Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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2011

I’ve heard that sometimes silence is deafening.

I have been working for several weeks now on a project that I proudly finished today. My 14,778 photographs are in a photo program that keeps them organized in a way most people would envy. However, my OCD has not let me rest for years because the way those photos are stored was not consistent.

Now who would even care about something like that? It finally got the best of me and I started the maze of trying to swap this for that. Eventually, I contacted my peep in CA from Adobe who told me a much, much, much easier way to accomplish what I wanted. Unfortunately, I had already completed about a third of the collections but at least the rest of the project went more quickly.

It was interesting to walk down nostalgia road. Back in the days of film, photos were much more difficult to date and record. You know how it was. You had a roll of film for a decade or so and then you finally got it developed. If you were lucky, you could remember what you photographed.

I couldn’t help but do that grief thing with dates. Before and after kinds of things. Oh, before Mom died. Oh, after Tim died. They become non-erasable markers in our heads that leave a scar.

Without even meaning to, I looked at those photos and wondered things like, “Wow. That was Mom’s last Christmas but we didn’t know it then.” And all the years that we were careful with Dad around holidays because we learned from Mom that you never knew when it could be your last.

The part that I wasn’t expecting, was when I would get to a collection and realize that suddenly, the photos would drop off. After about the third or fourth time it happened, I realized the pattern. It was 2011. There just were hardly any photographs at all that year. For anyone, it seemed.

In 2010, Tim got his diagnosis. There was our last Father’s Day together. There was his benefit. But in so many sections, 2011 was just gone.

It was a reminder that my entire family and support system grieved right along with Tim’s wife and children. Where did that year go? What happened to us? We must have been swallowed up in grief. Perhaps nothing felt important enough to want to remember. Yes, there were some pictures, but the difference in amounts of photographs between years was startling.

It makes sense. But it was yet another reminder that grief and loss change us in ways that we aren’t even aware of. The aware parts are tough enough, but sometimes the other insights can take years to see. I’m sure decades too, I just haven’t gotten that far yet.

I guess the take-away is this. If you are in acute grief right now and feel like there will never, ever be a smile in your life again, please know that it won’t stay like that forever. It hurts like hell, but the intensity does not stay the same. Thank God.


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Life Lessons

Have you ever made a big mistake? Like one with deep regret? I had that happen this week. My dog Taffy has been getting a bit more of a pain the older she gets. Let’s just say that a few months ago she was diagnosed as “neurotic” and given a prescription for Prozac when she needs it. No, I’m not kidding. She was perfectly normal when she started living with us seven years ago. Just saying. This is a picture of her in my car.

Taffy

Taffy

Last week she ran out of the car and crossed the street to chase a squirrel, right in front of a car. Now I have to leash her from the car to the woods, then when we leave the woods to the car. It’s less and less I can let her off the leash. This week, I took her to the creek at the end of the walk and let her go in for a drink. That stinker took off to the other side of the creek and went down past the bridge. I followed her as far as I could but then lost sight of her. There is nothing to do at that point but go home and wait for someone to call me.

Eventually the call came. It showed up as “police” so I answered and said, “Do you have my doggie?” The officer laughed. He said he had Taffy and she was under arrest. He couldn’t capture the other one. I was confused so he asked how many dogs I had. He said Taffy had found a friend which was probably why she ran away. He was waiting at the parking lot where I had walked her. She always comes back. She isn’t really running AWAY from ME, she is just running.

Well I pulled in and that is when I made the big mistake. I could have won the best Facebook post of the year. If I was Catherine, I would have never made this mistake. I didn’t even think to ask to take a picture. There was Taffy, sitting in the back of the police car, looking out the window. Her face was priceless but predictable. It said, “What? What? I didn’t do ANYthing!” I could’ve died. The officer and I had a big chuckle over it. When I drove off with my naughty girl who now has a police record, that’s when I regretted not getting a photo of her.

LESSON: Always take a picture, even if there are cops involved.

My sister was over yesterday and she said how last week’s blog was her favorite. I told her that I totally forgot about Frankie’s Louis Armstrong impersonation, which is quite impressive. I asked him to do it for her and of course he utterly refused. In fact, he refused for hours. I told him about the blog and he got really offended. He said, “Mom!! You can’t write about me unless I give you permission. You can’t!” I told him I used his writing name Frankie, but he knows that is bull because most of the readers know who he really is. I decided it best at age 14 to not inform him that legally, I own him and his rights until he is 18. I found that out when I wrote the first book. (Incidentally, you also own your dead spouse’s rights in case you ever need to know.) On a serious note, I really do try to think about how he might feel when he is older and I am hoping he will appreciate what I have done when he is at an age where he doesn’t think everything I do is ludicrous.

LESSON: It’s okay to leave out information if it saves you from a teenager’s yelling and screaming for a few hours.

SERIOUS LIFE LESSON: No matter what heartache life brings you, no matter what loss – don’t ever let the loss be your sense of humor.