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You Are in Absolute Control of These 5 Things

You Are In Absolute Control of These 5 Things

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Short and Sweet Summary: If you’ve surrendered your last remaining slivers of control to grief’s black abyss, it’s time for a friendly intervention. You are in control of a lot more than you think.

When your life shatters in ways you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy, it’s easy to feel like you have no control over anything.

Whatever you thought you were in charge of ceased to exist the day your husband took his last breath. You think to yourself, any control I had was an illusion. From that point on you stumble through your days making decisions like it’s an out-of-body experience. You can see it happening, but you feel none of it.

While it’s true you don’t have control over many things that happen in your life, like an approaching storm or someone else’s bad behavior, a few things still exist that are decidedly, 100%, up to you and you alone.

If you’ve surrendered your last remaining slivers of control to grief’s black abyss, it’s time for a friendly intervention.

As in, it’s time to remind you of the five key areas you really are in charge of.


[custom_blockquote style=”eg. green, yellow, purple, blue, red, black, grey”] If you surround yourself with clowns, don’t be surprised when your life resembles a circus.” – Steve Maraboli [/custom_blockquote]

You get to decide who stays and who goes. The friends who say, “I have no idea how you feel, but I’d like to hear all about it” (and then keep coming back) are the ones who deserve a gold star for bravery and perseverance. Hanging out with a widow can be a real buzz kill. But the friends who keep showing up are your true friends. Those are the keepers.

The rest of the scaredy-cat clowns? Ditch ’em.

You know, the ones who say, “call me if you need anything!” or “I’m sorry I haven’t stopped by I’ve been soooo busy!” or “You’re not alone!” but then leave you alone. You know the friends I’m talking about. I’m not suggesting you send out a formal notice to those friends who let you down the most.

Dear former friends who bailed on me during the hardest, ugliest, most wretched time in my life, I do hereby formally remove your cowardly asses from my trusted inner circle thus eradicating you from any central and/or peripheral position in my now extremely limited, carefully selected posse.”

But if you’ve already written the notes and addressed the envelopes, who am I to tell you not to drop those bad boys in the mailbox? 😉

Seriously, though, I’m just reminding you that you get to choose.

You get to control whom you let into and out of your life. You get to control whose invitations you accept and those you don’t. I’ve had to remove toxic people from my life and encourage relationships I would never have expected. Those friends who never called or were “too busy” for me are now distant memories.

Why does this help you? Because you don’t need people like that in your life either.

You are in charge of who joins your inner circle.

Make good choices.


Yes, you have a ton of expenses and you’re drowning in bank statements, business expenditures, mortgage payments, loan interest, college expenses, and plain old credit card bills.

Now that you’ve inherited the expenses, you get to decide how to manage them (see this post about money management skills every widow should have).

If you don’t like the bank that charges you an ATM fee, find a bank that doesn’t. Can’t afford college tuition? Tell Junior to fill out some college scholarship or grant applications. Want to save money on electricity expenses? Turn off all electric devices before going to bed. Or consider using a Smart Strip to automatically shut down devices that aren’t in use, saving you money and reducing your overall energy usage.

Also, you could also lower your thermostat by one or two degrees in the winter or do as the U.S. Department of Energy suggests and keep your air conditioner around 78 ° in the summer.

You get the idea. I stripped our budget bare after my husband died. Any non-essential spending was capped for several months so I could figure out where all of our money was going. But, it was my choice. I was, and still am, in control of how money is spent in this house.

Unless you’re skipping mortgage payments or gambling your life insurance money away, no one gets to tell you how to handle your finances. Even if you have a financial planner, it’s her job to guide you not to take control of your finances. If she suggests you buy an annuity, you get to decide whether to buy an annuity. You can take all the information you have and make informed choices that are best for your family.

Basically, it’s up to you.


You are in control of your money, sister.

Make good choices.


Now before anyone goes off half-cocked about having no control over the flesh-eating bacterial infection they acquired swimming in the Zambezi river, I’m only talking here about things you CAN control.

