing for someone as their life has shifted and trying to figure out what to do. People are looking for different things to do. They may want to tell their story. They may want to go on to business for themselves. You have a lot to add to that. Some things you do with the art and then your own personal journey. It would be a good conversation to highlight to the Widowhood. Thank you for being here.

Thank you for having me. I’m happy to share my story with you.

Let’s hear a little bit of your story. I know you said you live in Cyprus, but where did you grow up? We don’t want to just get to the good part. We want to get to the part of how you became who you are.

I was born and raised in Hungary in Central Europe in this small town. I went to high school here and then I went to Budapest, the capital, to finish my studies. I have a Master’s degree in Danish Linguistic History Literature. I’m a linguist by trade. I’m going to celebrate my 20th anniversary when I moved abroad from Hungary. I didn’t live for a long time in Hungary. First, I moved to Ireland. I lived there for seven years, then to Cyprus with my family. It’s been twelve years and counting now. It’s a long time.

That’s a lot. You put everything there. I’m not sure which question to ask and where to go. You said you grew up in Hungary. What is this space you’re in now compared to your upbringing?

Right now, I am in my childhood room. This was the place where I was doing my studies, my art, dreaming about life, and who I was going to become when I got older. It’s always special to come back home and walk down memory lane. The other day, I was biking. I like to exercise and I love biking too. It’s a very nice flat area where I live so it’s beautiful. I visited my old school. I saw the old places and where I went to when I was a kid. It’s an interesting feeling to come back home. It’s a nice feeling and mixed emotions.

It's always special to come back home and walk down in your memory lane. Share on X

I was thinking. We are recording this episode in the room where you grew up, dreaming of who you would become and now you have become. What does that look like to see how the dreams have developed and manifested over time? Also, the struggles of life and complications. How do you feel about that space?

It’s so interesting because I remember one summer I visited home. I found one of my diaries or my journals. That was pretty interesting because I didn’t remember that I wrote that down. I wrote that I would love to live in Ireland. I would love to live in that beautiful place because that’s my dream place to be and everything. I completely forgot about that statement that I manifested when I was about 15 or 16.

I found this journal and I was amazed. It’s like, “I was living my dream back in Ireland for seven years because that’s what I manifested when I was fifteen.” That was pretty interesting. Despite the fact that I went through a lot of trauma and hardship in the past years, I still feel that I always got what I wanted and asked from the universe. This is a great feeling because I think I reached everything I wanted to reach when I was 15 or 16. I’m at a good place right now. I’m happy with it.

I want to unpack that a little bit and I want to relate it also to our community. There are a couple of things that you mentioned. One is the power of a journal or the power of dreaming. Oftentimes, the people who are connecting to this show, their dreams have been dashed by the death of their loved ones. I want to connect that to the trauma. I know it doesn’t equate but it does connect, the dream for you in that journal, the trauma that happened to life, and then it comes to manifest.

I want our audience to take that information in. I understand life as you knew it has been destroyed. It is shattered. You’re talking about a dream. It can be so far removed in the initial part as long as it lasts in grief to start thinking that I could dream again. I want to encourage the Widowhood to consider a journal. Consider writing out the good, the bad, and the things you may slightly hope for, or feel like a dream is dashed. Consider it as something that your watering that could grow in time.

Even though what you thought was going to be may no longer be, there’s an opportunity for something different. As we have this conversation, I want them to be able to resonate with that and get a connection. Not equal, but just see the concept of it. Thank you for allowing me to explain a little bit of that. If you don’t mind talking about the trauma, young Noemi writes this in a journal, and then what happens in life before you get to Ireland.

Everything happened when I was in Cyprus. That was later in my life. I lost many people in my life. You’re right because there are many things that happened before Ireland. I lost my grandfather to cancer. That was the first biggest trauma. Before that, I lost both of my grandparents from my mom’s side and they left us in a month’s time when I was 6 or 7 years old. That was very early for me. I lost all of my grandparents at quite an early age.

Fast forward to the time, everything happened before COVID because my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. It’s a death sentence to our family because we knew from the beginning this is not curable. The doctors stated it. They tried all kinds of alternative medicines and it didn’t help. In 2019, he passed away. My grandma or his mother passed away due to an accident in the same year, and then COVID started. I also lost one of my good friends to cancer during COVID.

