Have you ever met someone and just been enchanted by them instantly?
That is what happened to me when I met today’s special guest, Joann Filomena, at a coaching conference last year. Joann is one of those beautiful souls who has that juicy mix of sassiness and wisdom that you could listen to for hours and it’s my honor and pleasure to welcome her to our electronic family today.
Joann has some very special marriage advice for us today, because Joann is a widow. She met and married the love of her life and now has had to rebuild her life without him. She still lights up whenever she talks about her husband and the love they shared and for all of us trying to make it through another week with so many pressures coming from so many directions, I thought it would be so valuable to get Joann’s perspective on what really matters.
Kindness, laughter, forgiveness. I write about these things all the time but hearing Joann’s heartfelt advice, reminded me why these simple things matter so much. We do not know what tomorrow holds, making the most of today is all we can do and must do if we want to have a thriving marriage.
I hope you find comfort and inspiration reading her interview and if you know of a widow who could use some loving support, please share this post with them.
MM: Tell us about yourself in 5 sentences…
JOANN: I am a professional certified Life Coach and Weight Loss Coach. Now my main focus is on speaking widow to widow, having walked this path myself after the sudden loss of my husband.
A California girl turned New Yorker, I’m now living in the heart of the beautiful Hudson Valley. I am the producer and host of “Widow Cast,” “Weight Coach” and “This is US” podcasts with listeners spanning the globe.
It is my mission to make the most of my life experiences and coaching skills to help numerous clients through widowhood, weight loss, and many other life issues that arise in those sessions while always trying to remain completely authentic and in a space of compassion.
MM: Tell us about your latest project…
JOANN: My book, WIDOWED, was released in Kindle format on Amazon last October, but in a few months it will be available for pre-order in paperback, and by early November, it will be released in bookstores.
My latest project is Widow Coach training. I realized that what helped me the most in regaining my confidence, growing into a new life, and standing on my own feet was becoming a life coach. Being able to reach out to other widows has been immensely rewarding.
Now I want to offer that same experience and begin to connect the widow sisterhood across the globe. This is a brand-new program that I am currently interviewing candidates for as we run through the first class. It is through this that I hope to create small local groups where widows can connect across the globe.
MM: Why do you do what you do?
JOANN: My book, my podcasts and my coaching is total passion. You know my initial coaching business has been to coach weight loss, but it was also in my heart to reach out to widows. When Jim suddenly died, I looked for a podcast because I really just wanted to hear what another widow was feeling. There was nothing. So even as I was building a business as a life coach and weight loss coach, I was moved to create Widow Cast podcast to share my story and the insights and coaching tools that helped me through that first year as a widow.
This grew into my taking on more and more widowed clients to help them move beyond feeling so stuck and like their entire future had been snatched away from them. But truly, however it is that I get to teach to the tools I use to coach others and to coach myself, it is my passion to help others develop the skill of self-coaching and how to create the very things in their life that they dream for.
MM: One of my favorite management principles is “Stop, Start, Keep” the idea is that there are things we should stop doing, start doing and keep doing that will make us successful. What should we “stop, start, and keep” to make our relationships stronger?
JOANN: In marriage, stop criticizing or being inattentive – it is a relationship killer. Start being completely kind to each other, display active interest in everything your spouse shares with you, and keep being totally generous with each other. This is how you stay connected and supporting each other. It’s how you can keep looking directly into each other’s eyes with true love and longing to be together.
The secret to a happy marriage is…
JOANN: The “Stop, Start, Keep” that I listed above! Do not try to “fix” your partner or the things they do. He wipes off the counter, but misses half of it – do NOT pick up the sponge and redo it. It sounds so small – so silly. But this is how mutual contempt begins. Instead, be pleased he thought to do that. Remember what knocked you right off your feet when you first met him.
What I know is true about love is…
JOANN: You love anyway. You do not expect love in return or demand love in return. It feels WONDERFUL to be in love, so just love anyway.
