How do you move forward after losing your lifelong best friend when you’re 9 months pregnant? Just ask Melanie.
In this episode, widowed mom, Dr. Melanie Lerew shares her journey through life, loss, and a baby her husband never got a chance to meet.
She also shares her unique perspective on how “the coop” has been her steadfast support throughout her journey.
If you are enjoying the podcast and you know others that would benefit from the Now What? Share your favorite podcast episode on Facebook, instagram, or LinkedInTag directly from whatever platform you are listening to the show @erinhentecoaching and mention the podcast name to get entered into a monthly giveaway for a FREE 60 Minute Breakthrough Coaching Call to explore next steps on your journey.
What you’ll learn from this Episode:
● A Widow’s journey after the sudden loss of her husband while 9 months pregnant.
● The steadfast love her sister’s family provided.
● How google led her to others on a similar journey.
● As a physician, she shares how caretaking for others has led her to caring for herself.
● PLUS a fun story about how her obsession for chickens have provided healing for “the
Featured on the Show:
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Podcast Episode 7
[00:00:00] Erin Hente: Welcome to episode seven of the now what Podcast.
[00:00:04] Erin Hente: Hey there. And thanks for listening to another episode of the podcast. If you're just tuning in for the first time. I'm your host of the podcast? Erin Henty. Today's episode, I've invited a fellow widow to share her journey through grief. And I'm honored to be introducing you today to Melanie Lara. Joining us from Texas. Welcome Melanie.
[00:00:28] Melanie: Hi Erin. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:31] Erin Hente: I thanks for joining. I am just so glad that you have raised your hand and said, I want to share my story. And I know you shared quite a bit of background with me before this episode today, but I definitely want to take a moment to hear a little bit about your story and to share it with our listeners today. But I do have to say. It's so funny because I feel like I already know you, even though we've never met in real life.
[00:01:03] Erin Hente: I think connecting through a Facebook community after the loss of my husband has been super important. So I wanna, I want to say know you, but not really. So let's get to know each other today.
[00:01:19] Melanie: Yeah. I don't really know where to start.
[00:01:21] Erin Hente: Let's start here before, before we started recording today, you mentioned to me that you're a doctor and wow, that's incredible. I know it's taken a lot for you to get here. So let's rewind for just a moment and I want you to share.
[00:01:38] Erin Hente: The story of how you met your husband?
[00:01:43] Melanie: I, well, I, I live in a small town, a smaller town in north central, Texas called Wichita falls. And I went to a very small Private elementary school, where we had like 20 kids or something. And then when I was in seventh grade, I went to the public junior high, which was a huge change.
[00:02:07] Melanie: Lots of kids. It was great. I mean, I loved it made lots of friends, but very overwhelming. And my first day I sat in my science class in front of a boy named Jeffrey LaRue, who. I don't know how to better describe the adjust. He just never stopped following me around from then. We became instant friends and I, you know, a lot of our friends would tell me he had a crush on me and stuff, but it was fine.
[00:02:42] Melanie: It's funny, my hands are sweating now. Cause I'm anxious from this, but he, I used to get so mad at him in junior high. Cause he'd run up in the hallways and grab my hands and then comment loudly how sweaty my hands were. I'm like, why are you grabbing my hands anyway? And we had just kind of fell into this incredible friendship that continued through junior high to high school, through dating other people.
[00:03:07] Melanie: And then. Got accepted and went to the university of Texas and Austin. And I think it just kind of became obvious at some point to a couple years in that we weren't going to be dating anyone else cause we didn't want to spend time with anyone else. And so he decided to ask me if I wanted to go see a ballet and go out to dinner and then I guess we were dating and then it just kind of never.
[00:03:32] Melanie: And I remember telling my mom about it. And I said, I came home from college for Christmas. It must've been our junior year. Jeffrey was the one who knew all the dates. And I said, mom, I have to tell you something. And she said it was about Jeffrey. And I said, yeah. And she said, well, all I can tell you is you've either into your best friendship or you've started dating the man you're going to marry.
