02/25/2013 12:01 pm ET Updated Apr 27, 2013

From Tragedy To Triumph: The Journey To Overcoming Grief

Twelve years.

An entire lifetime ago.

Whether by plane, car, ship, train or other means, most of us have taken a long trip of one kind or another. While in the midst of traveling, our habit tends to be to constantly check the time or the mileage to determine how far we have to go until we get "there," wherever "there" happens to be.

Right now, I am looking back at the "mileage" that I have put behind me on this, the journey of a lifetime.

It was just over 12 years ago that my husband's battle with Lou Gehrig's Disease came to its tragic end; leaving me a widow and an 11-year-old girl without her daddy. Not yet having been through the major emergency surgery that would occur just three weeks after Mike's death, as well as the death of my father that would take place only four months later, the one prevailing feeling that I remember was feeling utterly and totally:


There was no one to talk to -- no one who really understood anyway. A few people who contentedly resided well outside of Widow World would tell me things like, "Well Carole, it's not like you didn't know he was going to die" or similarly useless and insensitive comments to the same effect. However, no one ever told me that Mike's two-year battle with a terminal illness and his subsequent death was supposed to have been some kind of prep course in Widowhood 101 -- a course that I had clearly failed, since at the end of each day, I was still feeling...




The worst part? Feeling like this season in time was "it" for me. This was apparently what people now refer to as the "New Normal." Whatever catchy, pop culture-ish, buzzphrase-du-jour you wish to use, all I knew was that I did not particularly care for the "New Normal." What is normal about this? What is normal about the darkness that is eating away at my soul? What is normal about a once happy and healthy family being completely devastated? What is normal about people whom you once trusted unconditionally choosing to abandon you? What exactly is "normal" about this alleged normalcy?

I didn't need a "new normal." The "old normal" had suited me just fine.

Then something odd happened.

I went through and emerged healthy after the major emergency surgery. I went through and endured the pain, the overwhelming sadness and the grief that was the death of my wonderful father. I opened the blinds in the house more often. I started taking part in activities. The hours and days that seemed to pass so slowly at first had suddenly become weeks and months. I smiled periodically. The smiles eventually turned to laughter. Even better was the fact that as time progressed, I would laugh -- and actually mean it.

I kept going.

I continued moving forward, determination growing by the day; eyes firmly set on my own personal odometer to see how far I had yet to trek until I arrived in the Land of the Healed. I rebuilt a languishing business to great success. Kendall resumed living a real childhood, something that she had been unfairly denied for years. Two years after Mike's death, I sold the house in which we had happily lived as a family and moved to the beautiful home in which I live today.

I traveled on.

I retired from my business to begin writing a book, in the hopes that perhaps I could help other widowed in some small way. No big dreams, no "Gonna build a mountain" aspirations -- just one book that might help others who were in similar situations. Meanwhile, in what seemed to be a flash (all parents will understand this), Kendall grew from braces, school dances and cheerleading, into a young adult.

Twelve years.

The "one book" became two books and eventually a global support organization and community. Kendall is flourishing while enjoying a successful career in her dream industry and creating her own life and the many destinies for which she is bound. Love found me once again and I joyfully embraced it and the wonderful man who brought both that love and the love of his beautiful daughter into our lives.

I had allowed the "new normal" to envelop my heart.

I now look back on those dark, hopeless days as if it were someone else living that life. I suppose in a way, it was someone else, for I am not the same woman as the one who was sitting desolately on a couch over a decade ago, convinced that life would never again hold any happiness or promise.

As authors are wont to do, I think of my life as a book. The chapter of my life that ended with a woman sitting alone on a couch in the dark was the ending of what actually was a beautiful chapter - and I can now reflect on the beauty of that chapter of my life; rather than the tragedy that ended it or the actions of a scant few unimportant people who tainted it.

Twelve years.

The hole in my soul has been filled once again with light, love, a life that I adore and a wonderful family with whom to share it. I left behind the grief and the pain. I let go of the abandonment anger. Most importantly, I have come to understand that while I have healed and emerged from the darkness, the journey itself never ends... and I don't want it to end. I have quit constantly looking at that "healing odometer"; checking anxiously to see how far I had yet to travel before I finally started feeling better. Instead, I look back with love to see where I started, what it took to get to this season in time and how many other widowed I might be able to bring with me along the way. I remember the beauty and the love that was the previous chapter of my life and happily bring that beauty, that love and those memories with me into the chapter that I live today.

And I invite you to do the same.

Whether it has been a matter of days, a few weeks, several months or many years, remind yourself to take a look back and marvel at your own journey and how far you have come. Keep traveling on your path of healing and be assured that as long as you are determined to stay on that path and continue to surround yourself with the support and education that you need ...the healing will come.

And we travel on.

Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has been selected as a finalist for the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit

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