Please, if you will, study this picture.
What do you think our group has in common?
Do we look related? Nah.
Do we appear to be roughly the same ages? More or less.
Are we smiling? Yes.
Are you sitting down? Well how would I know that?
Brace yourself... we are among Denver's mid-stage widows, otherwise known as The Second Act. Each of us in our own way has either launched her Act 2 or is hoping to do so in time.
The group was the brainchild of Lori Weiner, who was widowed four years ago when her husband Ken, a gastroenterologist, died of colon cancer just a few months shy of the couple's twentieth anniversary. Lori was 47 when Ken passed away and their children were 17, 14 and 11.
A few months after Ken's death, an acquaintance invited Lori to coffee along with a handful of other widowed women. "Suddenly, I didn't feel so alone," says Lori. The group only met once, but it made an impression on her. Over the next few years, she found herself speaking to women in the Denver community who had also been widowed. "It helped them, and it helped me."
Until one day this spring Lori had an epiphany: why not just bring all these women together?
She made a wise decision in reaching out to Rachel Kodanaz, a nationally-recognized grief consultant and author of the new book Living with Loss, One Day At A Time. Drawn from Rachel's own trials of young widowhood and those of other grievers she has counseled, the book offers lessons on healing 365 days a year. Rachel's deep experience as a grief consultant allowed her to tap her network and thus The Second Act was launched in Denver. We are a group of women predominantly ages 40-60.
It was pure serendipity (or was it really?) that I happened to learn about The Second Act. Readers know that I was widowed nearly 10 years ago and have since remarried and authored Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss and Bold Living (Books & Books Press Trade Paperback Original; February 2014). Favorite memories, old stories, and pictures that freeze time make up the fabric of everyday life. That said, I wasn't searching for a support group. A widowed friend forwarded an email, and like any author promoting her book, I thought that an appearance could be helpful.
Never did I expect to stumble upon a group of women just like me: women who came together for one reason only -- to have a glass of wine and toast life's uncertainties. There was laughter galore in this crowd and far more stories of light and life and dating and children than sadness. Against all expectations, I actually had fun.
Healing takes time. It took years for me to see beyond the prism of widowhood, to integrate all that happened then with all that I am now. I am more than a widow today -- as is every woman in The Second Act. And yet, widowhood remains a part of our identity. Being together reminds us that it's just not the whole part.