Yes, a lot of health issues are out of your hands. You can’t change your genes or the flesh-eating bacteria that attached itself to your skin.

Or some cancers. Cancer sucks.

But you can change what you put in your mouth, what time you go to bed, or how often you exercise. I have friends who claim they’re addicted to pop (soda if you don’t live in the Midwest) and just couldn’t survive without their 2-liter of Pepsi every day.


Excuse me?


It’s not that they CAN’T stop drinking pop. It’s that they WON’T. There is a difference.

I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 15 years. It was hard to quit. Nope. That’s not true. It wasn’t hard. It was FUCKING EXCRUCIATING. But I quit anyway because I wanted to be healthier. No one can convince me it’s too hard to quit anything because I quit smoking. I adjusted my entire lifestyle to quit smoking. No simple task.

With all the grief, anxiety, and sadness surrounding you, please be good to your body, OK? Don’t drink 2-liters of pop every day or eat candy bars for lunch. With so much outside of your control, make it a priority to take charge of your health.

So, at the very least:

  1. Drink lots of water every day. What is “lots?” As much as you can. At least a couple of 8 oz. glasses. Preferably more.
  2. Eat breakfast. Scrambling an egg takes about 90 seconds. Seriously. Or put some peanut butter on a piece of whole grain toast. Refuel your body before you go out for the day.
  3. Eat fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  4. Get 30- minutes of exercise each day. Preferably outside. In the sun. For Vitamin D’s sake.
  5. Plan your meals to eliminate the stress of what to eat for dinner. Get out your notepad. Write it down. Or buy a meal planning or meal delivery service. There’s no shame in it.

You are in charge of your health.

Make good choices.


Happiness is a choice. There. I said it. You get to choose whether to be happy or not. You won’t be happy all the time (nor is it realistic to be), some days will kick the shit right out of you and other days will be kind of in-between.

Undoubtedly, grief is seriously unbearable at times, but when the birds chirp outside my window in the morning, I’m happy.

When I hear the neighbor kids laughing on the swing set, I’m happy.

When my son tells me he loves me, I’m happy.

By all means, I could take all the grief and sadness and unfortunate events of my life and make them front and center every day. I could focus on the shit storm I’ve navigated over the past few years and be miserable. Or, I could be grateful I woke up breathing today and remind myself that breathing makes me happy. It’s not about going around and pretending to be happy. It’s about recognizing the minor details of your day that make you smile.

That is to say, if you want to be happy, be happy.

You are in charge of your happiness.

Make good decisions.


It’s difficult making all the decisions for the household. It’s overwhelming and sometimes terrifying. Every single decision rests squarely on your shoulders and that’s a pretty heavy burden to carry.

When I make bad decisions, like spending money to upgrade my alarm system to Wi-Fi so my phone could turn my alarm on and off, but then literally never use the feature, I cringe. What sounded like a good idea at the time turned out to be not such a good idea. But I learn from my mistakes and move on.

And then, when I make good decisions like starting this blog so I could do something that brings me joy, I do a happy dance.

I make bad decisions and I make good decisions. Some decisions are scary. Some decisions are no-brainers. But the decisions are all mine. You get to choose and be in control of your decisions, too. Own the shitty decisions. And celebrate the good ones. If you second-guess yourself into sickness, please stop.

And start all over again tomorrow.


If grief has seized your power and held it hostage, it’s time to regain control. I hope you realize you are in control of a lot more than you think. I hope you take some time to really think about how many ways you’ve relinquished your control over the days, weeks, or even years and how you plan to get back on track.

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  1. I’ve been looking for a way to hear or express the insurmountable grief that I’ve been trying to live with, but I haven’t be able to find a way to ease my pain that seems worse everyday since April! I’m not very good with expressing my self thru writing so reading your blog is making me feel as if I found away to share my pain & to hear ways of others going thru the same ! Thank you so much!!

  2. Thankyou, some days I am happy others i feel like this sadness of missing my husband will never cease.
    If i look at the overall picture of my future I am uneasy scared.
    Thankyou for your blog!

