The Power Of Friendship: Navigating Grief And New Beginnings With Elizabeth Randles

WRT 8 | Friendship

 

For today’s episode, Tina Fornwald sits down with her dear friend, Elizabeth Randles. They were both in the military, worked at Tobyhanna Army Depot, deployed to Iraq, and are women of color in the workplace. Liz shares her experience with grief and how her life is in a stage of growth and new beginnings. Their discussion shows the extensive levels of support a friend will give in your time of need.  When you are in your most difficult moments of life, people often scatter, but for Tina, she learned her friends dig in deep and help carry the load. This episode is a testament to the power of friendship and the enduring connections that sustain us through all of life’s ups and downs. Join this candid conversation with Liz.

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The Power Of Friendship: Navigating Grief And New Beginnings With Elizabeth Randles

Friends Who Were There

Thank you for joining us. We’re going to have a conversation with a friend of mine named Elizabeth, who was with me in Tobyhanna with my husband passed. We spent a lot of time together. Liz has gone through some personal losses that she’ll share and what she was able to leverage to have empathy for me and what I was going through. Let’s get into the conversation. Also, I am sorry for the person you have lost. The grief that you are carrying has driven you to be in this conversation. I hope you feel like you are part of my hood and know you are part of the community and you were not alone. Let’s see what this is about.

 

WRT 8 | Friendship

 

My guest in this episode under the series, “My Friends Who Were There,” is my girlfriend, Elizabeth. Hey, Liz.

How are you?

I am good. It has been a minute since we’ve seen each other. I am glad to get to see you and have some catch-up time.

It’ll be a year.

Who is Elizabeth? Tell us about yourself.

Elizabeth is somebody that is constantly growing and evolving. I’m learning more about myself the further I get away from the military because I joined the military at seventeen. That’s all I knew all my life. When I retired, I had to learn who Liz is and that was a process because I didn’t even know what my favorite color was. I didn’t know how to dress for my body type because I always wore a uniform. I had to learn who she is. I’m still learning who she’s still coming to. To be 63, I’m still learning.

How old are you?

I’m 63 and still learning.

You’re flawless at 63. How long were you in the military and in what branch? What did you do?

I was in the military for 28 years. I was in the Army. I was a communication electronic repairer. I repaired radios, teletype, and things like that.

What were the evolution of your career in the military, the rank you had, and the places you traveled?

I made the highest enlisted rank that you can make which is an E-9 Sergeant Major. I’m the first female in my job or my MOS or Military Occupation Specialty to make an E-9.

That’s an accomplishment.

I’m in a book, the 100 Sergeants Major of Color. There’s a little asterisk next to my name because I’m the first female in MOS. I’ve been all over the world. I’ve been to Kuwait, Germany three times, Korea twice, Fort Campbell, Kentucky twice, Fort Dix, New Jersey, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and my last duty station, Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania.

How about your family, friends, and other things going on outside the work list?

I’m an empty nester now. I’m starting my life over as a single person.

How old are your children? What are they doing?

The oldest is married and he’s doing well. He’s back in school now. The youngest one is in school and going to Lock Haven University. Both of my boys are back in school.

When you’re not working and you’re not raising children, what do you enjoy doing?

I take myself to the movies, on dates, and out to dinner. I’ve been traveling a lot. I got back from San Diego. I’ve been out to Detroit. I’ve been doing things I love to do.

What was the last movie you saw?

I’ve seen Missing. The one with Nia Long. It was good. I took myself out to the movies.

How did we meet?

I was thinking about that. We met around 2008. You were coming in this little back stairwell and I was going down the little back stairwell to go to the bathroom. We bumped into each other and I was like, “You’re new here.” You said, “Yes, I am.” We gave our names and that was it at that time. Our friendship was a very slow processing friendship because it was just hi, bye, and stuff. We never communicated until a few years later. It was when we took that LMP course.

Where was here?

Tobyhanna where we worked at. We worked at the military base together.

We took an LMP class together. We were deployed to Iraq or Kuwait around the same time too. You were in Kuwait when I was coming back. I had a week’s transition there. That was when we started to connect a little bit more past the hi’s and byes.

It was a slow process. That was in 2010 or 2011. I met you in 2008. That’s about a three-year span that took off.

What do you remember about our friendship and me being in Pennsylvania?

