Monday, August 27, 2018

Love lives on!

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. John and I are married 37 years.
And, yes, I know, he is no longer physically here with me but I celebrate the day because it's important to me.
And I have it on good faith [from a medium] that John celebrates it still because the day is very important to him too.
John has been showing me all day with signs that I know are from him.
This morning I went into the local grocery store and there as I walked in was a huge display of Twizzlers - one of John's favorite sweets. 
Then this afternoon I went to another grocery store to buy myself some flowers to commemorate our special day.
What was I hit with? 
Another big display - this time of Red Vines, a variation on a theme.
I purchased my flowers, got in the car, and as I headed home, my head and heart filled with love for my Sweetheart, I glanced at the car clock and it was 4:13, John's birthday April 13th.
I no sooner saw that and told John how much I loved him when the next song on Pandora came on - "If" by Bread.
Love lives on!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

There is no contest called grief

I don't think there is any one of us who has lost a loved one and not heard either "I understand how you feel because I..." or "At least you..."
Every loss is different. No matter the similarities no one can say they truly understand what another is going through. 
The loss of my husband is not the same as the loss of your husband. 
The death of your child is not the same as the death of your friend's child.
Watching a loved one suffer years or months of illness and then dying is not worse than or better than losing a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly.
Grief is not a contest. 
There is no easier or harder grief. 
Our own personal grief is the worst grief there is.
That’s why platitudes and some of the pat phrases and ideas some people expound irritate me so much. We can offer support, explain what has helped us, what might work. But we can never say we fully understand what that person is going through. Grief is based on relationship and no two relationships are alike.
Ever.
Everyone grieves and mourns in their own way. If you loved, you grieve when you lose that person. 
And this warning applies to those who purport to make our journey easier by latching on to the spiritual and metaphysical as if that is the answer too.
Don't get me wrong. I am a firm believer in the afterlife and all that entails. Everyone who knows me at all knows that. I even wrote a book about it.
No, my beef is with those who try to sell the spiritual connection we can have with our loved ones as being the antidote to grief. Or better yet, try to sell that new - now spiritual - relationship as being "better than" the earthly one. That is like comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. I think to push that thinking is harmful. Negating someone's grief like that is very hurtful to the one who is sad and mourning.
I don't care how many "visits" you have or messages that you get, it's not "better than it ever was". I would give anything to have John walk through the door again and hug the heck out of him. 
But I am comforted by the messages I get from him and the communication that I feel I do receive. 
It helps me in this life until I am reunited with him in the next.
But I would never say that what we have now is better. It just is.
So, the next time you are tempted to help someone who is in the throes of grief by saying you understand or you know how to make this journey better, just stop for a moment. Swallow those words.
Instead, offer a hand. Offer your time. Let that person know you are there to just be, if that is all that is needed.
Mention the loved one's name. 
Cry. 
Hug. 
Your presence and love will help more than you can know.
Namaste.
 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Sounds of missing - and loving

So many things make a house a home.
The sights, the smells - and the sounds.
I think I miss the sounds the most. One of the first things I noticed after John died was that our home felt empty. I was the only one making the sounds. The silence echoed, it was so loud.
I missed so many sounds that I had taken for granted but, in their wholeness, had made up the quilt of our life.
John's laughter
The sound of the garage door going up when he came home
The distinctive noise his key made in the lock on the door
The water in his shower in the morning
Even his familiar cough
Now it was just me and the furbabies and it wasn't anywhere near what it used to be.
Our home was far too silent.
There were two sounds that especially made me think of John - the way the door to the laundry room rattled when John entered from the garage and the distinctive way the handles on his dresser drawers rattled when he closed them.
Sometimes the cats will go tearing through the kitty door in  the laundry room door and it will make that old familiar sound and for a fraction of a second my heart will skip and imagine...
It used to make me very sad but now it brings back a happy memory and it no longer hurts like it used to.
But the dresser, that was another thing.
John kept all his foldable clothes in that dresser - underwear, shorts, loads of T shirts.
For years, it remained as he left it. I just couldn't bear to do anything with it. Taking his clothes out of the dresser felt like I was erasing him. I needed his things to stay exactly as they were.
And so the dresser stood there.
Unused.
Silent.
But this year I have felt a movement in my grief. I still miss John as much as ever but I can detach my sorrow from his things - at least more than I used to. It was finally time to take his clothes out of his dresser and move my clothes into it.
And a happy thing happened when I did that.
Now, when I go in the drawers to get my clothes and I push the drawer closed, it makes that distinctive noise again. The handles flap against the wood and rattle in their hinges as they used to when John got dressed for work in the morning and my heart is happy to hear that sound again.
I didn't expect this to happen.
But I'm glad it did.
Our home still misses all the John sounds but it's nice to have this particular one of them back.
I can shut the drawer and listen and remember and smile.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