  3. I love this as I am a control freak! Lol
    I’ve made it past the 1 yr mark but now realize that year 2 is even more grueling. It does help to know that I can control SOME things, but definitely not everything. One day at a time. That’s what I have to remember.
    Thank you for your words.
    Jamie – 44 yr old widow

    1. Jamie, I get you my control-freak sister 😆. From one recovering pseudo-controller of the Universe to another…you’ve got this ❤.

  4. My husband has been gone almost 3 1/2 yrs. The first year I was definitely in a fog, the second was so much harder as reality set in with a vengeance. The third year I made a conscious decision to be happy. Won’t even pretend it’s been easy, I’ve had days where I just couldn’t get out of bed, but for the most part, I have been happy. One of the best things I did for me was to write in a journal from day one. It helped to get thoughts out of my head and on paper. I am currently on my 8th journal.

    1. Hi Karen, I think it’s so important to make that conscious decision to be happy. We have to work hard for our happiness. Kudos to you!

  5. Thank you for your truthful and realistic words. I am very freshly into widowhood, my husband died 4 weeks ago. Each day I try to cope by doing one purposeful task (cleaning, organizing, something that I can literally see as progress), make one personal connection (call a true friend, call my father in law or my parents, call each of my kids), make a healthy choice (make a smoothie, plan a meal, eat something healthy, take a walk, make a medical appt.). And I allow the tears to flow when and if they do. And accept help or kindness, which is something I’ve always had trouble doing. I know life will go on and things will hurt less eventually, and that some days will be more difficult than others, and that’s OK.
    Anyway, I appreciate your wisdom and sharing your experiences, it helps. Be well.

    1. Elisabeth, I’m so impressed that you’re choosing one purposeful task a day! I think it helps immensely to consciously transfer your grief focus to other things once in a awhile. Especially at the beginning. Thank you for sharing!

    2. Your awesome and your words ring deep in my also hard situation , lost my hubby four weeks ago…good to hear how others are doing “it”… and going forward hard as it can be… your words are inspirational.. thanks.

  6. I’m so happy to have found this! It’s been 4 and half years since my husband passed from cancer. And I still struggle some days but I can relate to everything written here. My inner circle is my 4 children. Family and friends went on with their lives and left me behind. My mom actually told me that I needed to “get over” not even 2 months out. My siblings stopped talking to me. I have carried myself from day to day and made many mistakes along the way but I was completely on my own. No one should have to be alone through all this.

    1. Heather, no one understands the weight of grief until they’ve had to carry it. I’m sorry people bailed when you needed them most, but it’s a familiar story. The best part of your story, however, is you moving forward and making strides in your own way. On your own terms. Give yourself a TON of credit where credit is due 💗.

  7. Stumbled across this blog today. My husband passed suddenly at the end of January. Picking who will be in your tribe spoke to me. In the past 5 months I think the ones that have surrounded me and the ones I thought would surround me has been a huge eye opener. My circle is becoming smaller but it’s a strong circle. And thank God for my yoga practice that went virtual through these crazy times….seriously don’t know where I would be mentally without it. Taking the “new normal” a day at a time.

    1. Hi Chris, it’s so surprising – and yes, a real eye-opener – to find out who shows up for us in the darkest days. And, finding ways to handle the weight of grief is paramount…so glad you have a yoga practice to help you!

  8. Coming up to the 2 yr anniversary of losing my husband. Hurts as much now as ever.. I can relate to all you have written -I have yet to find “acceptance” and it pulls me apart every day. I cry everyday – not all day but at some point I am remembering him or realizing the changes necessary. Did take care of his belongings etc – even moved to a smaller home. Now also have my elderly Mother with me -memory issues….lots of emotions all the time. Do have a wonderful support system of family/friends but still feel alone in my pain and sorrow. You have given me inspiration and I need it !!!

    1. Hi Julie, maybe acceptance isn’t something you find, but rather something you believe. Crying every day is OK. Feeling alone is OK. Sad? Angry? Overwhelmed? All OK. Acknowledge that feeling ALL these things is normal and part of your healing process ❤.