[00:03:51] Melanie: And I was like, well, I think I kind of have to marry him at this point. And she's like, yeah, I think so. And so. Then I got accepted to medical school and we moved to university of Texas medical branch at Galveston. So we moved down to Galveston island and he moved and got a house down there. And I lived with my sister who was in school, down there too. And. Then during third year he proposed and we got married during my fourth year. He was pretty adamant that we get married in time for me to have his last name on my medical diplomas.
[00:04:29] Melanie: He was always kind of trying to make sure to tie, tie all the. Titled to loosens up, like, like I was maybe going to like skip away which I was never going to do, but yeah, I'll never forget the night he proposed, we'd gone out to this restaurant down on the Galveston, the long skinny island. So if you go anywhere, you can drive forever.
[00:04:52] Melanie: So we'd gone to this restaurant down on the west end and. It's like a nice dinner and we didn't, you know, we were students, we didn't do nice dinners. And he had told me that his dad had paid for it because he had just gotten accepted to a master's of public health program that he was going to go to.
[00:05:07] Melanie: So I was like, okay. And we're like eating this nice dinner and we have a bottle of wine and he asked the waiter to cork our wine for us, that we weren't going to finish it. And we're going to take it home. So fricking weird Jeff, like what have we ever not like, it's fine. You know, and all day he'd been giving me a little presents.
[00:05:22] Melanie: He gave me a roll of quarters cause I was always asking for quarters so that I could get dichos on campus. And he gave me a Stefan thought about a well a couple of little presents all throughout the day, but there wasn't anything unusual. And so we come back home and my sister was out of town. And so it was just the two of us. And we come back to my point. And it was has like a, a little patio with like like French doors that open up and inside.
[00:05:44] Melanie: I could see that the lights were on and I was like, oh my God, I turned all the lights off. We got to call the cops and he's like, no, it's okay. And I'm like, no Jeffrey. Like I turned all the lights off. I was very careful. Cause I kind of thought we'd stay at his house that night, but he wanted to go back to my house and he's like, no, it's fine.
[00:05:58] Melanie: And he opens the door and there are like a thousand tealight candles. And tulips, which my favorite flower, like, I mean, like a 200 tulips all over the place. And I realized like somebody has been here, something's going on. This is really weird. And I think he's going to propose and he just puts his hand on my back and he says, Melanie, it's going to be okay.
[00:06:22] Melanie: Just go inside. Okay. So that was when we got engaged. He wanted to get married before I graduated medical school and so we got married and then so the, kind of the weird thing that a lot of people don't maybe know about the medical field is when you finish medicine, then you apply for a residency program, which is your training program, how you learned to be in your specialty.
[00:06:42] Melanie: And I had chosen ear, nose and throat. Fairly competitive and can become difficult to match into. And so you go into this process called the match, where you interview a different programs. They interview you, you, you interview them really they're interviewing you, and then you submit a list and it's almost like the military, wherever they have ranked you and you've ranked them.
[00:07:03] Melanie: And that matches up your option. And your only option is to go to that facility. And if you basically, if you say no, then you don't go into the field. So we ended up in Southern California, which is not, I have a special love for Southern California now, but as a text and I didn't particularly want to go there or anywhere other than Texas, but Jeffery went with me.
[00:07:25] Melanie: And so we went out to California and he had just gotten his master's in public health and thought he'd worked in the public health sector. And really, yeah. I mean, there just weren't really any jobs. And he had always resisted going into law. His father was an attorney is an attorney. Well, he's retired, but and I always resisted and always resisted.
[00:07:44] Melanie: And then finally applied to law school out there and ended up going to actually get a combined MBA and And JD and law degree at Chapman law school in orange, California, which is great. And it ended up being great. And so he did law school out there while I did residency and they were some really tough and really great year. You know, that just that young, intense kind of thing. And, you know, before you have kids, when it's, you're just like really excited when you have enough money to go to Chili's on a Friday night and like go to the beach on the weekends. And we take these short little vacations up to surrounding areas like big bear mountain is up there. And we had very little family out there and none that we were particularly close to anyway, and all of our family was back in Texas and it was very isolating, but not in a bad way. And we decided to go ahead and try and have kids. And we got pregnant with my eldest David pretty easily.
