I spent 3 days at a North American Bluebird Society conference in Ontario. It was my first non-work trip away from home. First relative to the dividing line that now separates my life into two parts - before and after Doug.
There were a couple of reasons I decided to go to the conference. I'm on their board. Bluebirders are great people, and have been extremely supportive as I mourn. They have talked me down off the ledge more than once.... And finally, I didn't want to be home alone on 9-11, which was our anniversary.
I drove up by myself. It took about 10 hours. It was a long, lonely ride, with way too much time to think.
The talks at the conference were interesting. I especially liked researcher Dr. Lyle Friesen's presentation. He set up remote cameras (which cost $8,000 each) on Wood Thrush nests out in the wild, and taped them 24/7. The footage was amazing.
In one clip, a mouse climbs up to a nest during the night. It bites the incubating female to get her to move, and then tries to eat the eggs, but couldn't fit them in his mouth. In another clip, a Northern Goshawk lands next to the nest. It just looks at the eggs and then flies off. (Goshawks only eat birds.) It comes back a few days later, and sees little babies. Flies off again. It comes back three more times over the intervening days, until it sees that the babies have gotten big and fat. It grabs all three in its talons and takes off. It must have been "farming" them.
The cameras also captured attacks by red and gray squirrels, raccoons, crows, and blue jays. One night the female is fidgeting under a cloud of mosquitoes and one of the babies accidentally falls out of the nest. There were also numerous shots of cowbirds parasitizing the nests. It makes you wonder how any of the nestlings survive long enough to fledge.
It was really wonderful to see old friends and make new ones. Bluebirders tend to be very special people. A number of them had met Doug at previous bluebird conferences, so they knew what I was missing.
I found one thing surprising. Even though I was surrounded by more than 100 friendly people, I felt alone. It was like there was a vacuum around me. I felt lost without Doug. I had thought it would be distracting to be at the conference and I could escape for a while. Instead, I had one crying jag after another. It can get embarrassing when the faucet turns on in front of others, but they were all very kind. I see that they feel badly, and that it is hard for some of them to deal with. My friend Ann said that is their problem, not mine.
I KNOW how lucky I am to have such wonderful friends. But it's just not the same. Doug and I knew each other inside and out. We had 27 years of history together. We thought the same things were funny. He didn't care if I had food on my face or wore ratty looking clothes. We loved and accepted each other completely (well almost :-). We went to bed together each night and woke up together each morning. We shared a home and our finances. We planned our future together. You can't do all that with a friend, no matter how good of a friend they are.
September 11 was our anniversary. I thought it would be particularly hard. It sucked, but was no suckier than all the days since June 8 - except maybe Doug's birthday which he never got to have.
I decided to leave Ontario a day early - it was too hard to be there without him. As I was leaving, my wise friend Judy reminded me that Doug would want me to be happy and to enjoy life. He certainly did. When I wasn't happy, I usually made sure he wasn't happy.
I did want to do a bit of exploring before leaving Ontario. There is a long trail - the Bruce Trail - loaded with waterfalls. I thought I would go for a hike before setting out for the drive. I wanted to try to make some NEW memories.
But I couldn't find the trail, even with my GPS. Doug was always the navigator. I drove around in circles for an hour. Finally I just pulled over and wept. It seemed like a metaphor for being lost without Doug.
So I headed back. On the way up, I had seen a sign for a Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara. Many consider butterflies a symbol of hope and new life. (Read more.) Doug and I had visited a live butterfly exhibit at the Bronx zoo and really enjoyed it.
On the way there, I was thinking about how Doug and I had sort of morphed into each other over time. We liked the same things, shared the same thoughts and jokes, etc.
When I walked inside the conservatory (which is a great big tropical greenhouse), I saw a pair of giant butterflies mating. One of them stepped onto my hand. It stayed there the entire time I walked around (about an hour). It was almost as if it were keeping me company. I asked a guide the name of it, and she said it was a Blue Morpho. I'd like to believe Doug sent it.
