fD Interview


fD Interview: Carole Brody Fleet

June 13, 2008
by Isabel Cowles
FindingDulcinea’s weekly feature offers interviews with intriguing people on the cutting edge of business, the arts, technology and journalism. This week, we talk with Carole Brody Fleet, founder of the Web site “Widows Wear Stilettos,” about her experiences as a young widow and how she developed a community to help women cope with losing their husbands.

Carole Brody Fleet fell in love with one of her best friends. Mike Fleet worked as one of the most successful narcotic cops in Santa Ana. When he wasn’t busting drug dealers, Mike and Carole went on dates, danced and relished their relationship. But everything changed when Mike was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). For two years, Carole acted as his caregiver. When Mike died, she was suddenly without a husband, but not without a purpose. Mike’s death inspired Carole to write a book for widows called “Widows Wear Stilettos,” which encourages women not to give up their lives just because their partners have passed away. The book (scheduled to appear in January 2009) has evolved into a Web site, CD and support group, where widows all over the world connect and support each other.
fD: What was the moment that really inspired you to start WWS?

CBF: About five years after my husband’s death, I began thinking about all of the issues younger widows face and how there was virtually no support or direction available. These women need both emotional and practical advice.

fD: Did you know this was something you wanted to do immediately, or only after five years had passed?

CBF: Even though the concept happened at my husband’s funeral, I had no idea it would become a support system for women all over the world. But you cannot lead where you have not been. I couldn’t talk about dating, love and intimacy, transitioning grieving children, settling legal and financial matters, dealing with other peoples’ negative or insensitive opinions, etc., until I had experienced all of it myself.
fD: How did you find the will to turn a tragic experience into something positive?

CBF: We always feel better when we are in service to others. When we’re compelled to look outside of ourselves to heal and enrich others, no “will” is really necessary.

fD: Did anyone in particular inspire you during your first five years of widowhood?

CBF: First and foremost, my late husband, who expressed several times that he wanted me to “use our experience to the good by helping others.” I had no idea what he meant at the time; now, I do. My mother and my daughter were also paramount in their encouragement. They helped me realize that even though I was a grieving widow, I was entitled to move forward into a new life.

fD: What were some of the experiences that you felt were especially necessary to communicate?

CBF: Learning how to take control of one’s own healing journey. The bereaved are barraged with other peoples’ opinions, observations and insights—not all of which are sensitive or supportive. Also, many widows believe that their lives have ended along with the lives of their husbands, and I’m constantly working to change that belief.
fD: Do you think it is more difficult for younger women to lose their husbands, having expected to share many more years of marriage with their spouse?

CBF: I don’t see it as more difficult—just different. Widows who were fortunate enough to be married for many years have different issues to face. The difficulty for younger widows is finding support among contemporaries that can directly relate to their situation.

fD: Talk about the community you’ve created, the women who help one another through the grief and recovery process.

CBF: Thousands of women have formed friendships through Widows Wear Stilettos. They exchange emails, recipes, children’s pictures, holiday cards; they get together for coffee; they encourage each other through the healing process. It is a wonderful thing to witness.

fD: How do you come up with fresh tips and advice for your Web site?

CBF: Coming up with fresh ideas is not difficult. There are so many facets and components of widowhood—young widowhood, in particular. The widows themselves provide insights, issues and questions that also need addressing … enough for me to write a new book: “Widows Wear Stilettos: The ‘Answer’ Book.”

fD: Do you think that your ability to reach so many people would have been possible before the Internet?

CBF: It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Internet. Prior to the Internet, we could have sold the CD and the book at some retail outlets—and that’s all. With the Internet, women can get fresh information all the time. Most importantly, widows from all over the United States and Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan have connected with one another through the Web.

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