Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Afraid of Writing

It’s been almost a month since I’ve blogged, which is unusual for me. I blame three weeks of that on having my grandkids with me. There is some truth to that, but the bigger truth is that I’m scared to write.

I write from my heart. From my experiences. It’s always been that way. I’m not good at making stuff up or having someone give me a topic. It has to mean something to me.

I’ve had folks tell me to write and not post it. While journaling has been a powerful therapeutic tool for decades, I’m also an extreme extrovert. Things don’t mean half as much until I share it with someone.

I’ve learned over the years (the hard way) that when you put something out there, you invite people’s opinions whether you want them or not. Going public requires being willing to have people disagree with you.

In theory, I’m totally fine with agreeing to disagree with people.

Something is different now. I thought the last election caused a lot of division. But this pandemic makes that look minor. As if that wasn’t enough, the protests and riots started. (I’m not commenting on the necessity of it, just the unfortunate timing.)

Talk about division.

I tend to try to find truth on every side of a situation. I think the way you talk sometimes is more important than the content (sometimes). I’ve been preaching about communicating without being divisive for quite a while.

Something is different now.

I wonder if it’s just my perception, but if my fear is coming out these days, it’s the aloneness I feel because I don’t know how to connect with people like I used to. Even people I’m close to.

It seems like the polar opposites have moved miles further apart when I didn’t even think that was possible. No matter what I would say, I know people I care about will be pissed off or offended. Side A. Side B. And the worst would probably be saying anything remotely in the middle.

I think that would be hated most of all.

So I haven’t blogged.

I hope it’s ok to blog about not blogging.


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Don’t Do This to Your Family

I have been teaching/lecturing/educating for a while now about having your affairs in order, no matter what your age. People that have had to deal with the aftermath of a death that wasn’t prepared for will be the first ones to make sure they don’t do the same thing to their loved ones. Most of the rest of the population will say they don’t want to be a burden after they are gone.

I did have one client though that told me he has a cantakorus relationship with his son and he can’t wait to stick it to him after he’s gone.

Luckily, most people aren’t like that.

I have been working on the case of a woman who died recently. No, it wasn’t COVID19. I had worked with her previously while she transitioned to a smaller home and then I wanted to start getting her organized. She was very stubborn and frankly, also a bit nasty. She didn’t have any intentions of cooperating.

I just spoke to her attorney. She told me she had several times recommended many of the same things but she had refused to change any of her plans to make it simpler or easier.

Now, I grew fond of her and am truly sad she is gone. But I also have cursed her several times in the last week. There is no reason that taking care of her affairs had to be this difficult. It is exhausting and maddening.

It makes me more passionate than ever about my job. I keep trying to help PREVENT this from happening. I speak loud and long about taking steps before you are old, and before you have a medical emergency. You will get better care every step of the way. You will be able to focus on the crisis when it comes, without having to add panic to the mix.

I try not to be too judgmental, but I just have to say this before it burns out of my skull. I think it is selfish to not be responsible with these things. I haven’t come across a good reason yet to not be prepared. It can be very detrimental to your well-being, and it is definitely overwhelming for the people you eventually leave behind.

DO NOT DO THIS TO YOUR FAMILY!

Get prepared. Get informed. Don’t be lazy. Don’t think you will do this “later.”

One of the advantages of doing things early in the game is that you can slow down the process so it doesn’t drown you. About two years before my dad died, we started working on his notebook. (This notebook is the now the model I use when teaching and doing workshops.)

Every couple of weeks we would tackle one task. We started closing bank accounts until he eventually only had one checking and one savings account. We spoke to a financial advisor and slowly cashed in his investments. There weren’t many and they weren’t large, but such things can be a nightmare for an executor later on, especially if they go into probate.

I could list many more things. But I can’t stress enough, DO IT NOW. Do it for yourself and for God’s sake if you have aging parents, DO IT YESTERDAY.

It’s not very painful unless you wait. If it isn’t done, you have a headache every day and fantasize about jumping off a cliff.

Okay, I’m stepping off my soapbox. Please, give it some serious thought. And reach out to me if you need guidance.


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Fun at Physical Therapy?

I’m not any different than anyone else during this pandemic. My only outings every week are to physical therapy. I’ve gotten into a routine now with two other patients. They space us out but there is a brief time we overlap together. At the end of my session, I usually beg Nancy to let me stay longer. Don’t send me home!

Nancy is a very talented therapist and we all know it. She also has a sense of humor so we can give her a hard time because we KNOW she is great.

