Is that your husband? I looked down at the phone in my hand and looked back at my new dentist and my face crumbled behind my mask. She was immediately cognizant of the fact that his handsome face was a memory for me now and as the tears started to fall from my eyes, her face crumbled too.
Soon we were both standing there with tears on our cheeks as she asked me his name.
I bit my lip to stop it from quivering and I tried to smile behind my mask and as I took a deep breath, she put her hand on my arm and the story spilled out along with more tears.
This is how grief sneaks up on us with no warning. This is why I advised readers of my book to share their grief with our doctors and dentists as well as other professionals. We deserve to have people speak kindlier and it really is okay to share our feelings – it is a self-protective maneuver.
Is that your husband? Yes, and he loved me more than he loved any other. I was the last and greatest love of his life. His name is Larry, and he will always be the love of my life.
There is absolutely no blue Christmas this year in my home. I doubt it if there will ever be a blue Christmas and I say that unequivocally because of ALL the progress I made since last Christmas.
I have been reading some articles on grief, and one sticks out like a sore thumb. It is a topic I wrote about in “Fractured-Living with Grief” and it showed up again not only as an article in a blog I follow but also a perfect example landed in my life when I wasn’t looking.
I can describe it in 2 words “grief bullies”.
To be honest, I have not had to deal with a grief bully in over a year until recently. In my case I know that the incident in my life is due to the person not understanding grief at all.
Losing the love of your life is something only other widows and widowers can truly understand but don’t clothe it in telling me that you are concerned about my loneliness.
First and foremost, I don’t mind being alone. Next get unstuck from over a year ago and realize who I was then and who I am now are two different people. Being alone and being lonely are two distinctly different things.
When I actually made the decision to move to South Carolina I had many moments of stressful occurrences. However, I was ready to do this. My heart was ready, my head was ready and I am just fine 99% of the time. I found that out when I created my Thanksgiving Day/birthday meal. BAM just like that I faced a holiday that a year ago was filled with pain because this time around I had completed the PTSD therapy that had vanquished the trauma.
I have skated through the Christmas season with all the decorations I still have from our marriage, with the favorite scented candles, with a beautiful tree and I mailed Christmas cards. Let’s not forget I have music on all the time and it lifts me up.
Just because I voiced some concern before turkey day is no reason to think I couldn’t make it through. I MADE IT THROUGH. All is well in my house, in my head, in my heart and in my life.
Has that grief bully ever asked me how I am really doing this year, in a word, NO. My biggest mistake was ever sharing a momentary fear. Lesson learned.
One more thing I want to say this Christmas Eve – it is never okay to criticize anyone who is grieving. Ever.
Dammit grief, it’s Christmas go somewhere else. Stop showing up as if you are the ghost of Christmas past and bringing with you a carousel of memories. Be gone. It’s Christmas.
Maybe it showed up because I wrote that piece about not liking turkey. Oh well, I don’t like turkey. I am good with saying that, and while Larry loved it to the point of filling a freezer with leftovers, I do not miss seeing those containers that he would enjoy thawing to eat turkey and stuffing as long as he could.
I spent the weekend after Thanksgiving bringing Christmas into my new home. In anger and sadness I had sold so much of our decorations knowing I would never use them again. I kept the beautiful collection of Santa’s, the ornaments that meant the most to me, and the gnomes we bought on one of our holiday trips to Las Vegas.
I put the new tree up, and only shed some tears when I hung the ornaments we collected for our dogs. The tree was sparsely decorated so I added the antique ornaments from my parents, and then I opened the box of turquoise and gold ornaments from our bedroom tree. I separated out the gold from the turquoise and used the gold ones as filler for the empty spots. I look at my tree now and see it is a combination of what Larry and I collected, my parents, and our beautiful master bedroom tree. It is all good.
Christmas music fills the house, I light Larry’s favorite candles (he picked them all out) and I am happy with everything I see. While it is different from 21 years of decorating, it is all that I need at this time.
I sat with a glass of wine, a Christmas movie on the TV and that is when it happened. That is when grief blew in extinguishing the beauty of everything I had been enjoying. While I was sitting there I heard a car door close and for one damn moment I thought Larry was home.
Yes, sometimes I just sit, unable to move. I sit in the living room and watch the water birds come to feed at the pond.
