Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Blue Thanksgiving?

This week I was cleaning out my closet to continue my efforts to purge and minimize where possible. It brought me to my two memory boxes of Tim. Every once in a while as I go through them, time passes and I notice that some things that seemed important to keep at first, don’t seem that important later. I think that is a natural part of the passing of time.

This time, I found myself looking with the perspective of having tried to become as paper-free as possible over the last year. This led to a boatload of scanning. I had over 80 scans by the time I was done, the largest one being 25 pages. (Thanks Stef for showing me how to top-load documents!)

Overall, as the days passed, I knew I was melancholy and sober. It wasn’t just reliving my husband’s death, it was reliving the loss of my church family as well. But the deepest wound by far, was finding one of Tim’s treasures he had saved. He had a couple of Christmas tags in Mom’s handwriting that said, “To Tim, From Mom and Dad.” A wave came over me as I said in a whisper, “My God, all three of them are gone, completely gone.”

Today I had to go to the Hospice campus for something. They have done lots of remodeling. Their already nice facility is even more beautiful and more convenience-friendly. But I didn’t even make it back to my car without calling Michelle back and dumping a whole bunch of tears on her.

She asked how I am overall. Lost. I feel lost and orphaned. Both parents gone, a spouse gone. Geeze, I know lots of people are in the same boat, but I’m super in touch with my own grief right now. It’s mine, and it’s intense. Why does this stuff always happen around the holidays? That familiar stomach ache. That familiar hollow feeling I know so well. Only it is carved even deeper now. That feeling like this death aged me another ten years ahead of my time. 

I laugh when I job hunt and I hear dumb things like I don’t have experience with some of this stuff. The hell I don’t. I have gobs of it. Not as much as some, but more than a lot of people. I’m not feeling a pity-party at the moment. Just letting folks out there know that if you are in grief, don’t let anyone tell you there is a time limit to it. You’re allowed the rest of your life. It’s okay if the holidays are bittersweet at best. That about sums up life in general anyhow. Let yourself show the courage to taste both ends of the spectrum.

It can still be a Happy Thanksgiving, even when you’re shedding some tears.


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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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Teenage Angst

When I got married to Tim, I became a step-mom at the same time. I started out with a 13, 16 and 19-year-old child. I always said it was like baptism by fire. Parenting teens is hard enough, but starting out with them first, I was more than lost. Parenting is like everything else in life that I counsel people about. I help the best I can based on knowledge I’ve gained, but the ability for me to truly help grows exponentially when I have some real-life experience under my belt. I could help a married couple, but much better after marriage. I could help a divorced couple, but better after experiencing one. Same goes with parenting, step-parenting, losing a parent, losing a spouse, etc….

Now I get to parent a teenager (Frankie is 12) that I actually carried in my womb, have sacrificially given my time, energy, money and heart to for his entire life, and love beyond anything I thought possible. Knowing that teens become big jerks 90% of the time to their parents doesn’t make it any easier to endure it. I have clients going through it too and I sympathize with them as well. I can read all the theory I want about why it is developmentally necessary for them to push away from us, but I still hate it.

So there is “normal.” And then you have the added dimensions about the loss we have suffered. It’s an additional dynamic to add to the mix. From my perspective, he is all I have left. From my perspective, I am terribly lonely every night in our home. He and Colin are buds and they laugh their heads off, play sports and games together, and talk a mile a minute. Oh yeah, they also “bond” over being disgusted that they have such a terrible mother.

Now Colin (Colin is 31) will say that it is my head. He thinks I just feel bad about myself and so I imagine they are treating me that way. But I know better. There have been a million people who have observed our home. There has been more than one or two helping professionals that totally agree. There is more than just the “normal” pulling away here. They have anger and an axe to grind. And it’s directed at me. Full force.

It sucks. Most of the time it breaks my heart, but sometimes I find myself getting really angry. Yesterday was like that. A relatively minor incident occurred where my dad and I went to watch Frankie play basketball at his school. He completely ignored us. He didn’t want us there. It embarrassed him. I tried very hard to do all the verbal talking in my head about how this is what teens too. But I was enraged anyway. I sat there on the bleachers with a couple of tears trickling down my face that I couldn’t control. I wanted to shake him.

Frankie is incredibly smart and gifted. And he is an old soul. He gets life in ways that some adults never will. I guess I expect more from him. At his young age, he unfortunately already knows about grief and loss. He has lost four cats, a grandmother he was very close to, and most importantly, his father. So I know he gets that parents and people who love you should NOT be taken for granted. He knows things his peers don’t. But instead of drawing closer, he treats me like he would be much happier if I was gone too. (That is not based solely on this basketball incident, so don’t think I’ve completely lost my marbles.)

Then the shock sets in for me. I couldn’t wait to have Frankie. I wanted a kid so badly that it was agony waiting for him. Then I had a miscarriage, got pregnant with Frankie and had the world’s worst pregnancy the entire nine months. I adored him. We had a close, healthy, unique relationship for eight years of his life. Like any mother, I would take a bullet for my child, lose a limb without even thinking twice. But now I find myself having horrible thoughts. Things like I don’t even like him anymore. Things like maybe I really should disappear for a while and teach him a lesson. And then I’m shocked. I can’t believe it is me that is having those feelings. What the hell has happened to me? To us?

Death. That’s what fucking happened. Four and a half years later and I still don’t know how to fix our family. Shit.