[00:08:53] Melanie: And I ended up having David let's see, he was born in November of my fourth year at ENC is a five-year residency program. And then when we had David, we just wanted to come home. And so we did, so we moved home after I finished residency in 2015. And so my, my parents still live here. His parents had retired and moved out to New Mexico. Three of his sisters, three of his four sisters lived here and one of my sisters lived here, the other one lives in the metroplex. So we, you know, kind of had immediate family and friends.
[00:09:27] Melanie: And I had this really uniquely amazing practice with partners who are just above and beyond anything and just have a great life and, you know, bought a house and Then when we were trying to get pregnant with our second, we had trouble and ended up doing IVF for that which was kind of its own unique hell if anyone's ever been through fertility stuff.
[00:09:50] Melanie: But we ended up being a very fortunate success story and got pregnant on our first round. And then Jeffrey died two weeks before Henry was.
[00:10:01] Erin Hente: So let's, let's pause there for just a moment. What a beautiful story that you just shared. I wanted to just honor your story because you have been through so much and just making the decision. Moving up away from family and starting a new life together to coming back, to come closer to family, to be home and to sort of set you up for where you are today.
[00:10:27] Erin Hente: It feels like, so share with me before we go back. And talk about the loss of Jeffrey. Let's talk about where you're at right now and kind of what you've, what you've been up to and. Do I have this correct? That you have some pet chickens running around?
[00:10:46] Melanie: Well, they, they heard safely tucked away, but yeah. Yeah. I yeah, I got a few fun. My therapist called them distractions, which my sister and I joke about now. Cause I'm like, I guess my whole life is full of distractions, but whatever. I so currently I I'm four years, a little plot, four years plus out Jeffrey died in December of 2020. So. No December of 2017, December 20th of sorry, it's been a little over four years or zero years.
[00:11:16] Melanie: It depends on the day. Cause time isn't real. And so I live with my sister and her husband and their three children and my two children. So we've got five kids and our other current counts are three dogs, one cat and 16.
[00:11:33] Erin Hente: What has that been like for you living with what was the decision that you had to come to when you decided to move in with
[00:11:45] Melanie: Jeffrey died on a Wednesday. That's only relevant because for a long time, I only counted in Wednesdays. And I had a private practice than a four year old and a baby due in 14 days and not do, but like C-section scheduled. Like that was just the day he was being born. And I, the morning. I found Jeffrey.
[00:12:09] Melanie: I packed up my bags and went to my parents' house and that's where I stayed while we were planning the funeral. And so for a couple days, and my younger sister, who's only younger by 18 months, but she's my younger sister. She isn't accountant and, and is not. Very used to not getting her way in general, because she's the third kid in the family and then she's an accountant and she just tells us she just, she gets kind of things her way.
[00:12:37] Melanie: And she did not think that the best thing for me was going to be, which was my plan was have the baby and go back to my house and live in my house. And she thought that that was a pretty stupid plan and like a lot of things Valerie tends to be. Right. And so on the first Wednesday after Jeffrey died, Seven days later, I moved to my sister and brother-in-law's house, which is a great house.
[00:13:04] Melanie: We loved that house. And they turned their playroom into a veteran for me. And on the second Wednesday after Jeffrey died, I had Henry and he was the. Could've ever happened, ever did happen ever has happened. And only the way that a baby can be. And then we by brought him back to valid Andrew's house and we started trying to settle in and, and we did, and we did great, and it was a smaller house, but it was a great house. And we had this one dinner. Where my sister and my brother-in-law and I went out and we really talked about the future and I was still intent on moving back to my house. And at that point I really didn't want to, and I also didn't know how I was going to work with the four year old and an infant, because of course I can have a, a nanny and help during the day, but I take call.
[00:14:07] Melanie: And have to be available at least for some times in the middle of the night. So I'd have to have somebody spend the night. I need another adult mouse. I need somebody who can handle the kids. And so my sister and supposedly with my brother-in-law remains, you know, jury's always out whether or not he really wanted that first meeting, but we decided to move forward and buy a house all together.
[00:14:27] Melanie: And we tore off some of the Butcher paper. That was the placements at the restaurant inside the contract that said we would maintain honesty and boundaries with each other. And then the next week we went and looked for a house and bought a new house and we called it the coop. It's actually, it's kind of a funny story, right after Jeffrey died.
