Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Just One Text…

A few weekends ago, we passed the six-year marker of Tim’s death. Seven of my peeps and I went away for the weekend and the accommodations and weather were perfect. There are now three of us who are struggling with grief, so there is always a special bond between us. You know, that club no one really wants to belong to.

Friday started off with attitude in high gear. I was in swearing male-bashing mode. Probably half the women were right there with me. The other half were smart enough to play along with me. I’d had it with dating nightmares and other such problems. Nothing like some alcohol with girls weekend away to vent it all out.

Pathetic as it may sound, it takes just one text to change it all.

Early Saturday morning I was woken up by a text from my Tinder app. I hadn’t been on the app in a while but apparently it keeps all your swipe answers. (Swipe to the right means you are interested, swipe to the left and you are not. If you and the guy both swipe right, it’s a “match” and you can start texting.) He was a very nice looking guy but was from Toronto. Damn. But wait… He is staying at his mom’s house in Buffalo and works here as well. Says location isn’t a problem. This could be fun.

It was unusual circumstances because all of us girls were together so as the texts continued throughout the day, I kept everyone updated as the soap opera unfolded. He was an engineer and designer. (Hmmm… so was Tim.) Turned out his mom had died in January. He sent a sweet picture of him and his mom. Really cool. He has experienced loss. And that whole thing about you can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother? I totally buy into that.

By Saturday evening, we were sitting around a fire when I got the text that made me stand up and say, “No way. You guys are NOT going to believe this.” I had gotten brave enough to tell him about Tim and the purpose of the weekend away. He said he understood that kind of loss because his wife had died three years ago from ovarian cancer. NO WAY. I couldn’t believe it. Not many people our age belong to that club, and you have an instant bond when you meet someone who does- whether they are male or female.

The next ten days consisted of texting and lengthy emails. His name was David. Figures. That’s my son’s and dad’s name. I learned he had guardianship of his niece after his sister’s untimely death. I learned that his positive attitude in spite of all his loss came from his faith and spiritual mindset. I learned he was quite financially stable and was even planning on retiring in the next few months.

I was very challenged by David and told him so. As we continued to correspond, I started realizing how I had lost my hopes and dreams. Thinking about what I actually wanted and wished for in a relationship, I had to admit I had pretty much given up on ever finding it. Yet he seemed to make it look easy to be so unselfish, kind, family-oriented, etc. etc. etc. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.

One day it almost did. We decided to take the next step of talking on the phone. It had never occurred to me that English may not be his first language. He wrote/texted so clearly, that I never gave it a thought. But French was his first language. It was a bit of an obstacle at first, and I had to admit that I was a bit disappointed. Then I got really disgusted with myself. What has happened to me? I was the international ministries major. I used to crave other cultures and diversity. Now I saw it as an obstacle. When I did get so ethno and ego centric? This didn’t change his looks. It didn’t change his intelligence. And it didn’t change his heart and how he viewed family and relationships.

Then the shit started to hit the fan in my personal life. If you didn’t read last week’s blog, now would be the time to do so. My dad, son, and sister all had bouts in the hospital. I was exhausted and spent from running around trying to take care of everyone. I was also sick with worry. I was sitting in the waiting room while my dad was in his first procedure when David texted me and said he would try to come to the hospital so we could meet and so I wouldn’t be alone. He said I take care of everyone, and wondered who takes care of me?

I got tears in my eyes. The timing didn’t work out for him to come to the hospital, but it got me thinking. After six years, dare I allow myself the hope and vision that my life might be different moving forward? I finally have accepted being alone, as much as I don’t like it. Is it really possible that my future might hold someone sitting next to me? Caring about the people I care about? And… can I really say it? Will someone be there to take care of ME? Whoa. I felt things I hadn’t felt in ages.

And then that one text that can change everything again.

A couple of days after that, the text came. The one where David asked me to assist him with money. And I knew. I had my peeps do some investigating, which included a lengthy conversation with a detective. I gave them everything. The emails with his travel itineraries, the linked in accounts, Facebook, all of it. And the results were in. He was 99.9 percent sure I was part of a very elaborate, sophisticated scam. I shouldn’t feel bad because they are extremely clever.

Fuck. You’ve got to be kidding me. All of it was planned. Contacting me on the weekend of my husband’s death anniversary. Calling himself David. Knowing the depth of my loss and the lost-ness I feel and knowing how to touch me in those places. Emotional rape is the only thing I could think of to describe how violated I felt. Truth be told, I’ve been a little shocked by some of the people I know and how they have responded, like it’s just another dating disappointment. In a way, they are right, but in another way, this takes the cake. No one seems to understand the depth of betrayal I feel.