After this trip to Ontario, I feel like traveling is pretty much over for me. Kind of like a balloon without air. I can't stop comparing what it was like to travel with Doug. He was great company - flexible, fun, entertaining, adventurous, a great navigator and just plain ol' wonderful. We could be cooped up in a tent or the RV for weeks on end yet I never got sick of him. (He did occasionally get annoying though.) It's just no fun to travel without him.
We loved camping and then RVing when I could no longer sleep on the hard ground. However, our RV is older, and usually breaks down along the way. Doug could fix almost anything. I can fix almost nothing. I can't afford a new vehicle.
Last but not least, I have absolutely (and I MEAN absolutely) no sense of direction. Seriously. I can't tell my right from my left. When I was younger and we would move to a new house, I could not find my bedroom. I get lost coming out of a bathroom in a building. I bought a house in WA and couldn't find it afterwards. I call this deficiency Directional Dyslexia. It is very limiting. A GPS has helped quite a bit, but it's not always accurate. It can't find a trail head for hiking. It talks to me, but never tells me jokes.
When my bluebirding friend Vicki was flying back home from the conference, she sat next to an elderly woman. This woman had just been to the Arctic Circle (or was it the other pole) for three months studying the indigenous people. She told Vicki she had traveled all over the world, and this place was the last one on her list.
Vicki told her she had a friend (me) who thought her traveling days were over since she lost her husband. The woman said "That's bologna! She whispered "I'm 85 years old." Then she added "That's in her mind. I've been all over the world, to all 50 states. This trip was a birthday present," pointing her finger to her chest, "to me."
Of course she is right - it is in my mind - and my heart. Thinking and feeling drives most everything we do or don't want to do.
I know women who don't want to drive to the grocery store by themselves. I would say I'm fairly independent. I went to live in South America when I joined the Peace Corps. I moved out to WA State where I didn't know a soul. I drove cross country by myself more than once.
But I do have limitations. And I need fun. I usually prefer excellent company to solitude. Even when I return from a trip, I feel now like there is no one who REALLY wants to hear my boring travel stories or look at my boring pictures.
Doug spoiled me. My favorite source of fun - and oh so much more - is gone now. The chasm between traveling with him and without him seems devastatingly deep. I lack the desire to leap across it.
Today my friend Reva dropped off 3 ducks that were extras (she has 38.) Maybe it is a good thing that Lucky the Duck is not around. He would be banging all of them, and they are virgins (Reva only keeps females.) I so wish Lucky had not been killed though. He made Doug laugh so many times. Doug admired his tenacity - I think he could relate to it. Doug had such endurance and patience. He waited for me to make a commitment for NINE years. I can barely wait nine MINUTES for something I want.
Last night I forced myself to go out. M had an extra ticket for a wine tasting benefit for the Audubon Society. It was sweet of her to invite me. Friends are good :-).
It was a very nice evening. Had wine (Terra Forte) that tasted like grapefruit. Tried escargot for the first time. (Fortunately it did not taste like a gob of rubber, which is what I imagined. More like mushrooms.)
I managed not to cry the entire time. I consider this a major accomplishment. Of course I thought about how Doug would have enjoyed it, and how he would have gotten louder and louder with each glass. I miss him so. I was exhausted at the end - trying to fake not being miserable wears me out.
It is not easy to go out and be with other human beings. (See redefining loneliness.) Some days I can't bring myself to answer the phone or the door, or even to open the mail.... It's a roller coaster. At least the ups and downs seem to be less steep lately.
T tells me that the reason I am so unhappy now is because I have a bad attitude. I think she believes in The Secret - just focus happy thoughts and what you want and it will be drawn to you like you are some kind of mega magnet. In my opinion, that equates to magical thinking.
I certainly don't believe Doug died because he was thinking negative thoughts. He was one of the most positive people I ever knew.
It is true that I am not yet able to look on the bright side of losing the love of my life. Under the circumstances, I think it is natural to feel sadness, and to feel pretty hopeless. I do not have a heart of stone. I had a fantastic marriage with a fantastic man. Who would not miss that? If I still felt this way 3 or 10 years from now, that would be a problem. For now, I need to mourn.
