I keep bumping up against my unwillingness to accept what's so. That my life has changed. I struggle to accept it and adapt to it. I picture Doug on that gurney in the hospital on June 8, 2010 I wince and say NO. It cannot be.
They say this keeps me in suffering.
PS and I went to the lovely wedding of a neighbor's daughter, with most of our friends from the 'hood. We had a lot of fun and danced all night. PS was a real sport and great company.
I did break down at several points. Doug would have been so glad to see KD getting married, and of course would have enjoyed the party afterwards.... He loved to dance. Unfortunately, he had no sense of rhythm whatsoever, kind of like Steve Martin in the movie The Jerk. His movements and the music were completely disconnected. But he danced with wild abandon. Sometimes the wild part was hazardous for me - getting my arm almost yanked out of the socket as he flung me into walls, pillars and other dancers. But it was fun to see his exuberance.
One thing I noticed during the service were the references to death. I said these same vows...but did not pay attention to the part about it ever ending. I thought it was forever. Yet we clearly say ".to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part... or "for as long as we both shall live...."
I guess technically you are no longer married when one spouse dies. But most widows/widowers still FEEL married....
At the reception, a friend asked me how long I intend to wear my engagement and wedding rings. I said maybe forever...but who knows. (More.) For now, I want to wear it. I have them on my right hand.
I blog less often now for a couple of reasons.
I keep having nightmares about lost identity. I lose my wallet, or license, or all forms of identification and am stranded without them. It probably has to do with how much of my life and identity have changed as a result of being widowed. The most notable sensation I had in the beginning, other than sadness, was feeling lost.
I am not sure who I am now. ( I introduced myself to someone the other day as "Doug's wife." But I suppose that is no longer true. Should I say " I WAS Doug's wife?")
I am also not sure of where my life is going. What to do about the house...where I will live in the future, etc. etc. etc....
I get so overwhelmed sometimes. I know my peers wonder why - I don't work full time (although I do run my own business in addition to having a part-time, "real" job), I don't have kids, etc. I do have an antique house.
Sometimes when they are pushing me to do something that I don't have the time or energy for, I want to say to them - "Call me when you are a widow. Then you'll know."
Another holiday without Doug. A very empty space at the Thanksgiving table next to me.
Lately I have felt very disconnected/dissociated from the past. As if it belonged to someone else. Maybe this is a good thing, and part of healing? Or maybe it prevents further healing? Who the heck knows. In any case, the sadness remains like an undercurrent.
But I do enjoy much of life again. The relationship with PS is amazing and wonderful. I would wish this for Doug. I do feel guilty about it for myself.
I am not doing too well on my goal to slow down, simplify and be careful. I spilled a half gallon of paint in the trunk of my car. I swear these kinds of things did not happen before....Maybe when I disconnect from the past and the pain, something else disconnects too - the part that pays attention to the present.
It has been almost four years since PS's wife passed away. I asked him if a day goes by when he does not think of her. "No" was the answer.
For me, it has been a year and a half. I live my life, laugh, love, have fun. Hours go by. Then I see him, or hear his voice in my head, or miss him, or feel sad for what he is missing out on.
But there are many more good days than sad ones now. For that I am grateful.
The hardest parts now are leaving our shared life behind, in bits and pieces, large and small. Letting go. I don't know what to compare it to. It is unlike leaving bread crumbs on a trail, because that is so you can find your way home again. I know - at least on an intellectual level - that I can't go back. Maybe it is more like leaving a cocoon or chrysalis behind. What comes next may be really good, but it is still painful to let go of the past.
I was thinking about survivor's guilt, and read this on the Compassionate Friends website (a wonderful resource, mainly for parents who have lost a child.)
"When your parents die, it is said you lose your past; when your spouse dies, you lose your present; and when your child dies, you lose your future. However, when your sibling dies, you lose a part of your past, your present, and your future."
I do think that when a spouse dies, you also lose your past and present. But my heart aches for Doug's brother and sister. They loved Doug and he loved them.
I lost my twin when she was 24, so I know something of what this is like, although the circumstances were very different, and everyone experiences loss in a unique way.
I was also reading about what they call "complicated grief" (also sometimes referred to as "Prolonged Grief Disorder" - do we need to pathologize everything?) See http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/complicated-grief/DS01023. They define it as "painful emotions [that] are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the loss and resuming your own life."
The Mayo Clinic site says "while normal grief symptoms gradually start to fade over a few months, those of complicated grief linger or get worse....in a chronic, heightened state of mourning."
The people I know who have lost a spouse they loved and were very close to really suffered for more than a year - in some cases longer. I'm not sure how or where one could draw a line between "normal" grief and "complicated" grief although they do list some of the more intense and debilitating symptoms. Perhaps one criteria would be a long term refusal to re-engage in life.
I am re-engaging, but feel mighty guilty about it.
Each year before Christmas, Doug and the "running guys" had a tradition during their lunch time run. They jogged to a local bar, went in (wearing shorts, drenched with sweat of course,) downed a pitcher of beer, and then ran back to work.
Last year and this year, I went as Doug's stand-in. We hoisted a few in his memory.
Of course we talk about Doug. But it is all past tense now. We remember him, we do things to honor him, but there are no new memories being generated.
It makes me sad. I am happy to see his buddies. We share the bond of loving and missing Doug. I laugh. But my heart isn't in it. I feel disconnected - perhaps to avoid dealing with reality. It seems so unreal that there is no more Doug. I wonder if the sense of unreality diminishes with time.
PS said for him, when he feels his heart isn't in it, it is because the person - the glue, the ligament, the connection to that part of the past life is gone. He has started a new life.
That part of my life has ended. But I am unwilling to leave it. If I do, I feel I will lose it. But they say it is still with you.
Last year, we were still pretty numb during the holidays. This year is harder in a way, because I am more conscious. It has hit Doug's parents hard. Doug loved Christmas. But without him, it just isn't the same.
The holidays are not supposed to hurt.
I do feel myself coming back a bit. Still no Christmas letter or cards. But I did decorate a tree. And baked a few things.
Made it through another holiday. Some parts were wonderful and fun. Others were sad. I guess that is to be expected. PS reminds me that grief is ever diminishing but never ending.
But I did think there would be fewer tears than there were. I know Doug's family was also surprised at how hard it still is. We all battled the blues, especially this past week. You know how you feel the day after Christmas? Exhausted, weary and a bit let down, as the excitement and joy of the season deflates like a balloon. It was like that for us before the holiday.
I was at a dinner party with PS, and someone I don't know very well asked me where I was spending the holidays. I said I was going to my husband's family's house - but I was at this party with PS, so they were probably thinking - huh? Her "husband"? Am I supposed to call them my dead husband's family? That sounds awful. I still hate saying the "d" word too (part of denial.)
