Self Care, Grief and Judgement…

HI All,

I’m writing this blog while sitting at the kitchen table, 2 days after my first surgery for Cataracts. The results after just 48 hours are beyond amazing! This surgery was my first big step towards caring for myself in a world that feels so very empty. It’s been almost 5 months since my husband died, and 21 months since his catastrophic stroke. 

Before the stroke, my husband spent a month away from home (we lived in SC at the time) visiting his next oldest brother who had had toes amputated because of diabetes. I pushed my husband to drive from SC to New England, not knowing that the last time we would hug each other and casually say goodbye would be the last time. I stayed behind because I had only been working four months at my new job with UPS. A decision I will never regret as the brother he went to visit died 350 days before my husband. My mother-in-love had 6 children and 3 are now gone, all three dying in February. 2018, 2020 and 2021. The pain she must feel when she remembers has to be unimaginable. Her oldest child, and only girl, was the first, she died at the age 67. Next was the 5th born, he was 60. Then my beloved, the youngest, he was 59.

I provide a bit of context just so whoever is reading this knows that the weight and minefields of death are not new to me. I wish I weren’t well versed in grief, no one wants to be. What am I learning to be well versed in? Self-care. It’s so hard to do, and though I’m not afraid to work hard, I don’t want to. I want my husband back. I want our grandchildren to have their Poppy back and our daughters to know that their Daddy is just a phone call away. I want to reach out in the night and feel the warmth of the man who no longer exists, not the weighted blanket that’s folded in thirds and laid out where he should be. I want to hear his voice in my ears, not just in my head. I want to feel HIS arms around me, not just air. I’m sure you get the picture.

Self care has to happen if we are to continue on our healing journey. Self care looks different for each of us, just like grief does. I walked out 16 months advocating for my husband to receive the best possible care after his stroke, sold our home, and moved 3 times to be with him. Covid came. Isolation happened and for 6 months of the 16 months we journeyed, we couldn’t see each other. He never understood why. All he felt was that he was being punished for being alive. The stroke took away his reasoning abilities and he never recovered cognitively. I, on the other hand, would try and soothe his pain through Zoom calls. Or phone calls. He would cry without ceasing, and beg me to come see him. So much angst. I look back over that time and realize I was practicing self-care then, just in a less obvious way. I would walk along the James or Appomattox Rivers when we were in Richmond, VA. I would write. I would talk to the Chaplain from the Richmond VA Hospital. I continue to talk to him from time to time. I even drove to Norfolk to walk on the beach with our dog on the days when loneliness would consume me. I guess I knew somewhere inside of me that if I didn’t fill myself up, I would have nothing left to give my husband. 

Self care looks like selfishness to those that either refuse to see it, or can’t see the value of it. We wake up and shower, we brush our teeth, dress for the day and make many other decisions that seem meaningless. They’re not! To get out of bed after the loss of a beloved child, spouse, friend, parent and anyone that has been loved by you is self care! I truly believe in the “fight” and “flight” aspects of grief, as well as life in general. My “fight” left me when my husband died. I was messy. And broken. I wanted to be invisible. I was also grateful that he didn’t suffer anymore. I battled within my own head as I took my first steps as a widow, toward a life without the physical presence of my mate. I had to. He would want me to. He was my biggest encouragement, he still is in many ways. 

When people learn that I’m grieving, they’re usually sincere in offering condolences. We were married just shy of 39 years when my beloved died. We were as in love the day he died as we were when we said “I do.” I miss him. I always will. In the midst of missing him, I’m learning to grow again. I’m learning that my growth, determination and grief can all co-exist. I’ve also learned that some of the people I know think I’m selfish for not fading into the background of life. That’s not how I’ve lived my life, and I won’t live like that now. My eye surgery feels like I threw open the door that was slammed shut back in February! I threw it open with such force that it came unhinged! I walked right through the opening and am still walking. How does someone see self care as selfishness? Why do others think they are entitled to have an opinion on how I live MY life? Judgement comes in many forms, and I find a lot of judgement to be a waste of time. I have no right to tell anyone what their journey through grief should look like. My place in someone else’s grief is not my place. I have empathy for all of us that have lost someone we loved so much. I recognize the gaping holes left in our hearts. I hear the sobs and moans and cries as we navigate our way without our beloved person beside us. What I don’t do? I don’t carry the weight of someone else’s grief, I share in carrying the weight. I’ll hold someone’s hand and pray for them. I’ll help them. I won’t judge them!

