Being a widow coach isn’t just a career for Maya Tyler. It’s deeply rooted in her own painful experience – an experience that she weaponized to help other widows navigate this tumultuous transition. Widowed at 27, Maya had her own share of what young widows typically experience, with all the judgment and prejudice attached to it. The fact that she is a woman of color only served to intensify it all. Join in as she shares on the podcast how she overcame the external and, more importantly, the internal obstacles to healing and how she uses those lessons she learned to help others through her life’s work, Widows Do Bounce Back. Tune in!
Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.
I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide
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Why Widows Do Bounce Back With Your Favorite Widow Coach, Maya Tyler
Our conversation is with Ms. Maya Tyler. She is the CEO and Founder of Widow’s Do Bounce Back LLC. I am so glad that I connected with her on LinkedIn and was able to bring her to the show. This conversation is so dynamic. She has a lot to share buckle up and let’s get into this discussion.
Our guest is Ms. Maya Tyler. Welcome, Maya.
Thank you so much for having me.
She says that like I didn’t stalk her on LinkedIn to get her into this conversation. As you know, I am always looking for someone to come to this conversation and make it value-added. Sometimes, people talk from different perspectives, but Maya can talk with us from a lot of different angles. Let’s get into this conversation right now. Maya, where are you at this moment?
I’m at home in my office in Maryland.
What do you do in your home office?
This is where I coach with my coaching program for widowed women. This is where I coach for book coaching because I also have a company that coaches people who are producing and publishing new books. Now and then, entertain my daughter who thinks this is her office.
What led you into coaching widows?
Someone once said to me therapy and healing come from giving the thing that you didn’t have, from helping people with something that, once you got it, was an epiphany for you, but it was something that you went without for a while. You know exactly where they are and you can meet people right at their needs and provide a solution that is the aha moment for them. For me, having an IT background, the aha moment is something I’m always chasing. Coaching seemed to be a shoo-in for it.
You said the idea of providing something you didn’t have. How does that relate to you personally?
I am widowed. I was widowed at the age of 27 and my husband passed away doing routine daddy things. We were at a picnic on Easter Sunday, and he was running back in a relay race and tripped and fell and was gone. That devastated my life. It turned it completely upside down because, at the time, we had two children together. I was 27, our children were 6 and 18 months. That completely made my life a different story.
What I was looking for was when people were normally widowed and referred to places for help, I was referred to places that did not provide a lot of the needs that I specifically had as a younger mom, as a mom of color, and as a mom in general. I’ve asked a million people this question, not literally, but lots of people this question. They don’t think of a woman of color. What do you think of when you think of a widow? You don’t think of a woman of color, under the age of 60, or a mom. You think of somebody opposite of those circles and needs.When you think of a widow, you don't think of a woman of color or a woman under the age of 60. Click To Tweet
That is what I found when I was in those circles and that’s not what I needed. I needed help with grieving children. I needed help with financial stability and figuring out adulting and who I am at this stage in life as a woman. There were things that I did not have, but I figured it out eventually and decided, “I thought there needed to be a blueprint. I’m sure somebody else does.” In creating the blueprint, in writing the book that I wrote back in 2015, the demand seemed to grow for, “We need this one-on-one. I need you in my life. Please come sit next to me and do this with me for me, and together.” That’s what it’s been ever since.
There’s a lot to go back and circle. When you say you figured it out, can you maybe expound on one particular area that you identified you needed and what figuring out looked like?
The easiest subject and the most forefront in my mind was parenting. Parenting grieving children was a completely new area for me because I was already a new mom. My children were babies. I just so happened to have a parent. At that time, my mother was the head of special education in Prince George’s County here in Maryland. What I didn’t understand and didn’t know already, even though she’s been in education forever my whole life, was that schools do provide plans in place for grieving children. There is a 504 plan for children who have special needs. Learning disability doesn’t have to be a physical special need. It could also be a counseling special need.
You can create this plan and most schools around the US do provide this, but you have to ask for it. Creating that microcosm and that support system around my grieving children was something that I had to be introduced to be immersed in. It just so happened that I had access to it. When I spoke to another widowed woman about it, 9 times out of 10, they had no idea this existed. They did not know the access they had, and they needed a bit of help figuring out and navigating how to activate that for their kids. That piece was already in my arsenal to give, help, teach, and coach as soon as I decided to be a coach.
What is one’s path to find out how that exists? How do they obtain that and engage that for themselves?
They can engage with their school counselor. I know here in PG County, you have a pupil personnel worker or a student liaison. It’s a government program, so it goes hand in hand with other government and public schools. Private school may be a bit different, but you can probably still approach the counselor or the principal and just say, “What programs do you have for a grieving kid?” They’re obligated to tell you. The way people are sensitive about their information and student rights, it’s not something that the teacher is going to impress upon you. It’s something that you have to ask for. That being said, other parents didn’t even know it was there to ask for.
All schools are different. They all have different types of plans, but the 504 plan is what it’s called for public schools, for a special education plan is there for most public schools. You can tailor what your child needs. It could be to have a timeout whenever they are overwhelmed, overstimulated, or displaying distress. It could be a visit to the counselor every other day. That counselor could have given communication rights to the counselor if that child is seeing the psychiatrist.