There was a lot of death happening around me and a lot of trauma. As you mentioned, your dreams get shattered by these painful experiences. For a couple of years after that, especially during COVID time, I felt that I had no dreams anymore. I was just existing and everything was getting out of the roof. It’s like, “What is going to happen? How am I going to survive this?” There was so much pain, but my mom is my rock.

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If you didn’t use the word pain, how would you describe some of your grief journey or what that looks like? How did it show up? I’ll give you an example. For me, I couldn’t think. It was very foggy in my mind. I feel like I was moving in slow motion or maybe I feel just existing like a zombie. If you were to take an easy word like pain out, how would you express some of those experiences for you?

I was emotionless. I didn’t feel anything. I didn’t see my future. I was just there and doing my day-to-day tasks. I had to support my mom. I have to raise my son. I did everything. I took small steps to survive despite the fact of my anxiety and everything that was going on behind the surface. Plus, I had to start a new business because of COVID. Thanks to COVID, my business stopped completely. I had to figure out how to find a livelihood in my life.

That was a big shock again. After all this death and trauma happening, my business stopped. I had to figure out what to do to earn money. That’s when Podcast Connections came into the picture, but that was the thing. Back to your question. I was emotionless and just focused on my work and my task. I do not feel anything and just exist.

Thank you for explaining that. How did you come to the concept of dealing with grief? What were some tools that proved helpful for you in that process?

First of all, my family. That’s very important. Whenever you experience grief in your life, the support of your family is super important. My mom is my rock. I could always talk about grief. We tried to cope with grief together. It was good because we supported each other mutually. The other thing that helped me was art because I was always an artist since I was a teenager. I always did something like painting, drawing, jewelry making, and anything.

In 2012, my son was born. I started making collages. Collage-making for me is like a deep and emotional process when I make them. I discovered that during my grief process, it’s like, “I have to go back to art because art can help me to say the onset.” I couldn’t express it with words, but I could express it on a canvas.

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The collages that I did during those days were dark. Those were mainly digital collages. I didn’t have the patience to do more, but digital collections are different. It was dark, black, and everything. I wasn’t in a nice place, but it didn’t matter because those collages helped me to express my pain and anxiety. They help me to cope.

I love that and I don’t use that word a lot. I take it intensely because one of the things that you said was you could not express with words how you felt but you needed to get it out. Also, you went back to something that you knew you enjoyed in your youth. There can be things that we can’t express in our grief, but we can go back to something that we know was familiar to us in a different season of our life and work that out.

That could be dancing, listening to music, going for a walk, entertaining photography, taking pictures, and doing things. That hurt, that loss, and that deep grief for that person, if we address it and find some way to deal with it, it serves us well. That’s what I hear out of what you’re saying with the artwork. I’m not an artist so we don’t want you to do any collages or any of that kind of stuff. That’s not what I’m going to do.

For me, it was talking to whoever would listen like friends and family. That was my way. Reginald Lockhart, a therapist and a counselor, says, “Grief is like fingerprints. It’s different for everyone.” Once we give ourselves permission to realize that, we don’t have to mimic somebody else. We can take our grief and be able to express it based on what we’re dealing with. Thank you for mentioning that.

 

WRT 40 | Managing Grief Through Art

 

Also, you mentioned music. That’s also a good point because I got a unique instrument from my mom for my 40th birthday. That was a handpan, which has a beautiful sound and I enjoyed it. I always wanted it. To cheer me up because my dad couldn’t be with us when I celebrated my 40th birthday, I got this beautiful instrument from my mom. I started to play it. Music also plays an important part in my life. Since then, I have had a tongue drum. I love drums. It doesn’t matter what you do. You just have to express deep down these feelings somehow in some way. It’s brilliant.

COVID impacts you not in a whole way like people that you’re losing. You’re losing what was familiar, your lifestyle, the pressure of economics, and trying to survive. How did you and your husband sort through that and come to a conclusion on what to do? I know a lot of people are still trying to rebalance themselves after coming out of COVID.

