Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief

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Engaging in Life

Sometimes engaging life means being willing to engage in pain and loss. If you are going to be genuinely connected to others, that is going to mean being willing to face their difficult challenges as well.

I’m sure that life is full of happiness and wonder and surprises and goodness. And sometimes life just seems full of unfairness, injustice, inequity, suffering and agony.

A dear person in my life went through a difficult miscarriage. Then she went through a year of difficult infertility. Then she finally got pregnant with twins. Her pregnancy was turning out to be quite difficult with incredible sickness. There were days she wanted to rip her hair out but then she would tell herself with every vomiting spell that the babies were alive and well.

And then she delivered twin sons at 16 weeks and lost them both. She and her husband were able to hold them, name them, cry with them, and say goodbye to their sweet babies. Talk about gut wrenching loss.

An older friend of mine was in tears on the phone yesterday as she talked about two of her grandchildren getting a life education about loss at their young ages. Her 15-year-old grandson lost a friend and teammate when he went on a hike with his family and fell to his death heading to the Eternal Flame. Her nine-year-old granddaughter lost a dear friend who was driving with her family and was hit by a drunk driver. Stories aren’t matching up. He may not have been drunk but on some kind of medication. Either way, he is in jail, and the family weeps over their loss. And young kids try to make sense of loss the same way my Frankie did when he was eight and his father died.


I had a quiet night with a couple of friends sitting by a fire. I commented that I love fires, and I’m having one in my beautiful yard outside of my beautiful house. I was sitting with friends. So why the heck aren’t I happy? I get so terribly frustrated with myself that I can’t be happy, content, or whatever. I just feel empty most of the time. And angry more and more often. One of the people sitting with me is a neighbor who I haven’t seen in quite a while. She has buried TWO husbands in her lifetime. She told me again, that in her experience and her reading, her guess is that it takes about ten years after you lose a spouse to really, truly feel like you are living again.


I told her we are approaching five years. When I talk to others about grief and loss, I always preach about there not being any time tables. That everyone is different. You know the drill. But when it comes to myself, I think that five years sounds like an eternity. Every year that passes I think I should be further along than I am.

I guess partly it is hard for me because it doesn’t always feel directly related to my loss. It often feels connected to being alone, but sometimes it’s not even that. But what other reason do I have to feel so lost and angry and empty and unhappy and unfulfilled and cranky?

I will keep being there to be a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, and I will even weep with others. I’m not afraid of anyone’s pain or suffering. I just wish there were more moments of the other end of the spectrum to balance things out more often.

Maybe tomorrow.


Full House

I guess I’m on a game card streak. At least as far as titles go.

My quiet house was turned upside down this weekend. My daughter Emily, her husband, and my two grandkids came into town Friday night and stayed until Wednesday morning. Emily hadn’t met her niece yet so Matthew and his wife made an effort to bring the baby over as often as possible. It hit me about 10 PM Friday night. Hey! I have all four of my kids under the same roof. And all three of my grandkids too. I couldn’t have been happier.

The pool was a hit. The water was only 62 degrees, but the kids didn’t care. I don’t go in until it’s at least 74, but I prefer 76 or higher. An even bigger hit was the hot tub. Colin said to me at the end of the weekend that if he never hears the words pool or hot tub again, that would be fine with him. They were relentless. But look how darn cute they are! Frankie was a proud uncle all weekend.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am still OCD. I actually did pretty well. My house and yard looked like a tornado had hit. I find I can do about a day and a half completely ignoring it. Then I flip out and have to do a massive re-ordering so I don’t go crazy.

We had a big fire Saturday night and my neighbors came over. The next morning was Parker’s 8th birthday party. At 9:45 AM I woke everyone up who was still sleeping and cracked the whip. My neighbor popped over later and said he couldn’t believe it. It only took about an hour and a half with all of us, by the yard was completely transformed as was the house. There were two lawn mowers going, the kids were banned from everywhere possible, and soon everything was party ready, including the feast that Emily had prepared. I told Colin it would be amazing if we had that much help every week.

By the time they left, I was utterly exhausted. My house was trashed. My yard was trashed. There were moments when I thought I would go bonkers. But overall? Overall, I was thrilled to have my house full of life and people and relationships. If only I could figure out how to make it happen more often.


Madame Secretary

I only watch two TV shows- The Big Bang Theory and Madame Secretary. Pretty opposite ends of the spectrum. I don’t usually get to watch either one of them when they air, but “on demand” works fine other than having to sit through the commercials. (Yes, I am the only woman in America that does not have a DVR.)

This morning while Frankie was getting ready for school, I was finishing watching this week’s episode of Madame Secretary. They are all usually pretty riveting, but this one was an especially dangerous story line. There was an explosion I wasn’t expecting so I jumped and let out a small scream. Then I was teary-eyed. Frankie thought it was hilarious. He’s such a guy. “Mom, it’s just a TV character. It’s not real you know.” Simple for him.

He got on the bus and the next ten minutes I full-out cried for the rest of the episode. Didn’t even bother trying not to, I was just so moved by the story and the characters.

I love that show. Mostly, it’s because I love Elizabeth. She is the Secretary of the State. Now I know less than nothing about politics, but I find it fascinating anyhow. The politics are interesting, but the real snag for me is her persona. She is a brilliant- I mean brilliant- kick ass woman. She takes no shit, thinks outside the box, and comes up with solutions that are no less than genious. Yet, she is still somehow completely feminine and warm.

I love her marriage. Her husband is total eye candy. (That never hurts.) But they have the coolest marriage. They are total partners. They can completely disagree sometimes, but most of the time they are on the same page and they back each other.

I love their kids. They have three and one of them is usually in some sort of crisis. But I love watching the five of them mill around the kitchen. In this episode, she was saying goodbye to them. No one but the husband knew that she was going on a dangerous, life-threatening mission. He stood in the corner, watching his wife kiss her kids goodbye, knowing full well that she knew full well that it might be her last interaction with them. It was ridiculously intense.

It was nothing crazy. But the way they walk by their kids and just touch them, the way they can give them a hug… I’m so incredibly jealous. I wonder if Frankie even has a thought in his mind when he watches a scene like that. I wonder if Colin ever thinks twice about it. Because I do. Our home is NOTHING like that. There is hardly any interaction, no family time, and most certainly no touching or affection. If I even brush up against Frankie, you would honestly think I burned his skin.

Now in a way, this show is so totally unrealistic to 99% of the population. We don’t work in the White House. We don’t work in the CIA. And yet, I feel like I’m totally at home watching them. They all seem so completely normal. Not perfect, because that would just make me mad that another media message is going out to sell the impossible dream. They all fight, have conflict, etc.. But at the end of the day, you totally respect the adults, and their kids respect them too.

This particular episode, our heroine survives (of course!) but what was moving was watching all of the different characters see her come safely home. There were no words, just music. But words weren’t needed. Her beloved staff sank into relief. Her husband gets the phone call that she is safe and he breaks down sobbing with his kids. Shit. I’m crying again, writing about it.

There are lots of good people in the show. She isn’t the only one. But seeing the impact she has on everyone around her, knowing how highly respected she is, knowing how deeply loved she is- she is a worthy heroine to me.

I think that is why I love it. In one way, it touches a deep sadness inside of me. But in another, it makes me want to keep fighting. Damn it, that is possible. And I want it. A truly loving partner, kids that love me, the respect of my co-workers and peers. Knowing I make an impact on the world. I may not ever get it, or maybe just not all of it, but I’m going to go down trying! That’s the kind of woman I aspire to be, the kind of life I seek to have.

Great show… you should watch it.