Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The healing of the heart ...

My first real memory came to me yesterday morning.  A flashback to Bill's face.  Up until now, memories have been filled with only his presence occupying the memory.  Memories of his long legs coming down the stairs, his white hair glistening in the sun or his long lean hands on the steering wheel.  But yesterday, while in the bathroom, I happen to notice his reading glasses on the bathtub ledge and the flashback of those same glasses on the end of his nose, looking up at me with that warm smile that was mine and mine alone, came rushing into my brain and exploded in my heart.  It was bitter-sweet.  It lasted but a moment and I stood still trying to recapture the moment; it did not come.  My heart sank then soared.  My heart healed a fraction in that moment.

I shared my experience with my youngest son.  He asked when this happened and when I told him it was this morning, he smiled.  He hesitated for a moment then told me he had had a dream ... that same morning.  In his dream, the front door opened and he heard his father's voice saying "I'm back."   Quiet.  I asked softly, "What did you do?"  More hesitation, then release.  He says, "I let him have it!  I went up to him, face to face and let him have it!"  Using many descriptive words, my son shared his anger with his father for playing such a cruel joke.  Quiet.  I asked, "Did it feel good to let all that go?  To let him know what was in your heart?"  "Yes."  My heart sank then soared.  My son's heart healed a fraction in that moment.

Thank you Bill.

Know that your loved ones are enshrined in memory forever, you will never forget their beauty and grace.  ~ Esdeer 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Balancing grief ... work, home and play ...

There have been times when I have made reference to my shrinking circle or supports and also on now having to choose with whom I can openly grieve.  Being the A+ overachiever, I went searching for the possible impact this might have on my grieving process.  I have also referenced in past blogs on three things ...

(1)      my reaction to the statement "You are so strong" and how this seems to be such a disconnect from my pain;

(2)      "it's been 10 months, should you not move on" (body language and what I read in your eyes included) and how I continue to resist but after hearing it often enough you start to doubt yourself; and

(3)      "there are no words", or "simply put" and how this expresses something deeper than written value.

The good news is that I continue to receive words of encouragement from you the readers which acknowledges not only my pain but also my growth.  It also affirms the fact that my new title of Widow does not define me. 

I continue to blog despite the ever increasing feeling that it is becoming more and more difficult to situate myself in my immediate social settings - work, home and play.

I came across this article, referenced many times under a search for  "Grief, the painful story."

When words are not enough ...

~ Annette Anderson Engler

Grief echoes a painfully vibrating voice which can be heard from generation to generation. It tells us that there is an absence of life in a world of breath and being. It tells us, as we sink deeper into the chair of sorrow, that our lives will never be the same. The sound of emotional pain and physical discomfort is sometimes silent words which ask. What are we to do when “words are not enough?” where do we turn for help, hope and comfort? Women who have unresolved grief are particularly at risk of harboring these wordless wounds of painful memories. The expression of grief is often seen through physical touch, body gesture and facial expression. Denial of grief is when there is a refusal to identify the evidence of emotional pain. Women who are unable, or who simply refuse to grieve, are especially at risk of becoming overwhelmed by feelings of inconsolable guilt and shame at some point in their lives.

Silent grief can sometimes be an ambiguous, unexplainable process. For many women, it is simply better not to discuss their grief because people may not be able to identify with it, or not understand it at all. Grief in some women can elicit feelings of blame or the betrayal of self. Self depreciating words such as “I failed,” “I should have been able to do something to prevent the loss” can turn into incessant, tormenting thoughts. At this point, grief can become so unrecognizable that some women may feel as though they are strangers walking through the dark shadows of painful losses. As a result, it becomes increasingly more difficult to fully grieve through shared stories.

An example of how women might experience shameful feelings of grief is through untold pain filled life stories. When women withhold the telling of insufferable painful stories, the memories of these events lay dormant in parts of their lives. In other words, they will both suffer in silence and live life as if these things never happened or grieve alone when no one is there to witness their pain. For some of women, self-denial or the devaluing of self is an important part of the grief process. It is similar to survivor’s guilt, when the survivor reproaches herself for having lived after her loved one has died. It then becomes an overwhelming effort to enjoy life and experience happiness. However, if grief is denied, then it may be easier for some women to move forward.