      1. I enjoyed reading your article
        It really helps a lot and gives you the confidence that yes you can do it. I lost my husband 3 months back. There are days one feels good but there are some that are painful and only widows will understand. Thank you so much for this blog. Keep it up

  9. Thanks for the permission to start making our own decisions, it’s been over 2 years and like others year 2 was worst then one. Now heading into 3 I feel like I’m taking my life back. It does not mean I don’t miss him every day, it just means I now know he will never walk through that door again or advise me on my choices; their all mine.
    Ps; thanks for the friend tip, I’d quit saying my husband died, I said he left, it seemed to keep people from feeling sorry for me or making people feel uncomfortable.

    1. Hi Heidi, I’m glad to hear you’re “taking your life back.” Kudos! You get to do what’s best for you AND miss your husband every day. Those two things are not mutually exclusive 😊.

  10. Just the reassurance and pep talk I needed… I knew the day would come when I would lose my husband to all of his health issues so I have been thinking and grieving and doing things Kinda on my own for a long time. He was my sounding board but I think he realized that my decisions were safe and mostly sound. I have good days and bad days but mostly I’m OK. It’s all a learning experience and I have a close family for support. What you said about Fairweather friends was oh so true. Makes me feel like I could be a better friend to some people by being present in there tragedy. I guess ultimately I am on my own but that’s OK cause I got to make the good decisions. Thanks for reminding me I am a stronger person than I realize. And I helped some what adventurous in my old age.

    1. Hi Teri, we realize all kinds of new things about ourselves in widowhood, especially how strong we really are. Because, well, we don’t really have a choice to be otherwise, do we?!

  11. Thank You for ALL of this! My husband died 8 months ago and I struggle with everything life is throwing at me. It felt good to read this. It’s one thing to be independent and another to have to be independent. Thank You for all of your words of encouragement.

  12. My husband passed away 6 weeks ago. His birthday was 2 weeks ago, Thanksgiving yesterday, and Christmas is coming soon. It has been rough.
    I quit my job in April to care for him, and now find myself having to start over completely. It is so overwhelming! How do you handle it?

    1. Hi Tracey, even though it sounds cliche,you take one day at a time. It IS overwhelming and you don’t have to have everything figured out right now. I think we put unnecessary expectations on ourselves when we assume that we should “know what to do.” But no one knows what or how to do something until they do it. Please give yourself the grace and space to figure it out as you go along.

  13. Thank you for your words of encouragement. Like you, I lost my husband in October 2020 to a Glioblastoma Grade 4 brain tumor – 9 months after diagnosis. I could relate to so many details of your story.
    When people ask, I say that I am doing as well as can be expected. I get up, go to work, participate in a Griefshare group, and try to make wise choices. I also still cry several times a day, as I just miss my husband and our former life. I think that is just part of grief journey.
    Tonight I am reflecting on your words – knowing I need to take better care of my own health. I appreciate your honesty in sharing your journey and look forward to learning more from you.

    1. Hi Ruby, I cringe when I hear Glioblastoma because I know how this whole thing went down for you and I’m so sorry your husband had to endure it and you had to watch him slip away. Sending peace and strength your way ❤.

  14. When my husband died suddenly in February I was on the other side of the country helping my mother take care of my dad, at home under hospice care. With all the restrictions of Covid, my husband kept saying don’t leave them, you are where you need to be. When I got the call that he was in the emergency room, I booked the soonest flight home, but I didn’t make it in time. Five weeks later we lost Dad too. I was surprised at how well we seemed to be handling things at first, but the grief seems to increase as time passes.

  15. I’m coming up on the three year mark. Carrying the burden of all the decision making is what weighs on me the most. It was nice to hear the reality that we make some good decisions and some bad ones, but we have to learn from them and move forward. It’s not the end of the world! Thank you!

    1. Hi Maggie, and honestly, a decision isn’t “good” or “bad” until we decide it is. So I guess it makes sense to not view any decisions as mistakes, just learning opportunities 😉.

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