The bottom line is this. For whatever reason, relationships have not worked for me so far. I have zero patience for any clichés or platitudes. “If a guy this, or a guy that, then you know. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.” Bullshit. The truth is, no one ever knows. I’m not stupid and I’m not naive. I couldn’t have seen it coming. I’ve dated handsome guys, not so handsome guys. I’ve texted them a lot, I’ve texted them hardly at all. I’ve met them right away, I’ve not met them for a long time. It doesn’t matter. There are no formulas. There may be some red flags, but for the most part dating is just difficult. When you think you have the answers, it is just hind sight, which frankly amounts to a pile of crap because the next time the opposite could happen with the same results.

Dad gets out of rehab today and is staying with me for a couple of days. He is my focus now. That should be safe, right?


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Frankie

I’m learning a lot about cross-country this year. I’m also learning a lot about where the schools are all over Western New York. It’s crazy. Fifty minutes to drive to the school, and the race is about 11 minutes. At first, Frankie told me I didn’t need to come to the meets because it wasn’t a big deal. But one week I was running late and I got a call on my phone. Hmmm… I think in spite of what he says it’s important I be there. You know teenage boys. They want to keep their distance, so this sports thing is making me feel warm inside.

I can’t even possibly explain what it is like to ride home in a car with him for 50 minutes. But I’m going to try anyway. A video would be much better, but if they know you are recording them, the gig is up. Anyone with a teenager knows that the seat next to the stereo buttons is the most important seat in the car. Usually, if I hear a song and forget myself and start to sing or dance, that is Frankie’s signal to change the station. I know, he’s a punk.

Last night was different though. It didn’t matter what I did or not. He was on a roll. Fifty minutes of flipping through stations. Rap is not one of my favorite genres. That is, unless Frankie is the one doing it. When he knows all the words it always amazes me. But when he doesn’t? He makes crap up on the fly and it absolutely kills me. It makes me laugh, then it scares me. What the heck goes on in that kid’s head?

Whatever station is next is just that. Classical. Frankie makes up a quick rap to classical about how the Pilgrims (I assume inspired by his upcoming favorite holiday of Thanksgiving) had developed the first flutes (inspired by the flute song on the radio) the sound of which would lure turkeys to the feast (inspired by the lone live turkey that was sitting by the side of the expressway).

Jazz? No problem. He starts dancing like a very, very chill dude. He mimics a guy who is probably mellowed up by smoking weed, and talks about being “jazzed as shit” by the way the melody has carried him.

Suddenly, he breaks from music entirely and sees a car in the other lane crossing over into ours. He yells at the top of his lungs, “Hey mister! You are smothering me. Smothering me I’m telling you. Man, I need my space!”

Spanish station? He starts chattering rapidly the speed that Spanish usually sounds like. He doesn’t know much of anything in Spanish except counting but he can make stuff up like no one can. He is especially good at the Canadian stations. He is the star French student at school so he throws out random words that sound like he’s fluent.

When I finally get home and walk in the house, I tell Dad I am exhausted and there is something wrong with my son. Without skipping a beat, Frankie puts on his most serious face and says, “Mom, that really hurts my feelings. Besides, that never happened.”

Many times his humor is inappropriate for his age, but he gets away with it because I crack up laughing. He’s funny as hell and creative too. He just tells me that I need to get out more because I’m amused too easily. He has definitely come a long way from his newborn picture that is the logo for Baby Coop Publishing. Did you know that was his actual picture? That cute, perfect newborn face.

Anyhow, I was going to blog about all my new genetic knowledge. Then I was going to blog about “Oc-fuckin-tober” as tomorrow is the six-year anniversary of Tim’s death, which I celebrated by having my first full-blown panic attack in several years. But instead, I decided to write about my nutty kid. He was a bright spot for me. I’m sure words don’t come close to making you laugh the way a video would, but I thought I would try.


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The Dancer’s Husband

This week I got groceries. It’s not one of my favorite tasks, but I do it when necessary. I got home and Colin helped me unload like he usually does. I sat down at the computer and I could swear I heard Tim’s voice say clear as day, “Oh, it’s grocery day? I love grocery day, Mama!” I haven’t had a memory like that in quite a while. It was vivid and it made me smile, sadly. Everyone loves grocery day. The cupboards are full. Everyone has their favorite foods again. And most times I would get that extra something or two that no one was expecting. (Of course, that was before the pre-diabetic days because now I try not have anything that I shouldn’t have in the house.)

