Monday, February 28, 2011

Forever ...

There are days like today, that I feel like I am but at the dawn of my grief and other days where I feel as though I have grown old and weary by my grief.  I have mastered the craft of breathing most days and still, there are nights when I must remind myself to breathe for in that moment I feel I will surely drown in my tears.  This gentle balance is often times challenged by the simple things in life, things we are all guilty of taking for granted at some point in our lives.

Look over to the one close to you, and never take for granted that you will always have the privilege of resting your eyes on him/her.  Never take for granted that you will always find him/her there in the middle of the night and never take for granted that you will forever find rest in the simple gestures he/she can offer.  For death my friends is a part of life and there is always one left to journey alone.  This journey has been made easier for me because in all that I did, and in all that I shared with Bill, it was always with the knowledge that this was not forever.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Anniversaries ....

Seven months today.  I look outside and wonder what would we be doing today if Bill was still here.  Like most Sundays, I probably would have snuck downstairs, rummaged around the kitchen with excitement and made him a great "healthy breakfast" of porridge laced with flax seed, a couple of pieces of multi-grained toast covered with non-sweetened jam and a great big cup of java!  Voila!  Then I would have gone up the stairs with a light skip in my footstep to bring my treasure to our room.  With a great big grin on my face and sunshine in my heart would have said, "Good morning sweet thing!"  As I've shared before, Bill being who he was, would have propped himself up, face all wrinkled from sleep (Yum!) and with as big a grin as mine would have said, "What's this?"  It was a great little game we played and it never grew old!

Another monthly anniversary (*groan* thought I was done with PMS)  - the anniversary of my beautiful friend joining the angels in heaven.  The anniversary of my joining the Sisterhood of Widowhood (catchy title).  And as always, for the past seven months, I become quieter as the "date" grows near; I feel the weight of my new title and all it entails become heavier.  And as always, I look forward to the next few days when I start to recover and the symptoms of extreme grieving goes away.

This morning, I pondered on this cycle and have come to a conclusion.  Although I cannot change the circumstances, it is time to take hold and control the only thing I can - my attitude.

As usual, I wandered into the garage this morning with my cup of java.  I started feeling sorry for myself - dang, the toilet is blocked, the car is making whooshing sounds, the dryer is overheating and there is no Bill around.  I hate this! I hate having to figure out what to do.  I was ready to totally break down when I realized what I hated more was feeling so helpless.  Then I backed my self-pity bus up and started to let the good things I've done join me on my trip.

I thought back to the days after Bill's death - time with the boys, time with the friends and family all the while keeping myself in check, recognizing that they too had suffered the loss.  The funeral arrangements, the readings, the songs and securing an organist, the wake and the funeral itself.  I wrote and delivered his eulogy and even managed to crack a joke, something Bill would have been proud of.  After this, there were the endless pieces of paperwork, getting the boys settled into college, getting back to work and being part of a larger picture.  Let's take stock in the fact that we had Christmas at the Walton's this year, complete with a ceremonial lighting of the luminaries! I have gotten up every morning refusing to go back to bed when all I wanted to do is sleep and have the world pass me by.  I did this and so much more - like start a blog!  A blog that judging from the comments, has not only been good for me but has supported others in their journey.

I looked back at all of this and wonder, "How did I do this?  Was it really me?"  I always believed  that without Bill, I would not have the strength to pull this together.  There are mornings when I look in mirror and I scarcely recognize the woman looking back.  She is a stranger to me and I would not believe that this woman could support all of these changes.  This reflection is part of me and as the days come closer to the "monthly" she really wants the other one back.  The one who had the strength to do so much more.

I am determined that the next time this reflection comes back to stare at me, I will remember that she is but a part of me and not all of me.  I will remind myself that although I cannot change the circumstances, I can change my attitude and by doing so, I will be okay 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Blessing ...

It was love at first sight - well okay, maybe not "love" but definitely "Yum" at first sight!  In the 26 years of knowing Bill, that "Yum" was there every day.  The love part came rushing in soon after.

I often relive that day in my mind.  I had gone to my brother's office to make a photocopy of my "typed" resume only to meet the man who would win my heart.  I still see his lopsided grin as he watched me hug my little brother and the twinkle in his eye as he watched me walk over to the photocopier.  He was on the phone with someone and I could feel his eyes on me as I stood in front of the photocopier making copies of my resume.  (Okay, I'll admit - I played that one up a little, knowing I had an audience!)  He could not get off the phone quick enough as I was done my task and getting ready to leave.

He sauntered over, in his light blue pants (yup the '80's) and a white shirt and dark blue tie.  As he extended his hand to shake mine, I noticed that he had neatly rolled up the cuff and I marvelled at the strength of his forearm.