The most I remember most is how people were confusing us you, Liz, and me, Tina. We were both like, “We don’t even look alike.” You’re four inches taller than I am and have a darker complexion. We both had locks, but your locks were different from mine.

For people that are not used to the melanin that’s in our skin, this is a real thing where people will not take stock of who a person or an individual is and call you by somebody else’s name. You can literally see Elizabeth and I do not look alike. If we were standing next to each other, I am taller than her. My melanin is extra than hers. People would say, “Hey, Liz.” I would call her and go, “Hey, girl. Hey, Liz. I want to know where you at because supposedly, you’re right here next to me.”

I went in and out of that break room trying to warm up my food and this guy said, “Hey, Liz.” I was like, “My name is not Liz.” He said, “It is.” I was like, “Is he telling me what my name is and going to be adamant about it?” It got so loud and disruptive. He became almost combative. I was like, “I’m going to say I’m Liz so I can walk away.” I didn’t say I was Liz, but I almost called you and said, “Girl, can you come over here?” because he need to know what the second color girl on the depot looked like because it is not me.

He told me I was lying when I said I wasn’t Tina. I walked away from him. When you argue with a foolish person, that makes you look like a fool so I walked away. I was like, ” I’m not going to do it.”

When you argue with a foolish person, that makes you look like a fool. Click To Tweet

That was the funniest moment of that. We’re here to talk about a lot about what happened in my life, but what are some great losses in your life that you’ve experienced?

I had seven miscarriages before I had my son.

I didn’t even think I knew that. Would you mind unpacking some of that and what that looked like?

I had gotten to a point where I had totally given up. I didn’t want to go through it anymore. It tears your body down every time you get pregnant and then you lose pregnancy and everything. I was tired. I was in my 40s. I was like, “Let’s stop trying,” but my husband at the time wanted at least a child to carry his name on. I didn’t have the energy.

We’re stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. I went back to the OBGYN there for a different appointment. I had seen her earlier and she looked through all my records and said, “What is it that you want me to do for you? It looked like everybody’s done everything they can do for you.” I was all right with her answer because I was tired.

When I went back for my follow-up OBGYN appointment for something totally different, she was like, “I want to send you to Wright-Patterson in Ohio, the fertility specialists, and let them look at everything and give it one more time.” My mouth fell open because I was like, “Why the change of heart?” She was very mean and rash. When I came out, the secretary said, “You know why she had a change of heart?” and I said, “No, I don’t.” She said, “It’s because she’s pregnant now.” It worked for her and so she wanted me to go.

Did she go through the same process?

I guess so, but the secretary told me the change of heart came because she was pregnant now. We went to Wright-Patterson and saw the specialist. She looked through my stuff. She was a major and everything. She said to me, “Has anybody ever put you on a baby aspirin before?” I said, “A baby aspirin?” She’s like, “Yes.” She told me what it was supposed to do, but I didn’t hear anything because I said in my mind, “This isn’t going to work.”

She said that and when she got done, I came outside of her office and my husband said, “What did she say?” I said, “She wants me to try a baby aspirin a day.” I said, “I’m not doing that.” He said, “You tried everything else. Why not?” I said, “It’s not going to work,” so I did. I tried the baby aspirin a day and got pregnant. I didn’t get excited because I’d been pregnant so many times before. I had never made it past the first trimester. I made it past the first trimester and still didn’t get happy, but when I got to the second trimester and I was still pregnant, I started screaming.

I was like, “What did this thing do?” I come to find out that my dad never told me that we have a family history of very thick blood. Our blood was so thick that it was clotting and cutting off the baby’s food. Having thinner blood allowed Daniel to be nourished. We had Daniel and I couldn’t believe it. Daniel turned 9 months and 1 day and he took off. He was crawling and then started running. That’s when I got pregnant with the second one. Nine months and a day, I got pregnant with Michael. They’re exactly 20 months and 1 day apart.

Did you stay on the baby aspirin while you were pregnant or how did that work?

After six months, you had to get off of it because it would’ve made the baby’s blood too thin. That’s exactly what happened with Daniel. When he was born, his blood was so thin he couldn’t be circumcised because if he had been circumcised, he would’ve bled to death. We had to wait for his blood until thickened up for us to be able to circumcise him. I only took half of the baby aspirin while I was carrying Michael. When he came out, he didn’t need to wait. He could be circumcised. I was trying for the girl, but I never got pregnant no more so.

