Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Paying Forward

We got a new carpet this week. A crew of three came to rip up the old and put in the new. One was a female. The guys told me they love working with her because she works harder than 95% of the men on their crew. (No offense men, but that really isn’t surprising!)

She complimented the house and we ended up chatting. Found out she was struggling a bit. She lives in an apartment and is raising her granddaughter. Unfortunately, that usually means her child is either a drug addict or has a serious mental illness. I didn’t pry.

Turns out she could use some of the excess small tables I had that I was going to post and attempt to sell. I told her I would be happy to give her them which saves me the hassle of selling. She was very grateful but didn’t drive. Her boss picks her up every morning and takes her home and she didn’t want to put him out any further.

I went out to talk to “the boss.” I told him I was going to “bat my eyes” at him and he asked what it was I wanted. He had no problem taking the items for her. She was so thrilled. I mentioned that one of them had belonged to my dad. She saw a picture of him on the wall and said he looked kind. She also said she would say some prayers in his honor. It was a lovely and seemingly sincere moment.

She was hesitant to take it at first because of it belonging to him. I told her that keeping it would not bring him back, but it would make me happy to know that someone so kind and appreciative was using it.

It was a lovely day in spite of all the stress that house remodeling brings. For those of you that haven’t been here in a while, you should stop in and see the new bathroom and bedroom. Tim and I have made a great team and things are looking spiffy!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially those experiencing the loss of someone they care about. Holidays always seem to multiply the grief. 

And please share my post if you are able. Always trying to boost interest in these topics and hopefully expose my business. Love to all of you!


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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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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from Christiana, Tennessee.

Miracles do happen. The woman who works off her garage so she doesn’t have to drive has successfully driven 13 hours in two days to get to my sister’s house. Frankie and my niece Sara came with me. We were on the last few hours of the drive when we stopped to get gas and go through a drive-through at Burger King.

We were still in Indiana, but right on the border. I had gotten cut off driving several times that day so there was a lot of swearing coming out of my mouth, as well as comments about how dumb and thoughtless people are. I say politically incorrect things quite often at this stage in my life because my patience apparently got used up around age 46. A discussion about the South had come up. My traveling companions were both saying they were not impressed with the South in so many words. I was saying I love it down South. People seem much friendlier and polite. They were commenting on their accents and other stereotypes.

The drive-through line was very long so I had my niece jump out of the car to throw our bags of garbage in the trash. Next thing I know, this truck drives around me and cuts in line. I was like, “Oh no, you did-n’t” and Frankie quips with, “Yeah mom, people are so polite in the South.” The guy’s windows are open so Sara comes out with, “You know, there IS a line.” I drive up next to him and for some reason my mood snapped from irritation to playful. I put my fists up at the window and say, “Hey, you wanna fight for it?” He is flustered and says he thought my car had stalled or something. He said he had all day and I was more than welcome to drive up in front of him. I should have said, “So if you thought I was stalled you were going to drive by me rather than offer to help?” but instead I told him I was totally joking and that we had been in the car for days and it was fine that he went first. We kind of laughed and the moment was over. Or so we thought.

This is the point of the story when I was telling my other niece and she told me I was crazy. And lucky that guy didn’t have a gun in his truck.

We put our order in and then drove up to the window to pay, and the guy said in his cute Southern accent, “Y’all are all set. The guy ahead of you just paid for your lunch.” I couldn’t believe it. I beeped my horn and the guy in the truck waved. I waved back. He totally made my day. My week. I quipped back at Frankie, “HA! Southern people ARE polite!” I loved it.

This is also the point in the story where my other niece said, “You are supposed to pay it forward and pay for the person behind you.” And before age 46, I would have done that. But at 49, I didn’t even think about it. It was all about me. I reveled in it and was happy there are nice people out there and I was the recipient.

Tomorrow I am going to see my daughter Emily’s friends from Georgia. She is bringing her two daughters to come and see me. I thought of it when I said it was all about me. These three lovely women will boost my self-esteem enough to last for a month. They love me like crazy and it is so mutual. They say “yes ma’am” and they hug me constantly and tell me they love me over and over again. I am going to eat them up tomorrow. I just can’t wait. No patience required when I’m around them. I’ve always been a person with a very long line of critics in my life so these chicks that just unabashedly and unconditionally adore me are a breath of fresh air.

