Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


2 Comments

Wise Words

Today I met with Tim’s doctor from Hospice. She has agreed to read my second book, “Life After Death on This Side of Heaven.” My hope is that she will write a blurb for the back of the book, or even better, write the foreword. She is an amazing doctor, her experience lies with helping to usher people into the next life, and she also has lost her husband.

I remember when we were facing some medical decision and I asked her my standard question when I am out of the realm of my knowledge. “What would you do if this were your husband?” Her response was, “This was my husband, three months ago.” And that is how I found out she was a new widow herself, and yet fully present with us on our journey.

It’s amazing to me that she even remembers me after three and a half years, but she absolutely does. She asked about how we are all doing and I asked her the same. Then she tossed out this little nugget: “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.”

I don’t know if she made that up herself or if she read it somewhere, but I thought it was brilliant.

We talked a little bit about my dilemma. In my case, my kids seem to be adjusting much better than I am. Frankie is going to be 12 in a couple of weeks. He had a 95 average in his first year of middle school, played hockey, and had one of the leads in the school musical. He and his brother Colin hang out all the time like two bachelors living the dream.

The only problem is, I feel like I am living a life separate from them. When I try to bring us back to the middle, that is when the conflict starts. We don’t have much in common anymore. Some of that is totally natural, but some of it is because our family got radically changed in October of 2010. As the head of the household, it’s my job to figure out to recalibrate and renegotiate a new structure that works for us. I haven’t done such a great job with that.

I know all four of the kids still grieve and remember their dad in their own way. My oldest, Emily, struggles with depression and angst-type feelings at times like I do. Overall though, the kids are doing really well.

I have to figure out how to be as happy as my happiest child. Kids are resilient and mine are no exception. I’m a tough cookie as far as survival goes. I know that. But I live with this sense of feeling like things are just not right. It creates more of an anxiety thing vs. a depression thing, but it is there. I don’t know what to do with it, so for now I just live with it.

And I will keep trying to connect with my kids. In spite of their protests, I will keep trying to be a family, even though we don’t have a dad anymore. I may not have the answers, but I won’t give up.

My thanks to a very special doctor, who has made a mark on our lives that isn’t forgotten with time. I wish healing and peace for her on the journey she is on.


1 Comment

Another Layer

I went to Aldi’s to get groceries this week. I was paying the cashier and noticed an 80 something year-old man behind me with a bouquet of flowers. I said, “Ah, who are those beautiful flowers for?” He smiled at me at said, “For my special lady.” I said, “Well then, she’s a lucky lady.”

He paused a minute and then said, “She’s not with me anymore, but I still bring her flowers all the time.” I paused a minute and then said, “My husband passed away too. I try to go to the cemetery but I’m not very good at it. This winter everything has been buried.” He said, “I don’t really go to the cemetery. I have a little shrine in my house and I bring her flowers there. The kids love it.” I smiled and waved goodbye.

It was amazing timing for me after the week I’ve had. I thought about what a lovely man he was and how tender of him to love her this way. The irony is, I’ve often talked about how there is no shrine of Tim at my house. For some reason, that seems like it would be a bad thing. I guess it’s different for an 80 year-old remembering his beloved than a 47 year-old who is trying to move ahead.

I have been working on the dating chapter in my second book. That, along with several other conversations I’ve had over the last few months, has gotten me thinking about lots of things.

If you have ever read “The Soulmate Secret,” the author talks about how you need to create space and energy for your soulmate to come into your life. For me, I feel like we’ve had a pretty healthy level of balance. Talking about Tim has never been taboo around here. But we talk about the future too.

But what if it’s time to look at the next layer? What if it’s time to move to an even deeper level of healing and growth? You get used to things around you, so I started a very intentional walk around my entire house. I was surprised at how much “Tim memorabilia” is around. How much is a healthy level for going on year four without him? How do I help Frankie remember without holding him back either?

Not easy questions to answer, but I’ve given it my usual over-analyzing, critical eye. I’ve made some small changes around the house and have a few more to make too. The other thing I discovered is that I have a lot of gifts from others- plaques and such that talk about remembering our loved ones. I have lots and lots of hummingbird things now too. I love them all. But it is ungrateful to say that I have enough of them? I don’t ever want to hurt anyone who is kind enough to remember we are still grieving here, but I think having too many permanent things around can be tough.

