This is the podcast’s first episode of the year, and I am here to share my plans for 2024. Join me as I look back on the amazing things that happened in 2023 and talk about the deeper support I want to provide to everyone. I also celebrate the memory of my husband who continues to serve as my inspiration in producing this podcast and guiding other people on dealing with their grief.
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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Widowhood Real Talk Shares Plans For 2024
Welcome to the show. It is January 4th, 2024 and this is our first episode of 2024. The first thing I’d like to do is say happy birthday to my sister Ulanka. January 5th is her birthday. I wanted to take this opportunity to do something a little bit different than we did in 2023, introduce myself, and do a solo conversation. My journey for 2023 has been amazing. I am so grateful for every person that allowed me to be on this journey with them.
I would’ve never thought that the show and our social content would reach over 73 countries and 1 million views. That tells me how many people are out there that need to know that they are not alone on this grief journey. I want you to know that I know it’s difficult. It is not something any of us wanted to have happen but if my loss, the death of my husband has been able to encourage you, then there has been purpose made out of my pain.
Over the conversations in 2023, I’ve spoken to a lot of people but I wanted to take a little bit of time to share more of my journey and why this is so important to me. My husband, Mark, was a wonderful husband. He was a wonderful father, a brother, a son, and an uncle. He was a wonderful friend. My opportunity to continually share his memory and honor him allows me to keep his memory alive. It has shown me how devastating the death of a loved one is and how impactful, how it changes your life forever.
I’ve also learned that there are so many people doing this by themselves. Many people feel muted because their loved one has died and they feel like they don’t have someplace to turn or they don’t feel like someone cares. I want you to know my experience has changed my life forever. I love Mark and I am so grateful for him being in my life for those 32 years. I’m grateful that I can use what I have learned from his death and in my continual living to be able to show up for people in a way that I never knew was necessary.
That is why in this show, I want you to know that we are more than a show. We are an entire 501(c)(3) organization set up with the mission to support people who are grieving around the world. The word “widowhood” was intentionally chosen because I’m from Chicago and hood to me means family. When my husband Mark died, my children, parents, friends, cousins, aunts, and uncles were impacted. When our loved one passes, it is our entire community that is taking on part of that loss. That is why our conversations are with widowers but also with their families. It is with their children and every aspect of that community.
You’ll see a lot of that in 2024 when our conversations will start to broaden to that entire community. That widow or widower is impacted but I want that entire community to be able to show up, share, and let that widow and widower know that they are not alone. It is their entire community that is impacted. We will have conversations in 2024 with realtors, a financial advisor, and a lawyer because there are so many components to the death of a loved one. It is way more than just the funeral.
Support Projects For 2024
The death of our loved one impacts us for years for the rest of our lives. That is why the conversations that we’re having are important to be able to have something to leverage and have resources. As far as those resources, if you go to our website, you’ll be able to connect. If you’re looking for a therapist or a group to connect with, we have a group where we connect people. Every second Thursday of the month, Mr. James Price will be hosting a peer-to-peer support group for men. On the last Thursday of the month, I will host a peer-to-peer support group for anyone who is grieving.
You may wonder why is there just a group for men. Men from the statistics suffer more from having a safe space where they can talk about their emotions and struggles, and feel like there are other men there that care. That is why I intentionally partner with Mr. James Price to be able to provide that support to men. James can provide that peer-to-peer support because he, unfortunately, lost his wife and their child soon after giving birth. He knows what that is like to be able to be in that space, be comforted, and be supported.
When I reached out to him, he was gracious and willing to be able to be there in a space that he knows that men can benefit from. On the second Thursday of every month from 6:00 to 7:00 Eastern Time, you can be able to connect with Mr. James Price and you can find that information on our website. I will host a peer-to-peer support group on the last Thursday of every month. That is open to everyone.
Another thing that I want you to look forward to in 2024 is that during August, we will have what’s called A Walk for Love. We will ask for 7 days in August that you would walk for 1 mile. You may walk that 1 mile at home or somewhere in your neighborhood, and you may ask why. When we are grieving, we often become closed off and isolated from people that we know. Our health is impacted by sometimes not being able to exercise and dealing with deep sorrow and sometimes depression. Getting out in August when the vitamin D is strong and walking just 1 mile a day will let you know and see people around the entire world walking.
