The Things That Keep Us Young: Shifting Your Mental Perspective To Enjoy Life While Living With Sheila Finkelstein

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental Shift

 

When you lose the love of your life, it’s easy to succumb to regret, to the what ifs and what could have beens. But our departed love would have loved us to carry on living to the fullest. How does one transcend grief and learn to enjoy life while living? Sheila Finkelstein helps us make this powerful mental shift so we can learn to deal with loss gracefully and with hope. Tune in for her incredible wisdom!

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The Things That Keep Us Young: Shifting Your Mental Perspective To Enjoy Life While Living With Sheila Finkelstein

Our guest is Miss Sheila Finkelstein. She is coming to us from Florida. In lovely artwork, she has her signature color purple there. We’re going to get into all of that. She hangs out a lot on LinkedIn. I want to read a little bit of information that she has listed there, and I want that to be the start of our conversation. She is shifting the perspective, a guide for women aged 50 and above, at a turning point, feeling stuck, and open to photography and more as a way to expand creativity, enhance relationships, and reconnect with themselves and others.

I don’t read people’s LinkedIn a lot but the conversation in the widowhood and community, a lot of times, people isolate. A lot of times, people feel disconnected. I know that the age of being a widow is shifting. It’s not always 50 and older. I am connecting with a large number of younger widows. Still, the premise of what you’re doing resonates with everyone. I love that you said you didn’t have to be creative. You don’t have to be intimidated by not having this huge sense of, “I’m a creative person,” but you have a way to let people use their simple abilities to reconnect and enhance relationships with themselves and others. I thought that was a beautiful way to start the conversation.

Thank you. One of the things that has been my mission even back from when I was teaching elementary school many years ago is the, “I am not creative.” People think that they have to draw, paint, or something and that is creativity. It’s problem-solving. I did something, and I forgot what it was but I was like, “I solved that problem.” That’s being creative. It’s a simple thing. I suggest people look every time they’re faced with a problem and they look for it and come up with an answer, they’re being creative.

I feel like a little bit of creativity hit me because I’m solving problems all day at work as a project manager. I never looked at it as being creative. I’ve always connected the word creativity with something artistic and something appealing, not something, to me, that seemed like basic problem-solving skills. I like that idea. You have so many different pieces going on. I’m sure as we touch on each of them or maybe some of them, there will be a story but I want to start with your necklace, what’s going on with that, and how that will take us on a journey of getting to know you better.

Thank you. Thanks for noticing. This happens to be one of the things that I had when I started college years ago. I was going to be a social worker. I’ll come up to it later. I went to Temple University in Philadelphia. I met my husband on a blind date. He was in textiles. There was nothing in textiles in Philadelphia, although his school was there. He got out of the Army, went to New York, got tired of New York girls, came back, and we met on a blind date. Six weeks after we met, we were engaged. We were married three months after that.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental Shift

 

That’s still super fast. We’re going to need to slow down a little bit. Tell us about this blind date.

The funny part of it was that somebody I knew from high school was engaged to Sam’s best friend. She broke the engagement. She saw me in school and she was sitting on the toilet. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that.

First here. Go ahead.

She fixed this up and we went out together. Four of us went out on a blind date.

Was it with her ex-fiance? What did you say your husband’s name is?

Sam.

It was you Sam, the girl on the toilet, and her ex-fiance. You guys went out on a date. What did you think of Sam on that first date?

I don’t even know. It wasn’t like love at first date or that kind of thing but we got along. We were communicating. He was caring. He went back to New York and came home one weekend. We started writing. He was writing every day. This was days long before texting and everything.

Every time we’re faced with a problem and we come up with an answer, we’re being creative. Share on X

I want to pause there to make sure we understand. You are writing letters and putting them in the mailbox. Is that what we’re referring to here? I have spoken to some people that the idea of even addressing a letter is foreign. I want to make sure we’re able to ensure that our audience understands that you are writing letters and putting them in the mail.

Keep in mind that this was 1960 so it was many years ago. He did more writing than I did. He would talk about the day or whatever. Remember. Phone calls were expensive too but periodically, he’d call. I’d be up in the middle of the night and he’d be concerned about me getting my schoolwork done. He was a very caring person. As a matter of fact, years later, a friend of mine who has since passed, rest in peace, was a psychic. She said that after he died, his mission in life had been to fulfill me. What more could one ask for?

Sam’s mission in life was to fulfill you. Did you have a sense of that in any of the time of him living?

I wouldn’t have thought of it that way if you look back on it. Somebody once said to me she was surprised. I was substitute teaching. She was an aid or something. She said I seemed like a pampered housewife. She was surprised. I think of pampered, closed, and all that thing but his caring for me was in a way one could consider pampered. We rarely argued.

Several years into our marriage, when I did the Landmark Forum or whatever, I realized at one point where the challenge came in. When we met, I had been assisting at the Landmark Forum. Some people may be familiar with that. We met for dinner. We were talking, and then he started that he was never home and went into the whole thing. He was complaining.

Ordinarily, we all sometimes go into a vicious cycle. We keep responding to what they’re saying. I was able to stop and say, “What’s going on here?” We were sitting on a very nice thing. He said, “You mentioned me being in the Forum.” This is one of the things I learned deeply about communication. We interpret something and then interact with that.

I said to him, “If I agree not to bring up the Forum or you’re doing it, can we look at this conversation? You come home from work and you’re telling me about your day. I’m simply telling you about my day.” I realize that even after that in any conversation, we rarely argued. I realized I’d stop and see if it’s about being right or who’s right, and it can continue in that way. We would get, and this was very rare, tense in talking. We’d stop and put it aside until we were more comfortable talking about it.