In true dramatic form (my specialty), all of this introspection and change occurred around March 18th. That is our anniversary. This week was my fourth one since Tim has been gone. Four. That sounds like so long but it still feels so fresh sometimes.

Some of you may remember one of the gifts Tim left me. On my computer, he set up a yearly message on the 18th of March that said, “Happy Anniversary, honey. I love you!!!!!!!!!!!,” only I think there were even more exclamation points. I saw it Tuesday morning and had some silent, aching moments watching the screen. And then I did something I haven’t done the last three years. I deleted it.

I decided there is nothing wrong with remembering every year that once I was loved very much by another human being. That comforts me, especially when I don’t have another man in my life who loves me like that. It is more than ok for me to be reminded that I am deserving of that kind of love and Tim gave it to me at the end of his life.

But I also know I will never forget that message. I may be able to delete it from a computer, but I won’t delete it from my heart. There is room in my heart for more love, for the future, for hope. But my heart is also comforted by knowing that I tasted true love, even if briefly. And that is a good thing to have while I wait (impatiently) to be loved like that again.

So here’s to another layer of healing. Growth hurts. It’s been a tough week, I won’t deny it. But I think it’s been good and right.


1 Comment

Corrections and Stars

Ok, first I have to print an apology/retraction type of thing. Last week I referenced a “prison guard.” I was politely told later that corrections officers don’t care for that term. They prefer the official term correction officer. I had no idea. I asked why and was told that their jobs are often misunderstood. They do much more than guard prisoners. They are trying to get a broader view and respect for their stressful and demanding work. So let me say officially, no offense intended. And thank you for the education :).

Secondly, I know many of you are anxious to hear about last night and how the star search went. This last October, Brigette got a star registered in Tim’s name in honor of the third year marker of his passing. But then she went the extra mile and located a planetarium in the area. She and the director spent the last three months putting together a presentation for us to teach us how to locate the major stars so we could locate Tim’s specific star. It was very, very cool.

It was definitely one of those bitter-sweet things. It was a positive experience and a joyful one. But I still found myself feeling weepy before we left. Frankie seemed unusually quiet, but didn’t open up with any of his thoughts or feelings. Just in the last couple of months, I’ve been experiencing new emotions. I’m not sure exactly how to describe them, but something along the lines of having moments of feeling weary from remembering.

I have now built a career around loss. I have always seen clients, which often times means working with grief and loss. But now I speak about it frequently as well, and every day I work on book two, which is also about grief. On the one hand, 95% of the time I am energized by it and feel more and more confident that I am good at it and have been reaching lots of people and helping them. On the other hand, I wonder how long I will be able to continue to do this. I have a sense that this whole thing has a shelf life in some ways.

Anyhow, thanks to Brigette for creating such a meaningful memorial for us. And thank you to all of you who attended. I am still consistently reminded that I have lots of people who love and support us. It is always, always good to have you by my side while Frankie and I are experiencing these things. Love you all!


Leave a comment

Interview Questions Part 2

I’m up at 4 AM and I’m cleaning out my blog page and found this post I never published. It was back from October so here it is:

For those of you that follow the RidingBitch blog, I apologize for the repetition. These are questions I answered on her blog about the process of writing a book. Hope you enjoy!

What has been the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
It feels sometimes like “grief brain” is permanent. So accomplishing anything can be hard on some days, much less a huge project like writing a book. Two things were hard. One thing, were the days when a wave of grief hit. I could talk/write/process for days and even weeks like I was just telling someone else’s story. Then for no reason that I could identify, it would be a crying, grieving day and the subject matter was larger than life. The second part was learning new things. I would have given up at least a trillion times if my dear friend Brigitte wasn’t working with me full time. She does all the research and information finding. She has the patience of a saint coupled with a brilliant mind!

How did you secure publishing?
We have actually “self-published”. First, we had to form a publishing company, which meant forming an LLC. It is called Baby Coop Publishing, LLC. Once you do the research, it’s tedious but not difficult. You fill out forms and then do legal notices in the paper. Total cost is about $350. After that, we did our research (ok, Brigitte did) and came up with what we thought were the best options. Lightning Source is the company that distributes our softcover book. All of the files were downloaded to them. They have certain companies they distribute to, but it’s most of the biggest in the industry. When they get orders, they print and ship. It’s called “print on demand.”
For the ebook versions, we went with a company called Book Baby. We are still in the process of downloading and revising with them. I thought this would be easier, but it has different challenges. Every reader (Nook, Kindle, Kobo, etc.) looks different. So it’s very hard to design something that looks good in every version. We are hoping to have that released within another two weeks.