I am lucky to have such wonderful in-laws. I've read some horror stories about in-laws abandoning the surviving spouse. Mine have only been loving, supportive and understanding. I feel just as much a part of their family as I ever way. Doug didn't fall far from that apple tree.
When Doug died, I think something died in me. The ability to care one way or another. Most of the time I just don't.
Like last year, I will have this on my list of New Year's Resolutions: "Simplify. Slow down. Be careful."
Fighting a lousy cold, which makes me less motivated than usual. I feel like my head and sinuses are stuffed full of marshmallow fluff. When Doug was sick with a cold - which happened often, since he was exposed to germville at work, he would watch Jerry Springer. He thought Trash TV was amusing. I thought it was torture.
I have moved downstairs in This Old House, and closed off the upstairs. It was too hard to sleep in our old bedroom, and the house is too big for just me. Also, the change is part of starting a new life.
But I never did finish cleaning out Doug's closet...his gym bag from the last run still sits on the floor inside. I also didn't bring all my own clothes downstairs.
Today I was carrying some of my clothes downstairs to the new bedroom. A black dress was among a bunch I grabbed. It was one of my favorites - I am wearing it this photo (on one of the oh-so-many happy times with Doug). As I turned the corner to leave our old bedroom and head downstairs, the cuff of the dress sleeve got caught on the door latch. I stopped, as I felt something holding me back. It looked like an arm, grabbing on, not wanting to let go, not wanting to leave.
I know, it's ridiculous....
PS and I have also been working on the upstairs bathroom. It desperately needed to be repainted, but Doug and I never got around to it. We planned to gut it someday. But also, he was sentimental about one part. Our first joint project was stencilling the wall around the ceiling. Painting it would have involved covering it up, so we just left it.
I painted over the stencils yesterday. I could still see them through the first coat.
It made me sad.
I am going through things upstairs, to downsize and prepare to possibly sell this big house next Spring. It is not easy. There is so much STUFF - 35 years worth of Doug's things and mine.
It is tedious, but easier to go through my things. I am donating things I no longer use or need, recycling old papers, etc. I came across a bunch of awards and letters of commendations I received in my career and for volunteer activities. I kept them mostly because Doug would get so excited - he was so proud of my accomplishments. They don't matter to me anymore, except for a few volunteer awards that are meaningful to me. SO I'm just throwing them out.
It is SO much harder when it comes to Doug's things. I can't bear to part with a piece of paper that has his scribble on it, because I know there won't be any more of them. Today I came across a list he was making of things he might get me for Christmas. Notes from checking bluebird nestboxes while I was on travel, with silly stuff scribbled in the margins. The numbers he wore during races.
And then there are the cards he gave me. I saved every one. Some were extremely funny, others were very sentimental. I found this one today, mixed in with a stack of papers.
The picture on the front of the card is of a white Victorian house with gray shutters, just like ours. Two comfortable chairs are sitting on the porch in the sunshine. The card says:
On the porch,
Many years from now
You will sit on the swing,
I will sit in the chair,
And the fragrance of lilacs
Will hang in the air.
I will tell you a story
I've told you before.
We will laugh (like the last time)
And tell a few more.
Then perhaps we will say it,
And perhaps we will not,
But both our old hearts
Will be thinking this thought -
That it's good to be known,
And it's good to be there.
Where the fragrance of lilacs
Hangs in the air.
Doug and I sat together out on our wraparound porch in all kinds of weather. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner there, or took a coffee break from work, or enjoyed cocktails there. We would read the paper (trying to prevent the goats from grabbing it before we finished), and watch the snow, rain and rainbows, observe the birds flying around the Christmas Tree farm across the way, talk, make Honey Do lists, visit with the neighbors, and laugh. Where Doug was, there was always laughter. He would tell me the same jokes and stories he'd told me a gazillion times before, but he still got energized about them, and I still found them entertaining.
And he loved it when the lilacs bloomed. He often broke off a big branch loaded with flowers, brought them inside and put them in a vase for me, where they made a mess as the petals and pollen littered the table.
After reading the card, I broke down and wept. Even now, after a year and a half, sometimes the pain and the missing is almost unbearable.
But I was also amazed because of a coincidence. PS writes poetry. One of my favorites was written three years after his wife died. One of the lines is "The lilacs don't hurt me this year." Read The Third Spring here.
Many people report that they feel as if their heart has broken when they lose a loved one, either through death, divorce, or breakup.
There was an interesting online article in Time about grief and heart attacks. It's more evidence of the physiological impact of loss. See http://healthland.time.com/2012/01/10/how-grief-can-break-your-heart/.
"...the extent of grief’s effect on the heart was more eye-opening. Losing someone raises the risk of having a heart attack the next day by 21 fold, and the risk of a heart attack in the following week by six times. The apparently broken hearts showed signs of mending after about a month, when risk of heart attacks started to decline."
An article in Shape magazine (July 2011) talked about how to banish the breakup blues. They recommended three things:
1. Move your body. Exercise leaves you feeling fit, energized, and better about yourself.
2. Focus on You. Put the energy you used to invest into the lost relationship into realizing your own dreams - taking classes, blogging, pursuing your ideal job, or volunteering.
3. Start fresh. Clean house. It takes a lot of energy, but being busy can keep you focused on the future rather than dwelling on the past. (Unless of course you keep coming across painful reminders of the person you lost, like I did yesterday.)
I went through some of Doug's clothes months ago, and donated a lot of the best things. There are so many needy people out there these days. But then I fell apart, and couldn't do it anymore.
There were many items I simply couldn't bear to part with. I could picture him wearing them, on a special occasion or just hanging around This Old House. T-shirts with holes from battery acid, covered with grease or Bondo. One he was wearing while using Gorilla Glue on some project. He accidentally glued the shirt to his chest (taking that one off hurt.) There are zillions of T-shirts from all the races he ran. I'm planning on cutting them up and making a quilt out of them. But even taking scissors to them is difficult.
The worst was the gym bag from his last run. It has been sitting in the bottom of the closet for the past year and a half. Inside were the clothes he ran in on his last day. They had removed them in the Emergency Room. Also the sneakers he was wearing on his last run, with magic marker on the back heels that said 5/17/10 - so he could keep track of how many miles he had put on them. He only had them for a few weeks. And the clothes he wore to the office on his last day. Plus supplies - band-aids (for the ubiquitous cuts), a leaking pen, a dirty coffee cup, a bar of soap, some Crystal Light, spare change, his glasses, and...of course... a can of Bud Lite.
I was sitting on the closet floor weeping and heard the cat crying. I thought he was just sympathizing. But he sounded really far away, so I went looking for him. Turns out he was outside! He had snuck out when I returned from a walk, and was freaking out. Tenzing is a TOTALLY spoiled indoor cat. (See an article I wrote for my column on why cats should be kept indoors.) Doug would NOT have been pleased that I accidentally let him out.
