Friday, March 15, 2013

Keep On Keepin' On




TODAY, this morning, I woke up and the first thought that ran through my head was: “Oh, hurray, I am still here!”  I feel hopeful and good and positive.


WOW!!!! 

Three years ago, I was waking up thinking the opposite.  I was thinking thoughts like: “Oh, shit, I’m still here.”  I was so sad that I just wanted life to be over, to join my darling husbands. 

This is really big for me.  I have spent the last decade in grief, full tilt boogie grief it seems.  I use the metaphor that having a spouse die is like falling down a deep dark well.  As you claw your way up, you start to see the light and the light begins to grow in size the longer you cling to the sides and make your way upward.  Well, I had just approached the top of the well I had fallen into after T’s death when Dave died and I fell all the way to the bottom again.  I didn’t even try getting out for a while.  I just laid down there and wallowed.  So, for me to feel that it is good, even great, to wake up in this world, is big! It’s a milestone.  It makes me smile. 

Now, if you have been reading my blog, you will have read that I try to make myself feel better by adding a new man to my life - to fill the emptiness.  Well, my happiness today has nothing to do with any man.  I am on my own, I live alone, I make plans alone and I am finally okay with being alone.  Hallelujah.  I have worked hard to be okay with flying solo and being a widow without a partner. 

So what have I learned about grief?  That time and self-care, self-love will help you through.  That you can get to a place where being alone is okay.  That you will survive despite your wish not to.  That life can once again be a source of joy and excitement. 

Does this mean that I have forgotten my husbands?  No.  Definitely not.  I think of them everyday.  I miss them all the time.  I honour their memories and their important dates.  I keep in contact with their parents.  I have them forever more.  I am blessed to have had them in my life.  And I know that I will have moments of grief, even paralyzing grief, in the future.  Maybe even today.  It never goes away.  But it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to.  

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Surviving - and Thriving?



Well. At least I’d like to be thriving. I am surviving. Surviving grief. I have lost two husbands. The second loss nearly killed me. It was cumulative. I am just coming out from under the burden of the grief to find an insecure, needy, under-confident woman who is fearful and cowardly.

I read widow blogs with relish. They feed me. They help me to feel less alone, less of a failure, to feel okay with my grief process. No one else understands like another widow understands.

However, I at times still feel like a failure. I, unlike many other widows, do not feel that I am becoming someone better, stronger, more confident post-death. This is not the case for me. I feel less than I used to be. I feel “less-than”. I am not as strong, not as confident, not as out-going. I am a shadow of myself. I am an empty shell. I have less energy, less interest in life and less ability to cope. I am needy and insecure. I am lost without my husband, my partner in life, my soulmate. I do not know how to be in the world. My children are grown and gone. I am 53 years old and still have many more vibrant years ahead. Will I ever find that vibrancy?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On the Road Again


Well. It is summer in Canada. A short event. I am a teacher so I finally get some time off. I am once again on the road. Last summer I went down the west coast from Vancouver to LA and then over to Las Vegas and back up to Calgary. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to road-trip my whole summer away this year.

I love the freedom of the road trip. No day-to-day drudgery of life at home without Dave. No physical reminders of his absence. No music festivals without him, no time at the cabin without him, no barbeques without him, no summer patios without him etc etc.
I am running away from my missing him. And I am totally fine with that. I don’t want to live in it. I want to avoid it. I want to miss him in a way that doesn’t trigger the past. I want to create new memories of new places. I want to see the world on my terms. Besides, I love to travel. I love to see new places.

So, this year, I am on a cross-Canada road-trip. I have driven out of Alberta, across Saskatchewan and Manitoba and am now most of the way through Ontario. My goal is to see and experience the Atlantic Ocean. So several more provinces and one state are yet to come!

I have the lovely opportunity to travel with my half-sister. She too is a widow. We have never spent this kind of time together. It is a new experience for both of us. She is 16 years older than me so had left home by the the time I was a real kid with memories. So far, so good!!