As we walk along the highway called grief, may we all come to know that we can practice self care, that self care is not selfish, and when others judge us, that judgement is without merit. It’s become my purpose to help educate others who are on the outside looking in. People tend to judge that which they don’t understand, I’ve been guilty of it myself. Helping someone understand the depth, breadth, and width of grief gives me purpose. It also gives me hope. My world, just like all of yours, came crashing down with such force that I thought I’d never be the same again. I won’t be. Neither will you. What can we become? We can become a voice and a hand in the dark for one another. We can provide a safe place for someone just starting their grief journey to fall. We can listen. We can pray. We can encourage one another. And we can share. No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you know that you are not alone. I know I’m not alone, and for that I say thank you!

Just Because…

Hi All,

It’s been a bit since I’ve written. I’ve been in a place that makes me exhausted. That place has no one specific name, and if it did, it would be just because.

Just because can be a pre-cursor to so many places we humans can go within our own minds. I’m struggling lately with feeling too much all at once. Just because I’m grieving. Just because I’m very sensitive. Just because I’m me. I’m me without him and that’s a me that I don’t want to be. I have to be. Simple. And not so simple. Just because.

Just because someone thinks other people are not worthy of kindness doesn’t mean they should be easily dismissed. The saying goes “what someone thinks of me is none of my business.” True, just because. Being ousted is not fun for anyone. It hurts and it breeds distrust. Just because.

Just because we can be selfish doesn’t mean we should be. Self-care and selfishness are two entirely different things, though frequently seen as one and the same. Just because.

Just because someone is quiet doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. Perhaps they know if they say what they really want to, those words will be misinterpreted as weapons. Think before you speak. Wise words we all need to pay attention to, myself included. Just because.

Just because we may think we know better doesn’t mean we do. I’ve been guilty of thinking like this and I wish I could say otherwise. Just because.

Just because someone may not say thank you for a kindness shown, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be kind. That lack of kindness reflects on you, not the recipient. Be kind. Just because.

Just because someone has different skin than you doesn’t mean they’re less than. Just because someone loves differently than you doesn’t make that love wrong. Just because we’re all human, we should all be accepted. Just because.

I’ve had a hard time lately feeling like I belong. Just because something has been said and I’ve heard words that have slain my heart doesn’t mean I don’t belong. I matter. Just because.

My life is in the midst of great change and difficult decisions. Again. The change is necessary, and can’t be achieved without difficult decisions. I am moving forward and looking ahead to what might be. In looking behind me I see where the roads bend and curve. I learn from the hard lessons and I leave the unnecessary baggage behind. Leaving the heaviness of that baggage behind makes the curves and bends safer. Just because.

The world is a noisy and overwhelming place at times. It can be peaceful. Seek the peacefulness, just because you can. You deserve a life filled with light, love and peace. As do I. Just because.

Be kind, always. Just because…

365 (Plus One)

Hey Everyone,

It’s been a bit, and I’m still hanging in, missing my husband. Nothing new there.

365 plus one? 365 days ago, plus one, my beloved husband was discharged from the Polytrauma Unit of the Richmond, Virginia Veteran’s Hospital. I would sell my soul to the devil himself if it meant I could erase the last 365 days. Erase and start over. As we all know, time is the one thing that we can’t replace. We can’t save it. It doesn’t earn interest, and sadly, it hasn’t yielded a profit.

I’ve begun to look ahead, finally, in a healthy, though sad, way. I’m beginning to make plans for a future that will not include my husband in the physical sense, but it will bring much honor to his memory. I have been seeking and researching resources that will help me navigate my way as a widow and I’ve found a non-profit organization that I seem to fit with. I am hoping to connect with others who have lost someone that served, maybe even become a mentor some where down the road. I am taking it one step at a time, but have a good feeling in my gut that I have finally found a new, but familiar village. I have been so supported by my family and friends and I know they all will continue to hold my hand. The organization I found will give me purpose again, something I haven’t felt since my beloved died. He was my purpose for so long, and now I have to make me, and honoring his memory, my purpose.