[00:14:47] Melanie: I think it was the fifth, Wednesday or six months. And so my sister and I my sister went out immediately to buy a suburban. That was big enough for all of these. Because that's just kind of the stuff that she does. So she was invited to a good friend of hers from college, her a wedding. And I hadn't been invited, my parents were invited.
[00:15:05] Melanie: I mean, you know, but then they had reached out and said, Hey, like please come to the wedding. And I'm like, I'm like come to the wedding, but, but I decided to go to South Carolina anyway. My sister and I packed up the five-pack, the five kids and drove from Texas to South Carolina to go to this wedding.
[00:15:22] Melanie: My brother-in-law flew to meet us out there and we think we're hilarious. So we hashtagged our whole trip and our two favorite hashtags were quarter-life crisis, which is great. And also To hints, five chicks. And then when my brother-in-law met us up, we added and the rooster. And so after that, a girlfriend of mine said, I can't always call the house.
[00:15:44] Melanie: Valerie. In Melanie's house. She's like, so central had called yourself the two hands and five chicks. I just call it the chicken coop. So we called our house, the coop and then decided to get actual chickens. So that's how the whole chicken thing started just never ended. And I love it. Are they like your therapy?
[00:16:06] Melanie: Oh my gosh. So much. And they provided so much, like I said, my therapist would have called it distraction, but I just needed things to get me. Like, so we in the chickens, what happened was I wanted to grow a watermelon. And so I planted some watermelons and then there were ants on the watermelons and I was reading about natural ways to get rid of ants on watermelons.
[00:16:34] Melanie: And one of the best ways is to have chickens. So then I got chickens, cause that felt like, so now we have, now we have 16 chickens and a pretty big garden every summer. And. Love and hate it because they love doing it. But also they have to do chicken chores and which is like once a week and we help them.
[00:16:52] Melanie: It's not that big of a deal, but it's funny, you know, we get the eggs, it gives the kids something to do. It gives them an opportunity to get outside and do something and earn, you know, a hot buck so that they can play Minecraft for a minute. So I can relate to that. Yeah. So it's, it's really been a good therapeutic exercise for the whole family and my brother-in-law who was exceedingly close to my husband.
[00:17:22] Melanie: I mean, they married these two sisters and, and my sister, and brother-in-law started dating in high school when we were all in high school together. So this is, it's been a long thing with the four of us. And even when we moved back home before Jeffrey died, Dinner at my house or their house almost every night, we'd sign up for HelloFresh and get the same meals so that we could all do it together.
[00:17:43] Melanie: And then, you know, Andrew, his partner in crime dropped off the face of the earth. And so he, had a lot of his own struggles and he's always loved kind of building stuff. And so one of the things that chickens you know, provided was when I kept getting more, cause it it's kinda like a.
[00:18:00] Melanie: Problem. Once you pop, you don't stop until you just, and then you find other breeds that you want. And so then my brother-in-law, you know, got to spend several weeks designing and building a chicken coop that he bought new power tools for. And it was just a great exercise for him. And so in a lot of weird ways, the chickens have been really good for the whole family and our neighbors.
[00:18:22] Melanie: Yes, I'm sure. I'm sure they love that. My favorite are farm fresh or backyard eggs. Those are the best awesome.
[00:18:31] Erin Hente: Let's go back for a minute. We skipped over, but intentionally, because I always like to know. The story of the two of you and then kind of where you're at now, but it's been a four year journey to get here. So I want you to share as much as you're comfortable, but share with everybody just a little bit about Jeffrey's loss and what surrounded that and what were kind of the next.
[00:19:01] Erin Hente: You had to decide to take because you are about to give birth to a baby. So like that's a whole nother layer in and of itself. So take us back to that if you don't mind. So, yeah, so I was extremely pregnant and it was Christmas time. Jeffrey's favorite time. I mean, not a piece of furniture wasn't decorated.
[00:19:26] Erin Hente: There was Garland everywhere every year. I mean, Christmas music and know. Really, we were just super looking forward to the baby. We were so relieved. We'd been through this IVF process and it was just good Jeffery's law practice. He had when we came to the town, he had started working at legal aid, which is kind of like as an attorney kind of start there, it's kind of paying your dues and then he decided to go out on his own and make his own law practice.