We spoke briefly - mostly him because I could barely get three English words together and I was off to my interview.   

Bill and I would often talk about that first meeting and what he remembered most was the voice in his head that said, "There she is, she is the one!"  He described it as this was a clear voice, as if someone was standing next to him pointing out that he had finally met his wife. 

I chuckle to myself right now because I also remember saying more than once, that Bill did not have a "romantic bone" in his body.  Now I realize that he may not have been the "wine and dine" with "flowers and candles" kind of guy but he always amazed me with just how deep he cared and felt. 

As I look up to the stars in the sky, I remember our walks together under these same stars and somehow feel forever connected to Bill.  I also know that up until now my focus has been on the life we did not get to finish together.  Maybe it is time to change this focus and remember the blessing I had in the 26 years together.  My life has been made richer for having him as my husband and my friend.  He knew and trusted, that I would be okay.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blue and White Striped Shirt ...

There is a reason that those who have grieved offer this little pearl of wisdom ... don't go too quickly!  Your biggest decision in the early days should be whether or not to shower!

Who knew that placing that one shirt in the "give away" bag the day after his death would come to haunt me.  I keep coming back to this one shirt Bill used to wear - blue and white stripes - he simply looked so yummy in that shirt.  Today, I wish I had that shirt to slip into when I need a hug!  I did keep a few choice pieces of clothing (like his oversized sweat pants that still has the Kleenex he put in the pockets) that I wear when I want him near but this one shirt - don't know what it is about it - I just wish I had it.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could capture the essence of a time in a bottle and uncap it when we need to release some of that essence?  The smells, the mood, the feeling of being safe ... all this in a bottle ready to scatter around you when you are starting to feel that these memories are fading.  You remember the broad strokes but there is something unfocused and incomplete to the picture.  The edges have started to fade and you really want to see and feel it all, to step into the complete picture.

Interestingly enough, in the weeks that followed Bill's death I got really busy (~okay manic~) about removing the clutter - "three cube vans to the dump" manic - and today, I can't bear to part with a small sticky note with inconsequential scribbles in his writing.  I thought I might start a scrapbook of all of these little scraps of paper ~ little over the top?  I also struggle with the replacements of consumables - the first time I had to purchase  laundry soap, toothpaste, spices, etc... I still see him standing in front of the isle making a careful selection of the right soap, the right toothpaste and teasing me when I would  have just grabbed the obvious wrong thing!  Every time I have to replace something, I can't help but feel that I am also letting go, being forced to say goodbye over and over again.  How many times will this be necessary?  There are days when I just wish all of this could be ripped off quickly like you do with a Band-Aid and be done - but I guess it was exactly this that has me now wishing I had that crisp blue and white striped shirt!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Later guys ...

Life happened today and with it comes many hours of sharing ... work, family, extended family and editing assignments!  So my blog will be much later ... stay tuned.

I'm just hitting the sac now.

Just wanted to let you know that I am thinking of you all and that I am greatful for your warm comments.

Bdidi Bdidi Bdidi ... That's all Folks!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The "L" word! ....

From Wikipedia:  Loneliness - the state of "feeling lonely", describes a human state of feeling involving isolation, or the feeling of disconnection with others, etc.  Often accompanied by a sense of yearning for connection.  Usually manifests through hopes of romantic redemption in the arms of another.
Hmmm ...
·        state of "feeling lonely" .... checked
·        feeling involving isolation ... checked, checked
·        feeling of disconnection with others ... checked, checked and triple checked!
·        ... redemption in the arms of another .... back the bus up!  So not there!  Had a great set of arms to hold me - none to compare!

I admit that loneliness is a huge part of being a widow and I went searching for the word because I was hoping to find a synonym that would make a more powerful statement - back to loneliness.
In yesterday's blog, I spoke of the deafening silence in the night.  I daresay, this silence also follows you through the day.  This comes with losing your spouse.  It screams at you when you find yourself out with other couples as you watch them tenderly lean their heads together, whispering sweet nothings punctuated with giggles and meaningful looks; its banshee  screeches chase you as you drag your unwilling little butt up to bed and it wails reaches the depths of your heart when you reach for the phone because you want to call and let him know that something life altering just happened - in this case he died!  Old news to him I'm sure - dang he stole my thunder!
You see, for the past 26 years, Bill was the one I turned to in times of personal success, in times of deep sorrow and we were a team in all decisions.  So now that I need him the most, because it is the first time in my life that I feel the most alone - because he is gone - he is gone.  All other losses in my life seemed manageable because I knew that he would take me into his arms and whisper quiet reassurance that this too shall pass and I could do the same in return.
My Earth Angels have been so good to me, trying to help fill this silence when I seem to need it and have shown great understanding when I have on more than one occasion called in the middle of the night, desperate to feel connected.  But in the end, it is what it is - alone, aka loneliness.  I am the first in my circle to experience this type of loss and it will be my privilege to hold Shiva with those who follow, and by doing so, letting them know that they too will one day be okay.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Scarlet "W" ...