This pain is something I cannot go around. I have to go through it to come out on the other side. I have to process it. Yes, I cry a lot. My heart is broken. That is probably painful for other people to watch. But it cannot be fixed.
I know T means well, and loves me. She wants me to heal and be happy again. She is sharing with me what works for her. But it simply doesn't help me to hear that I shouldn't feel the way I do. It doesn't help to be pressured to be more positive. In fact, her suggestion actually made me angry and upset me even more.
What does help is when people are kind. I would not have survived this long without such wonderful friends. They let me cry and blather about Doug and let me be honest about the fact that I am really struggling. It does help when they offer another perspective, because I have lost mine. At some point I will be able to accept what happened, and move on. But that point is not 12 weeks after losing my husband whom I loved with all my heart.
Doug deserved more time. Unfortunately deserving is apparently not a factor in how long you get to live.
What I would give to have him breaking things, making whale noises while sleeping, or pestering me right now....
I spent the weekend in NH with friends who went to grammar and high school with Doug. These three couples have great relationships. They are kind to and respect each other. They have fun together. It was a lot of fun to be with them. It was the most I've laughed and the least I've cried in months. They seemed comfortable talking about Doug, but I could see the pain in their eyes at times.
The three guys played golf together on an annual basis. Doug really enjoyed their outings. This year, the guys asked me to bring along Doug's (antique) 4 wood, which apparently was the only one he ever hit with. They made it a foursome by hitting one for Doug at each hole. I was very glad of that. He would have wanted to be there, somehow, some way.
He also would, I think, be very grateful at home wonderful our friends have been, helping me survive the worst thing that ever happened in my life.
While they were yukking it up on the course, the girls went to a spa. I had my first (and last, based on the price) facial ever. We also went to an outdoor sculpture show.
I learned a few things about Doug. That he got R involved in golf. That no matter how drunk he got, he never threw up.
I was very surprised to hear that S's son worked with the man who saw Doug on the ground on June 8 and called 911. Such a bizarre coincidence. I had tried to find out from the police dispatch report who he was so I could thank him.
I will always be grateful to that young man. He gave Doug a chance at life, by bringing trained professionals to him as soon as possible. It also comforts me greatly to know that Doug was not alone for long. The driver in the car in front of this man's said Doug was still running when he drove by. It must have been traumatic to come across someone dying. I feel badly about that.
We talked and laughed a lot. It was a great weekend. However, as soon as I got into the car by myself, I dropped like a rock. The reality of going home to a house without Doug in it hit me hard.
Doug's mom said I am decidedly less hysterical lately. I suppose that is progress.
Each month I have been tracking how things are changing, so I can look back and see that I have moved forward a bit. This was a recommendation from Dr. Joyce Brother's Widowed. I am also letting my hair grow. When I see how much longer it has gotten, I realize time is passing and I have managed to survive a bit longer. If I can last, I will cut it in a year and donate it to Locks for Love.
Neighbors, friends and family continue to provide amazing support. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not have made it this far without them.
I start a 6 week bereavement class this week. I hope it will help me cope.
I still cannot believe or stand to know that I will never be with Doug again.
Met with Dr. M to review Doug's autopsy report. Dr. M has been my MD for 30 years, and Doug's since we got married.
I am the kind of person who needs answers. I need to understand what happened. Dr. M wants to know too. In 32 years, he has seen one other patient die in a similar situation. He said sudden cardiac death is rare. He said he was totally shocked when the ER called him and told him about Doug. He spent 2.5 hours with me yesterday, going over all my questions and scenarios.
Bottom line - Dr. M agreed with the ER doctor that a malignant arrhythmia probably stopped Doug's heart, although we may never know. He also agreed it is possible that Benicar HCT (the drug Doug was on for hypertension) could have caused/been a factor.
We talked about how much I am missing Doug, and I showed him a couple of the video clips. He asked me "How did you get him to do that stuff?" I'd never thought about it before! Sometimes he just did them, sometimes I prompted him.
Other things we talked about:
I heard of a clothing drive for needy people in the area. I decided to go through Doug's closet. That was a mistake. I know a widow who waited two years to do this. Clearly I should have waited more than 3.5 months..... (I also heard of someone who didn't touch anything in their parent's house for 7 years - including the food in the refrigerator.)
