"I was depressed and isolated for like a month after," said Tracy Poulos of Ahwatukee Foothills, speaking about her husband's death, which happened 17 months ago.

"And my friends say you need to get up, you need to go do this or do that. So, now I am, but it's not the same. You still go home every night alone. You don't have anyone to sit and watch a TV show with. You eat alone, trying to cook for one. You get up in the morning there's no one to talk to. No matter how busy or even if you go out to dinner five nights a week with friends - you still go home to an empty house, and you feel so isolated."

Becoming a widow is never easy or expected. Friends and family have a hard time listening to the same stories over and over.

"The general rule of thumb is you should be over it after three months and that really is not true with anybody," said Kathy Haywood of Ahwatukee. Her husband passed away last March.

Both women found a small comfort in a grief support group called Widowed-to-Widowed.

The group was started in Tucson, based on a book by Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, titled Widow to Widow.

The group grew over the years in Tucson to five chapters but was not established in Phoenix until October of last year when a financial planner began to notice a trend among his clients.

"Over the years I realized half my clientele were widowed," said Jim Schwartz of Chandler. "Some of these people didn't even know how to write a check because it was something their spouse always took care of."

He began to look for peer-to-peer counseling for clients and realized Phoenix has many grief counseling groups but none specifically for the widowed. After reading Ginsburg's book and locating the group's president in Tucson, Schwartz decided to start his own.

"We put up fliers, got on meetup.com. We started with about two or three people, and we've grown to about 56 signed up on meetup and a core group of 12 to 15 that come every week," he said.

Schwartz, who is married with two children, said he didn't mean to become a facilitator but until others feel comfortable enough to facilitate their own groups, it makes him feel good to be able to contribute.

"I think the passion comes from working with my clients and seeing what they go through," he said. "In the meetings I hear their stories, and we discuss the challenges of the last week. It helps me not only become a better person but a better adviser. I can help on another level because I'm getting to know the widowed community."

The group is not meant to be therapy. No one in the group is trained to offer a diagnosis or advice. The group is simply there for support.

"It's nice to have someone understand and hear you just to know you're not alone in the world," Haywood said.

Poulos calls members of the group "get-its" because they all know how to listen and understand. "The two hours go by like two minutes," she wrote. "We laugh, we cry, we understand each other like no others can."

Widowed-to-Widowed hopes to continue to grow and set up more meetings around the Valley on different nights of the week. For now the group meets weekly from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Tempe Pyle Adult Recreation Center, 655 E. Southern Ave.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com




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