This blog is chronological order. Click on the links or orange bars to read more.

Also see Blog for: June-July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November - February 2011 | March - June 2011 | July - October 2011 | November 2011 - June 2012 | July - December 2012 | January 2013 - June 2013 | June 21 2013 - December 2015 | January 2016 - Present

  • 11/05/2010: Just got back from travel out to Washington State for work. Home to a cold, dark, empty house....
  • 11/05/2010: Changes - Physical, Social, Mental and Emotional
11/07/2010 - Getting through the Holidays - click to open.

I went to a talk organized by Hartford Hospital and Lifechoice for people who had someone die at the hospital. It was on getting through the holidays. They gave each of us some handouts with suggestions on dealing with the holidays. They advised us on how to ask for a "pass" if we need it for invitations that others might think would be "good for us," but which we are not ready for. They gave us some bulbs to plant that will (hopefully) come up in the spring.

I was one of the few people there alone. One woman came up to me afterwards - she said I seemed lonely. She is a counselor, but also a widow. She told me about a group of widows called the Mourning Glories who meet periodically. I do think losing a spouse is different (not harder or easier) than other kinds of losses. I might check the group out, although I seem to be doing better now.

I saw a young couple leave together, with their arms around each other as they slowly walked through the parking lot. I was glad for them to have each other.

I will be away for a few days to have a faux (early) Thanksgiving in North Carolina with my mom, brother and nephews. I will spend the real one at home with Doug's parents and brother and sister-in-law. I think it will be harder for them than it will be for me. They grew up together and spent just about every holiday together.

For me, every day with Doug was like a holiday. The hardest date for me was Doug's birthday. that was his favorite event and the pain of knowing he have no more was very difficult.

I think after a year, and making it through the change of seasons might be a turning point for me.


11/08/2010 - Confusion, dreams, what to do with ashes - click to open

Is it possible to continue to have a relationship with a person who has died?

I suppose it depends on what relationship means. We are still related to relatives that are gone. We still have connections, ties and possibly even obligations (e.g., promises made) to them. Obviously there are no MUTUAL feelings or dealings to have with them any longer - it is now one-sided.

How does one become released from the relationship that existed while the person was living? How to transform it into something one can live with?

I had a looooong talk with PS about this and much more. It was confusing but thought provoking.

I am uncertain about my burgeoning desire to live a fuller life again. I have begun to look forward a bit to some things. I played a game (Balancing Moon) for the first time in five months. I'm going to take a holiday chocolate making class. I think I might want to learn to play poker. It strikes me that I MIGHT care now if a car hit and killed me now. Is that dishonoring Doug's death and the love we shared?

PS asked me how many times I had been in love. I said four. On second thought, it was probably just three - the first was infatuation. Doug was the only one I found true happiness and partnership with.


I realize I have not cooked a real dinner in five months. I feed my guests crackers and cheese. How lame is that?


This morning I noticed my parsley is still growing and looking like parsley! It has just gotten past the cotyledon stage (the first couple of leaves that emerge from the seed.) More on planting parsley.


JC had a dream that he was walking in the woods and suddenly Doug was there. Doug was smiling. JC was so glad to hear Doug's laugh. They walked and talked. JC was surprised, and called me to tell me the good news. I told him that "We need to talk." He started to realize that Doug was gone, and woke up.

It continues to genuinely surprise me how happy Doug is in these dreams. I would have thought he would be pissed that he didn't get to keep living. I don't understand how a dreaming mind can come up with something so unexpected. RS asked me, "How do you know they are not real?" I don't.


JC noted that Doug was a giver. When he stopped by to see the C's, he never brought unpleasantness with him. it was never to ask for anything. It was to help, or share a beer or just to chat. Never to take.

I think about the happiness Doug gave me. Did I give him an equal amount? My neighbors say yes yes yes. I hope they are right.


JC asked what I have done with Doug's ashes. They are still in the box. JC did note that Doug would probably want to be outside.

Doug DID tell me that if anything ever happened to him, I should use the ashes to fill in a low spot in the driveway. But I didn't want them to get washed into the road with storm water runoff and then get scraped away when grading. Doug did spend a lot of time standing in the driveway....


11/10/2010 - Softening of pain - click to open

DU said that grieving is necessary, but it is the changing and softening that will allow us to find "strength in what remains behind." (from a Wordsworth passage she reminded me of.)

It seems my grief is finally starting to soften. My heart still aches so for what Doug lost, and what we lost. But the pain is not completely overwhelming me as often.

I know it is a tribute to be missed so much. It would be sadder to have his absence go un-noticed. It left such a #@%*%^$ gaping hole. Hmmm... maybe that's why the background in my dream a few days ago was the Grand Canyon? I've never even been there.


One of the many wonderful things about my relationship and marriage with Doug was not having to fear being hurt. I had been so hurt before, so many times. He never did hurtful things. He broke a lot of things. He never broke my heart, except by dying, and that wasn't his fault.


I know I am making some progress. I have moved from wishing for what I can never have (Doug alive and well) to what might be possible.


11/16/2010 - Coming home - click to open

Got home late tonight. I don't blog while I'm away in case there are any robbers monitoring this site. Not that I think anyone is actually reading it, but hey, you never know.

Spent a week in NC visiting my mom and Wayne, my brother and his sons, and an old high school buddy. We had an early faux Thanksgiving together, since I will be spending the real one with Doug's family. My mom and brother didn't want to kill me until about Day 4, which was impressive. I think they are going easy on me lately.

Walked and thought a lot while I was down there. Only had a couple of meltdowns.

One night I looked back in my written journal. Sometimes I think I am a mess now, but I was surprised to see how much messier I was even a month ago.