They can share notes with that child’s pediatrician. The guidance counselor could say to the doctor, “Your daughter didn’t eat today.” The doctor could say, “Please give her Ensure because she needs to eat. We know this about her or him.” It provides a holistic 360 view of the child’s life and support in all areas so that they are never alone or struggling in an area that isn’t provided for in some way.
As a society, this counts children, their emotions, and what they go through. Do you feel like you’ve experienced being the champion for your children? You’re managing your grief and determining what that feels like, and then these young little people are trying to become adults and have to be in this world of grief. Do you feel like the world was in a reality of that? How did that go for you trying to champion for them?
It’s a twofold answer. For myself and everyone that I’ve coached, they’ve said the same things. On the one hand, as a grieving person and parent, you’re completely overwhelmed. The idea that this is a thing that you can’t fix for your son and your daughter is overwhelmingly frustrating. It feels hopeless. You feel helpless, and it’s a point of depression for many people. There’s that end of it. On the other end, there is the fact that children are very resilient. They’re multifaceted in the way that they emote. There could be no symptoms of grief at all for a few years. All of a sudden, the grades begin to decline.
They could be immediate. They could act out in different ways. As parents, we don’t want to open the door for unchecked bad behavior. We don’t want to allow things to get out of hand. We don’t know where to draw the line. Some of us will allow too much. Some of us won’t allow anything at all and will become strict. It’s a very strange and fine area to navigate.
A third aspect of it is, do I get this child professional help? Does that mean I’m a failure as a parent if I can’t help my child? Does that mean I don’t know what to do with my child and I’m passing it off on someone else? Am I being lazy? There’s so much parental guilt that comes with the grief where you feel like you should be able to handle this. Even in the communities of people of color, we keep our business in our house. We’re not about to have our child going to go see a shrink because we don’t know how to handle grief. We have religion. What are we going here for? There are so many different ways to not attend to the child’s grief.
The biggest proponent for having your child be evaluated by their pediatrician. That’s another thing that many parents don’t know is available for them, that their pediatrician is bound. If you say, “My child is under duress, please evaluate them for psychiatric referrals that are under my plan. You have to go and make sure that they are offered in my plan.” That doctor will know exactly what you’re talking about. That pediatrician will go, “We’ll pull out a form and without you, or with you in the room, depending on the age of the child, go through this form.” Find out for you and be able to refer you if that child is eligible or does show signs that they need to be referred to see a therapist.
In most cases, they will say, “Go ahead and do the therapy for a grieving child because they want the therapist to also evaluate them.” Usually, it doesn’t have any hefty charges to it. Usually, it comes with medical benefits you have. The biggest question I have is, how old is too young to go to therapy? My child, at that time, was eighteen months old. I did hold on to him until he was at least about two and a half.
Even at two and a half, he was recommended to go ahead and they did play therapy as they do with little kids. He was evaluated. Both of my sons are now very well adjusted, and one still has therapy. I want to emphasize that it is not a point of failure for you. However long or short your child needs this care, it has nothing to do with you. Moms have a hard time with things about their children that exclude them sometimes. There’s that.
Being a mom and a widow, how did you manage your grief, and what did that look like for you as you were struggling to be a champion for your children at the same time? I say that from a place where my children were older. Catherine and Alex were both out of the house. Catherine was there when her dad died. Alexander was in the military.
I know being a mom wanting to take care of your children and always make them feel protected. The person that I was being protected with you is no longer here. I feel like I ghosted my children for the first 3 or 4 months and my only saving grace was they were adults. I talk to younger women, and being a widow, you don’t get to let them do their own thing. That creates some very unique challenges than that 60-year-old age bracket that we think widows them fit into.
I would describe it as a mess in a fishbowl because I was a mess in the beginning. I say in a fishbowl because I felt like everything I did was being watched because it was. By the outside world, my in-laws, the people that I was close to, and even my inner circles, but mostly by my children, were watching me to see, “Is mommy going to break? What is it like? Is that okay? What does being okay with grief daily look like? What am I expected to do based on what mommy does?” My therapist was telling me this at that time, but feeling apprehensive, I can’t just burst into tears in the middle of breakfast and eggs and have them think that’s okay. It was okay.
Being able to show your feelings, especially to young boys, was hard because I didn’t want to make them soft. I have all these new feelings of now I have to make them men on my own without their father. There was a lot of pressure to figure out how to raise men, to figure out who I am in this space, and how to be both who I am as a woman and who I am now as a solo parent. There was a lot that I had to learn, trial and error, and dual personality, that I had to figure out how to consolidate at some point because being two people is hard work.
I hope that answers your question. Once I figured out how I wanted to present my grief to my kids, there was a lot of forgiveness. Once I did figure it out and brought them with me along the way in the aha moments, I felt like the best therapy for us as a family was creating our microcosm, creating our little traditions and our ways of let’s talk about daddy or things that they want to questions of mom that they want to know about daddy. How are we doing sessions, just sitting around and not the cringe type of, “Are you grieving today?” When talking to an 8 and a 5-year-old you have to filter what you’re saying so that they both can understand. There was a lot of balancing act. There’s just too much for one sentence, apparently, for this answer.