I wept uncontrollably. The pain was intensely overwhelming. But I managed to get through it.
The problem was that every thing I picked up reminded me of something. Something we had done together, where I had bought it for him, or the last time I saw him wearing it. There were remnants of his hard work. Paint spatter. Grease and battery acid holes from fixing the cars. The T-shirt with holes in it that he accidentally Gorilla-glued to his chest.
Shirts from all the races he had run. I was at every one. His softball uniforms - he played every year since he was in T-ball, and was in the Jack Benny league last year until he dislocated his shoulder for the third time. I was at every one of those too, unless I was out of town for work.
There were also shirts from work with ink blots. Collars frayed from his rough beard.
The pair of blue jeans I tried to throw out countless times. He kept retrieving them from the trash because they were comfortable. They were missing belt loops and had gaping holes. His mother said you have to chop them into bits. NOW she tells me!
Around the house, he dressed like a homeless person. (Now a homeless person can dress like him.)
But he wore a tie to work every day. He was not good about matching - to him all greens went together, regardless of shade. He had to ask me about combinations each evening or morning for avoid clash-age. When I went away on travel, I would usually lay out a whole weeks' worth of combos for him. Before we got married, he used to bring a bag of ties on the van with him and have the other riders pick one that went with his shirt.
Some items I just couldn't bear to part with. They were too "him." I will use some to make a patchwork quilt that I can lie underneath on the cold winter nights ahead, since he will not be there to warm my frozen feet.
I continue to feel lost without Doug. My friend J said it is as if someone took the puzzle we had put together that was our life, and dumped the pieces on the floor after running them through a shredder. It is not possible to reassemble them. I have to start anew. The question is - do I have the strength, energy and desire to do it? Today, the answer is no.
Yesterday morning I went for a walk alone. The missing hit, and I cried so hard that I almost threw up. Mostly I cry for myself. It is so selfish.
The funeral director called to see how I was doing, and took me to lunch. He is a kind, genuine, gentle person. He and his wife are still honeymooning. He also does marriage counseling which I find interesting - to be there when life ends and when a new life begins. I was impressed with his approach to offering suggestions. He doesn't judge or push. He just lays an idea out there like putting cookies on the table and you are free to have one or not. I wish I could do that. I am so grateful to E for recommending that funeral home.
J and I started a 6 week facilitated Bereavement Support Group/Class last night. 10 women, two men. Is that because men are better at dealing with it, they are in denial or they deal with it differently (not wanting to participate in a group setting)? Some people don't need it. I do.
Most of the people there were actually in worse shape than me, which surprised me. Some had lost a parent or spouse over 3 years ago and had either never grieved (it was just hitting them) or were still really struggling (e.g., crying every day.) Some could barely speak about the departed person without breaking down. It is hard to see and listen to their pain, but it also helps to know that you're not the only one out there - a lot of us are going through the same things.
Two of us spoke about how little we currently value our own lives. I have said that if I learned I had a terminal illness, it was be okay (as long as it didn't hurt.) If I got hit by a car, I would feel badly for the person who hit me (and the mess it makes) but it would be okay. Although I know that SOMEDAY I will feel that life is good and worth living, I'm not there yet. One woman said she was afraid of flying before, but now doesn't care. In away that is a gift of freedom she has gotten from the person she lost.
Several people said they felt like they were falling or in quicksand, with nothing to grab onto.
One person said she felt guilty about laughing and felt she shouldn't be happy, even though she rationally recognized that her husband would not want her to be sad. I can laugh (I laughed once in the emergency room), but the sadness is still overwhelming and I don't feel capable of happiness - yet.
Most have faith - it helps them to pray. They believe they will be reunited with their loved one again someday. I don't have that, and it won't work for me. I fully understand why someone would want to believe this - it would be so comforting.
I do believe that energy cannot be destroyed. I know that parts of Doug are out there helping someone live a better life because he was a tissue donor. I would like to believe that he can visit me in a dream.
