Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Hold on

All of us who mourn are at different stages of our grief. And sometimes those who are newly mourning look to those of us who have trod this path longer for advice.

I was speaking a couple of weeks ago with a very dear friend whose husband had died only 2 weeks prior and the first thing she asked me was "Does this get better?" I couldn't lie to her. I told her "No, I can't say it gets better. But it does get easier."

Now, I wonder if that's even true.
I say this because I have been going through a tough time myself these last few weeks. I can't pin it on anything in particular although I have been having some losses not related to death. Maybe those losses are bringing back feelings related to John's death. I can't say for sure. All I know is that I have been sad. Really sad. And it's been 11+ years since John died. According to the "experts" [who the heck are they anyway?], I should be "over" this, no?
The answer? NO!
If I sit here too long and think, I will start crying. I know that because it happened a few days ago. Scared the dog, too.
I am saying all this because I want to tell anyone who is thinking they are doing this mourning thing wrong and that they should be "better" to give yourself a break. Grief never really ends.
But luckily, love never ends too.
My plan is to finish this cup of coffee and go meditate and then connect with John and feel his love.
We're all here to help each other. To reassure ourselves that we are not alone. We have each other and we have the love of those who have gone to the next dimension - our spouses, our friends, our parents, our children, our pets.
It's ok to be sad. And it's okay to not be okay. Right now I'm not okay and admitting that is hard. I am always the one who is there for everyone else. But I know I'll be ok again. In the meantime, I will feel these feelings even though they're not good feelings. And I will search for the love that I know is there.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

One size grief does not fit all

Even though it has been several years since John has transitioned 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 loved one - not the spiritual/metaphysical ones).
Often it seems to me that even when these books are written by the grieving person themselves, they seem to feel that their experience can be translated to all grieving people and their advice is gospel.
Let me elaborate.
One of the books I read was about reclaiming life after the loss of a mate. The book was written by a widow who was married to the person she felt was the love of her life. They were married for 25 years, first marriage for both of them. She had been widowed for 10 years. And she was 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 was now in a relationship with another man and had been for the past several years.
The plot thickens.......
Mind you, I am not critical of the fact that she was in a 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.
The examples are as endless as the people involved.
And that is just referring to widowhood.
What about someone who has lost a child?
A lifelong friend?
A parent?
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.
And I also know that the choices I make for me are not the choices another grieving person 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.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Does grief make it hard to breathe?

 A friend of mine mentioned to me the other day that her asthma has gotten noticeably worse since her soul mate passed away and she wondered if there was a connection.

Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor or medical expert. I am a nurse by education and experience. But I have researched a lot about what grief does to the human body. It is that that I will share with you.

So, back to my friend’s question. The short answer is “yes”.

Here is a simplified long answer.

Think about what your lungs do for you. They are vital to your well being. Your breath sustains your body.

Inhale and you take in oxygen which nourishes all your organs by first going to your lungs. Once it reaches the innermost parts of your lung tissue, the oxygen interacts with your circulating blood and that oxygen goes everywhere on the highway of your circulatory system supporting kidneys and intestines, fortifying your immune system, and providing moisture to your skin – just to name a few structures.

That exchange also brings waste back to your lungs which is expelled on the exhale.

Now think about how you feel when you grieve. What do you do? You tighten up. You might clench your jaws, shoulders, back. This might tighten your diaphragm. All of this restricts the area need by your lungs to expand. If they can’t expand properly, they can’t do their job. Sure, you’re still getting oxygen but not the full amount. So, your body breathes differently. You feel short of breath, tired, drained. Your immune system is weakened which can lead to further problems. And on and on.

If you already have an underlying lung condition like asthma, it is exacerbated.

Ancient Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the body in a holistic way and in that modality, grief is the emotion of the lung. The lungs govern qi, the energy that is needed for all the bodily functions. Weaken qi and the body suffers.

Working through grief won’t cure asthma. But not working through grief can make asthma – or any lung disorder – potentially worsen.

Knowledge is power. Knowing how things work helps us to help ourselves.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

I dreamt about John last night. It wasn't a dream visit. It was "just a dream" but I got to be with him for a little while and I was happy.

I'll take it.