I spoke with my mom about my burgeoning desire to start living again. I feel guilty about it. I guess I am fairly conservative, and subscribe to the one year minimum period of mourning. But I also realized that, if I should begin to care for someone else, it doesn't change what Doug and I had - that is in the past, and it is immutable.

Here is the advice my mom gave me as we parted at the airport.

"Listen to your heart. You have a good heart. You deserve to be happy again. Go for it and see where it goes."

While on the plane, I was reading another book I picked up, called Widow to Widow. A widow I met at the program last week said it was the most helpful thing she read back then. I started underlining parts that resonated with me, and realized I was underlining half of every page! It is very well written.

As I was getting off the plane, there was an elderly woman behind me waiting for assistance. She must have noticed the book, and was probably a widow herself as she said "How are you faring?" I smiled, and said "Pretty good actually - I'm surviving." I surprised myself - I actually meant it. I do feel pretty good.


11/17/2010 - Catching up on epiphanies - click to open

This was the accompaniment for this morning’s crying jag in the car.  Not really a fan of Celine Dion, but these words fit perfectly.  It is the very definition of the love he gave me. No wonder his loss makes me weep.


For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I'll be forever thankful, baby
You're the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You're the one who saw me through, through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cause you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand, I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love, I had it all
I'm grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don't know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cause you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You've been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cause you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn't speak
You were my eyes when I couldn't see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn't reach
You gave me faith 'cause you believed
I'm everything I am
Because you loved me

I'm everything I am
Because you loved me


11/18/2010 - Risks and Rewards - click to open

"If you want great rewards, you will need to take risks. Just make sure you intelligently mitigate known risks at the outset."

I wrote that about five years ago in an article on the cost of indecision.

I am so glad I took my own advice when it came to Doug.

Lucky for me he was also willing to take the risk - even though I made it quite painful for him in the beginning when I couldn't make up my mind. If not for that, I would have missed out on the best thing that has happened in my life so far.

Did you notice the "so far" part????? Optimism is creeping back into my mind and life!

This morning I woke up to sunshine and blue skies, after a dreary rainy howly wind yesterday. Before, that would have made me sad - a beautiful day that Doug does not get to enjoy. Today I felt that sadness again, but my first thought was wow, what a great day to go for a walk!

They day didn't end as well as it started though. I did something unbelievable stupid that caused hurt and sadness. It was a good warning of the bumpy road ahead in uncharted territory.

Then a big stinky dump clogged the toilet. As the Wise One PS asked, is everything a metaphor?


11/19/2010 - What will people think - click to open

Last night I went over J & C's to tutor the boys in Spanish. The only part they will probably remember is learning the difference between años and anos. (Años is Spanish for years. Sans the tilde, the same word means anuses.)

Then great conversation, laughter and tears, followed by dinner and a movie! Better than a date, which I will probably never have again anyway.

We watched "It's Complicated." Funny but a bit long. Some parts worked better than others. Steve Martin looked like he had plastic surgery or lots of Botox.

For me, the movie highlighted some of the complexities of adult relationships after marriage. There is bound to be history, baggage, ghosts and confusion.

In the movie, the heroine worries about how her family and friends will react to her dating (her ex-husband in this case.) When it comes to the divorced, most friends and family are happy to see the person starting over and possibly finding happiness or a better relationship the second time around, as long as they do not do something stupid or precipitous, or re-run mistakes made with the first spouse.

A lot of widowers worry about what others will think if they start dating again. Friends and family want you to be happy again, but when and how...ah, there's the rub.

  • When is it the "right" or acceptable lapse of time after the death of a spouse before dating begins? One commonly accepted period is after a year of mourning.
    • JC told me a story about a famous person whose son died tragically. That same evening he went out dancing. People were absolutely appalled! They asked him how he could do such a thing. He said something like "At some point I need to choose when to start living my life again. I choose now."
  • Will it be perceived as disrespectful or less loving to the dead spouse? People have a tendency to sanctify the departed. (See sainthood - not) Will it disturb or hurt family members or others who loved the departed? Will they think you are "replacing" the loved one (especially an issue for children or parents.)
  • How does the widower deal with his/her own feelings of guilt and betrayal? They may still "feel" married, and be emotionally involved and entangled with the person who is now dead.
  • What will friends and family think of the new partner? Even though all may try not to engage in comparisons (the reason why movie sequels and remakes seldom work), they probably will.
  • They may be tired of hearing you talk about the departed. But how will they feel when you start talking about someone they are bound to view as an attempt at replacement?
  • Will they understand the crushing loneliness that a widow/widower experiences when they lose their lover, best friend and intimate partner all at once? They may think they can fill that gap. They can't.
  • How do you communicate with them about taking that next step. Hide it? Flaunt it? Lie? Personally, I wouldn't recommend being less than honest. But as JC noted, that doesn't mean throwing it in people's faces either.
  • Others may be protective of you. They know the humongous hurt you've already been through. They don't want to see it compounded. They also don't want to see you make a mistake. They will worry about rebounding, bad judgment, settling, being taken advantage of, making poor decisions in the "fog of widowhood," the other person turning out to be an axe murderer, etc. etc. etc. etc.

So not only does the widow/widower have to be concerned about their own mixed feelings and confusion, but they must also be sensitive to the reactions of those around them.


In the book Widow to Widow, the author warns the widow to expect three major appliances to fail in the year, just to add insult to injury. I have already had to tap too much into friends, and hire eight people to replace all that Doug did. Today I found out that the water softener in one of our rentals is failing. It will probably cost at least $3,000 to replace.


My container of parsley is growing by leaps and bounds. I worry about killing it. Once again, as PS asked, is everything a metaphor?


11/22/2010 - New pictures - click to open

Doug's long time climbing buddy BP sent me some photos of Doug that were taken about a week or two before he died. The boys had been out on BP's boat for the weekend. Doug looks tired (or drunk?) in them. In one of the pictures, he is wearing a red coat. It is the same color as the coat he was wearing the last time I saw him. Even though it was June 8, the morning was chilly and he had been outside doing chores - giving the goats hay and watering the hanging plants.