Thankfully, we had a mentor. He is an Irish guy who helped us to discover this whole world of podcasting. He advised us to start something in this niche. It was probably the biggest but the best decision we ever made. We jumped into it. I didn’t listen to podcasts before 2020, I have to be honest. In Europe, it’s still not a big deal to listen to podcasts. Many of my family members and friends don’t even know what a podcast is. I’m talking about right now. My friends asked me and they are very well-educated and well-versed people. They were like, “What is a podcast? What do you do?” You have to explain that. I didn’t know that either.

Now that you mentioned that, where are you seeing the biggest areas of podcasts taking place? Thank you for educating us on that.

It’s in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It’s not our part of the world. Europe is improving. We’re getting there but we’re still not there. It’s a lot to catch up with the US.

I also hear a lot of opportunities in your area to be able to be at the beginning of this and make that a platform where you are known as the subject matter expert for that. That’s interesting.

That’s true.

This Irish man gives you guys the idea. I want to circle back to having a mentor and having that outside voice. The things that you’re thinking, to have someone to help flush that out and develop those ideas is something else I want the Widowhood community to think about as they consider new ventures to not just go out there on their own, and to maybe get input from a professional because that can be helpful. What do you take from this information they provide and where do you go from there?

We had a couple of days. My husband made a website one night. The next day he told me, “We’re starting this Podcast Agency.” I was like, “Let’s do it.” I love communication. I’m pretty creative. “Let’s start to reach out to people and get them on board.” We started to work with eCommerce experts in the eCommerce niche, especially female entrepreneurs because they are not well-valued in that niche either.

We need more women in the eCommerce niche too. We started to work with them with just a handful because our agency is still a boutique agency. We focus on that part and that element, that personal touch. It was tailored interviews and close connections with our clients. That’s how we started. It was fun and scary. It was a learning curve and I just learned as we went along the way but it was a very important part of my life because it changed a lot.

I was always in the background before. I was doing content creation, blog writing, and social media. We were always in the background. Right now, I’m the face of our company. I’m doing interviews. It’s fun and I enjoy that part. Networking plays a very important part in my life and business. Now, I’m discovering this incredible awesome person around me, especially from the US. There are so many friends, mentors, and colleagues. I’m so overwhelmed by all these people and the relationship I have with them. Also, friends from all over the world. It was a huge opportunity and this is all thanks to COVID. Good and bad things happen because of that, but we came out good.

You said scary. Sometimes when you’re scared of something, it prevents you from moving forward with that fear and anxiety. How did you address that fear and the scary part, and still persevere maybe when the clients weren’t coming and things were not developing or happening in those low moments? That’s helpful for someone who may be starting a new business in the season and how to plot that out. How did that look for you in your scenario?

I completely forgot about it. I didn’t want to focus there. I just focused on how we have to set this business up, get this business going, and focus on how we can work this out and how we can make money because that’s also important. We would lie if we told you, “We just do it for fun.” It’s not. It is your livelihood. It is your life. It’s paying your bills and everything. I can be laser-focused if I want something. I didn’t concentrate on anything. There was no imposter syndrome because I had to shut everything out and focus on this business to get going because everything depended on it. I didn’t have any other choice. I was just pushed into it and I’m like, “Let’s do it.”

That makes a lot of sense because talking to different people on this grief journey where a spouse may have died and they find themselves not having to work. Now, they have to get a job because it is their livelihood. The fear and anxiety sometimes is something we have to put in the back because we have to do. Sometimes there are people whose depression is so heavy. It’s like, “If I don’t find some way to deal with this, I’m going to be lost right here so I have to push past this.”

The fear is there. It is not going anywhere. It’s going to be right there, so the best I can do is take the steps that other people have done and that have proven to be successful and keep working through that until I start seeing those wins and what that looks like. What have been some of the interesting clients that you’ve worked with over the years in doing this?

I have many and I still have those interesting clients. We have a wide spectrum that we cover and a lot of niches that we cover. I specifically love working with healers and my kind of people, or the woo-woo people as we call them. There’s no offense or anything like that because I love anything related to woo-woo stuff in life. They light me up and they have so many interesting topics. One of my clients is an animal healer. My other client is a quantum energy expert.

There is so much interesting stuff, plus you learn so much about the world and about different niches and topics during your journey and during your job with these amazing clients. They light me up because I love learning. I can learn something new from them every day. You learn all the time when you go on podcast interviews. During these conversations, we also learned a lot from you and from other hosts.