365 days ago, plus 2, is when I came back to Boston. The day before my husband. 365 days ago, plus one, I was denied the opportunity to meet my husband at the rehab facility he was admitted to and I’ve been upset by that ever since. 365 days ago, Covid-19 was a blanket excuse for everything, including NOT being allowed to even greet my husband in the parking lot of said facility. I’ve tried for over a year now to be heard by someone that actually gives a crap about the lack of compassionate care shown to my husband, but to no avail. All the countless hours writing to State and Federal officials, the media, the corporation that owns that horror house my husband was in has been for naught. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars and more than a hundred hours making noise, but all I’ve been met with is silence. I had promised myself if the law firm I contacted wouldn’t help me, I would stop. I’ve stopped making noise. To say I am beyond disappointed in my local and federal representatives is an understatement. I am not rich. I am not even close to being so. I vote, but why? Because of the lack of communication, I no longer care about those I’ve voted for. I have approximately 340 days left to find peace. I can’t afford the costs of maintaining my anger and hurt, I have to let go. For me. I fought as hard as I could, I begged. I pleaded. I humiliated myself. I filed a formal complaint with the MA Dept. of Public Health. I’ve followed up on my follow ups to the point that I’ve had to say I’m done.

365 plus days ago I never thought I would become a widow at the age of 58. It’s been just shy of four months since I held my husband’s hand and watched him breathe his last breath. He was 59. 21,629 days. Add a few leap years in and maybe he was 21, 640 days old. Not nearly enough days on this earth. Not nearly enough years spent as a married couple. But… He certainly changed my entire world in those 21K+ days. He loved me. He was my safety net, my lover, my man and my heart. He is still all of those things, and more. He is my guardian angel, he is my Morgan’s (our dog that died in July 2020) constant companion now. He is still the Poppy our grandchildren will always miss, and he’s the Poppy I will help them remember. No one will ever take his place. No one will know me like he did, or kiss me like he did. No one will tease me (thank God!) like he did. No one will ever rage behind the wheel of my Mini like he could have. So many things that he was good at, so many things he made his own. Including me. Of those 21K+ days, he was in my life for about 16,430 of them. More than half his life, and mine. Days…

As I mentioned above, I’m finally beginning to feel like I am able to move forward. One baby step at a time. I’m not really stronger than I was last time I wrote, I think the fog is starting to lift. I see things from a clearer set of eyes. Well… not really. I have to have cataract surgery and will find out when on the 23rd of June. Anyway, I know that grief will never not be a part of my life again, but I also know that how I continue to walk it out and learn from it is key to my survival. I WANT to be happy. I WANT to smile more. I WANT to laugh more. Every time I think I can’t get up, I do. I cry and rage and hide, but I also turn my face to the sun and pray for self peace. I can see a pin-prick of light shining through the darkness.

When I started this blog, I had no idea that it would shift from being an erased grandparent and parent to becoming a widow. I had no idea that any one would care to read the ramblings of a woman the world doesn’t know. I am blessed beyond measure to have the opportunity to keep writing and I thank all of you that take the time to read my prose. Writing frees my heart, it gives me an outlet for my pain, and I hope it helps someone else realize that they are not alone. We all have trials. We all bleed red. We all hurt. I know, because of all of you, I don’t have to hurt alone. Thank you all. I’ve pasted a link to a song that has been helping me lately, I hope it helps you as well. Be kind, always, and know that in Boston is a woman who appreciates you so much!

A Bit of Light…

Hi all,

I hope this post finds you all well and safe. I’m having a decent day emotionally, at least right now, and thought I would take a few minutes to say hello. I struggle most days to find positive and happy inducing moments. I think I’ve been struggling for so long that the idea of NOT struggling is finding difficulty in taking root within me. I’ve been so focused for so long on the struggle that I almost fear a life without it. The key word there being almost…

