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Dad Plus 9

Not a reality show, but the real thing.

Rich Vosler, a 44-year-old widower, receives what he calls a "shock and awe" look when he says that he’s bringing up nine kids by himself. He was married in 1990 to his wife Joanne, who sadly passed away in 2005. His children are now ages: 18, 16, 15, 13, 12, 10, 9, 7 and 5. Vosler Family Christmas 2007 

He works from his home in New Jersey as a certified professional life coach, author and speaker, and just published a book, The Vosler’s Nest: 45 Short Stories of Faith Hope and Encouragement.

Fathers for Good caught him in the midst of his busy schedule for this interview.

FFG: What do people say when they see you and your kids in public?

Vosler: I get the look of "shock and awe" when people see with me nine. Then they invariable ask, "Are they all yours?" Then they usually say, "Where’s mom?" or "Are you giving your wife a break today?" and I get the pit in my stomach and have to say, "No mom’s up in heaven." Then their jaws drop.

FFG: You must feel the loss of your wife each day.

Vosler: No more than a minute goes by that I don’t think about Joanne. She was my best friend. I see her in the kids and I have pictures and things that I remember her by in every room of the house. That’s how I like it. I promised her that I wouldn’t let the kids forget her, especially the younger ones.

On a deeper level, I felt cheated early on. I was angry at God for taking her away. But I also knew that for me to get through this, I had to get closer to God. So I tried to focus on that. It took me a while to get to a point where I realized that there’s a bigger picture at play here. We just don’t get to see it while we’re here. When we get to heaven we’ll understand everything.

Whenever people ask how I do it or where I get my strength, I quote Isaiah 40:31: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

FFG: How do you see the children coping without mom?

Vosler: It’s difficult for them. Children grieve much differently than adults. They grieve in spurts. They may be sad for a few hours and then fine for several months. They all have gone through periods when they’ve missed Joanne and cried a lot. All I can do is hold them and pray.

I’m thankful now that one of the "gems" that has come out of this is that I’ve been there for my kids and we are so much closer now than we ever were. When Joanne was alive, she did most of the things with them and I worked like crazy. We were like two ships passing in the night. Now, it’s not like that. I’m there for them now and it’s wonderful.

FFG: In parish ministry, there’s a tendency to put "widowed or divorced" into the same category. Is this helpful or effective?

Vosler: Some parts of it may be effective but some may not. The dynamics of how the men got to each point of widower or divorced are very different, so recognizing that fact would be very helpful.

For me, I was always thinking what I could’ve done better. Did I take her to enough doctors? Was there alternative things I could have tried that I didn’t? Did I do enough research? Did I make her final months on earth the best I could have? For someone who is divorced the questions are very different. So I think having two ministries for each-both widowed and divorced would be the most effective.

I also think the Sacrament of Reconciliation should play a big part in both ministries as well. It would give both widowers and divorced an opportunity to talk about and get forgiveness for some of the deep issues. Confession for me is more of a conversation with God than anything else, with that conversation being supported by the priest as well. So that needs to be promoted.

In a perfect world there would be Catholic based therapy to get through the early months, an opportunity for Reconciliation, then a support group for widowers, and a support group for divorced.

Volser Family

FFG: What is a life coach?

Vosler: A life coach is someone who can help others who are stuck at certain points in life. We all have the answers we search for inside of ourselves. We just need help drawing them out. A life coach knows the right questions to ask to get the client to find the answers. And there’s almost magic in talking out different situations when you have a trained professional helping you.

The answers don’t come from the coach, they come from the client. The coach doesn't give advice, but helps the client find the advice inside them. It’s actually quite remarkable. We also help the client set goals in any area like career, job loss or relationships with family, examine and change the way they talk to themselves (which is mostly negative) and we teach them different success principles and how to implement them into their lives.

A good example, personally, is that I recently had a down turn in my business due to the economy. So instead of getting upset, I decided to write a book. It’s been a long-time dream of mine and I was able to accomplish that in October. The book is called The Vosler's Nest: 45 Short Stories of Faith, Hope and Encouragement. It’s about raising a large family with Joanne, then moving through her illness and death onto being a single father. The feedback has been wonderful and it seems to be inspiring a lot of people.

To learn more about the book and the Vosler family, visit RichVosler.com .