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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The Limits of Unconditional Love

I believe true, pure unconditional love is only capable from God. I think the closest we come to that as humans is the love a parent has for their child. I also think we can try to sift through what true love is (there is the tough love variety and other sorts) and give it our best shot to love as perfectly as we can through our incredibly imperfect selves.

I remember a big aha moment in family therapy. We were having struggles with Matthew who was then in high school. The very painful time came when our counselor talked to Tim about whether or not he should continue to live with us. I remember looking at Scott completely befuddled. I was a counselor too and I knew better, but I just couldn’t see it in my own life. I really thought if I could just love Matthew like my own child, give him that constancy he desperately needed, stability, etc. etc. etc., that he would come around. He didn’t though. He just didn’t. Scott looked at me with compassion and just said that life and people don’t follow a formula. No matter what we do, sometimes people just don’t respond the way we think they should. I knew that in my head, but I was still devastated in my heart. I tried so hard to be a the best mom I could, but it wasn’t enough back then. It just wasn’t where Matthew was. That brings me back to the God-thing. We still have free will. So unconditional love comes with no guarantees.

Thanks to the gender-fluid movement, referring to a person as a “they” is now considered grammatically correct even though it is a plural form used for a singular person. I like it though, because now I can write without defining a gender which helps protect anonymity. Sorry for the sidebar.

I’ve learned a lot in the last few years about sticking up for myself and not being a doormat. I learned that from a lot of sources, but one person in particular had a great influence of me. They are pretty rough around the edges, but with time I did a pretty good job of accepting them the way they were. Whenever they hurt me, I told them so I didn’t repeat the doormat pattern. But I always forgave and I continued to love. I had always hoped they would learn from me as well. Maybe they would soften a bit, learn to be a tiny bit less selfish. Maybe try to care a little for someone other than themselves. I hoped it, and I know their friends did too.

Sometimes though, the opposite happens. Loving like that can create something else that is NOT good – that of just being taken for granted. Even though I showed my friendship in numerable ways with little in return, all it did was allowed that person to take me for granted. And instead of being a little bit better as I grew tougher, they actually sank even lower. They became even more selfish and hurt me even worse. I can write about this because they told me they don’t read my blog because they just have no interest in the topics I choose. It doesn’t matter that I am one of their best friends and I write about what is important to me. That is of no consequence to them because I am not of consequence to them.

The other side effect of learning to stand up for myself, is being introduced to the concept of revenge. It was not something I visited often in my life. It was not usually a struggle. I guess in truth, it still isn’t in the sense that I don’t struggle to not act on it. But I am surprised by my thoughts. I think about wanting to hurt the people who have hurt me. I think about it often with my neighbors who continue to draw out the incident from last year and keep hurting us in spite of our lack of retaliation.

And I think about my friend and how they have hurt me. I can think of a million ways they could hurt. If they could hurt just a tenth of how much they hurt me, I would be satisfied. But then I hit the brick wall and remember that people like them can’t even be hurt. They would have to care in order to hurt. And some people truly don’t give a shit about anyone else.

The crazy thing is, I left the friendship in their court. I said if they could show me respect I would still hang in there. The response was a confident yes, they want my friendship. And then they disappeared. Anyone who knows me, knows ignoring me is one of the deepest cuts for me.

I know the answer I will eventually get to, is that I choose to love because it is who I am. I don’t do it for the reciprocation. But right now, the well is dry. I’m exhausted from caring for others so deeply and having it get me nowhere but more hurt and rejection. Shame on me, right? I will get there, I always bounce back. Because it spite of learning to defend myself, I am still at my core, NOT an asshole. I am NOT selfish. So I will find hope again. But going through the dark road to get there? It sucks beyond description. SUCKS.


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Lost

Nope, not talking about the TV show. I’m talking about a text I sent my friend in Georgia. She asked how I was and I said I was spiritually and emotionally lost.

I am very, very aware that things in my life could be much worse. I am very aware that other people are suffering unimaginable situations which make mine pale in comparison. I know that any of the things in isolation that I face I could handle with relative ease. But the accumulation and what feels like a relentless pace are rendering me confused and unable to recover in between.

In the last three weeks:

-I was not rehired for a position that was important to me, apparently because of the integrity that I stood up for
-I walked in a place to find a guy I had only dated for a little over a week (but had been friends with for years) was a liar and manipulator, right in front of my eyes
-A relatively new friend turned on me because he didn’t check out the facts
-I said goodbye to my sister who moved to Tennessee
-A former friend of mine where the relationship turned sour vandalized my property and I spent a couple of days with town officials and police
-The relatively new friend of mine that I forgave (because everyone deserves a second chance, right?) turned on me again and left me completely stranded with a massive house project and a great deal of stress because he again, didn’t bother to check out the facts
-Had a very beloved client in crisis mode which entailed phone calls to paramedics, supervisors, family members, etc.; He is doing much better thank God, but it was very scary while it was happening.
-Received a phone call asking for my attorney information because of the legal action suit filed against me with the IRS; turned out it was a scam but it scared the crap out of me until I figured that out with my research.
-I’ve made about 40 phone calls to handle my father’s medical, financial, and legal issues. I also worked on his house which he is trying to sell and have become an amateur realtor overnight. Sometimes there is stress with the family about these issues, and sometimes we work together well. The list has been endless.
-Continued to be a mother, homeowner, business owner with all the stresses and time constraints that everyone else has. Nothing unusual about that. I’m just more exhausted when managing things because I’m stretched so thin from everything else.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things. The upshot is that when I have some time alone with my thoughts and feelings, they go in crazy places. One weekend I was toying with the idea that the universe was getting revenge on me because of something I did in my twenties. I hurt someone very badly and she forgave me. So I thought maybe the universe was mad that she didn’t punish me.

My kids have been struggling with some of the bad things they are watching around them and wondering why their father died when other people survive cancer who are not doing good things with their lives and just hurting other people. I have no idea how to answer them because it makes me burn up inside when I see it too.

The whole thing that happened with Tim- the massive amount of support we had, and the amazing story that became my books- maybe I am seeing another side to it. While all of that positive stuff is true, maybe there is also a side effect that I am just realizing. It made me think that the world is a lot kinder than it really is. It made me trust more than I should. It is different when you have this big thing that everyone gets excited about being a part of. This great thing happened to us during a terrible thing that happened to us and the community around us was transformed with us. But lately, I just see so much yuck, I wonder what happened to all that good will?

And every time, after all my crazy thoughts, I circle back to my church. I don’t know why in the last couple of months this is coming back so strongly, but I always end up there now. I am lost and hurting, and I hate the fact that I don’t have a pastor to go to anymore. I lost them over five years ago, the church family that was a pillar of strength for us during Tim’s illness. Three months after he died though, some bad things happened because of some bad people, and I lost them. Sure, there are a few close friends that I still have, but I have lost the church as a whole. My son is growing up without a church home. And my heart aches so badly because I don’t feel I will every recover from the loss of my minister and how abandoned I feel.

Today is a good day. I still have people who love me and are there for me. Some came and helped me with that massive house project. One went grocery shopping for me this week. But overall, I feel like I mistrust the world and I have no idea how to make sense of life or my emotions. And I’m angry that I don’t have the man to turn to that I did trust at one time.

Lost. It’s a good description word. I will just keep getting through each day and tackle each obstacle like I always do, but internally I’m lost. It is what it is.

P.S. My apologies to those of you who like it better when I’m funny and positive 🙂