I want to circle back to a couple of things that you mentioned. I don’t want to assume that someone understands the concept of being two people. If I understand correctly, that is you trying to parent your children and, in your head, be you and your husband at the same time for every decision that you need to make, and try to do that. That’s how I showed up for me. It may be different for you, so I wanted you to expound upon that. I don’t want to make an assumption about what that looks like.
No, actually. In therapy, I learned that, which I coach on after doing my research and having my own experiences. I will never be him. Trying to be him is an exercise in futility, honestly. Figuring out what it was I wanted from him that I could not have because he wasn’t here, and finding other ways to provide those things to my kids was my answer to that.
For example, I had my father. He was in my life at that time. He passed away in 2020, but at the time that the kids needed him, he was there. I had their godparents, their godfathers. I had cousins. Whenever I had man questions or needed man support for my little boys, I outsourced it. There were no two people in that realm.
The two people I was speaking of were Maya as the woman outside the home because there was a time when, for me, grief and coping looked like, at home, I had to be this grieving mom. I have to deal with grieving children. I have to be mommy every five minutes. No tag team, no breaks. It’s just me. I have to be on top of all of their needs. During my day at home, I had to create a schedule so that it’s bedtime for these children at 8:00. The sun’s still up, mommy. You’re going to bed at 8:00 so that I could end that time and start the other side of me.
After 8:00 PM and during my workday when I was not at home, it was, “Who was Maya? What are my hobbies going to be now? What am I going to do at night? Am I going to better myself? Am I going to figure out what that’s like? What am I reading? What am I feeding my mind and my body?” Creating the 360 panoramic view of who I am and what I want to be. What am I planning? There were two different people. Am I dating? At some point, I began to date. I did not bring that dating Maya into my home.
From my perspective, it was none of my children’s business until I was going to be serious about this person and wanted to bring this person to meet my children. They did not need to be part of my dating experience. That was the dualism between the two different people. There was mommy out and about, not meeting people and not necessarily having to be the widow. There was a bit of escapism there. Coming home to put that widow backpack back on and be like, “This is what we have to do now.”
Eventually, that duality had to be consolidated because either way, both of those worlds are going to begin to leak into each other. I began to get serious about somebody I was dating and had been dating for a few years, so now it was time to meet the kids or the kid’s schedules interact with my outside schedule. Eventually, I had to be okay with and accept the widowism so that I could love myself again enough to be it’s not more fun and better to be the other Maya. It is fun and better to be both. I can be a mommy and find joy here, and I can be what I called free and not have to deal with the widowism and still be okay with myself. Consolidating them was about accepting all parts of me and finding joy in all spaces.
I am so glad I asked that question because I was looking at it from a different perspective, and I’m grateful, like yourself. I have the children’s godfather. I had my brother and other men. A lot of that you spoke about, just the value of having a therapist to walk you through some things when you are in the foggiest place mentally, and trying to navigate something that will be so important. This brings me to the other part of Maya in the Black community and how that shows up. You and I may go, “I know what that means,” but everyone may not know what that means. Would you mind unpacking that a little bit?
Honestly and transparently, I’ve never presented my coaching, my business, or myself as exclusively a person of color. I don’t attract exclusively people of color. I’m not going to bottleneck my niche. However, being a person of color is not something that I can take off.
Let me say this, my late husband was White. My life is multicultural, the essence of who it is. As you said, I am super chocolate. There is not anything amount of my level of acceptance or someone this discloses them from the conversation. One person, a friend of mine, spoke about grief, and she’s from Poland. Her experience from her upbringing as a young child and her leaving Poland to get here is unique to her ethnicity and who she is as a woman and a person. Those conversations, wanting to have that as it relates to, but more or less allowing somebody go, “I never knew that if I didn’t hear that conversation,” those particular people saw it from that way. Maybe that’s why I posed the question.
What I was getting to was the fact that I cannot step out of or discard my Blackness, I will always be and present as and be a person of color. What that does for me and my experience as a widowed person created some spaces and boxes that I had to train my way out of and free some people from in my coaching. The boxes are the stereotypes about Black women and what we deal with as soon as we become widowed. There are two things or more than that. The two things that come to mind are living in the world with your children and no ring on your finger.
You automatically become a single mom and a baby mama. It’s like, “I totally bent over backward and did two cartwheels to make sure that I did everything right when I was married with these children, and now suddenly I get no credit for being married. Now I’m just a single mom.” It shows up not just in the grocery store when you’re pushing your cart and you’ve got these two kids. It shows up in the church when you show up with your children and no man. It shows up in the dating realm when the first thing people ask you is, “Why’d you break up with your husband? Do you have any kids? I know you have kids.” Unless you tell this sob story of what happened to you, you have to accept being in a box of single mama like you did something wrong.
That’s a box that I had to free myself from because it was very stigmatizing for me. I’m not differentiating myself but coloring myself with the right crayons so you can understand a picture of me. I’m a Cosby kid. I’m one of those population of Black people who do not conform to the stereotype that I didn’t realize was so prevalent until I became an adult. I grew up thinking, “Most Black kids’ mom is a principal and their dad works at NASA. Most Black kids grow up in the suburbs and come into a house when the street lights come on.”
That is how I lived. Our dad was a police officer. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. Didn’t everybody come home for lunch to get their food made and go back? Parents started helping us do homework. You do think the world is what you live in. When I left to go to the military, everything didn’t look the same. You learn that.