It is through denied or inexpressible grief that hope becomes repressed or simply abandoned. As a result there is a refusal to grieve and therefore grief now becomes an inarticulate form of human expression. When women, do not give themselves permission to grieve, they become emotionally displaced. There is simply no place to firmly place their feelings, thoughts and emotions about the grief process. Permission to grieve, allows for the cultivation of healing and the restoration of inner peace. The inability to express human thoughts and emotions inhibits a woman’s relationship with herself and others.

As a result, a loss of sense of self becomes a nesting place for social and personal suffering.

I am blessed with my constant supports who have remained true to me, the changing me, even though they have known a "happier" me.  These friends and family members who do not criticize my absence from their lives, wait patiently for when I can be present.

I am blessed with the gift of written gab.  I have a venue and the tools to express my grief, albeit on a virtual stage.

I am blessed to have elicited some new friends who are walking the same journey.  We share through words.

But what am I to do about my shrinking circle of supports - at work, home and play?  How do I express the moment ... when pain no longer has an audience ... pain is no longer understood ... when pain is no longer acknowledged?

When women, do not give themselves permission to grieve, they become emotionally displaced. There is simply no place to firmly place their feelings, thoughts and emotions about the grief process.

The duality is difficult to balance.  For my pain will sometimes affect my performance, my pain will sometimes affect my presence and my pain does affect my availability.  Granted, that my performance, presence and availability is increasing with time and healing, there remains times when I continue to need to be heard, acknowledged and supported on all three levels, work, home and play.

PS ~ Grief is grief ... painful for both women and men.  Indeed, society expects even greater silence from men.  Breathe my tender hearts and let your pain be heard.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

My perspective on support ...

Last night, I was informed of the sudden death of a dear colleague/mentor.  As I listened to his story from another friend, I was reminded of the early hours, the early days of grief.  I groaned inwardly as my heart went out to his wife.  What a loss.  We have all been touched by his presence and enriched by his passion, vision and knowledge.

This morning I reflect on just how far I have travelled and it feels good to be able to listen to my heart and to think of another.  Through this blog, I continue to receive comments from people across the world saying thank you and offering support.  Some are grieving a loss and others are supporting others who are grieving.  I have poked some fun at things not to say and offered some suggestions on what to say or do.  I would like to elaborate on the latter.  These are the actions and words that truly supported my early times and continue to support.  I offer them as suggestion on how you can turn your cares and concerns into positive helpful actions. 

This is my perspective on things.

Let your heart be your ears ... It was, and continues to be so comforting when someone just sits with me and lets me tell the story of Bill's death over and over again.  It is those who seem to concentrate on listening to what I am sharing and don't judge, who help me heal.  Judging includes avoiding thoughts of it has been 10 months ... should she not be done telling this story?  If you are having these thoughts, it will show in your body language and I can certainly read it in your eyes.  There are many triggers along the journey that will bring me back to the first days and will bring out new details of the story.  The story is becoming clearer.  Trust that with time, the frequency is diminishing.

No words are better than empty words ... I will refer this back to my 10 top things not to say ... and offer a few more.  "You are holding up so well, time will heal all wounds, you are fortunate to still have the boys at home, he did not suffer."  Recognizing that these were all, and continue to be said with a great deal of affection and sincerity, I invite you to reflect on the fact that these are actually extremely painful and make my journey more difficult.  There seems to be a disconnect with the pain.

Understanding my tears and sometimes my silence ... In the early days, I was offered much understanding and recognition for my need to be alone or to cry or to even have a few "manic" moments.  I did not fear criticism. Those who did not try to "fix" things, those who did not set expectations on how I should be responding to my grief, and those who allowed me to feel everything my pain had to offer were my most effective supports.  Remember that there are no set timelines on grief and the same compassion offered in the early days is required long after the death.  The events of this past week has broadsided me.  I have come to the full realization that my circle of supports is shrinking.  I do now fear criticism and now choose with whom I can grieve openly.  Life goes on and I am trying to figure out where I belong.