How did it feel to finally have children after all those losses? I’ve had one miscarriage before Catherine. I read this book called A Deeper Shade of Grace, which was comforting and the lady had several miscarriages. How was that for you to be there and hold those babies in your arms?

I call my two sons my miracle men. Every time I post something on Facebook or whatever, I say, “This is a miracle,” because as I said, I had given up but God had me in a holding pattern. I was supposed to wait. I’m so glad I had my children later in life because I was more subtle. I was towards the end of my military career. We didn’t travel anymore and everything was established. It was perfect for these two little guys to come at the time because everything was in place.

When you see young couples having kids young, they struggle because they’re trying to get their careers together, go back to school, do all these things, and juggle kids. My career was done. I did go back to school after the boys were born. I already had an associate and that was to get my Bachelor’s and Master’s. It still wasn’t the struggle that we would’ve had younger because financially, we were okay.

When you see young couples having kids young, they struggle because they're trying to get their career together. They're trying to go back to school, do all these things and juggle kids. Click To Tweet

Going through a loss like that and seeing things turn around, how has that impacted how you see life in different struggles that come your way?

Life is too short for people to be sitting around and doing nothing. That’s one reason why I’m doing so much like traveling, taking myself out, and doing all these things. I don’t want to be sitting here waiting to die or whatever. I’m trying to enjoy life to the fullest. It had impacted me. I see things so differently now.

When you say differently, what does that look like outside of the traveling, but just how you see life itself?

As I said, I’m still growing. I’ve been even putting myself in self-awareness seminars since the last time you’ve seen me, women empowerment, and trying to understand how to negotiate relationships in the future. I didn’t know these questions I should have known to ask years ago when you start dating a person. It’s a shame that you’re 63 and you’re hearing some of this stuff for the first time. I’m excited about it but it’s scary too because I’m older now. When you’re a young person, it’s different.

Nobody said you’re 63. They’re going to have to ask for that a couple of times and see the ID card.

In a few years, I can draw my Social Security.

You can now technically. You’re just trying to get to those big numbers. Thank you for sharing that. I have seen your post and call the boys miracles. I did not know the reason why. People that you have lost on top of that, what does that look like for you?

I lost my mother in 2008. One morning, I got up and got ready to go to work, and the phone rang. It’s my brother telling me that my mom passed. I said to him, “Whose mom? You weren’t talking to mom,” because I talked to her Sunday and this is Tuesday. There’s no way my mom passed. He’s like, “Our mom passed,” and I screamed because she was my best friend.

She wanted to be in the Navy, but her mother would never let her join. She lived in the military through me. She would come and travel. When I was in Germany, she came. Every duty station in the United States, she would come too. She was the one beneath my wings. She’s the one that sign me in at seventeen because I needed a parent’s signature and my dad refused to do it.

As I said, she prayed for me. She constantly encouraged me because, at the ten-year mark or that halfway point, I wanted to get out. My mother said, “You’re not getting out.” I was like, “I’m bored and tired of repairing radios and all these things.” “Is there something else you can do?” I was like, “I was thinking of being a drill sergeant.” She said, “Put in for that.” I put it in for it and got it. I became a drill sergeant. She was always pushing me. She didn’t want me to stop. I owe these years to my mom for praying and being there for me.

In my last two ranks, when I made E-8, my mom came to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. I didn’t tell her I was getting promoted. I had her come out from Michigan. We went on base to the job and stuff. I put my rank in her hands. I said, “When I tell you to do something, I want you to do something with this.” We’re all standing and how we do promotion ceremony, everybody, and their mother is in there.

I have my little mom because she’s short next to me. We got our attention orders, took my rank off my hat, and then I told my mom, I said, “I wanted you to take and pin this on my hat.” My mom pinned my rank on my hat. She put everything on and her mouth fell open. I said, “You just promoted me.” She had never seen that before.

She did travel to visit you, but she had never been part of a promotion ceremony?

No. I had her come to my E-8 ceremony.  When I made E-9, I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Kentucky was only eight hours so we brought her down again. We didn’t tell her anything again.

She got a little scoop now because she knew what happened before.

She still was surprised. This time when I put it in her hand, she knew what was going on. I told my mom, “This is the max I can go, mom. I’ve reached the top.” She started crying because she was like, “You made the very top.” She pinned me again. This time I made her do it on the shoulders. I let her live my military career with me. She died first and God always has a plan. He knows who needs to go first. That was in 2008.