I had cousins from the other sides of the track, so you would say things to me like, “You talk differently, you live differently, and you’re lucky in things.” I figured that’s just them and that’s not real. Why do we always see that on TV about us, all of the stereotypes? I won’t get too far off the subject, but being a Black person brings with you, if you let it, a lot of stereotypes and a lot of negativity about what you’ve lost that feels like, or almost feels like it belongs to you. That’s different.
I find in my clients who are not of color, I’m not going to say that they’re fundamentally different as people, but their sense of attachment and entitlement to happiness is different from that of a person of color. A person of color would say, “I did everything right. Why was this taken from me?” A person of not color would say, “I’m a good person. Why was this taken from me?”
In Blackness, there seems to be a responsibility for us to not conform to what people already think of us and then have slipped down some hole of misfortune that was expected of us when this happens, as opposed to not being of color where this just happened out of the blue, I didn’t deserve this at all. It’s completely, I’m not going to say unexpected, but you almost feel like it was expected of you to be the single mom no matter how hard you tried. There’s that aspect. I hope it didn’t harp too long on that.As a Black woman, it almost feels like it’s expected of you to be a single mom no matter how hard you try. Click To Tweet
This conversation is part of why I’m doing what I’m doing. Oftentimes, people don’t realize they can talk about it. It doesn’t make you less. I remember when I took off my wedding band and looked at my hand, and that is what I thought. “I’m a single mom. That was not my goal.” The kids are grown, but it’s still, you are forever parenting to some extent, some way or another. I tried hard not to do that.
There’s a sense of shame. You almost want to be like, “I’m a widow. I didn’t sleep with somebody and become a baby mama.” You almost want to check people.
I did some time. This is going to be uncomfortable for them, but they are going to get this work now because there’s more to my story. It’s like a whole life with this person. It’s not Mark, the name that should not be mentioned. He lived, we loved, we had a life. These children are our product of that. I have to honor that. My last name is Fornwald. They already look like, “How did you get that?”
Thank you. That is a legitimate question. One more thing I want to ask about what you said and I hope I said this correctly. You talked about having breakfast with the children and not wanting to cry in front of the boys. How long did it take for that to be okay? You may not even have a time, but there was a point, and do you know what that shift was that allowed it to be okay?
It still doesn’t feel good. It’s been a long year being widowed, and it still doesn’t feel like something I want them to be part of all the time, my tears. When I started to let them show, I believe the shift came when I felt like they were old enough to handle it. I didn’t want it to be something when my youngest was under the age of maybe eight to be able to handle mommy crying. Kids are extremely empathetic and they are extremely responsible like, “I have to fix mommy.” It’s probably because we fix them. This is their way of life and it isn’t an exchange. It’s a way of communication.
I didn’t want to because there was a point when my youngest was about four, and I had exited his room, let him go ahead and go to sleep. He had been crying about, “Where’s Daddy? I want Daddy. I don’t want you, I want Daddy.” Stab Mommy in the heart. I sat on the steps and began to cry. He came out of his room, sat next to me, put his arm around me, and said, “Maya, what’s wrong?” He knows my name.
“I’m fine. Thank you for asking.” That was why I was like, “I don’t think I want him to be my therapist.” He felt like that was his job at 3 or 4. I’m going to keep not keep my feelings under wraps, but try and translate my feelings so that he understands that mommy’s not breaking. Mommy’s okay. There’s a fine line and it takes situational evaluation to decide what’s okay and what’s not. I can’t do a whole coaching class on that right now.
I don’t call my mother by her first name.
It was so funny to me.
That’s like what you say when you’re lost in the store, and it’s the only way because if you say mom, everybody else will hear.
Everybody hears his name is Mom.
I can’t help but see the ring every time you flash. Was that like? I have two questions. Was there guilt in going into dating? How did you permit yourself to do that?
I talked about duality. In the beginning, dating was very difficult. It was an absolute secret, mostly because I felt like it was taboo. I began dating. Would it be considered early? When I first began to date, it was mostly an escape. I’m used to having my best friend go to bed with me every night and at least have conversations with him every night.
I began that type of late-night talking and going out or whatever, just to sit and talk with these people, with guys for it relatively early. I hate to say early because it’s your timeframe. The reason I point that out is because, at that time, as a widowed person, I felt like I didn’t want anybody to know this. They’re going to think I didn’t love my husband. They’re going to think that I’m out here being selling my ankles. That’s not what I’m doing at all.
Not your ankles. You begged me to ask what is too soon. What was the timeline?
It was about six months.
At six months, your head is starting to change and that makes sense.
I realized the permission that I needed wasn’t going to come from the outside. It was going to have to come from inside. I was going to have to allow myself to say, “You are a 27-year-old woman. Nobody had a problem with the choice you made to marry this man. Nobody had problems with the choices you made then because you were an adult. Did you stop being an adult?”
At some point, did you stop having good judgment because you became widowed? Did you stop understanding what a good man was or what you needed from someone else in the outside world? No. Why on earth would you treat yourself like suddenly you’re a child, you don’t know how to make decisions, suddenly you don’t know how to keep your ankles unsold? You know how to do these things. You are a grown woman.
