by Natalie McKaskill
“Reclaiming our power, healing ourselves, loving ourselves, knowing ourselves — these phrases are becoming more and more common, why? Because they are the pathways to our own freedom and happiness.”
St. John the Divine hosts Modern Widows Club (MWC) Central Community every second Thursday in the Parlor. MWC is a community of “life support” to help widows lean back into life after loss. We have three communities in the Houston area. The original community meets at St. John the Divine, the West Houston/Katy group meets at Emmanuel Episcopal, and we also have a community in the Woodlands.
Modern Widows Club is committed to serving widows in our area and welcomes women of diverse backgrounds and beliefs into our organization. It's not a grief counseling group, but as one Community Advocate says, it’s a “life support” group where women find comfort and solace in sharing their stories. For me, it’s all about building our #Thrive Tribe to survive a new life after a loss we never imagined. We really hope to share our offerings with our parish community here at St. John the Divine!
When I lost my husband Kevin to esophageal cancer in 2011, I was devastated. I tried the conventional methods of moving forward, seeking solace through the church counseling, and healing my way through reading everything I could get my hands on. Ultimately, I found Carolyn Moor, founder of MWC, online and started speaking with her. She was so helpful, engaging, and encouraging. Eventually, I felt led to start a Community for Houston widows. My hope was to be a bridge of understanding, comfort, compassion, and positive change between a widow and her community. St. John the Divine welcomed us with open arms! We are here to support our community. Now I want to remind our parishioners that know widows in the community of our network of support, healing, and education for them.
Rita Knowles, our Modern Widows Club widow mentor, helped every step of the way. We opened the Houston Central Community in September 2014, with the help of Jana Phillips. It was the 14th Community at that time! Nyla Battaglia, our current Central Houston Community Leader, came to her first meeting in January 2015. When Jana became engaged to her second husband, Nyla agreed to step in and lead the way for Houston Central. Together, Nyla and I opened the Houston/Katy Community in February 2017, now led by Melissa Jones and Tracy Kotar, who continue to bring new life and lots of great ideas to our #Thrive Tribe.
Mary Colemon, who serves with Nyla for our Houston Central community, shares a favorite saying she emphasizes with our members: "Don't feel bad when you don't feel bad!" She sees wonderful women who were struggling to find happiness in the daily trials of life as a widow, and when happiness came, they often felt bad about enjoying those moments! Our focus on moving forward while honoring the past gives us permission to live our lives and enjoy the small things and the large things that bring happiness and peace! Never berate yourself for finding happiness wherever it is,” she says.
“When I became widowed, I had no family nearby and I knew I needed a community. The sense of total understanding at my first MWC meeting was a true blessing. My goal as a Community Advocate is to provide that for my fellow wisters (Widow Sisters)."
We are about 150 members strong in our three Houston Communities. The COVID pandemic has certainly transitioned how we interact with our members, but they have remained faithful and connected. We have been Zooming and still offer two online meetings per month, in addition to now offering our “live” meetings and social events. We would love to have more members from our parish join us!
Our Houston Communities are growing strong. I feel that resilient women are drawn to us because they are ready to grow and lean back into life after loss. We help them with their transition. We offer informed speakers and lots of social events to get to know one another. We look forward to strengthening bonds with other widows and building a bridge to become a more valuable part of our local communities.
Modern Widows Club meets at St. John the Divine every second Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm in the Parlor. We look forward to welcoming you!