You took the difficult part that was causing conflict in the conversation and put that aside until you were level-headed and ready to address that in a way that you could hear each other when you were talking about it. Is that something you did strictly with your husband or did you use that communication style with other people?

No. I used that communication style with everybody but usually, I don’t get into arguments with people. I’m known to be a keen listener. I often hear what’s going on underneath and hear what people do not even realize is there. I attempt to make it a practice when I’m coaching or talking to people, “Can I say something?” I am always asking for permission, not putting myself on top of I’m right in what I’m thinking.

You dated and were engaged within six weeks. What do you recall about that engagement?

To women or men reading this, and usually, I don’t get into this, I was aware of his caring. I looked forward to his coming home. I remember that much in detail. The bottom line is right before we got engaged, I wrote a poem, “Who am I?” I went into how I was empty until he came home. It wasn’t until after we were married because of the implication of what that was. I was a smoker. I spoke about cigarettes and butts. It’s very interesting. That will explain who I was. When he came home, I came home.

Three months from the engagement, how long to the wedding?

Three months.

What do you recall of that day?

The wedding day?

Yes.

I don’t recall that much about the day itself. I’m always last-minute. When you ask me for stuff, I’m last-minute. It’s taking me hours. My father picked up the wedding gown the day before and I hadn’t tried it. I missed the hoop. You could see the hoop. That was the days of hoops. Fortunately, it has some fabric around it so I made a long skirt out of it.

Since I don’t like waiting in line, I made an appointment for the hairdresser at 6:00 in the morning or something. It was early in the morning, and then I went home, wrapped my head in toilet paper so it would stay, and took a nap. On the way down to where the wedding was being held, I was polishing my nails in the car. Those are highlighted memories.

Those are neat. That’s the inside story that no one will particularly know. Those are cute memories. Thank you for sharing that. We can return to the necklace. I didn’t want to rush over that. Thank you for sharing those details.

Thank you for asking. It’s giving me fun, too. They’re fun memories. I don’t know and I never asked him what it was. He asked me for permission. He gave me a pocketbook that he bought for his mother that she didn’t want. He didn’t want me to feel bad about it so he told the story and I said that was fine. It was also when we were engaged. He fell in love with a purple painting. He was a textile engineer and the mill was in North Carolina. We lived in Philadelphia at the time.

He was going to North Carolina. He came home from his trip. We weren’t married yet. He mentioned this painting, and he didn’t know whether he should buy it or not. I said to him, “If you like it and you have the money, then buy it.” It happened to be purple flowers. We built our first bedroom with a purple rug and purple around the flowers. I then remember bringing up all these memories in the cab in New York. We’d done a lot of walking and we were in a cab to Sierra Apartments or whatever it was. I took my feet out of my shoes. I might have been wearing heels, and he massaged my feet. He was very special and caring about people.

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Mental Shift: My biggest regrets are the questions I never asked.

 

The Love Necklace

You have a couple of items on your necklace. Can you share those with us?

This first one, if you’re interested, after he died, I went to Costa Rica for major dental work. It’s a fabric woven into the pull tabs from cans. I stayed in a bed and breakfast. It’s got a great bed and breakfast. It wasn’t until I was leaving that I saw her room. The woman where I stayed was looking to support the women there throughout Costa Rica. She was teaching them about recycling and being able to generate income. I love this. We argue if it’s magenta or purple. I have a YouTube video that says Magenta or Purple?

I have a love necklace. It’s a cowry shell that Sam gave me. My biggest regrets are the questions I never asked. I imagine some of your widows feel the same way. That’s why I created a website, Love With No Regrets, after he died to work with people to ask questions. I never asked him where he got it. When I was in jewelry making, which is one of the courses I took when I was getting my bachelor’s, I made a silver pen holder for it so to speak, with a hook. I don’t know why I didn’t wear it then but also, I had it there. I wore it sometimes. I don’t know but after he died, I wore it a lot to protect me along with our wedding bands.

My uncle was a jeweler in Atlantic City. He made them. They’re Hebrew letters, ani le do di ve hu li and ani le do di ve hi li. It’s, “I am my beloved’s and he is mine,” and, “I am beloved’s and she is mine.” I put them on the chain, and whenever I go out, I wear it for protection. When it’s here or in any other place, I make sure I have it. I had hives for a long time and this would irritate me so I stuck it in my bra. When I leave the house, I count keys, wallet, whatever, and pendant. I count 4 things or 5 things.

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental Shift
Mental Shift: “I am my beloved’s and he is mine.”

 

Thank you for sharing that. The statement that is engraved in your rings, where did you obtain that particular quote from?

That’s from the Song of Songs. It’s a biblical quote. It was my uncle’s idea anyway. I don’t think I said, “We want this quote.” He was the one who checked the rings and formed them.

It’s interesting how for you and Sam, this purple showed up in your life very early on. You said that the picture in your bedroom was purple off of the purple flowers.

I never thought about that. I never made the connection with favorite being a favorite color. I can’t say I fell in love with the picture or anything but purple is the underpinning.

We are having a lot of firsts here. That’s very nice. Tell us about some of the clients that you worked with in helping them become unstuck.

 

 

Two different stories come to mind. There was a woman. She was in one of my photo classes in which I had a group session. I’m putting together something again, which I haven’t done for quite a while. Five things to get unstuck, I say, “Take five eye-catcher photos so anytime you’re feeling stuck, look around. The first thing that catches your eye, take a picture. Look around again. It’s not for taking a picture. It’s because that was an eye-catcher.

