Photo courtesy of TALK Greenville Magazine
Is it possible to lose your husband, mother and brother in one year and
not lose your mind? This book describes an extremely lonely, at times
desperate and awesome, journey-a journey of going through grief in
search of life after death for the living.
It took every ounce of courage, guts, blood, sweat and tears to face grief.
I found I wrestled with it, I ignored it, I yelled at it, I cried about it and I
came close to giving up. But somewhere deep within me I found the
strength to battle through my moods, feelings and emotions. It has been
painful for me to review the darkness and daylight of these past years.
This is my story.
In the United States this year alone there will be over one million new
widows and widowers. I Lost My Husband Not My Mind will provide hope
to those going through a loss. When it comes to grief, we think of death
as the ultimate loss. But, there are other losses that put us in 100% of
pain at the time. These losses include loss of health, a relationship, a
marriage, a dream, a prized possession, or a job. Loss is loss and with it
comes pain. Everyday we cross paths with someone who is in the
process of grief; however many times grief is misinterpreted as
Chapter 1 - The Missing Half - This chapter begins with the phone ringing, asking the question “is he dead” and
getting the answer “yes”. John Sheppard is dead with no chance to say goodbye. The shock - it is “just me” no more
us, we or ours. In one brief moment I have lost everything. I wonder do I have what it takes to begin completing myself
without losing my mind!
As if the weight of John’s death is not enough, I am given another burden to carry. My big brother and best friend,
Chris has been diagnosed with ALS and given 2 years to live. I begin making trips to Dallas and New York to help
care for him.
Chapter 2 - Life After Death for the Living – Floating through the holidays – numb and in denial. It takes midnight
visits to Wal-Mart, wine tasting at the grave, sleeping in the closet and telling perfect strangers that my husband just
died as I begin to face the chilling grip of grief. Coping is living in a fog and crying becomes as normal as breathing –
it’s a way of living.
Chapter 3 - Widow Sheppard on Widow Time – I share the autopsy report – all those big medical words and then I
read “a pickle” in his stomach! Natural causes – 55 years old – how can that be?
I visit a support group and meet a widower who is looking for a date. I go to Florida to tell my mother who is suffering
from Alzheimer’s that John has died. She understands and comforts me like only a mother can. Dilemmas of being a
widow – bugs in the house that I have to kill (eeeks gads), tables in restaurants set for 2, 4, and 6 and forever
relegated to ride in the backseat of the car.
Chapter 4 - P.S. Lord, I Don’t Have a Valentine – February 14 and the first time in 33 years without a special
valentine – bummer! My life is consumed with Widow Time – time stands still, moves fast or crawls. I may be late,
early or not show up at all. I let the housekeeper go – after all I have so much time on my hands. But, I can’t seem to
get it all done. Two months later the housekeeper shows up and we pretend she never left.
What to do with all his clothes – they go from the closet to the guest room and then back to the closet. I use his shirts
to have a quilt made for the new grandbaby!
Chapter 5 - The Society of The Ya Ya Widowhood – Support is what I need. On the internet late one night I find the
details of ending my life. How desperately lonely I had become. I start the Society of The Ya Ya Widowhood. We are
the Ya Yas – 5 widows who have just lost their husbands. We cry, laugh and play together and the support is
How does one face grief without friends and the “Widow Card.” There are times when you have to say “I am a widow,
please help me.” That is what we Ya Yas call the “Widow Card.”
Chapter 6 - Marker, Rings and Other Things – Life is full of little details. The grave marker comes in and I celebrate
with friends and with champagne from our last trip to London. It is time to quit pretending I am married – the wedding
ring comes off and I replace it with a turtle ring. I want to come out of my shell but…
Chapter 7 - Do Tell Little Child – It is hard for friends to talk about grief or John – they want me to be ok so I am – sort
of! My little niece always asks the questions everyone else is uncomfortable asking – “do you miss Uncle John” and
“do you want another husband.” For her birthday she wants to take a picnic to Uncle John’s grave. It is fun having
her share her memories of her Uncle John – she is only 4 years old!
The complaints of our divorced friends – drives the Ya Yas to toast being a widow – our husbands did not choose to
Chapter 8 - The World – Upside Down and Inside Out – I spend 14 days in Florida with my mother and she dies. How
can it be? Please God give me some relief.
My brother Chris is now in New York, completely bedridden with less than a few months to live. We struggle and hope
for a miracle. Chris, please wait, I am grieving John and mother – how does one take on another death?
Chapter 9 - Dear John – My job takes me on a trip to Hakai, British Columbia. How can one be a million miles away
from home and not be lonely. I have total solitude and time alone with John and God. I bury the shirt that John died
in as a gift to God and I am able to leave pieces and chunks of my past, my family and yes, some personal baggage
behind. Hakai is definitely a turning point in my grief process.
Life goes on – weddings and funerals – they are not widow friendly!
Chapter 10 - The Light of Grief Flickers – Chris continues to decline. The car John dies in comes full circle. My
company bought his car. The neighbor across the street is now driving it – bizarre!! Then I end up dating the next
person it is transferred to – closure is what it allows me!
Dating – now that is a topic – Widow Sheppard is lonely but not as lonely as they think.
Chapter 11 - Shoot Me That Silver Bullet – Why wasn’t one year the silver bullet to ending grief. One year and one
day later – I still hurt and I still cry.
After a courageous fight Chris dies. My job takes me to Chile for more time of solitude and healing.
Time did not make a difference for me. It was the choices I made that made the difference. The path I am on is not
one I would have chosen. It is not better or worse, but different. But, I choose to let go of the past, live today and plan
and dream for tomorrow.
Chapter 12 - PS…Oops, Did I Say That? There is hope after loss. In a tongue-in-cheek manner I discuss what not to
say with “Heart Responses” and “Mouth Answers” from statements/questions said to me in the first few weeks after
I share what helped me on my grief journey. There is light at the end of the tunnel of grief. It still flickers from time to
time but most of the time it is a ray of light.
|I Lost My Husband, Not My Mind!