On your LinkedIn, you posted something. Forgive me for not having it exactly correct. It was something about well-being, showing up authentically, and no make-up. Do you remember which post I’m talking about?

I think so.

Expand a little bit on that and the genesis of that conversation.

It’s about practicing self-care and sticking to your routines. That doesn’t only apply to doing exercises and being healthy. It also applies to how you do business and how you do life. That’s important as well. Everything is connected. If your body and soul are not healthy, your business and your relationship with your clients are not going to be healthy either so you have to focus on it. Consistency and persistence in everything is always my keyword in life. If you stick to your rules, routines, and exercises in life and business, it will bring you results. You just have to be persistent and consistent in doing them.

Everything is connected. If your body and soul are unhealthy, your business and relationship with your clients will not be healthy. Share on X

I wanted to mention that because when someone close to you dies, everything in life is just helter-skelter, but there’s some comfort. Safety feels like you can establish some routines because it creates some type of sense of normalcy in life. If you’re able to say, “I’m going to go for a walk once or twice a week,” you are giving yourself something to look forward to. “I’m going to read a book or I’m going to watch a show,” or something to create some sense of self-care because the stress the body engages in grief is pretty immense. Your health can be depleted by different things that you’re experiencing. The conversation that you had, I can see it being applied in so many different areas of a person’s life, not just related to work.

It is so important. I had this routine when I was going through my tough time and COVID started. Everything was going on and my grieving process. I was low and down. I started to do my collages every single evening. I put my earplugs in and I was listening to my favorite audiobooks. I was listening to audiobooks and doing my collages. It was so uplifting, relaxing, and refreshing. I was looking for that moment. I was looking for that time of the day when I can just relax. Art can be so therapeutic when you do it.

I do normal meditation as well. For me, collage-making is also a form of meditation because it relaxes your soul and your body. It’s been proven by medical research that the creation of art increases the serotonin level in your brain, which would help with depression as well. It’s a meditative state when you do art, when you draw, or when you crochet. You don’t have to be an artist to do that. You just start something.

 

 

Talk about the meditation a little bit. What does that look like for you?

I’m doing guided meditation every day in the morning. If I don’t fall asleep, I meditate in the evening too. That happens often. Oftentimes, I fall asleep, but not in the morning. In the morning, I do two types of meditation. Both of them are Law of Attraction meditations and I enjoy it. Now, I miss it if I skip it and I don’t want to miss it. I stick to my rules and routines. A lot of my friends tell me, “You can stick to your routines.” I’m like, “I’m a Scorpio. I love my routines.” I can feel its beneficial effects on me.

What did you feel was the benefit before you started meditating and then doing it and then when you missed it? If you could elaborate a little bit on that.

I feel more relaxed. If you do a morning meditation, your day has a better start. You are in a different frequency and different energy level when you start with meditation because you focus on the good things. Not on the good things that’s like, “That’s not going to happen,” or just the bad things. Plus, it’s also good for my meditative state that I never watch and read the news in the morning. I focus on these things that light me up.

Thank you for that. There are two things I want to talk about. One, the audiobook is so huge because, in the fog of grief, it’s hard to concentrate. It’s hard to focus on the words on the page. It’s hard to take in what’s being said because your mind starts racing. The idea of audiobooks is such a wonderful idea because I don’t have to worry about being stationary. I can listen to Audible books whatever I’m doing. It can capture my mind and allow me to disconnect from what I may be laser-focused on and to take a mental vacation to go here and go there by the audiobooks. Thank you for mentioning that. Also, finding what lights us up. It may take different things. What are some things you tried that you found that did light you up?

I didn’t have anything because I figured out for myself that I needed these things to light me up but I didn’t have it specifically. I can talk about what lights me up like watching a stand-up comedian on YouTube or Netflix. I had googled it at one point in my life when I was low. I was like, “How can I be happier?”

That’s where we go. Google has some answers out there. It’s like, “I am in an unknown place. I don’t know how to get out of where I’m at. I need some suggestions.” That’s awesome.

I tried. Everything I found on the internet told me to watch some shows or watch my favorite standup comedians because laughter is the best medicine as they say. It helped me. Also, watching Netflix shows that are very easygoing and nothing complicated. Some people think it’s time-wasting stuff, but when you’re low, down, and blue, you need something to light you up and it doesn’t matter what it is. You still have to use it and it helped me as well. I stick to my favorite shows on Netflix. I listened to my audiobooks. Also, being out in nature or walking on the beach. Nature exercise is also helpful when you need some support. Stick to your exercise routines as well.


