overcoming adversity

To date – or not to date – a widower?

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January 28  |  Grief & Bereavement, Love & Relationships, overcoming adversity, Self-Help, Women ageing, Women and love  |   Cynthia






I was recently asked to contribute to an article in a US publication, about the whys and wherefores of dating a widower.  This is a really tricky one to answer as there’s no right or wrong answer. Every situation is individual and different.

If you find yourself in this situation, here are a few quick guidelines to bear in mind:

  •  Ascertain discreetly how long it is since she died – he may not be ready for another relationship, even though he thinks he is.
  • Don’t rush it – go at his pace.
  • Know that anniversaries and special days will possibly be painful – even many years down the line
  • Don’t ask him about his late wife unless he raises it and if he does, let him talk about it. Don’t try to offer advice – all he wants is a witness to listen his pain.
  • He may want to avoid certain places where they went as a couple.
  • Set your own boundaries – beware of being compared to her, or incessant talk about her.
  • Watch out for warning signs – if he appears to be stuck in grief and it gets pathological then get out. He may not be emotionally available right now – but keep the door open if you want to.
  • Has he got baggage by way of children? If so, can you cope with it? Don’t try and be their mother. The best you can hope to be to them is a good friend. Be prepared for potential animosity from his former in-laws as well as his children and even friends.
  • Manage your expectations of him and the relationship. He may still be fragile. Give time time.

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How to shovel yourself out of the shit!

August 16  |  Adversity, Mindfulness, motivation, overcoming adversity, Self-Help, self-reinvention, self-transformation, single women  |   Cynthia









We all feel down in the mouth at times. It’s part of being human. However, we needn’t stay there for long. Here are some simple tips to help dig yourself out of the vortex.

Prioritise your physical well-being

Practise physical self-love – stop punishing your body – treat yourself to nourishing and healthy foods. A car won’t run properly and reach its destination without the right fuel. Cut down on booze and pills. Pamper yourself. Don’t get into the debating society on this. You deserve it. Find a form of manageable and above all enjoyable exercise in which you can indulge regularly.

Take charge of your emotional state

Claim courage and take responsibility. Accept that we’re not responsible for the tragedies which happen to us but we are responsible for how we react to them and the messes we make of our lives. Identify which areas you play the victim in. Break these areas into bite-size chunks which you can then tackle. Pump yourself right out of that victim mentality. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Care enough about yourself to learn to lighten up. Look for the humorous side in your situation – it really is there, even if you have to emotionally contort yourself to find it. Do so because it’ll be worth it and be measured by the enormous sense of relief you’ll feel.
Stop the name and blame game – take responsibility where you need to and discard the rest. These habits completely destroy your inner power, because they prove that you’re still expecting solutions and changes from others. You’ve no power over anyone else but yourself.

When you’re wallowing in an orgy of self-pity, stop enjoying it. Force yourself out of that tangled up, childish, emotional nappy. What do nappies contain? So why stay there drowning in it? Take positive daily action to help yourself, no matter how seemingly insignificant or minute. This can be as simple as calling an encouraging friend, when all you want to do is sit and stare into space. Small actions like this will propel you out of the navel-gazing, analysis/paralysis syndrome and you’ll soon begin to feel immeasurably better.
Don’t indulge in negative talk. What you focus on expands and what doesn’t get taught, gets caught. Don’t touch it with a bargepole. Read inspiring literature. Keep a gratitude list, not a hit list. Write down five things every night which you’re grateful for, then review your list in the morning. The blessings are always there, even in the worst situation.

Take responsibility for your feelings and reactions.

You’re in charge of your life – no one else. Don’t be immobilised by or afraid of failure. Most seemingly successful people have made it after disastrous failures. Simply pick yourself up, dust yourself down and move on with belief and determination.
Don’t be a victim to others’ expectations. Be yourself at all times. Stop being a people-pleaser and a chameleon. There’s never any need to seek anyone else’s approval but your own and in this area practice does make perfect. Keep your own counsel and have the courage of your own convictions. If you have erred, don’t beat yourself up. Use that energy to forgive yourself.

Stick with the winners and not the whiners

Stick with the winners. Stay resolutely away from people with victim mentalities. Find someone you trust to help you to make a realistic appraisal of your situation. Treat yourself to a mental clear out. Find a support network with positive peer role models. There are thousands of resources out there for every area and every stage of our lives. When you’ve found your role model, be brave enough to ask for help and copy what they do as best you can. What’s the downside?

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Living with loss during the silly season

December 21  |  Christmas, Grief & Bereavement, Love & Relationships, Mindfulness, overcoming adversity  |   Cynthia


Whilst the madness of Christmas ensnares us with enforced joviality, let’s  pause and remember  that for many of us – due to loss – Christmas may never be the same again.