One of the men obviously has more pain and a longer road to go down than I do. He is usually in a separate room but we crack jokes back and forth. He calls PT “premeditated torture” instead of physical therapy.

Nancy has this streetlight analogy she uses. It drives us crazy. A green level of pain is preferred because it means you are still ok. I did tell her that it’s not easy being green. She thought that was funny, but it turned into bigger laughter when it was quiet and I started playing Kermit singing that song on my phone.

This man has two canes to walk. I can hear and see when one of them falls. I yell out and ask if Nancy has knocked the cane out from underneath him again. He says of course she did. I told him he was lucky because she usually kicks me.

Today was out of control. We exchanged the usual banter and were really proud when a therapist who wasn’t usually there said she wanted to stay in our unit. We are much more fun than other therapy rooms.

I was balancing on the balls I’m supposed to walk on and I look across the room. It was the first time I had seen this guy on the bike. And it was the first time I realized that he had a prosthetic for a leg.

“Oh my God!” I yelled louder than usual. “Nancy, you’ve gone too far this time. The poor guy’s leg fell off!”

Raucaus laughter. I wondered if I had gone too far but he said he has loads of jokes. One time in a hospital he put his leg on backward to freak people out. His sister is making him a t-shirt that says, “Don’t pull my leg. Seriously.”

Later in the session, Nancy asked him how he was doing. “How the hell do you think he’s doing, Nancy? His leg fell off!”

Then it got really bad.

Two of us are laying on tables and our guy is still on the bike. Nancy yells over to him, “Do you need help getting off?”

I couldn’t stand it. I burst into laughter, which started everyone else. The other woman was telling me she had it under control until I had to go and laugh. Leg-guy says the same thing. Nancy says, “Was the only one who didn’t get it?” The three of us say yes in harmony.

Eventually, it was almost time for me to go. By now, Nancy really does have to help him off the bike. The two of them are standing together and she asks him if he needs help. “Getting up?” he says. And the raucaus laughter starts all over again.

Nancy says the redness in her face will probably last forever.

The woman next to me says we really need to get out more.

You said it sister.


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Confusion and COVID19

Perhaps many of you have already seen this, but take three minutes to review this or watch it for the first time.

I haven’t seen anything that reflects what I have been thinking about and experiencing as accurately as this video does. I am already not a news follower, but if ever there is a time to shut off the information, it is now. I find that the biggest and most relevant news out there I hear through conversations with people. I get what I need to know, but avoid the overwhelming amount of bad news. I also avoid banging my head on the wall because of trying to sort out the truth with all the conflicting information.

I think almost every statement in that video clip is something I have heard. But I’m not telling you anything new. My point is not to alert people to the fact that there is confusing information bombarding us.

My point is this:

With so much confusion, how can so many people feel like they know exactly the proper way to respond to this?

I have heard so many people speak with great authority about their opinions. They have lots to say about those that do not agree with their assessment. It has caused tension and has bruised relationships. The media never lies. The media always lies. I’m listening to the government. I’m listening to the Department of Health. I’m not making any changes. I am taking extreme precautions.

And every position between those polar opposites.

Could we be a little kinder to each other? We don’t have any research or data on the last three pandemics America has been through to offer the best practices to deal with this. The fact is, none of us know for certain how to best handle this. None of us. And the facts- the numbers- aren’t even facts. I can give you more than one frightening example of ways numbers have been skewed. Of course, that implies my sources know the truth. See what I mean? Why speak out when you can’t be certain of anything?

Let’s all just do the best we can. Make the most responsible decision for yourself and others based on your understanding of what needs to be done. Give it a real and honest effort. Don’t be lazy and don’t be selfish. But after that, don’t judge anyone else either.

Personally, I watch my clients who are nurses caring for COVID patients the most closely. I’ve known them for years and I’ve known their ethics and sense of personal responsibility. I also know they would cut off a limb or give their life for their children they think are the most precious gift of their lives. Whatever precautions they take to protect their own families is what I trust. That makes sense to me in my heart of hearts.

But that’s just me. You should do what you should do. And I respect that.


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Back to Music Roots

I have a thumb drive in my car with all my music on it. It is, of course, organized by genre, and then alphabetically by artist, then by song. I happen to be on my Christian music files and I have to believe that it is not by coincidence. I find I’m needing the tunes and the songs as I greatly miss the spiritually fufilling act of singing.

It is usually also a walk down memory lane. In my conservative days, I loved Steve Green and Sandi Patty. They have highly trained voices. I was able to meet Steve Green when I was in college. Many years ago, I was able to meet Sandi Patty. Both of them were my “conservative Christian music” idols.