Across the praireis to the Canadian Shield, we were able to visit and stay with several people that I haven’t seen in years. Some were her friends and family, some were mine. It has been interesting and somehow soul nourishing. These people knew me long before either of my husbands. They knew me as me – alone and on my own, as I am now, and they totally accept me for whom I am and have become.

There is something very special about re-connecting with people you grew up with. There is an unconditional acceptance that is hard to find elsewhere. At least that has been my experience. It is hard to articulate the experiences I have had with people from my long-ago past.

Now, we are away from anyone we know for a while. We are staying in motels and watching this big beautiful country pass by. We talk and talk and sing and remember and look out at the beautiful views.

This is one big, beautiful world we live in - and it is so good to be reminded of that truth.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Long Lasting Grief. Where's the Long Lasting Relief?


I’ve read many a blog entry over the last year or so and have always been amazed, scared and a little doubting of how long the grief lasts. I would think: how could the second year possibly be worse or as bad as the first? Well – now I am in my second year - I am at 1 year and 3 months and I still feel like shit. I still feel grief very deeply. It doesn’t limit my ability to function like it used to, nor do I lose control as waves knock me over, but it is still there every day. I still feel so raw and wounded. I still feel the weight of it. It is like I get up in the morning with this metal weight chained to my body. I drag the damn thing everywhere. Everything is effort. I tire easily. Some things are just too much effort, so I don’t do them. I lay down instead. It is all so much work. All the details, all the paper work. The endless cooking, eating, cleaning, bathing. It feels tedious and pointless.

Then there is the expectation to be “over it”. This comes from my friends, colleagues, and family and even from myself. Others don’t seem to understand that I am still struggling. That the pain is just beneath the surface. That joy is a lost quality. That the future is a huge unfathomable wasteland. That the present feels unmanageable.

I actually watched the news last Friday night. (I do have glimmerings of interest in the world. I do make an effort to ask others how they are doing.) In the news is the idea some guy calculated, that the world was going to end the next day. I was shocked at my internal first reaction: relief and gratitude. Oh my god…

Someone, please tell me that it gets better: that we find a reason to live and live fully.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Isolation - It's Starting to Melt Away

It has been a very long time since I wrote anything in my blog. I have been isolating myself and hiding either in my work or my bedroom.
I have been working 45 to 60 hours a week, and then I crash and lay in my bed watching mindless tv, playing solitaire on my laptop. I do not call anyone, I do not answer calls, I do not answer emails, I don’t go out anywhere. I have been isolating myself big-time.

I went to an open AA meeting last week with a dear friend who is a recovered alcoholic. The idea being that I might get something out of the sharing. I did. It was when one alcoholic talked about the self-pity and the isolating behaviours she went through after stopping drinking and the effect it had on her life. I swallowed hard, I had tears welling up in my eyes. I related 100% to all that she was saying. I left feeling that I now need to put some of those work hours into me. I deserve my time and attention and so do others. I need to reach out and go out no matter how much I don’t want to. Why? Because I am truly unhappy shut up in my room. I truly am miserable and my lifestyle is not helping.

So here I am. I am like the bear, slowly waking and returning to life after a winter of sleeping in darkness. I am a little bit grumpy and hungry for something different than my own self- pity and grief.

