Carol Scibelli has been writing and performing comedy for thirty years, so it is no surprise that her book is helping widows and widowers everywhere deal with their grief, one laugh at a time. With a poignant honesty and understanding that could only be appreciated by those who have been there, Carol shares humorous anecdotes of the time following her husband Jimmy’s unexpected death in 2006.
They met in junior high school, went to the prom together and were high school sweethearts. After graduating from Jamaica High School in Queens, NY, they both went on to college and four years later, they married. They lived in Merrick, NY, raised two kids, and in March , 2006 , Jimmy was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. One month later he was gone. He was only 56 years old.
It all seemed surreal. Carol’s friends encouraged her to write about what she was feeling, so she began the Poor Widow Me blog (http://poorwidowme.blogspot.com) not long after he passed.
“I wrote the blog to help me remember certain things. I had lots of feelings going on and it helped me to focus on one at a time. My feelings were all over the place. This was the first time I lost my husband, something you can never prepare for. Writing helped me understand what I was feeling. Time helped too.”
It was there that she learned to express how she was feeling and through identifying it, found some sort of release. She logged in accounts of her journey that she thought were significant and later decided to put those memories into a book. She released Poor Widow Me – Moments of feeling & dealing & finding the funny along the way in 2011 with Pigeon Press Books, hoping to capture the very, very important moments from her blog, in a comprehensive way that would make them available to others going through similar loss. She later launched a new blog called Widow Bits (http://carolscibelli.com/blog) to promote the book.
She remembers a particular turning point when she attended a bereavement group. Not wanting to make eye contact with anyone, she kept her head down and in doing so, noticed that everyone wore ugly shoes. She knew that she was headed back to reality. But not a reality she had ever planned on. Carol and Jimmy were married 33 years. In her writing, she articulates the things that people think but do not say in times of grief. She shares both the unfathomable things that people do and say as they try to “help.” as well as the many “ah ha” moments that filled her days. “I’m wired to be funny,” says Carol. And she is, despite her great loss. And in doing this she gives others permission, an invitation, to laugh too. Even her title comes from a Carol Burnett skit she was fond of as a teenager where Burnett looks into a mirror and says, “Poor widow me.”
“It has a nice ring to it,” says Carol.
She shares how she often sat on the bedroom closet floor, comforted by the feeling of being surrounded by Jimmy’s clothes. She would talk to him, and as much as she wanted him to, he did not talk back. But it did give her a safe and personal space to be with him even after he was gone.
In January, 2014, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath, she walked around her Merrick neighborhood where she had lived so many years and raised her family, and realized she was the only single person there.
“I went into the city a lot, three or four times a week. So I sold our house and moved to Manhattan. I don’t have a bit of regret.”
She lives there now with her second love, a Yorkie/Maltese mix called Tony Baloney who came into her life a year and a half after Jimmy died. “We slept together and that was it!”
A year after Tony made his appearance Carol dabbled with Match.com, an internet dating site, and started dating a little. She realized she was attracted to men who looked like Jimmy. It wasn’t really time yet. She did meet one man whom she struggled to call boyfriend after some time, and eventually let him go. She calls him “M.” But M is back in her life now in a long distance relationship. There are complications with getting married again, both finances and family, so she doesn’t really think marriage is in the cards for her. The things she misses most about Jimmy are things she finds in M.
“I loved making him laugh. The way his eyes crinkled up and sparkled before he lost control. And after a night of being with other people we would come back and talk about it. I miss making him happy.”
She values time shared with M, as well as her time alone as a single person, not having to answer to anyone. She values that although M’s looks and personality are very different than Jimmy’s, he does make her laugh.
“Funny is very important to me, and I love making people laugh, says Carol who admits that humor played a tremendous role in helping her deal with her grief. “Not just being funny but being an optimistic person. Not saying, “why me?” I lost my husband, not my whole village (referring to the tsunamis, hurricanes and other natural disasters on the news). A positive attitude is everything. Everyone can’t be funny, but anyone can be positive.”