Wikipedia Definition: Widow n - A woman whose spouse has died and has not remarried.
Thinking back at a couple of months after Bill died, I happen to overhear someone refer to me as Bill's widow.  I think that was the first time I really started to think that even in death, Bill and I were connected.  I also thought of it as having all of sudden developed a bad case of the plague.  Funny how the title repels some and attracts others.  It was my first time being referred to as a "Widow".  More recently, I was in a meeting where we were asked to introduce ourselves and give a little background.  As I listened to the numerous, "Married with 2 kids and 1 grandchild, blah blah blah ... and a dog named Boo",  I started wondering,  what I was going to say?  My turn came up too quickly and I simply reacted ... "Hi, my name is Ginette, married with three children, blah blah blah .... with a dog named Sadie".  It was interesting to note the reaction of those who knew that I was widowed!  As for the others, some quickly looked at the bare ring finger and quickly lowered their gaze when I met theirs.  After all, in my heart I am still married.
This had me go back to my journal and to read an entry I had on "Widowhood".  It goes something like this ...
These last few months feel like I have been trying on this new suit.  It doesn't seem to fit nor is it something I would have taken off the rack to try on.  It feels like I am being forced to wear this loud garish garment that screams "Widow" ...  This suit is too tight, I can't breathe.  The fabric does not stretch and I can't remove it.  All sales are final - and the fine print says "once you put this on, you can't get out, you just have to find a way to fit into it."
I guess this is what is meant by finding a "new normal", where the corset laces can one day feel okay, that despite the grip around my diaphragm, I will find a way to breathe and that despite the garish fabric I will find a way to accessorise.
I am a woman whose spouse has died and I am definitely a woman who has not remarried.  This does not define me.  I am a woman who one day will be okay.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Messy Bed ...

I have taken to filling my bed with my survivor gear!  Yes survivor gear - everything you need to reach for in the middle of the night when no one is there and the silence is too loud.
That would be all of my technology (computer, iPad, cell phone), my box of tissues, two extra body pillows, my glasses, my journals and pen and of course my small DVD player with a box set of some sort or other.  Depending on how I wake up, I simply have to reach out and grab what I need.  My computer if I feel like blogging in the middle of the night (notice the hour of some of my posts), my iPad for a  quick connect to FB or to some missed television show, my journals and a pen if the writing moves me and all the while I might be playing another episode of something or other on my DVD player.  The bed feels full and the deafening silence of the night interrupted!
All this makes for a well-organized messy bed.  Oh well, no PJ's and a messy bed - I think it is a little bit of the rebel in me coming out!  No opinion on this one honey!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Musing again ....

"May I never miss a sunset or a rainbow because I am looking down." ~ Sara June Parker

Who cries looking up?  Most times, our face is in our hands, we lower our gaze because we don't want others to see the pain in our eyes or we simply hide away in our room (or our garage) so not to interrupt others with our cries!  I will grieve you in the light Bill.

From the very beginning, I have asked myself the question, "If the roles had been reversed, how would Bill be dealing?"  My early journal entries ask the more "practical" questions of "Would he have cleared the closet so quickly?  Would he have been busy clearing out all of the clutter?  Would he have been driven mad with being busy that he would have had any manic moments like mine?"  Now my questions are more on the relationship end of things.  "How would Bill be dealing with the friends and family?  Would he have shut himself off from these precious support systems to grieve by himself?  Would he have given himself permission to have open and frank conversations with our sons?"  And I assume that at some time in the future I will be asking "How would Bill be moving on with his life?"

I do know that above all Bill was a very practical person.  So I can only assume that he would have seen to the countless sets of paperwork  - although this had become my domain, he would have seen to the required renovations to the house in order to sell post haste and that the clutter would have been the most difficult part of this process.  As far as relationships, Bill was a very social person but very private and had a difficult time asking for help.  (I certainly can't see him blogging his grief for the world to see! lol) So I can imagine him closed off in our bedroom surfing the net for trivia to occupy his thoughts and although he loved his sons more than life itself, he had a difficult time sharing conversations from the heart.  I say this but I am reminded of a conversation he had with our middle son who was living a difficult time in his life.  He (our son) made a statement and Bill was quick to share that his father had passed away some 25 years ago and that not a day passed without missing him (his father).  Wow!  The man knew how to share when it was relevant and in this case, critical.  He was big that way - the whole unconditional love had brought him out of his comfort zone. 