The closet is empty now. He's not coming back.
Today on the radio they noted that it is the two year anniversary of the devastating earthquakes in Haiti. I had completely forgotten about their tragedy. I'm sure the people living there, or who lost their family, friends, homes, and possessions have not forgotten.
Yet I expect people to remember my loss, and understand why I am still a mess. How unrealistic and self-involved that is.
I heard Warren MacDonald being interviewed on NPR. (See a YouTube video of him here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyFn43G7HAQ.) He was an outdoorsman trapped under a one-ton rock for 45 hours after a freak accident. He lost both legs above the knee. Now, as an amputee, he hikes, ice climbs, mountain climbs, swims, and markets himself as a motivational speaker.
In the interview, he said that if he could, he "wouldn't change a thing."
The interviewer asked him if he missed his legs. He said no. He claimed he doesn't wake up and look down and wish he had legs. He said he gained far more than he lost.
I don't get it. Would I change a thing about what happened to Doug, and then to me as a result of loss? You bet your *ss. Do I miss Doug? I sure do, all day long.
I do get one part. MacDonald said you need to figure out what you want in life and go for it. That I can understand. And you don't take things for granted. But fortunately I figured that out before losing Doug. (See the things I don't regret.)
A friend just forwarded me a link go a NYT article - Grief Could Join List of Disorders - When Does a Broken Heart Become a Diagnosis? The American Psychiatric Association has long excluded grief from its definition of depression. By including it as a form of depression, more people would be eligible for treatment covered by insurance.
Sometimes grief gets out of control (like with the son in the movie Psycho. Or me), lasts for an extended period of time, and/or can even be life-threatening. And some people (like me) may need help navigating and emerging from grief. But....grief and sadness are, in my opinion, normal and natural responses to loss.
To me, the most surprising thing in the article was that “An estimated 8 to 10 million people lose a loved one every year, and something like a third to a half of them suffer depressive symptoms for up to month afterward,” said Dr. Wakefield, author of “The Loss of Sadness.” Only a third to a half? For only a month? THAT makes me feel pathological. I am definitely less of a mess than I used to be, but I'm not out of mourning yet. And the grief counselor warned me that there will always be sadness associated with losing Doug.
The other part of the grief diagnosis that's missing is the part where you go crazy. Many widows and widowers fear they are going mad, and wonder if it's the way they will be from now on. I'm talking denial of reality, delusions, hallucinations, magical thinking, disassociation, irrationality, fear etc. I don't think that is part of depression.
I feel like my way of life, my old life, is being wrenched away from me, little by little. I am certainly not letting it go voluntarily. I'm referring to losing Doug, no longer being a wife, giving up camping, giving away the RV, donating the truck, giving away the truck and now thinking of leaving our home, and so on.
We used to have more than a dozen ducks. Shortly after Doug died, a loose dog (husky) and then a Fisher attacked, leaving only two - Psychoduck and Goldie.
This morning when I went to check into the duck goat pen, Goldie had her neck stretched high, looking around and quacking loudly. I didn't see her friend Psychoduck and thought she might be laying an egg somewhere. Then I found her body. She was upside down and cold. Perhaps she died from being egg bound.
Another piece gone. I don't accept death, especially when it is untimely. Yeah, I know it is how every living thing ends. But I still can't seem to "let go" of the death and pain part and just keep the love and memory part.
Why can't I let go...and live fully in the present. Be grateful for the joy and love that is there, waiting.
I remember a guy telling me a story about his pet snake. It died, and he buried it in the backyard. Later, he got curious, and went outside and dug it up. He thought he found the remains, but it was just a piece of string.
Going through our possessions with moving in mind is turning out to be so painful. It is like digging up a body - the pain is fresh and new. I don't know whether it is better to wait until the pain dulls or to just get it over with - like ripping off a band-aid all at once. I'm guessing it would be easier to just pack stuff in boxes and deal with it years from now. But I want to get it done.
Some of the things wouldn't mean anything to others, except Doug's family. Like the his old report cards that his mother had saved and gave to me when we were married. She also gave me a series of essays he did in fourth grade about his life. I hadn't noticed it before and just read it today. One made me cry. It was about how it felt to be the smallest boy in his class, weighing in at only 49 lbs. He had shared with me how self conscious he was about this when he was young. When I think of the handsome, muscle bound, fine and sensitive man he became....it breaks my heart.
I came across another folder, with no marking on the outside. When I opened it up, I found every card and letter I had ever written Doug. He saved them all. I didn't know.
Sometimes I think about the things Doug will never know or experience. The Giants and Patriots rematch in the 2012 Superbowl is one.
Doug was a SERIOUS Giants fan. When he was little, his brother and he wore full-size replica helmets during the games. As an adult, he morphed into a total drama queen during Giant's games. Our little dog Binky would dash into the kitchen and cower in the corner as soon as she heard a football game on TV. She was not used to her normally even-tempered owner behaving in like a crazy man. Doug screamed, clapped like a seal, swore, jumped up and down, threw himself face forward on the sofa, flung his arms around (breaking a lamp in the process, etc.)
If he was ever going to have a heart attack, I would have thought it was going to happen during the 2007 Superbowl. We were at my mom's condo in Florida. I warned my mom in advance, but she was still amazed at his reaction.
Doug always told me there was no recording of the first Superbowl. The networks taped over the game because they didn't realize how significant it was, and maybe tapes were expensive back then, and nobody had home VCRs.. Today I saw this article that perhaps a tape was discovered in someone's attic after all these years. He would have been fascinated.
Of course I realize this is nothing compared to a father who never gets to see his daughter or son born or married. Still, it makes my heart ache.
In the New York Times, 01/29/2012, Plunging Ahead to Poke the Bear, Elizabeth Weil writes about how she is trying to appreciate her husband and her marriage more. She morosely reads books by widows or widowers. This part of Molly Haskell's "Love and Other Infectious Diseases" struck her.
"At the beginning of the book, her husband, Andrew, falls unaccountability sick, the kind of sick everybody worries about most, in which everything changes instantly, life is upended, and you have no time to adapt and prepare."
"While her husband lies swollen beyond recognition in the intensive-care unit, Ms. Haskell writes of thinking in the generous, forgiving ways we wish we did all the time. "I made deals. I would take Andrew back on any terms," she writes. "I would no longer nag him about reading newspapers all day, or shush him when his voice rose in restaurants. I would cherish his oft-told tales,...his driving." ....
"While Andrew is in the hospital in a condition the nurse describes as "as close to death as a person can come without actually dying," Ms. Haskell evokes the mess in her husbands closet as the "quintessence of Andrew." She writes that "the dozens of mismatching tennis shoes, the scuffed loafers, ties fallen from the tie rack, the hangers tumbling out" take on a "holy glow." She refers to this mess as "the still-warm relic of a saint."