Before he left, as always, he came upstairs to kiss me goodbye. I was so tired and lazy, I barely opened my eyes, and I remember the red fleece. Doug reminded me that as soon as he got home, we were going for a hike to see the mountain laurel blooming. Then he went to work. He never came home again.

I had not seen the boating photos before. For some reason, it makes me sad to see new pictures of Doug. When I see the old ones I took when we were together, I feel a mixture of sadness (no more of those) and happiness (remembering how great it was, how much fun we had, now much love there was between us.)

For the new ones, maybe it makes me sad because I think for a fraction of a second that he is alive, and having new experiences - because they are new to ME. And because he WAS alive in the pictures.

I'm glad to have any pictures though. I don't ever want to forget Doug - his manly jaw, that exuberant, smile and the sparkle in his eye.


Last night I had a long talk with my little brother John. We were discussing some changes that are happening in my life. I am starting to want to live again.

John asked me whether I thought Doug would want me to be happy and to get on with my life. When I hesitated for a fraction of a second, he yelled "Too long to answer!" "You know that Doug spent every waking moment of his life doing all he could to make you happy. How can you doubt that he would want you to be happy now?"

In romantic movies, when the bereaved spouse pines away, never loving again, they are considered the model of true and undying love. I asked John whether people might think I did not care enough for Doug if I go out again, and have fun again.

John said "I've never seen anyone as broken hearted as you were when Doug died. You were an absolute mess. Doug would not want that for you."


11/24/2010 - Opening jars, making candy- click to open

Today I opened three jars of spaghetti sauce by myself. This may not seem like a big thing. It is.

In the past, I would have just shown them to Doug, and without exchanging a word, he would have opened them effortlessly with his bring strong mitts and handed them back to me.

I tried to open them myself this afternoon and almost broke down in tears. I could not budge them. I didn't want to call my neighbor for help on such a little, mundane thing that I should be able to handle myself.

I took out a plastic floppy grabber thing from the silverware drawer and tried again - it didn't budge. Then I remembered that my mom said to run hot water over the lid. I did that, dried it off, used the grabber thing and Voila! I did it! It felt like a major accomplishment.


Last week I dragged LD to a holiday candy making class. It was being held at the local library for two hours, and was only $7 for materials. We had so much fun! We laughed and laughed. My chocolate Christmas tree popsicles were a mess - leprotic, uneven and drizzly. LD said they looked like they had been made by a crazy person. How true.


There is a lot going on, and yesterday and today I have been exhausted. I still only sleep 4-6 hours a night, and the sleep I do get is restless and broken. It is catching up with me.

11/27/2010 - Missing, Getting a Tree- click to open

I got this note from a friend of ours, JD.

"You know, that when I think about Doug he is always smiling? I don't know if I could say that about anybody else I've ever known . . . and I think about him often. (Often he isn't just smiling, but is just about to bust out in giggles.) The best news for me is that the thought always makes me miss him but makes me feel better, too, and makes me take myself less seriously and life more seriously. Of course, it also makes me mad as hell."

Sometimes I am so stuck in my own grief bubble that I forget how much others miss Doug.

He left such a gaping hole in the world. This week I woke up and the only word on my mind and my lips was a scream - noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!! This just can't be so. He can't be gone forever. It has been almost six months, and I am still in denial at times.


I decided I wanted to have a Christmas tree this year. I have always loved Christmas - the music, shopping, cards, decorations, parties, warmth, happiness and good humor. Sometimes after losing a family member, holidays are too painful. Some people even stop celebrating. That's not me. But I realized I needed to start some new traditions. I didn't want to decorate the tree alone this year. So I invited two neighborhood families over with their children - a two year old girl and two boys, 7 and 10.

But first I had to get a tree. My wonderful neighbors across the street own a Christmas tree farm. DH had already picked out a lovely balsam for us.

Every year, Doug and I would make a "date" of going down to get our tree. I would pick one, and then see another beautiful tree, and then another that might be better, and then come back to the original one. Doug stayed by my side. When I asked him what he thought, he just said "whatever you want." (How I miss hearing those words.)

When I finally made up my mind, he would lie down in the snow and cut it down. If we picked one from across the street, he would drag it up to the house. If it was in a field farther away, he would get a cart. tell me to hop on, and I would ride in it while he pulled me along down the street and through the fields, laughing all the way.

Then we struggled together to put the tree straight in the finicky old tree stand. Occasionally he tried to pull it through the doorway backwards and it would get stuck. Then we set it up in the parlor. One year Doug poked a hole in the plaster ceiling with the top of the tree.

He brought all the boxes of ornaments and decorations downstairs from the attic. He set up the candles in the windows while I decorated the rooms, put out the nativity scene, etc.

Then Doug would put on his Santa Hat. We would turn on Christmas music and decorate the tree together. We plugged in the lights and found out most didn't work. We wrapped those that still did around the tree.

Then we put the ornaments on, one by one. He had his favorites - especially a wooden Giant's football. Most of them had memories. Some were made by or given to us by friends or relatives. Whenever we traveled or went on our anniversary trips, we tried to pick out an ornament to remind us of it.

We would hang them together and talk and laugh. At the end, he would stick an Elmo doll up on the top. Then we would stand back and admire our handiwork.

This year would be very different.

I walked down to the tree farm. It was cold and wet out. I got a red handsaw (Doug's color.) Dirk cut the tree for me. He offered to bring it up to the house. I said, "No, this is something I can do myself. I need to do it myself." Like everything else now.

I took the tree by the trunk and started dragging it up the slope. I only had to go about 100 yards.