What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book?
My dream was that my book will be useful and helpful to people in the same way that other books helped us. You have listed a bunch of books and what you have gotten out of them- I’d like to be on that list some day  For a person struggling with cancer, they can find inspiration in the way Tim dealt with his illness. For a person handling the tasks of being a caretaker, it is full of helpful ideas of how to be a patient advocate. For loved ones and family, it is full of practical ways of how you can truly be a support to the people you care about.

What do you hope to achieve with your book?
The previous question answers the more spiritual goals of the book. On a practical level, I would love to pay off the mortgage of the house before my social security runs out! But the reality of how much money you make on a book is very small indeed. When you realize how many books you have to sell to really make a living, it’s almost impossible.
A much for practical goal for me, is that I am hoping that the book will help generate more referrals to my counseling practice. That is my main profession and passion and I will be doing that for many more years than I will be writing books.


1 Comment

Cheating

I’m cheating this week on the blog. I just got done writing a letter to Frankie’s teacher at his request. In a million words or less, tell me about your son. I kind of liked it when I was done so I thought why not blog it?

September 2013

Thank you for your interest in my son, Frankie. Feel free to share this with any of his teachers. How do you sum up an entire person in a paragraph or two? So thanks for giving me a million words!

In kindergarten, Frankie wrote a story called “The Kite and the Snowflake” that his teacher caught in his writing journal. She entered it in the Reading Rainbow contest and he came in 2nd place with over 700 applicants. It was a beautiful and poignant story and it put him on the map at school. He was asked to read his book to the entire school and also to the Board of Education. He was told there that he would probably be the President someday. (I hope not. I have bigger dreams for him than politics.)

At the end of first grade, Frankie’s father was diagnosed with stage IV gallbladder cancer. We started a blog on CaringBridge that his teachers, social worker, principal, etc. all followed in order to know what life was like for Frankie at home. The support was overwhelming.

At the beginning of second grade, Frankie’s father died in October. The principal actually was the one who brought Frankie to Hospice that day. She describes the ride there as one she will never forget. The school and staff continued to be amazing. In second and third grade, Frankie attended a grief group at school. In fourth grade he told me “it’s time to move on” and he stopped attending.

Frankie is amazing. He has my emotional drama so he is sensitive when you least expect it. He is also very silly (like me) and has taken great pride in being dubbed the class clown. He is confident and expressive which led him last year to dress up as Cinderella for Halloween, wear nail polish for a week, and color his hair pink for a day and wore a “breast cancer awareness” shirt.

He is smart as a whip. His passions are sports, especially hockey. He can truly hold a conversation with any adult regarding sports. He was even “hired” this year as a fantasy football coach for a draft pick by a very serious guy. He can recite a ridiculous amount of information about ANY NHL or NFL player, not just the Buffalo teams. His dream is to be a general manager someday. He plays hockey for our town team.

He also can sometimes be lazy. Because he is so smart, he doesn’t have to work very hard. Last year he was FAILING social studies. Why? Because they were all open book tests and he assumed he didn’t need to bother to open them.
This year he has been exceptionally independent. I haven’t been checking his planner and he just responds with “I’ve got it covered, Mom”. I will trust he knows what he is doing unless I am informed otherwise by any of his teachers. He has the capability of getting straight As, but in spite of what he might tell you, I do not expect that of him. I’m much more interested in him becoming a well rounded human being.

Just an FYI- Scott (the school Social Worker) has been our family therapist for over ten years. He has been through all of our blended family trials, through Tim’s sickness and death. Frankie prefers NOT to go to counseling, but you can always talk with Scott at any time about anything at all. He knows our family extremely well.

Overall, Frankie seems very adjusted. His half brother Colin is 29 and still lives with us. You will no doubt here about him quite often. He only works part time so is around a lot. They are inseparable. I am now the bread winner and work a lot. Colin cooks most of Frankie’s meals and usually does his homework with him. I suspect Frankie’s adjustment to his life without a dad would be much different if Colin were not here.

