Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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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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Failing, Failure

The last couple days have been tough. There is nothing monumentally wrong that most families and relationships don’t typically go through. But when I feel like everything around me (or 80%) is failing, I end up feeling like a failure.

My sister was her supportive self today when we talked. She gave me her opinion that I am one of the most capable people she knows and far from a failure. Thanks sissy! Deep down, I guess I know I’m not responsible for everyone else’s choices, but it’s hard when stress can feel unrelenting.

I got talking to a client today and it reminded me of research I read years ago. It said that females in particular tend to be prone to an “internal locus of control” which, like anything else, has its good and bad points.

When a woman is faced with a problem or hurt, she usually asks herself what she did wrong and looks for how she can fix it. An external locus of control would assume someone else screwed up. The good part of the internal focus is that it can lead to empowerment and change. The bad part is that it can lead to over-responsibility and unnecessary self-blame.

Generalizations almost always get you in trouble so please understand these thoughts don’t apply to every single person in every single situation. As an observer of human behavior and relationships, I have to say that it does seem to often be the case though. Women are often the “emotional thermometers” in relationships. It’s almost comical when a couple sits down for session and the man briefly declares things are ok. The woman wants to know who he has been living with because it apparently isn’t their home. As she recounts the week’s activity, the man will eventually nod in agreement. “Oh yea, I forgot about that,” or something similar.

Anyhow, when you intensely love and care for people around you, it can be heartbreaking when you are disappointed, worried, concerned when you see those around you making choices that hurt you, or worse hurt themselves. Probably the most intense pain is around the love and concern a parent has for their child. A child of any age, no matter how old he/she gets.

I’m doing ok tonight. I’m exhausted and feel like a wet dish rag. But talking to people who care and an unscheduled call to Scott (my trusted therapist) reminds me that these things too shall pass. They hurt like hell, but I don’t need to fall into the abyss or anything. Tomorrow will come and I will just do the best I can again. I’m usually the only one that asks more of me than that.

Hope all is well in your world, wherever you are. Take some time for self-care, but stay engaged in life and people. It’s worth it, even when you’d rather punch them all…LOL.


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He WAS there!

It’s funny how sometimes the “facts” of your life can change as your perspective and experience grows. Maybe a little growing up too. I remember when I was initially immersed in therapy in my 20’s and I was doing the whole evaluating my family of origin thing. Mom and I were in a lot of conflict at the time. I had this “aha” moment when I realized that I disagreed with her a lot, but it was because she was “there.” Dad just wasn’t. At least that is how it felt at the time.

I’ve mentioned before that Dad was a good, stoic German. He was not very demonstrative with his emotions or affection. It made him uncomfortable. That’s why there are lots of pictures of me sitting on his lap or my sister and I kissing him when we were older because we just kind of forced it on him (lovingly). You see his smile though, he liked it!

Progressive-Lisa, Dad, Darcy

But I was laying in bed the other night and one memory after another popped into my mind. I am rewriting my story. Dad WAS there.

The first time that comes to mind, I’m not really sure how old I was. Maybe five or six? Dad played softball at the fire hall. I think he was the pitcher. I was sitting on a blanket on the sidelines. Don’t know what family I was with but it wasn’t my family. All of a sudden I got hit hard in the head with a baseball. I was dazed. My vision was blurry but I looked and saw Dad running to me. He was there. I remember being home that night with ice on my face and Mom saying, “Poor baby.” But Dad came running, literally, when I needed him.

Next, fast forward to fourth grade. My grandma died. She and I shared a bedroom so I was very close to her. We had this ugly, brown, upholstered rocking chair, but we had it for years and years. I remember being curled up in Daddy’s lap in that chair and just crying. He didn’t say anything, just held me. He was there.

Right after I graduated high school I went on a mission trip to Europe for six weeks. I was in the driveway saying goodbye to mom and dad and we were hugging. I remember looking up and being shocked to see Dad crying. I mean tears, streaming down his face. He didn’t say a word but he didn’t have to.