I’m enclosing a link to one of my most favorite songs. It is a duet with Sandi Patty and Darnell Harris. I love the words, but the music and harmony give me chills every time I hear it. Once I was able to sing it in church. I can’t even remember who I sang it with, but it was like a dream come true. We did a good job, but I guarantee it was nothing like the recording. I mean NOTHING.

I listened today as I sat in a drive-thru line. I tried to sing along but I am so terribly rusty. I had goosebumps though. Then I listened to it again silently and soaked it in. I had goosebumps again, from head to toe.

Now that I found the link for this blog, I just listened to it again. Goosebumps, from start to finish. And this time I cried.

My soul is so thirsty with this pandemic. My extrovert needs are starving. We just got a piano in our house today that we rescued from the garbage down the street. I’m going to start playing every day and I’m going to start with the Christian music I have.

I believe all music comes from God, but this kind of music is feeding me the most.

Sandi Patty also has a song that says, “We love to lift our voices Lord, because every time we do, we’re singing Your song to You.”

Singing is deeply spiritual to me and I’m so grateful that it came to me today. I needed it desperately.


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What is There to Say in a Pandemic?

I saw a really cute graphic that had two cartoons side by side. One said “introvert” and it had a stick person sitting comfortably in front of a TV/computer thing. The other had “extrovert” and the stick person was screaming and beating their head on a wall.

Even though I am a writer, I am an extrovert. Well, that is an understatement. I am an extrovert times a hundred. Even a beautiful sunset means little to me until I share it with another human. For years I thought there was something wrong with me, but now I understand it is just how I breathe.

That is my biggest struggle with the situation we are living in. I do what I can to refuel but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t difficult. Thank God I am still able to do Physical Therapy. I get my temp taken and wear a mask. I’ve grown very fond of my therapist. She works me hard and gives me a lot of her time. She also has a sense of humor. When she asks me to walk backward and then forgets to tell me to stop and I run into a chair, she laughs with me. I asked another patient to tell me when to stop and she agreed. She said Nancy is clearly out to get me.

I also started going down my database (starting with “A” as a true OCD) and checking out accuracy on businesses and then connecting with friends, family, and clients. I hadn’t talked to my college pals in years. We are doing a Zoom reunion tomorrow night. More than one person called me a bright spot in the gloom so that felt great. I’m only on the letter “F” so we’ll see how far I’ll get before we are “released.”

But I have to admit, combined with the five weeks of almost-quarantine after surgery that occurred before COVID19, it is starting to get to me. I wake up with the Groundhog Day feeling so many others have. I find myself blocking video on Zoom business meetings because I start to tear up without warning. It’s not usually full out crying, but I do shed a drop or two. Or three.

Even when dealing with crisis/emergency clients, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that all the outside agencies have also changed their protocols. My normal feeling of competence and the accompanying confidence I’ve developed because of that is wavering on both counts.

And what makes me want to hit my head on the wall harder, is that I’m no worse off than anyone else. Everyone is hit with this. There is no one I can call who isn’t coping themselves. It is almost embarrassing to call anyone, no matter how much they love me, to vent. I don’t want to add to anyone’s already over-burdened lives.

It just occurred to me that even though writing is an introverted activity, it is also a source of venting and purging. So whoever reader you are, thanks for entertaining my feelings. And I think for today I will imagine there are lots of readers, even if there is not even one. I will let myself feel like I’ve connected to many and hope that puts a bit of substance back in my gas tank.

Thinking of all of you as you journey through this.


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No Virus Talk

Instead of talking about the usual virus stuff, (haven’t you had enough of it too?) I thought I would just share some laughs. I didn’t want to write about the craziness in our world or the enormous amount of self-constraint I need not to harm any of the men in my household, so just some light-hearted humor.

In fact, that reminds me of a chuckle. My niece sent me a message on Facebook with a picture of the three munchkins from Oz who sing “The Lollipop Guild.” I thought it was odd but we both love the movie. Those three are funny just to look at. But the next message was the best. “Hoping all the boys there are still alive…” Doubly funny. One because she gets the angst of all the testosterone in the house, and two because of implying the three of them look like the guild boys.

Now let me explain the picture. We went in the hot tub the other day and found this thing on the seat. What the heck? It is the arm of some sort of plastic dude. We haven’t had any kids or toys in the hot tub since… cripes, maybe July. So where has it been all this time? We wondered briefly if someone was messing with us. Anyhow, we had a good laugh about the horror of finding a severed limb in your hot tub. Now, that’s a bad day.

