Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Vitamin D

When you are coming off a crummy spring like we had, it makes you appreciate the sunny days. It is no secret that it is much easier to be more motivated and less depressed when the weather is pleasant and the sun is shining.

This weekend was a lovely one. I have been working hard at relaxing more. If that isn’t an oxy-moron, I don’t know what is! Saturday night we had a fire and had an exceptionally good turnout. There were 16 of us and it seemed as if everyone had a great time. The highlights of the night were Mike’s fire dance (which I am unable to provide video of, sorry to say) and the discovery that Tiffany is capable of making the perfect toasted marshmallow.

Seriously, isn’t that amazing? Of course, it looks ginormous in the picture…

Sunday it was another lovely day and it progressed as it usually does around here. It started out with me and then the calls came in. Some friends stopped over and lounged in the pool. Then my granddaughter Callie called me. She melts my heart when she wants to do something with me. She came over and played in the pool, then took a walk with me and Taffy by the creek.

I’m hoping Mother Nature remains kind to us. I like to like life!


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The “Wow” Experience

Last weekend I started my first client managing/advocacy job. My initial meeting was in a hospital. It’s a large place with 16 floors, 71 rooms to a floor. As I found my way to her room, I had goosebumps. Out of the 1,136 rooms available, my client was in the exact same room my dad was back in December of 2017, 8 months before he died.

I’m not gonna lie. It was hard at first. I still miss him terribly. I’m anticipating Father’s Day soon and I know it will be hard. But I also had to admit this was more than coincidence. I was meant to be there. This is what I’m meant to do.

I was relieved because in my experience, this was one of the best hospitals I have interacted with. Now I have to take that back. It was an awul weekend and the worst was Monday (so you can’t blame it on the “weekend” staff).

The social worker, PA, secretary… virtually everyone we talked to with the exception of one male doc and one male guy at the desk, was nothing short of combative, argumentative, and downright wrong in what they were saying to us.

No matter how confident I am, when that many people beat you down, you start to question yourself. Thank God that night, my former spiritual director who was there with me, called to debrief. She said, “Wow! What WAS that??” I told her sadly, that was the typical medical experience. I was grateful to know she saw it as horrifying too.

That night I was in tears as Tim and I talked. Was this a mistake? Did I spend 18 months to get this job only to discover I didn’t have the guts to do it?

Thankfully, my client was transferred to rehab. I was nervous because it was the same company where my dad was at, but an entirely different location. When I arrived, it was clear that several mistakes had been made. Some insignificant, some more serious.

However, to my surprise, every person I asked to speak with showed up within 10 to 20 minutes. Every one of them- unit manager, physical therapist, aides, and especially the social worker- were respectful, listened, and appeared to want to follow through with what was discussed. (We will have to wait and see if things actually get done.)

I was so relieved. I’m not crazy. I can do this. I do know what I’m talking about. I’m not an agitating person. When you are dealing with folks who aren’t defensive and actually listen to what you are saying, it’s a peaceful environment. And that is certainly better for the patient.

Thanks to the staff. I can’t name you, but I pray your kindness will come back to you this week!


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Another Twist on Grief

My clients gave me persmission to write about our work together. I have been seeing them about a year and a half. They were referred to me because I am a “grief expert” and I have been on their journey with them as they grieve the loss of their daughter.

She was killed in a tragic car accident. As if that wasn’t enough pain to bear, she was also in her last weeks of pregnancy. If the accident hadn’t happened, she would have given birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

I have to laugh at the “expert” piece when I miss really obvious things that later hit me smack between the eyes. The mom has Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), the latest name for Multiple Personality Disorder. It wasn’t until last week that I even thought to wonder about how that might be effecting her grieving process. And not just hers, but her husband’s as well.

I have only encountered DID twice in my practice, and once in my social life. While we were talking about other traumas they have faced together as a couple, many stories about the DID came up, which has happened in several other sessions.

People who are grieving are often afraid of letting their emotions really go. People who are working through past traumas are often afraid of letting their emotions really go. They are usually afraid the intensity will be too much and they will get swallowed whole. It is my job to assure them of the safe place in my office and reassure them that they will not emote forever.

I’m not so sure that is true with DID. Personalties or “alters” are often formed to cope with specific traumas in a person’s life. The alter bears the brunt of the experience, or develops a coping mechanism. The alter actually IS the coping mechanism.

