Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Home Videos

On a weekend away, I spent several hours looking at home videos. It started with my first wedding in 1988. I was pleasantly surprised that it was mostly a warm experience rather than the mournful one I was expecting.

Mom, Randy

I got a laugh out of my brother. He had very little hair back then. He has had new hair for so long now, I forgot why he got the implants to begin with.

Just a couple of months ago, my former mother-in-law found me on Facebook. We started messenging and she sent several that brought tears to my eyes. She wanted to read my books (which I was honored by) so I mailed her copies (this is why I never make money) and included a photo of us from the wedding.

me, John’s mom; photo courtesy of author

Seeing the actual wedding footage now, I was reminded of how serendipitous life can be. I just reconnected with her. Mom has been gone for 13 years now. I find any mother figure in my life to be so comforting. Glad she is back in my life, even though geographically distant. (Although, isn’t everyone distant, compliments of the pandemic?)

A sad moment was remembering that Mom and I were a bit icy during the event. I can’t even remember why. Was it because at the time I was adopting “another” mom? Was I busy getting to know her and ignoring the one who had birthed and raised me?

I didn’t let it bog me down with guilt, though. I know some mother-daughter conflict is “normal”. Mostly I think, it was because, at the end of her life, we were very close. She was my best friend. Whenever I expressed it, she would lovingly say, “Stop saying that. I’m not your friend. I’m your mother.”

LOL.

I’ve always felt like I’ve got an exceptional support system. It didn’t escape me as I looked at the bridal party and guests that so many people traveled across the country to attend. Even parents of friends. To me, that’s an honor.

As I watched on, the unexpected (and cruel) deaths hit me. First and foremost my beautiful niece, who was still darling despite missing a front tooth. She died in an automobile accident at age 10.

One of our groomsmen died just in the last couple of years. He had a motorcycle accident and then his wife went through several grueling weeks in the hospital, only to lose him.

The life cycle. Who would have thought looking back 32 years would have such a powerful message now.


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Looking Back

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is daves-birthday-8.jpg
Photo Courtesy of Author

Today is the ten year marker of my husband Tim’s death. I feel warmly in many ways, but when I see the picture of the last time we were all together, that is when I break up. Our kids didn’t need to grow up with a father. Especially David. He was only eight. He looks so very, very young.

Last weekend I went away with my friends for a night as has become the custom on this anniversary. This year, I added a day and night alone. I expected it to be a struggle, but it went down a completely unexpected path.

The weather was beautiful but I ended up never leaving the cottage. I hooked up our home videos and sat there for hours and hours. My depressed brain managed to process this without tears and allowed a very warm and grateful experience.

I decided to go as far back as I had videos for which brought me to 1988, my first wedding to John.

We planned every second of it. (Ok, it was me. No surprise there.) So many of the details were unique at the time. I loved watching it and thinking about how clever I was – LOL. We had our groomsman walk halfway down the aisle and escort the bridesmaids.

The kicker? We sang to each other. I still can’t beleive we did that.

The focus was definitely God. Every song, every reading carefully chosen. John even said the prayer at the end to bless our marriage. I chuckled because he went on and on. I remember his buddies giving him a hard time after.

We then brought our moms a bouquet of roses after the ceremony was over and escorted each guest out. That way we got to say hello to everyone. I was so surprised at the people who were there. And deeply grateful. So many of them had such an effect on my life and the direction it took. Family, people from high school, college and church.

And of course there was the obvious loss. It felt strangely like Mom and Dad were in the room watching with me. That didn’t bring sadness. So many of my relatives are now gone because it was over 30 years ago! There were other losses besides death. Lost friendships and relationships. Some faces I recognized but could not remember their lives for the life of me. Yet at the time, they were important in my life.

Those couples that got divorced. There were three in particular that were outright shocking when they happened. (Oh yeah, the fourth was my own!)

Speaking of that, I was surprised – and glad that I wasn’t sarcastic as I listened to the ceremony. There was no, “Oh yeah, right. Like you meant any of that.” The words and atmosphere reflected where we truly were at that point of our lives.

A little over a year ago, I was able to have lunch with John and his wife. There was no bitterness on either party, just the warmth of seeing someone we hadn’t seen in decades. Perhaps that contributed to the vibe I had as I watched the video.

More thoughts to come on this. I’m not sure if it is simply my own catharsis, but I do hope maybe someone reading this will find hope that our past pains don’t have to haunt us forever. There is meaning in loss when we look for it.


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Planned aloneness

I mentioned doing a silent retreat in one of my blogs recently. After my friend Summer called and laughed hysterically, I found out that retreat centers are all closed due to COVID. (Honestly, I don’t really get that. You are isolated and silent. How is that dangerous?)

This weekend is my annual Magical Misery Tour. That means it is the “anniversary” of my husband’s death. This year marks a decade. I can’t even believe it has been that long. Normally, my girl peeps and I go away for the weekend. For whatever reason (I blame it on COVID) I only want to go for one night. Anything more than that just seemed overwhelming.

Then it occurred to me that I can go a day earlier by myself and spend the night alone. That is the plan.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I can’t be alone in a room. It’s not that. But I am definitely high-level extrovert. When I hit my low points, it’s when I don’t have a significant other- that kind of lonely. That is not the case this year.

However, I also have lots of intense things swirling in my mind. People to worry about, take care of, big decisions to make, and so on. When I really sit with my thoughts, they can get pretty strong. That’s when I need my peeps. First, because I’m a verbal person who needs to run things by others. Sometimes it’s several times with several people before I’ve worked it through. Secondly, if my thoughts are about myself and they are painful, I also need to touch base.

My goal is to spend time solely with myself and do my own self-soothing if and when I need it.

I plan to:

Enjoy the beautiful foliage and lakes

Paint my nails (without having to rush and ruin a couple because I’m trying to do something while they are drying). Won’t it be nice to just do it leisurely and enjoy it?

Play my favorite solitaire games (without being paranoid that someone will walk by me and think that I am being lazy)

Color (without feeling like I’m doing it to balance the chaos of my day)

Watch home movies. This will be a high-risk activity. My son turned 18 this summer and he’s “been so over” his mom for at least 8 years. We were incredibly close when he was small. I love looking at memories of him. It will be super great to do that. And it will also spark a lot of tears. I know it will. I grieve his childhood being over. I grieve all the mistakes I made after his dad died when he was only 8 years old. I grieve that we can never rewind and squeeze them all over again before they thought it was gross to be hugged.

Journal. I haven’t journaled in years. I’m just taking a notebook and seeing what happens. I’m going to think about a lot of those issues that trouble me. This is also a high-risk activity. I am not afraid of honestly looking at myself. I will take the truth, no matter how difficult it might be. But I can also come undone and need my folks to ground me again.

Wish me luck. I may end up calling someone and that won’t be the end of the world. But I am truly going to try and suck it up and rely on myself. It’s only for 24 hours. I can do it, right?