I wrote something that caught my eye in a tissue. I wrote about the tissue coming out of the box. I have written and I have a book published, Writing for Self-Discovery. I write, and other people do too, they let themselves go. It turns out to be a very poetic type of writing. I look at that and I’m like, “I couldn’t have written that to write it but it flows.” In the flow, that was there. That’s the release.

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In the eye-catcher photos and also in taking those five photos, there’s a mind shift. It’s not a mind shift but you get out of one space and into another. Somebody in one of my classes couldn’t go outside or couldn’t leave her desk at work so she opened up her desk door, rearranged paperclips, and took five pictures of the paperclips. It’s shifting that perspective. It’s shifting your mind state and letting it go.

I remember walking one day. I am very fortunate to live on a boardwalk in wetlands. I don’t usually whine but I was talking to my cousin, whining. It didn’t help. We finished talking, and I continued walking. This was even before the iPhone camera. The camera is in a bag that’s on my shoulder. She said, “You say five pictures. Take out the camera and take five pictures.” I saw something and then it got involved. It was in a different place.

With that, there was one person that was in one of my classes, and she was complaining. Her husband would come home from work or she’d come home at lunchtime. He’d be in the garage and get busy with his antique cars. At night, he’d watch television. There was no communication. I said to her, “Next time he’s in the garage, look under the hood. Take your camera and take 5 pictures of 5 things that catch your eye. Try it sometimes.

There are rusty things. He could show you headlamps. Ask him about it. Start a conversation. When you’re sitting watching television, come sit next to him during commercial time. Ask him what he most liked about the previous time.” It’s being present. A few years after I started Nature’s Playground and a couple of different websites, I did Treasure Your Life Now to be the brand overall. It’s very much about being in the present. If you think about it, everything I said is really about being in the present.

Being In The Present

We hear that term, being in the present. I hear it often as a catchphrase. What does that mean to you?

It means listening and seeing what’s there. It means putting aside the mind chatter. We’re usually judging and thinking, and then we’re interacting out of those judgments and what we think we see. I did an easing for years. I’m not doing as much writing on that. Instead of interacting with blue or something, and if that’s what they know, check it out. Don’t interact with the person and what you think it is.

Way back when I was talking about my husband being right when I asked him to be in the forum and I would think he doesn’t want to be in the forum, he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t talk when he comes home, and he’s not listening to me when I get home and went about my day, I was able to stop and be in that moment when I said to him, “What’s going on here?” Instead of talking from my interpretation and him talking from his interpretation, check with the person what it is they are thinking and share what it is you’re thinking. You’re in the moment there, not in the head. It’s what’s going on right then and there.

Thank you. You mentioned something earlier with communication as far as being a keen listener and going beyond what someone is saying and hearing what they’re not saying. What does that look like? How would one perfect that skill?

First of all, stop and be aware that you’re asking for judgment and ask. One of the things we can be aware of is this. I’ve told people, and this I realized years back, very often, when we’re making a judgment about a person, it’s something in ourselves that we don’t like. It’s the same thing when we see positive. I remember years ago walking into a room with the National Association of Sales Professionals. There was the speaker. There was something I said to her. I don’t know what I said. We didn’t know each other. She said to me, “You light up the room when you walk in.” I said, “Huh?” I said, “What you’re seeing is my reflection of you. You were lighting up the room.”

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental Shift
Mental Shift: When we’re making a judgment about a person, it’s something in ourselves that we don’t like.

 

Not long ago, I had a man come out. He did an amazing job. He discovered things on my garage door opener. He was caring from the start. I asked him about his job. He said he’d been doing it for eight years. He commented that in the entire 8 years, he had only 2 people who were nasty to him. What I said was, “It’s like looking in the mirror. You’re reflecting on yourself. You come in positive and cheerful so they’re reflecting you. They’re not giving you a hard time and being nice to you.”

I can resonate with that. In the core of people, we want to connect. We want to be positive. When someone opens the door for that level of energy, people want to match that. It is easier to connect with someone positive and uplifting than it is to connect with someone who is the opposite, which is very negative, bitter, and draining. We do resonate with that positivity and that light of that person.

I agree. It’s possible, although difficult, especially in this political climate, and I have a hard time with it, looking to find something in that person. What’s the person being negative about? Where is the positive? If there’s something that you see, it is asking, “I notice something. Can I make a suggestion or ask?” Always ask permission, and always speak from I, not you.

You didn’t leave the cabinet doors open or anything else but somebody says, “You’ve always left the cabinet door open.” Instead of saying, “You’re always leaving the cabinet door open,” say, “I get upset when I walk in the room and the cabinet doors are open. Would you mind closing them?” or something like that. It’s coming from I because the person here is you and automatically gets on the defensive.

That is correct. It is difficult for someone to argue against your I statement because that is personal. No one is in your skin living your life and your perspective. It becomes less of an argument where you’re honestly sharing how you feel and how someone else’s behavior or actions cause you to feel this way. You’re bringing that to them. There’s a lot of vulnerability to being able to share how someone’s behavior is making you feel because they can choose to reject that or accept that. It does create the conversation.

It’s important not to take personally the fact that they reject it and make it mean anything about you or them. There’s something else going on. One could have a conversation and continue that and say, “With what I hear you say, I begin to think that something or other, is that so?” or, “What’s going on when you say that?”

Thank you. I want to go back to something in the intro of your LinkedIn bio. You mentioned a turning point and feeling stuck. What does that look like for people that you engage with? What is a turning point, and how are they feeling stuck?

Can I go back one more minute and then I’ll get to that? I wanted to say what happens to people when they discover something or see things in classes. I got an email from her once after that they were best friends, something that never would’ve happened.

Who are best friends?

The husband only paid attention to his antique cars.

That’s great.