It is funny because it's true. I think most widows and widowers put their dead spouses in the saint category. (See my attempt at realism under Sainthood - Not.)
Most of us also probably obsess about what do to with all their stuff, some of which is really junk. If it were our own, we might just toss it casually in the Goodwill bin. Because it connected to or all that is left of them.... we cherish it and have trouble parting with it.
Some people just close the door on a dead child or parent's room and leave it for years because it is too painful to touch the things they touched, to make decisions, to give or throw their things away. Maybe because it feels as if we are throwing away their life or our love for them.
Note: Haskell refers to quintessence. On my home page, I have a video that I say is quintessential Doug. I never thought about what the word means. PS tells me there are five essences or elements- fire, earth, water and wind. The fifth is the highest element in ancient and medieval philosophy that permeates all things and nature, and is the substance composing celestial bodies - "ether." I guess I believe people's spirits go into the "ether" when they die, but maybe it is their "ether" their survives when they die?
I was surprised when PS shared that when he is helping me with at my house and can't find a tool in the shop, he sometimes asks Doug where he kept it or put it....
Doug's mom said she heard a medium talking on the radio with people who had lost their mate. They were facing some difficult decisions. The medium suggested they ask their lost mate for advice, and to show them a sign as to how to proceed. I suppose it can't hurt... as long as you don't do it in front of other people, as they will probably think you are crazy. Of course, just about everyone IS crazy...and widows and widowers can get REALLY crazy. Grief does strange things to you.
I hope anyone reading this blog realizes that while I mostly write here about loss, my whole life is no longer consumed by it. PS and I sometimes mock each other that we seldom seem to get past double digits (10 a.m.) without bringing up death. But I do go about the day, working, meeting with friends, spending time with family, volunteering, exercising, etc. Most days I do look forward to getting out of bed. And on those days, there are now more happy moments than sad. For that progress, I am grateful.
It's funny, the little things you notice.
When Doug was alive, we always bought regular size Bounty paper towels. He didn't like the select-a-size kind. He was a slob, and needed the big whopping "quicker picker uppers," often grabbing four or five at a time to address whatever accident just happened in his vicinity. I argued that the select-a-size version was more economical and easier to find in stores.
Now I can buy the select-a-size kind whenever I want. I notice this each time I pick up a roll to put in the cart, and each time I use a paper towel. It's a new found freedom. At such a cost.
I can go for days without crying now. Yet I wonder if the pain truly softens over time...or if we just learn to lay a heavy blanket on top of it. The sadness is still there, always just underneath the surface.
PS and I often talk about death - in fact we joke that one of us will probably bring up death before breakfast. PS still struggles with the fact that death doesn't make sense, and that what happened to his wife wasn't fair. I didn't have those issues.
I don't recall ever thinking that life made sense. And I don't really believe there are many "rules" that govern how long someone gets to live, or how they die.
I do understand that there are consequences - e.g., to driving drunk or smoking. People know the risks, and sometimes their choices result in death. That might seem more "fair" than someone who lived a healthy lifestyle but still gets cancer. But I guess I am more fatalistic about it. Unless someone commits suicide, we generally don't have much control over when or how we die. Sh*t just happens.
Did PS's wife or Doug "deserve" to die? No. PS reminded me of a great line the ever-terse Clint Eastwood had in the film Unforgiven.
Gene Hackman: "I don't deserve this, to die like this. I was building a house."
Clint Eastwood: "Deserve's got nothing to do with it." (and then he shoots Hackman in the head.)
I do not seem to be the same person I was when Doug was alive.
As I go through boxes I keep finding remnants of who I used to be.... someone who socialized, volunteered for eight organizations, traveled around the country for work, gave lectures, camped, hiked, wrote a newspaper column, won a bunch of awards, managed a 100 nestbox bluebird trail, etc. etc.
Now I am barely here. Often, I feel like a partial person. It is as if something inside me either was lost, went numb, or died. I feel flat, two-dimensional. The fizz is gone. Elvis has left the building.
Where did I go?
Perhaps it is because I am so absorbed with survival and figuring out how to adapt. The end result is that I've become disinterested in life, and boring, even to myself.
I hope it is just a phase.
I posted earlier about dreams of the dead, including some I had early on, in which Doug was very alive.
More recently I have had dreams where I realize Doug is really dead. For example, last night I dreamed that I was going to make a donation to a Little League organization in Doug's memory. (Doug started playing baseball there and, as a result, enjoyed baseball for the rest of his life.) Maybe this demonstrates more acceptance of reality. Except the same night I dreamed I had a date with Peyton Manning. (Well, maybe that is related to reality too, since I would not have considered going out with him if Doug were alive :-)
I posted earlier about things we interpret as signs from the beyond.
Yesterday, when I was trying to get the house ready to show a realtor, it was too much for me. I was tired and overwhelmed. I started to cry. I said out loud to Doug, "I can't handle this. I need you. You have to help me." Then I left the house. As I drove towards a friend's house (to drop off a children's book about understanding death - their young son was traumatized by Doug's death and has been expressing fear of death lately) a white dove flew over my car. It sent a chill up my spine.
On Tuesday, I was cleaning out the carriage shed. It was dirty and dusty. I thought of how Doug would have done it for me. I looked down in the pile of leaves, sawdust, etc., and saw a Molson beer cap. Molson red cap was his favorite beer. It was surely one of his leftovers. It made me smile.
On Thursday, Jean P called. She has been spearheading the planning, design and installation a Memorial Rain Garden at the Woodstock Historical Society in Doug's honor. The construction crew started digging, and as Jean was watching, a bluebird came over and took a dust bath in the hole. It was probably one of the progeny from our bluebird trails.
Well, after countless crying jags, I signed the papers. The house goes on the market next week. It is not what we had planned...none of this is. But I am going to give it my best shot, and let the Universe figure out what happens next. It is a charming, unique historic farmhouse. I hope a new family will love it as much as we did.
The amount of work to get it ready is exhausting - day after day, month after month.
As PS and I clean-up, repaint, and make trip after trip to donate some things and dump others, I feel as if the past is being erased. We painted over the stenciling Doug and I did together - one of our first joint home improvement projects. We have removed half the furniture and "staged" the rooms for someone else. I have put Doug in boxes - photos, clothes I couldn't part with, his Little League trophy, etc.etc.etc. Little by little, this place is becoming a shell. Maybe that will make it easier to leave the past behind.
The other day while we were working here, PS pointed out something odd. It was raining out. The slate step by the back door was wet, except for two dry spots in the exact shape of footprints. As if someone had been standing still there and the rain outlined their shoes. The footprints were facing out (away from the house.) I thought it was Doug, and so did PS. PS said perhaps he was surveying his domain, hands on hips, saying "Looks good!"