My Heart Will Go On

Every night in my dreams
I see you, I feel you
That is how I know you go on
Far across the distance
And spaces between us
You have come to show you go on
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on
Once more, you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never let go 'til we're gone
Love was when I loved you
One true time I'd hold to
In my life, we'll always go on
Near, far, wherever you are
I believe that the heart does go on (why does the heart go on?)
Once more, you open the door
And you're here in my heart
And my heart will go on and on
You're here, there's nothing I fear
And I know that my heart will go on
We'll stay forever this way
You are safe in my heart and
My heart will go on and on
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: James Horner / Will Jennings
My Heart Will Go On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Songtrust Ave, DistroKid, Integrity Music

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

My latest book

My latest book is now available in print and ebook.


Barnes and Noble

Other ebook versions

Now on to my next projects!

Details coming soon!


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Today is our wedding anniversary!

40 years ago today I married my best friend, my soul mate, my one true love.

It was such a wonderful day.

Happy anniversary, Sweetheart!

Monday, August 2, 2021

A celebration alone

Today is a happy day but it would have been happier if John were physically here.

John was always my biggest cheerleader. 
He was proud of me when I sometimes had trouble being proud of myself.

When I published my first book, I don't know who was more excited to open the box of books - me or him. 
Well, today, my book #4 is published. It's dedicated to John. All of my books are. 
But I sure wish he was here to give me a hug and a kiss. 
That would have made today perfect.
But I know he is with me. 
So, I will go forth. I will have that glass of bubbly to celebrate and know that he is smiling.
And in my heart I know that he is saying the words he always said - "I'm so proud of you." ♥

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Say their name

It has been said that people love to hear the sound of their name.

I think for those of us who have lost someone we love, the sound of our beloved's name is even more precious to our ears.

After John died, I had the need to keep his memory alive. I needed to keep him real and present in my life. The first thing I did was print out pictures from our life together and hang those memories on the walls of our home. I made our hallway into a family memory gallery filled with happy photos of our life - our pets, our relatives, but mostly, pictures of John  - vacation shots, baby pictures his mother had saved, candid photos I loved. 

I remember a friend who I had not seen in quite a while visited me a few months after John's death. Her comment to me was "Don't you think you have too many photos of John hanging around the house?"

My first response was to ask her where her husband was at the time. As it was, he was in the next room. Alive and happy. Secondly, it was my house. Thirdly, we are no longer friends. That comment is not the only reason our friendship ended. It was on life support anyway but her inability to empathize and her completely heartless comment showed me we really had nothing in common anymore.

The other thing that became important to me after John died was finding ways to keep his memory current in my life. To continue to keep him in my present, not just in my past. And the way I did that was to say his name. To talk about him - telling stories of our life together, talking about how he continued to show up in my life by signs he gave me, saying his name with love, not sadness. It took time. There were tears in the beginning. And I am sure that it made some people uncomfortable. But I was lucky to have those around me who understood. Sometimes, our friends fear to mention the deceased person's name because they think it will make us sad. What are they afraid of? That it will remind us our loved one has died? We know. We will never forget that. What we fear is that their memory will die, too.

It is up to us to teach others that we can celebrate the life of someone who we love who has died. We can say their name. Tell their stories. Share what matters and smile. And being sad is okay too. It's life. All of it. The good, the sad, the hurt, the joyful.

Say their name. Love their life. Rejoice in what we have been blessed to have.


Monday, July 12, 2021

Loss is loss is loss

I read an article last week that spoke about the grief associated with the slow loss of a loved one to long illness. While I have never experienced that personally, I could definitely grasp the import of what she was saying until she said this (paraphrased) - she envied her widowed friend. Her husband’s death was final. The author, on the other hand, lived in uncertainty. That's when she lost me and my feelings of sympathy for her evaporated. That one sentiment got my hackles up. 

Somehow, she felt her situation was worse. Yes, her situation is hard and terrible and heart-breaking. I totally agree. But don't make blanket statements about other people's feelings like that. That brought up other things that have been said to me and other widowed friends.

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.
Watching a loved one deteriorate  and seeing the relationship change because of chronic illness or dementia is not better or worse than losing that loved one to death.