Other times I sit at my desk and just stare at my computer.
Words that used to come easily are difficult to find now.
Sometimes I just sit, unable to move.
I open the cards that have come in the mail. I sit there frozen while reading the kind words. Tears slide down my cheeks and fall on to my chest. I set them aside and let the tears slide.
I don’t get hungry often, but I know I need to eat. It is so difficult to make a meal without dancing around Willie, who is hoping something falls to the floor.
Sometimes I just sit, unable to move.
I want to move; I want to do the things I always did; I want the plans to keep moving forward, and then I remember I am alone. My partner, my best friend, my anchor in life is gone. Maybe she thought I was ready to handle my future on my own, but I don’t think I am.
The Importance of surrounding yourself with exceptional people is priceless. In all the reading I have done in grief groups, grief articles, grief books and more, the one thing that stands out with the brightest light, is the advice people give that you will need to make some changes in whom you allow in from that point forward.
As I look back on the time since my great guy left this earth there was an immediate letting go of some people I knew who showed their collective asses. They did things that were absolutely disgusting either to me emotionally through social media, or horrors done in public in a place where people stared.
It isn’t easy to let go of people; I know this, but when what they have to say is abusive, it’s a lot easier.
You can do it.
You actually will feel better when they are gone.
They are not your friends because your friends would never treat you that way.
Dump them, okay let them go easily, whatever just do it.
You will see those who love you, those who are loyal to your friendship, those who want to help you, they don’t leave. As time goes by, they may not show up as often, but believe me they are still there.
Three of my newest friends are women I found friendship with two different ways. One is a younger widow whose name was sent to me by mutual friends. The other two I found in a grief group online and the connection is tight.
They also understand what grief is, what it does to us, and they will reach out when you need them to do that.
Then there are the new friends who will seek you out because they have warm hearts, and they want to be part of your growing circle. Once you delete the bad ones the wonderful ones have more room and they will show up.
Over the past several weeks a recent friend showed up, and she gave me vital legal information I needed to deal with a situation I needed help with, and I call her an emotional lifesaver to me right now.
Then a social media friend helped me greatly by asking her father, who is a very well-known veterinarian, give me a 2nd opinion for my sweet dog, and this brought me great relief.
I love my family; however, they live 2 days away and I don’t burden them with my grief. Good and loyal friends do not mind being burdened by it and they will stick it out.
They are worth their weight in gold.
The best thing that will happen is that you move forward. You will find yourself feeling better. You will mourn, you will grieve, but you also will have a tremendous support system that you did not have before.
I have read your feelings about friends and family who ignore you. I have read your sad words. I have read about your loneliness and I promise you it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Take action. Do the work. Make the changes and do not feel guilty. Letting go of people who are mistreating you is a marvellous thing, and they may not even realize it unless you tell them.
I have told people that I need to move forward from them because they have already moved forward from me. Believe me, they won’t care.
One more time, the new friends you make and those who stick it out with you are worth their weight in gold. You will be so emotionally wealthy.
Yes, I threw down the gauntlet metaphorically on Wednesday, even if the people in the world of definition say it isn’t used metaphorically.
Wednesday would have been our 20th wedding anniversary, and this year I planned to be in control of this special day.
I told friends it was okay to wish me a Happy Anniversary because in saying it they were acknowledging the love Larry and I shared.
I made a therapy appointment the week before and the two of us worked hard using EMDR to help me cushion the trauma in my brain about this day.
This explains what EMDR is:
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories.
I had already done some somatic experience work in New Mexico. I was taught in therapy there to use the memory of the happiest day of my life, which was our wedding day, to calm me and restore balance whenever triggered with a lot of grief.
This past Wednesday had moments of having tears in my eyes and many more moments of total joy remembering the love, the happiness, the fun of that day.
Last year was horrid. I refused to have that happen again.
My grief therapist told me that my resilience shines through because I have become my own grief expert. She is correct. I get online, I research, I read stories, and I celebrate my strength.
I also grieve. I will grieve Larry’s death for the rest of my life. Grief doesn’t end. I just live happier, I live in gratitude for being so loved, and I know how proud Larry would be right now if he could peek down and see me. Maybe he can, maybe he is.