A bit of light shone on me just a little while ago when I was out walking. I met a bouncy, bubbly and oh, so happy Boston Terrier Pup that was just soooo happy to see me, too! I miss my dog like crazy, but this little bundle of black and white sass helped ease that missing just a bit. Boston’s are bred for companionship and this one was so friendly. The breed has a tendency to use their bodies as their tail and this one was no different. He wagged all over and sprinkled on my shoes just a wee bit. So endearing. When he saw his person coming towards him he was overjoyed. It melted my heart to see the connection between the dog and his person. It also made me think of my beloved grandson and his BT, Moe. Moe is definitely the cat’s meow of Boston Terriers in my mind. Small, cute and so in love with his boy! As am I…

It’s warming up in Boston, finally, and I for one am very happy about this. I miss the southern heat and humidity, so getting to experience a little heat here in the Northeast is a welcome event. Lots of people were out walking and enjoying the weather, myself included. Sometimes we really do just have to stop and unwind. Life is so much more than just making money and being stressed out because of it. I work to live, I don’t live to work. Finding moments to enjoy your life away from work matter. Meet up with an old friend. Go for a walk in the sunshine. Sit in the sun for a little while. Whatever it is you like to do when the weather is nice, I hope you find the opportunity and the time to do so. Be selfish and spend your time the way you want, not the way others think you should. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

I’m beginning to believe that I will see a bit of light in my future at some point, though I’m not quite there yet. I’m working again, and the longer I work at the ice cream shop, the more I like it. It’s busy, it helps pass the time and I get to make people happy when I serve them. Ice cream makes most people happy and happiness is definitely on my menu of choices these days. My husband loved ice cream and I wish I could bring some home to him. I smile at work when I think about him enjoying ice cream with our grands, he loved them all so damned much. He loved me, too. He will always be my favorite ice cream date. Always.

Today is a good day, and I hope to keep feeling a bit of light shining through when the clouds in my head get dark and heavy. I’m trying to turn my face towards the sun and let it warm my skin. In doing so, I try to remember to give thanks that my beloved is no longer suffering. I am trying to be okay with moving forward in what is now just my life, not ours. I am a me. The us we were will always be, and I know, somewhere down the path of my life, the light will shine brighter.

Be well, stay safe and always remember to be kind…

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Jaws…?

Shared below is a recent Facebook post, I hope it can help someone…

Long post…

Yesterday I thought I was having a heart attack while at work. My chest was aching, but that’s been the case for almost 3 years now. When my lower jaw started to hurt, I got scared…

I called 911 from my cell and within minutes, it seems all the emergency services from the town of Dedham descended on the back office of JP licks.

I was taken by ambulance to the hospital where I was monitored for hours and had blood drawn every hour to check my heart enzymes. No heart attack. I left the ER with three different diagnosed conditions. PTSD, anxiety and Broken Heart Syndrome (a real medical condition.)

I don’t share this information to seek sympathy, I share it because I am self-aware and know I need help navigating my life right now. There is so much stigma surrounding mental health and if my sharing makes it possible for one person to know that they are not alone, my purpose for this post will be fulfilled.

The PTSD can be traced to a very specific event that happened three years ago and has been chasing me ever since. It’s been exasperated by the death of my beloved. The grief I’m in has no end in sight, but it certainly does have a defined beginning. I’m experiencing nightmares, overwhelming thoughts that bring so much pain and a loneliness so deep that I can’t begin to describe it.

I had reached out to someone I trust on Monday to ask for help in finding resources in Massachusetts, and she was amazing. I have more resource now than I had to start the week and I am going to work hard at helping myself. I have to.

If you’re reading this and something speaks to you, I hope it helps. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t feel embarrassed, I do. I’m a grown woman who has spent much of the past 3 years fighting against injustices and the loss of love. I’ve battled with the Federal government, sold homes, moved 4 times, and upended my life to care for my husband. I would do it again. And again. And again.

If you need help finding your way, it’s okay. I doesn’t make you weak, nor should it make you embarrassed. Be kind to yourself, even when no one else is. Give yourself some grace, a piece of advice I should adopt more for myself.

The mental health system in this country is beyond broken. The professionals that work within said system are overworked and under appreciated. In my experience, I find that they care. A great deal. Not every professional is a good fit for every person, you have to keep trying until you feel comfortable. You can’t force yourself to heal, I tried. I failed.