This is my story, my relationship and therefore my journey with grief ... I have often written that it is because I am who I am, shaped by my life experiences, and my relationship with Bill, that I am grieving this way.  I recognize that there are similarities in the process but my journey is influenced by the above mentioned.  It is those who support me fully, who are patient and who recognize my need to pace myself without criticism, who help me heal.  Sometimes I need to have company and sometimes I don't; some understand and some are offended when I decline to participate.  With your understanding without expectations on how I need to deal, I will get back to you one day and be part of your world.  I will have been made stronger and wiser.

You want to what?  Clean my fridge, bring a few loads to the dump and help with the bathroom renos? ... These were (are) the practical ways that tell me someone cares.  In the early days of the journey, there were many hands to help and this practical help made such a difference.

A gentle touch, a sincere look in my eyes and a hug ... So many came to Bill's funeral.  Many offered words - others simply a warm hug and some an understanding smile.  Their presence at the funeral said that Bill and I had touched them.  It is important to feel this outpouring of support and love at the funeral.  It is equally important to feel this months later.

The gift of a written story ... So many sympathy cards.  There a couple that stand out and I find myself reading them over and over again.  One card from his cousin had a little story about growing up and looking up to Bill.  In his words, I found comfort in knowing that someone else acknowledged the loss of a great man, an important person in his life.  The other was an actual letter, that came quite a few months later.  The words spoke of not having had the pleasure of knowing Bill but knew that I am who I am because I had been loved.

Bill ...  I cannot tell you just how comforting it is when you use his name.  It is comforting when you can laugh and share the stories saying Bill! It tells me that Bill has not been forgotten and that there is a story when Bill was not dead.

Monthly anniversaries and holidays ... I think of the texts, or the unexpected phone calls I get on the 26th and 27th of each month.  They are simple "how you doing" with a sincere need to hear how I am really doing and respectful of whether or not I need to share.  They are an acknowledgement of my pain and a testament of true friendships.  I also think back to Christmas.  I had prepared a new family tradition of lining the driveway with luminaries depicting Bill's life.  An invitation was sent out to our friends and family to light their luminary at midnight and for those close by to join our little family while we lit up his story.  Some neighbours joined us and everyone who had received a luminary from us called to let us know that they had not forgotten to light theirs at midnight.  How touched we were, how very supported we felt.

My life is changing, and so am I ... Thank you for your patience and gentle support as I find my way to being okay.  I recognize that supporting me through this cannot be easy.

Although I have written this from my perspective, I am certain that you will find some suggestions on how best to support another through their journey. 

I am reminded of the quote by Albert Camus ... Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow.  Don't walk behind me; I may not lead.  Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The first of everything ....

Last night, on the heels of great news, a friend suggested that we go to the boardwalk to take pictures.  My first reaction was no way, no how, not in this lifetime.  The lake and its peaceful boardwalk was OUR favourite place.  We spent many hours walking around the lake and sat through many lunches together at its picnic tables and had the greatest conversations from the heart on those benches.  How can I go back there?

Breathe I reminded myself.  In that moment, I yearned for what the lake has always offered me, peace.  I got busy ... camera is charged - check.  Disk is empty - check.  Coffee brewed - check.  Smile on my face - check.  We have a launch.

Driving out to the lake, I shared with my friend that this would be my first visit to the lake since Bill's death.  He suggests that we take a few tissues.  I smile.  Peace settles in my heart.  The lights on the water, the muffled sound of traffic and the cool breeze on my face renewed something in me.

We walked the trail to the boardwalk and I am reminded that it is not the first year ... but the first of everything.


 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How do I say goodbye?


Ten months ago, at this time of the day, Bill was just settling in at work.  Only ten short months ago.

I have been speaking with a few people these last few days and in our conversations, I mentioned that I felt "antsy", as if I was sitting on the verge of something.  It came to me ... I am standing on the edge of the cliff.  The one that would have me take a leap of faith. 

I can stand here forever, frozen in time, frozen in my grief, wishing Bill would come back to me.  Expecting to hear the door open and to hear his deep cultured voice saying "I'm back".  Expecting the phone to ring and to hear him say that he misses me as much as I miss him and that this business trip is nearly over.  Expecting to come home and find him asleep after a long journey and that I can climb into bed next to him and breath his presence in.  Expecting to wake up one morning only to realize this has all been a bad dream.