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.
Everyone grieves and mourns in their own way. If you loved, you grieve when you lose that person no matter how that loss manifests. 
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. 
Your presence and love will help more than you can know.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

All the many many losses

This blog post by John Pavlovitz - The grief we postponed -  is so true. 

There is so much that we have all experienced that just got swept up in the umbrella of "pandemic". But each instance deserves its own funeral.

I lost my mother but could not go to her funeral.

John's 10 year anniversary of his passing was last year and I had planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip to commemorate it but that was canceled and can never be regained. His 10 year anniversary will never come again. I had to mark it alone.

Sadly, I learned some things about friends and family that I didn't know they harbored in their minds and hearts and I may never look at them the same way gain.

The isolation was something that I feared would break me but with the comfort and care of friends and therapists I got through it. But I never want to go through that again.

I know each of us have our own stories.

We deserve to give ourselves permission to mourn each of those events.

Monday, May 24, 2021

11 years today


                                                           Always in my heart. ♥ Love never dies.                                                             






Sunday, May 9, 2021

Happy Mothers Day!

 Happy Mothers Day to all the women who mothered and nurtured me.

You are loved and so missed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Happy birthday, John!

 I love you!

John's 35th birthday - the first one we celebrated together.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!


This week has been bittersweet - filled with wonderful memories of happy days but sad because they can be no more.
Today is the anniversary of our Church wedding. We eloped in August 1981 and were married by a JP. We had a little party afterwards with a few friends. Then, a few years later my ex died and John got a church annulment and we had our marriage blessed in the Catholic church. We had a wonderful reception afterwards.
And death will never part us.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Sweetheart!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Sweetheart!

43 years ago today we had our first date – green beer and shamrocks.

I love you so much, John.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Happy Bunkie Day!

Today might be the Ides of March to many but to John and me it will always be Bunkie Day.

John named this day when he moved in with me on March 15, 1980. John made dinner for us that night and afterwards we went out and celebrated with friends.

After that day, one of John's nicknames for me was Bunkie.

And we celebrated Bunkie Day every year after that. 

Today is Bunkie day #41.

Happy Bunkie Day, Sweetheart.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Bright spots in the darkness

 His name is Kyle and he was my angel this week.

This pandemic has been hard on just about everyone. While I know in my heart that I have had it easier than most - I am not working from home while trying to home school my children, I am not a nurse  working on a Covid unit or any unit in a hospital right now, or any number of hard situations - still, my anxiety has been worse than usual and I have struggled.

I am grateful to friends and therapists for getting me through the past year. And now, with both vaccine shots on board, I am looking forward to more freedom very soon.

But I would be remiss if I didn't recognize the unsung, almost anonymous angels who have helped me, too.

As part of my isolation for safety, I have had everything I need delivered. And, of course, that included groceries. I joined Instacart and I love their service. I am able to get groceries from my favorite store right here in town and that keeps me sane and healthy.

I have been blessed to have had several shoppers who went above and beyond. The Instacart shoppers have an open text chat that they use while they shop so that they can make substitutions if necessary and this part of the service has become a highlight of the experience for me.

One woman noticed potato pancakes were out of stock in the freezer so she hunted down a manager and he brought some out from the storage in back. Another time, I had asked for sun-dried tomatoes but my shopper couldn't find them and asked me if I knew where they were located. I couldn't remember so I Googled "Safeway and sun-dried tomatoes" and actually found the answer which I passed on to her.  She texted back "I found them!". 

This personal connection has touched my heart but this past week I experienced this to an entirely new level.

My shopper Kyle texted me as he started and told me he would be in touch as he shopped if he had questions, etc. Sure enough, one of the requested items was not available. But instead of just asking me what I wanted or making a suggestion from what he saw, he took a picture of the related shelf and asked me if I saw anything else I would like in substitution. I was actually able to look over the items as if I were in the store and pick out what I wanted. He did this a couple of more times - once in the freezer section and another time in the dog food section. This man went above and beyond and I told him how much I appreciated what he was doing. And I made sure Instacart knew as well.

I don't know if these shoppers know how much they are treasured by us shut-ins. I hope they do.

It might seem like a little thing to be treated as an individual instead of just an anonymous faceless customer. But in this age of distancing and lack of human interaction, the smallest gesture is gold right now. I felt like a person in someone else's eyes for a few minutes that morning and it was so appreciated.