In 1990, we had a huge tragedy in our family. My niece was killed in a car accident at only 10 years old. Dad was directing traffic as a firefighter and had no idea who was in the car. That tore him up. I remember him talking about it. And I remember our family going to the private viewing at the funeral home before everyone else arrived from the public. I am pretty sure it was him that stood next to me with his arm around me as we all sobbed.

In 2010, Tim was diagnosed with cancer. Our cat was too. Oreo was put on steroids and had another month where he functioned normally. Then the day came when he couldn’t walk and we knew what had to happen. Of course, the irony of knowing what lay ahead for Tim didn’t escape any of us. We were all in the bathroom as that was where we found Oreo unable to walk. It was Tim, David, Dad and me. All four of us cried. Dad was right there with us. No words were necessary.

I will never forget October 14, 2010 as long as I live. After his five month battle with cancer, Tim died at the Hospice facility. The room was full of loved ones, but it was Dad that stood next to me as the nurse examined him and looked up at us to tell us he was gone. Crazy thing about a terminal illness. You know the end is coming. You wait for it. You plan for it. But when it happens, you are shocked anyway. My knees literally buckled underneath me. Dad caught me. He literally held me up because my body wasn’t capable of it.

My story is rewritten. I had two amazing parents. As we all kept vigil as Dad was living out his last two weeks, my boyfriend Tim carved out some time alone with Dad. He told him that I wouldn’t be alone anymore. He promised to take care of me. He promised to take care of David. Even though he wouldn’t articulate it to me, I know that helped Dad to let go more peacefully.

As I had foot surgery this week and have had to sit still (which is almost impossible for me), Tim has kept his word. He has held me up, literally and figuratively. I remember him telling me that he knew he would never replace Dad, but he would do his best to be there for me.

Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Tim. And thank you God for all of them.

Graduation June 22, 1985 (3).jpg


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Month-Aversary

This last week I celebrated my six month anniversary with my boyfriend. It is hard to believe it has been a half a year already. When I woke up that day, I found a text with a poem that he wrote at 3 am. He said I could share it, but I hesitated because then everyone will know he is actually a better writer than I am…lol.  Anyhow, I think you will see that some things are worth waiting for. I am indeed a blessed/lucky and grateful woman.

Six months ago,
You appeared.
Six months ago,
Our eyes met.
Six months ago,
You touched my hand.
Six months ago,
Our hearts met.
Six months ago,
We shared a little kiss.
Six months ago,
Our voyage began.
Today,
I absolutely love you.
Six months from now,
I will absolutely love you more.
Six years from now,
I will unconditionally love you more than more.
Sixty years from then,
My heart will always be with you.
I love you Darcy.
Darcy, Tim


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Proper Priorities

I have recently become a contributing writer to Totally Buffalo. I will be blogging every 3 weeks or so on this site. I am cheating and posting a link here on those weeks so welcome to my first official post! It’s entitled “Your Relationship is the Priority, Higher Than Any One Person’s Individual Needs.”

Totally Buffalo Lifestyle


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Janet

My sister Janet is eight years older than me. I have some memories of her as a kid, but mostly there was a big enough age difference that we didn’t steal each other’s clothes or boyfriends so there wasn’t a lot of conflict.

She is the middle child, but for years we also called her the Perfect Child. As adults, I found out that she always hated that so I stopped saying it. I also call her Dad’s favorite daughter and I haven’t stopped saying that. I joke around about it, but it doesn’t seriously bother me because she is truly one of the kindest women I’ve ever known in my life.

I was just talking with a client yesterday who has a family member with cancer news. I remembered when we starting testing Tim and suspected it might be cancer. Janet lived near Rochester so she was an hour-and-twenty-minute drive away. I was on the phone with her when she said, “No matter what happens Darcy, you won’t be alone. We will be there every step of the way.” And she was.

