Bobbi’s inspirational courage is palpable as she recounts her story below…
The wisdom she’s gained through such horrific circumstances, speaks to the resilience of the human spirit. Bobbi so rightly talks about how, when we don’t deal with ‘trauma imprints’ of life; the pressure of repressing them leads to ‘soul- tiredness‘. As Bobbi states; “…grief is a raging river; you have to get into it and let it flow all around you, rather than fighting the current which will suck you under.”
Once we surrender to it, that can be the beginning of ‘soul- thriving’… Accepting help from others isn’t weakness; it is only then we have the capacity to truly give from our heart ❤
On January 25, 2015 my life; my “reality” as I knew it, ended when my husband of 15 years completed suicide, in the driveway of our home. We had an argument that fateful night and had I known the outcome, I would have changed so many words/actions/choices, not in that I think I could have changed the outcome, but just so I could have more peace surrounding our last words to each other. In the end, the horrific reality of a suicide is that you cannot just apologize, hug it out, or ask for a “do over”; it is an absolute finality and that person forever gets the “last word.” There are details I feel need to be shared for one to understand the depth and complexity of our loss and my passion and mission to spread awareness about grief, complicated grief and suicide. However, by the same token, I choose to leave out a lot of the graphic details out of respect for my children and my late husband.
During our argument, Ken went into our master bedroom closet and grabbed our handgun that had been stored in a lock box for years and never loaded (so I thought); a struggle ensued — half of me not believing he was really going to do anything with the gun, thinking it was a manipulation tactic — and the other half of me terrified about what was transpiring. Ken overpowered me and made his way to leave out our back door to the garage and into his car. I begged him to not go and threatened to call the police; this only angered him more. I followed him to the garage and tried to grab the gun away from him as he entered his car. As I grabbed for the gun, I heard a voice, from out of nowhere — (I know and believe it to be my Guardian Angel) — tell me to “drop the gun and back away.” I did drop the gun as Ken backed the car up, backing over my foot, yelling that he would “do it in front of me and the kids if I didn’t let him leave.” As I ran back into our house to find my cell phone to call 9-1-1, I heard the gunshot. I ran out to find Ken, in the front seat of his car with a single gunshot wound through his chin, and barely breathing. In the midst of the chaos that ensued, my then 7 year-old slipped out of the house and saw his dad in the car. It haunts me still to this day that I was not able to protect my youngest son from that horrific scene. My youngest was shortly thereafter diagnosed with PTSD. What my youngest son and myself witnessed that night compares closely to the true life crimes you watch on television.
The fallout of Ken’s decision to complete suicide was incomprehensible; brutal; gut-wrenching; and horrific. Ken’s family blamed me. They chose to believe Ken’s words spoken to one of his sisters, in a phone conversation just hours before Ken took his life, as “truth” and there were a lot of rumors spread by the family that were not remotely ever the truth. Ken was not in his right mind, clearly, and yet, his sister chose to make assumptions on things she knew nothing about. I now know what it feels like to be wrongly accused of murder.
For two weeks I could not close my eyes to sleep; flashbacks haunted me and my heart would not stop racing. I was crawling out of my own skin as PTSD set in and anxiety like I had never known threatened to take my sanity. The only way I was able to close my eyes and get any sleep would be when I would call out to my God and beg him to keep me from going crazy and leaving my boys. Psalm 23 would readily be recited to me each time, from somewhere within me:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
In order to understand my journey more fully, I feel it is important to explain a little more about me; my traumatic childhood and my spiritual foundation. I do believe we are given certain trials and struggles in life that “prepare” us to endure our greatest struggles that can, with faith and mercy, become our greatest lessons and, even, blessings.
First, and most importantly, I am a mother to three, amazing, resilient, brilliant young men who bless me daily and are the reason I choose to not only survive, but thrive. Namely, Chase (22); Dawson (14) and Dylan (12). I have had a “million” careers in my short lifetime, ranging from college for radiology technology; massage therapy/kinesiology; church secretary; legal secretary/paralegal for 15 years; parapro teacher (Title 1) for several years; and fitness franchisee owner of Jazzercise, Inc., for 11 years.
I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in March, 1971. I am the youngest of two daughters born to my mother, Jane, and my father, Robert. My mother and father divorced when I was two years old. My mother subsequently became an alcoholic. My sister became more of a mother figure to me, scrounging for food and trying to make sure we ate and survived while my mother was intoxicated 24/7. First trauma “imprint.”
My father died of a massive heart attack when I was 11 years old. I remember the viewing of my father in his open casket very vividly and now realize how traumatizing that was. I had not been allowed to have a relationship with him up until about one year prior to his death; I had finally felt like I had a dad and was just getting to know him. I now realize this was my first experience of suppressed grief due to my having to comfort my mother through her grief over the loss of my father, versus her comforting me through my loss. Second trauma “imprint.”
