Support offered to young widows, widowers — (The Battle Creek Inquirer)

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The Battle Creek Inquirer

Elizabeth Huff, The Enquirer

Hannah Reel/For the Enquirer

Jen Thurow never expected at age 28 to grieve her husband’s death.

“Everything was going so perfect for us,” she said. “We were absolutely perfect for each other, and that’s an understatement.”

Although the young couple were happy together, Thurow’s husband had clinical depression and was on medication to control it.

When he took his own life at home, for Thurow, it was as if part of her life was taken too.

“I kept thinking I’ll just put all of his stuff away and just move on,” she said. “I thought I was handling it pretty well, but now I know that I have to bring the grief on so that I can deal with it.”

Thurow is learning coping strategies during weekly group sessions called “Creating a New Normal” through CityLinC Ministries at Battle Creek Friends Church. Led by Kim Clifford, whose husband died of an autoimmune disease when she was 34 years old, the group is for young men and women who recently have lost a spouse.

A box of brand-name tissues is at the center of the table where they meet.

“We need the good stuff,” Clifford said, laughing.

Clifford, now 40, leads by example. She shows the four women in the current group that it is possible to overcome grief.

“My goal is that they are getting hope by being able to see me further down the road,” she said. “I’ve told them that I’m not grieving anymore. I’m excited about life again. I feel alive again.”

For the first three years, Clifford couldn’t say that.

She and her husband were in the process of building a house and raising two young boys together. When he died, she said she went into “robot mode.”

“You feel like half a person,” she said.

Suddenly a single mother without two-thirds of her income, she found that most grief support groups in Battle Creek focused on people who had already raised their children and retired. She read books about grieving and talked with family and friends, but she said, “I really wanted to talk to another young widow who was maybe further down the road than I was.”

At 34, Clifford thought she couldn’t stand the loneliness and tried dating. But it was hard on her boys, and none of the guys her friends tried fixing her up with compared to the love her husband showed her.

“I had a really good marriage once, and no one can ever take that from me,” she said. “If I never have it again, that’s OK.”

It’s Clifford’s personal choice to remain single, but she emphasizes letting go of the things you cannot control and making the best of the situation you’re in.

“I hope that they can take the loss and find meaning in it, and allow that to catapult them to greatness, to be more than they ever dreamed before,” she said.

Thurow said this is a life lesson she has taken to heart. It has been less than two months since her husband committed suicide, yet she is able to talk about her situation with courage.

“I definitely don’t live in the past because there is nothing you can do about it,” she said. “And I don’t live in the future because you can’t really control it. I live right now.”

“Seize the day,” Clifford said in reply, winking at Thurow.

“Exactly.”

Elizabeth Huff is a health and features reporter. She can be reached at 966-0684 or ehuff@battlecr.gannett.com.

Kim Clifford, of CityLinC Ministries, discusses the grief that she endured after the death of her husband. Clifford leads a grief support program for widows and widowers, ages 25-55, at 6 p.m. Mondays at Friends Church, 1305 Olive St.

Join the next session:

Kim Clifford again will offer “Creating a New Normal,” a program designed for young widows and widowers, ages 25 through 55 starting Sept. 17.

The support group is mainly for those who have been widowed for at least six months and up to two years.

Participants meet for five consecutive sessions, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Mondays at Battle Creek Friends Church, 1305 Olive St.

To register, call CityLinC Ministries at 969-9181.

Hannah Reel/For the Enquirer

Jen Thurow, 28, of Battle Creek, attends the grief support group lead by Kim Clifford at Friends Church, 1305 Olive St. Thurow became a widow six weeks ago when her husband of less than a year committed suicide.