As my client and I were talking, the mom was saying that she keeps her grief at a distance. The more we discussed it, I realized that there is a possibility that if she embraces it fully (which I am always encouraging in grief work), she literally may not ever come back from it. It truly might not be safe for her to take on the loss of her daughter and granddaughter with all its force.

I couldn’t believe that I didn’t take all that into account before then. Some expert, right? Then it also hit me. I asked the dad if perhaps he might be holding most of the grief for both of them? He is wondering now too. Not that any dad’s grief wouldn’t be intense from the loss, but his may be even greater as he unconsciously tries to “hold” it for both of them.

Wow, my lesson (which I relearn from time to time) is to never, ever stop learning. Is there ever really an “expert” on anything in the dynamic, changing world we live in? As is often the case, I grow more from my clients than they do from me. Oh, and please pray for this couple as they navigate this incredibly difficult journey they are on. They are two of the bravest, most resilient people I know.


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Duh Moments

The “duh” moments just keep increasing. Let’s see. I sent a payment in the mail except it returned in my mailbox. Good thing I had my address and stamp on it so it came back. The only thing missing was the entire name and address it was going to. Nice.

Then there was Tim’s hunting/lawn chair. I took it to Dave’s track meet and forgot it there. One of the parents took a picture and texted it to me. He brought it back which was nice because it was an hour away. Fast forward to another track meet. That parent laughed and said, remember when you forgot that? Yep, I will never do that again. Of course, that very same day, you guessed it. I left the chair. Only this time there was no one there to rescue it. I drove back the next morning but it was gone. My cousin started #prayfortim.

My favorite one was coming in the house to ask the boys what the heck happened to the basketball net. We have two in our driveway. Now they are big, and with all the wind we get they tend to fall down. I was passing by the yard and noticed only one of them was on the ground. How could anything so big go missing?

Timmy did his usual blank stare and Dave asked what the heck I was talking about. He goes over to the window and says they are both there. I go over to the window and point out there is only one laying on the ground. He points out that the other is standing next to it in the upright position, just like it’s supposed to be. OMG, I really am losing it.

One thing I did get right though. Dave has a small room off his closet. It has slanted roofs so the space is difficult. It used to be a playroom but at 16, it had become a dumping ground for hockey equipment. Tim and Timmy got on the mission and designed this lovely thing.

It looks like a professional locker room if you ask me. (The picture looks like the shelf is slanted up but it’s actually not.) Do you think it might not smell as bad if that equipment is hanging like that? One can only hope. Kudos to the men in the house for deisgning and building in a difficult space.

Sometimes my brain works.


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Yearly Physical

I have my yearly physical in two days and I’m dreading it. Let’s see…

I had foot surgery seven months ago and my foot pain is worse than ever. It’s taken this long to end up in a situation where I have an appointment with a second surgeon who is probably going to tell me I need a second surgery. That’s ok, but frankly it should have been last December. Seven months of nonsense and chronic pain.

I do want to pick her brain about the latest treatment the FDA just released in February for chronic, refractory depression. It made sense to me to wean off all the meds I take for that so I can develop a baseline. I’m doing it properly- very slowly over time. I already see a difference though. There’s an increase in crying and a decrease in tolerance for stress. Not a surprise, but I wish I had something happier to report.

My guess is I’ve also gained twenty pounds since last year and believe me, you can tell. I’ve weaned myself off my supplements to get a better baseline for that as well. I was intending to eat more healthy and get off the pre-diabetic status. I’m going to plead with her not to even test my blood. I’ve gone the opposite direction. I can’t even imagine what my levels are like, but my weight is an indication of what it would show.

Sigh.

I’m hoping that Tim has off work though so he can go and meet my doc. She will be thrilled about that. Last year we had fingers crossed that he was going to stick around and continue to be who he seemed to be. That is the one bright spot I will be happy to report on. He treats me like a queen!

Future blogs will probably discuss the new treatment out there when I have enough information to write an educated paragraph or two. In the meantime, I will just keep hoping to somehow make some progress on these long-term issues I have. Gotta love the aging process!


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Ex’s and Formers

I’ve never really liked the word “ex” so I try to use the word former. Lately, I’ve been challenged about the “formers” in my life so of course I challenged myself and even dedicated a good part of a counseling session to it.