I never realized how heavy they were. I got tired quickly. I dragged it a little more. I could see Doug doing it last year, in his beat-up homeless man coat.

I started to cry. I missed him so much. The pain of knowing that there were no more Christmases for him was intense. I started to sob.

When I reached the dirt road in front of the house and fell apart. I just cried and cried and cried.

I pulled myself together and crossed the road into our front yard. I dragged the tree up the steps onto the lawn. I couldn't go any further. I fell to my knees. I put my hands on the ground and wept.

Cars were driving by. Time passed. The ground was cold and wet. Eventually I got up again and dragged the tree up onto the porch. Our friends would be arriving shortly. I had a lot to do to get ready - bringing the boxes down, getting the meal prepared etc. I didn't have time to weep any more that day.


11/30/2010 - Tsunami - click to open

This morning I had a meltdown. I have been very busy and distracted, and have let things get almost completely out of control. Neglecting my obligations. Forgetting to feed the goats, ducks and cat who all depend on me. Not paying bills. Not getting enough exercise. Forgetting to eat. Getting behind on finishing the backroom. Not returning phone calls. Not seeing dear friends who have been there for me, day in day out, talking me off the ledges, helping me out, bring me the only happiness I had. Not opening the mail. Not washing the dishes for days. Not responding to emails. Laundry piling up. Not paying attention to work. Not paying enough attention to my feelings and moving through mourning, with the goal of coming out the other side, alive, well and whole.

This really scared me. I depend on myself now. There is no one else who is going to take care of these things for me when I'm not "here" mentally, emotionally or physically. I am my sole source of income. I have to take care of myself and the household. It's just me now. I need to meet my obligations and be more responsible. I need to get things under control!

Some of my meltdown is related to what one widower called the "emotional bathtub." When he lost his wife, he too experienced intense emotions. When he got busy and distracted, the emotions started to fill up in the bathtub. At some point, that bathtub needed to drain out - which could result in weeping or a meltdown or whatever.

I think I let my emotional bathtub fill up too high. The drain was clogged and it hit me like a tsunami.

I need to get better about paying more attention to the levels, and letting it drain periodically so it doesn't overwhelm me. I also need to get my life back under a semblance of control.


12/04/2010 - Decorating the Tree - click to open

Some widows and widowers give up on Christmas. Not me. I have always loved Christmas. I still do. But I know I need to start some new traditions, and needed help with that.

After getting the tree, two neighborhood families came over with their children (ages 2, 7 and 10) to help decorate it. I knew it would be awfully hard to do it alone. Afterwards we had cocktails and a potluck meal.

The dads set the tree up. I told them it was fine to swear at the tree stand - Doug always did. Then the kids decorated. I thought all the ornaments would end up in the lower 2 feet, but the boys got up on ladders and did an awesome job, with the guidance of their moms.

I tried to help, but every ornament I picked up had too many memories associated with it. We always looked for one when we traveled to a new place, to remind us.

There were a pair of handmade wooden ornaments my sister gave us on our first Christmas - one was a bride and one was a groom. I tried to hang them on the tree but started bawling and dropped the groom. It was just too hard. Maybe next year. But this year's tree looks absolutely beautiful. It sparkles and glows and fills the room. I leave the lights on day and night.

I purchased a red light in Doug's name for the Woodstock Tree of Life ceremony on December 12th. Donations benefit Hospice & Palliative care of Northeastern CT. All over NE CT, they call out the names of loved ones lost, turn on the trees, and sing Christmas carols. I think it will be sad but hopefully healing.


12/05/2010 - Dynamite - click to open

For the first months, every morning started with tears. They are getting farther and farther apart. I don't think it means I have forgotten. Instead, I think it means I am coming to terms with loss.

Despite that, I still don't really believe Doug is dead. There is still a gaping hole in my world and inside me. As LD said, it is as if dynamite blew up there.

Yesterday a widow came by to visit and give me a gift of a book. Her husband of 54 years died in September 2009. Her pain was still so intense. Even though she has children and grandchildren, the holidays without her husband are heartbreaking for her. The tears poured down her face. I wished I could ease her pain. All I could do was offer comfort. I told her I cared about her and wanted her to continue to go on. I hope she will be okay.

The next morning I woke up and missed Doug terribly. I am so sad that his life is over. That our shared life is over. That his family and friends ache.

I curled up and cried and sobbed so hard that I could barely breathe. I lay there for a while. Then I got up and went about the day.

I laugh much more now. I feel happy at times. I am starting to have fun again. I have some hope. I enjoy the company of my friends and family. On occasion, I can talk about something other than Doug, and think about something other than myself and loss. I consider living and the future more often.

I knew all this was POSSIBLE earlier, but did not really BELIEVE it would happen, and that I could survive. For the first time, I am starting to know in my heart what I knew from the beginning in my head. Life will never be the same again, but it can still be good.

I could not have come this far alone. I am so grateful to my friends and family.


12/07/2010 - Sleep - click to open

Before Doug died, I used to sleep 9-10 hours a night. Even so, I was often still tired.

After losing Doug, for weeks I barely slept an hour or two a night. Eventually I got up to 4-5 fitful hours.

Lately I've made it up to six or seven hours. I feel rested. I think it is a combination of 5-HTP (an herbal combination that is supposed to promote natural sleep cycles - RS recommended it. It contains trytophan and griffonia something or other, etc.), regular exercise (I walk 15-20 miles a week), time and pure exhaustion.


12/09/2010 - Spooky Signs? click to open

Something very spooky happened. I was painting in the back room (which is going to be my new bedroom) when I heard a crash. I thought maybe the cat had knocked something over.

After a bit, I went through the living room towards the kitchen to get an iced tea. A little Willow Tree happiness angel figurine of girl with arms outstretched and bluebirds that a dear friend had given me was lying on the floor. It had fallen off the bookcase. It was not in a place where the cat every went, and besides, he was sleeping by the fire. Its right arm was broken in three places.