Just about one year ago, I wrote a blog called, “Ode to a Dancer” when I wrote about the loss of a woman who died too soon. Now, it is almost time for the year marker date. I find myself thinking about her husband a lot lately. They were married over 50 years. I think of her son too. I can relate to both of them, having lost my mother and also my spouse. But I especially think about the husband. I can’t even fathom spending 50 years with someone every single day and then having them gone.

Time is a bizarre concept. Probably anyone who has lost someone will identify with that. In some ways, every day is excruciatingly long. It feels like life will never move forward. All there is, is the sting of your loss. Then one day, you realize that one year (or five years, like me) has gone by and you wonder how that could possibly be? It seems like that is such a long, long time, but when the memories come, it is just like yesterday. Fresh as can be.

I don’t know this husband all that well, but I did send him a Christmas card which I know he appreciated. I will send him a card for this anniversary marker too. I will most likely write about how he is probably experiencing that bizarre sense of time- how it is so slow and so fast at the same time. He is doing very well by all counts, but I just know in my heart that he still has those times when the ache is overwhelming. He still has times when he lies in bed and feels the tears on his cheeks and wonders if maybe it all isn’t true. Maybe she will walk out of the bathroom and climb into bed.

Life marches on. We all know that. Faster than we want. Slower than we want. We just keep going. But I will take some time to pause and remember this Dancer’s husband and let him know people are thinking of him, hurting for him, identifying with him. There is nothing quite like the loss of a spouse.

And there is nothing quite like the loss of a mother. It has been almost nine years since I lost mine. I know my siblings still miss her. I know from all my friends’ posts on Facebook that the ache never quite leaves with that loss either. And I know the Dancer’s son will be remembering his mom. I never missed my mom more than when I was watching my husband fade. I longed to put my head in her lap and let her twirl my hair like she used to.

So here to memories. And to markers. The epitome of bittersweet. To myself, and to all of you who mourn the loss of someone you love, you are not alone. Find comfort in your memories, treasure the living.


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The Winter Season

I saw Bob, my spiritual director, today. He helped me sort through another rough week and added yet another layer to my ever-growing understanding of grief.

This week was the fourth anniversary of Tim’s death. Many times, the anticipation of difficult days ends up being far worse than the actual event. Not this time. The day was tough from the moment I woke up until well after midnight.

If you know me, or if you have followed my blogs for any amount of time, you know I have been blessed with an exceptional quality and quantity of support people. Sometimes I have conversations and experiences with them that challenge my thoughts and beliefs, and sometimes I just plain end up disagreeing with them. And that is okay.

I went into Bob’s office today with a specific question in mind, based on some of the conversations I have had this week. If a person is truly grateful- i.e. really, honestly understands on a deep level- for the blessings in their life, is it possible to remain sad or depressed?

I knew my answer was yes, because that is what I am experiencing. I know enough, however, about human nature, that sometimes we are blinded to truths that are painful for us to accept. I wanted Bob’s unbiased opinion. He was quiet for a moment or two, so I knew I had asked a difficult question, one that was more complicated than it appeared on the surface. When he gathered his thoughts, he very confidently answered that yes, most definitely you can experience both at the same time.

He is a man who has experienced plenty of grief in his life. He sometimes shares some of his stories with me. Today we talked about the frustrations of complicated grief. He said that we do the “work” of grief, whether or not we are even conscious of the fact that we are doing it. He mentioned how there are times when he feels sad or angry (or both) and doesn’t know why. Then he puts two and two together and remembers it’s an anniversary date or a particular time of year that is historically related to his grief.

I kind of jumped at that. I have had that happen, too. But I pointed out how when you ARE conscious of why you are sad or angry (or both), then sometimes the criticisms come out. (At least it feels like criticism.) If you KNOW you are at a difficult time of the year (or whatever), then suddenly you are dubbed as having a negative self-image. You are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are not “letting it go.” You are holding on to your pain. I swear, you just can’t win.

I go out and preach all the time about being willing to hold opposing truths in your heart and soul, even though it’s difficult. It didn’t click with me though, until this session that this is another one of those deep paradoxes of life. Yes, I can absolutely be grateful for my home, my healthy children, my amazing friends and family. I can be completely aware of how lucky I am in regards to those things compared to other people. But that doesn’t mean for one second, that the test of that gratitude is how happy or depression free I am. I can be grateful, and yet still be knee-deep in grief and depression.

I have no idea where grief ends and depression starts or vice-versa. I don’t even know if there is a difference. And I don’t even think it really matters.