Thank you for reading this. I’m grieving and I will be for the rest of my life. I find much comfort in prayer, music and writing. As time passes, I’ll find other ways to make the journey less difficult, and hopefully find purpose in becoming a me. I don’t want to be a me, I have no choice…

Revere Beach 5/12/2021. Photo by Barb Enos

I’d like to know…

Hi all,

I’d like to know when I’m going to feel like myself again, but I already know the answer. Never. Never, ever, ever will I be the same person I was just three months ago. Or six. Or twelve. The person I was when I was part of an us is now just a me and I am not looking forward to getting to know her. No at all. I don’t want to but know that I have to. I’ve basically been on auto pilot, going through the motions of daily living, but finding no solace in the life I am now living. I pray that changes, but more than that, I pray I can hold on to myself until the sun shines on my life again.

I’d like to know why the grief process is getting harder instead of getting easier. Why? Haven’t I been through enough over the past three and a half years? I know some of what I am feeling is part regret, part guilt and mostly loneliness. I don’t want to acknowledge the loneliness, but it’s there and it’s real and it hurts. So much. I have been talking with my therapist when I can, reaching out to family members and friends, but the void inside me feels bigger every day, not smaller. I’m adrift in the sea of despair and cannot see the horizon beyond the waves.

My heart is still shattered and I know why. That’s not something I’d like to know, to be honest. I know the why of his death, the why of his stroke, the why of his decline. It seems all of the answers I know are not at all the ones I want to know. I want to know how long it will take to be okay. Will I ever be again? I used to think I would be, but now? Now all I see when I look in the mirror is a broken, aimless and sad woman looking back at me. That same woman that was full of fight for her beloved doesn’t seem to exist within me any longer. I want to feel useful, like I have purpose, and I don’t. I don’t know how to move forward. I’m stuck. Bogged down by the weight of grief, loneliness and a longing for my husband that runs so deep I’m drowning in the quicksand of it all.

Before any of you reading this begin to think I am on the edge of hurting myself, please don’t worry that way. I have been in touch with the people closest to me and they know I’m feeling fragile and scared. I reached out to my husband’s Psychologist from the hospice he was in just this morning and she sent me some resources to check out to help me deal with some of the darkest emotions I have ever experienced. I thought, just three years ago, that losing my oldest daughter to the estrangement she forced on to us was hard… It was. We survived. My husband and I held each other up and learned that we could still be happy. We worked really hard at being happy. That event, and the strength it took to thrive seems a precursor to the magnitude of emotion I’m facing now. My husband can’t hold me, he can’t hug me and he can’t encourage me to find my way through the pain. I’m alone in this, but I’m not. It’s a personal journey, but there has to be a side-car available from time to time to allow someone to accompany me. My family has been beyond wonderful, my close friends seem to know when I’m struggling. Letting others in is so not easy, but if I want to come out on the other side of this with even a small portion of sanity intact, I need to keep letting people see my darkness. I believe I can find the open window, in spite of the door that has been nailed shut. I’m just tired of being sad.

I’d like to know that I’d wake up tomorrow with a lighter heart, I just don’t think think it’ll be that easy. I need to find a way to give myself some grace, I say that very thing to the people I love when they’re hard on themselves. Taking my own advice seems like a good idea. It seems like solid, easy advice. It’s easy to give… Not so easy to incorporate into my own life. At least not right now…

Please, send me positive vibes, pray for me and know that I am so grateful that you care enough to read the ramblings of my broken heart. I never thought it would be like this for me, especially since I know with all that I am that my husband is not suffering any more. I wouldn’t wish the suffering he went through on my worst enemy, I’m just not that cruel. I never dreamed that his suffering coming to an end would be the ultimate breaking point for me. I keep thinking that his suffering has ended and mine has just begun. I want to be happy again, I just don’t know how to be. I want to move forward, but I’m stuck…

Until next time…

Photo by Barb Enos

They Say… ?

Hey all,

Have you ever thought about who “they” are? And what “they say?”

I think there are many of those “they” people out there, with far too much to “say.” Since my beloved husband died back in February, I’ve heard many “they say” pieces of advice and have been both honored and annoyed at receiving said advice. The best piece of advice has been: They say to wait a year before making any major changes to the course of your life.” It’s sound advice, with its roots embedded deep within other’s experiences, advice I have decided to try and adopt. The worst piece of advice I’ve received since February? The very same. “Wait a year … blah, blah, blah.” A year seems like an impossibly long stretch of time under the best of circumstances, how is possible to wait so long? How is possible to not wait? I literally have no idea who they are, but if they would like to reveal themselves to me, I’m willing to meet them. I might even be willing to listen to what they say!