Hello out there.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Holidays


Well, I feel like I made it through the holidays intact. I distracted myself with dinners and visits and keeping busy. I have been off work since December 17th, that’s 13 days so far. Where did the time go?
I spent the first 6 days cleaning my house, visiting friends and preparing for our Christmas Eve dinner. I had an old high school friend join me on the 23rd and stay until the 29th. It was a great distraction. I had 12 people to dinner on Christmas Eve and it was a lot of preparation and I think all had a good time. I didn’t last the night. I went to bed and left the next generation to clean up. God love them for picking up where I dropped out!
Christmas Day I was able to watch my 2-year-old granddaughter have the first Christmas that she understood. She was a joy to watch: the pure joy and pleasure at the receiving of gifts and even at the giving of gifts. She is such a doll. She is the only one who can bring a true smile to my face.
I spent a couple of days visiting with old friends and then a couple of days with just my high school buddy. We talked and talked. It was good. I am trying to figure out who I am now. Old friends help me to remember who I was in the past which I think will help with the future.
I thought of Dave and of T all the time as always and I missed their presence, but I managed to avoid a big melt down or a big slide into depression.
I read many widow blogs, looking for “companionship” with my grief. I feel very alone with my grief these days. I am so grateful for the widow community and the sharing and honesty that are out there.
The Christmas season really makes me miss my first husband, T. We started a family together and developed our own traditions over the Christmas season. We spent 21 Christmases together. It is still, after 6.5 years, quite hard for my children and I to have a truly good time at Christmas. December also holds our wedding anniversary on the 17th (it would have been our 27th) and T’s birthday on the 27th (he would have been 58).
So, it’s all over now and I made it through in the best way that I could. Now, I head towards our wedding anniversary, and the first anniversary of Dave’s death. It was an exceptionally tough January and February last year. No anniversaries could ever be that bad. So I figure I will live through it!
Thank goodness the light is returning, ever so slightly every day, in this part of the world.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Inner Child


I’ve been thinking about my need to be held and stroked.

It is a very child-like need.

I am like a child wanting to be held in my parent’s arms.

So, I am going with that – I am looking after my inner child.


I am imaging that I am holding and stroking and comforting her.
Perhaps my need for comfort from outside myself will lessen if I care for my inner child.
Somewhere, I read something about Inner Child work – it was related to working through codependence.
The premise is that we all have an inner child that will “drive” us if her/his needs are not met.
I hope that I can provide my inner child with what she needs and that it will help me through my grief.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I've Done It Again


When my first husband died, we had been separated for 18 months. I was still very much emotionally dependant on him. About 6 months after his death, I met Dave. I fell head over heels in love with Dave. He became my emotional crutch. I needed someone to fall into with my grief and my pain and Dave was there with open arms. I was his grieving yet devoted girlfriend for several years. I eventually outgrew my grief and Dave I were alone with ourselves for only a short time before he too passed away.

So here I am 8 months out and I have again fallen in love. Not the head over heels kind like I had for Dave, but the oh please hold me kind. This desire shows me my need for comfort. But the love is not reciprocated this time. Nonetheless, I get to examine this behavior of mine. My grief wants to be held and stroked and comforted. I would usually turn to Dave for this, but he is gone and this is what I need the comfort for. I am a kinesthetic/tactile person and this lack of holding/hugging is painful for me.

Not just anyone will fill the void though; my heart is still discerning enough to pick a certain man. There is a part of me that is glad that this man doesn’t return my love. Well, he does as a friend, but he has a girlfriend so we really can’t be laying and holding each other anyways. If he were available, I’d be into another relationship without having recovered from the last. So I just have to suck it up and go it alone. (without too much self-pity)

In the words of Carol S.: Poor, poor widow me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Birthday


It is my birthday and I have some very wonderful memories living with me. Dave and I had our “first date” on my birthday and one year later, he proposed, knee in the snow. There are a few birthdays that don’t have lasting memories and then last year, our last one together, he sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers to me at work.

That first time, it was Michelle’s and my birthday. Michelle and I had been sharing our birthdays since we met in the mid-80’s. Michelle suggested that we go out to dinner at a live music venue; have a meal and listen to some music. Her husband John was coming, so she said she’d invite Dave along as well. I had met Dave a few times before. The first time was in 1987. We’d run into each other at music functions over the years. That night, I was na├»ve and didn’t realize I was being “set up”. I was somewhat excited to see him though. He looked great as he entered the restaurant. He had been with his family downtown at the Japanese Restaurant to celebrate the December birthdays in his family. He’d left early to meet Michelle, John and I. His mother, Marge, says that he told them he was off to a blind date and that he was hopeful. It wasn’t so blind though, 'cause we had met before.

We had dinner, the 4 of us – the music was ‘Tres Hombres’ – Oscar Lopez, Mike Stack and Tom Phillips. All three were local, talented musicians. Great guitarists. The music was good – especially Oscar. During the music, I remember Dave looked over his shoulder at me and smiled – I still see his face –that lovely smile, those beautiful eyes. Michelle wrote our phone numbers on our doggie bags. We talked about New Years Eve there together. It wasn’t very long before Dave called and the rest is history as they say.