There are many variations on loss,   apart from the obvious physical death of a partner.  While it’s true that all of us, if we live long enough, are going to suffer some kind of personal loss, much as we rail against it, eventually we have to come to a place of acceptance, and then ultimately to move on emotionally. This doesn’t mean we ever forget the person we’ve lost, but that we learn to live with it. That knife-twisting pain in your gut eventually does fade.  Depending on the circumstances of this loss, the time it’ll take to travel and complete the grief journey, will vary from individual to individual and there’s no right or wrong way to plough through it. It’s tough and it wounds us to the core. It may also cause old scars to weep, because even with some emotional recovery time under your belt, there’ll always be a reminder, Christmas, a birthday or anniversary, or facing the New Year alone – which will apply fresh pressure to that inner scar – a bit like picking at a scab. The more severe the loss, the more those painful feelings may resurface.

The only person you must learn to please at this time of year – is yourself!

When will it stop hurting?  Nobody can answer that.  Whilst of course there are stages in healing, you simply won’t feel better for a very long time – whether other people like it or not. If you choose to stay in bed all Christmas day and duvet dive – that’s your business. You may also find yourself suffering from “Spare Woman Syndrome” – a perceived threat to your friends who are in a relationship. You don’t need to conform to anybody’s stereotypes or expectations.

Self-pity is ugly

 Self-pity is incredibly unappealing, and it’s futile. Unless you find the guts to discard it, it’ll swallow you up faster than any quick sand.  Many people undergo major traumas. What separates the wheat from the chaff – is attitude.  But there’s a stark difference here between self-pity, self-preservation and self-care.  The bottom line is that most people are way too worried about their own “stuff”, to want to absorb any of yours.  If you allow yourself to become totally identified by your loss, you’re going to be lonely for a very long time. Your loss IS significant, but it’s only a part of you – not the whole story of who you are as a person.

 Mindfulness and loss

Mindfulness is a way of anchoring ourselves, right now, this very second, into this day, this hour, this  minute. This practice teaches us to mind the gap, to provide that split second of choice – that near sacred pause, during which we can choose to react to stimuli or to respond in a more self-nurturing way. It’s cumulative and it leads to the ability to detach from troublesome situations, thereby maintaining our own precious reserves of energy, to be used in a more fruitful manner.

Easy does it

 Churchill said, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” Take small steps. Remind yourself that you deserve happiness and that you have it within yourself to recover from and overcome any past loss. The saddest words in the English language are, “if only” – the saddest death of all – loss of hope. Don’t let that be your epitaph. And above all – remember – love never dies.


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When life gives you lemons – make lemonade!

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November 9  |  overcoming adversity, Self-Help, self-transformation  |   Cynthia

Things don’t always work out exactly to plan, or as we may have wished – in ALL arenas of our lives.  Today we’ve witnessed the extraordinary (and some may say, astonishing), accession of Donald Trump to the office of 45th president of the United States of America.

Whatever our political proclivities, one thing is for sure – and that’s when something “bad” happens, once we get past the stage of shock and/or horror – there’s only thing to do – and that’s to practise acceptance. We just have to get your head round the fact that we humans have so little power over ourselves, never mind anybody else.  We have to make the best of a bad lot!

I’m not saying this is easy – quite the contrary. It takes great courage to accept the status quo, in the face of all different types of adversity – be it political, familial, personal or in the work place. In the meaningful words of the Serenity Prayer (and I’m not religious) – we have to dig ever so deep and plug into our inner resources – accepting the things we can’t change, finding  courage to change the things we can – and the wisdom to know the difference.

If we don’t, then we set ourselves up for all kinds of problems. Non-acceptance does NOT mean we condone bad things.  Quite the contrary – we see the reality of the situation and then we must do our utmost to choose to work with it, transforming it into a learning curve, with a more positive outcome.

I’m not speaking as a trite passerby to adversity. I’ve seen the face of the devil more times than I care to remember in my 57 years – the loss of my son, my daughter’s serious injuries, two failed marriages, depression, various addictions – and the rest!  However, I firmly believe in the tremendous power of the human spirit, which kicks into survival mode when we choose to activate. And that’s my point – acceptance isn’t a passive state. It’s a constantly evolving active decision to keep on moving forward -no matter what life throws at us.

Winston Churchill said, “if you’re going through hell – keep going“.  And he knew all about that, being a sufferer of The Black Dog Of Depression. You just have to keep on moving forward, even when you feel like you’re trudging through treacle and you’re in so much emotional or physical pain, you feel you’ve got a knife twisting in your gut.

I’ve learned that there’s humour in every dark situation. Sometimes it’s feels impossible to find, and you just have to wait until it finds YOU, jumps up and slaps you in the face. It’s a kind of Blitzkrieg  humour. Laughter is truly the best medicine. It’s not disrespectful, but life-enhancing.

So for today, whatever difficulty you’re facing, take heart that this too shall pass.