The realization that this will never happen, that he is physically gone forever, that this is real, is settling in my heart.  My leap of faith is to breathe and take that first step to walk with this truth and know that there is the other side to this pain.

But first, how do I say goodbye?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Because I have been loved ....

Our joys as winged dreams do fly;
Why then should sorrow last?
Since grief but aggravates thy loss;
Grieve not for what is past.
~ Thomas Percy

I have written many times about not wanting to feel THIS forever.  I have walked the walk, talked the talk, acknowledging that I must befriend my grief in order to navigate through this journey to bring me to the other side where I can become whole again - in a different way.  Many times I stumble, many times I feel like such a fake for my heart continues to be filled with loneliness and despair.  I want to find this new person I am destined to become not despite my loss but because of my loss.  I often wonder if I will every fly again, then some peaceful experience offers me a glimpse of what can be, if I choose it to be.

I often speak with other widow/ers of not wanting to stay stuck here.  The wiser will simply say, it will take the time it will take, be kind to yourself and be patient.  Then there are those who seem stuck in their own grief will simply say, it will never be okay.

I am both blessed and cursed by my overachieving nature.

I am who I am today because of Bill's gentle love and support.  I will be who I will be because I have some control over how long I linger and because I have known Bill's love.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Today is a new day ...


My life has been interrupted.  I have been set on a different course and I wonder where this is all leading. 

The events of our lives, all the twists and turns Bill and I have had to adjust to since 2002 has taught me the preciousness of each day and to see each day as a gift.

As I begin to dare to dream, I am reminded of the importance of a kind word to someone, of never taking for granted that those I love so dearly will be there tomorrow and to live with the knowledge that no matter how much I want something, God has His perfect plan for me.  After all, His perfect plan included 26 years of enjoying Bill's love and being strengthened by this love.

·        It is okay to cry out in the moment, "This Sucks!" but it is not okay for me to dwell there. 
·        It is okay for me to cry myself to sleep, but I must remember that the morning brings a new opportunity to find that one moment that brings peace.
·        It is okay for me to feel lonely and abandoned in a moment of despair but to remember to live the moment trusting that God will carry me to another.

On this dark drizzly morning I miss Bill like crazy, but I know that in a short week or so, the back yard will be glowing with the warm wonderful lush green Bill loved so much.  On that morning, I will take myself out of the garage and drink my coffee out in the back yard;  I will grieve you in the sunlight and live enough for both of us.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Simply put ... again.

I guess there are days when there isn't a single word strong or meaningful enough to express what's inside.

I miss your voice ...



I miss being with you ...

I miss us ............

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tombstone

There is no question of getting beyond it.  The little boat enters the dark fearful gulf and our only cry is to escape; "put me on land again."  But it's useless.  Nobody listens.  The shadowy figure rows on.  One ought to sit still and uncover one's eyes. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Fridays.  What more can I say?  Actually, yesterday was Friday and I have something new to say.  It is time that I can claim that I am not going insane!  *Phew*  As Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expect a different outcome."  But yesterday was about new things, experiencing new outcomes faced with old challenges.

I wrote my blog yesterday morning then wondered, "What now?"  It is a day off work and I started to go down the list of things that I need to get done ... the gardens, the back yard, the bank .... TOMBSTONE.  *Groan*  I try to escape by going down the list again ... the gardens, the back yard, the bank, finish knitting the baby set for a friend ... TOMBSTONE!  Too early for a drink.  Hmmm ... let's try this again ... the gardens, the back yard, the bank, knitting .... hmmm ... clean out the fridge ... TOMBSTONE!  *double groan* too late to go back to bed.  My eyes fill with tears and my heart sinks ... why must I face this now?  I grow impatient with where this current is leading me and want to cry out - "put me on land again."

Bath - yes, that is a great idea!  I march myself up the stairs and sink into my tub and let the water sooth me.  I think, I have not asked anyone to join me on this shopping trip so I won't be standing anyone up.  But the word TOMBSTONE beats rhythmically in my heart.  I've tried going through my list of things to keep me busy, but it always ends up to the same ... TOMBSTONE.  I've had two coffees already so forget going back to bed; besides, sleeping as a drug for avoidance has never really been my thing on this journey.  So I got my butt out of the tub, brushed my teeth avoiding the mirror and a knock came to the door.  It was my middle son requesting a drive to work.  Yeah!  Sure I said!