Even at 49 with a grumpy, menopausal mind, there is so much to be grateful for!


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Mindset

Carol Dweck is an author who was interviewed in my Psychotherapy Networker magazine. “It comes down to whether you focus on growing your abilities, as opposed to proving and validating them all the time. When you’re in what I call a fixed mindset, your goal in life is to prove you’re a smart, competent, worthwhile person and avoid doing things that could undermine that image of yourself. In the growth mindset, you believe these abilities and talents can always be developed, so you’re not on the spot every second to prove yourself, and you can focus on developing those abilities through taking on challenges and seeing them through.”

I found this to be a very interesting concept to me personally. Mostly, because I’m a big contradiction with this whole topic. On the one hand, I completely buy into the idea that I don’t have to be perfect. I take risks all the time and can give you a long list of ways that I am comfortable being less than amazing.

For one thing, I have a pretty good sense of humor about myself. I can admit when I have a brain freeze most of the time, and often laugh my fanny off along with anyone around me at some of the “duh” moves I make on a regular basis. The other day I was driving with a friend and repeated a comment and then almost peed my pants laughing at how ridiculous of a statement it was. I told him he was lucky because he could be in the position of having a friend who was dumb and not realize it. That’s the worst. At least he was able to say he had a friend who understood how dumb I could be at times, and there was a lot of strength in that. Without blinking, he said, “Yeah, I guess I have that going for me.” Then we laughed our butts off. He is a lucky guy!

When I go to Karaoke, I have my standard list of songs that I know I can nail pretty well. But on a regular basis, I pick stuff I’ve never done before. More than once I have had to stop in the middle and tell the DJ to never mind. One time I sang “The Loveboat” and the whole bar sang with me and loved it. Another time I sang “Gilligan’s Island” and it was a disaster. Do you realize that every single verse goes up a key? By the end of the song I was screeching horribly to even attempt to hit the notes. But I don’t care. I have fun and I get a good laugh out of it.

Going on stage a couple of weeks ago was a big risk. One of the nights I forgot the words, but covered it and no one even noticed. The other nights, I got the words and notes correct. But when I looked at the DVD later, I was aghast at how the dress I chose that night looked. I looked way heavier than I needed to. I was mortified, but I decided to let it motivate me even more for my new pre-diabetic life. (By the way, I start that tomorrow. I decided to give myself until after Thanksgiving. No way I’m giving up mashed potatoes and dressing and rolls and pie.)

I tell my kids, my clients, and whoever else I need to that I am sorry when I screw up. I even try to tell people on the road when I cut someone off accidentally. I’m not perfect and don’t expect anyone else to be. Life really is about developing and growing.

AND YET…

Another, very fragile part of me is always trying to prove my competence. I’ve had plenty of messages and voices throughout my life that have criticized me. And because of my nature, I take it so personally to heart. The voices come from everywhere, but proportionally speaking, I would have to admit that the majority of them are male. I am especially vulnerable to male criticism. I imagine that at least of some of it is because I have felt like I have to prove myself simply because I am female. Most women will tell you they can identify at least once in their life.

Sometimes I have to prove myself because I don’t have a doctorate.

Sometimes I have to prove myself because I’m not thin and beautiful.

Sometimes I have to prove myself because I am single.

And then I really get mad at myself, because deep down, I truly do know that I don’t ever have to prove myself. Not to anybody. Ever.

While the one part of me is confident and growing, that part that can get up in front of countless numbers of people to sing, to speak, to lecture, to share my most intimate life and inspire others… the other part of me still needs that pat on the back. I still would do anything to hear my dad or son actually say he is proud of me (for ANYthing!) without me having to guess it or read between the lines. Even my friend who jokes around with me and loves me to death, I’d still like him to actually say he thinks I’m smart once in a while. You know, all joking aside, here is a direct compliment. I think I would faint.

Yep, it’s part of admitting I’m a work in progress. I admit I want the kudos and the admiration and the praise. I still need it. Want it. But I’m also learning to give it to myself while I’m waiting.