[00:19:53] Erin Hente: That's a bit of a frustration for me because it wasn't so much keeping him busy. And so he actually recently joined a new law practice and he, he was new to the law practice. The law practice was not anyway, and it was a boss that it was just he and one other attorney and she is a well-established attorney and he just loved it.
[00:20:11] Melanie: She was wonderful. She is still wonderful. And things. Good. You know David was four and healthy and really pretty good four year old. And I mean were just kind of chugging along and I had been sick that weekend. I'd had like a cold or something and Jeffery ended up taking David to a birthday party that I didn't want to go to.
[00:20:34] Melanie: And then they'd gone to a Christmas party you know? So he gone out and then that that Tuesday night he was sick. And like, you know, regular cold or whatever. And I was on call, which always makes me grumpy anyway.
[00:20:52] Melanie: And he had this cold and it was kind of getting in the shower and taking medicine and I was kind of, just tossing and turning and I was getting frustrated with him and, just having the man flu and so I went to sleep in another room and then he went to sleep on the couch and I checked it out too. And it was really pretty snarky. And so I went to bed and I mean, the next morning I got up, I showered David came in and was talking to me while I was getting ready. I normally would've told them to go wake up dad, but I just was like, you know, I was kind of bitchy last night and I'm going to let him sleep.
[00:21:25] Melanie: I'll take David to school. And so I set him down, watching some cartoons, and I went to check on Jeffrey and I walked past him sleeping on the couch and let the dogs out. And I opened the curtains and the den where he was sleeping and. He's not breathing. And I went around the side of the couch to face them and he was just dead. He just was, and I checked for poles and call my sister and told her to come over. I didn't even tell her what was going on. I guess she knew and called my best friend. Who's a trauma surgeon and she said, just hang up and call 9 1 1 and called them. And my sister got there.
[00:22:07] Melanie: My best friends got there. My brother-in-law got there and the EMS people came and I had David. I'd moved them back and put them in my room and this some I'm trying to call like my sister-in-law's cause they live in town and I'm like, they're going to see ambulances. And my next door neighbors had texted Jeffrey, obviously thinking it was something to do with me and the baby and said, do we need to come get David thinking I was going to the hospital, which would have definitely been a more logical conclusion.
[00:22:44] Melanie: And we put David back in my room and The EMS guys came and said, well, there's nothing we can do. And I kind of screamed at them a little bit. I'm like, I know, just leave. And they, took him away. And then we packed my bags and my brother-in-law took David to his house. And I went over to my parents' house and met with the funeral people. And I was really glad. For really healthy 34 year old people, Jeffrey and I had talked about funerals and death and stuff, and I knew he wanted to be cremated, which was something his family didn't agree with, but that's what he wanted.
[00:23:19] Melanie: And he had told me, and I remember signing the paperwork and I remember trying to close my eyes while I was writing the date. So that the date wouldn't be burned into my memory, just so stupid. But you know, you just think those things, the moment. And then I went over to my sister's house and told my four year old baby that his dad was dead.
[00:23:40] Melanie: And that was the worst of it. And those weird thing is my baby. My baby baby just turned four a couple of weeks ago. And I'm like, how is it that you are a baby that is four years old. And you were this same age that your brother was when I said daddy died and he's never coming back. And I, what, like thought, I don't know, you know, I mean, you just, it's so different.
[00:24:11] Melanie: But, and then, but then we don't play in the funeral and it was so weird because I remember talking to my pastor, he came over and he said, I was like, I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do this on my own. I can't have this baby. I can't do all this stuff. And he said, Melanie, you need to find your. And I turned to my priest, who I have known since I was a child.
[00:24:37] Melanie: And I said, I just lost my fucking center. I, oh my God. I just cussed at my best. But he was incredibly kind about that. Yeah. The funeral.
[00:24:52] Melanie: Was good. You know, my brother-in-law spoke, my husband's eldest sister spoke and our best friends spoke and it was good. And then the next day I went to the same church to do candlelight while my four year old cried and fell asleep in my lap. And then the next day we did Christmas. And then
[00:25:26] Melanie: it just kept going day by day. And I moved into my sister's house and then
[00:25:36] Melanie: I have Henry and the experience of having.
