Men need support after the loss of a spouse, and one way to get it is to create a team of people who can coach you. I refer to them as a Widower’s Personal Advisory Board. They could be a team of individuals, hailing from your collection of lifelong friends, a neighbor, a fellow parishioner from your church, relatives or a select group of professionals (doctor, lawyer, financial planner, life-coach, confidante, etc.).

Your Personal Advisory Board represents your go-to team, whose job it is to become familiar with your life situation and advise you as needed. Forming a Personal Advisory Board is a great way to allow another person who is also grieving the loss of your wife to contribute to the healing of the entire family. You could even say it would be therapeutic for them and you.

Widower Chris Sweet tells us how he reached out and found one of his old high school buddies that had previously lost his wife. He and I use to play basketball together but lost touch after graduation.  “I felt horrible for him, and I remember how I didn’t know what to say to him.  After some time, I found myself thinking how, given his own loss, he was aware of what I was going through, and might be able to help me make sense out of what was going on with me.”   We spoke on the phone and exchanged a few emails.  That was all I needed to keep me going a little while longer.”

Chris adds, “Just knowing that there are other people out there like me helped. “I didn’t need to become best friends or go out for coffee every day, so we could share stories.  I just needed to know they were there if needed.”

I asked widower and subject matter expert, Catholic priest Rev. Gregg Elliott if he thought men had a difficult time reaching for help?  “I had always been taught to be the rock regardless of the situation,” says Father Elliott.  “In the military, where I spent twenty-eight years, men are taught to be not so much self-sufficient but sufficiently strong enough to handle whatever came along. It is part of the grieving process that men, over time, will reach the stage when they recognize how they are in need of help.” The realization of the need causes the widower to muster the courage necessary to reveal his need to the appropriate source of relief for his desired help.

Grieving will take its toll on the best of men. Those who hope to recover need to mimic the behaviors of our sports heroes.  Identify your coaches, your mentors, and your advocates… and then for Pete’s sake, listen to them.

Widowers eager to receive group coaching are invited to join the Widowers Support Network – Members Only, a free and private Facebook (men only) page for widowers and caregivers of seriously ill spouses.  Now, where’s my whistle and clipboard.

Herb Knoll

Herb Knoll lost his wife, Michelle to pancreatic cancer on March 7, 2008. Knoll is a retired bank executive, marketer, and professional speaker turned widower advocate. He founded the Michelle’s Angels Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization, whose mission it is to “provide love, hope, compassion, and comforting music to those who quietly suffer” ( Knoll also founded the Widowers Support Network in 2014 so he could better serve, comfort, and assist widowers and those who love them. Knoll has previously served as a weekly columnist for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, a contributing writer for Sales & Marketing Management and Marketing Times magazines, and as an on-air talent for television commercials. As the former director of public and media relations for KeyBank (NY) and later as president of Marketplace Bank (FL), Knoll frequently appeared as his bank’s spokesperson on radio and television. PBS affiliate WNED produced and aired the three-part series Today’s Executive, featuring Herb’s business insights, which were featured in his 1985 book, The Total Executive. Among his many credits, Knoll was inducted into the Buffalo/Niagara Sales & Marketing Executive’s Hall of Fame, served as the Executive Director of the 10,000+ member Sales & Marketing Executives International and was a charter member of the board of directors for Nap Ford Community School in Orlando. A former U.S. Army Reserve Drill Sergeant (E-7), Knoll is a proud member of the Knights of Columbus. Knoll lives in Lake Mary, Florida, with his wife, Maria.

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