Not your normal Thanksgiving theme, but I do appreciate all you readers and am thankful for all I have. May sound cliché, but it’s true. 🙂


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Holiday Hell

Yep, it’s Christmas. No mistaking it. On top of the already busy life we all have, we are also hanging decorations (inside and out), shopping, baking, etc., etc., etc…

But before I get into that, first let me say thank you to all of my followers. I am not very good at remembering to say thank you when I get notification that someone new has joined because I’m just an airhead sometimes. So please forgive me and know I am thrilled that you are interested!

Now, back to holiday Hell.

By now, I am sure it will come as no surprise that I am slightly psychotic. Ok, on some days more than slightly. My OCD tendencies can be quite silly, but if you look at them right, they are harmless and actually humorous. For example, I am big on holiday traditions. Really big. But then I turn a fun and sentimental activity into a “rule” that must be followed without exception, otherwise it just doesn’t feel right.

The day after Thanksgiving, I put up our Christmas decorations. Well, there are so many between the tree, other decorations, and outside lights, that it usually takes more than one day. I have Christmas books, music cds, and Christmas movies. Every year I buy another movie. And then I discovered that Tim had a bunch of Christmas albums and I had to add those to the mix. Oh yea, and Christmas piano music. A few entire books of them, plus some other sheet music. And every single one of those things must be watched, listened to, read, or played. And it has to be between the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas. IT MUST BE THAT WAY. Now, long ago, I gave up on making anyone else in the house share in the absurdity, but it’s my personal goal. I’m a bit of a tyrant too. I figure that I don’t use the TV the rest of the year. So for one month, I get first choice. Everyone else can use one of the other twenty thousand tvs or rooms in the house.

All of that is fine and dandy. But I’m having lunch with Summer and she looks at me (because she has gone through several Christmas seasons with me) and asks me what I am going to do this year?  First of all, I went out of town for Thanksgiving, which didn’t bring me home until the Sunday after. Secondly, Thanksgiving is really late this year. There is no way I could possibly get all that stuff in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And she knows- it will completely stress me out if I don’t watch all those damn movies I watch every single one, plus the new one I get, every single year.

She was right and I panicked. Then, being the brilliant woman she is, she suggested I make an “exception clause” in my mental contract with myself for years like this. Truly brilliant. I gave my OCD brain an acceptable way out. I can make exceptions to my rules when there are circumstances like this year.

Surprisingly, the heavens did not fall out of the sky when I took down my Thanksgiving decorations BEFORE Thanksgiving was over.  With some help from the boys, I was able to get up the decorations inside and out of the house before we left on our trip. Good thing, because when I got back, the holiday Hell started.

In the last three days, besides living all the regular life of working full-time, I have done the following tasks/errands, while also going through some personal problems:

My spiritual direction appointment

A chiropractic appointment

A back massage appointment

Luncheon appointment with another therapist

Bank

Post office

Market in the Square

Dollar Tree (twice)

Game Stop

Oogie Games

Subway

Applebee’s

Walmart

Eileen’s Bakery

Edible Arrangements

Sam’s Club

Pizza Hut

Olive Garden

7 Eleven

Consumer Beverage’s

Lowe’s

McDonald’s

KFC

Aldi’s

I’m very sure there are more that I can’t remember, but the last one has a funny story. We had no groceries in the house at all from being gone. I also had to buy a lot of things for our family Progressive Dinner, baking supplies, etc.. I filled my cart and realized it was overflowing. So I paid, went and loaded the groceries in the car and went back in and filled another cart. I kept letting people ahead of me that only had one or two items. This sweet older lady gets ahead of me and she clearly can’t believe I would doing something nice for her. We stood in line and chatted about Christmas shopping, etc..

I get out to my car with my second load and lo and behold I had left the car door wide open. Wide open. I nervously went over and nothing was missing. The car started too. Can’t believe I did that. (Last week I walked the dog the morning of our trip and came back from the woods and found I had left the car door unlocked, the keys to the car inside on the front seat, sitting next to my wallet with $500 cash in it. Someone is watching out for me!) I turn around and there is that dear, sweet, old lady. She looks at me with her car keys in her hand and tells me she can’t find her car anywhere. I told her about leaving my door open. We just laughed and laughed at ourselves. Of course, she had about twenty years on me (which makes her confusion more acceptable than mine) but we didn’t mention that.