I looked up they in the Merriam Webster dictionary and the definitions were plentiful.

Definition of they:

1— those ones those people, animals, or things

2—used to refer to people in a general way or to a group of people who are not specified.

3 a—used with a singular indefinite pronoun antecedent.

b—used with a singular antecedent to refer to an unknown or unspecified person.

c—used to refer to a single person whose gender is intentionally not revealed.

d—used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary.

So many different definitions for such a small word. And such a small word that can be used to convey many different types of: People. Animals. Things. I think I’ll stick with using they in reference to people right now. They have a lot to say, and they are who I’ve been thinking of for a few days as the ideas for this particular post have come together.

They mean well. At least I hope they do. Because people know I am more vulnerable right now, they have been kind, supportive and concerned. I have a wonderful family full of people that support me. I have friends that hold me up and let me cry. I am trying to look forward to making my way into my somewhat unknown future. I know they’ll help me when I ask for help, and I know they’ll understand when I don’t. This journey of grief is mine, but knowing I have all of them to help me brings me such comfort. As human beings, I believe we’re not created to be alone, and even though my husband is gone, I know I am not always alone. How many people suffer through the loss of a loved one alone? Do they have to because there is no one to hold their hand? I hope they’re not alone because they feel they’re a burden. I’ve been blessed to not feel burdensome for the most part, though that feeling has come over me a few times since my beloved died.

They say we should all love one another and not judge our fellow man. I believe this to be true as well. No one has the right to tell me they think I made the wrong decisions for my husband while he lived. Yet they have. And they do. And my reaction to that type of they say?” I say, walk in my shoes, sleep alone in my marriage bed, cook for one. Wash only your own clothes, knowing that your mate will never produce dirty laundry again. Drive everywhere you go alone. I am my own personal driver, chef, laundress, and bed-mate. It sucks. For me, it truly sucks. For my husband? They say he is in a better place and I agree. Most days…

They say to feel what you feel and not be guilty, especially when you’re going through the grief process. I’ve actually started disliking that phrase “grief process.” Process makes it seem like there may possibly be a solution waiting somewhere down the long and twisted path of grief. There is no solution. As the partner left behind I get angry, then feel guilty, then get angry. All very “normal” reactions during grief. Normal is nothing more than a cycle on the washing machine… I feel what I feel and I try to work through those feelings, and I fail. I also succeed. Grief isn’t a matter of picking your battles, it’s not a trustworthy foe. They say to fight to move forward, but I don’t want to fight. I’m exhausted and the battle with grief is raging on…

I’m going to end here for now and start considering my next entry. I feel something brewing in my heart that is sad. I don’t want to be sad, but I am. It seems to be my constant companion. I would rather have my dog as my constant companion. Since my dog is now my husband’s beloved constant companion, I guess I have to take my sadness for a walk every now and then.

Until next time, be safe. And be kind, always…

Photo by Barb Enos

One Step Forward…

(Don’t ask how many steps I’ve had to take back…)

Hi All,

It’s been a bit since I’ve shared anything, I’ve been spending time with my family and friends. I’ve been trying to walk, not run, through my grief, but in my heart I wish I could avoid it altogether. One step forward, countless steps back. The tears still come. Every day. Several times a day. I’m tired of crying, but can’t seem to make it through a day without tears. It’s been two months today since my husband died, and time keeps marching on.

One step forward is not enough, but it’s all any of us can manage when our lives have been up-ended the way mine has. So many hurting people. I think there are far more hurting people out in the world than there are happy ones, and just the thought of that makes me sad. I WANT to be happy again, but know in the deepest part of my spirit I have to keep taking that one step forward to get there. I have to keep “embracing the suck.” When suck is all you have, you can let it defeat you, define you or refine you. I choose refine, though today that refining got up and walked away at about 1:30 in the afternoon.