After a few years, my dad died while I was in Kuwait. I had to come home on emergency leave. Months later, my brother died next to me. The following year, my sister died. It’s all in eighteen months. I lost the three of them. My mother couldn’t have been able to handle all that at the same time so he moved her out the way, so that the rest of them when they passed, she wouldn’t have to go through all that. I’m the one that had to go through all that. It was so rough.

How long were your parents together?

That’s 35 years.

How was your dad in your mom’s absence?

My sister moved back from Queen Texas to Michigan to take care of my dad for me. My other brother went, got a van, and moved her. He packed her up and brought her back. They sold the house that my parents had and my sister used the money to purchase a house that would have handicapped access because my dad was paralyzed on one side from having a stroke. I assigned everything over to her between the two of them so that everything would be okay. That’s how we took care of my dad until he couldn’t be cared for anymore because, after a while, my sister couldn’t help him to the bathroom. He had to be hoisted.

We then had to make a decision to put him in a nursing home. We went and got him a nursing home. He loved it there because my dad was a social butterfly. When I would go visit him, he has all the women cracking up and they’re sitting all around the table. This dude had it going even in his 70s. He was a funny guy. In the end, our relationship was a whole lot better than growing up.

I didn’t even know he had such a sense of humor. He talked about a lot of deep stuff. I learned a lot from my dad before he died. I’m glad that we were able to get our relationship together. When he passed, I was okay with it because he had suffered so long with the strokes. He has many strokes. I didn’t take that one as hard as with my brother though. Me and my brother were only eighteen months apart. He died a few months after daddy died.

I believe it was foul play because they found him dead in this house naked. They had taken all of his clothes and food. They had been in there partying prior to that. When he died, they cleaned up everything. When you looked at his phone, there were no more phone calls from the time he died until we found him a whole day later.

That would seem odd, but if no one knew there would be phone calls and things that would happen. How have you managed grief?

It was hard. I didn’t have anybody to talk to. I’m the oldest of five. Financially, I carried the family. Every time somebody died, I had to pay for whatever arrangements were to be made, but my father had insurance. Thank God my dad was in the military, so he had VA benefits, which helped me out a lot. My brother had nothing but his daughter had a good friend that worked at the funeral home and gave us a big discount. By the time my sister died, I had to go get ACS Loan or Army Community Service Loan because it was too much happening back-to-back.

What about the mental part and the gap of their absence, how have you managed that?

When my brother died, I welled and broke down. My family had never seen me break down. I was always the strong one and the military person. When Tim died, I did not deal with that well at all because we were close as kids.

When you say not well, you’re saying how transparent and vulnerable you were, or were there safety concerns? What does that look like?

It wasn’t fair that somebody would take his life and leave him there like that, and nobody tried to help him. My brother had a good heart. He would get his paycheck and buy all the beer and all that stuff, but he was a party person. That’s the way he was. He didn’t deserve to be treated like that. I thought it was that nobody cared to call 911 to get this guy any help or anything. How could you just leave him that? The cruelty of it.

That is a lot. Those are three significant people in a very short window of time. That was in 2009. As you’re getting your footing back, then my life starts to shift. It shifted with the breast cancer and then to Mark. Being my friend, how was that impacting you?

I understood your pain at some level. I can’t even imagine what that felt like, but I understand when you have a relative or a person that you care about get off your life unexpectedly. Nobody was expecting Tim to die because he was only 50. That was hard, but I could sympathize. I could understand how your heart had to be breaking because we weren’t prepared for any of it.

Grief is a different pain. It’s different to have someone you really care about become off your life unexpectedly. Click To Tweet

How did you find out about what happened with Mark?

I came to work and opened an email. Do you know how bereavement emails out saying, “The passing of?” I started screaming at my desk. I was like, “That’s not what I’m reading.” I called you and you texted me back and said, “I can’t talk right now.” I was like, “Oh, my God.” I learned about it when I got to work that morning.

I did not know that. At this point, are you trying to talk to somebody or were any other friends there? We used to have lunch together and do stuff.

No, because Jennifer wasn’t there. Nobody was there to explain to me what happened. I couldn’t talk to you so I had no clue. Finally, when you started telling me what was going on, that’s how I found out or maybe even later on that day or the next day, Jennifer is like, “Yes.” I had to wait.