So I’ve been ridiculously exhausted every night when I drop into bed. My whole body aches. I feel like I could cry.

But I love it anyway. I have Christmas music playing in the car while I’m running all those errands. I sneak in a few minutes of Christmas movies whenever I can. People love my lights on the house, especially my big, red stars. I walk around humming “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” spurred on from watching Elf. I’m just a big kid who loves the spirit of Christmas. A big, OCD kid. So good luck with your own holiday Hell, but remember to stop and smell the hot chocolate :).


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Full of Thanks and Practicing What You Preach

So I wrote a book and have been out there speaking publicly for several months now about how life is full of paradoxes and conflicting feelings that occur at the same time. I believe that with all of my heart. And yet when it happens to me,I still get caught off guard.

For the last three years, I have visited the cemetery. I’m not big on the cemetery necessarily, but I try and go and keep up with different holiday decorations for Tim’s plot. For three years I have been “saying hello” to Tim and then I kiss my fingers and touch the headstone. I almost always say, “Bye Baby. It hasn’t happened yet.”  What I mean by that is, that I keep waiting for the time in my life when I can see how my life has actually gotten better because of everything we’ve been through. I wait for when I feel somehow like the past is behind me.

Lately, I have been changing the flavor of my blogs. Lately, I have been saying when I leave, “I think it’s finally happening..” And it has been. Spring has sprung, but it just has happened in the winter months instead.

I am here in Georgia with my daughter Emily and her family. I have been eating up my grandkids with every ounce of love I have. I was even able to buy my granddaughter Aubry her first little bike while I was here. We leave later today and I will try hard not to cry. I make my grandson Parker cry when I do, so I don’t want to do that to him today.

Life is full of new and wonderful things. My book cover won first place in a contest this month. Yea for our talented graphic artist! Great things are happening.

That is why I was surprised that I could feel all the excitement of all these things, and found myself trying to be alone in a room so no one would see me cry. It is impossible with kids around. Both Parker and Aubry found me quick as a rabbit and asked in their cute, sweet voices “Grammy, are you hurt?” Straightened me up lickety-split.

I’m not sure why I’ve been like this. I have some ideas, but overall I’m frustrated that I can’t control my heart more. Sometimes little things happen that don’t go as planned, especially during holidays. I have these little fantasies about how they are going to go because I’m so sentimental and when things don’t go that way, my spirit can get crushed so easily. Not a part of me I am very fond of.

It hit me that the best way to describe it, would be if I were in town and went to the cemetery today, I would kiss the stone and say “I’m not quite there. Just not quite there.”

But I am definitely on my way. Life is definitely good and full of promise. It’s just not perfect. But what do I preach all the time? That’s ok. The glass is half empty and half full. So if you are lonely or sad today, it’s ok. Have your feelings, but know there is still much to be grateful for. Love all you guys like crazy!


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Thanksgiving

Almost every single morning I lay in bed and think… today is it.  Today is the day I will turn the corner. Today is a fresh start and a chance to do things well.  You just have to get up and claim it.  And I really believe its true, this idea of positive energy and creating your own life.

I don’t remember when it started to be difficult to get out of bed in the morning.  I honestly can’t remember life before Tim was diagnosed.  I don’t think I ever sprang out of bed like Tigger, eager to tackle the day.  But I also don’t remember laying in bed wishing I didn’t have to get up.  Wishing I wasn’t a grown-up with responsibilities.  Wishing I could just pull the covers up over my head for another day or two.  For sure I know I wasn’t laying in bed, desperate to not be the single mother and widow that I am.

I guess some days it’s self pity.  But most days it isn’t really that.  It’s not that I feel sorry for myself or think “Why me?”  It’s just that I wish circumstances weren’t what they are.  I don’t want the responsibility of every decision on my shoulders.  Will there ever be day when someone will happily take on my life with me?  Will I be able to happily take on their’s in return?

 A day to focus on thankfulness.  I believe in it with all my heart.  I know I have a life full of love and blessings and amazing people.  I have a healthy, full of piss and vinegar son.  I know my attitude is mine to choose.  I know it.  I believe it.  I’m determined.

And yet, I’ve been upright less than an hour and I am full of tears.  And emptiness.  And sadness.  Shit, not again.