WRT 40  | Managing Grief Through Art
Managing Grief Through Art: When you feel low, down, and blue, you need something to lift you, and it doesn’t matter what it is. You still have to use it.

 

I want to Circle back to a couple of things. When my late husband died, there were shows that we watched together that were too painful to initially watch in his absence. I want to talk about that. Over time, a couple of things I found happen to me. Initially, I did not want to watch those shows. I wasn’t even going to bring myself. I had to find new shows that I enjoyed that we did not watch together.

I haven’t watched that show since Mark died, but I want to know what happened. I was able to watch it and then think about the times when we watched it together. It’s interesting to think about losing a spouse. They are so intertwined in every aspect of my life that many people don’t consider how the death of my spouse impacts everything like, “This is a grocery store we used to always go. This is the road that I would drive to drop him off at work.”

Everything is impacted by their absence. Thank you for talking about the shows to give me the opportunity to speak about that. Even with the outdoor nature, you may have to find a different part to go to because you and your spouse always go to that location. We always went for a walk after dinner. What does that look like when every sliver of your life is impacted? You have to sometimes re-invent what you’re going to do in comparison to what you did.

When you hear the term new normal, it’s like everything I used to do does not fit in this space without him. I have to figure out what that looks like in this life now in their absence. That’s why it’s so draining. The idea of what lights you up is so critical to find out because everything that lit me up before probably has something to do with that spouse, that child, or that close family member who died in trying to identify what life looked like.

I couldn’t listen to music for a couple of months after my dad passed away. I couldn’t cope with it. I love music. It’s part of my life. Every day, I listen to music if I can. I couldn’t do it. After a while, I was patient with myself. I took my time and I rediscovered the beauty of music. I still can’t watch movies about cancer or people talking about cancer. It’s still deep in me. I can’t cope with it or anything like very emotional music or emotional stuff in movies. I had to be careful at the beginning. Right now, I’m at a better place but I still have to be careful with it.

Thank you because that’s fair. The desire and how that changes and touches you is important. It’s also hard because you look normal to the rest of the world. You look like the same Noemi that they knew before to understand that this is different. I know you spoke about communicating that with your mom. Were there other people that you had to share how you were feeling and what you were going through in your grief? What did those conversations look like?

A couple of my close friends knew about my struggles, but I didn’t open up to people about my struggles.

In the moment of your grief, you did not.

I did not. Now, it’s a few years past and some time gone. I’m coping and I’m getting in a better place, but after that, it was hard. The other thing is that people still treat it as a taboo. They don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to touch the topic because it might be painful for you and it’s too hurtful for them too. They don’t know what to say. They don’t know how to approach you about it so they don’t talk about it.

They treat it as a taboo and they leave you with it. They are like, “She’s going to be fine,” or whatever, but it’s not like that. It’s so much more complicated and deeper than that. To be honest, I couldn’t talk to my friends about it. They knew about it probably. One of my closest friends that I could talk to about it also passed away a couple of years ago because of cancer. It’s not easy to talk about it with friends or family members because they think it’s a sensitive topic to talk about and discuss.

Thank you. There are a couple of things you said there that are so important. In that place of grief, it was so hard to talk to people that we’re friends with. That is hard for people to comprehend like, “These are friends. Why can I not have this conversation?” However, it feels like sometimes something is stuck in your throat.

I don’t know if it’s the challenge of exposing yourself emotionally or being so transparent, and realizing that people don’t know what to say to you. It may happen the first time you share with somebody, and then they give you this deer in the headlight look. You’re like, “I’m not going to do that again.” It was hard enough to share that. Let alone someone not knowing how to respond, being where you are now in your grief. What advice would you give to someone who had a friend who was grieving? What could they say or do, or how they should show up now that you’ve experienced it?

Just listen to them. You don’t have to give any clever advice because you may not be experiencing the same pain and the same hurt as they do. Give them a listening ear, be patient, sit down, and listen to them because they have a lot to say and share. If you’re patient with them, they might share that with you. You don’t have to fix their problem. You can’t fix their problem. It’s not possible but listen to them because that’s always very important. That’s probably the best advice I can give them.