Driving back towards home, I put the right blinker on and drove down the road leading to the place for monuments.  I see it, and my heart begins to beat faster.  I park the car and slowly spill out of it, dragging my feet knowing that I've been spotted by the owners.  No turning back.  I cross the threshold where two big, warm and wonderful hugs are waiting for me.  Although this is a great place to do business, I must inform you that I know the owners.  They are amazing!  I don't go around hugging proprietors - really I don't!  All my anxiety lifted.  We talked, I cried and then they listened.  Time for business, I tell them what Bill would want and then infuse my reasons for upgrading a little and then we made an appointment to meet next Friday to finalize more details.  She suggests that I go back to the gravesite to look around before making a choice between pillow or upright stone.  Do I have to? Another first.  This would be my first visit without the boys or my sister-in-law when we went to see my mother-in-law's burial spot in March.  I leave feeling lighter.

I have a hair appointment.  I talk it over with my stylist and tell her to cut it all off.  It was time to show off my heritage - my mother's beautiful white hair.  Last year, I had mentioned to Bill that I was finally ready to let my white hair show.  He said that he was not ready to see me with white hair - as if!  His was as white as it can get!  So I decided to go blond.  I had been thinking of letting my natural colour grow through and yesterday was the day I would begin this process.  My stylist would not cut it all off but did a great job blending ... I will be "au naturel" by the next hair cut.

After my cut, I did my banking and bought more coffee then stopped in a little boutique to ... yes, to avoid what needed to happen next.  I parked the car outside the graveyard and walked the long path to Bill's gravesite.  The grass has not yet covered the site.  The burnt candle marked the spot of our visit on Christmas Eve.  I looked around avoiding looking at the earth.  For a brief moment, I thought to start digging.  The tears came.  I let them flow and each tear released some of the pain found in this very intimate moment.  It was sunny and warm and I remembered, "I will grieve you in the sunlight."  I then walked over to my mother-in-law's gravesite, released a few more tears then walked further to my father-in-law's and felt Bill with me.  His fingers intertwined with mine and a smile crossed my lips.  I was on land again!

When I got home, I began to think of my friend John.  Fridays are hard for him too I thought.  We share in our experience.  Both he and Gwen enjoyed capping their week on Friday, spending time with each other ... as did Bill and I.  The outside world mattered not for it was time to be still with each other.  That is when I thought I'm going to continue doing new things.  I got busy with learning how to use my webcam to make a video message.  I sent it off and his response made me GRIN ... more than a smile, it made my heart sing!

I have opened my eyes and faced my loss.  I have opened my heart to someone else's pain and found a song. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

On the wings of eternity ...

Dear Bill,

My musing brought me to thinking of you and your journey.  It felt good to be thinking of your well-being again.  Although I know that God has opened his doors to you, I wondered who was there waiting for you.  I wondered about your indecision when you heard my cries.  So I will lend my voice as your guiding light in these words ...

On the wings to eternity ...

The night carried you on its wings to eternity
Let my words be your beacon between two worlds.
If you feel me distant, please do not  search for me,
I am and will always be here,
Neither death nor eternity can prevent me from loving you.

I have promised you unconditional love,
It is for eternity.
In my heart I will gently hold you,
Until we meet again one day.

If you feel me distant, please do not search for me,
I am and will always be here.
I will love you for eternity.

Author:  Ginette Walton

Your journey into light must be wonderful and peaceful.  You were a person who so enjoyed the sun - and I loved the way you glowed inside and out when your skin had been kissed by the sun.  Let me be selfish in this moment and tell you not to worry about us, we will be okay.

Ginette

Thursday, May 19, 2011

That which we have rejected ...

The moment comes when our eyes are opened, and we see and realize that grace is infinite.  Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with confidence and acknowledge it in gratitude .. that which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is also, and at the same time, granted us .. that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. - Isak Dinesen

Many times I have wondered how will I ever accept the loss of our hopes and our plans for the future.  Will there ever be a moment of grace where I will acknowledge and embrace a new life?  Will there be a moment when everything is not tainted with melancholy?  What will that moment be? 