There’ll be details on our website as far as the information that we want you to post pictures and how people will engage with each other. Also in 2024, we will be having a workshop called Dealing with Grief During the Holidays. The holidays bring some unique impacts to our grief. Oftentimes, people are grieving throughout the year and when the holidays come, it’s like that grief hits and sucker punches you from out of nowhere. Sometimes people feel like their grief is going backwards. It’s not. It’s the way the holidays impact our grief. We are getting some mental health professionals together to give us tips, tools, and coping skills on how to deal with grief during the holidays.The holiday season brings a unique impact to grief. It feels like a soccer ball punches you from out of nowhere, and it’s like grief is going backward. Click To Tweet
In December 2024, we will be having an in-person event here in the Norfolk area if you want to come. It’s called Surviving the Winter Holidays. We want to get together. It won’t be something super fancy and dressing up. You can come in blue jeans and be relaxed. It’s an opportunity for people to connect and get together. There are a lot of people I have been able to interact with over social media platforms and people want to get together. We thought it would be a good opportunity to extend that and let you know what’s coming down the pike for 2024.
Thank you for watching our show but if you feel that you want to share your journey on this show, please go to our website, WidowhoodRealTalkWithTina.org. You can submit and send us an email. If you’d like to share your journey, I would love to hear from you, connect, and share your journey. If you are interested in a one-on-one or peer-to-peer support meeting, go to our website and send me a message.
We can try to connect because I am on this journey with you. It’s not just this show. I am here to walk on this journey. Our board members are here supporting. If you’ve watched this show and you have felt so connected, we are a nonprofit. You can go to our website and you are welcome to donate, sponsor a show, or do anything that you feel would be able to help us to help someone else.
Remembering My Husband
We also donate books to people who are grieving based on the donations that we receive from people. That book is I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye. Let me give you a little bit about my journey and how I came to that book. On March 11th, 2017, my husband Mark and I were on a mini vacation. Mark had taken a job in Virginia and I was still living in Pennsylvania with our children. Our son Alexander was in the Navy at the time. I had been working. Mark had been in Virginia. We hadn’t seen each other for a while. I called him and asked him if he wanted to get together. Like any man who wants to be with his wife, he says, “I want to get together with you.”
Sometimes you make a decision and you don’t understand what that decision will be. My decision to want to get together with Mark wasn’t just my choice. I was at work and doing some things there. I was supposed to go on a trip. I heard God speaking to my soul saying, “You need to cancel that trip.” I was like, “That seems so bizarre,” but I knew it was something that I was sensing that it wasn’t my thought. I spoke with people at work and told them that I couldn’t go on that trip. After the trip was canceled, the next thing I heard guys saying was, “You need to spend some time with your husband.”
I know everyone has their faith. I’m just sharing my journey and how important this was to me. I canceled some other obligations I had. I called Mark and asked him if he wanted to get together that weekend and he said yes. I remember we met in Delaware and it was a military base there. It was halfway between where I was living in Pennsylvania and where he was in Virginia. I remember us getting together and meeting him at the barracks or the guest house. We were on base. We went upstairs and we reconnected. I asked him where he wanted to go out to eat and he said Chinese food, which is probably one of my favorite places to go. Mark is a steak and potato kind of person but he said Chinese and I went with it.
As we had the Chinese dinner, I took a picture of him to send to our children to let them know I was with their dad. I did send that to Catherine and Alexander later. We went to go to the movies and see one of the last Wolverine movies. After the movies, we were walking around the mall. I had my Fitbit on and I didn’t have my 10,000 steps for the day. We were walking around the mall. It was a security guard or somebody there who said, “What are you guys doing back here?” I remember holding Mark, walking and talking, going, “I’m getting my last steps in.” He was like, “What are you two here? Are you even married?” I said, “Married? I’ve been with this man for 29 years. Are you kidding me?”
I remember laughing and we went back to the room. The next day, he had a bad gas. He went over to get something to eat and came back. That moment in that hotel room was going to be the last time I spoke to him. He had a heart attack in that room. I was calling downstairs to the lobby letting them know that I was in an emergency. The medics came and the MPs because we were on a military installation. At the end of the hallway, I was screaming to somebody on the phone that I could not believe that this was how our story was going to end.
The MP gave me directions and tried to tell me how to get to the hospital. I have no clue how to get there and how that’s going to work. They escorted me there. The doctor came up to me and said, “Are you Mrs. Fornwald?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I need to speak with you.” They brought me into a private room. I remember thinking, “This is not good.” He didn’t talk to me in the lobby. He said, “Your husband has had a massive heart attack.” I remember writing down and trying to understand what massive meant. He said, “We need to see if he’ll get through the night.” I remember thinking, “I’m going to take off from work, be his nurse, and make sure that he’s fine.” In the course of the events of that night, he passed away.