The single most important thing we can do for the person we love is…
JOANN: Respect them for who they are and back them up always. No trying to change the other person. Express your love in small ways every day – a touch, a kind word, light up when he returns home.
The biggest myth about marriage is…
JOANN: “You can work all that out later.” Talk about it all up front and know that is what it is.
I can create a life I love by…
JOANN: Knowing happiness is a choice I make every day, always looking forward to something instead of looking back at what has been, loving everyone just because loving feels good.
MM: What is your favorite inspirational quote about love or marriage?
JOANN: Maya Angelou on relationships said, ““When people show you who they are, believe them” I love this because it means that people will always show you who they are. We tend to hope they are instead something closer to an ideal we have in our head for them. Don’t do that – believe them when they show you.
MM: What is the best piece of advice you ever got? How did you use it?
JOANN: This is actually from when I became a widow. Another widow reached out to me and told me that I was in shock and needed to realize that. And I have a “widow pass” for the first year. So I get to take a pass on all the dumb mistakes I will make and not even give it a second thought.
I think this is good advice for life – for a marriage. Give yourself a pass for all the silly mistakes you are bound to make along the way and don’t give it another thought. No beating yourself up, no spinning into panic over it, no trying to place blame. Just roll with it.
MM: What’s the best advice you like to give? How do you apply it (for yourself)?
JOANN: Taking the time to find joy in every day of your life. If you get up in the morning, think about how you feel about what you are going to be doing that day. If you dread it – then it is time for a change.
MM: What do you know is true about love?
JOANN: What I know is true about love is that it feels WONDERFUL to be in love and give love. So don’t look for love in return. Just love anyway.
MM: What was your favorite thing about being married?
JOANN: Always being able to run home to my best friend to share what I just learned or discovered. It is the sharing of life that makes being married the most special relationship you can create with another human being.
MM: What has surprised you the most about marriage?
JOANN: How it morphs and grows over the years. Some years might be more difficult and some years, you just fall in love all over again.
MM: How did you stay connected to your spouse?
JOANN: We were always connected because we took an interest in what the other was doing and reading. I would pick up a book he was reading and read a bit of it to see what drew him to it. The book might draw me in and we could discuss it – even debate it.
We kissed every day, found joy in small things together every day (“look at that squirrel jumping around on the log!”) and found time in every day to sit down together over a cup of coffee.
MM: We talk a lot on this blog about re-defining marriage – can you share something you and your spouse do that makes sense for you (but may not make sense to someone else)
JOANN: We are able to say, “I don’t want to talk right now” and retreat to our corner without the other one feeling hurt or neglected. It was an agreement from the start, and it worked perfectly for us to understand when the other needed a little time without interruption.
MM: What is the most surprising thing you have discovered through your work?
JOANN: How little support is available for widows in our country… Most doctors will automatically prescribe an antidepressant (not a great idea) and maybe recommend a counselor, therapist, or grief group. The counselor or therapist are not widows – they have no idea what it is that a widow experiences. Only another widow can understand and connect with a widow. Even in grief groups, widows do not feel understood.
MM: Anything else you would like to add?
JOANN: Understand that every day of your relationship is precious – treasure it. Say what you mean – exactly what you mean to each other. Be kind above all. Should you become widowed, find another widow to reach out to.
The author of WIDOWED, professional Life Coach and Weight-loss Coach Joann Filomena is the producer and host of “Widow Cast,” “Weight Coach” and “This is US” podcasts with listeners spanning the globe. Joann uses her life experience and coaching skills to help numerous clients through widowhood, weight loss, and many other life issues with incredible authenticity and compassion. Added now is the Widow Coaches Class, spawning a movement of local coaches to bring communities of widows together. You can reach out to Joann on email at Joann@joannthelifecoach.com or on her website at http://Joannthelifecoach.com.
If you know a widow who could be comforted by this post, please share it. And remember your marriage doesn’t have to be perfect to be awesome.