This morning, I am reminded of the very moments when I have felt Bill's presence or was reminded of the impact he has made on my life.  There are the times when life seemed so dark I did not want to go on and he was there.  When his mother died and I felt his hand on my shoulder.  The moments in the garage with my sons talking and yes laughing about something or other, I feel his presence and admire the influence he has had on his sons; these wonderful, warm, loving and sincere young men. 

I have been granted many moments of grace and I am truly thankful! ... that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

With grace and integrity ...

Dear Bill,

I wonder, if you were here tonight, what would be talking about?  Before we talked mostly about the workday, the boys and maybe tonight, we would have made a plan to finally clean the gardens this weekend.  We would have most likely commented on the fact that the price of gas has gone down a couple of pennies - just before the long weekend and that would have had you climbing up on  your soapbox.  As I write this, the whisper of a smile crosses my lips.  It feels good.

So let me tell you a story.  One I am sure would have you smiling.  Today was a good day.  It started out shaky but I was confident in the way I was going to conduct myself, with grace and integrity.  After all, this is the only thing in my control - how I react to things.  Needless to say, I spent the better part of last evening infusing what I thought you would be saying to me, into what I was feeling.  Pure balance.  Clarity came to me in the bathtub this morning.  I was able to put together an armoury of key catch phrases.  By the time I had slipped into my power suit and strapped on my high heels with not a hair out of place, I was ready.  I even contemplated putting on a little makeup, but thought, that might be a little obvious! I know that you would have been proud of me as I navigated through a sea of confusing statements and found the source of the storm and challenged it full front.  Actually Bill, thank you for being there with me this morning.

I have grown so much in the last few months.  I took off my rose-coloured glasses this morning and I saw past what my eye can see!  This is good.

Smile my love.  I am.
Your loving wife!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tick tock ...

It is said that when you become a widow, it is like you have just suffered an amputation.  I look down and see two arms, two legs, two feet and I can count all of my toes and all of my fingers.  Yep, just checked it out and everything is accounted for ... except, I think I have lost part of my brain! 

I just got back from driving my youngest son to work and all the way home the remaining part of my brain started going through the list of things I have not done, things I need to get done.  Tick tock, tick tock, the clock is winding down on some of these important obligations.  The car again - always in the car where you have no choice but to exercise your brain.  I make a mental note to put these things on a post-it and by the time I get home I am once again distracted by the simple things in life like taking a bath before getting ready for work.  Amazing how your world shrinks when you are grieving.

I have suffered another loss, one I cannot share just yet, and I find myself back to resorting to impersonating myself to cover up the fact that I seem to have come full circle in my grief.  It is so tempting to simply take all the pills I can, go back to bed and simply lie there in some comatose state because it takes too much energy to face it.  This too shall pass I remind myself.  Don't worry - the pills are not to end, but simply a way to deal and because I have yet to take a pill through this entire journey, I am not sure where that thought came from.  So please, no men in white with straitjackets!  But because I have a responsibility to my children, friends and my professional life, I slip into my pantyhose one leg at a time, button up my blouse and strap on my shoes.  One last look in the mirror and there she is - the Ginette everyone wants to see.

I am off to take a bath, have chosen what to wear and soon I will be off to work where there is a stack of post-its to attend to.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Clarity in the moment ...

Blogger was down for a few days and I must admit, I am a blogging junky.  I felt quite disconnected in those days, unable to post and unable to comment on my sisters' and brother's posts.  I needed my fix! 

As always, for every perceived challenge, there is a lesson to be learned.  Mine was to be still again in my grief.  It was time to come back to basics - my pen and my three journals, lots of coffee and *groan* my cigarette in the garage.

In an attempt to offer myself something to calm my need to share through my blog, I re-read my 80+ blogs since February of this year.  That didn't seem to be enough, so I read once again, the "favourites" or "most visited" posts, searching for what others would have found in my words.

It was not so much in the words that I wrote but in the journey I wrote about that brought about clarity.  It will be ten months soon and it has been quite the journey so far.

Although it has not yet been the completion of the "year", I thought it was timely to re-count my journey for there is much richness in this summary.