[00:25:47] Melanie: Someone hands you a baby that you tried so hard to make with another person who didn't then get to be there to hold them is just, I think that was the first time I really realized, This is it. And these boys just have me now and I just, I didn't feel sorry for myself. I mean, trust me, I've had plenty of those moments, but I felt so sorry for Jeffrey. You know, he wanted this baby as much, if not more than I did, and I wouldn't let him find out the gender.
[00:26:18] Melanie: So he didn't even know it was a boy, but I, I knew and I had told him I mean, I didn't know, but I knew having someone hand me that baby, and what should have been a moment of the most pure joy that was the most pure joy I've ever felt. Coupled with the most crippling pain I've ever felt.
[00:26:41] Melanie: This is something that's really hard
[00:26:43] Erin Hente: You've done a beautiful job of sharing your story. I think as we move forward on our journey, it's so important to understand that, we have these moments, right?
[00:27:00] Erin Hente: All these significant events that are going to come along the baby, kids going off to school, graduating getting married, it, it never. Stops, but I think that's so important to understand that equal parts of joy and pain that come together what have you needed most. Along your journey to be able to give yourself the time or space to be able to process the things that you're you're going through.
[00:27:42] Melanie: I needed to know that my kids were okay. I needed my kids to be fed. I needed for them to be sheltered. My sister, we, you know, those early days you're figuring out passwords and life insurance, death certificates and all that stuff. But This is what my sister used to tell everyone, because obviously everyone would ask her all the time, how is Melanie how's Melanie's husband?
[00:28:05] Melanie: And she would say she enjoys being around her children and she's going to work. And I mean, obviously I didn't go to work for a while. I took three months off and possibly that wasn't enough, but it was what it was
[00:28:17] Melanie: I remember telling Valerie, you know, I just, what am I never going to cook again?
[00:28:20] Melanie: I love cooking. I'm never going to cook again because like, why would I, so, so slowly, slowly, slowly. You start back, the things that you did, you know, you don't cook a gourmet meal, the kids ask for grilled cheese and you're like, whoa, Hey, I've got all these hungry little mouths that like it.
[00:28:42] Melanie: And so I slowly started cooking and now I cook for all eight of us, probably five nights a week, if not six and I meal plan and. And it's, it's a huge part of my way to give back to this community. That is my family that are these children and my other adults. And, and I mean that, I feel that I need to give back to the children because they are there and they are steadfast and their emotions like you have emotions and I. Went from a place where for a long time, I was so scared. My eldest David would be an only child to all of a sudden his world of ripped out from underneath him. And he was not only a brother, but a full-time living cousin, Vickery, others. And it was a huge adjustment. And my sister's kids, they, they were stepped past and helped us adjust, even though they were six, four and 18 months old.
[00:29:42] Melanie: And my niece, my youngest one she loved Henry loved Henry. I mean like, you know, 18 month old girl, baby doll comes to life and she couldn't say Henry and she called him honey. And so she called him Henry deemed the honey bean. And so we still call them honey beans. And so the five-pack has been everything. It's important to be able to focus on other people's needs. And I'm a doctor. It's, it's what I do.
[00:30:13] Melanie: And that was, you know, it's kind of hard to go back to work and have somebody tell me how much they're suffering with their allergies. And I'm like, my husband's dead. Why do I care? And that, you know, it's a lot of stuff we learn. And a lot of stuff with widowhood is number one, fake it till you make it.
[00:30:33] Melanie: And number two, like we said, like the power of the word, and I can be miserable in my life and this could be the best. Thing in this person's life right now, you know, both can be true. They're not mutually exclusive. And, understanding that pain, isn't a competition and it has a limitless resource and, trying to learn the things that you can focus on to make this one wild and precious life a little bit better for you and the ones around you and just taking a break.
[00:31:06] Erin Hente: Yeah, absolutely. And so being used, you just packed a lot into like a few sentences, so I'm unpacking that really quick. One of the things you said about faking it to you to make it so often, like some of the clients that I work with, they've been doing that, faking it. But sometimes it comes back to like giving yourself space to be able to understand what you want and how you want to show up in the world.
