Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Detox

So I am currently on Day Seven of a food detox I signed up for. I’m actually in the last hours of it. Vegetables only, plus 3 small fruits a day for seven days. Doesn’t sound hard to you? Just don’t say that to me.

I’ve been pondering what the word strength means this week. The closest people in the world to me have taken the brunt of this horrid week. One person made the mistake of saying “That’s not that hard” after she found out I vould eat as many vegetables I wanted. After I ripped her head off, I told her not so politely that if she isn’t detoxing she has no right to comment on it at all. No one gets to tell me what is hard and what isn’t.

The next person made the mistake of saying “It’s not that hard” when we were discussing separating egg whites. I’m not supposed to have eggs at all this week, but I was ready to give up on the program altogether. My coach said I could have egg whites if I needed to in order to not give up. So I ate an egg. The WHOLE egg. But I stayed in the program. So this guy says something about how it’s really not that hard to separate out the yolks. I ripped his head off also. Then I cried nonstop for about 20 minutes. He just sat in silence.

The next person said “Go get a snack” when I was going out of my mind. Again, I freaked out. “But you can have as many vegetables as you want” was the next sentence. So I explained (rudely, of course) that I hate vegetables to begin with- or at least most of them. Then I have to eat them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No exceptions. A friend of mine who detoxed said she went hungry because she just couldn’t stand eating another vegetable. That’s where I was at. Go get a snack? I was glad it was a telephone conversation so I didn’t cause any bodily harm.

I remembered a conversation I had with my friend Summer last September. I was having a nervous breakdown over an orange folder Frankie needed for school. I’d been everywhere and called her in desparation. Because she knows everything about everything, she knew exactly which store and aisle to get it in. (She knows I hate her sometimes for knowing so much…lol.)

Anyhow, I was disgusted with myself for being so undone over it. Of all people, I know better what is important in life. Why would I let it get to me? She gently, and laughingly told me that she thought I understood something about myself already or she would have pointed it out sooner. I’m just the opposite of most people. I can handle the really big stuff- like climbing into a hospital bed with my dying husband and not blink an eye. So the small stuff- like orange folders, do me in sometimes.

And like separating egg whites. No one is more embarrassed than I am that I can’t separate eggs without having a meltdown. But I am strong. I am very, very strong. Sometimes separating egg whites undoes me. It really is too much. And you know what? That’s totally ok.

By this time tomorrow I will be eating lean proteins and it will feel like the biggest feast I’ve ever eaten in my life! I just hope all my headless friends still love me ūüôā


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Intangible Rewards

People ask me often how the book is doing. I answer that monetarily, I’ve not recovered what I’ve invested yet. It’s no exaggeration when people say authors don’t make money. They really don’t. But the intangible rewards have been outstanding!

I love hearing how the book has effected people. I love hearing that someone has been helped in some way. I’ve heard myself having a couple of conversations lately with brand new widows and what I keep saying is “No, you are not having a nervous breakdown.” They feel such relief knowing that their grief is “normal” because they feel anything but normal. Crying over a pair of shoes is NOT over the top. It’s just what we do.

As I work on the second book and keep pulling out the journal entries I wrote the first months after Tim died, I find I am torn. There is such an edge to them. They are so uncomfortable to read sometimes. My instinct is to tone them down. Make them sound less dramatic. Make me look less crazy.

But I haven’t been allowing myself to do that, at least not yet. One of the wisest pieces of feedback about the first book I got was from a counselor. She said the punch in the first book is that it was written originally in the moments it was happening to us. It wasn’t just our best shot at remembering how it was. They were real-time entries. That is why people can really identify with it.

So I imagine that people who are truly grieving will want to read the true, unadulterated and raw emotions that I went through. Because those that are brave enough to admit it, will be grateful to know they aren’t crazy after all. At least with this round of editing, I will let the pain stay expressed as it is. And it is truly comforting to know that two and a half years later, you do somehow feel better. You really do!!


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More Stories

A couple weeks ago I was at a fundraiser and offered to sell 50/50 tickets. In the process, I met a gentleman who Brigette and I ended up having a meeting with. He is the epitome of the Bitter and Sweet message. Turns out, 14 years ago he lost his 17 year old son to cancer. During that time, they had a fundraiser and had extra money left over after paying what they needed to. They decided to create a foundation and have been raising money ever since. They average about $80,000 every year! They help families that have children with cancer. He said they help 40-50 families a year. Can you imagine?

If you go to babycooppublishing.com, you can see a link to his site. It’s called The Matthew Foster Foundation. Inspiring guy. Inspiring family. Talk about taking tragedy and doing something good with it. Thanks for your example Burt!

This week, I spoke with someone who had read my book. I love hearing stories about how it has touched people. Each one has its own nuance, just a little different twist. I asked if I could share her reflections because it was a new thought that I loved hearing.