This morning on the radio they were playing James Taylor's "Just Call My Name" -
"When you're down and troubled
And you need a helping hand
And nothing, no nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest nights."
I do find myself talking to Doug sometimes - telling him what is going on, asking for his help, or just saying out loud how much I miss him. I try to do it when no one is watching.
Thinking of Doug brings him closer, but it also makes me very sad. I liked a line from "Breathing" by Jason DeRulo that I heard today - "I only miss you when I'm breathing."
However, when I was showing the house the other day, and relating all that Doug did to restore the place, I felt happy, and so proud of him.
I feel him around me in this house. I worry that if I leave, I will be farther from him and the life we shared here.
I also worry about whether I am doing the right thing by selling the house. But I did notice one interesting thing. For the past four months, my arms and legs have ached terribly, day and night. It started around when I decided to get the house ready to sell. I saw an M.D., a physical therapist and a rheumatologist. They weren't sure what it was, but the rheumatologist guessed it was fibromyalgia. I told him I thought it was just heartache flowing into my limbs.
Last week, the evening after I signed the papers to put the house on the market, I noticed something was missing - the pain. The ache was completely gone.
Things are wonderful with PS. He is an amazing partner and human being. I am building a new life with him. I know that some people (including me) don't understand how I could love again, but it has happened. I feel fortunate.
Today the house was listed for sale. Before the realtors came to take photos there was a hail storm! Hail stones (which PS's sister calls "magic diamonds") were bouncing off the blooming daffodils. Then there was a double rainbow. We saw a number of rainbows shortly after Doug died. Of course I am tempted to think that this is Doug or the Universe watching over me. A friend who just lost her beloved cat thought the hail was a sign for her. And rainbows are there for anyone who notices them.
Every time the listing agent comes, I cry. She is very kind, but she must hear a lot of sob stories. Divorces, death, bankruptcies, foreclosures, people leaving their homes against their plans and will.
I spoke to a cardiac nurse today about what happened to Doug. She looked at his records and said it was probably preventable. I have known this from the first moment I heard he was dead.
It will be two years on June 8th. The grief is not gone. It seems as if it just sleeps underneath a heavy blanket, awakening at unexpected times.
Three articles in this Sunday's New York Times (April 22,2012) struck me.
I think dealing with sudden death is different than losing someone after a protracted illness. I'm not saying one is easier or better than the other - just different. Sudden death tends to involve more trauma. There are flashbacks too.
I was reading about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD.). An article entitled "Why Are We Drugging Our Soldiers?" said that "a shocking combat situation elicits a hard-wired fear response - the flight-or-fight reaction - with intense emotional arousal and a surge of norepinephrine in the brain. This burns in the memory of the traumatic experience. It also promotes fear conditioning, a form of learning in which previously neutral stimuli in the environment - sights, sounds and smells, for example - become linked with a trauma." For me, for example, the phone rang and my life changed forever. Afterwards, unexpected phone calls, or phone calls from numbers I didn't recognize made me fearful. So I stopped answering the phone. (I didn't feel like talking to people anyway.)
The second article was entitled "In Therapy Forever? Enough Already." I saw a grief counselor off and on for about a year. I found it helpful, but after a certain point it was no longer effective. The NYT article said that a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology looked at 2000 people who underwent counseling for 1 to 12 sessions. 88% improved after one session, The rate fell to 62% after 12. "Popular misconceptions reinforce the belief that therapy is about resting on a couch and talking about one's problems...and this often leads to codependence. The therapist, of course, depends on the patient for money, and the patient depends on the therapist for emotional support. And for many therapy patients, it is satisfying just to have someone listen...but there's a difference between feeling good and changing your life....Therapy sessions can work like spa appointments: they can be relaxing but don't necessarily help solve problems. More than an oasis of kindness or a cozy hour of validation and acceptance, most patients need smart strategies to help them achieve realistic goals...Many patients need an aggressive therapist who prods them to face what they find uncomfortable: change. They need a therapist's opinion, advice, and structured action plans. They don't need to talk endlessly about how they feel or about childhood memories."
The third article was relevant to a question someone asked me - about whether I would rather be with PS or Doug. I cannot answer such a question, and besides, the Universe did not give me that choice. The article was by a woman who had an autistic son, and ended up getting a divorce. People asked her whether her son's autism was the reason she and her husband split up, or if there were other problems. Her reply was that "There are always other problems. I can't live my life over again in a parallel universe to find out what my marriage would have been like without Danny's issues. I'll never know, and it doesn't really matter." (Devoted by Dateless, by Hannah Brown)
Doug always wanted to celebrate the entire MONTH surrounding his birthday. This translated into him being greedy for the entire month of July, using the excuse "But it's my Birthday Month!" to get whatever he wanted (e.g., choice of movie we would watch, what we had for dinner, making me go for a torturous hike to some godforsaken muddy place we would get lost in, etc.) One year he was so bad that I made him forfeit his Birthday Month the following year. But it was all good fun - like most everything with Doug.
Anyway, today is my birthday, and when I walked into the laundry room, there was a penny on the floor. Some folks say that pennies are from heaven and are a sign from the "other side." (The phrase "pennies from heaven" did not initially have anything to do with communication from the spirits.)
Monday when I was walking I saw a heart-shaped rock in the road. Of course I pretended that was a sign from him too.
Silly, but comforting. If nothing else, these things are a sweet reminder of a loving life shared.
I wonder if postal workers are ever curious about what lies inside the boxes they handle.
Today I mailed two packages. One of them contained a ratty-looking boy's baseball cap. It was covered with cat hair (too early for beer stains.) It was the hat Doug wore in Little League. I sent it off to Doug's boyhood teammate.
Another package held something I found last week. It had no monetary value, but was so precious that I was almost afraid to trust it to the postal system.
When Doug died, I asked his brother what he would like of Doug's. The backhoe? The RV? Anything at all?
All he really wanted was a small plastic football. He and Doug threw that football around every Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday, in sunny weather, rain and snow.
In the weeks and months after Doug died, I searched for that stupid football. I tore his workshop, the barn, the attic and the house apart looking for that darn thing. Neighbors and family members helped, to no avail. We simply could not find it. I knew it had to be somewhere, but thought I had looked everywhere he might have stashed it.
Then I started cleaning up the house to get it ready to sell. It took four painful months. I saved one place for last. Doug's workshop.
It was so hard to go in there. Doug spent so much time in it, fixing all the things that broke in This Old House, and all the things that Doug himself broke. I cannot walk through the door without picturing him standing by the workbench. I forced myself to go in there the day I was to sign the papers to put the house on the market. I couldn't stall any longer.
