Physical Health for Widows

Being Selfless Begins with Self-Care

By Paula Meyer

To serve others and yourself in harmony, you must give from an overflowing well of energy and love. Our bodies are tuning forks to the subconscious. If we listen, we will hear what we need to focus on and receive insights into our past and present. Pain in the body indicates a need to look at that area and explore what thoughts and beliefs contribute to that pain. Ignoring these cues allows them to seat deeper within our bodies, which leads to illness. Becoming aware of underlying issues allows us to take action. Unfortunately, many times, I’ve had the awareness but didn’t follow through. One of the best books that helped me determine how my thoughts and beliefs affect my body is Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life.

I used to make time for self-care with daily meditation and occasional physical activity. My husband, Gary, always made sure we maintained a wholesome diet. In 2014, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. In the first few years, his health seemed to improve, so our routines remained constant. I continued my busy work schedule, and despite his salivary glands and taste buds being severely diminished, Gary could still travel. We were optimistic.

In early 2017, Gary started to have problems swallowing. He choked on food, labored hard to breathe, and lost considerable weight. It was a scary time. When he reluctantly agreed to get a feeding tube, we learned that the tumor had grown and was pressing against his trachea and esophagus. Because of this development, Gary would have to have a tracheostomy to ensure a clear airway when the feeding tube was inserted.

Being a caregiver is hard. Being a caregiver for someone you love is extremely hard. Being a caregiver for someone you love and working a demanding, full-time job is brutal on your body and mind. I wish I had understood the toll this would take on me. Having been on the self-development train since 1997, I should have been more prepared.

What I was missing during Gary’s illness was the importance of love and compassion for myself. Every waking moment involved caring for him or tending to work. I believed that being selfless in this way, I would be fine. Surely, all the good I did for others would carry over into my health and wellness. This was severe denial. Keeping my mind crazy busy sheltered me from thinking about the inevitable. I dismissed my intuition and ignored the signals my body sent to show how physically, mentally, and emotionally depleted I was becoming. When those in my inner circle asked, I always assured them I was fine.

Gary died on a Friday. My boss asked if I needed to take some time off. My answer: “Absolutely NOT! I need to keep moving forward; I will be back to the office on Monday.” And I was. I did not want to think about life without Gary. I was either eating, sleeping, or working, desperate to keep my mind occupied. Colleagues would marvel that I answered and sent emails at all hours of the day and night.

The survival centers in the physical body, the first three chakras or energy centers, are where intuition or “gut feelings” first present themselves. When continually disregarded, they manifest as pain. I knew this from many years of study, but I didn’t really “know” it. I wasn’t eating or sleeping well, which led to digestive issues, side aches, and lower back pain. I lost ten pounds. I thought I was moving forward but was instead moving very rapidly backwards. Five months later, on my 55th birthday, I was in the ER having an emergency appendectomy.

Not even an emergency appendectomy could slow me down. Right after surgery, I sent my son to the office to get my laptop. When my boss visited me in the hospital, I told him I would go to the United Kingdom in two days. He just smiled and encouraged me to get some rest. At the elevator, he told my son the trip was not going to happen. After accepting that my body was not well enough for immediate travel, I focused on the next trip, just a few weeks away. The event in Mexico went well but not without some additional physical challenges. And by the end of the year, I had lost another twenty pounds. More clues from the universe to slow down.

Finally, vacationing in Denver during the holidays, I realized this couldn’t continue. I had a long conversation with my mom. We made a pact: If I retired early, she would too, and we would spend a year traveling together. That sounded tempting, but I still wasn’t sure. Then, after a particularly stressful day, I called my boss and had a major melt-down. I probably frightened him a bit, considering my usual calm, cool facade. He was gracious, understanding, and worked with me to wind things down, so I could finally begin my healing journey.

The key to moving forward after the loss of a loved one is to create a new future. When NOW experiences become beautiful memories, we can place them gently alongside the treasured memories of our lost loved ones and step into a renewed excitement for life and all its unlimited possibilities.

Gary’s energy is still very much present, supporting me and our family in sharing our wisdom and experience for the highest good. Through my experience, I am now able to look forward to many new and different possibilities yet to come.

More love, more joy, and more adventures await!

Paula Meyer, widowed at age 54, is the author of Great Loss, Greater Love: The Art & Heart of Navigating Grief. She has traveled to 20 countries, some multiple times, and 42 U.S. States. Her goal is to visit 30 countries and all 56 U.S. States and territories by the end of 2025. She aspires to help other women get back in the game of life and realize there is still so much to learn and love. Learn more at

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Knowing there are women who have not only survived what I was going through, but were also thriving and moving forward in their lives.
— MSC Wister® (Widow + Sister)