She is a cancer survivor. A young woman, maybe not even thirty yet. She had breast cancer and it was quite a story. After she had mentioned some of the things in the book she could identify with, she articulated the gift that was in the reading for her. She has an amazing support system around her- family, friends, significant other. They took care of her during her illness but she said in the back of her mind, she always thought it must have sucked for them to have to give up their time and energy for her. Bitter and Sweet seemed to release her from that. She realized when she read from a caretaker’s perspective, that people resent the disease, but never the person who suffers from it.

We were able to talk some more about that. I don’t know why I never thought to put this in my book, but I often say when I am speaking, that I love what I do for a living. Being a counselor is very rewarding. I am proud of the fact that I help people keep their families together, resolve grief and conflict, etc. I feel good about that when I hit the pillow every night.

BUT THERE IS NOTHING MORE SACRED THAN HAVING THE PRIVILEGE OF HELPING SOMEONE DIE WELL. I’ve never done anything more important with my life. I probably never will. Yes, it was hard. But this not a cliche- it was an honor to care for Tim and be on the journey with him.

So thanks for sharing your stories with me. And I hope this particular woman breathes a little easier these days, knowing it was ok to let the people that love her take care of her. Yea for humanity!


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Mounting Excitement

It’s been quite a week. I’ve written before that I keep trying to be excited but I mostly get terrified. Saturday, the Buffalo News printed an article about the book. I WAS EXCITED!!! The editor said he was having trouble cutting it down because he didn’t have enough space so I was expecting a column. So when I opened it up and there was a full page article and a big picture, I got VERY excited. I usually hate pictures of myself and I actually thought this one was good. Very cool!

Today there is a smaller article in the Bee. It was also great other than getting the name of the book wrong. It was kinda funny too because it was listed right next to the picture of the cover of the book LOL. People will see the name on the picture.

Monday was AM Buffalo, our local 10 AM TV station on ABC. It was only five minutes, but everyone says it was a great piece. It is the most popular footage on the station’s site right now. People say I didn’t look nervous, which really makes me laugh.

But the biggest excitement of all came about a half hour after the show aired on Monday. My dad called my cell phone. Now, you have to know my dad. He is the perfect German stoic. You know he loves you, but it would embarrass the heck out of him to say so. All my life people would tell me how proud he was of me because he couldn’t stop talking about me when they bumped into him. But to give a compliment to you verbally, face to face, would really be tough for him.

So I answered the phone. I truly expected to hear something like “I couldn’t really hear you very well” or something like that, because that’s just his way. I said “Hey Dad, did you see the show?” He said “Yes. That was really, really nice.” He then asked if we could get it on a dvd for him because he “would really like a copy of that.” I hung up and looked at Brigitte. Here come the tears again, this time for joy. I doubt I’ve ever felt prouder in my entire life.


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Crying

So I cry, probably more frequently than other people. I read somewhere that the tears that come from joy or sadness are of a different chemical makeup than other kinds of tears (like from onions, wind, etc.). Tears from emotions supposedly have healing elements to them, so there is truth to “feeling better after a good cry.” I should be feeling pretty good after 46 years of crying ūüôā

Today I lost it in Wendy’s parking lot. Brigitte was with me and we were doing our usual running around to promote the book. Her latest wild (and looks to be successful) idea is that we need to get into colleges. The book could be very helpful in philosophy classes that discuss death and dying, and also in medical classes that talk about patient care. Today was our first meeting at one of the campuses here in Buffalo.

Overall, things have been wildly successful. The article comes out Saturday in the Buffalo News in their new section called “Refresh”. AM Buffalo airs on Monday and I will be on that in the second half of the show. I am awaiting an interview that will be in the West Seneca Bee, hopefully next week. And the big launch is going to be Saturday. The details are coming together and it’s going to be a smashing event.

So why the tears? God only knows. I’m just plain exhausted and overwhelmed. Can’t get everything done. But there is also an emotional element. I know that Tim would be thrilled with this book. I know it can help lots and lots of people. But there is still this awkward feeling that nags at me. I am getting “noticed” and being “successful”, largely because my husband died. I know he didn’t “die in vain” as they say. I know this is doing something positive with this experience. But nevertheless, he is gone. And we all miss him. So no matter what good happens, it is still “wrong” too.

Just hit me while I was typing. It’s the epitome of “bitter and sweet”, is it not? Guess if nothing else, I pick good titles!!


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MOTIVATION

The good news is that I am booked to appear on AM BUFFALO on Monday, March 11, 10:00 AM, channel 7. This is the Monday before the book launch, which is perfect timing. The show and the launch are both a reminder to me that yes, after 25 years or so of struggling, I am still overweight. Most maddening is that I lost it a few years ago and then gained most of it back.

I’ve tried it all – diets, “life-style changes”, exercise… I know about toxins and all the things I shouldn’t eat. Hence, my latest attempt that I have never tried before. Hypnosis. While I would love for there to be a magic pill where I could eat whatever I wanted and still be healthy, I’m pretty sure that won’t happen in my lifetime. So I’m not trying to find the fast cure, just trying to find some motivation. I WANT to eat bad stuff. I DON’T WANT to eat healthy proteins and vegetables. Maybe hypnosis can help.

