By Suzanne Fox Sevel
Sometimes we choose to reinvent ourselves. Other times, circumstances force change upon us. And still other times it’s a little of both. Reinvention when you have no choice, when your life was one way, and now it is another, is about harnessing your inner strength and having faith in yourself. These two women managed to create new lives for themselves while helping others in the process.
Wall of Strength
Healing and Thriving
Debbie Wall was 49 years old when she lost her husband Bill to bladder cancer. “We’d been together for 29 years,” she says. “We had a house and a business. We thought he was in remission after the chemo, but instead the cancer had spread into his lymph nodes and liver. We were told he had just six months to live.” Bill and Debbie had talked about her future; how she would have to take care of the house, the bills and the yard. We got our finances in order. “Bill wanted to make sure I would be all right,” Debbie recalls.
Friends, Family & Faith
Bill died in September of 2005 and after a period of grieving, she joined the choir and later a GriefShare support group at First Baptist Church of Melbourne. “With God, my family and friends, I knew I was going to be OK,” Debbie said. Time has a way of healing the heart.
“Painting ended up being very therapeutic for me. I painted room after room. I think 99 percent of women who lose a spouse get into a creative project of some kind. It’s good because there’s a feeling of accomplishment. It helps you become independent,” she says. After painting, she remodeled her kitchen, tiled floors, added a bathroom and a bedroom. “Home improvement projects are still going on here,” she smiles. “I love it.”
Cleanse, Balance, Build
A former program administrator for Harris Corporation and owner of a successful embroidery business, she sold the business and eventually invested in herself by getting certified as a personal trainer. While she’d been at Health First’s Pro-Health and Fitness as an instructor for years, she chose to go full-time as a personal trainer. She developed and now teaches a class called Core & More. She also teaches spinning, weight training, TRX and more. This year, Debbie became a silver director for Genesis PURE, a nutritional and dietary supplement company. “Genesis PURE fits right in with my passion for health and fitness. This is about overall wellness and feeling good. It’s about getting back in balance.” At 58, the vivacious redhead says she feels better now than when she was in her 40’s.
Shoot for your goals
Shooting had been one of Debbie and Bill’s joint passions; the Walls were on Team USA traveling the world as a husband and wife skeet shooting team. In Bill’s memory, Debbie spearheaded “Bill Wall’s Toys for Kids.” This annual shooting competition is held each December at the Quail Creek Plantation in Okeechobee. They raise money and donate bikes and new toys for needy children at Christmas time throughout Brevard.
“If you had asked me nine years ago where I’d be five years from now, I wouldn’t have believed the way my life has changed. I now have dogs (three Australian Shepherds), I snow ski, I’ve climbed Mt. Rainer (elevation 14,411 feet and considered one of the most difficult glacier climbs in the world), I’m a stand-up paddle boarder, my 84-year-old mom is my roommate, and I’ve got a really great boyfriend. I never did these things before. A lot of changing yourself is about attitude and outlook. Never stop learning and growing. Never give up hope,” she says.
About Core & More:
Using a variety of equipment, this class focuses on using core muscles for optimum toning and strengthening of the entire body. Participants receive a total body strength work out during this class. Visit HealthFirstProHealth.org for more information.
COPING WITH LOSS
Advice from Kristin Woodling, LMHC, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Pamper Your Mind
Dealing with grief or loss is something most people experience sometime in their lives. Losses may include a job loss, the death of a loved one or pet, even the dissolution of a marriage/relationship. “People should realize that it’s OK, even beneficial to join a support group or talk to a trained professional,” says Kristin Woodling, licensed mental health counselor for Pamper Your Mind. “The loss can be devastating because it also means letting go of hopes
and dreams you previously envisioned for your future. Be sure to give yourself emotional breaks. It’s a healthy part of the grieving process to move through all the stages of grief; don’t bottle it up or suppress it,” advises Kristin.
Harden’s Heroes: Cherishing the Journey
In 2008 Jennifer Harden, an executive at DRS and mother of two, was expecting her third child. She and her husband Josh were delighted. But just 15 weeks into the pregnancy, an ultrasound revealed some devastating news.
There was something very wrong with the baby – “posterior urethral valves.” The baby’s kidneys and lungs were not forming properly. With such a negative diagnosis early on, she was advised to terminate the pregnancy, but being a Christian, this was against her faith. Doctors told the Hardens that the baby would not live long after he was born. “I always had hope that there was something a specialist or a fetal surgeon could do,” she says now.
“For me, it helped to talk about it,” admits Jennifer. She went online to find support groups for people with similar circumstances. One group sent her a package that proved to be very comforting during her difficult time.
After 34 weeks, Jennifer went into labor and their son Matthew was born breech and with clubbed feet. “We had such a short time with him. We held him; we had him baptized with our friends and family present. Two and a half hours later he died. When the nurse came in and took Matthew away, my husband broke down and cried,” Jennifer says through her own fresh tears.
“I wanted to do everything I could to remember this brief time with our Matthew. I recorded his heartbeat, we took pictures. There was not an organization for women going through this kind of trauma in Melbourne. Grieving while your child is still alive in the womb is a difficult experience and there are decisions to make,” Jennifer explains.
Jennifer set out to make something positive out of her personal traumatic experience. In 2011, she founded a non-profit organization called Cherishing the Journey (CherishingtheJourney.org). Cherishing the Journey helps parents who experience the loss of an infant throughout Brevard and Indian River counties. Jennifer and her team of volunteers create Memory Boxes and provide financial assistance and support for families who lose an infant. The group helps about 200 families a year, even in other states if requested.
These boxes are donated to hospitals and contain grieving books, casting kits (to make foot and hand prints), photo albums, forget-me-not seeds, candles, a stuffed animal, sibling sacks, information, etc.)
Today, Jennifer is a work-at-home mom for Sitel and loves having more quality time with her children, Abigail, 10, and Raleigh, 8. She also runs the Cherishing the Journey organization. Matthew Harden’s life, though it lasted only a few hours, served a purpose far greater than anyone could have imagined. His legacy continues to help many families in similar situations.
Cherishing the Journey will be holding a Walk to Remember fundraiser at Rhodes Park in West Melbourne in honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in mid-October. Part of the festivities include the release of butterflies in honor of the young angels who have passed on to heaven.