There was a birthday party today for my 6 year old granddaughter. She’s a beautiful girl, full of fire and curiosity, and she’s fearless! She is the image of her mom, my youngest daughter, and I love being able to watch her grow and discover. I don’t love the fact that my husband won’t get to see her become a young woman, or graduate from high school, or fall in love. Poppy should be here, and I’m a poor substitute for the man I loved. I sat on the cooler full of kids drinks in front of my daughter’s house and sobbed before the party. Sobbing is exhausting. Grief is exhausting. One step forward is exhausting.

I’m heading back to New England next week, and I honestly don’t want to. I thought I had a plan. Hahahahaha… Plans? Wanna make God laugh? Tell Him your plans! I’m going to try hard to make peace with living in New England, at least until mid 2022. Plans change, though, and I have to admit that moving away from the bitter cold and snow is very appealing. Leaving my family, not so appealing. I have to be able to stand on my feet and take steps forward. Pray for me, please. I need to be able to find patience in the making of future plans, and all I find right now is chaos, turmoil and sadness.

I really don’t have a lot to say tonight. I had thought about writing all day, and now that I can, the words are taking the steps backwards like I’ve been doing. When the words on my heart begin to elude me, I know better than to try and force them out onto the page. I’m sad. I know it’s okay to be sad. I don’t want to be, I just am. I’m going to take my sad self to bed and pray that tomorrow I’m able to take more than one step forward.

Thanks so much for reading, I wish I could be more encouraging right now. Please stay safe and remember to be kind. Always…

Photo by Barb Enos

How Do I Do This?

Hey Everyone,

I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this life of mine that now comes with more freedom than I have ever had. Ever. I’ve always been fiercely independent, but that independence was always rooted in the secure foundations of my life. Those foundations included my parents. My siblings. My husband. Since my husband’s death I feel like I’ve been tossed to and fro. My parents, though divorced, encouraged me to be independent. My dad died in 2000, my mom in 2005. My siblings are grandparents and have their own lives to manage. Some of the tossing is of my own making, some comes as a result of being pushed too hard to “make” decisions. Some comes from my reaction to the most inappropriate question women are asked after their husbands die; “Will you ever get married again?” WTF!!! Like I have a back-up mate hiding in the closet of my room? Since the closet I have is a modular one I bought through Amazon, perhaps I should send it back and ask for a new one that includes a mature man (60+) with tattoos, broad shoulders, a bit of a Santa belly, a hairy chest? Please, add hands that are rough and calloused by hard work. a goatee and a heart that beats for me and my quirkiness… Every time some casual acquaintance asks me about my future plans, I roll my eyes. I grimace. I have to laugh at the lack of thinking that comes with this question, otherwise I’ll go completely mad and probably live to regret my reaction. So, here’s your answer. No. I am not getting married again, at least not today. My husband has been dead 44 days, and to entertain the idea that I could even consider marriage is both comical and cruel.

I don’t know how to incorporate the feeling that something is constantly missing in my life into my everyday existence. I started grieving when my husband was admitted to the hospital in October 2019 and though he is now gone, I find myself trying to figure it all out. All. There is no more all in many ways, and then there is more. There is also less. Just this week my three year old grandson asked to see “Poppy.” Can you even begin to imagine the pain that question caused? Such an innocent question from a little boy that loves his Poppy. I crave the “magical thinking” that children possess, it would be wonderful to so easily accept the answers to questions such as my grandson asked me. I know I have no choice but to accept the reality of my situation, and I do, but the ease with which my grandson accepted my reply to him is something I wish was part of being an adult. I’ve mentioned before that a wise, retired Navy Master Chief suggested I learn how to “Embrace the Suck” and I actually cling to those three words now. I have to. Sometimes suck is all I have and I choose to let it make me more resilient. I am grateful that my husband no longer suffers, but the crater left in my heart is where it feels like all his suffering lives now. 10X over. Time, patience, grace and love are the band-aids applied to the wounds this suffering brings, and though I feel like I should be able to remove the band-aids, I cannot. I don’t know how. Yet.