One of the exercises in the first Through and from the Lens class I did is I’ll have a week of, “Pick a color,” and you can try it yourself. Close your eyes. Do you see a color?

Okay.

What color did you see? What color came up for you?

Yellow gold.

I would say, “Take five pictures today, or take five pictures of yellow.” As a matter of fact, somebody said she was in the theater. She had pink. There were pink lights. She was afraid to take a picture. I said, “I don’t think they’d be upset.” Other people saw pink for her too. You can involve people with that.

What is the purpose of doing that and why?

It’s a matter of simply learning focus and seeing what shows up when we pick and focus. I don’t know if you bought a car and never noticed that car. Once you buy it, that’s only those cars on the road. It’s like that. It’s also, in this particular case, to become aware of what we don’t see.

I gave two different things from this last class. It was a while ago. After the class, I was talking to somebody. She pointed out that one of the women had said she had chosen blue and she couldn’t find any blue. This woman said she happened to be sitting in a blue background and the whole thing. This woman cited that situation and she said she couldn’t understand how she couldn’t see blue. She didn’t say anything. The woman that I was having the after conversation with realized how quick she is to judge other people. Taking and seeing what happens in a group’s behaviors or other people’s behaviors opens you up to seeing things in different ways.

In that same group, somebody else chose the color gray. She went out looking for gray stone and whatever. She finally found some gray and took five pictures of gray. She came back in the house and she had a gray mantle and a couple of other gray things that she never noticed. That’s a way of becoming president. That was back. What was the question? I thought I’d remember. I should have written it down.

Getting Unstuck

In your bio, you mentioned that you work with people who are at a turning point in life and feeling stuck. I wanted you to elaborate on what type of turning points you found people in or what places they’re being stuck in.

It’s like, “I can be stuck. I don’t know where to go or what to do next,” or, “Nobody likes me,” or different things like that. It could be somebody that’s very accomplished. They’re not switching careers or something less but as they’ve completed everything, they’re like, “What more is there to do?” They’ve accomplished a lot. It would be then looking at, “Where do we go from here? Is there more to do? How and what could we do about that?” Even taking pictures and noticing things could open up, “Oh.”

There’s not one thing. I can tune in and help a person tune into what’s going on. I’ve discovered even after reviewing actions and what was accomplished that they often forget about it. A lot of what happens comes out for me and then others in the free-flow writing. It’s like, “I’m never going to get anywhere,” or, “I’ve done everything there is to do.”

I’m sure you’ve heard yourself say the same thing. It rattles around in your mind at times. You take that statement. I encourage people to turn on a timer and write for five minutes. It can be like, “Purple’s my favorite color even,” or whatever you say. It’s like, “Purple’s my favorite color,” and then time, “What am I going to write about purple?” If there’s still more time to write, it can be, “He always hollers at me. He always leaves the kitchen doors open. He always leaves the cabinet door open.” You never know what comes out.” In that, there can be shifts and then move on to new directions.

Do you call this free-flow writing?

Yeah. It’s time for free-flow writing. Time it for five minutes and then go. One of the things I usually have in my writing is not structured. It’s Haiku for Healing. Are you familiar with haiku?

Go ahead and explain to make sure that the audience does. That’s more important.

Haiku has 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 syllables. Often, if I’m upset or even sitting at a big little league game, I can write, “I am sitting here and it’s very noisy.” That was seven. What would be five? It’s playing with that. In doing that, there’s also mind-shifting. You’re getting out of the stuckness and moving into whatever.

There’s my middle of the night haiku where at 5:00 in the morning, I always think about the whole thing with my husband after he died and everything. I couldn’t sleep. Things were going on. I said, “I’ll write haiku.” I started haiku in the middle of the night. It’s shifting or finding things that can shift. You were talking about being stuck. If one hears oneself repeating the same thing all the time, like, “I don’t know what to do next,” or who knows what else but the same broken record, how do we move on?

Thank you. You mentioned about Sam’s passing and not being able to sleep. I would like to honor that part of your life and for you to share what led up to Sam’s passing and how he passed, however you would like to share that piece.

Sam had Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed twelve years before he died. He was diagnosed with it, and talk about celebration, on the weekend of his 65th birthday when we had a surprise party for him. He had tests the week before. We went to the doctor that Saturday morning and was told he had Parkinson’s disease.

He was fortunate, we both were, that it never really took hold of him. He had been a stutterer as a child. He had trouble speaking and getting things out. He would get stuck on that so it became difficult for him at times to communicate except when he might get angry. We were in the bathroom one morning. He was at one sink and I was at the other end. I said, “Eff it.” Suddenly, I heard clear and simple, and he didn’t even have to think about it, “I don’t like that channel. How do we switch that channel or station?”

When I read the general memorial service for him, I mentioned that my parents gave birth to me or my mother gave birth to me and Sam birthed me into who I was for the rest of my life. He was a pillar of support and everything else.

I often hear widows or widowers say that they contribute their current development to their late spouse. I can relate to that. I met my late husband at the age of eighteen. I was 51 when Mark took his last breath in this world. Who I am had a great deal to do with me living my life with him, learning from him, and learning from the perspective from which he saw life, which was very different from my own. Those experiences are very much shaping who the people we are. You mentioned Sam having Parkinson’s. What do you recall about his last days in this world or his transition?

The thing is that it was very unexpected. Somebody once said that a lot of people with Parkinson’s freeze. He never froze. The only time he fell was when taking some blood pressure medication or something. This person said, “His brain would freeze. The stuttering would come from that.” You could see he knew what he wanted to say but couldn’t say it.

