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Joy Kirsch

President

I was widowed in 1993 at the age of 30. After six years with the man of my dreams and one year living in total hell as he spiraled down into depression and drugs, I was left trying to understand what went wrong and how someone with so much promise could decide that suicide was his best option. I was angry and afraid, and yet so sad and disappointed over the loss of my handsome husband whom I knew to be funny, strong, tender, and loving. I felt cheated out of my dreams, very alone, and financially vulnerable from the surprise debt that he had left me.

Although I was a professional with a degree in economics AND a practicing Certified Financial Planner™, I was totally paralyzed by the experience of widowhood. Suddenly I went from someone who ran a small business and was comfortable with making decisions, to someone who was totally vulnerable and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of decisions that needed to be made. I felt incapable of accomplishing anything.

Since I was raised in a “pull yourself up by the boot straps” kind of family, I ignored my grief and immediately went back to work. I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I was able to check things off my “to do” list, never realizing that I was actually slowing my recovery by ignoring the emotional side of my grief. I put off dealing with anything that required my heart and lived instead inside my poorly functioning brain.

As I slowly got my own financial house in order, I began to study how grief can affect our decision making. Although the brain trust of knowledge around grief is still growing, experts believe that we lose as much as twenty percent of our brain power in times of duress. It’s no wonder widows can make poor decisions…our brains literally aren’t working to their previous capacity! As I became more knowledgeable in human behavior, I began to work with other women who had lost their husbands, feeling like the combination of my personal loss, along with my financial and behavioral science training could be of assistance to them in their own journeys. The one thing that I felt was really missing in our community was a group of widows with whom I could share ideas and turn to for personal advice.

Looking back, I see how my widowhood experience has shaped who I am both personally and professionally. As I have “recoupled” and moved forward into what Christina Rasmussen calls our “Second Firsts,” I recognize that there can be more than one “man of my dreams.” I also recognize that losing my husband at a young age required me to develop resilience skills that I am still using today, it allowed me to form wonderful relationships with other widows (including developing the best girlfriend that a girl could ask for in my co-leader Nanci Masso), and it created the space for me to more fully develop my relationship with my Creator. Professionally, it has created my desire to learn more about life changing events and how they affect our decision making, so that I can prepare others for what lies ahead. My goal, in fact my passion, is to help other widows transition from grief to growth with confidence and a sense of purpose. The Widow’s Journey: from Grief to Growth is the creative expression of that passion.

Every woman’s journey is different and unique, but I sincerely hope that my experience and training, as well as the knowledge and experiences of others gathered here, will be of use to you as you travel your life’s path. I wish you all the best on your journey.

 

 

Nanci Masso

Vice President

Nanci Masso, a Dallas native, is a philanthropist, an entrepreneur in real estate investments, and a pioneer in the health and nutrition industry. As a creative outlet she occasionally dabbles in interior design work to balance the mundane trials of managing probate issues and business challenges left behind by her husband’s sudden heart attack in 2006 after 27 years of marriage. Nanci has a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Tech University, and resides in Dallas, Texas.

Nanci has always been passionate about giving back, and has served on numerous philanthropic boards over the years. She founded a non-profit organization that conducted leadership and self-esteem camps for kids for over 13 years. In 2011  she shifted her passion to volunteering with the widowed community in Dallas through The Widow’s Journey, a 501(c)(3) organization where she is co-leader alongside founder Joy Kirsch. Nanci’s passion to support widows came as a result of dealing with the overwhelming business challenges and international probate issues from her husband’s passing. She recognized that there was a big professional and educational void in fields that deal directly with widows.

Nanci has five grown children and eight precious grandchildren. She is excited to be on the board of TWJ, and is honored to walk alongside newly widowed women who they affectionately call their “Wisters” (widowed sisters), helping them on their new journey. “It’s a club you don’t join by choice but once you do, there’s no one that understands better and you are Wisters for life”.

 
 

Gerry Hairgrove

Treasurer

In 2014, Gerry lost her husband of 30 years following ten years of fighting cancer and multiple complex health issues.  In spite of his many battles during that time, he did see their two sons grow up, finish college and start their adult lives, but missed many of the best times – weddings, grandchildren and hopefully Gerry’s retirement. Gerry found support in her church bereavement group and counseling, but found no peer support and certainly no social connection.  Shortly after her husband’s death a friend sent her some information on Joy Kirsch and The Widow’s Journey.  She had no idea how much she really needed this group as the loneliness and isolation seemed to envelop her. 