Twice during Tim’s five months of illness, she took an unpaid leave of absence to come and help. I never forgot that because there were other relatives/friends that lived closer and were more close to Tim than she was, but she was the one that didn’t bat an eye. She just took the financial hit and came.

One memory that particularly stands out was when the decision was made for Tim to go to Hospice to try to get his sleep regulated. I called her to tell her and she made all that distance and got here before the transport car came. She and I took Tim around the property in a wheelchair to give him a chance to look at everything, reminisce, and ultimately say goodbye.

She has been here again, this time for Dad. She arrived the day before New Year’s Eve from Tennessee. And she is still here. She leaves Saturday which means she was here a full three weeks. Dad required 24 hour supervision until this week so she literally spent the whole time with him in his assisted living apartment.  I can’t even begin to express what a massive relief that was to me.  I know Dad is going to miss her terribly, as will I.

I enjoy her company immensely, but I was in a catch-22. She was here to take care of Dad, which was my chance to get a break. I wanted to visit with her, but I needed some distance from the situation at the same time. Thank goodness she completely understood that.

Even though she lives in Tennessee now, she still had a job where she had to take an unpaid leave of absence to be here. To take a three-week cut in pay when you live paycheck to paycheck is an incredible sacrifice. She makes it without blinking an eye, without a question. If I asked her to stay even longer she would.

Her husband supports her being here, even though I’m sure he misses her. Her daughter supports her being here, even though Janet misses her little grandson so much I’m sure her heart aches. So thank you to all of her family who let us borrow her capable hands and her ever-giving heart.

And how do I thank Janet? I couldn’t possibly. But deep down, I know she knows. She loves me too, and came to support to me. Mostly though, she did it for the deep love she has for our dad. He’s not an expressive man, but I know he appreciates her as much as I do.

IMG_20180109_101722452_HDRThank you dear Janet. You truly are perfect!


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Reflections

As January settles in, I have started my annual task of going through my filing cabinet. This not only accomplishes purging, but I also prepare for my taxes as I go along. It usually takes most of the month. This year, there is an added element to it. I am trying to go paperless as much as possible. That means do a lot of scanning, which can be time-consuming.

Today, I came across a folder that I basically forget about until January every year, the divorce papers from my first marriage. I have no contact with my first husband, but there are no ill feelings between us. I was thinking about him this year more than usual because I am dating someone whose middle name is the same as my first husband’s last name. Back in my twenties, I changed my name to his so I bore that name for six years as well.

It was a 16 page document, which is crazy because we had the simplest divorce ever. No property, no money, no kids, yet it still required 16 pages of legal jargon. I scanned all of it and shredded it. New years are always a time for reflection so this morning was no different. Never in a million years did I think I would ever be divorced, but then probably no one ever gets married thinking that it won’t last forever. It made me terribly sad. Not bitter, just solemn.

Of course that led my thoughts to my second marriage. Never in a million years did I think I would ever be a widow. That is irrational, because if we had lived together until old age, there was a 50% chance that I would be a widow at some point, unless I died first or we both died at the same time for some crazy reason. Yet it never occurred to me. I suspect most people don’t think about that much when they get married. But I certainly didn’t think I would be a widow in my forties.

I mentioned in a previous blog about being at Emily’s last month with her now eight kids and thinking about how when I married the first time, we planned on six kids. We had zero. But in my marriage to Tim, I had one biological child but gained three step-kids. Four is a lot closer to what I thought my life would look like. If I marry again to someone who has two kids, that would make the six I originally thought I would have.

Life is like that lots of times. Maybe even most times. I think if we polled a bunch of people in their fifties, the majority would say their life doesn’t look the way they thought it would. What’s that famous saying? Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. I keep thinking about Jennifer Aniston in the movie Marley and Me. Her husband is lamenting this very thing and she comes back with a confident statement about how much better their lives are than anything they ever could have imagined.

Makes me wonder what the future holds for me. What will life bring in the next chapter? What will 2018 hold for me? And will I lament or celebrate how differently it all came out? I vote for the latter!