Our Story/ There Is Hope
Several years ago, I lost my first wife to lung cancer. As my wife’s illness progressed, I terminated my employment and became her caretaker for seven months until she died at home with her family by her side. My two daughters and I knew how serious her condition was. Even so, her passing was a shock to the three of us. We wrestled with our grief in different ways. I began attending a number of support groups in an attempt to learn how to accept the grief I was experiencing. I found it comforting to be with others experiencing the same emotions. We supported each other in unique ways. We laughed and cried together and realized we were not alone in our grief. At a support group, I met a widow, and we began to date. Carol had lost her husband to a heart attack and he passed away immediately. A year later, we married blending my two daughters with her three children. There were many adjustments but we all worked through the emotions and pain. It was a comfort to both of us to have a spouse who understood the emotional upheaval of losing a spouse. After being married for two years we realized how blessed we were to have found each other. We felt compelled to give something back. Remembering how helpful our own support group experience was, we decided to start and facilitate our own grief group. We named it SOS (Survivors offering Support) and originally were sponsored by a local church in the area. Widows and Widowers attending SOS appreciated our empathy with them. Having been through loosing a spouse ourselves, we understood their day-to-day emotional pain in a very unique way. SOS is a vital part of our plan in that it provides a structured environment for widows and widowers to begin the healing process while receiving information on many important aspects of their changed life. SOS now meets at the Washington Township Municipal Building. Along with SOS, we have assisted others in the grieving process by holding workshops on financial issues as well as grief related issues. I have been a guest speaker at local support groups. My wife and I both feel enriched by the opportunity to share and help others during their grief journey. Taking the next step in our commitment in assisting the Widowed, we incorporated a non-profit corporation in NJ, G.A.V.E. (Grief Aftercare Veteran Entitlement). In August of 2008, we received our IRS Federally Tax-Exempt 501C3 Designation. We expanded our services all provided at no cost. Along with SOS, we added professional counselors, college planning for spouses and dependents, medical benefits, entitlements, social security implementation, personal aftercare networks, and retreats forsurviving spouses. In addition, our own experiences with loss and bereavement enable us to offer numerous practical suggestions to survivors on how to cope with life after loss, the grieving process and blending families.