That night J had her first dream about her mother, who died several months ago. Her mother came to the class and sat in the empty chair next to her and gave her a big hug. She looked younger, healthy, happy and radiant. Like in the two dreams I had about Doug, she didn't speak, but there was a real sense of reunion. I am so glad for J.
When I went to NH with Doug's high school buddies last weekend, I was extremely surprised to learn that the person who called 911 worked with S's son. S's son had gone to work the next day and mentioned how upset his parents were at losing their good friend (Doug), who had died while running. Then someone said that a man at work had found a runner on the ground the day before.
I asked S if he could find out if that man would be willing to speak with me. He was. I will refer to him here as "J." In my mind, I think of him as a hero.
J and I talked for about an hour. First off, I told him how grateful I was that he had stopped and gotten help for Doug. He answered all my questions. I told him what I knew about Doug's death (and that Doug was a tissue donor.)
The circumstances really makes me wonder about fate.
Warning: If you knew Doug personally, reading what follows may be somewhat difficult. It helped me though. I need to understand what happened.
It turns out that J was not initially planning to go to Charter Oak landing (a park by the CT river) that day. After he got his lunch, he was going to eat it in his car, but changed his mind. It was a beautiful day (warm), so he decided to go drive down by the river to eat his lunch.
After cresting a small hill at the entrance, he happened to glance over at the side of the road by the rip rap. He saw a man lying on the ground. He pulled over immediately.
Later, he asked the person who was in the car in front of him why he didn't stop to help Doug. The man said Doug was still running! That means that Doug must have dropped like a rock, in a matter of seconds.
J told me that Doug was lying on the ground, on his back. His eyes were open and looking straight up at the sky. J said he could tell immediately that he was lifeless.
He could hear air coming out of Doug's lungs, but there was NO intake - i.e., he was not breathing. Another man also stopped to help (J did not get his name. I wish I could thank him too!) He shook Doug, and rubbed his chest. J said the other man thought Doug was breathing, but believed this was because he was shaking Doug which caused air to be released from his lungs.
Both men tried calling to Doug and tried to get him to respond, but there was nothing. J called 911. He said it was hard to dial because the sun was in his eyes. [It is odd that I have two long standing nightmares. One is that I am in an emergency situation and cannot dial the phone, or the call doesn't go through. Another involves running or walking up a hill. My legs feel like rubber and ache and burn. I practically have to crawl.]
J and the other man stayed with Doug and waited for the ambulance. J said it seemed like it took forever, but they probably arrived within 5 minutes from the time he called. (At least one crew had been having lunch in the park, waiting for 911 calls to come in.)
J and the other man moved to the side to allow the ambulance crew to work on Doug. J said one of the first responders said that Doug was "the guy from yesterday." That is not possible. Doug didn't run the day before because he had forgotten to put his sneakers in his running bag. And he was fine the day before - and appeared fine at the full physical he had the afternoon before. His running friends said he was laughing and joking and was in no distress minutes before he split off from them to head back to the office!
This experience must have been hard for J. T, who was a fire chief for 35 years, said when people find someone lifeless, it can be quite traumatic. He said that, as a society, we are accustomed and somewhat prepared to see a dead person in a funeral setting, surrounded by comforting trappings. It is quite another thing to unexpectedly come across someone who has died. (I know.)
I hope J can manage this experience.... I worry about him. I wish no harm to come to him - only good things. He said he is coming to terms with it. He said it helped him to see a photo of Doug alive (in the obituary.)
I told him all I knew about what had happened to Doug, to fill in the gaps, including the possible Benicar connection. J said he plans to take a CPR refresher course. J seemed like a very mature and kind person. I think it took a lot of courage to be willing to talk with me.
I will always be grateful to J. I don't know if he was meant to be there that day. I do know that he gave Doug a chance at life. He stopped his car as soon as he saw him. He had a cell phone with him and called 911 right away. He waited with Doug until they came. The ambulance crew said that because of the response time, it was the best possible scenario for survivability. I often think that if Doug had made it a couple of hundred yards more, he would have been under a bridge, and might not have been found for hours or even a day or more. That would have been horrible. (See reverse what ifs.)