It was hard. Not that somebody has a different value. One Jennifer was picking me up and the other one was in the dark with you as far as trying to figure that out and what needed to happen. Do you recall the first time you saw me and what that looked like? Was that at Mark’s service?

I do remember the first time I did see you as you were running out of leave days. You needed leave days because you wanted to be out longer. Maybe, it was a conversation we had because I started canvasing people. I started with my husband because he had so many sick days. It wasn’t funny. I went to Patrick, “Tina needs vacation days and you got a whole bunch of them. Can you give up some?” He did. He gave you a whole bunch of vacation days.

I’m over like, “I did not bring tissues. I was not ready.”

I put that Depot Sergeant Major hat on and I was like, “We got to get some leave days so that she can come back when she’s ready to come back.” I talked to several people and they donated to the point that you told me, “Stop. I don’t need any more days.”

I don’t even have any recollection of that, but thank you. That gave me three months to get my head straight to come back to work. You were beating people down for that.

I didn’t beat them.

I’m saying you were beating the pavement. Not like beating people.

You never know what you get until you asked somebody. I used my voice. I said, “I have to speak on her behalf because she was not here.” I started right in my own house, I kept going, and I was getting the donation.

You never know what you get until you ask somebody. Click To Tweet

I was not ready. Thank you.

You’re welcome.

When you work for the federal government, for people that don’t know there is a voluntary leave program. What makes this even more complicated, I had breast cancer and treatment. This was before COVID, teleworking wasn’t a big thing. When I asked the telework, it was approved but there was so much scrutiny because it wasn’t the world that we lived in. I was in cancer treatment. I was tired. There was a lot going on. At that point, I bottomed out of my leave. When Mark passed, I had four hours of leave left because I was trying to recoup from the treatment.

Even though you may have a reason, it’s not looked well upon when you don’t have a good leave balance because it looks like you’re abusing the system. I was on the voluntary leave program and probably coming off. To turn around and be back on that program, people can think you’re shady or look at it differently. That was not my circumstance, but I want to be able to explain the gravity of that. There was a gentleman that worked down in Huntsville. I met him one time.

They came to visit.

He was there at my job. I was required to host a lot of people. He donated 100 hours. He heard what happened and somebody else told him. I’m beyond because I needed that time. I was in such a public place when I was at work. It was a lot to be able to be in people to do that. Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Now, that time happens and I come back to work. What does that look like compared to the person you knew before I was at work?

What happened when you came back to work, I went into protective mode because we have people at our job who just don’t know how to talk to people when they have a loss. They were saying stupid stuff. They were triggering you. You would come over to my desk and say, “Liz, let’s go for a walk.” I want to explain to everybody when we worked for the military, you had designated breaks that you can get up and go for a walk, but the whole time that you were going through this, nobody said anything to us about, “You guys are walking and it’s not break time.” We never got reprimanded.

Nobody ever got in our faces because everybody understood that I was there to support and to be there for you because folks were coming up saying some of the stupidest stuff and it was irking me. I worked it out so that we always get up and go take a break. “Let’s walk this thing out. Let’s go cry this thing out. Let’s go talk this thing out.” I was your sounding board and I didn’t even mind it because I wanted to be there for you. I wanted you to be okay.

 

 

What made you not want to run away from there? Those conversations were from here to the moon and back. These were, as you say, crying it out. What made you not want to go, “This has gone on long enough for her. She should be okay.” Why did you not have that thought process?

There’s no time limit on how long it takes a person to grieve. You became an empty nester yourself. Both of your kids were gone, you were in this house all by yourself, and you’re trying to come to work so that you can get normalcy back in your life, but then we deal with crazy people at our job.

 

WRT 8 | Friendship

 

As everybody else at work. We all got them. It just takes 1 or 2 to make things spicy.

As I said, I wanted to be there for you. I wanted to let you know that. I believe everybody had a role to play in the process of you getting through this. I was the working person. I was that buddy. You had a buddy for when you got home and a buddy for church. Everybody had a role and we all came together. I knew what my role was. I was to be there for you at work. When you left and I handed you off to whoever the next buddy was, and then the next day we started the process over again. I never got tired of it. I still don’t get tired of it as we still talk about stuff. When you got a good friend, you never get tired.

That is important. If I didn’t open up and share or was locked down and closed off, what role do you think you would’ve taken at that point in time? Knowing from your own experience with grief, how do you think you may have approached that differently?