There is an old rendering pot in the workshop, from the days when the place was a small dairy farm. A large copper bowl was filled to the brim with stuff. I started to go through it. There were a number of flat wheelbarrow tires, boxes of nails and many pairs (and unpairs) of gloves, most of which were well worn and even duct-taped. When I got to the bottom of the bowl, there it was. The football. At last. I held it in my hands and wept.
Today I mailed the football to Doug's brother. Finding it and sending it off at the end of such a long, grueling process, almost two years after Doug's death, seemed significant. It was about holding on - to memories, to love, to pain. And about letting go.
I watched a sappy chick flick last night called "One Day," starring some actress with a big head (Anne Hathaway?) She dies suddenly. Her husband falls apart, slipping back into bad habits. He gets plastered and ends up in a bloody fight. Afterwards, the widower tells his father he doesn't know what to do. His father gives him a piece of advice.
"Live your life as if she were still alive."
I thought about this afterwards. What would that look like? Certainly not pretending the person is alive - e.g., making dinner for them at night when you know they are never coming home. I don't think it means to never love another person - i.e., be faithful to your dead partner. Maybe it means if you had certain values, enjoyed certain things when they were alive, had dreams, were a better person because of them, keep that up.
Does anybody tell widows or widowers the truth? That is, brace yourself, because life as you knew it is over. I have left so much of me in the past. Lifestyle. Happiness. Joie de vivre, my sense of adventure and fun. Soon I will leave my home.
Along with many who knew Doug, when I have choices to make, I do think about what Doug would do. He was such a good person. Good at doing the right thing, forgiving and forgetting, being caring and thoughtful, etc. I struggle to measure up, to do things that would have made him proud of me.
Four months getting the house ready to put on the market...and then the market is dead. It is like sawing my arm off slowly with a plastic knife. More painful and taxing because it gets dragged out.
Had lunch with a friend today. She said if she were in my shoes, she would be bitter. I'm not bitter. Just sorrowful.
So many people I know are in unhappy marriages. People used to be jealous of mine - or at least of the husband I had.
I continue to be surprised at how much bereftitude still hurts. It seems like the pain should "go away," But perhaps hurt and happiness are twins and are managed in a similar way by our brains. We would not want happiness and happy memories to go away, Why should we expect hurt to completely disappear while only happiness remains?
I often forget how much other people miss Doug too. His friends at work (he worked for the Dept. of Environmental Protection for 27 years) probably miss him every day.
They saw him as an environmental hero: geologist, naturalist, inspiration, positive force, role model, goofball, leader, mountaineer, handy-man, mentor, friend.
It's not just my imagination! He WAS amazing.
It will be two years on June 8, 2012. I still have one foot planted firmly in the past, with the other tentatively in the present.
I remind myself that "The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post." (L. Thomas Holdcroft said that. I have no idea who he was, and so far have been too lazy to look him up. But isn't it odd and fortunate how someone we don't know can say something that is so meaningful and impactful for us?)
I want to stop straddling. My goal is to focus on moving completely into the present (and the future), starting June 9th. I'm wasting time that Doug did not have the opportunity to enjoy. I want to try harder to make the best of it.
The pain is not as bad as it was. But I thought by now it would be much better than it is.
It's amazing how much time I feel spending sorry for myself, wallowing in woe. Last night I was feeling miserable. I fell asleep, and dreamed that a friend was telling me it was my own fault. I said "What do you mean?" He pulled a list out of his pocket and was about to read it to me, and all of sudden Doug was there beside him. I said "Doug's here!" and my friend's list no longer mattered. It was all okay. Doug was smiling and looked so happy - his eyes were bright, and I could feel the love.
Like the other dreams I've had of Doug, he didn't say anything. But I haven't had one of these dreams that felt like a real visit for a long time - maybe a year. I was so glad to see him!
But I knew in the dream that it was just his spirit. I put my arms around him, but then he collapsed - like a balloon being deflated. I felt sad. The other dreams didn't end that way.
There's a line in a haunting song by Gotye, Somebody That I Used To Know:
"You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness"
I imagine that the Raisin Widows are prone to this. I have to watch myself that I don't fall into that trap.
I know I talk about Doug too much. Mostly telling funny stories - there are so many! - and whining about how much I miss him. But the fact is, I think about him all the time. I don't want to forget about him or pretend he never existed.
It is hard for me when other people refuse to mention him. Maybe they do this because it is too painful for them, or they fear it will cause me pain. But to me, that feels like he has been deleted, or no longer matters.
Still, I have to be careful that I don't get stuck in the sadness mode, or blame every difficulty I have, or any unhappiness on Doug's death. Some of it is me, and how I have chosen to deal with his death. And some of it is just life - it's hard sometimes.
If I get sucked into the sadness place and just wallow there, I'm wasting the life I'm fortunate to still be living. If Doug were able to wish now, I think he would wish to have been given more of life to enjoy.
Someone asked me how I was doing. I was feeling weary, and started crying about missing Doug and losing the life we had. (The tears still flow more often than I would like. My lack of self control is amazing.)
Then we started talking about death, and what happens. This woman had lost several people close to her. In my self-absorption, I often forget how many other people have suffered loss.
Anyway, she also had a relative who had a near death experience. She said this person felt like they had been plugged in to something much greater - along the lines of an ecosystem. She said she felt connected, and that it was awesome. The pain was gone (she had been in a car accident.) When she was drawn back to life (remembering her children), all the pain came back.
PS has a friend who had a near death experience. It was so wonderful and peaceful that she says she is no longer afraid to die.
I know these experiences have happened to a lot of people, who report similar sensations. I'd like to believe that they are really experiencing what the transition, and life after death might be like - versus some oxygen deprived hallucination. And of course I would like to believe that Doug's transition was not frightening or painful.
I DO know that, in the dreams I have of Doug, which are like visits, he is happy, smiling, healthy, and full of light and love. I don't know why he never speaks to me. But I can feel him, or his spirit, and I do feel like I am connected to him - plugged in. It's like we don't need to speak (although I usually talk to him in the dreams.)
I just wish I had those dreams more often. They are hard to wake up from.
The Woodstock 10K Memorial Day race. Doug ran it every year he wasn't injured. The 2010 race was his last, just a week before he died.
I went to that race in 2010, as I always did, to cheer him on. I waited at the finish line, watching the hill anxiously until he came over it. Then I delivered lots of water to his sweaty, exhausted but victorious self. Of course he usually had another tasty beverage waiting in the car.
Doug was proud to get a medal that year- third place Woodstock resident in his age group. When we got home that day, he danced around the yard with it while singing "I am the Champion."
Today was the 32 annual race Memorial Day race. This year Doug's buddy JG ran in it, along with our neighbor KG. MC couldn't make it, but registered anyway. The shirts had Doug's name on them, as I am a sponsor. PS and I volunteered at the registration desk, which is always fun.