There are contradictions in my assumptions and while I ask these questions, I always come to the same conclusion.  I know I loved Bill enough to know that I would not have wanted him to be the one to deal with this.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A person lives on ...

What will I tell our grandchildren?

I will tell them the story of a beautiful man who loved his family.  It started with his long wait for his one and only true love; then there was the birth of his first son, second son and then the excitement of waiting and finally greeting his youngest son.

What will I tell our grandchildren?

I will tell them that their grandfather's love knew no boundaries.  He felt loved by and he loved his younger sisters and lived to see the day when he and his older brother got to share stories only brothers who are now fathers can.

What will I tell our grandchildren?

I will tell the stories where laughter was our language of love, of comfort and of friendship.

What will I tell our grandchildren?

I will tell them that in their eyes, I see the kindness he passed on to their father, that in their laughter I hear his passion to laugh and that in their little person I see the trusting love their grandfather offered to those who loved him.

What will I tell our grandchildren?

I will tell them all of the stories my aging mind can recall, for a life only ends when the last person no longer speaks his name, no longer shares his story.

What will you tell his grandchildren?  

Friday, February 18, 2011

A little Friday ramble ...

"I feel so lost.”  How many times have I felt this?  So many times; just when I think I'm getting a handle on this business of Widowhood, I get hit with another period of feeling lost.  I often describe it as if I'm floating with nothing to anchor me.  I've noted that in these periods, I find myself trying to find some form of connection that will confirm that I am still part of the world of the living.  This can be anything from reading about the grieving process, chatting with other widows/ers online or desperately pouring into my "memories" journal.
I am just on the other side of one such period.  It has lasted a little longer than usual.  It was a little discouraging this time because this "teacher's pet" in me thought all the right steps had be checked and double checked and was expecting an A+ for not skipping over some vital part of the "grieving process" only to find myself back at "floating".  In this I feel a bit of a sense of failure because it may mean that I may not moving forward!  Yup, told you, teacher's pet, overachiever, bit of a controller ...
So maybe it is time to see this differently.  Maybe it is time to change my perspective, my focus.  Is it time to visit my spiritual ego?  I know that in these periods of "floating" I seek to be connected to those who have the same sense of awakening and it is often found in complete strangers because their pain is familiar.  It cuts to my very core.
To be open and honest with my spiritual ego is a bit frightening.  It is frightening to give myself permission to feel vulnerable, to truly feel these feelings of insecurity.  Bill was so good at talking through these things with me.  He had such a loving and gentle way to make me understand why I felt so vulnerable when faced with a new challenge and he always, always made me feel safe.  So in there lies my dilemma.    He is no longer here to mentor me, to support me, to make me feel safe, to love me unconditionally.  All great supports for a growing spiritual ego.
I think that it is because I am now reaching down further inside myself that these periods of "floating" are more confusing.  I sometimes feel like I am not doing something "right".  What's wrong with me? There are days when deciding what to wear to work today is a major decision!  Can you imagine being pressed to deciding a life altering decision?  And yet, as we journey through our early weeks/days/months of Widowhood, the government, banking and other institutions are pressing us to make such decisions.
For the time being, I'm back to feeling somewhat grounded.  I will continue to allow my grief to guide me and allow Bill's love to pour into me.  It may be that I need to see these periods of "lost feeling" as periods where the spiritual me is trying to figure out between who I was and who I can now be - and that in itself is okay!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just Musing ...

As I look down at the nearly flate tire, I groan and think, "Life without Bill is really challenging!"  It isn't the caveman thing here, I can take the little "thingy" out and pump air into the tire just like he would do, it's just that he took pleasure in looking after this stuff for me!

Which brings me to the topic of today's musing.  I have made reference in previous blogs, to finding my "new normal".  What exactly is this?

Ever since Bill died, I have gotten up every morning, made myself a cup of coffee (thanks Seth for the Kerig Christmas present), spend time with him through my journal and then start to think of what needs to get done today.  Even if I can no longer reach over and touch his hand or curl into him before going to sleep, he continues to occupy my every waking moment as he did when he was alive.  So is my "new normal" everything the same but without the pleasure of actually being with him?

After coffee, I drive to work and do my work as best I can, come home to make lists of things that need to be done - work, home, car, kids, dog, myself.  Same but without the pleasure of curling up to him on the couch and letting the day wash away with a stroke of his hand over my arm or being soothed by his wonderful warm laughter as I would recount the day's events!  How the man let me go on and on and on about this and that!