I learned that it’s all right to be vulnerable. I’ll be honest. My whole life I’ve been pretty guarded. I didn’t trust a lot of people. It stemmed from my childhood because my parents never allowed me to have friends that could come over and hang out. I’ve been a loner pretty much all my life, even though I was in the military. Again, this is part of my evolving after leaving the military, learning who Liz is, how to listen, not be the one that’s always barking the order and it’s all right to share.

I learned a lot too. I would tell you all the time that I’m learning so much from our conversations. The most thing that I got out of all of this is that you would tell me what love looked like. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a man love me for me. Listening to your relationship with Mark, I said, “Lord, I’ve had none of this.” That’s my heart’s desire is to be loved and cherished, and you had that. I thought it was great because it’s possible if you get the right person.

 

 

Thank you for sharing that. As you learn yourself, that helps you identify how you need to be loved. These organic relationships that we have and platonic friendships tell us how we want to be loved in a different way. Do you remember any specific conversations, things we talked about, or anything stands out to you?

The biggest thing that stood out to me and I don’t know why it stood out to me is that you would walk into a room and you could smell Mark on something. It would trigger you and have meltdowns. You were trying to pack things up and you’ve seen his stuff and tools because he was a hunter. You kept saying, “I don’t how I’m going to do this. I can’t do this.” It felt like you were giving him away.

You would just call and we would talk about, “Liz, I’m having a meltdown.” I was like, “Okay,” and we talked it out. I was like, “I wish I could be in a relationship that would miss somebody.” I don’t even know how you’re going to live this new life without the person, a big hole in a person’s heart. I learned a lot. Do you think it was all about you? No. I believe God ordained us to be together because you were helping me in the process.

You and your sister lock for people. If a client comes in, you’re doing their hair, they tell you a good friend’s spouse died, and they’re afraid to talk to them, what do you think would come to your mind to tell them?

You need to be there, listen, and ask them, “How can I support you? How can I help you? What do you need?” As I said, when you said you needed leave days, that’s all you had to tell me. I already knew what I needed to do. You need to find out, “How can I be of service to you as you’re going through this process?” The biggest key to all this thing is being available for whatever the person needed and trying to help them to the best of your ability. That’s all I did. Whatever you needed, I tried my best to be there for you and try to help to the best of my ability.

Thank you. That is a lot to encourage someone not to run away and be in that space. That friendship is more needed now than at any time before. Unfortunately, from the loss in your life, you could reach into those spaces. Even though it may not have been a spouse, the loss still exists. As you mentioned before, you can amplify depending on that situation, how great that hole could be for that person to try to continue to exist and to live. It’s very admirable to find out what somebody wants and work to fulfill that. To say, “That’s not on the list I can do, but if you said that’s what you need, I’m here to do that for you.” That is huge.

 

WRT 8 | Friendship

 

The other thing I remember was the transition to going back to starting to date again.

It’s an idea. It’s not like dating, but the concept of thinking about it. Here I am grown up, thinking we’re going to spend forever together and when I got ready for that, what would that look like? How could I trust myself to someone? That is complicated to think about. When I was thinking about the idea of dating, my son, Alexander was like, “Mom, you know who you are. You know how complicated that’s going to be.”

I was like, “Yes,” because you still have love to give and feeling like when would that time be right? What will people say? What would that look like? There were a lot of conversations. I remember getting different books and reading them. As you say in the beginning, who is Tina to that eighteen-year-old girl with the tissue on the bottom of her shoe that met Mark at Pizza Hut versus who I am the woman now? There is a lot to think about that.

Negotiating that whole dating scene and then updating me on the stories. We’re busting out laughing because it’s like, “Oh, my God.”

That online thing is they’re not what they say they are. I said, “I was 5’9 and I’m looking at the top of your head.” That is a lot. Going back to something you said, if you don’t know who you are, you don’t know what you would accept or willingly allow to come into your space. When you start knowing who you are, you got no time.

We did a whole lot of swiping left and I was like, “I don’t think there’s any hope.”

I was thinking of the transitional points when I moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia. What were your thoughts when that was going on, me packing up and finally deciding I was going?

I didn’t know what I was going to do with myself. I had a gaping hole. I never told you that. Soon after you left, I dropped my retirement papers.

I remember that.