Yes, we can be. Be and be better. For they existed. This is the last line of a poem Maya Angelou wrote and, in my life, in my wilderness of grief, in my world I can be. I can also be and be better because Larry existed.
Years ago, I taught myself how to be strong and fiercely independent. There are people who saw me often at my worst and they would not think of me that way. They are wrong. I am strong, and I am resilient, and I can be (fiercely independent).
While we had an amazing partnership of souls in our marriage, we could also stand apart from each other and not implode, we just found it was better together.
Larry was not my rock. I am my rock. Yes, fissures would occur and then he would bring his concoction of super glue and mortar, maybe some duct tape, but the actual repair work was mine to do. He taught me emotional skills; he reinforced things I already knew how to do. He taught me it was okay to curse and to slam doors.
The biggest thing he taught me though was how good it felt to be deeply loved unconditionally and how capable I was to always fix my cracks alone.
Larry married a happy woman, and that is why everyday I work at showing him I am still happy. I know he understands that I do still cry. I cry because I miss him a lot. Then I see him standing in front of me with a roll of duct tape in his hand and I remember that Larry married a happy woman, and that is how he would want to think of me right now.
I sit back daily and watch the numbers grow as this virus spreads without stopping and I know the whole world is grieving right now.
For those of us who have experienced the death of a loved one and have been grieving for months, even years, we have had practice. We have had a dress rehearsal except that grief hits every single one of us in a different way yet the depth of the pain is the same.
I have been living in a place of stillness for over a year. I have had occasional breaks from it when
friends and family have come to help me, but the majority of my time is spent
in stillness. It is lonely. I suppose I am accustomed to it, but that
doesn’t ease the loneliness.
You see now there is fear. The very person who could always talk me off
the ledge is no longer here with me, and I fail at being able to do this.
What as I see as my goodness in all of this is the fact that
I started writing when Larry died, and I haven’t stopped.
Writing is therapeutic.
Writing helps us heal. My writing
helps others. I have fans. I can say that because they tell me they are
fans. I have a following and that makes
me feel exceptionally blessed.
I never would have guessed that at the age I am now would be
when I actually found what I am in awe of and be blessed with an epiphany of
I believe Larry always knew this about me. He probably would have preferred staying
around to see me realize my potential. Unfortunately,
God had other plans, however when I wake in the morning with a song playing in
my head, I know it came from Larry.
It has been a while since that happened and I was overjoyed
this morning to wake to “I Love the Way You Love Me” by John Michael
Just a sign of encouragement from the love of my life.
This morning when I wrote my usual morning thoughts my mind went down into my memory bank and rummaged around. It came back with all the wonderful springs Larry and I celebrated when we lived in the snowy and frozen Midwest.
I wrote about how much joy we got when we saw signs of rebirth happening all over our yard. We loved to garden. We had so many beautiful plants, flowering shrubs and bulbs and seeing them bud and struggle to push through the ground was something we treated with respect.
There is so much energy in plant growth that we take for granted.
It was within my memories that I realized I am not moving forward, I am pushing forward, like those plants.
It takes a lot of energy to push forward. Some days I cannot summon that energy and that is when I am in the depths of my grief wilderness and boulders block my pathway.
Where is the dynamite when it is needed?
No dynamite, then where is a pickaxe and shovel?
When I am thrown down to the ground in my wilderness, I have no tools. I only have my bare hands and my bare heart.
I can use my shoulder to move through the rubble, but it rarely works. I meet resistance with every attempt.
I look around for the pickaxe and the shovel. I know why I cannot find them. Finding them would make the destruction I am left with too easy to navigate, and there is nothing easy in being suddenly left behind in the dark world of grief.
If we did not love, we would not grieve. If we did not love, we wouldn’t have wounds that do not heal, reminding us that healing will never be complete.
Color me claustrophobic.
When I am above ground and freed temporarily from my wilderness, I have anxiety any time I am in a tight space, or a crowded elevator, or even a crowd of people.
Below ground I see all these boulders surrounding me, and my chest grows so heavy that breathing is difficult.
Then I ask myself what it would feel like if I had no grief, and I realize that if I had no grief, I would never have experienced a burning, passionate love and wouldn’t that be the real tragedy?