I get ready for bed, hmmm ... now here is something different, I no longer always take the time to get undressed and slip into pyjamas.  I generally simply fall into my bed, most nights fully dressed because it takes too many blankets to get warm and too exhausted to care about taking the time to get into my PJ's.  Bill would chastise me for going to bed without taking the time to get into my PJ's.  He would say, "Get your pyjamas on before you fall asleep.  Otherwise I will have to wake you up to get changed."  I sometimes think it is my sub-conscious saying, "You have no opinion on this honey!"

So for now, my life is not all that different, and yet everything feels unfamiliar.  I live in the same house, have the same job and I still shop WalMart.  What is different is that I now do this alone.  I do hope that this is not the "new normal" I keep reading about.  I hope that new normal really means that one day, I will enjoy doing all of these things again, and that I will be okay doing it all by myself.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From my journal ...

I have not been able to write in the last few days.  I continue to fill my days with work, choosing not to linger in the grief because the pain is too great.  I have chosen to ignore what tomorrow, the next hour, the next moment will bring.  I am in the moment only because I know in it, I can be busy.  But your memory is branded in my brain, in my heart and for the last few days, you seem only absent, as if you would be back any moment now.  Not this morning!  You are gone!  Gone from my sight, from my ears, from my touch and smell.  The pain of losing you is back full force!  I miss you Bill.  You the person.  I miss your hand on my shoulder, the smell of your warm neck, and oh I so miss your smile!  I miss sitting with you.  I miss watching you getting ready for work, tying your shoes, teasing me about my workout, watching you walk to your car with your coffee cup.  I miss the promise of seeing you over lunch and of another Friday evening.  I miss you and I miss it all.  I always knew that I was living on borrowed time with you; that I would be left behind to live out my earthly days without you.  I had always hoped that we would be taken together after our sons were on their way to their own lives with a wife and family, that we would be taken together so that neither one would live this loss.  I miss you Bill. 
I am not okay.  Everyone says I am so strong, but I am not without you.  You have been my rock, my safe place.  It did not matter what life dealt us, you were my touchstone, my safe place.  Nothing feels right, nothing feels the same.  The boys are moving on and are growing impatient with this place.  They need to be alive and not in this place.  My mind says it is right that they should move forward but my heart is saying I am being left behind again.  I'm scared Bill.  I'm scared to be left in this grief alone.  Yet I know I must because you were mine.  You were supposed to be mine to grow old with.  You were supposed to be here to hold me when my mom died; you were supposed to be here to help me continue with life's happiness and sorrows.  Where are you?  Where are your arms when I need to feel safe?  Where is your gentle voice telling me it is time to sleep?  Where is your quiet, safe silence when I simply need to cry myself to sleep because I wonder about our boys?  I am not strong as others keep saying.  I am alone without you and I am feeling so very alone and afraid.  I hear and see life going on without you, without me.  Why do I feel such a responsibility to life?  Everyone says to call when in need, but how can they know this sense of being alone?  How can they understand this sense of not knowing how to go on?  I could take some comfort in the fact that another sunrise will happen promising me an opportunity to be living enough for the two of us.
This was written on August 25th, 2010 2:00 a.m.
At times I feel that not much has changed but then I take inventory and realize that more important, is what has changed!  There are okay days now.  To you my sisters and brothers in grief, know that you are not alone with these types of thoughts and you are not going crazy!

My Earth Angels have given me comfort in their wings.  When my legs can no longer carry me or my heart does not want anymore, their wings offer me warmth and strength to move forward.  Thank you!  Because of you - I will be okay!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Desperate times, desperate measures!

Of all things, I watched P.S. I Love You on Valentine's Day!  For those of you who have seen this one, I can almost hear you groaning ~ but wait, it does get to be okay.  For those of you who have not, it is a movie where a young widow discovers that her late husband has left her 10 messages intended to ease her pain and help her start a new life.  Well okay, call me crazy but you do some pretty weird stuff when you are grieving ~ like the day wasn't already filled with tears and empty hope!

But being the believer of all things has a silver lining, I got stuck on two quotes during the movie.  The first is when Holly's mom said to her, "So now, all alone or not, you gotta walk ahead.  Thing to remember is, if we're all alone, then we're all together in that too."  This says to me that no matter what, we are not alone.  As I see it, we are all meant to walk our own path.  What is important to remember is whatever choice and decisions and actions we are to take (or not take) we need it to be in our own best interest - and remember that you are not alone.