I love to be involved. If there is ever anything at all that I can get my foot in the door with, please allow me the chance to do so. If it’s reading, parties, making copies, doing computer work, whatever at all, I find having some sort of presence in the school is very helpful with Frankie and with knowing his friends.
Thanks for taking care of my boy. He’s a handful and a challenge and a delight.

Darcy Thiel

P.S. I will also shamelessly promote the book I wrote called “Bitter and Sweet, a Family’s Journey with Cancer” that came out last March. If you want to understand Frankie, myself, and our family, it’s a great book that has gotten excellent reviews. I have copies or it is available everywhere on line.


5 Comments

Scheduling Blogging

I schedule everything. I have a calendar in the computer that syncs with my phone. I set everything up with repetitive tasks so I don’t forget things. People think I’m very organized, but mostly it’s that I’m very disciplined. I write everything down so it isn’t overlooked. Of course, I’ve scheduled blogging.

I am “supposed” to blog every Thursday. Why did I pick Thursday? No reason in particular I guess. Monday is the throw back into the school and work week so I figured I would try not to schedule extra things on Mondays. Tuesdays I twitter. Wednesdays I post on Facebook. The next day is Thursday so that became blog day. I write my new book Monday through Saturday, giving myself a day of rest on Sunday.

Sound boring and regimented? It really doesn’t bother me most of the time. My systems work for me. The only problem is, sometimes Thursdays come and I don’t know what to write about. Last week I didn’t blog at all. I added it to my list every day until Monday morning and then I just admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to write this week. After all, it is my own self-imposed list. I can decide not to blog for a week, right?

Now it’s Friday and I didn’t blog yesterday. I had a bad grief day (which honestly hasn’t happened in a while) and just couldn’t do it. So I’m sitting down now to write and realize I have three different topics to write about and can’t decide which one. Last week, nothing. This week I can’t decide. Plus, it occurred to me yesterday, that any week I can’t figure out what to blog about, I should just start cutting and pasting excerpts from my new book. I could get your feedback on my writing.

And then I just started typing and this is what I ended up writing about. None of the three topics I have in my head. No excerpts from the book. Just writing about writing. Not real juicy or meaty this time. Sorry. I don’t know if other authors go through any of this process or it’s just my crazy mind. But it’s what THIS author goes through. Hope I didn’t disappoint you too much this week :).


2 Comments

Meant to Be

My foot has healed remarkably fast. In one week I was able to walk normally. I couldn’t believe it because the wound was so deep and it hurt so much! I’m very grateful. It’s amazing what you take for granted when all your body parts are functioning as they should.

What about my focus? I will admit it’s been a struggle. The blues have gotten me down more than once or twice. But I have been truly trying to wake up and remind myself every day that I have a bigger purpose. I have work to do. I have a mission.

For the first time in a long time, I sold a book at a book signing downtown. She was a cancer survivor. More importantly, I met a woman who lost her partner in December. She said she couldn’t possibly read the book yet but we ended up chatting. She was frustrated by the lack of grief groups in our area. She didn’t call me like she thought she would, but the conversation was meant to be. After we talked, I asked her if I could give her a hug. I really wasn’t sure she was going to say yes, but I was pleasantly surprised when she did. It was a teary and meaningful encounter. I glanced back at my ever-faithful Brigette who said “Do you still think it’s not worth it anymore?” Smart aleck. She knew I was back in the game.

I was at the fair and sold four more books that weekend. Again, more than I’ve done in a long time. But more importantly, I gave some away. Wegman’s generously donated money to me so that I could distribute books to people I felt needed it. I also have used it to pay for grief counseling for people who can’t afford it. Anyhow, I met a brave woman who was currently battling her third bout with cancer. I gladly gave her a book and told her she was my hero.

Then another elderly woman stopped by and said her husband is dying. She had asked him if it was ok if she escaped to the fair for a little while. She started to cry and told me that they had just sold their camper and it had broken her heart. I couldn’t believe it. I told her I had just sold my camper and that I had cried my eyes out. We had a very long hug and shared some tears.

I’ve got my mojo back. Foundations are being repaired. My mission is sad in some ways, but I love those encounters. And I’m sure it’s no coincidence that they started happening again after my session with Ellen telling me to get back to the basics and remember my mission. Thanks Ellen and Brigette. And thanks God for breathing life into all of us.