I was disappointed - I love that statue - it's so exuberant. I wondered if I could repair it. It reminded me of a thought I had about accepting someone in your life. Maybe there are things about them you don't like, but you don't take part of the person - you don't say, okay, I'll take that person but cut their arm off first. They are a package deal.

A while later I took a break from painting and went upstairs to email a friend about plans. I heard another crash downstairs. I went down to see what happened. Two more things were lying on the floor in front of the bookcase. One was a Willow Tree angel of healing figurine. (By the way, I didn't know what the names of either of these figurines was. I just liked them. This one was also given to me by a friend. It is a girl holding a wounded bird.) It was not broken.

A picture was also lying on the floor. It was a photo of Doug in a silver filigree frame. In the photo, he had been flying a kite. He is looking up at the sky, and the clouds are reflected in his sunglasses. I had placed this photo on top of his ashes at the wake. Later I learned that when Doug was found, he was lying on his back, looking up at the sky. The frame was bent.

I looked up on the bookcase where the items had fallen from. I have the mahogany box containing Doug's ashes up there. I haven't decided what to do with them yet. I had put the box there the night after the funeral. Family and Doug's climbing friends had come over to the house, and we were all drinking and talking. I brought Doug's ashes down from the bedroom because I felt like he would want to be a part of it. I placed a picture frame in the front of the box so no one would feel uncomfortable. They have been sitting there ever since. JC recently mentioned that he thought Doug would want to be outside, so I had been thinking about doing something with them.

I wondered what it meant, if anything.

On December 8th, which was six months to the day, I was at a friend's house. We were standing by the fireplace, drinking a glass of wine. A Christmas tree I had helped him decorate was in the room. It was about 30 feet from where I was standing. He left the room and suddenly a red sparkling Christmas tree ball fell from the tree and rolled into the middle of the room, towards me.

It felt very spooky. It seemed like more than a coincidence. Of course it might mean nothing. But I am open to the possibilities. I tried to think about what it might signify. Was it Doug sending me a message? The universe sending me a message? Me sending out signals? As PS would say, is everything a metaphor? Do things happen that awaken something else inside us and bring us insights because of the way we interpret them? Am I being crazy like the Oh My God Double Rainbow Insane Guy?

  • Doug sending a message.
  • Doug saying don't forget about me.
  • Maybe he is jealous that I am starting to live again and think about the future- what about him? (This makes me feel guilty)
  • That I'm not paying enough attention to actively grieving.
  • That Doug wants me to do something with his ashes.
  • On the Christmas tree ball, maybe that he wants me to "keep the ball rolling"
  • That my world is disrupted and I am sending vibrations out to that effect and knocking things down.

I have NO idea. It certainly did spook me though, and make me think.


12/15/2010 - Feeling overwhelmed - click to open

I am feeling terribly overwhelmed. In the past I have never really felt stressed out by the holidays. This year it has hit me hard.

  • I have not sent out a single holiday card (no Christmas letter this year - just a small photo collage of Doug. Some folks still don't know....)
  • I am trying to keep the momentum going on the back room. This room will be my new bedroom and sanctuary. It is too hard being in the other room that Doug refinished for me when I moved back to CT. I was hoping to be in by Christmas - that won't be happening.
    • still need to finish painting walls and woodwork. I went through 14 colors before I gave up and asked a friend with a better sense of color than I will ever have to pick the wall colors - then went to the Benjamin Moore store and let them pick the trim color.
    • install antique heart pine flooring (bought from a local forest products company that has been wonderful to work with - Hull Forest). My brother is flying up from NC this weekend to put the flooring down.
    • seal floors
    • stain floors
    • varnish floors
    • hunt down electrician to have him come out and finish up
    • install light fixtures
    • paint and hang closet doors
    • pick out fabric for window treatments. (I'm planning on putting up insulated fabric shades made by a local company called Energy Cinch.)
    • get the window treatments
    • finish carpentry
    • move all furniture down there
  • My house looks like a bomb went off in it. Clutter and laundry and crap everywhere.
  • Pay bills
  • Line up installation of new wood stove
  • Line up insulator (getting walls insulated - the house is FREEZING!)
  • Take care of daily chores - feeding goats and ducks, laundry
  • Walking 3-5 miles, 4-5 times a week
  • Keeping in touch with family and friends
  • Get caught up with work work (training, annual planning, projects)
  • Christmas shopping
  • Open Christmas cards (so far I have not been able to open a single one)
  • Deal with problems at the rental properties
  • Unanswered emails and voice messages
  • Holiday invites
  • More and more and more and more and more. Trying to do everything myself around This Old House plus handling the responsibilities for my job, our five rental properties, and my website design business is more than I can manage right now. I feel like I am disappointing everyone. I feel guilty that I cannot keep up and meet my obligations.


12/16/2010 - Relapse - click to open

One of the grieving books I read said that sometimes people who have lost a loved one to sudden death may experience a difficult time six and nine months afterwards.

I thought I was doing remarkably well. I was even getting into the holiday spirit, shopping for the children, decorating the house.

But then two days ago, it hit me hard. I had two total meltdowns - one at a friend's house, and one at a restaurant. I was unable to control the gargantuan crying jags.

The first was precipitated by a difficult memory. The weekend before Doug died, we had woken up and were lounging around in bed. I laid my head on Doug's chest and listened to his heart beating. It sounded so strong and even. I thought I never wanted that sound to stop and told him so. A few days later he was lying on the hospital gurney, gray, still and lifeless. I am still unable to believe it is true.

Today, I was in a restaurant with a friend and was completely overwhelmed. She too is a widow, and understood completely. I felt sorry for our waitress though.

