Life Can Change in an Instant
A conversation with self-proclaimed mediocre widow, Catherine Tidd
On the morning of June 16, 2007, Bradley Tidd kissed his sleeping wife, Catherine, goodbye and went to work. The couple’s three young children were deep in their own slumber.
“It was all so normal,” says Catherine. Until the phone rang.
She was too groggy to answer, but a minute later she checked the caller ID and saw it was Penrose Hospital. Brad had been in a bad car accident, they told her. He had a badly dislocated knee and broken ribs.
Though shaken by the news, Catherine knew it could have been far worse. Her relief wouldn’t last; Brad suffered a stroke that killed him days later.
Catherine Tidd spent her 11th anniversary planning her husband’s funeral. Confessions of a Mediocre Widow: Or, How I Lost My Husband and My Sanity (Sourcebooks, 2015) is Tidd’s account of young widowhood—she was 31 when Brad died and had three children under the age of six and no job or “life skills” to live in this altered world.
She talked with ESME’s Nancy Sharp about motherhood, grief, and recovery. Truly, this is a sad story, but like Tidd’s life, it’s teeming with refreshingly dark humor.
Sharp: Was humor a coping mechanism for you?
Tidd: Not all the time. But sometimes life can feel so badly that you just have to laugh. We have a warped sense of humor in my family, and Brad was one of the funniest people I knew. When I set out to write this book I wanted to be a friend on the page so that others wouldn’t feel so alone.
Sharp: You talk a lot about the absurdity of preserving normalcy and how, for instance, your Southern mother drilled into you that thank-you notes were to be written whether someone donated a dandelion or a diamond to the memorial fund established for your children.
Tidd: I was obsessed with those thank-you notes! Here it was that life crashed around me, and all I could think about was sending timely acknowledgments. Today I tell people in this situation, “Don’t worry about sending a thank-you card.” I really mean that.
Sharp: Right away you began tackling house and to-do projects to busy yourself and perhaps take back some of the control you’d lost after Brad died. What did you learn from these experiences?
Tidd: That you can’t outrun grief. I didn’t allow my sadness to show. I wouldn’t come undone for many months after Brad died. Not until my sister said, “Catherine, you have not stopped.” She was right. All of a sudden, I sat down. It was harder . . . though necessary.
Sharp: How old are your children today, and what remains the biggest challenge about single parenting?
Tidd: They’re 13, 11, and 9. We’re getting ready to move, leaving the house where we lived as a family. Decisions are hardest for me. Like right now, I’d love a partner to help coordinate the inspection list. It’s all on me. This is the longest time I’ve ever lived alone. When I meet a man who’s willing to watch The Golden Girls with me at 10 p.m., I’ll know he’s the one.
Sharp: What’s next for you?
Tidd: I developed a business directory at my Widdahood website to help widows and others find resources like estate planners, therapists, realtors, and jobs. Access is free. I wish that I had such information in the early days after Brad died.
Nancy Sharp is an author, a keynote speaker, and a storyteller who frequently speaks publicly about loss, transformation, and bold living. The author of the award-winning memoir Both Sides Now: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Bold Living, she lives in Denver with her second husband, her twins, and her two stepsons. You can find her on Twitter: @BoldLivingNow and Facebook: Nancy Sharp.
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