 

 

That is excellent advice because we show up. You mentioned that it’s too sad for them to be around because they’re your friends and they probably want to fix it. They probably want to have this bright statement that’s going to make you all better, and nobody has that. It’s very odd as a society that we are all one day not going to be here, but we don’t know how to show up for people when they’re going through the grief of losing someone. Has this experience of losing people you love changed how you showed up in other people’s lives who are experiencing grief?

I think so because I’m more sensitive to that. I try to listen to people carefully about what they say and what they want to tell me. I’m an intuitive person. Even if I don’t talk to them, I feel their pain. There are some family members who are struggling with health issues and everything. I told my mom, “I feel their pain sometimes. There’s something going through behind the scenes and behind the surface, but they don’t talk about it.

That’s why they get sick. It’s because they don’t express it anyway. They don’t have a coach or they don’t have a mentor. They don’t have anyone to talk to. They don’t do art or they don’t exercise. Everything is talked about inside. When you sweep so many things under the carpet, it gets too much. Somehow, it will affect your mental and physical health.

It does because that dis-ease becomes a disease inside of our body if we don’t let it out in some way. I have another question. Let’s circle back to what we spoke about. Hypothetically speaking, if I was your friend during those times of heavy grief, and you were not talking, I know that your behavior changed. What would have been some things I could have done to maybe pull that out of you or have a conversation to prompt the discussion? I’m a super talkative person so you wouldn’t even have to prompt me, but from your perspective and knowing yourself, how would you think would have been a good way to approach it?

Start to talk to me about it and approach me because I want to approach you to talk about this like, “I want to talk about my grief. Let’s get together,” because we don’t do that.

“I’d like to drink tea with you, please. Come on over.”

“Can we please chill together and talk about it?” Don’t leave them alone, whatever they say they do. If you are a good friend, just be there for them. It’s so important. Don’t leave them alone with their struggles, pain, and everything going on in their life. Maybe you just need to bring them brownies over, a gesture or anything, or recommend a book like, “I read this book. Check it out. It was so funny.”

Cheer them up. Light them up a bit and just be there. You don’t have to always talk about death and grief. Maybe you don’t even have to mention it, just to light them up somehow and eat ice cream together. If you drink, have a glass of wine, watch a movie, or chill out together. Just be there for them. That’s so important.

What you said is key. You feel like you have to talk about the obvious but that disappearing or that ghosting that person is so loud in that moment when they need it. If you’re showing up and go, “Let’s go for a walk.” If they want to talk about that heavy part, you give them space by being there. Whatever it is that they like doing, whether it’s food or going to a movie, just don’t disappear because that’s going on. That’s when your friend needs you the most. That’s not where we disappear. We need you to be in that space and let it be organic for them.

Also, just enjoy the silence together. It can be anything. You don’t have to talk.

You can do that because they need to be there. Thank you so much. I know I’ve asked you a lot of questions. Any questions you have of me?

Now, I’m the host.

Sometimes you think, “What are some questions?” I don’t want to not make space for that too.

What was the worst part of your grief process like?

For me, the reality that this man I have spent 32 years with was dead and the finality of it. It’s like this is how the story ends. Mark and I were on a mini vacation. He was living in Virginia. I was living in Pennsylvania. He had taken a job there and I was trying to get one with him. We got together for the weekend. In my mind, I was going to see him on Easter but I was prompted to spend time with him that weekend. I’m glad because we all have an appointed date and time that we will no longer be in this world.

The reality that he died that weekend was shocking. Also, the idea that I needed to figure out what my life was going to be every second, every moment, and I could never talk to him again. We were getting into our 50s. We were planning on the children leaving the nest. We’re now going to hit retirement and have these plans of what life is going to look like, and the instantaneous change. He wasn’t sick. It wasn’t something in my mind. I wasn’t getting ready for the concept of him dying. We were on vacation. He had a massive heart attack and died that day.

I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t think and all these major decisions that needed to happen in my worst capacity. I am grateful for my family and friends who showed up to carry that immense weight that I could not. I was three hours away from where we lived. Now, he died and I have both our cars. I had this apartment in Virginia that he lived in.