I warned runners to save themselves for "Agony Incline" as KG's mom calls it - a 1.1 mile long gradual but steep hill at the end of the race. Doug's goal was not to walk it. Most people have a goal not to puke on it. Many F-Bombs are dropped along the way.
PS and I waited at the finish line to clap for the runners and watch KG and JG finish. Except we didn't see JG. We waited and waited. When the last runner came in, followed by the chase car, and still no sign of JG, I panicked. What if something happened to him, and he was lying unconscious or dead along the route? I sensed something of what Doug's running buddies must have felt, when he didn't show up at the locker room after his lunchtime run on that fatal day.
We checked with the race announcer, who said JG has not finished. The chase car hadn't seen him. I was absolutely frantic, shaking and crying as I spoke to the constables. Then JG came out of the crowd. He had finished a while ago and we missed him. He went to take a shower and then came looking for us.
He hugged me and I completely fell apart. Thank goodness he was okay.
I allowed myself to get hysterical. I need to work on getting stronger and more rational!
Since you've gone
I've been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around but it's you I can't replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby please
~ Sting, Lyrics from "Every Breath You Take" (which is actually a song about stalking)
I had a dream last night about Doug. I was in some kind of class, and was telling people about how Doug and I met, and about our great marriage. In the dream, I knew Doug was gone. Maybe this is a sign of accepting reality.
In real life, friends and acquaintances envied our marriage, and my luck in finding a husband like Doug. The men in the neighborhood complained that he made them look bad, doting on me, working so hard around the house, capable of doing every thing from carpentry to car-fixing, made of solid muscle.
So many people I know are dissatisfied, unhappy or even miserable in their marriages. I couldn't wait for 40 more years with Doug.
I don't ask myself why those people still have their spouses. Why has nothing to do with it. There's no reason.
I was talking with a good friend on the phone, and he commented that PS must be a saint to put up with me. He knows me very well :-). But in this case he was talking about the mourning part.
PS is the man I met after Doug died. He lost his wife over four years ago, so he is ahead of me in terms of dealing with loss. Our relationship initially revolved around him helping me learn to deal with widowhood. Over time, it has blossomed into much more. He is an amazing, wonderful man. He is like Doug in some ways, and opposite in others.
Anyway, my friend figured it must be hard for PS to be with someone who is still grieving. I think and talk about Doug so much, and a large part of me still lives in the past. At times I do wallow in grief and missing Doug. I haven't figured out how to heal completely.
My friend said that if he were involved with someone who was still in that mode after two years, he would say forget this, and move on. My friend said I need to let go, heal, live in the present, and appreciate what I have now. I'm sure other people think the same thing, but just don't say it outloud.
I wasn't sure how to respond. Of course he is absoltely right that I am not fully present. Although I am TRYING harder to be - in fact it is one of my New Year's Resolutions.
Later I asked PS if it was hard for him that I am still "involved" with Doug. He said my friend probably just doesn't understand what it's like to be a widow/widower. Thank goodness PS does.
My friend is divorced. Separation by divorce is very difficult, but it is different from separation by death, especially when you were still in love up until the day they died.
PS and I both think that you probably never really "get over it." But we hope to come to terms with loss and live a full life.
The one thing he asks is that I not compare him to Doug. It's just not fair - they are different people. He's right - I owe him that, and much more.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
~ Friedrich Nietzsche (No, Kelly Clarkson didn't make that line up)
I got a lovely note from someone the other day. They said I was strong. I almost burst out laughing. I guess they have never seen me face down on the lawn, crying my eyes out because the mower wouldn't start.
There was an article in the paper yesterday about a memorial to Doug. It mentioned that he died of a heart attack. He didn't.
Doctors believe his sudden cardiac arrest while running was due to a malignant arrhythmia, which, although it is a cardiac event, is not considered a heart attack or a stroke. A malignant arrhythmia is a powerful electrical impulse that stops the heart suddenly. (In contrast, a heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is blocked. A stroke occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is interrupted, usually by a blood clot.)
"So what?," you might say. I'm not sure why it matters so much to me. I think in part because prevention, diagnosis, treatment and emergency response for a malignant arrhythmia vs. a heart attack vs. a stroke are different. For example:
Anyway, I guess the bottom line, as my friend JP put it, is "His heart stopped. Your heart broke."
As one grief website (Your Spouse is Dead) says, welcome to the club you never wanted to join. (One of the best books I read was Widow to Widow - the author "got it.")
I find myself comparing myself to other widows/widowers at times...how they handled loss (especially in the early months when I was desperately seeking relief), what choices they made, etc
. I was at a friend's father's wake, and realized her mom had just joined the same "club" I belong to - but she was 30 years older than me.
One area where there is a lot of variability among the widowed is whether to get involved with someone new after your spouse dies. I did.
I was able to open up my heart, and it grew to accommodate a new love - PS. At first I thought it would be the same (as my relationship with Doug), but now I know nothing will ever be the same. That doesn't mean it isn't wonderful in different ways. I am grateful and do appreciate him very much.
PS did not date anyone until he met me, 2.5 years after losing his wife. He figured that part of his life was over.
I thought I would never be lucky enough to find real love again (after all, as my father-in-law says, I "can be a load sometimes,") but I was wrong. Surprisingly though, it didn't diminish how much I loved or missed Doug, or help much with the pain. (If you think about it, this makes sense. For example, a parent who lost a child may have another child. That doesn't make them forget their lost child, or miss them less, or love them less.)
I did feel guilty about dating though.
I recently had dinner with an old friend - BQ. He was widowed at age 48. (I had just turned 54 when Doug died.) His wife had been sick for quite some time. After she was gone, he hoped to meet someone. He dated. He did not want to go to bars, and didn't want to be "fixed up." His mother-in-law told him "Beware of women bearing casseroles." (Down south, my mom tells me single women line up at the widower's door with food.)
BQ's first serious relationship was with a widow he met through eHarmony. It was great, except her kids couldn't accept it so they broke up. But he said it was a good transition, and they sort of counseled each other.
Then he met a wonderful divorcee. Eight months after they met, they were married. He said he is happier than he has ever been. He loved his wife first wife, and she was the mother of his child, but their marriage was tumultuous. This one is low-key, easy going, no conflict. (Kind of the reverse of my situation.) It made my heart glad to see how happy he was.
BQ did say there have certainly been challenges - blended families, what to do with two houses (they sold one, rented one, and bought a new one together), interactions with the "outlaws" (his first wife's family), etc.
When I first talked to BQ about my struggles with guilt when I started seeing PS, and the people who were upset about it, he got angry. He said they had no right to judge me. I do know they don't understand. (See 5/30 blog.)
Another woman I know was widowed when she was 72, after 56+ years of marriage. She said there is no room in her heart for anyone else. She seems to have given up on life. But she was happy for me that I found someone.