Through my sobs, I did also manage to capture when Gerry, Holly's late husband says, "Don't be afraid to fall in love again."  Well, like right!  But then I began to think that there are many types of love and so you can be open to love again ~ to love your life (such as it is) ~ to love your work ~ to love your family ~ to love your friends.  So leave your heart open to these many opportunities to love and be loved.  Wow, all this from a chick flick!

We have all suffered a loss in our life and it is not only to the loss through death. There are other losses (friendship, jobs, divorce) that can and have closed our hearts to love, hope and faith.  When we start shutting down our heart to these, we are slowly dying.

So my dear sisters and brothers in grief, keep your hearts open to love and hope for it restores your faith in tomorrow.  You need not be alone; we will be okay.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

We never did Valentine's Day in a big way because we believed in the fact that it did not take a special day to do something nice for each other and we were always so "thrifty", so Valentine dinners and flowers were not our thing, so why is today bugging me?  Not sure.

27 years ago today, a great man was called to Heaven.  To my sisters (in law) and brother (in law),  I am thinking of you!

To this man I never met - thank you for making my greatest gift in life possible.  We will one day meet.

To the man I cherished - I will always love you and now will forever miss you.  Until we meet again.

To my father, the personification of Love, thank you for teaching me how to love unconditionally and for the blessing of knowing what this feels like.  Our time together again is in His promise.

To all of you who have a significant other still in your life - let everyday be Valentine's Day.

To my beautiful three young men - you will always have my heart.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tears ...

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.”

 ~ Washington Irving
"I will grieve you in the light my dearest Bill."  This is found in my journal many times.  It is written as a reminder to myself to be part of the world of the living and to grieve openly as a reminder that Bill had a positive influence on the world.  My openness is also offered as a gift to the bereaved so to say you are okay and to those who support us - thank you!
For the past six and a half months, I have focused my energy on grieving my loss and more recently I have been purposeful and deliberate on my spiritual ego. 
Thinking back on the day of the funeral, I remember needing to be practical about everything - after all, this is my Bill, my English bloke who's life we were celebrating. He was a quiet and reserved individual.  Although the tears came, it was not what I would call open grieving.  This was done in the privacy of my bedroom and was witnessed by only my closest Earth Angels.  I also remember thinking of my mother's comment to us when my father died, "You had best behave and not go on and on and make a scene".  What a loss of an opportunity to show my three young men, that it is okay to cry!  It is okay to lament the loss of such an important person.  I also remember asking everyone, including our sons, to leave the salon so that I might have a private moment with my husband before leaving the first night of his showing.  How society has changed us.  I felt like there was no room to openly expose my grief, my "real" tears.  This has had a profound effect on my grieving - more than I would really care to admit.
Following the burial, someone said to me, "You are so strong.  I can't get over how put together you are and this is something I would not have expected from you."  She further qualified that she had not expected this of me because she knew how much Bill meant to me.  I guess there will never be a true picture in this person's mind (or others who made a similar comment) of the lamenting wife.  The one who, at times, could do nothing more than sit in the middle of her bed, hugging her pillow and rocking herself back and forth reminding herself to breathe!  Our culture has really forgotten the importance of grieving openly, has forgotten how it is important for the bereaved to model grief for those who will one day be bereaved.  How many times have we heard and continue to hear "big boys don't cry" or "your husband/wife/mother/father would not want to see you sad, so buckle up".  This only serves to prolong the time before you can embrace your grief and by doing so, begin to heal.
This sense of public acceptability has shaped me in unconscious ways.  To some degree, it has prevented me in the past, to grieve deeply when my father passed away, when my childhood friend of 40 years died in a car accident, when my kindred spirit in all that is about working with pregnant women died of cancer.  I always felt compelled to avoid my grief rather than fully embracing it and experiencing it.  I will grieve you in the sunlight.  This would have been an afterthought for I was conditioned to avoid being embarrassed in public as well as avoiding the pain as I did at Bill's funeral and for the days after.  I will grieve you in the light Bill.  It is in reflection over the last few weeks, that I have been able to be true to myself and to my sons and now to you the readers. My tears will heal; they are wonderful healers.
Tears release emotional stress; biochemically, tears of grief release chemicals that have built up during emotional stress.  These tears have a different chemical composition than other kinds of tears. Grief tears release physiological, psychological and spiritual toxicity. 
To my wonderful sons, and indeed to all of you who will not cry, for your own sake and because I love you, shed your tears with confidence and abandonment.
They are God’s gift to humanity to process the hurt of a painful world.  I claim this promise God makes, that through my tears, I will one day be okay.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our dreams, hopes and plans ...