All these things are going through my project management mind, but I don’t know how to make a decision or do something. Friends come from Pennsylvania to drive me back and drive my vehicle back. Also, drive his car back and do that. My brother shows up the next day from California and I’m planning my husband’s funeral.

The second thing that was the most difficult was my incapacity to be there for my children. My children happened to be adults. They knew their dad and I know some people deal with the loss of a spouse with young children. In my situation, their dad was an adult. I went from my husband and me as a unit, doing everything together, to now realizing that my children are helping me plan their dad’s service. After that was over, I had two children. We ghosted each other. It was like, “How do we talk? What do we do?” They went from not only did their dad die, but I didn’t have the capacity to show up as they were accustomed to.

It took me a good six months before I was like, “It’s not just my husband that’s died. It is their dad also. I need to start rolling them back in. I need to get enough mental capacity to start focusing on my children, how I’m supposed to be a mother, and what that looks like” I have to apologize to them later. I’m sorry that I didn’t have what it took to show up for them because I was in my own devastation in trying to do that. It’s those two things. The instantaneous, the finality of his absence, and my incapacity to be there for my children.

That’s nice to share. Can I add something to that about kids? I remember the day when we got the call from the hospital because my dad had been going through this very long suffering for two years. I talked about this. This is a topic maybe for another interview but the sudden death or the long-suffering death and what you experience. It was a long process for me.

When you see your dad who is a former basketball player, a strong man, very tall, and everything becoming this person that you can’t even recognize anymore because the cancer took everything away from him. He was weak and small. It was pretty hurtful to see that process. I’m not saying it’s easier to cope with sudden death because that just happened.

Noemi, there is no comparison. You were sharing your journey. Feel free to do that.

It was that long process in that you see someone die day by day and lose them day by day. This is horrible. With my grandma, it was different. It was quite sudden because it happened in two weeks’ time and then she passed away. With my dad, it was a very long and painful process. My dad passed away on my son’s seventh birthday. His birthday is always my dad’s death anniversary, which makes everything even more complicated because this is a day of joy and sorrow. It’s always intertwined in my life, but you still have to celebrate life and we still have to celebrate his birthday.

I also remember the day when we got this call from the hospital that my dad passed away and that was my son’s birthday. My son came to me and he was seven only. He was a small child. He came up with this idea. He drew a picture of my dad and he brought this paper around. He brought it to my husband, my mom, and me. He was like, “Write down something that you like most about Grandad.” We had to write it down and he was seven.

How wise kids are because they have the same feelings we have. He was so shocked when we got this phone call. We let them know and he saw how we were in tears and what was going on with us. He was affected by this thing and he had the courage to come to us. I didn’t have anything on my mind that was like, “Let’s draw a picture of Grandad and write something nice about him or what we like most.” We still have that picture and we framed it. It was still here in the house. He was seven. He’s just a kid. How could he come up with an idea like this?

Something we didn’t talk about. How has life been different being there for your mom in your dad’s absence? How did you see her life shift?

That was a big shift because my mom was dependent on my daddy in many ways. My mom doesn’t like shopping like other women do.

I am one of those women. I do not like shopping. I’m encouraging all of you to do it, but I’m not shopping out there if I don’t have to.

Me neither. I do online shopping. It’s just a few clicks and I’m fine with it. I’m not into shopping either. My mom depended on him. Dad loved chatting with people. He loved shopping. He did the normal day-to-day tasks. You have to pay the bills and you have to go here and there. My mom stayed here alone with everything covered. She didn’t know stuff that she was supposed to know by the age of her late 60s. She had to learn everything from scratch to do that. It’s pretty hard on her.

Also, to fix things around the house because my dad was always there. He always helped her. They lived together for 40-something years during their marriage. It was a long time. She had to relearn everything. What she mentions to me every time we come home or when we are on the phone together is the loneliness and the silence. To cope with silence and loneliness. They didn’t chat all the time, but they were always together. He was always around. They did most of the things together.

Did you know how your mom managed the loneliness or that gap? Did she create a different life or just be lonely forever?

She loves gardening and reading. She also loves classical music. Those are her things. She’s not a social person anymore. She doesn’t like to gossip or go around and visit fans or family members, but gardening is her everything.

That’s the thing that lights her up.