So, it turns out that the 4 to 7 minute time frame (between Doug going down and the ambulance arriving) that we had calculated with the help of Doug's running buddies and the ambulance reports was probably pretty accurate.
Doug had keeled over during a run back in March (about 2 months before his death), M, who was with him, said his eyes were rolled back in his head. He was only out for about 5-7 seconds.
When J found Doug, he said his eyes were staring straight up at the sky.
(Doug watched the sky a lot when he was alive. See more on the unusual cloud formation I saw the day after Doug died. I got a notice this week from the CT Eye Bank that both of Doug's corneas were used, to restore sight to two different people. I wonder what they will see in the sky....)
I read that it may be more likely for eyes to roll back with a stroke or seizure. where the muscles contract during the event and do not release at death. The eyes of the one person I saw after a massive heart attack were not rolled back in their head.
The timing, the fact that Doug was apparently not breathing at all afterwards, and the fact that his eyes were not rolled back in his head may further reinforce the theory that he died of a malignant arrhythmia, as the ER doctor thought. Also that it probably followed ventricular fibrillation.
For me, it is extremely comforting to know that Doug was not alone for more than seconds after he went down. That had really bothered me. It also helps to know how quick it was, and that Doug went out like a light - probably with no pain or struggle. That is what most people would consider a "good death" and wish for themselves and their loved ones.
It was just too soon. If it was just a day before I died, it would have been too soon for me.
Thank goodness for good Samaritans. My heartfelt gratitude and heart go out to these two men who stopped, and to the ambulance crew. I wish them the kind of love and joy that Doug brought to my life.
I awoke today to brand new copper gutters! They are on the roof to the back room. Restoring that room was the last project Doug worked on.
The water would pour off the roof in sheets, flooding the basement in the spring, summer and fall, and creating slick ice in the winter. No more! Three of Doug's running buddies spent the day working their butts off to install the gutter we bought before Doug died.
M had written one of Doug's sayings on the back of his shirt with a magic marker, "Power tools & booze...they just go together!" One of the power tools (a heavy battery-powered drill) almost fell on M's head. There was blood of course. Both guys almost got electrocuted when they hit some overhead lines with a ladder!!!!!!!!!! zzzzzzzzzzt crackling noises came out. Thank goodness they were not hurt! Afterwards they referred to it as the electroladder. I shut off the power in case they forgot again. It's probably a good thing that I didn't watch Doug much when he was working on such projects - too scary!
It was a complicated project. To be honest, I wasn't sure they would be able to do it, but I underestimated them! One had to leave in the afternoon, but the other two guys worked into the darkness. Then we had a lovely meal prepared by their wonderful wives. They had good Doug stories too. It was very upbeat.
I am so lucky that Doug and I have such great, caring friends.
Thank goodness people loved and respected Doug so much that they are so willing to help me. Pastor Jamie Harrison was willing to host Doug's memorial service even though we are not religious and didn't attend it. I appreciated that, so I went to the Pastor's last service with a neighbor to say goodbye (he is retiring.) He was at The Hill Church for 35 years. A lot of our friends go to that church.
Jamie seems kind, caring and helpful. He is also genuine and unpretentious. People in the community are sad to see him go.
It was hard to be back at that place. I lost it. (Partly because I'm exhausted - I only slept about 5 hours last night and that's not enough for me.)
He gave an excellent sermon though. He talked about God sending down rain, which he doesn't get back until it sprouts a seed - i.e., accomplishing the thing for which it was sent. I wonder if Doug had accomplished what he was sent here for, if there is any purpose or meaning to anything, which I doubt.
Harrison quoted what I think is a Paul Winter song called Mystery. I assume it's supposed to have religious significance, but I kind of like to think of it in terms of Doug. Here's my version.
You live in the seed of a tree as it grows.
I can hear you if I listen to the wind as it blows
You live in the laughter of children at play.
You live in in the sun that gives light to the day.
I feel you all around me
And hope that you will guide me.
There are two things that are keeping me going right now.