I’m going to have to use that. Keep your ankles sold.
I am not out here selling sexy ankles.
I have permission to reuse that later.
It’s better than the other word I’ve heard, which is funny.
We are going to keep with the ankles. We begin with the ankles.
The other word I heard is funny, too. The other word is widowhoeing.
That is a whole thing. I have talked to so many widows that it was a whole season.
They were grown up and entitled to that season if that’s what they needed for their lives and the judgment, though.
It is unfortunate that society or the outside, as we’re in this fishbowl, will assess a woman differently when she decides to continue living. With a guy, you can bring him over the pie and everybody can make a line and bring him over something to eat. Did you need help cleaning? Why is she doing that, though? When it is a woman who has been used to being with her husband, being happy, and doing all that? You’re right. You have to permit yourself. Mark was dead for two years, and still, people were looking at me. I was like, “We are not having this conversation because I am so 50-plus.”
Finally, I found somebody who was my best friend and somebody compatible and all those things and loved the kids. We had our little secret relationship for about six years before we made it public. It was for that long because I was still being fed the, “Are you sure you’re not just rebounding? Are you sure he’s good for the kids?” All of the doubt from my inner circle.
Our breakout announcement was we were pregnant. It was six years in. We have our daughter and we built a home together. We decided we’re going to do this our way and it is not going to look like what people think, and it’s not going to be acceptable to everyone that you want to please, i.e., the in-laws. It’s not going to be something that is written in the books or in the Bibles and in all the things that everybody wants you to conform to. We are happy. We are years into this relationship, and in 2023, we decided we are in a place where, “Let’s go ahead and do this.” That’s where the ring came from. I’m engaged.
When we spoke before, I needed sunglasses with the ring that’s going on over there. Congratulations.
I am glad that you’re able to share that people can continue to love. I liken it to the idea you have multiple children. You love each one of them. Your love for your one son doesn’t change how you feel about your daughter or your youngest son. Learning to understand that part when it comes to loving your current husband and always having a place for your late husband, but you’re alive. Is that something that you work on coaching people through that concept or that process? Do you find a lot of conversation with that?
Absolutely. It is the biggest conversation. How do I love two people? How do I explain loving two people? How do I explain that this is not a replacement for not just the outsiders looking in but for the person in the relationship with me? How do I explain to him that he is not a replacement and that I can continue to love my late husband without having anything to do with you?
The way that I like it is grandmas, you got two grandmas. If one of them passes away, does that mean that this one is a replacement for that one? No. You have the same amount of love for both grandmas, but that love is different and they both occupy their own spaces in your heart. If you are capable of that, just like you said, you’re capable of loving two different children, and though one of them thinks he is not the favorite.
We’re not going to go there. I’m going to let you keep going with that.
I love them. My boys are the same as I love my daughter and they occupy different spaces in my heart. One can’t replace the other. I had that conversation with my youngest son when his new sister came. “She is not a replacement. You’ll always be my baby, just like your brother will always be my baby or my older son.”
There is so much room and so much capacity in your heart or love. The biggest hurdle for widowed people and people dealing with close loss is wanting to love again and go over the idea that, “Am I going to bring another person into this world knowing they’re going to experience pain and death one day? Am I going to love another person knowing that we are not going to go hand in hand like we say at the altar? I may have to experience widowhood again at some point?”
I’m a healthy person, so I don’t plan on going out first. There’s a hurdle that there is to get over. I shouldn’t say get over is probably to go through where you have to understand that the point of love is not to keep it. That’s not the point. The point of life is not to live it forever. The reason life is so beautiful is because it doesn’t last forever. You have to come to terms with borrowing people. You have to come to terms with love and having a close and closure is not having things the way you want them. It’s being okay with what God says it’s going to be. That’s closure.
I almost want to finish the whole show right there. Keep going. That was good. That was true.
Once you find your place with your closure, then that’s when you can understand, “I can love again. I’m okay with the fact that there’s going to be a close again.” It sucks. That’s okay and true, but I’m not going to limit or cut myself off from the joy that comes from this new love, this new thing, and I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to live because that’s what life is for. It’s a process.
I don’t think it’s something you could talk me into many years ago. I’d have been like, “No, thank you. Please. I would like my husband.” That’s not something I could have been talked into. It is a process. That’s probably why it took me so long to be okay with remarrying, even though we had been dating each other to death. That was fine with me. You go home and I go home. I can’t miss you if you don’t leave.
There’s a lot to be said for that. How did the book come into play in everything that’s going on? What was the catalyst for that?
The first book I wrote was just about my journey. It was about being young, dealing with death up close, and how I had intended to bounce back pretty much. It was called Bounce Back Better: How to WIN After Great Loss. It was my take on that particular topic. That was the first book. Since then, I have been writing anthologies with other widowed people.
I love that you touched on the stereotypes we have about male widows, widowers, and how when they become widowed, it’s a completely different story. They get to do what they want, they get all this catering, and they even get to go remarry three seconds later. It’s no problem with anybody at all. That book is called Widowhood Is for Women: MEN JUST REMARRY.