She always loved it because she was a kindergarten teacher for 40 years. When she needed to relax and get the noise out of her head because the kids were noisy, she went to do her garden. It’s a huge garden. She has fresh vegetables and fruits and everything in her garden. It’s not a tiny garden. It’s a big one. She enjoys that and that’s how she copes with life, grief, and silence. Plus, I always call her twice a day.

To see that upfront in person changes your perspective of what life looks like and what is to be cherished. This is a reality. This is what it is. Thank you for sharing that. Are there any other questions for me that you have?

Who was your biggest help? Did you have a special person, a family member, or a very close friend who helped you a lot?

My faith was my biggest help. When I think about who helped me the most, it depends on what time of day it was. I live on the East Coast now. I’m one of five siblings. I had three siblings who lived in California at that time in different places. I had somebody in a different time zone which was helpful. I had another sister who lives in Chicago. The one in Chicago is an hour difference, and the three in California are three hours difference.

Depending on what time it was, I was always reaching out to a different sibling. My faith, my siblings, and then I became conscious like, “Am I pouring too much of this wretched situation onto one person?” I figured I needed to part the guilt and the pain. I made sure that I was leveraging different friends. A therapist was huge for me to understand how to navigate this life that I have to live. I remember when we were having children, we had this book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

You’re excitedly thinking through what to do next. I was like, “Where’s when your spouse dies book? How does that work? Certainly, I’m not the first person out here doing that. The therapist was helpful in me trying to unpack. Just like you were saying about the loneliness your mom experiencedeverybody is experiencing that. How do they deal with it?

I talk and create a community. I started connecting with other widows and finding out, “How are you doing this?” I tried to evenly disperse everything that was going on because I was afraid I would break one person if I was giving them all of this. That wasn’t one person. It was finding out who could fit what space, what was going on, and how to navigate through that. Am I answering your question?

Yes, you did. I’m an only child. I wished I had a brother or sister to talk to about it because you share your grief with them. That’s also a huge help.

From talking and connecting with people who are grieving, my experience is unique in that with so many people, their friends go silent. Family members distance themselves from the grief of a loved one. My family and friends showed up with a shovel and a pitchfork. They’re in here. They’re not going anywhere. I thought that’s how everybody experienced grief. In doing this podcast and these conversations, I have found totally the opposite.

I am so grateful. I even made new friends in this process where people have a skeleton crew. I am grateful that I had enough people to dispense in a month. At the same time, there were places where I felt so low and lonely even in the midst of everyone else, feeling like someone still didn’t understand what I was going through. One of my friends came and got me out of the house. She said, “I see what you’re doing. You’re closing up yourself. You’re not talking.” Me being silent is a bit like something is wrong.

I’m the same.

They came and dragged me out of the house. I realized I needed to go back to therapy because I thought, “I got this.” It was like, “No, you don’t. You need to go back and get help.” I will probably have a therapist my entire life just like having a dentist. I need someone to help me manage this head chatter, what’s going on in my thoughts, and not get all caught up in myself. I have realized that it is something important for me.

Once you talk about it, you open up about it. You write about it or talk about it. As my coach told me one day it opens it up and it helps you to cope with anything and everything because you’re not closed off and your walls are not up that high. You are starting to lower them a bit. Once it’s written down or said, it helps you to cope.

Thank you for this conversation. If you have any other questions for me or final thoughts to wrap us up, I’ll let you do that.

I have a motto in my life. Whatever happens, horrible things in life like death or trauma, just keep going. That was always my motto in life. You deal with it but you have to keep going because that’s important.

 

WRT 40 | Managing Grief Through Art

 

Thank you for being here.

Thank you so much, Tina, for having me.

Hello, Widowhood. Thank you for being here with us through this conversation. Noemi brought something a little bit different to the discussion in so many different ways. One, from being the daughter of a widow, sharing her own grief, expressing and showing how COVID has changed her life, and how she had to create something different in a place where so much she had lost. I am certain that this conversation proved helpful for you in many different ways.

Please email me at WidowhoodRealTalk@Gmail.com. I want to hear from you. I want you to suggest different topics to discuss. Maybe you want to share your journey or you have someone you would like for me to make part of the show. I am sorry for the person that you have lost that caused you to be in this conversation, but I’m glad that you found us and you’re part of our hood. Talk to you soon. Bye.

 

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