My life changed in a moment.  As I watched the paramedics leave my home on July 26th, 2010 with my husband's beautiful body, I remember thinking he is leaving this world much like he came in - naked.  Although they were carrying him out on a chair and I could see his slumped head, I knew he had left us.  My boys and I were going to the hospital where my sister was waiting for us and knew that we were going to claim his body.  When the doctor came in to say, "It is not great news," I knew that I knew, Bill was dead.  I had said this to my sister when we were getting all the registration done ... "he is gone".  I had a moment of manic release with my sister at my side.  I let out a quick howl, recomposed myself and asked to see Bill.  My middle son was out having a smoke and the youngest had accompanied the fire department back home so that they could reclaim some of the equipment they had left on our bathroom floor.  I entered the room, knowing full well what I was going to see but in the depths of my heart I wanted it all to be okay.  I wanted to see machines and tubes fueling life back into my love.  Instead, there was my Bill, lying still, his body already beginning to grow cold.  I wanted to climb into the bed next to him to have that last hold.  But instead, I brought my lips close to his ear and simply and quietly asked him to wake up.  There is something inherently unfair when death comes unexpectedly.  I remember thinking, this is not right, I can't even say goodbye.  There would be no intimate moments of recapping our life together.  There would be no knowing moments of encouragement to the one left behind that would say, "you will be okay" or "I will be with you" or "I am ready to take God's hand."  Bill left and grief moved in.  All I had left was the present.

There have been many moments where I did not want to live anymore, but they were short lived for in the present, there were my three young sons, my sisters and brothers and a mother and mother-in-law who still needed me to be.

These moments of wanting to let go were always prefaced with experiencing the small things.  It is always the small things, the routines of a life together like parking at the river to have coffee and conversations, buying toilet paper, Friday evenings with Sarah and getting ready for work and sharing the bathroom mirror.  How many times did we take for granted that it would always be?  Overall, I was blessed with the sixth sense that  this would not always be.  Having that perception influenced how I appreciated the small moments with Bill while he was with me.  However, there were many moments of taking these small pleasures for granted.

There had never been a challenge that Bill and I could not deal with together.  We were complete.  I was the "worry wart" and he trusted life and the value in living life with integrity and laughter.  At some point in my journey, I realized that the only way I could live through this greatest challenge in my life was to trust completely and to befriend my grief.

Today, as I summarize this journey, I recognize that I have more gentle moments and even okay days than in my early journey.  There are even days when I would dare say that there is a sense of calm and wellbeing.  These are the days that I begin to separate my grief from who Bill means to me.  These are the days when I recognize that I am leaving my grief behind and embracing Bill's legacy.  I live in the same home, work for the same organization and attend to regular routines but everything has changed.  I miss him - the man - and the wonderful way he had of grounding me.  He had a way of separating what is and what my emotional self would bring to a challenge.  He always brought about clarity, and perspective.

In my early journey, people were always there.  Some offered an ear, a tissue or a simple hug. Life goes on and people go on with their lives.  There are moments when people ask, "Why are you so quiet?" or "Are you okay?" and when I simply want to respond, "Have you forgotten, what is so obviously wrong?"  Then there are moments when people have simply stopped asking; these are moments that have me doing a reality check ... life goes on - where do I fit?

In their attempt to be kind, people have attempted to say the right thing.  My patience was often tested when people would say, "I understand".  Many times, I had to bite my tongue when they would say, "I am sorry for your loss."  It always left me feeling guilty that I had somehow been so irresponsible as to having misplaced him.  More recently, I find it most difficult when people will say, "It's good that you have the boys at home and that your work is keeping you busy."  This is of little comfort when you finally end your day alone in bed with nothing left between you and your loneliness.  I must face my loneliness without the magic healing power of numbness offered in the early days of my grief.

As always, I have found the "silver lining".  All these well-intentioned statements that would imply "I understand" or "this is how you should be feeling" have given reason to my anger.  I have grown and will never presume to "understand" or suggest that another is not grieving in the right way.  No words often speak louder than empty words.