I hope you have Kyles in your life. We need more of them.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Trust isn't a bad word

Several years ago, my friend Cathy told me about a ritual she performs at the beginning of every new year. She picks a word for that year, a theme to carry her through, a platform that she wants to structure her life around. I had started doing that a couple of years ago but soon after January had been here for a while, I would inevitably forget about my lofty goal.

Not this year.

If last year has taught me anything, it's that I need to not take anything for granted and that includes following through on goals and plans.

So, this year I have chosen my word.

And my word is Trust.

I was originally going to choose Serenity but after thinking about it, that felt too passive. I needed something I could sink my teeth into. Something more basic. And for me, that is trust. If I had to sum up the one thing missing in my life right now, that's it.  And maybe for half of my life as well.

Living with an abusive mother taught me I couldn't trust the world to protect me. Certainly not the one person who was supposed to be in my corner above all else. Then moving on to an abusive husband confirmed that belief. If I was going to survive, I had to do it on my own. Trust no one. Trust no thing.

Then John came along and I dared to let my guard down one more time and it was so worth it. No matter what I said or did, he was there. He cheered on my successes. He held me when I cried over failures and loss. We made a safe beautiful loving life together. I finally found trust.

And then it was gone.

Now I have to trust in myself again. But I am learning that I am not alone. I don't have to trust just me. John's favorite saying is "Things are happening the way they are supposed to." There is a rhythm to the Universe, to Source, to God. When I let go and let God, things have a way of working out.

I often refer to my Guides and Angels (a group that John is now a part of) as The Team. I am teaching myself to turn to them at those times when I don't know the answers, when I can't figure things out, when I need for things to work out but it's out of my hands. And time and time again, they have come through. I am reminded of what Christ said: "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!" Luke 12:24

I think it's time to trust again. This year I am going to let go of my favorite pastime - worry. I'm going to live the life in front of me and not worry about the life down the road. There is a peace to be had when I do that. The lines in my forehead soften. They won't disappear entirely. They have lived there too long. But I can make a start. I can begin every day to start to trust.

I have less life in front of me than I have behind me. What I want more than anything else is to live that life in peace and harmony. Trust is where I begin.

What is your word for this new year?


Friday, January 22, 2021

In search of the Promised Land

"Sometimes you have to go through the wilderness before you get to the Promised Land."

John Blytheway

Our country, our world, our species has been through the wilderness these past few years. Now, we see the Promised Land on the horizon and we welcome it.

I feel I have been through my own personal wilderness. Losing John has been devastating for me. That was followed by losing family members and friends and cherished pets. Our nation's politics has taken a toll. And then, this past year, the pandemic and its forced isolation has been so very hard. 

But better days are coming. I feel it.

My personal wilderness has forged my soul anew. While isolated, I have accomplished a few things. Some important. Some not so much. 

In no particular order:

I gave up caffeine. 

I grew out my hair color - I think I like the silver. I also have not had a haircut in almost a year. I thought I would like the new length. Answer: I don't. It will get cut short again as soon as I feel it is safe.

I took a few online courses.

I wrote a book. More on that as it nears publication.

I am developing an online course in metaphysics/spirituality based on my experiences and what I have learned. More on that too in coming months.

I have learned about myself. Some of it was not pretty. In the early months of this pandemic I was in constant panic mode and it took turning to outside help to regain my equilibrium. I admit I was taken aback by how much I was affected. Old traumas and losses became new and I was brought to a strange and frightening wilderness I was not expecting. 

But I feel that is behind me now and I look forward to this year with an energy that brings me both joy and peace. I have rediscovered a book I had found many years ago - Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I have had this book for so long that the pages are brown but I have never read it cover to cover. This year I plan to do that. Ms. Ban Breathnach speaks to that part of my soul that longs for comfort. And simplicity. And the joy of everyday life. Looking to the future. Cherishing today. Making a contribution to the world. 

My own Promised Land will be taking photographs of the beauty around me. Writing words that hopefully inspire others and give them pleasure. Being with friends I have not seen in many months, sharing a glass of wine while watching the sunset. 

Living again.

What will you do in your Promised Land?