I received some gifts on the 14th, which were intended to help lift my spirits. Was I grateful? Yes. But truthfully, I had a long talk with the gift-giver about how I was a little uncomfortable with it. It was a day to grieve. Opening gifts was in opposition to that. And me being me, it created a sense of guilt. I felt pressure to be happy and grateful, when I was anything but that. After my session, I felt more secure in the fact that it might actually be just fine to feel that way.

Bob says I am in a very, very long season of winter. It is what it is. It does not seem to be going away any time soon. But he also stressed that I AM NOT STUCK. I am alive and moving. He also said not everyone will be able to wade through the journey with me.

I was hurt by a guy who wasn’t able to be there for me on the 14th. I know there was an element there of him not wanting to be bothered, which is just plain disappointing. But Bob pointed out that for most men (sorry, guys!) there is also an element of fear. Men don’t connect with their emotions as readily as women do. To sit on a couch with me while I was so in touch with my sadness, would be a place that some people (men or women) just couldn’t go to. I had to admit that is most likely true. And while genuine caring is still there, sometimes people try so hard to help, because they can’t stand their own pain of watching someone else suffer.

It’s two days after the 14th. I’m feeling a little better than I was on that day. I’m glad for that, but I am very aware that I am still deep in winter. Just know, that when people like me are there, we are not “choosing” to be. There isn’t a formula to follow that will change it. No amount of saying “positive” phrases or focusing on blessings is going to erase it. That doesn’t mean I still won’t try, because I will. But I have made a promise to myself to try not to add guilt and judgment to my sorrow, and perhaps it’s a good reminder for you support people out there, too when you are watching me (or whoever).

It is what it is. And it is winter.


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Another Layer

I went to Aldi’s to get groceries this week. I was paying the cashier and noticed an 80 something year-old man behind me with a bouquet of flowers. I said, “Ah, who are those beautiful flowers for?” He smiled at me at said, “For my special lady.” I said, “Well then, she’s a lucky lady.”

He paused a minute and then said, “She’s not with me anymore, but I still bring her flowers all the time.” I paused a minute and then said, “My husband passed away too. I try to go to the cemetery but I’m not very good at it. This winter everything has been buried.” He said, “I don’t really go to the cemetery. I have a little shrine in my house and I bring her flowers there. The kids love it.” I smiled and waved goodbye.

It was amazing timing for me after the week I’ve had. I thought about what a lovely man he was and how tender of him to love her this way. The irony is, I’ve often talked about how there is no shrine of Tim at my house. For some reason, that seems like it would be a bad thing. I guess it’s different for an 80 year-old remembering his beloved than a 47 year-old who is trying to move ahead.

I have been working on the dating chapter in my second book. That, along with several other conversations I’ve had over the last few months, has gotten me thinking about lots of things.

If you have ever read “The Soulmate Secret,” the author talks about how you need to create space and energy for your soulmate to come into your life. For me, I feel like we’ve had a pretty healthy level of balance. Talking about Tim has never been taboo around here. But we talk about the future too.

But what if it’s time to look at the next layer? What if it’s time to move to an even deeper level of healing and growth? You get used to things around you, so I started a very intentional walk around my entire house. I was surprised at how much “Tim memorabilia” is around. How much is a healthy level for going on year four without him? How do I help Frankie remember without holding him back either?

Not easy questions to answer, but I’ve given it my usual over-analyzing, critical eye. I’ve made some small changes around the house and have a few more to make too. The other thing I discovered is that I have a lot of gifts from others- plaques and such that talk about remembering our loved ones. I have lots and lots of hummingbird things now too. I love them all. But it is ungrateful to say that I have enough of them? I don’t ever want to hurt anyone who is kind enough to remember we are still grieving here, but I think having too many permanent things around can be tough.

In true dramatic form (my specialty), all of this introspection and change occurred around March 18th. That is our anniversary. This week was my fourth one since Tim has been gone. Four. That sounds like so long but it still feels so fresh sometimes.

Some of you may remember one of the gifts Tim left me. On my computer, he set up a yearly message on the 18th of March that said, “Happy Anniversary, honey. I love you!!!!!!!!!!!,” only I think there were even more exclamation points. I saw it Tuesday morning and had some silent, aching moments watching the screen. And then I did something I haven’t done the last three years. I deleted it.

I decided there is nothing wrong with remembering every year that once I was loved very much by another human being. That comforts me, especially when I don’t have another man in my life who loves me like that. It is more than ok for me to be reminded that I am deserving of that kind of love and Tim gave it to me at the end of his life.