I finished that anthology and I love the response. I’m just digging into what I’m calling a window into widowhood for people who want to support people in the house, looking out the window. Is anybody else in here with me? Not feeling so alone, taking the stigma and the sting out of being widowed, and extending a community to saying, “You are not alone by any stretch.” Quoting my favorite song, I always say, “Even though we all sail alone in our little boats, we can travel side by side.”
Where are the books located, Maya? How can one obtain the books?
You can find them on Amazon. If they’re not at your Barnes and Noble physically at that time, you can request them and they will be. The other bookstore is Books-A-Million.
How do you take on new clients? What does that look like?
They normally will DM me or they can just go to the links that I have. You can visit my website at WidowsDoBounceBack.com. That’s the name of my LLC, the umbrella that most of my companies fit under. The coaching company does fit under there. The new coaching company is called Finding Next You Coaching Academy. The concept of Next You is what we’re coaching there. We’re not New You, but Next You is who we intend to discover and create alongside you.
I know I’ve asked you a lot of questions. Was there something that you felt like when we were going to have this conversation, you thought it was important that you wanted to make sure we covered or touched upon?
You’re an excellent interviewer. I think I talked about everything.
I’ll give you an opportunity. Any questions you have of me?
What made you want to do this show?
My husband died and I remember being shattered. I remember flying across the country to be in the presence of anyone who had experienced this great loss and understand how you are still breathing. How are you living, functioning, making decisions, or not floating through life? I spent a good amount of time doing that. I opened up my phone. Everybody I knew that was a widow, I was like, “I’m calling them.” I was meeting people for lunch. I was talking to people.
I had a therapist. Individual therapy and group therapy, but I’m a talker. As I talk to people and they telling me and opening up to share their journey, it helped me craft what was my way in this. As time shifted, people started asking me a lot of questions. I’m up there with your children at 8:00 PM. I am done. I’m tapped. I’m out. I’m about to go to sleep. I say that to say my husband now, his cousin died and I saw something on Facebook about the birthday. I said, “How are you doing?” She said, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” I said, “Do you want to talk now?” I don’t think I hit send and she called me. It was 8:30. I was on the phone with her until 1:00 AM.
I did not care because I knew what that felt like from my perspective. I say that because I don’t know exactly how she felt, because I believe that how you feel is based on you as an individual and your marriage in so many details. I will never tell another widow I know how you feel, but I can understand and relate from my perspective. When I got off the phone with her, I heard God asking me, “What am I going to do with that?” That was exactly what I looked like. Go to bed. It’s too late. I don’t even know why we are trying to have this conversation.
My mother has a podcast and God was just pressing upon me, “What are these people going to do when they’re alone? They don’t feel like they have somebody that they can relate to and understand their journey.” I was like, “I could talk.” Flushing out the details. Thank you for that question. This is not just a show. We are a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the mission of supporting, encouraging, and helping people who are dealing with grief.
The show is one element of that, where from there, we also provide social content across 6 different platforms anywhere from 6 days a week. I remember what it was like when you’re looking for someone genuinely to understand what it is I’m going through and relatable. On top of that, we provide free books to people who are grieving. We work with different authors and they’ll send us their books and we will donate them as people have a loved one that has died.
The third realm is different events. We finished having an event called Walk for Love, where we ask people to walk one mile on whatever their favorite social platform to put #WalkForLove and #WRTWT. We’re going to do it every year. What that does is it creates community. When you’re grieving, the idea of leaving your house can be difficult. To think other people are walking, “I can maybe get myself to walk one day and if I walk a second day or a third day, then I may have a habit.”
What we didn’t talk about, when you’re grieving, it impacts your health and your physical body. The ability to regain exercise, get the sun on your skin, and get that Vitamin D. We have people from Singapore posting that they walked during that timeline because, as you said, you are not alone. We have a webinar where four mental health professionals speak about dealing with grief during the holidays. That conversation is expanded to include the death of a loved one, but other different levels of depth. We have mental health professionals in different areas to have a broad conversation.
You say holidays, like right around October or November when you’re in that space, it can be devastating to even think about everybody all happy. You over there, “I don’t even want to be here.” Getting some tools in your toolbox to understand what I can do about being proactive. It was meeting people at their place of need. What I know is unique from my circumstance, all of my friends and family showed up. I didn’t lose a family member. I had more people show up and say, “Not just how can I help you, but you need that. Can you mind if I do that for you?”
I moved from Pennsylvania to Virginia and my girlfriend said, “What can I do?” I realized I was about to get there and it was nothing but boxes. “If y’all could unpack the kitchen, the bedroom, and the bathroom,” they took that thing. The kitchen was organized. My sister had my clothes color-coordinated in a row. She had the ice bucket, chilled the bottle of wine. The bed was made. When I say my community showed up in a way that when I talked to other widowers, they didn’t get that. They got that people didn’t know how to show up.
If I talked about your dead spouse, that made my dead spouse die, I would get the death cooties or I didn’t know how to show up. Instead of sitting with you quietly, I ghost you. When I heard about each of those journeys, a guy challenged me to ask, “What can you do?” I feel like this is what I’ve been called to do, to be able to be alongside people as they go on this journey and what the show does. You know what it’s like when your mind is racing at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.
