ST. LOUIS — A photo shows a hunk of unrecognizable, twisted metal sitting alongside Highway 47 in Lincoln County, Missouri.
It was a car.
A drunk driver crashed into the car that was carrying a young couple and their 15-month-old son.
“[First responders] had to peel the windshield off of my head and they just couldn’t believe that I made it,” said Destiny Klimaszewski, the then-21-year-old mother riding in the passenger seat.
Destiny’s husband, Corey, and her baby, Parker, were killed.
“The reason I woke up in the morning was forever gone. I no longer had a baby to take care of. I didn’t have a husband to cook dinner for when he came home at night. Everything I knew was just gone,” she said.
Destiny’s grief was all-consuming.
She got on Facebook and connected with another St. Louis widow, Cyndi Williams.
Williams lost her husband one year before Destiny’s family was killed.
Cyndi’s husband, Joe Williams, died in his sleep from undiagnosed heart disease. Cyndi was out of town when it happened and their three children woke up to find their father had passed away.
“There is something that happens when a widow meets another widow,” Cyndi said.
The two leaned on each other and found support they said they couldn’t find at the several widows' support groups they had attended. They felt the widows within these groups were much older and in a very different stage of life.
“Being with a widow who has been married 40 or 50 years, either [you feel] 'I don’t belong here because I didn’t have him that long. So, maybe you’re sadder than I am.' Or, 'I don’t belong here because you don’t understand what it’s like to still be raising kids when your husband dies.' There’s just that disconnect,” Cyndi said.
So, Cyndi and Destiny decided to find a solution for widows in the prime of their lives dealing with mortgages, jobs, bills and kids.
They founded a St. Louis chapter of the national organization, Modern Widows Club in November of 2019. In just three months, the number of widows attending the monthly meetings, quadrupled.
“The average age of a widow is 55 years old, so by definition, half of them are under that,” Cyndi said.
At their January meeting, several of the women couldn’t help tears silently stream down their faces as Cyndi led the discussion.
A blonde woman wearing a red plaid shirt spoke as she cried, “That’s why I wanted to be here. I recognize that I need help and I need to see other people who have been through it and survived.”
Two women realized their late husbands shared the same name and it created an instant connection.
But, not all the stories are told through tears.
The women also share small victories.
A different woman wearing black said, “Our house used to be the gathering place. It’s been a long time. So, we’re having our first party,” she said about herself and her children.
The entire room broke out in applause and cheers.
That same woman had started the meeting with silent tears left saying this, “I’m excited to be sitting amongst women who are our age and there is a wide range here today. But, we are in this together.”