Navigating Widowhood with Jody LaVoie

Marina Morgan
Marina Morgan
September 1st 2022 - 6 minute read
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In this blog, we speak to Life Coach Jody LaVoie about navigating grief and widowhood, after losing a spouse.

Jody LaVoie & Marina Morgan

Losing a partner is undeniably one of the most painful experiences a person can ever face. Regardless of whether the loss was sudden or anticipated, it is often followed by a tidal wave of emotions that has left many feeling as though they can barely keep their head above water— even on the “good days”.

For some, the loss of a partner can feel isolating, especially in cases where most of the people you know are still happily married or coupled up. For others, it may feel incredibly overwhelming, particularly in cases where the surviving partner is left managing responsibilities that were once divided by two.

In this blog, I speak to Jody LaVoie, who knows these feelings all too well after losing her husband suddenly in an act of workplace violence. Following the loss of her husband, Jody saw an opportunity to help people navigate life after losing their partner and began her journey as a life coach that focuses on helping widows lean into their new lives.

Can you tell us about the work you do with widows?

I meet virtually with widows in the workplace across North America who are in all stages of their grieving process. For those who need to maintain a certain level of performance at work, knowing how to do that while grieving can be daunting. I meet them where they are in their grieving process and help them create a manageable and successful plan to support their professional, personal, and family needs.

How can your work help people work through grief and bereavement?

Everyone grieves differently and on their own timelines. By working with someone one-on-one they will receive the specific support that they need on their timeframe. Having the opportunity to work with someone who is a widow, ran a large business while grieving, and is solo parenting her children helps immensely.

What are some things that surprise widows as they navigate widowhood [good or bad]?

There are so many:

  • They are not alone. There are many widows in every community, and I encourage reaching out to them.
  • It is possible to have a fulfilling future.
  • They are stronger, more resourceful, and smarter than they realized.
  • It is possible to love someone again.
  • This can be an opportunity to re-evaluate what is really important to them.
  • It is OK to prioritize themselves.
  • It is OK to ask for help.
  • It is OK to say no.
  • They will laugh and smile again.
  • Loneliness, especially in the evenings, is real. I suggest developing new routines and hobbies to fill this time.
  • Their friendships may change. Some friends will not know how to support them in their grief journey and may fade away.

Do you think modern grief (the act of openly grieving on social media) can be beneficial for processing grief?

It depends. I do believe that there can be positive community support felt over social media when a grief journey is shared publicly. Additionally, when you witness and observe others grieving their losses, there is a sense of reassurance that your own grief is OK. There is a connection and bonding that can occur over grief. But as is the case with so many social media posts, especially if they are visible to those outside of your true “inner circle,” there are people out there who just don’t understand grief and don’t necessarily say the right things. In fact, occasionally, they may say very hurtful things. “Aren’t you over your grief yet?” “Why are you still not going out?” “Don’t you ever smile anymore?” and “When will the tears stop?” are a few that I have heard. Grieving is a very emotional time, and we all experience negative comments differently. Those can at times, set you back. So as with all social media posts, if you are going to share your grief journey on that platform, you need to be in a place to be able to ignore the comments from those who just don’t get it.

What advice do you give about dating and building new relationships as a widow?

I am personally right in the thick of this myself after losing my husband seven years ago. Before you start dating, you have time to really get to know yourself as an individual again. When you are ready to date, create a list of what you value in your friendships. That list will be your guidepost while you date. The person that you are looking for should have many of the same values that your friends have. Stay true to your values, and do not settle for someone who is not right for you. It may be that what you are looking for in a partner now may be different than what appealed to you in your late spouse/partner.

Best piece of advice for navigating the first year after losing a partner?

Give yourself some grace. You are experiencing a wide range of emotions. Allow yourself to feel them. Know that you will not be able to complete tasks that you used to, and that is OK. Now is not the time for perfection. If you are tired, rest. If you need some space for yourself, communicate that. If you need help, reach out to get it. If you need additional support at work, let them know what you need. Your support network wants to help you; they just might not know what you need.

For those looking to learn more about Jody and her work, you can visit her website or get in touch via Instagram and LinkedIn.

Jody is the former Chairman of ArrowStream, a third-party logistics and SaaS provider founded by her late husband Steve in 2000. After losing her husband suddenly in a workplace violence incident, Jody stepped in and led the company on a path to sustainable profitability, culminating in the sale of ArrowStream to a private equity firm in 2017. After the sale of the company, Jody went on to become the CEO of the non-profit Female Strong and the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) Chicago.

Today, through her coaching practice, Jody helps women in the workplace who are widowed to re-imagine their purpose, passion, and power, all while continuing to excel professionally, personally, and at home.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and is a Certified Professional Coach.

Jody is the mother of three daughters, ages 22, 19, and 16. She resides in Chicago, IL. She is also a widow and a two-time breast cancer survivor.