We walked the day before he went to the hospital. He had, it turned out, an unexpected blood infection. He might have swallowed something wrong. Swallowing is big. He died two weeks after he went to the hospital. When they came from the ambulance, they had to climb on the bed to get him out. He needed help. It was coming to the point where he might start needing a lot of help. I say or I’ve said at times that I felt he chose to leave so he wouldn’t be a burden to me.

That was something never communicated. He never said those words to you.

He started asking me whether I had lists of names and other things. Mind you, it wasn’t leading up to him being fatally ill. This happened. He might have sensed something. He did go into a coma for a week or less. They wanted to put him in the hospice in the hospital, and he had to come off the ventilator.

While they were waiting, I climbed into bed with him. I was with him, caressing him when he passed. I whispered in his ear that it was okay to leave. I’m not into poetry but I felt I wanted to read poetry or something. My brother was an English major. He sent me E. E. Cummings. I said to Sam as he was dying one of E E. Cummings’ things, “My heart is yours.”

I remember, and I don’t know whether he was 6 or 8 years old, my youngest grandson when we were having Shiva, as Jewish people, at home. They were in the hospital but they weren’t upstairs when he died. Their mother kept him down, my son and my other daughter-in-law. Jack went around telling people, “Poppy’s right here,” and tapping his heart. That’s amongst the final memories of that.

Thank you. Since Sam has left this world, how do you at that point keep yourself from being stuck in that grief and continue to live your life? What did you use or process in that?

I’ll tell you one thing. It took a year. One of the ways in which I am creative is in writing. I set up a memorial page for him on my website. You can go to SheilaFinkelstein.com/Sam.html. I shared different things that people said and whatever was in the eulogy. I spoke there. My son said, “How can you even speak without crying?” I have a cousin who said I didn’t cry or I needed to be crying more.

You’re saying you spoke at your husband’s service. Is that what you’re referring to?

Yes.

Thank you.

I spoke for a long time. That’s up on the website. It was my way of honoring him. He’s a photographer. In the Army but as a teenager, he carried a camera out to California. When he was in the Army, he was stationed in Heidelberg in the hospital. There was somebody there who became close to who had a photo lab. He sent photos from Philadelphia and developed his skills. When he got out of the Army, some people said he should go into photography but he wasn’t interested in wedding photography and that kind of thing.

This was when I was working with somebody on LinkedIn or doing a LinkedIn profile that I realized and never thought about. The camera has been the core from almost the beginning. It was an integral part of us. He always took pictures. He took forever to take a picture. I do them fast. My first paycheck when I got out of school and was teaching went to a Pentax camera. We took pictures. It was automatic. I never realized that the camera was the thread of my life not from a little kid but from twenty years old and on. There was an integral form of expression.

Thank you. That was the note that I wrote that I was going to ask you. You leaned into that as far as that being an underpin. You mentioned that during Sam’s service, you spoke and did not elicit tears and there were comments made about that. Oftentimes, widows or widowers will say to me, “Why would someone say that about my grief?” Have you had experiences where people make statements such as this and you respond to them? How did you deal with people making statements sometimes about your grief showing up differently than what they thought it should be?

Nobody made statements. It happened to be a cousin I was very close to. We were talking or commenting. There was no conversation. Nobody discussed it. The big thing was being creative. I was doing the web pages, sharing him, sharing his photos, and other things like that. That helped me deal with the grief. Shortly before he died, cousins of his came over and they brought these Castera roses. The way it died is a little bit different. I have it on a pillow. I took that pillow with me for a couple of months and put it under my seatbelt next to my heart. I slept with it.

When it would’ve been our 50th anniversary, this cousin that happened to mention my tears, we went on a cruise together. She joined me when we would’ve been celebrating. I took the pillow with me. The kids stayed somewhere in the hotel but the pillow went with me. I don’t know if the pillow went with me for a year but that was a comfort for me. It was my art and the rose. There was something in the memory of it. That was another way.

The local and big Comic Garden was starting a pilot program that I was in with writing. It was a twelve-step thing. You’re stopping over twelve different sessions. I participated in that. I photographed and wrote. Nothing was saying, “I’m going to do this to stop grieving,” but there were these creative things going on that helped.

It was interesting, I should go back and see if my rating changed in my emails. I hate to say anniversary but on his anniversary of death, in the first year, I was able to do another page of Sam’s humor and fun. It was a different story to the fun and the pictures with that. I was able to celebrate. I don’t know how many albums we have in the years he would do it because he also kept stories. He did black-and-white photography. He developed it all.

Also, when I was teaching, I kept taking pictures. My pictures were on photos of a school art magazine and the pictures of student work. He was printing them. Finally, he said to me one day, “This is not a movie camera.” In our 1st apartment or 2nd apartment, the kitchen was the dark room, and then it was the basement. At home, we had the black shades. It was camera and photography. That was all from him. It has become an integral part of our lives.

It’s interesting you mentioned that. My late husband, Mark, was a photographer in the Military. Photography was much his thing to do. He knew how to develop the film and the process of all of that. Early on when we were dating, he would take a lot of pictures and then develop those photos. There is an art to that in itself in that process.

We had always planned in the basement of the house we had in Pennsylvania. There was a nook that seemed to be a good cutout to make a dark room in. We often talked about it. We didn’t get to do it but I wish that was something we would’ve done for him to enjoy. I want to shift a little bit. I know that photography and artwork are very much a part of your life. You have several pieces. Would you mind sharing those pieces’ stories and things like that with us?

The Art Of Living

I have a story for everything. I’d be glad to.

Please do.

I had gotten a banana plant that I thought was a banana tree. I went out back, and then I was surprised by its growth. I started taking pictures. We have a wall in the backyard. This was many years ago. I’d look up and see the lights and the shadows. I was taking pictures of that. I found when I came into the house and I watched them as a slideshow, I got relaxed.