This whole world has experienced death to such a gravity with COVID. People have been closed off and not able to be comforted as they normally would by community and society. We even use the internet or social media more, looking for a connection. This has done that. When I look at the stories that people write on the post or they’re messaging me, I’m glad to do the fundraising and do the parts to pay for this or pay for that. We have a social meetup and we have a book club. We have a peer support group doing that to help people based off of that. I know that was a long answer.
It was a great answer. We’re happy on earth to have people like you because I can understand and relate with you. This is what I’m called to do. It is not something that if I were told about it, or if this is something I would do before my husband passed, I’ve been like, “I’m not going to talk about death all day.” Since this is my journey, it turns out I wind up talking about living and enjoying life and finding joy way more than I talk about death at all. This journey is still ongoing and has been more of a gift to me than a loss. That says a lot about losing an entire person.
It sounds strange to a person who lost someone to say, “I’m happy now and I’m okay with how everything went.” No, I wouldn’t be like, “Kill them again.” At the same time, I understand and I’m okay. As I said about closure, it’s not about my way. It’s about being like, “Okay, God. This is what you did. This is where I am. Let’s get it.” That acceptance brings so much peace and as you do, sitting and doing and being obedient. This has been laid out for you, the path for you, and the task that God has for you. It feels amazing to wake up every day going, “I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.” It does.
I had a widow who’s been eight months out. She messaged me. I said, “You can call me, but I know it feels like you don’t want to bother somebody.” I had that conversation with her and my husband says, “Do you want me to make something to eat? I know you’re tired.” He knows what it’s like when I pour out to people and be able to do that, then lay in bed and rest, because then I need to decompress what that looks like. I would’ve never, ever imagined this. You would’ve never been able to tell me that this was on the other side of that. I like that life is for living and we are borrowing the people we have.
When Mark died, it did happen to everybody, but I was not ready. The whole idea was, “Do I even want to expose myself to the possibility of another man dying and being a widow again?” I would’ve never considered the man that God would’ve brought to me and who Fred is. I may have missed that and lived a life that I feel would’ve been different than what I’m living now. I am grateful for that.
It is complicated for someone to understand how you can be now. Compared to when somebody is very much either I would say has just become a widow or they may be stuck in that place that they don’t know how to get out of. Finding that voice within themselves permits them to continue determining what life looks like.Find the voice within yourself and give yourself permission to continue determining what life looks like for you. Click To Tweet
There’s something to be said for the aloneness and the detachedness you feel as a widow and as a newly widowed person. Versus when you do find happiness again, people automatically assume, it’s because you’re remarried, or it’s because you found another half, now you can be whole again. No, ma’ams and sirs. Before I could even entertain one and love again, I had to figure out how to be whole by myself. Have another kid and have another love.
I had to be okay in here with me. That’s something that I found before him, before all that. It’s important to enunciate with people and let them know he did not bring me happiness. I’m my happiness. I’m figuring out what I’m supposed to do in this life. I said once, “The best thing that I’ve come across in widowhood is not about anything that I’ve been given. It’s about what I’ve given to myself.” The freedom I’ve given myself with figuring out who I am and what I want to do with it, and creating the life the next me that has been my freedom and my happiness. That’s been my new lease on life. He is nice.
I don’t want to say that it was my immaturity or youth because I did get married when I was 21. I did become someone’s mom and wife and graduated from college all in the same year, 2003. I was doing everything, all the things. I did not have a singular identity. My identity was 2 became 1. I was cool with that. There’s nothing wrong with that. Once you are on your own without your other half, you’re going to have to grow into the space that person left behind. You don’t fill it with something else from outside. You have to grow into that space. That’s what I did. Obviously, that’s what you did. Our work is teaching other people to do so and to be okay with doing so.
Thank you for mentioning that. I have a whole full-time job and do other stuff. I’m not a learned therapist or those other different things, but I can volunteer. I am learning and reading and becoming more educated in that arena, but I feel like this is the space that God has given me. Part of the resources is being able to have conversations with people such as yourself to direct somebody to whom they could go. They wouldn’t get this in an interview conversation with you. It’s short and quick, but they could look and go, “I could connect with her. That’s somebody I feel like that could help me be on this journey.” These conversations help people. Any other questions for me?
You answered my question and I love how you answered it. All of the points that you hit in your answer gave more insight to those who maybe just started tuning into you more about you. I love it.
Thank you. Two questions for you. If you could pick any age range from Maya, what would you pick and what would you tell her? If you want to go talk to 10-year-old Maya, what would you tell her, or 20-year-old Maya? You may say a specific age or maybe a range in your twenties, whatever that looks like. What advice would you give her?
The decades of Maya have struggled with different things, even though there have only been four decades of Maya. I guess the one that would pertain most to this conversation would be the decade between 20 and 30. I would tell her that tomorrow is going to worry about itself. If worrying and beating yourself up helped, you’d be black and blue, which would be helpful, but it doesn’t. I was such a worrier. I worried about everything. That’s something that I’m finally able to find peace from in this fourth decade of Maya is the stress and the heaviness from worrying about all the things from going into marriage so early in my life and becoming a mom and a wife all in one year.Tomorrow is going to worry about itself. Click To Tweet
I was so worried I wasn’t going to be a good mom or to be a good wife. I didn’t know how to be a wife. I didn’t have a job yet. All of the material things, the stuff in life that you’re worried about when you become widowed, and when I became widowed, all that stuff seems so trivial. All that stuff was so unnecessary for me to worry about. I wouldn’t say I would kill for it, but I would like to kidnap a baby seal. To just have those problems instead of the one that I had then. I was worried about his in-laws not liking me. Now I’m worried about who’s going to bury him, me or his in-laws. I was worried about the wrong things.