3. My hope that this pain will subside someday. JH told me that they say you never heal - you can only mend. I refuse to accept that there is no end to this kind of grief. I do know I will always miss Doug. But this pain is too overwhelming to last forever - it would not be possible to survive.
I went for a walk tonight since I wasn't getting any work done anyway. I heard this song that describes what this feels like (The Script, Break Even)
"I'm still alive but I'm barely breathing...What am I supposed to do when the best part of me was always you... I'm falling to pieces...They say bad things happen for a reason, but no wise words gonna stop the bleeding....I'm falling to pieces."
I was thinking about Doug and how great he was, and wondering how he tolerated my faults. MC told me they used to tease him about the bluebirding trail. For some reason, he typically chose computer passwords related to bluebirding.
His mom told me that as a child, he would always buy thoughtful gifts in advance with his saved up newspaper route money. For her, would select something he noticed she needed, and also got her earrings. He wrapped the gifts himself (badly. The first gift he ever gave me was wrapped in the Sunday comics.) He picked wildflowers for her. I kept the last bouquet he picked for me, the Saturday before he died. CP suggested I tie it with a ribbon and hang it upside down to dry to preserve it, which worked. It is hanging from a nail in the kitchen that holds a slate board. On the slate there is a chalked heart that says BZ + DZ. I wrote that on our wedding day.
How do my friends STAND me? All I talk about is Doug and Death. Such drivel has got to get old. I'm miserable and it has got to be miserable to be in my company. Fortunately I have a lot of friends, so it gets spread out a bit.
They told me there would be good days and bad days. So far, there have been bad days and really bad days. Right now life is so wasted on me.
I changed my status on Facebook from Married to Widowed. I still feel married. I don't feel single. I am not divorced. Maybe they should have an All Alone category.
The first time I was confronted with the status choice was disturbing. It was at Dr M's office, and they wanted me to fill out a form. I couldn't check that box. I just drew a sad face with tears on top of it.
I remember the first time I signed my married name - Bet Zimmerman. It was in a bar (how appropriate) overlooking a golf course at The Balsam's resort. Doug and I had gone there on Part I of our honeymoon (which had three parts. When you wait that long, you get bonus honeymoons! We went camping, to the Balsams, and to Hawaii.)
It took more than 3 months before I could say the words "widowed" and "dead" with regard to Doug and I. VB noticed I recently used both in the same paragraph.
My mother doesn't like the "w" word. (My parents were high school sweethearts. She got married at 19. My dad died in a boating accident at 59. She is 82 now and never remarried, but she does have a companion.)
The W word has some strong connotations. Black Widow spiders. Sorrowful widow's walks on antique houses by the ocean. A shriveled up, destitute, pathetic creature swathed in black who depends on the alms of others for survival.
Dr. Joyce Brothers called her book Widowed - one of the first I read on mourning. SG recommended it - his mom lost her husband tragically 9 years ago. I was very depressed when I heard about his dad - I really liked him and felt so badly for his family. I remember I was lying in bed crying about it one morning and Doug showed up with two baby ducks - our first. We named them Elizaduck and Duckless. They were both killed.
God I'm depressing!!!!!!!!!! It's surprising no one has shot me to be put us both out of our misery!
Yesterday evening I was upstairs working. The cat Tenzing was sleeping on the chair beside me. He is a Cling-on and does not like being alone.
At 5:30 p.m., JB rang the doorbell. (She was bringing over some Thai food over so we could have dinner together.) When the cat heard the bell, Tenzing CATapulted off the chair and flew downstairs. I think he thought it was Doug.
When he saw JB at the door, the cat turned and slowly walked away.
Doug got home from work around 5:30 each night, and rang the doorbell to let us know he was home. The cat usually came running to receive a greeting and petting from his best play-buddy.
Tenzing is a very spoiled, high maintenance feline. Before Doug died, the cat played with us almost every day. He never figured out how to play alone, and demanded that we entertain him. Doug was quite patient about it and would amuse him with a variety of games. I am not so good at it. (I hate the Chasing Game, which involves chasing him around the house for about an hour. It gets very old very quickly.) After Doug died, the cat did not play for a month and a half. He just followed me around and slept a lot.