But I also know I will never forget that message. I may be able to delete it from a computer, but I won’t delete it from my heart. There is room in my heart for more love, for the future, for hope. But my heart is also comforted by knowing that I tasted true love, even if briefly. And that is a good thing to have while I wait (impatiently) to be loved like that again.

So here’s to another layer of healing. Growth hurts. It’s been a tough week, I won’t deny it. But I think it’s been good and right.


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Girlfriends…A.K.A. Ya-Yas

October 14 was the three-year marker of Tim passing. Three years! My sister called me and said Dad was sure it was only two years. The pharmacist said he thought only a year and a half. My doctor was shocked and thought no more than two for sure. So we all agree on that point- it’s hard to believe it has been that long.

My kids did not want to anything special to remember the day. Quite frankly, the boys are more than happy to be left alone most of the time. So I decided to get away for the night. There is a lovely bed and breakfast about a half hour away from here. It is a church that is being remodeled. There is a separate building with a large kitchen, a large living room area, and 5 quaint bedrooms. If you can get enough people together, it’s very reasonably priced. We ended up with nine women and had the whole building to ourselves.

I brought games and movies but there was no need. We just chatted the whole time. From 2:00 PM on Sunday, til we left at noon on Monday. We talked about husbands, boyfriends, fathers, parenting, etc., etc.. It was a great way to get away and not be alone when “The Day” came. One woman is a widow that I met through the book. She is my age and has SIX kids. Can you imagine? She is so so so my hero.

I know Brigette very well and on Friday I was doing yard work and a thought hit me. I called her right away and told that if I knew her (which I do), I was sure she planning something with my friends to remember Tim. She is the one that spear-headed the cherry tree last October. I told her I didn’t want to be “The Widow” this weekend. I just wanted to be one of the girls. She respected my wishes and there were no speeches or presentations.

When we got home on Monday though, I had a beautiful surprise. She had registered a star in Tim’s name. She said in my talks I often talk about how Tim is still providing for us today by his story selling books. So she had it dated on March 16, 2013 when the book officially was launched. We did this in my niece’s honor back in 1990. It is the coolest thing. It comes with the coordinates so now I’ve gotten this great idea that we should try to actually see it. Brigette is researching planetariums to try and see how we could do that. I don’t think we can pull it off by Tim’s birthday but I will keep you posted.

Thanks Brigette. As always, you’ve outdone yourself. And thanks to all my ya-yas. I’m a pretty lucky girl!


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Purple Pills

September and October are tough months for me, or so my friends tell me. October 14 will be the third year marker of Tim’s passing. A couple of weeks ago, Matthew got married. We all knew it was going to be a very emotional day. His wife lost her mom so the two of them have a special bond. So this young 22 year old planned her wedding without a mom. It was stressful and emotional as anticipated, but it was beautiful and meaningful and wonderful. Matthew was finally able to open the long awaited wedding card his father left him. Big day.

I’ve noticed my mood shifting. Depression I’m used to. But I’ve also had an edge. I’ve been angrier than usual. I’ve been saying things and standing up for myself far than I usually do. Then one of my friends asked me about menopause. Oh crap. That could very well be. The fall + menopause = look out everybody!

So I’ve been realizing that three years sounds like a long time to me. And I guess without meaning to, I expected myself to be further along than I am. I don’t expect to crash for a few weeks and start crying over everything and anything. It’s been almost three years! I know you’re not supposed to do that yourself, but I guess I did. It has been three years and it still feels like yesterday sometimes.

Finally, dear Brigette says to me, “Why don’t you talk to your doc about getting something extra for awhile?” Sigh. It’s like admitting defeat. It’s like confessing a sin. But I know she’s right. I need help or I’m going to end up in jail. On Tuesday I went to the pharmacy and got my pills. Well, I thought I was going to but I found out my doc hadn’t called it in yet. I looked at them like I could go postal on them, even though it wasn’t their fault. When I came back later we laughed about it. I told them it’s October, and I think I’m menopausal. And they dared to not have my meds. Were they crazy? I said I was going for lunch and asked if I could have a Margarita with this pill. My loving pharmicist said, “Darcy, you should have whatever you want to drink.” And we chuckled.

So I met Brigette for lunch and we broke out the first pill. It was purple. Purple is my favorite color. I felt better already. How could a purple pill be anything but helpful?

I’m much better today. I’m sure you’ve heard of the placebo effect. It has probably kicked in. I don’t care. Not one bit. If it’s all psychological and in my head, I don’t care. I’m just glad I feel better. I’m still grieving October, but at least I’m not postal.

Thank you purple pill!