[00:31:39] Erin Hente: And so I feel like for me, like I've had to show up in the way that I wanted even though I didn't feel it in the moment, that way, on the other side of that, So when my friends would invite me to go out on a Friday night and be like, I just want to stay on the couch and be in my jammies.
[00:31:56] Erin Hente: But I knew on the other side of that, I'd be laughing and having fun. It would end up filling me up inside. And so I think knowing in the end, what you really truly need, sometimes it takes that little push within to be able to get there. But there's also this other flip side of that, where we go, go, go and try to live up to everyone.
[00:32:21] Erin Hente: Else's expectations and act like we're okay. And trying to make it through. But at the end of the day, how have you personally, taking care of your own needs during this time?
[00:32:31] Erin Hente: Cause I know that's just as important to be able to give in the way that you do on a regular basis.
[00:32:40] Melanie: Yeah. Definitely that's it. When my good friends. She was in trauma surgery residency, and she had her first baby and she's just very everything is perfect and everything's on time and the baby's not eating every two hours and her pediatrician sat her down and said, you know, you're on an airplane and you gotta put your mask on first.
[00:32:57] Melanie: You gotta put your oxygen mask on first. You gotta take care of yourself. And so we, we talk about that analogy a lot. Like, so, I mean, that's the question, right? What do you do to put your mask on first? I did focus on distractions for a while because after finding Jeffrey dead, I was in a loop, just a loop. What did I do? What did I find it? What did I say? When did I, where could I have stopped the process?
[00:33:21] Melanie: And sometimes you just get off the Ferris wheel. You just got to make it stop. And so I did a lot of, I mean, for one, you know, two weeks later I had a baby that needed to eat every three hours. That was a great reset button. Every three hours, I could only focus on.
[00:33:37] Melanie: And so for a little bit, it was that it was the routine of getting the baby clean. And I watched a lot of movies. I listened to a lot of books and I went back to a lot of my old favorites. I probably relisten to the Harry Potter audio books like 18 times. Cause I still think that series deals with grief better than any grief book you will read.
[00:33:54] Melanie: And I read some books about grief and got mad at him. And then I want to say it was about when we went to South Carolina. So about five or six weeks later is when I found the Facebook group, then we met in and I had Googled and Googled and Googled. My husband died to have a baby. Now, what do I do?
[00:34:13] Melanie: And it turns out Google is not helpful for that. Great for like sugar, cookie recipes, not great for what do I do when my husband died and I just kept trying different, very, you know how you, like, you put different stuff in quotations. Refine your Google search. Like surely I could get this. Right. And then somebody will tell me what to do.
[00:34:30] Melanie: I found out that I am not the only person to have lost a spouse in my thirties or some of them in their twenties and not even the only one to lose a spouse with young kids and not even the only one to lose a spouse when pregnant.
[00:34:42] Melanie: And I just poured every freaking anxious thought into that group and was typically met with someone who could say, Hey, Bri. Then breathe again. And nobody in that group, nobody who's been through loss told you they're in a better place and you know, it's going to get better and God doesn't give you stuff.
[00:35:08] Melanie: You can't handle. You know, nobody, nobody says that to their, they say, oh my God, that's horrible. And then that's it. And you're like, good, thank you. It is horrible. Right? Like, isn't it horrible. And I just found so much. Through that through other people who I could say they made it three years and if they can make it through years, I can make it three months.
[00:35:35] Melanie: And then when you make it three months, then you talk to somebody who's three weeks out and you're like, no, no, it's okay. You just breathe. And then, you know, and, and I think everyone finds their own path and their own rhythm. And and I just. Yeah. I mean, I think I threw myself into my home life and I mean, work life was something that I survived for a very long time. Work-life was, was hard and I'm actually in a separate Facebook group for physician widows. And then we talk about that a lot. It's hard to get back into kind of a caretaker role. But you can't do it if you're not. Okay.
[00:36:17] Melanie: It's so hard to look back and say like, what did I do to get through those moments? Because you're just treading water. You don't realize that you're treading water with actual momentum towards the shore. You know, it just feels like treading water and then you look up and actually the shorts closer and it's a little closer and you've done better and you you've traveled some distance, you know?