He was probably responding in part to my misery, but I also think he missed Doug. Maybe humans aren't the only ones who grieve for a loss and need time to adjust.
I am working on developing better coping strategies. I am keeping busy. I try to walk with friends or alone 3 times a week, 3-5 miles each time. I am eating a very healthy, balanced diet. I'm trying to get the house under control so it doesn't look like a bomb went off in here. I figure these things will help with stress.
I am attending a 6 week long bereavement support group. I'm reading several books on dealing with grief to better understand how to cope.
I still sometimes go days without answering the phone or the door. I am forcing myself to socialize at least once a day - e.g., visits with friends or family, dinners out, going to community events, and soaking with the H's at night in their big jacuzzi.
I have started working and volunteering again.
I have gotten some of the probate paperwork done. I haven't written a new will or changed beneficiaries. I still haven't been able to write very many thank you notes. A friend said she hadn't made a donation yet to one of the charities designated in Doug's obituary because doing so would make it seem too real. That is the exact same reason I haven't been able to write notes yet.
I cry less often. Sometimes during the day I am okay for hours at a time. I dump the worst of the worst into this blog, usually at night when I can't sleep and the sadness swirls around me. It is cathartic to get things out of my head and onto virtual paper. I know what I'm pouring out here is raw. I am probably being too honest and open about how bad it is. But it is bad. Right now anyway.
I am trying hard to believe that I can survive this. I don't think I would have gotten this far without such loving friends and family.
I cannot imagine what people do without caring people around them to pick them up, dust them off, listen to their blathering crazy talk, and offer suggestions (when asked) on how to move forward through this valley of darkness.
I guess some draw on their faith for strength. They can pray. They believe there is a divine purpose. They believe they will be reunited with their loved ones after death.
I am agnostic. (I think it would be arrogant for me to claim to know that no God exists.) I'm not the type to change my belief system simply for convenience or comfort.
At some point, I expect I will make it through the stages of grief and reach acceptance, and start living life again. If I am still in this mode three years from now, I hope someone slaps me!
My friends really make me think. Sometimes I get so stuck in the darkness that I can't see other perspectives or approaches. Hopefully they know how much I appreciate them, even when I can't answer the phone or email or door many days when I am overwhelmed, or lost in space or a dark place.
Kind-hearted H sent me this note with her thoughts. She offered this up as anindependent, but caring person who can give a sanity check from the totally ignorant (blissfully so) side of the world.
"I do think things will be good again, but I also think it will take a long time and it will happen very gradually. In the meantime you have to lean on people (and we want you to) and to just put one foot in front of the other and make it from minute to minute.
I know my friend T who lost her husband in February-sometimes just freaks out about the future. I really have no clue what I’m talking about, but I suggested that perhaps she could make a mental image of herself smiling and replace the scary visions with that. Don’t even try to figure out why you’re smiling or what could possibly make you feel like doing so – just visualize only yourself at some point in the future smiling.
Then I told her to also identify those fears that could be reality today – we eliminated the one she has about financial ruin – in fact we decided that wasn’t a fear for several years, so we’ve put that on the back burner. Same with her being sick and not having anyone – I will be there for her (and for you two girl!) so if she gets sick today she won’t be alone….and so on.
T sometimes feels like people think she should be “moving forward” and she thinks nobody understands why she’s still “consumed with [her husband.].” That’s ridiculous but I do think some folks who are afraid to think about how vulnerable we all are really sort of project that. You cry and rant and rave all you want with me! I would think it weird if you weren’t sad and mad and totally crazy! Call me if yuou want to talk...In the meantime look out the window and identify one beautiful thing. Baby steps! "
Doug used to say "Baby steps" to me when I got weary of hiking up the endless hills. He said it was what kept him going when he was mountain climbing. I typically try to charge ahead, and then got completely exhausted and think I can't go on. In fact, I have a recurring nightmare about climbing hills and mountains. My legs are burning, like rubber, and I feel like I have to push on my thighs to take one more step, or crawl. I'm crawling now.
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