At another cross-roads of my journey, I have reflected and commented on society's response to grief today.  I suggested that I probably scare people.  Today's society will offer a pill in response to pain.  If a pill is not available, busy is good for it will give the impression that life goes on "as usual" and that you are doing okay.  Grief will allow you to escape from time to time through being busy, however, it will always come to tap you on the shoulder and demand that you continue to walk with it.  These are my "drive-by" moments when for no apparent reason other than a simple glimpse of what was or what it should have been, I am reduced to unbelievable sorrow.  The tears stream down my face and the only thing I can do is acknowledge it with a primal bellow!  There remains conflict within me between others acknowledging my pain and not wanting to see pity in their eyes.  Conflict between needing to hear Bill's name spoken and not wanting it said in the context of his death.

Most days, I continue to long for Bill.  I am reminded of his love always and sometimes these reminders are quite tangible as in the box of cards, photos and letters I found.  This box that he  had so carefully set aside and filled with our memories.  These are the moments that I feel most abandoned.  These are the moments of pure grief when I will cry out, "Why did you leave us?"  Then wisdom sets in and I appreciate that Bill loved us so much, he would not have  abandonned us.  He simply died and the rest of my life is before me.  I will grieve you in the sunlight - and I will live enough for the both of us. 

Life has both, blessings and sorrows.  I often ponder on how Bill would have dealt with this had the roles been reversed.  There is little value in these thoughts; the reality is that I am the one to deal with this new reality.  How I choose to do so is my new cross-roads.

My journey in grief has offered me clarity.  Life is simple when you can do no more than to live in the moment. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Because we love each other ...

Leaving the house this morning, I was greeted by the warm moisture in the air and the smell of a day long ago, when the mist had washed my fears away. 

Times were tough with cutbacks and claw backs.  Making ends meet took on a new dimension and my coupon clipping became an art if not almost a full-time job.  I had watched my mother divide food for ten people and learned from her practices how to stretch a penny. 

Bill came from a similar background, however, the food was never the biggest concern for his dad was an avid and successful hunter and fisherman.  I remember the first time I walked into their back porch to find this mammoth freezer - big enough to hide at least three grown men!    You can well imagine what was going through my mind.

Despite all my efforts of taking on extra contracts, sowing my children's clothes, running out for sales and cashing in coupons, our penny was now stretched to the max.

On that particular Saturday morning, early June, when the green of the lawn and the new leaves comes but once a year, Bill and I decided to put on our coats and baseball caps to enjoy our coffee outside.  I can almost still taste that coffee.  I can certainly remember that lush green.  Bill looked forward to those few special days in the year.

Grandma was inside watching over the boys and we took refuge under the balsam tree.  There was a gentle mist coating the blades of grass and gentle drops were splashing down from the leaves.  Everything became so still.  I had been agonizing for so many weeks about how were we going to manage financially.  In that moment, when everything became so still, I looked into Bill's eyes.  I still see his gentle smile as he returned the gaze.  In that very moment, the combination of smell, mist and love coming my way, washed all my cares away.  The answer was simple, we will manage because we love each other. 

This morning, I lifted my face and let the mist renew me ... and was reminded, because we love each other!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

First year and getting over it ...

I heard it again - the first year is the hardest.  I can't seem to be able to quantify nor qualify the meaning of this statement.  After all, in my ignorance, I once uttered these words ~ okay, maybe twice!  So what do they mean?  Does it mean that on July 26th, 2011, I will be done with this grief?  I will suddenly hit the switch and will see light again?  I want to see this switch - it has the potential of making me a very rich widow!

I assume that it is because I have had a very rich love with Bill, that I am mourning.  To "get over it" seems quite impossible for it is not possible to "get over" the love we shared. 

I have a post-it hanging in my cupboard at work on which I have scribed ... I will not confuse this grief with who Bill means to me.  When I feel that this is all I remember of Bill ... the sadness of losing him ... I go back to this post-it.  I know that my memories of Bill will always be infused with a tinge of sadness.  However, with every new memory, I remind myself of my blessing ~ to have such rich memories and to have known a love without borders!  Sometimes I get to do this before the tears begin, and sometimes not.  It is my attempt to separate Bill from my grief over the loss.  In doing so, our love will continue to enrich my life.

There is no first year - for the first of everything is a lifetime.  There is no "getting over it", for I want Bill's love to continue influencing my life.  There is simply getting through grieving and that will take the time it takes.