I know the hectic-ness of the holidays is playing a role. I feel that as if my life is completely out of control. I have been neglecting important responsibilities. Instead I have focused on painkiller-type distractions. (Not drugs though - I have never even tried a recreational drug. I was always afraid I would like it and that it would take control of me.) I had been spending time with special people actually been having fun and feeling joy again.

But it all came crashing down on me. The pain is back full force. I feel exhausted and sick to my stomach. I have no patience with myself. I am tired of being a burden to family and friends. I feel guilty about enjoying life again.

My lunch friend noted that everybody who spent more than 5 minutes with Doug couldn't help but fall in love with him. I loved him. I miss him terribly. I don't know if I will ever come to terms with the fact that I am no longer his wife, but his widow.



I scheduled a physical. I haven't had one in a while - I had been focusing on Doug's health for the past years - dislocated shoulders, high blood pressure, the fainting incident, etc.. I noticed I have really been craving salt. I read that "Craving salty foods can also be a symptom of adrenal exhaustion, especially in people who live fast-paced, stressful lives." I certainly have never experienced so much stress....


On a more positive note, I received several photos from a friend of Doug's at DEP. RF was the organizer of the faux retirement party held at Arch Street Tavern. I had brought along a box of Doug's ties. He wore one to work almost every day for 27 years. I asked folks to take one as a keepsake if they wished. Here is the note I got from RF. It is odd how it is possible to be both happy and sad at the same time.

"Several of us at DEP proudly wore our “Z” ties yesterday in memory of Doug. I have 3 Z ties and selected a red one to wear as it was a bit more festive than the other two. When I got to work I examined the tie I was wearing and noticed it has a juice stain on it – a true mark of authenticity! When I mentioned it to others, they too found subtle indications of food or drink, and two people even price tags still on theirs. We all felt his presence."

Doug's mom said they always knew what chair at the dinner table had been occupied by Doug, due to the food debris below. He was a bit of a savage when he ate. Food often ended up all over his face, hands, shirt and pants.

At work, Doug ran every day at noon. This was followed by a quick shower, donning clothes without even drying off his back (which he forgot about because he couldn't see it), and dashing back to his desk for a quick meal he typically didn't even bother to heat up. Sometimes he ate things like Raviolo's directly from the can, using a ruler or pair of scissors in lieu of a utensil.


I scheduled a physical. I haven't had one in a while - I had been focusing on Doug's health for the past years - dislocated shoulders, high blood pressure, the fainting incident, etc.. I noticed I have really been craving salt. I read that "Craving salty foods can also be a symptom of adrenal exhaustion, especially in people who live fast-paced, stressful lives." I know about stress....

12/19/2010 - Objects In the Mirror - click to open

My brother flew up from NC for the weekend to install the antique heart pine flooring in my future bedroom/sanctuary. In exchange, I gave him Doug's vehicle. He and a friend wrought wonders despite the limitations of time, tools and timber.

My brother is a fabulous builder and carpenter. However, he does have a few rough edges. He is not exactly the gentle type, and often loses patience with me.

On Saturday, he was giving me a bit of a hard time and being demanding. He wanted to complete this difficult project in a very short time frame. The quality of the wood was not as expected, and I didn't order enough. On top of that, I suppose I was being annoying. My brother spoke to me gruffly. I launched into Screech Owl mode, telling him I could not tolerate him talking to me that way. The meltdown wasn't pretty.

The incident made me miss Doug even more than usual. I retreated to kitchen, knelt down on the floor and wept for quite some time.

It is hard to be so dependent on others for help - in both big and small things. I feel I am asking too much of others. When Doug and I worked on the house, we did it together - it was Our House, Our Home, a labor of love.

I also thought about how, regardless of how irritating, cranky or demanding I got, Doug rarely spoke a harsh word to me. He could disarm me with a joke or a hug or a smile. His patience with me and the challenging projects around This Old House was seemingly endless. In our interactions, he showed me respect, and surrounded me with his love.

I wished he were back so badly. I need him so.

Up until recently, I thought I had been doing rather well. I felt I was getting stronger every day, moving back to a new normal, beginning to live again. The tears were farther and farther apart.

This episode highlighted that I still don't have much of a cushion to handle stressful situations (and the demands of everyday living) as well as I should. People around me may think, based on the passage of time (6 months and 1 week) and my apparent improvement that this should no longer be the case.

This made me think of how the side mirrors of a car usually have a warning label that says something along the lines of "Warning: Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear." Sometimes I feel like I should wear a label that says "Warning: I am more fragile than I appear."


12/20/2010 - Christmas Run - click to open

JG invited me to join the DEP running guys for their annual holiday run. Their tradition was to stop halfway at Arch Street Tavern for tasty beverages and then complete the run.

I'm so glad they let me meet up with them during the break - it was awesome to see them again.

I got lots of sweaty hugs (how I miss those) and listened to wonderful stories. It was great to hear their lively banter. They told me that they stopped for a moment of silence at Charter Oak Landing, where Doug's life ended. I know they miss him so. He left such a hole behind.


12/21/2010 - Christmas Cards - click to open

Christmas cards are pouring in. Doug and I used to open them together each night. I have not been able to open a single one yet. For the first time in years, I have not written a Christmas letter. My heart just was not in it.


01/03/2011 - the worst Christmas ever + some good parts - click to open
What can I say. It was the worst Christmas holiday season ever in many ways.

There were some good parts. The good parts included being with family and friends.

The good parts did not include plowing my car into the stonewall in my driveway after the first snowfall. (I am fine, the stonewall is fine, the car is not.) Or receiving countless Christmas cards addressed to both Doug and I, none of which I have had the heart to open yet.

I have been overwhelmed and unfocused. I am back to putting my clothes on inside-out and backwards, and putting dirty clothes in the dryer instead of the washer. Wandering around losing my glasses and gloves.

