The widow on the other end of Robin Craig's phone spent her days unable to get out of bed, wrapped in her dead husband's clothing as a way to stay close to him. As a fellow young widow, Craig knew the pain all too well.
Robin Craig, who calls herself "The Widow Lady," spends much of her time helping other widows. She is a native Houstonian who was married to Danny for 21 years. Six years ago, 11 days after their wedding anniversary, Danny died suddenly of undiagnosed cardiovascular and hypertensive disease. He was only 43.
"Hours before he died he flexed his big biceps and leaned over for me to feel them and I'm like, 'boy honey you're really hitting the gym you look great.' Just not a clue at all that his death would happen just hours after," she remembered.
"Once my husband died I was just thrown into this chaotic abyss with no instruction manual, no life jacket, no crash helmet and just struggling to swim out of it," she remembered.
When a spouse dies, often you lose your best friend, lover, confidant, life partner, financial manager, and household handyman.
Lonely and scared, Craig didn't know where to turn. "I kept saying, "I just don't know what I'm going to do.' I would describe it later as feeling like half of my body was gone because I used to tell my husband together we made one really great capable person," she said.
"So when he was gone I had to do the things that he did while doing the things I was always already doing. The other issue was that I had to learn what he did and how to do it," Craig recalled.
She realized she couldn't always count on friends and neighbors to help. "As everybody knows who has lost a loved one, people come around for the first week and they help you get through the funeral. You're lucky if they stay for the second week. And beyond that you're on your own," Craig said.
After two weeks of being widowed, Craig pulled herself together enough to return to work. "I would continue working for eight consecutive years on three nationally syndicated court TV shows, which included Texas Justice, Judge Alex and Cristina's Court," she recounted. Three of those years were after Danny's death.
But something would happen to Craig that had never occurred before or since. "During my second week of widowhood when I was just such in shock I had this crazy premonition where my body jolted forward and I heard my own voice saying with urgency, 'I have to help the widows,'" she said.
And she did. A year later, Craig put together a radio program in Houston that featured a grief counselor and young widower from her church. But the pain of widowhood was still too raw for her. Craig found it difficult not to cry. For the next three years she concentrated on her job as a TV producer.
By 2009 that little voice in her head that said she had to help the widows was still gnawing at her. So Craig got some business sponsors together and created "Help a Widow Day" where widows could come together, talk about their problems, and support each other. It is held each year in Houston. "I saw such a difference in their faces when they left than when they arrived," she noted.
Craig also uses social media to reach out to other widows. She writes a "Today's Widow" blog for the Houston Chronicle. And she has spoken for the last two years at "Camp Widow" in San Diego. Craig hosts a weekly web TV program on her website that offers comfort, support and encouragement to other widows and deals with topics that affect widows such as finances and dating.