Sunday, March 27, 2011

Meet Ellen Gerst, Author of Love after Loss

Ellen Gerst, is a life coach, widow (now remarreid) and author whose work you're sure to enjoy. In keeping with the resilience theme I began last week, read Ellen's story of trying something new during her widowhood:

Stepping One Toe Over the Line
© Ellen Gerst 2010

I have been a strict rule follower my whole life – crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s. I also always fulfill my responsibilities before taking any pleasure.

Never stepping over the line, my late husband’s suicide was an especially hard concept for me to understand, for what goes more against societal rules than taking one’s own life?

I believe part of the lesson I needed to learn was that it is okay to put a toe over the line now and again, and that the world will not stop in its tracks if I do something just for me. I also had to learn to allow myself to consider my own well-being while tending to those around me. Being a people pleaser, ultimately, the lesson was learning that receiving is just another form of giving – that is, by receiving you are allowing the giver to receive his/her own satisfaction in that act toward you.

In my quest to put these lessons into action and do something just because I wanted to, I decided to have some light-hearted fun while doing something very out-of-character. I auditioned for two game shows that were having tryouts in my hometown!

My first foray was with The Weakest Link. I had never even watched the show, but I
thought it might be fun to see what it was all about. There must have been 500 people all vying for 10 spots. After filling out the paperwork, we were instructed, one by one, to stand up and state our name and one sentence about ourselves. Ann Landers had passed away shortly before this tryout, so I told the interviewer I was an author of self-help books and that since Ann was gone, I was fully prepared to take her place. I guess that was a memorable statement because I was picked to go on to the next round where a mini-version of the game was played. I did not make it through this round, but it did give me the confidence to try again.

A year or so later, I saw an announcement on TV for open auditions for the Pyramid game show, which was making a comeback with host Donny Osmond. I quickly wrote down the 800 number and rushed to make my appointment. After many thwarted tries and continuous busy signals, I finally reached a live person. Before assigning me a time slot, I needed to answer various questions. The one I found most interesting was – "Are you a presidential candidate?" At the time, I thought – could you just see George W. Bush on this show? Somehow I didn't think he had the appropriate verbal skills!

Anyway – I was in! Prospective contestants were advised that the producers were looking for people with a pleasant smile; good verbal skills (who knew I would finally get to use my college degree for something purposeful?); and someone to whom the audience could relate and like right away. As I prepared myself the morning of the tryout, I struggled with the most important question – “What should I wear?” Should I appear demure, or were they seeking a bolder look to liven up the show? I opted not to push the envelope and settled for middle of the road – not too demure and not too bold; however, I did wear red pants, so I would stand out. Of course, many other people had the same bright idea, and I simply melted into the sea of red – and it did not part in my wake!

Traveling for a good hour, the mall where the tryouts would take place loomed large across the freeway. I parked, and, as I approached the designated meeting place, I saw the line had already started.

As we stood there, the production assistants gave us nametags and took our picture with the person standing next to us. About 15 minutes later, they came around again to distribute the pictures. They tore them in half and gave each of us our own picture. One person on line remarked – “It's just like a break up when you keep the picture of yourself because you liked it and discard the other person.”

The appointed time arrived, and we were let into the room where we filled out an application and watched a tape of the show to acquaint us with how the game is played. A 30-question test was given. Five items were named, and we had to put down the category name that tied them together. Stated at the outset was that it was a difficult test and not many people would be left.

I really didn't think it was that hard and was sure I got the answers right (of course except the one I had no idea about and had to skip). Unfortunately, the judges were not in agreement with me, and I didn't make the cut. Of the original 75, all but eight were dismissed with the proviso that we were welcome to try out again in six months. And with that, my fifteen minutes of fame (and a possible $25,000) slipped through my fingers.

There was a happy ending though – that was the night I met my current husband, who lived on that side of town – a place I rarely visited.

So the point of this tale is – sometimes feelings of grief, although indicative of a great loss, allow us to be brave enough to have new experiences of which we never could have conceived. Life is for the living, so grab hold and have some fun!

Ellen Gerst is a Grief and Relationship Coach and the author of many books on both subjects, including Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story and 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief. Learn more about Ellen and her books and services through her website at To receive tips on dating and relationships; coping with grief; and confidence and the mind/body wellness connection, join her on Facebook at,, and, respectively.


Meryl said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Thelma and Ellen. I think Ellen brings up such an important point. Why is it so hard for us to pamper ourselves. I am the same way. For me it is spending time and money. My duaghters - I don't think twice if I can afford a dress or send them for manicures and facials. Me? Totally different story.
I recently visited a blog - I am sorry I dont' remember which one:-( it was a 'mama' blog and it gave a recipe for soup and tortillas for one - because we need to indulge too!

So, your message is out there, we just need to follow it more often.


Boo said... [Reply to comment]

very good post :-)


Template by: Bright Sunshine Designs by Mary - Affordable Custom Blog Design © 2011