Today, I royally smashed my pinkie and almost fell over from how bad it hurt. (Stop laughing, that’s not the funny part.) It actually bled for a bit which I was not expecting. Anyhow, I asked Tim if he could get me a bandaid. Just a little one I said. It’s my pinky.

He brought a little one but insisted on a good size gob of first aid gel, which I thought was a bit over the top. Then he moves me into the best lighting in the house. He said he needed the counter as well so he could work with someplace to put his things. I kept my mouth shut (I know, it’s a miracle) but I wanted to say, “For God’s sake, it’s a bandaid, not surgery!” I couldn’t believe how serious he was about his mission.

Here’s the funny part. He screwed it up. The bandaid got folded over and he cursed. I could no longer contain myself. I laughed and laughed. He said I was mean and went out to the garage. I went to the door and yelled out, “I love you, honey” to which he yelled back, “Shut up!” (which I also thought was funny).

He was kidding and he gave me permission to write this. I told him thanks for the writing material and he again said, “Shut up!”

Last but not least, we were talking to my friend Star on the phone. We had the speakerphone on because privacy is a thing of the past. We might as well put the speaker on. He is always a welcome call in our house because he is hilarious. Anyhow, he was brave enough to go to the bank to deposit his paycheck so we were having our daily chat. Next thing we know, he has pulled into our driveway. We hung up and went to the window. He yelled hello to us and chatted from his car. We were laughing so hard at our surprise, more-than-six-feet-away visitor.

I think these stories don’t translate on paper nearly as well as I was hoping they would. We certainly found humor in them. Maybe some of you are bored enough that you will laugh too.


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A Boy and His Dog

Taffy

This is the blog I have been thinking about the last six months. And I’ve been dreading it. Our beloved Taffy died on Sunday, March 15, 2020. After all the struggles to make a decision, she died naturally, on her own terms in our living room. We were all around her as she took her last breath.

Everyone agrees. She was a really sweet, special dog. She was my shadow. I was not her mommy. She was mine. It was clear that her purpose was to watch over me and she never let me forget it.

While my heart hurts every day as I deal with the enormous void that has been left, the worst pain comes from the one I am the mommy to. My 17-year-old son. His loss is the hardest for me to accept.

Dave, Taffy

I can’t really say they grew up together. David was seven when we got her. Taffy was between one and three but no one knows for sure. But I look at this picture which was taken right after we got her. He looks so very little. A young boy, thrilled to have a dog. He had lost his grandma, but he had not known the bitterness yet of losing his father. Or of the five cats in a row that he would lose.

David, Taffy

As he got older, the thrill of walking the dog lost its luster as it does for most kids who promise to help with all the extra responsibilities that come with a pet. But he loved her, and Taffy was always very protective of her. Anyone that wrestled with him got an earful from her.

Then came the tragedy that would alter our family forever. Tim designed his headstone. I would bring Taffy here often to walk. The paths were pretty and she liked to roam around. David didn’t accompany us very often. I couldn’t blame him. Frankly, I’m not much of a cemetery person myself.

Christmas- Darcy, Taffy, Dave, Louie

We stuck together though. Taffy was always part of our Christmas photo. The cat would sadly change often, but Taffy was our steady. She was part of our family, no matter what.

Darcy, Taffy, Dave- Christmas card shot

David was absorbed in hockey and was ten-years-old now. His life experiences had aged him far beyond his chronological years. To me, he still looks so young here. Too young to have weathered so much.

Dave, Taffy

Taffy would do things for David that she wouldn’t do for anyone else. The cats were always like that too. He is fun and charismatic with them and they respond to him.

Dave, Taffy

See what I mean?

Dave, Taffy

I never knew what they talked about at times like this, but I imagine you and I would chuckle at their conversations.

Herbie, Dave, Taffy

Clearly, that chair in front of our window holds a lot of memories.

Dave, Taffy

And then those smart aleck times. This was Mother’s Day when I told him the only thing I wanted was for him to take a walk with Taffy and me. He literally took Taffy for a walk. Taffy doesn’t look like she minded one bit. She was in her favorite place. And she was with her favorite peeps.

Christmas photo- Tim, Darcy, Taffy, Herbie, David

And the last Christmas photo we will have together. We will always be a hockey family, but we will no longer have our girl with us. Our steady protector for over ten years.

Watching him grieve over her on our living room was beyond what I could bear as his mother. We knew that it was about our beloved Taffy, but it was also so much more. Whether he knows it or not, I know it is true. Loss after loss. After loss.