I like the fact – well, I am actually proud of the fact that I have remained cordial, and in some cases even close to my former boyfriends. Part of me feels like when you love someone, there is always part of you that loves them and wishes them health and happiness. That is genuine.

I also know that part of me (as was pointed out to me again recently) has a strong need for everyone to like me. It really eats away at me when someone doesn’t like me and I will literally spend years trying to figure out how I should have improved myself to be more likeable.

My therapist pointed out that some of it goes back to family of origin stuff- specifically my dad. I always searched for evidence that he was proud of me. I’ve known that for years, but it surprised me this weekend because Dad is gone now and I felt deeply resolved with him before he left us. We never had that healing conversation, but I know how he looked at me to help him. Even though that was also painful, I realized how much he needed me and counted on me. When I think of him now I just miss him terribly. The other parts are just healed up.

Anyhow, Tim and I recently went to Seattle/Friday Harbor for vacation. The main draw was my friend Darren who I have blogged about relatively frequently. He was my 7th grade rolling skating boyfriend and he found me online a few years ago when my book came out. He and his wife were two of the most generous hosts we have ever experienced. That could not possibly have been kinder to us.

The big surprise that was unplanned, was also getting to have lunch with my first husband and his wife. I have been surprised by how many people have responded with, “Why would you want to see him?” It catches me off guard because I think, “Why wouldn’t I?” Sometimes we don’t even realize we could use closure and healing. I think John felt it too because he hugged me goodbye and thanked me for making it happen. The next day he texted a photo of the four of us and said it was a memorable lunch. No big discussions, no rehashing, just a chance to feel warm toward someone who was a tremendously important part of my life at one time.

Maybe all my motives aren’t perfect, but I stand by my position. I am proud of the healing that has happened in my life. And even though I have made some very, very big mistakes, I’ve conducted myself well enough that people find a way to feel warmly back.

Thanks to John and Darren for being part of my life. And mostly thanks to Tim for being by my side and trusting our love and commitment enough not to find it all too weird!


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Legal Lying

When I am with clients, I am very careful to articulate that while I may have some experience, I am NOT a doctor, and I am NOT a lawyer. I don’t want to misrepresent myself and give advice out of my scope of competence.

But holy crap, do I ever wish other professionals would do the same. Last week we were exposed to a lawyer that is everything that gives them a bad name. Why can someone who DOES have the official training and degree get to go out and blatantly lie about what is legal and what is not?

Poor Tim has been trying to sell his trailer since February. We thought we had a buyer a couple of weeks ago. Correction. We DID have a buyer. He signed a binding contract with an agreed-upon amount. It clearly stated the trailer was “as-is” and even a non-lawyer could understand it. Tim knew the guy and he is a close friend of two of our relatives. He was actually excited about buying it.

Then his “cousin” who is a lawyer got involved. It started weeks of nonsense. I mean utter nonsense. He was saying and doing things that are absolutely not the way a trailer is sold. A trailer is like buying a vehicle. Most people don’t even have a lawyer for the transaction. Couldn’t be more simple.

One of his brilliant suggestions was giving us a check for half the amount, allowing his cousin to live there for a while. If he decided he liked it, he would pay the other half. Who in their right mind would agree to that? Wish I could get a car dealership to agree to something like that.

I won’t bore you with the dozens of untrue things he said. I will tell you the day he was supposed to pay, they brought four people to the trailer. One was a home inspector. Oh yea, they lied about that too. He was a contractor, not a licensed inspector. They decided the trailer was “unsafe” and breached the contract. After they provoked Tim until he loudly told them to get off his property (with an expletive or two) he got applause from the ridiculously dressed lawyer. (He had on a suit and bow-tie.)

The kicker was discovering the contractor was trying to record it all. It honestly felt like the whole thing was a set-up. Perhaps they thought they could provoke Tim enough to hit someone so they could record it. They severely underestimated my guy.

What is beyond comprehension is that this lawyer works for the city of Buffalo. He’s high up and all over the Internet. Another lawyer explained to us that these city slickers are used to doing whatever they want. The follow-up communication was more nonsense with absolute untruths regarding the law.

It infuriates me. I already hate politics. Kills me that this guy can go around doing what he is doing because he knows he’s untouchable. The law doesn’t touch him. He calls himself a lawyer but advises people erroneously and without shame.

Anyone out there who is honest that wants to buy a trailer?