Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


Detox Hurts

I had my spiritual direction session with Ellen yesterday. We talked about my food detox week. Later, as I described the last couple weeks of my life, she said I had a grief detox too. Both experiences are good for me I suppose, but they were not pleasant going through it, that’s for sure.

Selling the camper started a series of events, none of which would probably do me in under normal circumstances. But coming back to back, I think each one of them depleted me until I was a train wreck. Sell the camper, Father’s Day, Moving-up Day, some conflicts with people. Then another situation that I am not at liberty to talk about (yet) which blind-sided me and triggered all kinds of grief and loss and memories about the church I left two years… which triggered memories about a job I lost (unfairly) in Chicago a million years ago.

By the weekend, I was in a very dark, ugly place. I was acting like a classic Borderline Personality Disorder. I love you, I hate you. Come here, leave me alone. By Sunday I was saying horrible things like poor Frankie lost the wrong parent.

I kept all the texts I sent and shared them with Ellen. I wanted to keep no secrets from her. I actually had to laugh as I was reading them. They were so psycho I couldn’t believe I was serious at the time I sent them.

Ellen is the embodiment of calm and unruffled. She didn’t look shocked. She didn’t even gasp. I asked her over and over how I could go from being this strong woman to a person who seriously considered checking into a hospital. She just calmly shrugged her shoulders. She thinks I’m “gorgeous” and “perfect” just the way I am, no matter what way I’m acting. I think she’s crazy but she touches something very deep inside of me when I see her.

We talked and labeled and processed and I know when she hits the nail on the head because I get immediate tears. She talked about my feeling helpless and small. She said that even though I know that life isn’t fair, my emotional drop was because somewhere inside I am still desperately looking for things to be “right” and “just”… and guess what? Life just ain’t like that.

After a four-hour session, she came out with the verbage that I had this grief detox at the same time I’ve been detoxing my physical body. Good for me, yes. Probably even great for me, yes. Painful? Hell, yeah. Hard on the people who love me and care about me and worry about me? Hell, yeah. At the end of the day, even on those days when I throw myself the biggest pity party ever, life still has a taste of sweet on my lips. Thanks to all of you who shore me up. Those of you that love me when I was anything but lovely this weekend. xoxoxoxo to you!


Father’s Day and Such

On Saturday, I had a book signing in Amherst. Someone came in and commented on the photo we display on the table. It’s the family photo that is on the back cover of the book. I said “Oh yea, that was taken on our last Father’s Day together. Oh my, I didn’t put that together. Tomorrow is Father’s Day.” That might not even struck you as odd, but it hit me for some reason and gave me goosebumps and wet eyes all at the same time. This woman went on to say it was her dad’s birthday but he has passed away. I told her she took the prize for tough weekends. Birthday AND Father’s Day. We hugged.

On Sunday, we went to my Dad’s house for a cookout. It was a relatively quiet day, but I found myself being pensive and angry. I had a conflict with a friend in the morning which didn’t help to start the day well. There were a few guys (family) at Dad’s, and none of them would toss a football or baseball around with Frankie. Frankie was disappointed, but didn’t make a big deal about it. In my mind though, I was very hurt. Doesn’t anyone remember that it’s Father’s Day and this ten-year-old doesn’t even have one? I know everyone was tired and full, but it would have meant a lot if they had spent a few minutes being that male person for Frankie.

On the way home, I started that bad record in my mind about how things aren’t fair. All of my nieces and nephew had both their grandparents til they were adults. They all still have both their parents. My son lost his Grandma at age four, and now doesn’t even have a father. It’s not right. But I learned a long time that life isn’t always fair. So why does it get to me on some days and not others? A wise friend reminded me that selling the camper last week probably opened a can of grief worms for me. (Summer is so smart.)

Then it’s Monday. Moving up day at Frankie’s school. I hate when I screw things up and I really did a good job with this one. I started out the day remembering that Frankie had to wear his yellow shirt, which was covered in mud and not washed. So that started a frenzy of activity to try and get it ready and a whole lot of self-blame for being a single mom for two and a half years now and I still drop the ball. The problem was, that Frankie was selected by his peers to read a speech on behalf of his class so he was going to be up front.

I rushed and got to the school. It is hitting me now that my son is going through a milestone marker. He is going into Middle School. Holy cow. That is a big deal. And I’m going by myself. If I had thought about it, I would have asked someone from my family to come with me. But I didn’t. He’s growing up. And then the fear starts. Only a few years left now for Social Security. Am I going to be able to keep the house when that money is gone?

By the time I walked into the building I knew I was in trouble. But true to the Bitter and Sweet mantra, I just prayed that Frankie’s second grade teacher was in the building. She was his teacher when Tim died and she has become a dear friend. Not only was she in her room, she was alone without any students. I walked in and collapsed in her arms. The sobs just came. I haven’t had days like this in a long time, but when it hits, it still hits like it was just yesterday.

I gathered myself and made it to the assembly on time. I videotaped it. When Frankie got up, everyone cheered for him. They didn’t cheer for the other two speakers. He did a smash-up job and I was so proud of him. He really is growing up. And he’s outgoing and a ham. Life IS still sweet. Just have to shed some bitter tears once in a while.



Saturday I called my friend Summer. She answered and immediately said “Do you have allergies or are you sniffling?” “Definitely sniffling,” I choked out. SHe is surprised and says I haven’t called her crying for months and months!