I lost my dad when I was 51. He lost his when he was eight. I never saw anyone take their dying breath until I watched my mom pass when I was 40. He watched Taffy die in that manner at age 17. In between, he bravely held his cat while she was euthanized. I just don’t what it is in his head and heart. I don’t imagine he will ever tell me, at least not for a decade or two.

So goodbye my loving, faithful companion. The one who has never left my side, especially during some of the loneliest moments of my life. You will be missed beyond words. But mostly, thank you for loving my boy.

Taffy


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Two Steps Forward

And then one step back. Literally. That is the nature of foot surgery/injury and the healing process. Each time I hit a new landmark I get excited, then get reminded that a new place means new adjustments for my body again. Instead of feeling better, it usually feels worse first.

First week was total bed rest. The original bandage stayed in place. I wore the aircast boot 24 hours a day, even when sleeping. Of course, no driving.

One week later, I was able to get up. I could take the boot off at night. During the day I used two crutches and the scooter when I could. My body was quite sore from both of those aids but I eventually got used to them.

Another week and I was able to take the bandages off for good. Then I had an ace bandage for another week. Then that came off.

Today I had my one month after surgery appointment. I was released to drive, thank goodness. And for the first time in four weeks, I could wear a sneaker. I bought a new pair online and saved them for today. The doc loved them and said they were really good for what I needed.

I’m still supposed to use the scooter whenever I can. I realized that I can actually wear a pair of jeans now. I’ve been wearing sweats for a month. So much I should feel better about.

Now I get to start physical therapy twice a week. And he did mention something about a possible six months more before we know if the surgery was even successful. Ouch.

But the biggest ouch is that my foot has hurt more today than it has in a while. That boot really protected my foot and kept it immobile. I’m sure it will take a few days for it to start to feel better while wearing the sneaker. Instead of celebrating, I’m going to take some Tylenol and then grab a long nap because I’m wiped out.

I have to say, some good life lessons come out of it. Patience for one. I’m also learning a bit about our society and how they treat folks with handicaps. Some people are so thoughtful and kind, others make sure they validate that you are indeed an annoyance with all the help you need from others. I hope I stay sensitive to the people around me once I am not the gimp I am today.

And hey, I am still supposed to avoid stairs when I can. That means no laundry duty for me!


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Snow-vember revisited

We are in West Seneca and in the eye of the latest snowstorm. I have been reposting blogs from years ago on a different site and I was reminded about a much bigger storm we had a few years ago so let’s take a trip down memory lane. It was dubbed “Snow-vember” and we had seven feet of snow dumped on us in one shot.

“A picture is worth a thousand words.

That is my backyard. The fence is about five feet and the snow is almost at the top. Here is another one.

That little black dot is the mirror of our car. We are still not dug out from that. And if the outside perils aren’t enough to deal with, this is my favorite picture of all.

That, my friends, is my kitchen ceiling. The bathroom, basement and upstairs bedroom also have water damage.

My neighbor across the street has been laid up for five weeks after knee surgery. Two houses down, my neighbor is very sick with his third bout of cancer. And about 10 minutes away, my daughter-in-law is on bed rest with a high-risk pregnancy. She has been hospitalized several times. I am praying my heart out that nothing happens while she is unable to get to an emergency room if needed. I will take my problems any day.

But what is my point?

Tuesday, the Sabres decided not to cancel their game. I guess the show must go on. They put a sentence or two on their website telling fans to respect the driving bans in their neighborhood. I thought it was a poor decision, but didn’t dwell on it.

But then yesterday, I heard the Bills were offering to pay people to shovel their stadium for the game on Sunday. I went ballistic. What the hell is wrong with the priorities of our society? There is a damn driving ban in Orchard Park (where the stadium is). Are they kidding? How about they get people together to help dig out the people who are stranded? Especially those with medical issues! The football stadium? They are ticketing people out on the roads. I AM TOTALLY DISGUSTED.

Now I will really go out on a limb here and risk pissing people off. I’m pretty liberally minded, but how about some common sense? How about using prison inmates to do some shoveling? Or even some welfare and unemployed folks who are physically able to work? There are so many areas that have zero snow, or barely a dusting. So let’s gather them and help each other out. But not to shovel out the stadium. Let’s get our priorities straight people!

Ok, I am going back to my shovel now… lol. Really not trying to offend anyone, but some things just have to be said.”

Here I am several years later. There are a lot of great people out there. Unfortunately, I still think society at large has some messed up priorities. Sigh. Also, good to be reminded that I have been opinionated for a very, very long time…Lol.