I had many invitations to join folks on Christmas Day, but chose to spend it alone with memories. I miss Doug terribly.

I know it will not be as hard next year. I will welcome that. In the interim, I muddle along.
01/08/2011 - New Year's Resolutions - click to open

Two of my New Year's Resolutions are to simplify my life and slow down. I plowed my car into a stone wall and have dropped a gazillion balls over the past 7 mos. I need to get my life back in order.

There have been many many significant changes in my life in the past 3 mos. I can't write about them yet, but will soon.

I am off to visit my mom in North Palm Beach. Since she is low tech, I can't blog from there, but hope to when I return.

I thank everyone for their cards (I have not been able to open a single Christmas card yet) and thoughts and emails. Please forgive me for being out of touch, but know that I am surviving, and every day am getting a bit stronger.

I wish you much health and happiness in 2011.

01/26/2011 - Florida, Manatees - click to open

I went to visit my mom in Florida for 2 weeks, which is why I have been silent. It was a good break. Time to relax, think and get some rest.

I also managed to avoid 3 feet of snow fall! Which made me wonder why I live in CT.

Since I am a part-time "virtual" employee of a non-profit in WA state, I could live anywhere. I chose CT for one reason - because it was where Doug was. I learned to love our little rural town and our community. It is the first place that ever felt like home. I've been here for 13 years, which is the longest I've ever lived in one place. (We moved around a lot when I was growing up, and then I made a number of transfers for work.) I know how lucky I am to have landed here - without my friends and neighbors, I'm not sure I would have made it this far.

It was hard going to Florida - it was the last "away" (non-camping) vacation Doug and I went on last spring. So many memories of fun times there together.

I was walking along the waterway and had a major crying jag to the Four Tops Song "Reach out to me." Doug was always there for me to comfort me.... I miss him so much.

I've been going to Florida each year for about 15 years. I've always wanted to see a manatee. These gentle sea creatures are not usually in the area when I am there.

This time I saw a lone male three times. One time it swam along side me as I walked. I wondered if Doug sent it.... Seeing it made me feel serene and safe. And full of wonder.

01/29/2011 - Uncertainty - click to open

Woody Allen is credited with saying something along the lines of "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans." And then if you really want to crack him up, tell him what you think you know.

Before Doug died, I had well defined short and long term plans. I thought we were going to retire, play and travel and camp, work side by side, live and love in our old house until we were in our mid-70's and then maybe move somewhere warmer to live out the rest of our days. I knew that Doug and I would be together forever.

So much for that.

Now each day I try to figure out what to do next, how to survive on a reduced income, how to manage This Old House. I have to make big decisions without the benefit of Doug's input, knowledge, guidance and wisdom. Worst of all, I have to figure out how to survive the most devastating loss I have ever experienced when the person I lost is the same person who would have helped me through it.

I know I'm not the first person who has struggled through this. I know I'm not the last. I also know that if I live long enough, there will be more losses to bear.


I have not done many simple things yet. Like finish all the thank you notes I owe. Or notify the cable company that Doug is no longer the account holder. I think this is partly because, even though I "know" that Doug is dead, I cannot grasp it.

A widower reminded me of these lines that Jackson Browne wrote after he lost his wife.

"I must have thought you'd always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you're nowhere to be found

I don't know what happens when people die
Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try

It's like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can't sing, I can't help listening
And I can't help feeling stupid standing 'round
Crying as they ease you down
'Cause I know that you'd rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
No matter what fate chooses to play
There's nothing you can do about it anyway"


02/04/2011 - A Perfect Storm of Grief - click to open

What was I thinking?

I wanted to keep moving on and through grief. Therefore, I figured it would be a good idea to have Doug's climbing buddies come over and go through Doug's climbing things together. Doug would want his equipment used. The men who had climbed with him for three decades could decide what they would like to keep, and what to donate to the Boy Scouts and the outing club that Doug belonged to when he went to college at Eastern.

I also wanted to take advantage of their strong backs to help me move out of my old bedroom into the new renovated room downstairs.

As Doug would have said, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

RP, his wife MP and DB came over. We had some wine which DB managed to dump on the carpet. (No worries, he was just "doing a Doug.")

AP brought me a wonderful gift - an amazing album filled with climbing adventure photos. The tears began to flow before I even opened it.

After some more wine and pizza, we proceeded with the drunken moving. I thought it would be a relief. I expected to be uplifted by moving from our formerly shared and now lonely bedroom into the new room. I could be in a new space while staying in the house we loved.

Instead, after we were done, the new room looked cold and bare. When I went back up to our former bedroom, it was an empty gaping hole. Just like the one in my heart.

Then we started going through the climbing equipment. It felt like dismembering someone's life. To see and touch all the things he carried. ...things I saw him packing, unpacking, gifts I gave him, mildewed and mothballed, scattered to the winds. It was awful. Awful. As bad as the day of the funeral.

I wonder when the pain will become bearable.


02/20/2011 - Interesting Recent Articles about Grief - click to open

Friends recently sent me several interesting articles about grief:

I found these articles interesting. They challenge some pat beliefs and myths that society and many counselors have come to accept as absolute truths.

I think it's important to remember that everyone grieves in their own way, in their own time. The Time Magazine article argues that getting help doesn't really help. For me, writing, talking with friends, and getting counseling has kept me alive.

It says the only thing that really helps is time. Yet a book I read recently said that time is not enough. For example, if you get a flat tire, and pull over on the side of the road, you can wait patiently forever but the tire will not magically re-inflate. You must DO something with time if you want to mend and be whole again. That really resonated for me. I am actively trying to recover from loss. (Sans the patience part.)