I miss potato soup

Widowhood changes so much. It is not just about losing your mate.
It is also about losing a life together, a future planned.
And the little things that make living together so precious.
I used to love cooking. Not the every day type of cooking. Not the "We're home from work and it's late and we're starving and what can we throw together?" type of cooking or even the usual run of the mill every day cooking.
No, I miss the cooking days John and I used to have every so often. There were some Saturdays that we would decide to make soup and it would literally take all day. There was one particular soup that was our favorite - potato soup.
Potato soup started out early in the morning by peeling a mound of potatoes. Then we made what was called Garbage Soup. This was a soup that was simmered for hours by making a soup of the potato peels and lots of garlic and spices. This made a broth to base the potato soup on. Some of it we saved and froze for minestrone on another soup Saturday.
After the garbage soup was just right we made the wonderful potato soup. Its aroma would fill the house, making us hungry and impatient. To tempt our taste buds even more, I would bake some bread to dunk in the soup. In the early days I made the bread by hand, kneading it on the kitchen counter top, getting out any frustrations from life in its bulk. Later, when we had more money, we bought a bread maker and just timed everything to be ready together.
Then - then! - that evening we would sit down and feast on our day's work - potato soup and crunchy bread. A feast for a king.
Was it an especially tasty meal? Yes, because - potato soup. What's not to like about potato soup? But there was more to it than that.
Making potato soup is one of my favorite memories about my earth life with John. I go back to it often. And I talk about it to my friends with fondness.
Making soup with John was a treasure because we spent happy time together. We laughed. We talked. We played with our fur-babies. We hung out in the kitchen all day together. Nothing else mattered on those days.We lived in our own world surrounded by good smells, good food, and love.
Lots and lots of love.
Today I eat a lot of frozen dinners, usually in front of the TV. I've been known to make a meal out of tater tots.
Dinner has become just eating.
I could make potato soup again but it's not the same. I'd rather just cherish the memory of the days I spent cooking with John.
But I miss the cooking - I miss the potato soup days - and I miss him.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Widowhood - one size does not fit all

Even though it has been a few years for me since John passed and I think, for the most part, I have come to terms with my new life and what it means for us that John and I are no longer on the same plane, I still read books about grief and coping because I am a firm believer in learning. Every little tidbit helps.
But I am seeing something else in all the books that I read (and I am referring here to those self-help books that speak to the every day issues of losing a soul mate - not the spiritual/metaphysical ones).
And it seems to me that even when these books are written by the widows themselves, they seem to feel that their experience can be translated to all widows and their advice is gospel.
Let me elaborate.
I am currently reading a book about reclaiming life after the loss of a mate. The book is written by a widow who was married to the person she feels was the love of her life. They were married for 25 years, first marriage for both of them. She has been widowed for 10 years. And she is now in her early 50's, was in her early 40's obviously when she was widowed and was the mother of two teenagers at that time.
About 30% into the book she sneaked in the fact that she has been in a relationship with another man for the past several years.
The plot thickens.......
Mind you, I am not critical of the fact that she is in relationship. No one wants to be alone.
What I am critical of is that she assumes her situation can just be translated into all situations.
Yes, she had some good ideas that resonated with me. But overall she was speaking as a younger woman and what she was feeling did not necessarily apply to every other woman (or man, for that matter) in the same grief situation. She was still working, raising children, had her own home, a large support system, and was financially well-off.
Her philosophy was "get out there, seize the moment, remake yourself! You can do this! Rah! Rah! Rah!"
Compare that to an older woman whose children are grown, who might not have the same support network, who might be on a fixed income, facing deteriorating health and friends dying off, who has been with the love of her life for 60+ years.
Or a widow who was in her second marriage after having had a bad first marriage - and now has lost again.
Or the widower who has suffered other losses - maybe a job at the age of 50 and now is facing decreasing job opportunities because of his age and then loses the one person who meant the world to him and was the rock in his sea of sadness.
Or...
Or...
Or...
The examples are as endless as the people involved.
My point is this. Yes, these self help books are useful. But those who write them need to step back for a moment and realize that what works for some does not work for all.
Maybe we don't want to remarry.
Maybe we don't have the luxury of going to a widows' retreat and "remake' ourselves.
Maybe we don't see this as a chance to do the things we've always dreamed of. Maybe what we always dreamed of has just died with our mate.
I am not critical of those who re-mate after loss. More power to them.
It is not for me and I know that.
And I also know that the choices I make for me are not the choices another widow or widower might make and that is also right - for them. It is not my place to criticize, judge, or preach.
Nor it is anyone else's.
Write the books. Give advice. Let your life be an example of possibilities.
Just not from your Mount Olympus on high as if you have all the answers.
Because you don't. You have one set of answers.
One size of healing does not fit all.
There are as many ways to move forward from loss as there are the people who move forward.
Namaste.


Monday, July 2, 2018

Fear of flying, dying, and living

Recently, a woman in a Facebook group I belong to that is made up of men and women who have lost their soul mates posted how she had no love for life any more and just wanted to die and be with her mate. She was not suicidal, just bereft and no longer experiencing any joy in life.
Sadly, I can relate.
Ever since John died, it is harder to love life as I did when he was here.
But I know it is my soul's job to do it anyway.
Remember the book Fear of Flying by Erica Jong? Women of my generation [the Boomers] saw it as a revolutionary book, part of that daring wave that ushered in the feminist movement. It was a catalyst that jump-started a new way of thinking for women. Like it or not, a revolution full of women of courage and free-thinking had begun.
In my opinion, death of a soul mate does the same thing to widows and widowers.  I used to have a fear of dying.
I don't now.
And it wasn't so much the dying part that scared me. It was the death part. It was that great unknown after the dying part that kept me up at night.
Then when my mate died, I added another fear. Fear of living.
I didn't see how I could go on without him. How would I cope? How could I get through a day without him to share with, to talk with, to love with? 
And then things slowly changed.
The loss of my soul mate started me down a path that surprised me. The desire to know where he is and how he is caused me to study with a vengeance I didn't know I had.
It gave me opportunities to learn and grow.
It brought friends into my life I never would have had.
It gifted me with a strength I never would have believed.
It destroyed my fear of living and dying. Now I know I will be reunited with my mate and I look forward to it.
And I can make the most of the days I have here until that time as well.
I can write and reach out to others.
I can appreciate a sunrise and time spent with friends.
I can enjoy a book while curled up on the sofa with my cats and my dog.
I can live and I can look forward to death, enjoying both and fearing neither.