In that relaxation, I ultimately put together a Banana Sky DVD. This was creative. I did that for caregivers and people who would need a form of relaxation and a place for ten minutes on a DVD. I found out you can do a DVD player on a computer. Most computers don’t have DVD players but you can get an attachment and play that. It goes on my television.

I used to give it as a get-well gift. He said he could see things changing. I’m saying, “How can you see with your eyes closed?” He saw it the first time, and then he continued playing and listening. It was ultimately what happened. That’s one thing I discovered, the slideshows and the powerful relaxation. I found out when Sam was still alive or not when I had it made into a DVD by a company. In the same way they do books on demand, they could do it on Sky DVD on demand.

I’m very blessed with this wetlands boardwalk. The National Orchids Association had their national office twenty minutes from me. They moved to South Florida. They used to go there. They had a show. One of my banana pods in the opening got a first-place award. This is a photo drawing. Let’s back up to photo drawing. When I finally began to own myself as a photographer of my talents, I was working part-time in Laurence Harbor in New Jersey. We used to walk on the beach, look across us, and see Staten Island.

They started having trucks coming through. We had taken pictures of them. I started working. I went and started documenting it, the life, death, and the whole thing. It was when you could get them very cheap. You could get 3×5 prints and double set prints and use that. I was coaching in a Landmark program, and because I was bored, I happened to have gotten a colored printer. I had put one in and enlarged it. I started doodling and drawing textures on the photo. I called that photo drawing.

When I taught art, the kids called me Mrs. Texture. I only found that out afterward. A couple of kids came over, fifth graders, after the school year ended and got a Carvel cake. I was like, “Thank you. Feel the texture.” At one point, and it was up in Stokes State Forest, fifth graders and teachers went up. They were over two nights up in the mountains. They were playing pantomime for different teachers or people.

One girl got up and she started caressing the fireplace and then putting things in a bag. Everybody started yelling, “Mrs. Finkelstein.” I ran out and she came after me. She thought I was upset. I said, “No. I was laughing so hard. I was afraid I’d wet my pants. I didn’t want to be in there.” The fact that they took an art concept and all the kids knew who it was, and they weren’t putting up glasses, I thought was very impressive.

With that texture, I got my Master’s degree in the same eye-catchers with a camera. I was also walking along the beach and picking up eye-catchers, wood, shells, and everything else. I have an art gallery called Nature’s Treasures Interpreted. I got my Master’s degree with that. For an assignment I gave kids, I used to bring a coconut or something in and put it on the table. I’d be like, “Create a creature or something from it.”

When I was holding the objects, I would draw the picture and then watercolor them to draw an outline. They were fantasy landscapes. I had a show in the library. I invited people to write or pick up things. I had objects. Somebody interviewed me and asked if I would like to live in that place. I said, “No, because if I’m this size and that coral is this size, it would be very rough.” If you go to the Nature’s Treasures Interpreted site or the fantasy landscapes in my art gallery, you can see all that.

That was that. That was before I started taking straight photos and doing photo drawing. The Fantasy Landscapes came first. The photo drawings went texture. In taking the photos, they got enlarged so there was more space. This is the accident alarm. I started drawing on the lines and the textures that caught my attention.

When I was teaching art, I was very anti-coloring books because coloring books for kids were adult images. It was having the kids fill in the colors on adult images. I came up with creating your coloring books and suggesting you could do pictures the same way I did the thing. You print them out and then draw on them. Since it was a smaller photo expanded, it had a watercolor feeling. The background got a little bit muted. That’s the photo drawings. That was in Costa Rica. I have heart-shaped leaves that are in the wetlands. I do a lot of sunset walking. That’s in the wetlands. I’m walking in sunsets all the time. I have the Castera rose.

That’s what’s on the pillow.

I’m twenty minutes from the beach but I don’t go there much. At this point, I go there once a year. Usually, on New Year’s Day, I like to get up early in the morning and welcome the new year with sunrise. I’ve got another funny story about that if you want.

Please do.

In 2024, I didn’t wind up going last year. The last time I went, the sun didn’t come up visible until quite a while later. It was not the right 7:00 or whenever it would’ve risen. I also like to walk into two different wetlands, Wakodahatchee and Green Cay. I went from the beach to the Wakodahatchee and a little girl was there holding what looked like autumn leaves or colored leaves. I started asking, “Where did you get those?” I moved to Florida in December. I didn’t miss New Jersey until I came to Autumn. I felt like I was missing autumn because we have colors, trees, and all that.

We were talking and I said something about sunrise and missing it and coming from the ocean. I hear, “Are you a mermaid?” I was like, “Am I a mermaid?” She said, “Yeah. You said you came out of the ocean.” I asked her mother if I could record her. I have a video of this. I photographed her hand. This is one of the things I teach people. You can create a video out of the picture and talk.

I photographed her hands because I knew I was going to use it. She was able to almost perfectly recreate the conversation. At the very end, she said something about, “Are you something?” It turned out that what she said was, “I want to see your merdad.” You were talking about connecting before. There are three things that keep us young, reverse aging. It’s connecting, which is making social connections, etc., curiosity, which is the pinpoint of my life and the underpinning of that, and creativity, using your imagination. There is a prime example.

There are three things that keep us young. It’s connecting, curiosity, and creativity. Share on X

Thank you. Those are a couple of points I was going to mention that you have in your bio. I would like to ask. What is the motivation or the story that led you to coaching?