A friend noted that Kubler-Ross ended up involved in mediumistic attempts to communicate with the dead, denial of death as anything other than a stage to the next incarnation and even the basic notion of death itself. She had various spirit guides including Anka (a 7’10” Bedouin), Salem and Willie.


02/21/2011 - I don't yet know how to let go - click to open

I was away all last week for work. It was a miserable 6 day trip.

I saw a lot of friends and colleagues I had not seen since Doug died. They offered heartfelt condolences and shared their own stories of loss. Their compassion was wonderful. It was also painful and exhausting. I cried myself to sleep each night in my lonely hotel room.

I found it hard to care about work, and felt very guilty. I am not getting paid any less because I am distracted and sad. I owe my absolute best to my clients. Yet I am not fully present.

I know that when I weep, it worries my friends. Perhaps they wonder whether I am going to make it. It would be easier to give up, but that is not a choice I ever intend to make. (See thoughts of suicide.) I'll admit that in those first few months after Doug died, I found myself longing for a quick end to the pain.

One day, I was out for a walk. I was crossing the road when a car whizzed by and nearly hit me. At that moment, I realized I would not be sorry if I were hit by a car. But I did have concerns. I would not want it to hurt (I'm not into pain.) I worried that it would leave a mess, and traumatize the driver forever, or that they would try to avoid me and veer off into a telephone pole and be injured themselves. I also worried about NOT getting killed - just maimed or paralyzed.

After I met Connor, I found myself in the same scenario, and realized that I wished to live. In some ways, much has changed over the past eight months. And yet there are days it feels like it happened yesterday. When I say out loud that Doug is dead, or that I am a widow, I still cannot believe it is true.

At times I am consumed with wanting one thing - to have Doug back, alive and well. It is one thing I can never have. I believe I need to figure out how to let go of that wanting, or the suffering will continue unabated.

The grief counselor I am seeing tells me that the pain does not last. She said that some people are actually afraid to let go of their grief because they think it means letting go of the loved one they lost. She said that the pain can actually be a barrier and when it does leave, you feel closer to your loved one.

I don't fear letting go of Doug - I could never forget him. I just don't know HOW to let go of wanting him to be alive.


02/22/2011 - So very tired - click to open

I'm tired. Tired of being confused and making mistakes. Tired of being overwhelmed by This Old House, where it seems like everything is broken. Tired of not meeting other people's expectations as a worker (missing deadlines, not being productive.)

Tired of not meeting the expectations of others as a widow - society and some individuals have preconceived notions about what is appropriate - how and when to grieve and move on.

I'm also tired of crying. In the past, I probably went a year or two at a time - maybe even more - without crying. Still, after almost nine months, I can barely get through a day without tears.

Sometimes it makes me want to go jump in the lake. Except it's frozen solid :-). Or jump out a window. Except there is six feet of snow on the ground.

Instead, I have gone into a hole. Not returning phone calls or emails, declining kind and loving invitations. Despite being endlessly grateful that people care and have not forgotten me, I just don't have the energy. I hope people are not offended, and don't give up on me. I know a blog is not a great way to communicate with people who care, but it's all I can handle, and even that is too much sometimes.

I know it will get better in time though.


Last night PS went out on the frozen lake and sent a "Sky Lantern" aloft on the anniversary of his wife's death. It was beautiful - a fiery glow inside the fragile tissue paper cylinder, filling up with heated air and then gently and slowly floating up into the night sky. We watched it for quite a while, mingling with the stars until finally winking out.

People commemorate anniversaries in different ways. I hope people will consider donating blood on June 8, 2011 in Doug's honor. It is not an option for everyone, but would be life-affirming. Doug earned "active hero" status with the Red Cross after years of regular donations.


02/27/2011 - Why We Write About Grief (NY Times article) - click to open

Why We Write About Grief - NY Times, 02/26/2011 - interview with authors who wrote about coping with the loss of a loved one - Joyce Carol Oates’s “A Widow’s Story,” about the death of her husband, and Meghan O’Rourke’s “The Long Goodbye,” about mourning her mother. Thanks to Donna for sending me this link. Some parts that really spoke to me included:

"...writing helped us puzzle through this bewildering change in an age that’s largely let go of the ceremonies that helped bridge the stark boundary between inner sorrow and outer functioning ....mapping the intimate contours of this mysterious transformation we all experience...." - O' Rourke

"...the act of writing is an act of attempted comprehension, and, in a childlike way, control; we are so baffled and exhausted by what has happened, we want to imagine that giving words to the unspeakable will make it somehow our own." - Oates

"...the essence of widowhood is to find a way, however desperate, to keep yourself alive." - Oates

"But often on a sunny, pristine day I get a pang that I am here when she is not. That unmovable fact — that she will never be here again — hurts me because I love her. (My love did not die when she did.) That strange, kinetic commingling of love and pain has been, for me, the atmosphere of grief." - O'Rourke

"I think — am certainly less in grief’s grips than I was a year ago. But it’s not gone. I’m changed by it, the way a tree is changed by having to grow around an obstacle." - O'Rourke

"Profound losses leave us paralyzed and mute, unable really to comprehend them, still less to speak coherently about them. Yet, eventually, we do speak — we breathe, we sleep, we eat, we go for walks in the sun, we find ourselves laughing with our friends — we marry again (as I have), to our astonishment — as we lose the white-hot flame of the most intransigent grief, and pass into another, less desperate sort of being. ...We want to believe that the deceased whom we loved would love us enough to wish us well, in what remains of our lives." - Oates


A book that changed my life - literally.

More coming if you can stand it. Have some Prozac handy.

Blog continued: February - April 2011

Also see Blog for: June-July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November - February 2011 | March - June 2011 | July - October 2011 | November 2011 - June 2012 | July - December 2012 | January 2013 - June 2013 | June 21 2013 - December 2015 | January 2016 - Present


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