My biggest struggle right now with this journey, is recognizing that the life I had before Bill died has pretty well died with him.  Our hopes of finally getting back to being just the two of us, the dream of spoiling our grandchildren together and the plans of making modest trips together, have been buried with Bill.  I have changed because he is no longer here for me to love and he is no longer here to love me.  I have not only changed emotionally, but physically too.  I see it in the mirror in the morning or in recent pictures; the smile no longer reaches my eyes.

I loved those chats where we would plan on how we would spoil our grandchildren then be content on handing them back to our sons, how we would plan a trip for the purpose of finally seeing Sarah Brightman on stage or even the simple plans of having the back deck finished mosquito free where we could lounge sipping martinis!
While removing the clutter from my room, I came across a box.  This box held so much.  It was a box that Bill had put his treasurers (news to me).  It had letters and cards I had given him over the years.  Included was this age-stained paper on which I had poured my heart out in the form of a poem.  The words were timeless as they were true in the beginning and enriched by the years.  It speaks of dreams, plans and much hope.

For so very long, I've searched,
  for so very long, my heart thirst.
Then into my life you came,
  since, nothing has been the same.
You've given my life new meaning,
  something to look forward to.
I'm now able to go on dreaming,
  of a life really meant for two.
For these reasons, and many more,
  I do love you.
Your friend, your woman, your mate.

At first, Bill's death left the obvious holes.  There was no more Bill.  There was no more seeing, smelling, holding or sharing with him.

Now, as time passes, more holes open up.  I no longer have his support with our sons, no one to help with the maintenance of the house and the biggest is that I no longer have him here to talk to in the intimate way we did.  All of my life, I don't think I have ever felt so completely alone; nor ever felt the weight of loneliness like this.  In the last few years, we were entering our solid comfort zone in life.  We were okay with our jobs - Bill looking forward to retirement, we were content with having raised three wonderful, warm-hearted young men and we could not see life without each other.  We had been together for 26 years and were still so very much in love.  We were still very surprised and appreciated the little things we did for each other.  It never grew old to make him breakfast and serve it to him in bed - and this was fuelled by his reaction when I would come into the room with the platter, "What's this?" he would say every time!  I would always smile and say, "Because I love you and you deserve it!"  As I have said before, Bill was a man who appreciated the small things!  He asked for very little and appreciated everything!

So Bill is gone, and I am left behind.  I am left to live enough for the two of us where our family is concerned.  I am left behind to carry on with the plan - our plan - what plan?  A new plan? 

One that will see me through to being okay.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Feeling complete ....

In an earlier blog, I wrote that I often feel like I am the half of a torn picture.  This feeling, at times feels so real, that I walk around feeling like I have forgotten to grab his hand, forgotten to wait for him to catch up, or for me to catch up - I physically glance over thinking I will catch a glimpse of the other half of the picture.

After sharing this with you, the fog started to lift on this one.  Now I can name it, and do claim it - I miss the feeling of completeness.  You know that feeling; the feeling that you have all that you need and that everything is well and you are safe.  I often would say to Bill, "It is so nice to come home and know that we can close the door on the world for a while because we have all that we need right here."  I would also often tell him that I loved the way he made me feel safe.

What a blessing it is feeling complete.  For now, it is only a memory.  So real is this feeling of incompleteness that the visual of this torn picture breaks through in my mind in the most irrational moments and it brings with it the thoughts that my needs for love, safety and connectedness will never be mine again.

Friday evenings at the Walton's were always met with great anticipation.  They were always our breathing space.  Sitting back sipping on a martini, listening to Sarah or Enya - completeness!  We were comfortable with the silence, we didn't need words, we had everything we needed - each other.  As I said, we could close the door on the world and we were fine.  I remember thinking many times how blessed we were.

My heart aches to have that completeness again; it cries out to Bill to come reassure me that I will be okay.
I do know that I loved Bill enough to know that I would not have wanted him to feel this pain, to feel disconnected and wander about seeking a "new normal".

But in my journal, there are numerous references to a promise to myself, and to Bill, that I will live enough for the both of us - that I will find my new place in the world.  There is much to look forward to and to share with our three beautiful young men.  So for now, I will simply need to put one foot in front of the other and let the world in.

Happy Friday to you all!  Thank you my earth angels, for helping me feel okay in the moment and thank you for listening.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What's in the bucket?