My first exposure to suicide came in my mid-30s when I was notified that my childhood best friend, Nicole, had completed suicide. Her young daughters found her lifeless body hanging in the garage upon returning home from school. I was completely and utterly shocked and never really did process it all completely; realizing this now only after losing my husband to suicide. Third trauma “imprint.”
Ken and I suffered four miscarriages in between my son, Chase, and my son, Dawson. One was a tubal pregnancy. (I’m actually a case study at the University of Oregon for the largest, thriving tubal pregnancy that did not kill the mother.) Having emergency surgery to remove my thriving baby to save my life was very traumatic. Fourth trauma “imprint.”
Fast forward to approximately 4 years prior to my husband completing suicide, my mother unexpectedly died after what was to be a short visit to the ER for unexplained stomach pain. She coded and was gone before I could catch a flight to be by her side. Fifth trauma “imprint.”
Just one year prior to Ken dying, his father passed away from heart disease. Ken was at his side at the time of his death. I took it very hard as I felt like Ken’s dad, Neal, had been like a father figure to me and was the only grandfather my boys had. Sixth trauma “imprint.”
Just four months prior to Ken dying, our family dog, Bella, was violently mauled to death by our neighbor’s dogs, in front of my youngest son. Seventh trauma “imprint.”
Following these losses and, specifically, my mother’s death, I started to really evaluate my life; I was soul-tired. I had been raising young kids, working in the schools, running my fitness franchise business and taking care of everything at home so my husband could focus on his career and climb to the top to achieve his status as the youngest employee to make “partner.” I was on a quest to find the true, authentic me; what made me happy — an urgency to understand my higher purpose and my God/Universe/Energy at a deeper level.
It is interesting when you start to soul search and ask/pray for help from your higher source; it shakes everything up and it can become a very tumultuous time. It was as if my energy had shifted and I was consumed with wanting to understand how all life worked and how I could better my life and the lives of others. I remember being on a long run, calling out to my God saying “I feel so alone; I don’t have a ‘community.’” Little did I know how the universe would quickly show me how wrong I was in that belief, just months later.
When Ken died, my “community” surrounded me and my boys. The “community” I did not think I had. It was not his family; it was not even the friends who I thought would be by my side; it was people whom I had touched their lives by my work as a volunteer in the schools and, subsequently, my work as a Title 1 Teacher in our school district; it was my customers from my fitness classes; it was strangers and “acquaintances” who would later become some of my closest friends; it was neighbors whom I had known and talked to regularly, but also neighbors whom I had never spoken to. This “community” fed me and my boys with meals for three straight months after Ken died. They regularly took shifts to stay with me at night in those first few weeks. They offered to help with bills and errands and took my boys out to do fun and light-hearted activities. Even my teacher community gave us the monies that had been set aside for the new playground equipment at the elementary school! (Those monies have since been donated back to the school, in remembrance of Ken.)
Even though I had my community’s support, I felt completely and utterly alone in my struggles to come to grips with the new reality that was my life. My boys were traumatized and my youngest was in the throws of his own PTSD from the events of that night. I was unable to grieve openly because it would trigger my boys’ angst and fear of abandonment; my boys thought I, too, would leave them if I showed any kind of sadness or tears or weariness.
Ken was a great provider. We had a large house in Michigan, as well as a cottage up North with lots of ATVs, a boat, motorcycle and all kinds of “toys” and provisions. These are all great except when you die and cannot take them with you; you leave a lot of property behind for your loved ones to deal with. The paperwork and tasks were un-ending and amidst all of it, I was tried and convicted by members of Ken’s family who were busy blaming me for his death and were not supportive of my decisions to rid myself of our family home and other property.
The horrific tragedy engulfed me; I knew I was going to suffocate if I stayed in Michigan. There’s that announcement when you are flying when the flight attendants talk about the oxygen mask that drops from above in case of loss of cabin pressure — that was me! I had to put on my “oxygen mask” first if I was going to assist my children. The decision to leave my friends, my work and my community that I had worked so hard to build, was a difficult one. I had tremendous guilt pulling my children from their friends, their schools and their community in their greatest time of loss but, I knew if I did not, I would not survive. I had to get away from that house; I had to get away from the “sad stares” of my community and friends; I had to get us where we could “start over” and not have every place, restaurant, friendship, encounter, street sign, etc., throw us into memories of what was a life that no longer was. I moved to Texas, not knowing a soul, except having two cousins whom I knew growing up but had not been in contact with since high school. To this date, I am amazed at my ability to be cognizant enough to research, buy a home, and move and establish a thriving life in Texas, just six months following Ken’s suicide. This I know for sure was by God’s grace.
I commonly compare the aftermath of suicide to the aftermath of a grenade; it spreads shrapnel for miles, injuring and killing countless souls. I call it the “ripple effect.” The ripple effects of losing a loved one to suicide are long-standing. Even three years later, I continue to be informed of its effects (some good, some bad) on those who were an integral part of our lives; the heartbreaking reality of suicide — those left behind.