One year later, Dave proposed to me in the snow. What a Canadian man! We had gone to Lake Louise in Banff National Park. We were spending the Friday and Saturday night. On the Saturday, it was quite cold, but we had wanted to walk along the lake. The view was spectacular. Not too far along, but not too close to the hotel, Dave dropped to his knee in the snow and proposed marriage to me. It was so romantic: the gesture, the setting. We walked back to the hotel to toast our new status. We had a laugh as we walked along: Dave wondered if we should have champagne, or at least white wine – but we both decided, “na, lets just have a beer”. We’re so Canadian!

So today, I am without Dave and I miss him terribly. I miss him every minute of every day and life without him is just plain blah. But I know that if Dave were here, he’d make me feel special today, in his own special way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Transparency or Who Am I Now Anyways?


I started this blog so that I could process my thoughts and feeling and I guess, actions, with regard to my grieving of Dave’s death.
I feel that I have left a lot out.
I am having trouble being transparent. I am worried about judgments; I judge myself. There have been a few ah-ha moments that have been less than flattering; there have been some experiences that leave me wondering about myself. I have been burying these things away.
Do we need to confess our sins? Do we need to be transparent? Do we need to bear all?
I am currently reading Neale Donald Walsch’s book, "When Everything Changes, Change Everything" and one of the first things he feels we need to do is be transparent and have someone to share the journey through change with.
I have found great solace from online widows over the months; I have found solace in my friends and family. I have struggled with some people and I haven’t always been honest.
Does it matter?
I have been dissecting my relationship with Dave and my transition into singleness.
I have been having an identity crisis.
I have been having unexpected experiences and making unexpected decisions.

So - here goes - I am seeing other men.

I think that what is really important is not what I have been doing, but why I have been doing it. I long for and greatly desire human touch. I am very kinesthetic and sensual. I want to be loved and stroked and held. This for me is the hardest part about being a widow. I miss Dave’s touch. I miss the heavy breathing and the ecstasy of lovemaking. But I am not falling in love. My heart can’t go anywhere near that.

I am guessing that this is a phase of my grieving. Just like the drinking I did at the beginning. – ah ha – another confession. I have had a tendency to go a bit manic.

I am amazed at how other widows don’t do these things, or they don’t talk about it. There is something about the idea of a widow in our society – are we supposed to be all stoic and saintly? I drank way too much the first month after Dave’s death. I contemplated suicide for the first 6 months after Dave’s death. I sought sexual experiences 5 – 8 months out. I’ve been jumping out of perfectly good airplanes through the 7th month. This is such an unexpected journey. Really, I am a prude – I am a girl guide – I am passive and fear-based. But my behavior has been so out of character since Dave died. I don’t even know who I am anymore. I am not sure who I am becoming.

Another thing that Neale Donald Walsch’s book talks about is reflecting not on your story – but on your soul or your essence or who you really are. I guess I am trying to find that out.
Who am I really – now - deep down on the inside?
What do I want my life to be now?
So, I guess that I need to be transparent so that I can find out who I am and who I am not.

Friday, November 19, 2010

His Family

You often hear about how things go bad with families when someone dies. I never dreamed that that would happen with Dave’s family. After Dave died, so many speculations about my motives were brought to the forefront but never directly addressed. I was condemned for everything from why my son didn’t like Dave in my life, to why I married Dave, to how I handled the parade of visitors in the hospice, to what Dave decided to leave me in his will, to who was invited to our wedding, and so on and so on.
I now have no contact with Dave’s siblings. I find this sad. If anyone had ever asked Dave and I how things would go with the family, neither of us would have guessed that this is what his siblings would do. I was shocked and terribly hurt by the accusations thrown my way. I had no idea that the actions that Dave and I took leading up to his death would cause so much anger and resentment.