Yesterday, I offered you my Top 10 list (okay, it was a wee bit longer).  I trust that you had a chuckle and recognized that it was from my perspective during my deepest time of grief. 
When bracing myself for the coming of Christmas, I found myself reading many articles on "How to Cope with the Holidays" and came across this article.  It dotted many "i's" and crossed many "t's" for me and had me reflecting on the many times I had approached a newly bereaved person ... all well intended of course. 
Who Gets in Your Bucket? ~ Doug Manning
The best way I know to picture how we receive help from others in grief is to imagine you are holding a bucket. The size and color doesn't matter. The bucket represents the feelings bottled up inside of you when you are in pain. If you have suffered a loss, hold the bucket and think through how you feel right now. If you are reading this to learn more about helping others, then imagine what would be in your bucket if a loved one had died very recently. What is in your bucket?
Fear.  Will I survive?  What will happen to me now?  Who will care for me?  Who will be with me when I need someone near? Most likely your bucket is almost full just from the fear. But there is also:
Pain.  It is amazing how much physical pain there is in grief.  Your chest hurts, and you can't breathe.  Sometimes the pain is so intense your body refuses to even move. There is enough pain to fill the bucket all by itself.
Sorrow. There is devastating sadness; overwhelming sorrow. A gaping hole has been bitten out of your heart and it bleeds inside your very soul. You cry buckets of tears and then cry some more.
Loneliness. There is no lonely like that felt when you are in a room full of people and totally alone at the same time. Loneliness alone can fill any bucket ever made.
I could go on, but that's enough to get the idea across, and hopefully get you started thinking through your own list. What is in your bucket?
Now picture someone like me approaching you and your bucket. I also have a bucket. My bucket is full of explanations. I am armed and ready to explain why your loved one had to die, how they are now better off and how you should feel.
I am also well equipped with new ways to look at your loss. In politics they call that "spin doctoring," but most human beings seem to know this skill by instinct.
I have almost a bucketful of comforting words and encouraging sayings. I can also quote vast amounts of scriptures. I seem to favour the ones that tell you not to grieve.
So we face each other armed with full buckets. The problem is, I don't want to get into your bucket. Yours is scary. If I get in there, you might start crying and I may not be able to make you stop. You might ask me something I could not answer. There is too much intimacy in your bucket. I want to stand at a safe distance and pour what is in my bucket into yours. I want the things in my bucket to wash over your pain like some magic salve to take away your pain and dry your tears. I have this vision of my words being like cool water to a dry tongue, soothing and curing as it flows.
But your bucket is full. There is no room for anything that is in my bucket. Your needs are calling so loudly there is no way you could hear anything I say. Your pain is far too intense to be cooled by any verbal salve, no matter how profound.
The only way I can help you is to get into your bucket, to try to feel your pain, to accept your feelings as they are and make every effort to understand. I cannot really know how you feel. I cannot actually understand your pain or how your mind is working under the stress, but I can stand with you through the journey. I can allow you to feel what you feel and learn to be comfortable doing so. That is called, "Getting into your bucket."
I was speaking on "Guilt and Anger in Grief " to a conference of grieving parents. I asked the group what they felt guilty about. I will never forget one mother who said, "All the way to the hospital, my son begged me to turn back. He did not want the transplant. He was afraid. I would not turn back, and he died."
I asked her how many times someone had told her that her son would have died anyway. She said, "Hundreds." When I asked her if that had helped her in any way she said, "No."
I asked her how many times she had been told that she was acting out of love and doing the right thing. She gave the same two responses. "Many times" and "No, it did not help."
I asked her how many times she had been told that God had taken her son for some reason, and she gave the same responses -"Many" and "No help."
I asked how many times someone had told her that it had been four years since her son's death and it was time to "Put that behind you and get on with your life." This time she responded with great anger that she had heard that from many well-meaning people, including family members, and that it not only did not help, it added to her pain and made her angry.
What I was really asking her is, "How many people have tried to pour their buckets into yours?"

I then said, "Would it help if I hugged you and said 'that must really hurt'?"
She said, "That would help a great deal. That would really help."
Why would that help? Because I was offering to get into her bucket with her and to be in her pain, instead of trying to salve over her pain with words and explanations.
If you are in pain, find someone who will get into your bucket. Most of the time these folks are found in grief groups or among friends who have been there. It is not normal procedure. It is hard to swallow our fears and climb into your bucket.
If you are reading this to find ways to help others in grief, then lay aside your explanations and your words of comfort. Forget all of the instructions and directions you think will help, and learn to say, "That must really hurt." I think that is the most healing combination of words in the English language. They really mean, "May I feel along with you as you walk through your pain?" "May I get into your bucket?"
I have been moved by this article.  It articulates what I do not want to ever do again to a newly bereaved person.
As for me, there is always room in my bucket for the hug that says ~ I love you and you are going to be okay!