It started when I was in Landmark education and I got out of the forum. I immediately went into a leadership program. I never really sold the thing but I had a self-expression leadership advance program. That was coaching people or helping people get to community things and things like that. One of my coaching is teaching. It’s always about people feeling good about themselves.

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental Shift
Mental Shift: Coaching is teaching. It’s always about people feeling good about themselves.

 

Even when I taught, I remember one of the teachings, which is, “I’m not creative.” That was a mission, to eliminate that conversation. It’s in how you do it. It’s the teaching. It’s an integral part. I see things. I hear things. I want to help people. I’m moved to do that. If I see something that seems like coaching, we’ll ask, “Are you open to coaching,” or, “I heard something. Would you be interested in hearing it?” etc.

Thank you. I know that your LinkedIn bio mentions working with women over the age of 50. Is that strictly the group that you work with?

It varies. When you’re being trained in all that in coaching or a business thing, you’ve got to define your market. I do that as a defining market. Technology For Seniors Made Easy is one. Everybody needs that. You’d think of a Boomers’ age and up but there are a lot of younger people too that need it. I’m not passionate about working with seniors because for the most part, their kids think it’s a good idea but they’re not interested. Anybody interested, that’s a whole other story. If they’re interested but I don’t find that as a population that’s necessarily interested, that would be more Boomers or whatever.

I call myself one of the labels of a tech-savvy senior. I can’t fix your computer but it’s a curiosity. If there’s a question, I like to find the answer. I read that a friend of mine was in the park on Zoom watching her son in the playground as she was working with a client. She was on Zoom. I couldn’t even wait until she got finished. I’m looking up and I finally found it. I started writing about it. In 2013, my blog post was on their blog amongst all these big journals and everything else because of curiosity. I’m looking for answers. What was your question again that I wandered off on?

The question started with what was your passion that drove you to coaching? You did lean into that. You spoke about how your background was in education and helping people. That seemed to be a segue into the coaching environment. You also mentioned that people that want to learn seemed to be a better fit for you than their children encouraging them to come and connect with you.

I worked with a 94-year-old woman for a year. She was independent living in therapy. Her kids found me. They wanted her to learn how to use the computer there. The public computer would be too much to handle but she had a mission. She had two Master’s degrees and taught journalism in college. She’d say to me, “I have two Master’s. Why am I losing my memory?” She was committed to staying connected.

They wanted a computer. I said, “No.” She had an iPhone. I said, “Let’s get her an iPad.” When the kids wanted her on Facebook, that was a little bit too much. The family was very liberal and political. I’d come in sometimes and she’d say, “What did Trump tweet today?” and then it was, “What’s Twitter?”People there who weren’t interested in any of that. It was a way for no experience.

I learned something very interesting about body posture and presenting ourselves. We were working for several months. She said, “When I first saw you, I thought, “How is this little woman going to help me?” I would never classify myself as little. It’s always short but never that small. What it was when I came into this big empty room looking for them in the hall, I was slumped over or didn’t look confident. That was the thing in realizing the importance of posture and presentation.

My mom is short in stature but has always been a proponent of making sure that we have our shoulders back and walking straight. It does create a sense of presence when you are in a room. I am a retired Army officer. I’m often in spaces where there is very little women representation in interacting with other men.

I remember one installation I was working on. During breaks, I would take a walk. Someone came up to me and was like, “What is your name? You’re really important. I want to know who you are.” It was by the way carrying myself. I never spoke to them. Those things do matter. The things that we do not say speak very loudly in situations we are in. Body language is very important. Thank you for having this conversation and making yourself available. When we thought about having this discussion, were there some things that you wanted to make sure we covered that we may haven’t touched on?

You had said that all your readers are widows. It’s mainly not people that are making suggestions or things that I missed, that I’m sorry about regrets, that I did a thing for caregivers, etc. The thing is to be present and find the things that can help you. For instance, I told you Sam wrote letters. I wish there were more of those. They can save their text messages, and I can tell you how to do that. I put together his writing in 68 pages and went through it. I went through it on the day that would have been our anniversary. I spent time going through it.

What I ended up doing is I went through our wedding album. I took photos from the pages of the wedding album, recorded them, and put them into a video. I was able to share with family and friends the connection. Even though they weren’t around, it was able to connect. It was using video and audio and being able to communicate in that way.

The loved one may be gone but there are stories there that can be shared. I strongly encourage people, and most people have smartphones, that if you hear something or have a memory, record it or voice record it. You can keep it or not but make sure you do the thing. There are free apps along with two simple apps on the phone, Android or iPhone. From one photo, ]you can talk and create a video. It can also be a series of photos. If you have a memory, you might find photos that fit and get creative in that way. It can simply be audio. Tell the story and keep it.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental Shift

 

When you mentioned letters and technology, I wanted to share the container with the letters that my late husband and I wrote to each other. When we started dating, we met in the Military. We were both on active duty in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. I then took orders to go to Korea and was there for eighteen months. We wrote tons of letters that were in the container.

You mentioned recording. We had this little gadget. There were two where I would send him recordings and he would send them to me. We would mail them to each other over the time I was there. We have our card. This was so critical for me to find. I realized I had not looked in there for quite a while. You have inspired me to go back, go through these letters, and read them. We don’t realize how important some of the items that we keep in our relationship will be over the years. This is priceless. I purchased it in Korea. It may cost $5 but what is inside of this, there is no price tag to be placed on it at all.

I suggest that when you’re editing this video, you take that whole little thing, clip that out, and start a video with pieces, or that can be the introduction, of some of the things that you’re reading or some of the things that you found.

I will save that for mine. This conversation is to highlight you and your journey. I will use that for something else. I don’t want to take away from the representation of your story in this particular show.