So much of it all shows me that they didn’t know me and they didn’t know Dave and I as a couple. And even though they were a close family, they really didn’t know Dave as well as they thought they did. When I stop to think about it, we didn’t have much contact in the 5 years that Dave and I were together. It was all polite and perhaps they never did like me in the first place. Who knows? All I know is that I loved Dave and Dave loved me and at the end I did everything I could to “do right by Dave”. My actions, done in distress as he deteriorated to his death, were mostly Dave’s motives as I asked him about everything. I asked him whom he wanted to see before he died and he gave me a list of people he wanted to see. I asked him what he wanted done with all his stuff and he gave me a list of material distribution. I asked him whom he wanted to send out correspondence on his behalf and he picked his friend B to do this. And so on and so on. After Dave's death, I put together a memorial service that reflected Dave and his life and celebrated who he was. I truly feel that I did "do right by Dave”. I am satisfied with that and I can live with that. I have nothing to be sorry for except the fact that his family is in so much pain and they have had to direct it at me. I guess what I am also sorry for is the fact that I have been put in a place where I feel I need to justify our actions from the final months of Dave’s life.

On the other hand, I am very lucky that I have a close relationship with Dave’s mother. We see each other often, talk on the phone and we have found solace in each other’s grief.

Just the other day, I spoke with one of Dave’s in-laws and she said, “ Everything is back to normal”, meaning that family contact and relations were back to how it used to be. That statement stopped me dead in my tracks. “Back to Normal” – nothing in my life will ever be normal again.

In the end, I am just going to walk away. I have struggled with what to do about the sibling’s anger and hostility towards me, although they have never actually confronted me. (Just like girls on the playground, this has played out through a convoluted web of interactions, hearsay and non-confrontation) I have contemplated “what is the high road here?” and feel that I have operated out of sound principles and love. I am sorry that some have taken it personally but I have nothing to apologize for.
It is easy to walk away from the siblings. Dave and I didn’t have children. They will go on with their lives as normal and I will attempt to start a new one - all by myself, just as if we never met.
How sad.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

8 months - Hoping

So now it is 8 months. I was hoping that this grief stuff would get easier as the months went by, but it seems to be getting harder.
I am trying not to isolate myself. But I do have the tendency to do so. I cloister myself in my bedroom with the TV and my laptop almost every evening. I play far too many solitaire games on the computer. I avoid my homework (I'm a teacher). I rarely buy groceries. I eat too much fast food in my car.
I am progressing in a few areas, though. I get to the gym once a week now on a regular basis. Twice per week is the next step. I take vitamins occasionally and I am now getting the laundry done weekly. It all seems to take so much effort.
I am still struggling with self care. I still am not interested in the world. I miss Dave more and more and I feel more and more alone.
Hope.
I keep hoping that I will adjust to life as a single person. Life alone without a partner/spouse. Life without my best friend and companion.
I keep hoping that I will start to feel better. I feel that most people feel and think that I should be "okay" by now. That I should be more or less over it. Some acknowledge that this is the year of firsts. Some are tired of my depression and sadness. I can get tired of it as well. It is all so tedious. It feels so self-centred, so self absorbant. But I have no control over the waves of grief. They hit me like a wave, or they build and build while I suppress and then gush out. The sadness is an invisible cloak that covers me daily.
All I can do is hope that some day I will feel whole again, or at least more whole. That some day the world will hold interest and that day to day activities will seem less arduous and trivial.
Hope.
It didn't work for Dave and I last year. We hoped our asses off, hoping that his body and the treatments could beat the cancer. We had to have hope. Without hope, life was desolate. Our oncologist thought that we were too hopeful and not rooted enough in the reality of his impending death. We couldn't go there.
Hope.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Marking the Days – 7 Months


I made it past the seven-month date. I seems these anniversaries have become days of reflection for me – wait – every day is a day of reflection for me. So what is it about these monthly markings? They somehow have power – I give them that power by thinking about the date. I actually missed a couple of the month-versaries earlier on; I was in such a state of fog and numbness. But as I get further away from Dave’s death, they have gained more power.