I would say there is a type of “duality” in death; it’s either a “gift” that allows us to re-evaluate our lives for the better and allows one to search out its lessons; or you allow it to swallow you into its darkness. I often say that grief is a raging river; you have to get into it and let it flow all around you, rather than fighting the current which will suck you under.
I have chosen to take my experiences as a young suicide widow and give them a purpose. From the massive outpouring my community provided to me and my boys rose my conviction to serve and honor young widows so that they, too, would feel less alone. From a biblical standpoint, we are all called to serve widows.
In my own struggles to reach out and be vocal about my grief and the effects of suicide, I found there were not many resources that fit my trauma and loss. Truth is, not many grief programs specifically deal with young widows and the complexities we face; typically the late spouse being the breadwinner of the family while the woman stays home to raise the family, or works less to support her husband’s career. There are many struggles and a stigma that alienates many young widows and, even more so, young suicide widows.
In February, 2018, I founded my non-profit Widow’s Wish and it’s community of “Widow Thrive.” I want my pain to have a purpose; my mess to have a message. It is also my goal to launch a consulting company that assists businesses and schools regarding suicide and complicated loss, as well as becoming a published author and motivational speaker.
You can choose to THRIVE even in the midst of incredible loss and trauma.
Mission Statement of Widow’s Wish
My goal is to be a type of “advocate” for young widows through our Widow’s Wish Foundation — a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit. I believe that supporting widows is a biblical, ethical and moral responsibility. Remarkably, it is difficult to find an organization within a church or community that has a developed program to serve widows during their first year of loss, especially for young widows and their children.
It is the mission, duty and purpose of Widow’s Wish Foundation to address, educate, coordinate, and provide financial aid, relief, and support to widows aged 20-50 with children under the age of 18. It is our duty to help the widow families facing enormous obstacles, including illness, homelessness, hunger, poverty and tragedy. It is our desire to enrich their lives with hope, strength, and joy.
It is our duty to be available when we are capable to provide comfort, financial assistance, food, clothing, payment for medical services, and general support for the widow and her family. The Foundation will also support the widow families through special experiences, and special events.
It is also possible for people to donate directly to the Foundation via the Foundation’s website www.widowthrive.com. Year-round fundraising will be done through social media and direct contact with individuals selected by the Board of Directors as potential donors. The Foundation disposes its income through the decisions made by its Board of Directors, using a very specific application and selection process to vet the applicants. A copy of the application is available at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfZQS9YGtZec3SmJ072C_7Gojrh8QeovXKSOVQawGjWpGodTg/formResponse. Expenses paid by the Foundation include, but are not limited to, equipment purchases and rentals, insurance premiums, attorney and CPA fees, website creation and maintaining, publications and brochures, business cards, social media advertising, and miscellaneous Board expenses.
Bobbi Mason Biography
In February, 2018 Bobbi launched her Widow Thrive Community and her non-profit, Widow’s Wish Foundation. Some would say it is a noble cause but Bobbi feels it is more than that; it is an outlet to her grief and she feels it is her “calling” to be an ambassador to those suffering through the many levels/dynamics of traumatic loss.
Through Widow’s Wish Foundation and her Widow Thrive Facebook Community, Bobbi assists and supports other young widows with the enormous grief “dynamics” that a young widow faces, especially in their first year, post-loss. Bobbi regularly arranges fundraiser benefits with venues to raise money for the young widows and their children who apply to receive aid from Bobbi’s Widow’s Wish Foundation. Through her ability to receive discounts and services as a non-profit, Bobbi is able to raise significant funds for these families, many of whom did not have life insurance policies in place. In addition, Widow’s Wish supplies other financial assistance in the form of meals, gift cards for gas, groceries and a Christmas gifting program, all within the first year of loss.
Bobbi regularly shares her story and is on a mission to encourage those grieving to speak their truth and share about their grief, especially traumatic loss. Through her radio interviews and speaking engagements, Bobbi shares her trauma to encourage others to not cover up their stories of loss and to let others know there is an enlightened way to thrive through traumatic grief to find and awaken their faith, hope and to find peace.
In Bobbi’s “free time”, she is a franchisee fitness instructor for Jazzercise, Inc. She has been a franchisee for 11 years. Bobbi loves to motivate others to live a healthy lifestyle (spiritually and physically) and speaks openly about how her fitness career and love of exercise saved her from extreme despair and without the need for antidepressants after her husband’s death. She is a mother to three (3) boys and is very active in her community. Bobbi regularly volunteers her time at the boys’ schools and serves on the PTA and is a Band Booster Board President, regularly arranging fundraisers and outings for the band students, which include her two youngest sons who play the french horn and the flute.
Bobbi is as comfortable on stage as she is in the gym inspiring others. She has aspirations to host a TedTalk within the next year and become a published author. Bobbi’s desire is to spread her mission globally! She would also love to appear on Oprah, work with Gabrielle Bernstein and collaborate with Michelle Steinke-Baumgard of One Fit Widow.