I didn’t mean that. I meant to clip that out for you to use. That’s what I meant. Clip that out and use that.

Thank you for that idea. Is there anything else that you wanted to cover that we may not have touched upon in this conversation?

Simply know that there’s a way and choice. If you’re stuck and you want to move, you can write, “Do I want to stay this way instead of time?” or, “Do I want to stay this way or what do I want?”

Whenever you’re stuck, simply know that there’s a way and choice. Share on X

Thank you.

It can be, “What’s a way I can celebrate our life together? What’s a way I can celebrate him? How would he celebrate me? What would he want?” There are all kinds of different prompts that you can give yourself.

I’ve asked you several questions. I want to open the opportunity if you have any questions for me before we wrap up.

I didn’t go back and review your history.

That’s okay.

What would you like people to take away from this session?

I would want them to be inspired that no matter where you find yourself in life, there is an opportunity to treasure what life has presented to you in where you are. There is still an opportunity to find something intriguing in the moment that you are in life.

Did anything new come up for you?

You and I have spoken in different spaces together but to be able to hear the story about you and Sam early on and your courtship and to learn a little bit more about you and your children. I’ve seen your artwork in different conversations so to be able to hear the origin story of that was insightful. There is an opportunity to improve honoring people as we age into the stories that they have and the history and the life that they bring and to cherish that.

I am glad to have this opportunity because my mom is 80 years old. When our dad passed, everyone was concerned about where that would leave her in life. I often hear that when people have been together a long time, they are concerned about the remaining spouse. You and my mom have learned to create your own life. The purpose of what I am doing with Widowhood is to let people know that there is an opportunity to have a life that they enjoy. It is about the narrative that we tell ourselves and that perspective.

This conversation is to be able to tell someone that no matter how old they are in their journey, there is an opportunity to create a life that they enjoy. When they go back and read this conversation and hear the excitement in your voice as you talk about different things that you do and are inspiring and encouraging, people will be able to lead with some motivation. They will determine what their process will look like and how they will create their own life. Being able to continue to live and write their story and their life journey is important.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental Shift

 

It might help to know since we’re talking about inspiration that I am four years older than your mother. I turned 84 in December 2023. I’m in my 85th year.

Thank you for this conversation. What I would like to do is give you the closing comments to speak to the people who are reading. We’ll wrap it up from there.

If you think you have stories and you’ve got family members, kids, or grandkids who might be interested in really knowing more, then ask them. I have, with the approval of my grandkids, a family videos channel on YouTube. There are two things so people can know. You can create videos on YouTube. There are other places that are private or that only people can do it who have the link.

 

 

My kids are in their late 50s and 60s. They weren’t interested at all. My grandchildren, who are in their 30s and 20s, were interested. I have one grandson who wanted to use the video interviewing person. He wanted to ask me about his grandfather to find himself and see where he could find and relate to his grandfather. The others were spontaneous. I’m saying, “Get the spontaneous.”

On Thanksgiving, one of my grandsons hopped on his father’s back and he started telling a story about chocolate chip cookies. Evidently, that was a story his father told him. The bottom line to this is if you have stories or think about them, ask your children or grandchildren whether there is anything they would like to know or if they’d be interested in being interviewed or they’re interviewing you. See what comes up and take the air.

Continue staying connected. Remember. Staying young and staying vibrant is the human connection, curiosity, and creativity. Also, if you’re feeling upset sometimes, walk in the neighborhood. Nature is the best place. If you don’t have nature near you, walk. Give a smile. Get a smile. It’s amazing. You can get yourself uplifted in that way. It is not necessarily even having a conversation but walking, nodding, and acknowledging other people.

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental Shift
Mental Shift: Remember, staying young and staying vibrant is all about human connection, curiosity, and creativity.

 

Thank you so much for your time, and thank you for this conversation.

Thank you. I am honored that you chose to interview me. I appreciate all your questions and the memories you brought up. I honor you and everything you’re doing.

Thank you. Welcome to the widowhood.

 

Important Links

 

About Sheila Finkelstein

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | Sheila Finkelstein | Mental ShiftA large part of my handling grief (and anger) was through various creative methods. There was, and is, spontaneous free flow writing, to niggling thoughts as they badgered/badger my brain. And, then there is using my camera (now solely on my phone) and creating videos of past memories… with photos and adding audio to create the videos. Uploading them as Unlisted on YouTube. It’s an easy way of sharing and connecting. An example is the 1 1/2 minute Wedding Album video I created on the evening we would have been celebrating our 62nd wedding anniversary – https://youtu.be/7VVPjEMs1iY Sharing it was a way of celebrating, emailing and texting it to family members and friends – Connecting

You can find several different examples of how I used/use writing on my Writing for Healing site – https://WritingforHealing.com. One of the “methods” that helps in handing grief is going back and acknowledging things we are/were grateful. See “Gratitude for the gifts of and from Sam” – https://writingforhealing.com/thanksgiving-and-always-gratitude-for-the-gifts-offrom-sam/

Moving on, the underpinning of my work now, is recognizing, sharing and working with those interested, the 3 Elements experts point out keep us young and even reverse aging. They are Connection/Communication – Curiosity – Creativity/Imagination.

Very shortly after Sam died, I created a page on my website, https://SheilaFinkelstein.com/sam.html, remembering and honoring him. Although I would not expect, or suggest, others in your market, it is an example of how I was able to use my creative abilities. On the “anniversary” of his death, I was able to move on to celebrating the “fun” he was about and did a second page. Follow the MORE SMILES link near the top of the page.

Six years after his death, I set up Love With No Regrets – https://lovewithnoregrets.com/about.

That’s pretty much it, for now. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

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