After joining TWJ later that year, she began to find her balance and many wonderful new friends.  Two years later, she joined the board and serves as its Treasurer. 

Gerry has had a long and successful career in finance for almost 40 years, working at two Wall Street investment banks and her current firm, Ponder & Co., an advisory firm specializing in health care finance.  Working with and supporting widows through TWJ has become an important and unexpected passion for Gerry as it has made such a difference in her own life from being in a deep state of grief to actually finding joy in many new friends and activities.  “There is such love and power in connecting with these amazing women – my life has been so enriched just by knowing them and working beside them these past few years.” 

As she nears retirement, Gerry finally has time for more leisure travel, the arts, cooking, playing the piano and just enjoying this new chapter.  She hopes to inspire her widow sisters as we take this journey together and that no widow feels alone without support.   

Gerry has two sons, both are married, one grandson, five nieces who also lost their father (Gerry’s brother) when they were in their 20s, a lot of extended family and many treasured friends – all of which she counts as her many blessings.

 

 

Kay Murcer

Secretary

In 1966 I married my high school sweetheart, Bobby.  He was the cute neighborhood jock who had played on the same Little League team as my brother when they were both eleven. We started “going steady “ after he got a drivers license, and at eighteen, on the night of his high school graduation, Bobby signed a contract to play baseball for the New York Yankees. We married two years later, and by our fifth anniversary we were a family of four. Our daughter, Tori, was born in 1968 during Bobby’s stint in the Army... Todd was a welcome surprise the following year.  While we scheduled life around our kids’ activities and Bobby’s baseball calendar for the next couple of decades, I fed my passions as well.  I loved organizing “Girls Nite Out” events featuring a variety of interesting guest speakers. These informational swap-meets brought dozens of women together, exchanging ideas on health, art, community services, yoga sessions, etc... always fun experiences promoting the value of female friendships.  At that same time, I partnered with ten friends to start a gourmet kitchen store in Oklahoma City... Classic Gourmet.  Life was busy, full of travel and Kodak moments... we were counting our blessings and expanding our family with bonus children, once Tori and Todd each found their life mates... David and Lynne. 

Fast forward to 2006... we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary with family and friends in New York City. Christmas Eve arrived six weeks later, hand delivering Bobby an aggressive brain cancer diagnosis, propelling us into eighteen months of treatments and nervous uncertainty. We were tethered to MD Anderson in Houston most of 2007...   Bobby continued treatments in a clinical trial, and resumed his broadcasting of Yankees games.  During that year we wrote the book he had planned to pen once his baseball career ended... YANKEE FOR LIFE pretty much details our love story, though it’s disguised as a sports biography. The book launched on Bobby’s 62nd birthday, two months before he lost his brave fight on July 12, 2008. That dreaded GBM tumor was the thief we never saw coming... the roadblock to our happily ever after... and  my eventual detour toward a different journey of faith.


In 2014 my heart led me to a move from Oklahoma to Dallas, Texas. I knew my five grandchildren... Sophie, Knox, Jackson, Ava & Holden... weren’t getting any younger, and neither was their Lali, that’s me. Uprooting and transplanting require skills and plenty of TLC. This is true of herbs like cilantro and dill, and especially true of widows. I was definitely happy to be near my children, but found myself uncharacteristically anxious with the thought of cultivating a crop of new friends in my “solo & uncoupled” status. I prayed I’d find acceptance in my unfamiliar surroundings, but experienced self-inflicted insecurity during the first weeks of neighboring. I could never have imagined the two angels God was about to put in my path ... enter Joy Kirsch and Nanci Masso... inviting me to the next Widows Journey meeting, setting me up for the next chapter of my life.


I’m now busier than ever, energized by my wonderful teen grandchildren and the most diverse, loving, inspiring widowed women friends. I attend Yankees Old Timers Day events each year, and carry on Bobby’s legacy, presenting the Baseball Assistance Team Murcer award to teams in both leagues. Our grandkids enjoy making these annual presentations with me, keeping Bobby Pops memory and his contribution to baseball alive. I still love writing, and have contributed to two published books of devotionals. I’m hoping to one day gift each grandchild with a book of personal stories of our life together, encouraging them to include their own artwork and remembrances. I’m continuing my “old school” hobby of compiling music and burning CDs on my laptop, and am most passionate helping organize the monthly socials for Widows Journey. I can’t imagine my life without these fabulous Wisters, and look forward to expanding our mission together.