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THE WOMEN OF TTN

Our members are the heart and soul of The Transition Network.  Our chapters are born, nurtured and grown through the vision and energy of these exceptional women. And they come to TTN with wonderful life stories of successful careers, diverse families, and plentiful life experiences to share.  

Browse through our Member Profiles to learn more about what brought our members to this point in their lives, what they are hoping to accomplish next and how they view their impact on the world.

Thelma Zirkelbach

Women of TTN: A Widow Helping Widows
Interview by Linda Hart Scatton

Except perhaps in murder mysteries, no one really plans to lose a spouse.  TTN National Member Thelma Zirkelbach of Houston, Texas certainly didn't, but when her husband of 34 years died in 2005, she was confronted with the reality of widowhood. 

As part of her transition to this new life, she decided that writing and speaking about her experience as a widow might be helpful to other women who had lost their husbands.  For Thelma, trained as a speech pathologist, it was a matter of turning her communication skills, professional drive and sensitivity in a new direction, all the while continuing her career. Her impact has been both local and virtual.

From her hometown base in Houston, Thelma has given speeches, taught courses on widowhood, started a blog (http://www.widowsphere.blogspot.com/), and published a memoir. She's collected many resources on widowhood, with a bibliography that includes books, helpful websites, advice on coping with grief, maintaining physical health, cooking for one, finance, mental exercise, home maintenance, car repair, making it through the holidays, volunteering, dating, learning, and travel for singles. 

The death of a spouse naturally brings one's own mortality to the fore, and Thelma doesn't shy away from this issue in her work. Her listing also cites resources treating end of life concerns such as writing a will and compiling a kit with information for loved ones.

Her own experience showed Thelma how little she knew about all the things that her husband was responsible for in their marriage, so she advises intact couples to try switching chores, educating each other in how to do things.  She has compiled a list of “rules for navigating the rough seas of widowhood.”  Here are some excerpts:

• Take care of yourself: don't put yourself at risk for illness.
• Don't become the “reclusive widow.” Women who socialize with other women are among the healthiest females.
• If you feel you need therapy, find a grief group or seek individual counseling.
• Gather all your important documents together so that when your time comes, your children will be able to put their hands on them quickly.  Have “The Conversation”: clarify how you want your final days to go.
• You don't have to do everything at once. Take your time.
• Pamper yourself. Try something new. Make a bucket list. Think of something small that will make you happy or that will memorialize your loved one.
• Think about how you will spend holidays.
• At the end of the day, think of any good things that have happened. Tally them up or write them down.
• Consider writing an ethical will or legacy letter.

Now in her late seventies, Thelma Zirkelbach is still working as a part-time speech pathologist and still interested in sharing her thoughts about widowhood. She has found support among the women of TTN, and has agreed to send her bibliography and suggestions to any TTN members who wish to receive them.  You can contact her at: thelmaz@hal-pc.org.