[00:36:38] Erin Hente: Perfect analogy. And I think you just gave this little listeners listening to this, a gift because. One of the very first things I always, when I know someone has experienced loss, as I get them connected to other people who have experienced loss and connecting with somebody who gets it and understands and is okay when you just vent about the horrible days and you celebrate the good days and maybe, you know, the good days can look like just getting up and taking a shower. And that in and of itself. It's how you put your oxygen mask on slowly and start breathing. I feel like, especially when there's trauma revolving around the loss, you're learning things for the very first time again, because you're experiencing them in a new way and your brain becomes very aware.
[00:37:41] Erin Hente: Oh, I'm brushing my teeth today, but I'm brushing my teeth today and my husband's not here. Oh, I'm waking my kids up and they don't want to get up and I can't have my husband come in and help me get them out of bed. It's everything. Yeah. How has that shifted a little bit and changed for you over the last four years?
[00:38:11] Melanie: First of all, I will say that I try to, constantly recognize the privilege that I have with having two adults in the house with me, which is something that most widows don't have most windows with kids don't have, they don't have another adult to look over their shoulders. But you still you're, you're the only mom, you're the only one.
[00:38:31] Melanie: The power to cure the tummy ache and the ability to put on the bandaid. And, learning to trust yourself, which is hard because you're constantly second guessing your judgment when you're sleep deprived and feel like you've just got such bad brain fog from widowhood. And you're like, hold on. Did I just agree to two hours of iPad time? And you have to learn to be super forgiving with yourself and to really just not sweat the small stuff. And, and I had to learn, how much more important it is for me some days to cancel my entire clinic, to stay in bed by myself and watch Lord of the rings than it is to actually go and do the thing that I feel like I'm supposed to do.
[00:39:15] Melanie: If you don't give yourself those moments, those graces, those, whatever it is that you need in that moment, then you're just doing this act that is so taxing and tiresome, and it just comes back on you anyway. I just have found if I really let myself lean into it when I need to and forgive myself and really don't just say, okay, it's going to be okay because, but just absolutely be like, no, you needed that today.
[00:39:40] Melanie: Then you can pick up the next day in January. Move forward as opposed to scraping by so much, you know?
[00:39:50] Erin Hente: Oh, absolutely. 100%. I have these conversations with people every single day. And I was on a call with someone else earlier today. And we were talking about that trust, I think, because this is the noisy world and there's so many things that are in front of her face. All the time, including Facebook, we'll just say social media in general. So many things are coming at us all the time. So we're constantly comparing ourselves to others, wondering if we should be in a similar place and that is when we have to really step back and I think that is so important, trusting and leaning into it and knowing that we're gonna screw up along the way. We are not going to be perfect. We were created for perfection. That would be a boring world anyways.
[00:40:48] Erin Hente: But know that you're not alone in this journey. There's other people out there screwing up all the time too. And they're going to tell you it's okay. It's okay. So for those that are listening today, I want you to know you're not alone. That's kind of the point of having this podcast and sharing these stories with you.
[00:41:08] Erin Hente: We get it. And Melanie, I just appreciate you being vulnerable and opening up and sharing your story, your beautiful story with Jeffrey and wisdom. Because I think people, whether you're you're four days, four months or four years in, it is so important to know that. There's someone just a little further ahead on their journey that you can seek for guidance, but also know that, there are lots of resources out there, people that tap into to help give you some guidance along the way to, to let you know, Hey, you know, you're doing it.
[00:41:56] Erin Hente: And sometimes that's enough. So thank you so much for being here today. I'm really honored. Yay. And for again, those of you who are listening in the show notes, you're gonna have some links to be able to get to some of the things that we've referenced here. You know, a group that you can connect with other widows link to resources on my website but just to know my friends that you're not alone. We're here for you on this journey. And in some of the future episodes , you're going to hear from other widows on our special widow episodes of the podcast. Next week on the podcast, you're going to be hearing from one of my kiddos, which I'm super excited to have them here with us on the show. These kids speak from experience and have so much wisdom. So please join us for that upcoming episode.
[00:42:48] Erin Hente: And I cannot wait to connect with you down the road.