I remember wanting to see him so bad and them making me wait in the waiting room because he wasn’t presentable of all the things they had tried to do to work on him. I remember going into the room where his body was. This was the first time I had ever touched a dead body in my entire life. I was rubbing his face and touching his hands and arms. I remember touching his hand and it was cold. I was thinking, “Twenty-four hours ago, that hand was around me and it’s cold.” I was screaming and climbing on that table next to him and on the floor crying and screaming.
I was so grateful that the nurses and the doctors didn’t try to make me stop crying. They allowed me to feel how I was feeling. The only time the doctors and the nurses came into the room was when my daughter Catherine was there and they told me, “Your daughter’s in the hospital and she’s on her way up.” That was enough time for me to get myself together. When my daughter came, I gave her space to be in the room by herself with her dad. I came in there with her. Friends and family were coming to meet me because I was in Delaware which was about three and a half hours from where I lived and I had Mark’s car.
My life was devastated. We thought that the children were getting older. We were about to be empty nesters and we were going to have this next phase of our life to enjoy. He was dead. I remember that first night, my daughter asked me, “Mom, what do we do?” For the first time in her life, I told her, “I did not know what I was going to do.” I was numb and devastated. Friends were coming to be with us that night and family, trying to figure out day by day what I needed to do next. I needed to get Mark’s car back to where we lived and get myself there. I called friends and they drove me back. Other people came to get Mark’s car.
In so much of that first year, I don’t remember all of the details because it was so foggy. If it wasn’t for me, I wasn’t tuning in to my need to have a therapist or journal. The book, I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye, a friend sent to me the first week that Mark died. I’m so glad they did. It was like a roadmap of how to deal with his absence and his death, and how to live my life in his absence. That is why this show gives that book to people who are grieving. It was a critical part of my journey. Everyone that we have shared it with has found it helpful.
One Year Later
One year after Mark’s death, I’m trying to think about how to live. I’m starting to come out of that fog. I would travel from Pennsylvania to Virginia to visit family. My sister moved here, Ulanka, who I wished happy birthday to. It was difficult because the road I had to travel was past where Mark had a heart attack and died. I remember the first time I traveled that way, I was so devastated. I was like, “I can’t live with this hanging over me.” On the first anniversary of his death, I stayed in the same room at the same lodging because I needed to celebrate his life. I needed to honor him. I brought the cards that everyone had given us at the funeral. I read them and I talked to Mark that night.
When I left that room, I felt freer. That burden of driving in that area was no longer on me. I’m grateful for my ability to lean into that. I am grateful for my family and friends who have been with me every step of the way. That gratefulness is showing up in this show to be able to be there for you, for your family members, and for people who feel like they are alone. I wanted to share that part of my journey of Mark’s death. When I tell you I am on this journey with you, you know that this has been quite the experience, selling our family home, relocating, starting another job, and finding love again in a way that I never thought was possible.
I share that because I want you to know that sometimes grief will bind you and put you in a way that you feel stuck and you can never get out of it. I want you to know that there are options. You are still alive and you can find things that you enjoy doing. My sister lives here. We went bike riding. My mom lives here. My daughter came to visit and we went roller skating. I have read more books. I have connected deeper with friends in a way that I never did before. Mark’s death has been difficult but life seems that much more precious because of his death. That is why I am intentionally wanting to be here with you.Sometimes, grief will bind you and make you feel stuck. But there are always options. You are still alive, and you can find things that you enjoy doing. Click To Tweet
I want you to know that there are other people because one of the things that I have learned in this journey is that community is so important. The community may not show up the way you think and the people you want but other people can show up for you. Sometimes people you never expected to be there will show up most amazingly. I encourage you on your grief journey to seek what will help with your mental health. That may be a journal or finding a grief coach. It may be connecting with a therapist or talking more to family and friends.
Mark died in 2017 and it is 2024. His absence still makes me feel some kind of way and it will for the rest of my life. We learn how to shoulder, manage, or hold our grief differently but I don’t want you to feel like it has to go away in 1 or 2 years. The way it may impact you may change but you will love that person forever and that is fine. Thank you for being here with me and for allowing me to give you a little bit more of my journey. I hope that the conversations that we have throughout 2024 will help you as you travel this grief road. Maybe we’ll get to connect. Maybe I’ll meet you in person. I would like to do that. Have a good day. I’ll talk to you soon.