Tim and I bought a pop-up camper several years ago. The first summer after he died, my ever-practical father asked me if I was going to sell it. I told him that “they” recommend you don’t make any big decisions for at least a year after a death. I considered selling the camper a big decision.

The second summer came around and my dad was the first to ask again if I was going to sell it. Apparently you shouldn’t sell campers the second year either. I just couldn’t do it.

Now it is summer three. Here’s the thing. I no longer have a hitch on my vehicle. If I did have a hitch, I couldn’t drive the camper anyhow. If i could drive the camper, I couldn’t put it up or take it down. So every summer, good ‘ol dad or someone else puts it up in our driveway.

I love it. I nap out there all the time. My favorite time is when it’s raining. Sometimes Frankie has his buddies over. It comes in handy when we have company. Last summer my college roommate came with her very-allergic-to-dogs son and they slept happily out there while they were here.

This year, dad couldn’t remember how to put it up so we got out the DVD Tim made for us while he was sick. I watch it every year but I still haven’t got a clue how to do it. It helped dad though and he got it up.

Now I know that I could keep asking for help every year. I know there is nothing wrong with loving to sleep in it and having it out there to do so all summer. But I’m also a pretty practical girl myself. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess.

So when a dear, dear couple came to me and said they were interested in buying a used camper and wanted advice, I sat there with a knot in my stomach. This was probably the situation I was waiting for. I would love to see it go to someone who would use it. I know they will enjoy it and it will be used the way it is meant to be. No advertising, no bartering. They just dropped the opportunity in my lap. I knew it was the “right” thing.

But sometimes the “right” thing doesn’t feel good. I kept it together until they left so they wouldn’t feel bad, then I walked directly into the house and went to my bedroom and cried my eyes out. I’m so damn sad about it!

People ask me if I feel close to Tim when I’m out there. It’s not so much that as I am aware of his presence everywhere. But it is a very cold, hard cup of cold water in my face. If Tim were alive, we would so NOT be selling it. We found it together and had many memories together. I was telling the couple that are buying it about how we used to zip Frankie up in the windows when he was an itty bitty thing. He would wear his warm, footy pajamas when he camped and he would giggle when we’d put him there. (Don’t worry. I am aware that is a little twisted to do as parents but we thought it was funny!)

And truth be told, I also worry if selling it is a symbol of things to come. What if one day it’s no longer practical to keep the house? I have to rely on a lot of people to help me keep up with everything. I hope it never comes to that.

The good part is, they don’t have a hitch on their vehicle yet. So I don’t know how much longer I have my little camper, but I’ve been sleeping in it every night and every chance I can until they take it. I’m slowly cleaning out the cupboards and reminiscing as I do it.

Moral of the story… It can be the “right” thing and still be sad. Sniff.



So I am currently on Day Seven of a food detox I signed up for. I’m actually in the last hours of it. Vegetables only, plus 3 small fruits a day for seven days. Doesn’t sound hard to you? Just don’t say that to me.

I’ve been pondering what the word strength means this week. The closest people in the world to me have taken the brunt of this horrid week. One person made the mistake of saying “That’s not that hard” after she found out I vould eat as many vegetables I wanted. After I ripped her head off, I told her not so politely that if she isn’t detoxing she has no right to comment on it at all. No one gets to tell me what is hard and what isn’t.

The next person made the mistake of saying “It’s not that hard” when we were discussing separating egg whites. I’m not supposed to have eggs at all this week, but I was ready to give up on the program altogether. My coach said I could have egg whites if I needed to in order to not give up. So I ate an egg. The WHOLE egg. But I stayed in the program. So this guy says something about how it’s really not that hard to separate out the yolks. I ripped his head off also. Then I cried nonstop for about 20 minutes. He just sat in silence.

The next person said “Go get a snack” when I was going out of my mind. Again, I freaked out. “But you can have as many vegetables as you want” was the next sentence. So I explained (rudely, of course) that I hate vegetables to begin with- or at least most of them. Then I have to eat them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No exceptions. A friend of mine who detoxed said she went hungry because she just couldn’t stand eating another vegetable. That’s where I was at. Go get a snack? I was glad it was a telephone conversation so I didn’t cause any bodily harm.

I remembered a conversation I had with my friend Summer last September. I was having a nervous breakdown over an orange folder Frankie needed for school. I’d been everywhere and called her in desparation. Because she knows everything about everything, she knew exactly which store and aisle to get it in. (She knows I hate her sometimes for knowing so much…lol.)

Anyhow, I was disgusted with myself for being so undone over it. Of all people, I know better what is important in life. Why would I let it get to me? She gently, and laughingly told me that she thought I understood something about myself already or she would have pointed it out sooner. I’m just the opposite of most people. I can handle the really big stuff- like climbing into a hospital bed with my dying husband and not blink an eye. So the small stuff- like orange folders, do me in sometimes.

And like separating egg whites. No one is more embarrassed than I am that I can’t separate eggs without having a meltdown. But I am strong. I am very, very strong. Sometimes separating egg whites undoes me. It really is too much. And you know what? That’s totally ok.

By this time tomorrow I will be eating lean proteins and it will feel like the biggest feast I’ve ever eaten in my life! I just hope all my headless friends still love me 🙂