I wish I had spent more time being in the moments. That would be it. There were times when I was so overwhelmed that I would sit in the car instead of being in the house with my husband. As soon as he got home, I would throw the kids at him. Be like, “Go long, take this one.” The other one’s upstairs doing his homework. I would go outside and sit in the car and decompress. I needed that time. If I could have a time machine, I would get out of that car and go enjoy my husband and my kids because you never know how much time you have. At that time, I would even feel guilty about decompressing, “Go ahead and have your time, but make sure you have your time with the people that are temporary too.” I miss the kids. I miss my babies being babies. They don’t stay babies for long. They’re teenagers and grown now.
What gives you joy?
It is waking up every day, understanding my assignment, and being able to permit myself to do that assignment. I’ve created a business where I get to do my assignments. I’ve created this business, and in doing my assignment, I figured out how to do it in the most Maya way possible, the way that speaks to my core values and makes me proud of myself.
People can tell you things and say, “You have this, you have that. You’re so this, you’re so that. That you should be your joy.” No, those things are great, but you saying it does not impress me. I’m not impressed by someone saying, “You’re so beautiful. You have this beautiful house.” I’m impressed by what I can do. That impresses me about my own life, what I can create, and how I can make myself proud of myself.
Having found the keys and the process to do that for myself every day, I can Maya the mess out of every day. That’s my happiness. Is it selfish? No. It’s self-love. Is it exclusive? No. I can love my kids and my fiance and everybody else, too. There’s a space and a slot for them. The space that there is for me that I created for me, there it is. It’s on my face. That’s my happy place. Being in my office, making things, and Maya and the mess out of the day. That’s my joy right there.
Thank you for your time. I will let you close us out, and we’ll wrap up from there. There may be some advice or anything you want to share. I’ll let you do that.
I would like for all the widows tuning into this to know for a fact that there is not necessarily another side. There is not necessarily a getting over it. This is through. There will always be the grief, the sadness. You are always going to miss them. It has been years and I still have a little file on my desktop that says Jason’s voice. Now and then, I will open it just to hear it. It still breaks my heart because I feel like I almost forgot. It’s been a month, 2 months, 8 months since I’ve heard it. Hearing it again still feels the same.
The difference in the time that has passed is not the time that has passed. The difference is how I’ve decided to deal with it, how I’ve decided to interpret my grief and have my thoughts and sit in my sadness, even the negative talk. How we decide to go forward in our grief, sadness, baggage, and whatever you want to call it, is the way through. Whether it is bad or good, that’s up to you. Whether you are going to heal or make a scar, that’s up to you. I know that sounds cliché and the happiness has been in you all along. Spoiler alert, it has.
Maya was already a part of the widowhood. She became a part of our community. I love how she showed up and the way she was able to speak to my young widows and to be able to relate to the challenges that are unique to you. Some things that we experience in this widowhood journey are unique to individuals. If you are looking for a grief coach, someone to help you during this process, I encourage you to reach out to Maya. She wants to be there to help you.
I am sorry for the person that you have lost and has caused you to be on this journey, but I want you to know that you are not alone. We are doing this together that there are people intentionally here wanting to walk side by side with you and help you get through and go through this experience in this journey. Thank you for being here. If you’re interested in a particular topic, or you may want to be a guest or someone you want to recommend. Please email me at WidowhoodRealTalk@Gmail.com. I’ll talk to you soon.
- Widows Do Bounce Back
- LinkedIn – Maya Tyler
- Bounce Back Better: How to WIN After Great Loss
- Widowhood Is for Women: MEN JUST REMARRY
About Maya Tyler
CEO and founder of Widows Do Bounce Back, LLC, Bestselling Author, and certified Widow Coach, Maya Tyler, was born in Takoma Park, Maryland. She holds a B.S. degree from Virginia State University, received her official life coaching certificate in 2019, and is currently continuing her education in the subject of clinical mental health.
Her mission is to help widowed people like herself learn to “love their lives, even after spousal loss” by creating, financially supporting, and executing a plan to bounce back while solo parenting grieving children.
Maya has been seen and heard on podcasts and radio shows around the country, has presented at nationally acclaimed widowhood advocacy event – Camp Widow, and has been seen on television networks such as FOX, TheCW, and CBS, speaking and spreading her message of hope for widowed women all over the world. She also coaches in her private widow community on Facebook, Finding #NextYou, and her recorded coaching vids can be seen on Instagram on the IG series “Ask the Widow Coach” @thebouncebackWidow.
While Maya works full time as a Cybersecurity Pro #GirlsInTech, she finds time to also be a part time course instructor and widow life-coach via her coaching company, Finding #NextYOU Coaching Academy. Maya also spearheads her end-to-end media project management business, Purpose2Platform, where she helps new speakers and writers gain the credibility and visibility needed to effectively spread messages of hope and connection. Maya also enjoys Yoga, is a die-hard Marvel Comics fan, and loves beach time with her family.