My seven-month day was filled with good things – I took my grade 5 class hiking in the mountains with many parents participating. It was a beautiful autumn day – mild, sunny, little wind. The leaves and grasses were all aglow in colour, the blue sky a sharp contrast to the yellows, golds and greens of the mountain the forest. The rocky peaks had a scattering of snow. We hiked along a creek for about 3 km. The sound of the running water, the smell of the forest, the sound of happy children’s voices were all food for the soul. I had so much fun at the lead with several of the boys behind me rallying to be first in line. Their banter and antics were so very entertaining to me. We stopped along the way to have lunch, to climb rocks and boulders, to cross the creek and explore. The hike culminated at a waterfall that was hidden by the rock cliffs. We relied on our ears to tell us that a waterfall was “back there”.

After school, I was able to get my plans for the next few days done and then I went home to change and meet Dave’s Mom and Auntie M. The three of us are widows. The three of us have been deeply affected by Dave’s death. The three of us admire and respect each other. We had a lovely dinner together during which we raised a glass in Dave’s honour.

Then, tired and worn out by the day, the week, the year. . . . I went home to bed. There, my aloneness hit me. It seems the further I get away from Dave’s actual parting, the stronger the reality that I am alone becomes. I wept as I went to sleep and now, Saturday morning I weep again. My thought is, “what do I do now?” I have no idea. So for now, I will live as best I can, try to look after myself, do my best at work and mark the days.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Grumpy Phase of Grief


I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time fitting my grief into any formula of phases and linear progression. Most ‘experts’ agree that grief takes its own route for each of us. I am currently in my Grumpy Phase. I have been waiting for the infamous Angry Phase, not sure that I wouldn’t explode if it arrived. My sadness has been so profound, that my anger might be outright dangerous! But the anger is quite mild, making me a grumpy old cow. The f-word is on the tip of my tongue 24/7. I am so tired of people’s trite and cliqued remarks and their assumptions about how I am or especially about how I should be. I am tired of the importance of nonsense and trivia in the world and our day-to-day lives. I find life trite and futile. I don’t see the f’n point in any of this shit. I hate getting up in the morning, I hate the routine of self care – the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning etc etc, I hate going to work and pretending that it is all so interesting and purposeful. I hate coming home to where Dave is not and I hate going to bed and falling asleep alone. Maybe this really is my Hate Phase!? But it comes out as grumpy. I humph and harrumph through my days. I nod and smile. I answer the damn question, “How ARE you?” I pretend I am over it because that is what people want, but i am still so torn up inside and so shattered. I want to tell everyone to go away and leave me alone. But I don't like being alone much at all. I dislike life. I have no plans and dreams for the future – they all died with Dave. And it all just makes me so damn grumpy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Tried and True Motto


I haven’t written in several weeks. I am somewhat paralyzed. I haven’t been calling people, emailing or writing. There are a couple of reasons that this has happened. The first is that I have gone back to work and that takes up a lot of time. I am tired after a full day with 22 ten-year-olds! The second is that I have fallen into a depression. I find that I am able to leave the sadness at the door when I get to school and I can be upbeat and have fun with the children. I did major in Drama after all, and children really do bring me a lot of joy. But the sadness is still there, waiting for me, when I leave. It seems I cry on the way to work and I cry on the way home. I guess this isn’t too surprising. I have suffered from depression in the past and I still am a grieving widow.

Really, these two reasons are connected. Getting back to ‘regular’ life has intensified my sadness. Now I really miss Dave. This is the life I lived with him for several years, before he was subjected to that insidious, disgusting disease called cancer. My life then was: going to work from 7 to 5 and sharing the rest of my time with Dave. So now, I go to work from 7 to 5 and the rest of my life is empty. He is not here and though I am truly trying to move on and be optimistic, positive and hopeful, I really am sad and lonely and lost without him.

The mornings of cursing the fact that I have woken up have returned. The gray shadow has descended. I feel that I have regressed - I am once again ‘holing’ up in my bedroom, crying and staring at the ceiling. Not much of the world outside my door interests me.

Once again I find a little solace in the motto that I adopted 25 years ago, when my children were toddlers: This too shall pass.