I had my first session on Friday. To my great surprise, I went under very easily. You know everything that is happening so it’s not scary or anything. First he had me do some image work. This kind of thing always fascinates me, or I guess I should say what comes out of it. The side of me that wants to be healthy and trim took on a red color, heart in shape but it was very fluid and flowing. The side of me that is stuck was a solid black rectangle, non-moving. I thought the image work would have the red swallow the black. However, my brilliant hypnotist wanted me to blend them together because both “sides” serve a purpose in our lives. (Remind you of the glass half-empty and half-full?) So the black became an outline around the heart, but the heart still moved around. It kept more form but it still was fluid. Interesting.

Then I got to picture all the foods I love but are unhealthy for me on my kitchen island. I’m not lucky enough to have one vice like sweets or salts. I love them all. So my island was full of cookies, potato chips, doritoes, cake, and carbs like breads and stuff too. While I was drooling on myself, he then added to the image that all of those foods were dripping with thick, white, slimy fat. He pointed out how disgusting they all looked. Makes me want to throw up even as I’m writing this. Then he told me to knock it all off the counter. When he said this, he snapped his fingers and said “Beets!”. We had discussed earlier that beets are a food I really hate. He wants me to associate those yummy but bad foods with beets. Interesting though, it’s not so I see them as just “bad”, but to break down the hard line barriers of good and bad food in my head.

Lots of homework. Cds to listen to, a workbook to read and do exercises in. So much for the magic pill theory. But I think I’m ready to take this on. All the exciting things that are coming up are making me be a little more willing to face my life-long demons. You ought to try it. I’m not sure yet how it will “work”, but so far it’s been fascinating and fun. Gotta go and make my protein shake ūüôā


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Truths

I¬†set up a speaking engagement yesterday and the conversation around that booking has me up and deep in thought.¬†The venue is a place where people who are battling cancer (personally or with a loved one) can hang out.¬†Most people have a very high regard for Hospice so I was surprised to be informed that many of this particular crowd are NOT Hospice fans.¬† They feel the message from Hospice is to “Give up and die” and they are fighting hard to beat their disease. We have probably all read miraculous stories of people who have overcome cancer, many by simply refusing to give in to the disease.¬† True?¬† True!

So here is what is formulating in my mind. Picture the ageless analogy of the glass of water –¬†half-empty, half-full.¬† The¬†glass is half-empty. True. The glass if half-full. True.¬†I would say that most people tend to see the glass in one way or the other.¬†¬†Usually people tend to see¬†life in the same way- either pessimistically or optimistically.¬† Do you follow me so far?

Here is the theory¬†I have been working on over the years in my practice.¬†Both¬†“sides” are true.¬†How can one be right and one be wrong?¬†It’s more a¬†matter of perspective. In order to be balanced in life, those who see the glass is half-empty, have to concede the glass is ALSO half-full.¬†If I am¬†Miss Susy Sunshine, I have to recognize that there are also hurts and disappointments in the world or else I¬†will probably¬†ignore the genuine pain of people around me, including my own. If I am Miss Negative Nelly, then I run the risk of being stuck and missing out on the solutions and blessings that are in front of me and others. We are probably all naturally bent to one side or the other, but we¬†can choose to consciously be aware of the other side as well.

Bitter and sweet.  Another face of the glass of water.

But because of this experience with Tim, I feel like there is another chapter to this that tugs at me.¬† Perhaps it is not new necessarily, but it is another¬†way to articulate¬†similar thoughts, adding another layer of sorts. For me, the great spiritual challenge is this-¬†to hold both truths at the same time. It seems impossible and I don’t think in our culture we are encouraged to do so. But I want to keep trying. I want to keep changing my language from “BUT” to “AND”.¬† Instead of saying¬†“The¬†glass is half-full, but it’s also half-empty”, I would rather say “The glass is half-full AND it’s also half-empty”.¬†Perhaps it is too subtle¬†of a difference to¬†matter, but somehow¬†I think it’s actually a monumental difference.

So I hope when¬†I speak to that group next month, I will be able to be sensitive to their¬†position, to their¬†feelings. And maybe I will also be able to at least open them up to the idea that¬†curative care and palliative care are not necessarily in such opposition to each other that¬†there isn’t room for dialogue-¬†that there is¬†room to learn from each other. I’m not sure how successful I was, but¬†I tried to talk about that several times in my book- that Tim and I were constantly trying to juggle fighting for his life with accepting possible prognosis with grace and dignity. We all will die someday.¬† TRUE. AND… We all have much more power and direction¬†than we ever give ourselves credit for. TRUE.

Thanks for bearing with me.¬† This is a very different kind of blog for me. I usually write about my feelings and experiences and it generally flows more easily.¬† The content here is still formulating for me so thanks for your patience… and¬†I welcome your thoughts!