I left the depot and I couldn’t do it anymore. I sat there one day and I’m that girl that takes a piece of paper and wrote the pros and the cons. I had more pros to retiring than I had to stay. Plus, God was downloading in my spirit, “Why are you still here? You can go do your business full-time and you are making as much or maybe even more than you are sitting in this chair.” It was true. When I left, my whole business took off.

As our relationship was so close and I looked forward to coming to work every day, now I have nothing. I’m sitting there, wait long, and go take a walk by myself. I was like, “Why am I sitting here?” When I left and started full-time, God gave me my clients to feel the void. I started making friends and having conversations with clients. I noticed that my whole conversation shifted once I retired full-time because now, I put all that military stuff down.

I learned so much from our friendship and how we were so transparent and sharing that I started opening up to my clients. I have shared your show with three people already that are widows and a widower that lost his wife. My friend was going to go to the funeral. I said, “Here, give this show to him so he can hear this.” I said, “Look at how God orchestrates and designed things.” Now, I’m even a conduit on this end with the show and sharing it with others that are going through the same process that you went through.

You’ve been holding back on me. It is something to have a friendship that is so strong and great. When there’s that disconnect, but not severed and to the intensity on a day-to-day basis as it was. Every day, we were walking around that depot with our Fitbit on, counting our steps, although there was competition and being shady with each other, and other stuff like that. It’s interesting because everybody in that group has left. Both Jennifers are no longer there. It does make a difference when people separate.

You don’t have that connection anymore. I didn’t have a connection. I looked around and it was like, “What do I do now?” As I said, I made my list and came out with more prompts and I’m so glad I left right before COVID too, so I didn’t have to deal with all the crazy. The timing was perfect.

This has been a good conversation. Thank you. Any questions for me before we wrap up? Any final words of advice or things that come to your mind for other people, maybe to a person that’s a widow or a widower or their friend or family member?

One thing I like that you’ve done was you found a support group immediately after Mark passed. I’ll never forget when you came to me one time and says, “Liz, I can’t be grieving ten years like some of these people are grieving because they’re talking like this thing was fresh and it happened. I come to find out this thing happened years ago,” but because their spouse did everything. They paid the bills and everything. They didn’t know what to do. They were totally lost. You said, no, “I can’t do this long-term grieving thing. I have to push on my life.” When you said that to me, I was like, “Wow.” In our conversation and listening to the show that you sent me, I found out there’s a divorce group that divorcees go to and I looked it up. I’ll be going to one of the meetings for divorcees.

When I said that about the 10 years, somebody might be grieving for 10 or 20 years. Somebody could be in a bad marriage and they’re done in six months, no later because they’re ready to move on. In my head, I felt like it was going to be an agonizing torture to continually stay in that space. People may become widows or widowers and they may never want to get remarried. They may want to forever stay in that. I respect that, but for me, I could not leave his clothes in the spot they were in. I could not leave his contents in the drawer in the bathroom.

It made me keep feeling like he was going to walk through that door and our life was going to resume the way that it was. I had to pull myself out of that fake sim that my life was going to remain with Mark. There were steps I was taking to like slap myself in the reality, “He has died and I need to figure out how Tina lives,” because for me to continue doing that would’ve ripped me apart. I couldn’t stay in that place of ambiguity. I needed to tell myself, “Tina, he has left this world and you have to figure out how to live.” For me, that was necessary.

I understand. That’s where I’m at in my space. I need to move on. I need to continue. I’ll be joining this group and going to this program.

Those are some solid words to not be alone and to find a group that works for you. Thank you, Liz, for being part of this conversation. Thank you for having all those nuggets I didn’t know about and the tea. Thank you for being such a good friend.

You’re welcome. Anytime.

Have a good day.

You too. I love you.

I love you too. Bye-bye.

I spent a lot of time with Elizabeth, and yet she had things going on in my grief and in her life that I didn’t know, but I’m glad that she brought it to this conversation. I hope that this has been inspiring you to be able to reach out if you feel like you’ve been alone and to know that grief is difficult. You are unpacking it on your own terms and you have a life that is worthy of living, and to be encouraged. I pray that you are receiving hope, healing, and encouragement to continue on the journey that life has for you. Talk to you soon.

 

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About Elizabeth Randles

WRT 8 | FriendshipHi, my name is Elizabeth, I was born and raised in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and after graduation, I joined Army. I served my country for 28 years and then worked for the Department of Defense for 11 years. I have a master’s degree in Criminal Justice and currently, I have two businesses that keep me very busy. I love to travel and meet new people.

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