My friend ED said that if she died, she would not want her husband to spend the rest of his life alone. I told her she should let him know that. I know in my heart that Doug would want me to be happy, but it might have helped me to have gotten his "permission" to live and love again.
I guess it is different for everyone. I think the person who lost their partner is the only one in a position to know what is right for them. (Although most people would agree that it's not appropriate to bring a date to the wake.)
A friend shared this excellent article with me, The Sisterhood of Grief. I could say ditto to everything except the foreign country part. Especially this: "I was certainly unprepared for the brutality of loss and the overwhelming power of the emotions that followed. At first there was numbness, followed by sorrow, rage and latterly, self-pity. Friends were of course sympathetic, but unless they had experienced the death of a partner, they did not know how to behave."
However, I disagree with this: "One of the best pieces of advice I had came from a friend whose husband died suddenly the year before Sylvain. “Don’t forget that you are you,” she said cryptically. How right she was. She meant that I should not allow myself to be changed by my experience of grief." There is no WAY you can be unchanged by a significant loss. You certainly don't want to lose yourself, but you and your life will never be the same again.
I heard this quote about people suffering Parkinson's, who were thinking about giving up. "You're still yourself. You're still there. And life goes on. And life is beautiful." (From the film Love & Other Drugs.)
I think it's a good sentiment, and good to remember that we ARE still alive. Except I am NOT myself anymore... I'm someone else. A significant loss changes you. Some changes are good, some not so good.
Another friend shared this insight: "I heard a comment on a news show a few weeks ago .... A woman was talking about the death of her spouse--"You never get over it. You just get through it. And then it's a part of who you are." Forever, I imagine."
Tonight is the dedication of the Z Rock & Rain Garden at the Woodstock Historical Society in Doug's honor. Friends, family, and community will be there. More later....
Today feels like a turning point. More peace, less pain.
I think it takes at least two years to come to terms with loss of a spouse - I expected too much earlier. A year ago today I was lying face down on my lawn, crying hysterically. Today - two years from the day I got the call - I did shed tears, but I am in a different place.
There was even some happiness today, as family, friends and our community gathered to celebrate and honor Doug's life and his contribution to it.
I do spend more time moping than I should. But a thick blanket lies on top of the sadness that will probably always be associated with such a significant loss. Painful memories are less intrusive. Happy memories are more in the forefront.
I am trying hard to stop straddling the past and the present, and live in the now. I also try to grateful for what I do have, instead of only sorrowful for what is lost.
I am in a serious relationship with someone who is wonderful, but very different from Doug. I am hopeful there are some blue skies ahead.
On June 8th, PS bought me a climbing rose. It is called "New Dawn." He didn't pick that one because of the name (it happens to be a great rose.) However, we both thought it was significant, as it was the two year "anniversary" of losing Doug.
I have not cried for three days in a row! That is a first. I know there will be tear triggers in the future, but the sunamis seem to be subsiding.
I got a lovely card from one of Doug's cousins. She knows about loss first hand. I had finally written her a thank you note, and included an update of the tributes to Doug that have happened - especially the composting outhouse and rain garden. Her words of wisdom struck me.
She said: "Please, please do not become a living monument to Doug. He would be horrified.... Love is limitless, no matter how many people you love, you still have the capacity to love more people - and your care of others is not diminished! Falling in love again is...not a statement of how you felt about someone else....Love always remains - if others judge you for what you do or don't do, it is they who are limiting love....Live again! ....I am happy that Doug had those years for you, he was transformed and happy...what a blessing....Thank you for giving to him in the way a true partner can. Recognize that, keep it in your own heart, and find again that capacity in yourself and others."
I felt the guilt about PS lessen as I read this. It was nice not to be judged by someone else for a moment. I think those judgements, and my sensitivity to them, were probably the hardest thing I dealt with when trying to start over.
But also it reminded me of the difference between obsessing and remembering. I am moving more towards remembering. (This may not be apparent in the blog, since it focuses on dealing with loss and Doug,)
He said your life is like a collage. Your partner and your life with them is the focal point, filling up most of the collage. When they die, it leaves a gaping hole in your life. It feels like the whole collage is lost. But with the passage of time, if you allow it, the other parts of the collage fill in and you add to them. Thus, life can become "whole" again to some extent - even though the "hole" remains.
I do feel like that is happening, but it has taken all of two years. That is hard for an impatient person like me. I always remember the potato chip test they did on little kids. They offered the children one bag of potato chips now, or two bags later. The mature, deferred gratification ones went for two bags later. Unfortunately, I'm a one bag now type.
I feel compassion, today especially, for all fathers who have lost their sons and daughters.
Walter Gretzky, father of hockey player Wayne, told his son to “skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”
Good advice for someone like me, who keeps getting sucked into the past. I need to focus more on the present and the future. It's a struggle when the past is where happiness was. And when you are broken. But I'm trying. And getting better at it. I feel like I'm starting to live again. I even read the paper sometimes now, for the first time in two years.
(Note: Gretzky's father's advice was actually geared towards trying to predict where the puck would be so you could get to it first. I'm hearing it in a different context.)
Maudlin: Self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental, often through drunkenness.
I just read something someone wrote about Doug that I considered extremely maudlin. Then I thought - crap, that sounds like me! In fact, I'm worse!
Today I went on a crying jag. (My three day tear-free spree did not last.) I was worrying about life being short, not getting to do the things we planned on, PS dying, blah blah blah.
I can't blame drunkeness. I fear I have sunken into an effusively maudlin state about Doug and death.
Egad, how can people who read this blog or hang with me STAND it????
Note to self: Must STOP!
PS is the man I am involved with now. Last night he said has taken a leap of faith, but I am dragging my feet.
He is correct.
PS is a widower too. He knows first hand about loss. His wife of 24 years died after a horrible 1.5 year long struggle with cancer.
It has been 4.5 years for him, and "only" 2 years for me. I think time makes a difference. Still, there is probably more to it.
It is hard for me to "believe" again. That life could be good, that happiness is possible, that love can last. I am holding back. I lack faith.
I understand that no one knows what is coming their way, other than the fact that we will all die at some point. I understand that I am not in control of the Universe (even though I don't LIKE it one bit!) However, after having my heart broken into a million little pieces, and having happiness yanked out from underneath me, I find it hard to believe again.
But I took a little leap today. I updated my status on Facebook from "widowed" to "in a relationship." You never get un-widowed though....
©2010. Designed by Chimalis LLC.
Please request permission before re-publishing content from this website, except for content on the quotes/poems page. This website is not intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should regularly consult a physician in matters relating to his/her health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention. The author shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, damage or disruption caused, or alleged to have been caused, directly or indirectly, by any information contained on this website.