I listened to a TED talk this week about moving on from grief and moving forward with grief. I happened upon it while scrolling through Facebook. I’m including the link at the end of this blog post for those who wish to listen. It brought to light many things I’ve been feeling. And fearing. I’ve often said that grieving the way I am is harder. And it is. In some aspects. In other aspects, it’s been much easier. The sudden death of a spouse brings a spirit crushing desperation. Long term illness such as my husband suffered brings desperation for death. After my beloved was admitted to hospice, I prayed for his end to be peaceful, comfortable and soon. Soon was 5 months. Of those 5 months, I got to spend 2 of them with him. At the end, I was there for the last week. As we all know, Covid-19, and the restrictions imposed at all levels of Government, have taken away so much time from patients in long term care facilities. I ached for my husband, he was alone. His brain injury made it so he couldn’t understand why. So many people, all around the world, feeling abandoned. So much grief…

How do I do this? How do I write about my grief? My sadness? My pain? The question shouldn’t be “How do I?” it should be “Why wouldn’t I?” I love to write and have been saddened to be less active in my writing life these past few months. I want my blog to help someone else, even if it’s only one person, realize that they are not alone. The old saying that “it takes a village” is so very true. We humans are not meant to walk through this life alone. Nor are we meant to hide from our life. Life brings chaos, and chaos can be so loud. I don’t like chaos. Or loud. In sharing my chaos, I find that I can turn down the volume of the loudness that usually accompanies it. I’m a neat freak, I like things organized and planned. Grief doesn’t care that I’d like to live a quiet, simple, minimalist life. Grief brings uncertainty, and pain. Anger. Desolation. And though grief brings many unwanted gifts, there is a silver lining. Grief can shape us into someone new. It can deepen our sense of compassion. It can open our eyes to the plight of others. We can take our grief out into the world around us and lend a hand to someone just beginning on their journey. We can help shine light into the darkness of someone else’s grief by being kind By listening. How I wish people would listen more. No one but me can “fix” my grief, and I’m smart enough to know that fixing grief is not possible. Moving forward with grief is possible, and I’m doing that with every step I take. I’m doing that with every word I write. I’m moving forward every time I make my bed, every time I decide to do something and every time I go somewhere new. My life isn’t over, and the spirit of the man I loved more than my own life is with me. Always.

In closing, I’d like to thank all of you that read my musings. May you all be safe, and remember always to be kind…

A Long Goodbye…

Hello all,

Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve written, and if you’ve followed my blog you know that I’ve been caring for my beloved husband since his catastrophic stroke on October 30, 2019. Unfortunately for me and the rest of our family, he passed away on February 10, 2021. For him, he’s finally at peace after a 16+ month struggle. No more pain, no more suffering, no more continuously long separations because of Covid-19 and visitation restrictions. He’s gone on to be re-united with his Heavenly Father, his earthly father, his sister and one of his brothers, playing cribbage somewhere in the heavens, probably laughing and smiling and enjoying the after-life free of pain.

I was called by the hospice unit on February 2nd, after not seeing him for almost three months, and they asked me to come see him. He had been crying without ceasing, and no matter what the staff did for him, he just wouldn’t stop. I drove the 30 minutes to the hospice unit and when I got into my husband’s room, and took his hand, he stopped crying. I asked him if he knew who I was and he said “you’re my beautiful wife.” Hearing that helped my heart heal, but there was more shattering to come. As I got comfortable sitting with him, he asked me “Will you give me permission to die?” Talk about pain… By now I am trying my best not to sob, and of course I told him yes. He also asked me to tell our girls he loved them, and that their husbands take care of them. Lastly he said “don’t let our grand-babies forget me.” I promised him I wouldn’t, and he rested off and on for the remainder of the two hours I was allowed to be with him. He would rouse from time to time and I would tell him I loved him, never letting go of his hand. At the end of our visit, I had to literally pry myself away from him, not knowing at that moment when, or if, I would ever see him alive again.

I drove back home after crying for a while in my car, and was beyond broken. After all that time of not seeing him, I was grateful to see him, but heartbroken by the words spoken. Little did I know that I would come to believe that he knew deep within his spirit that he would be taking a turn for the worse that very night…

On the morning of February 3rd, the Nurse Manager from hospice called me and asked me to come back. My husband had spent most of the night and early morning hours vomiting. He was now lethargic and mostly unresponsive. I packed a few things in a bag and flew down the highway, praying for a safe arrival. When I got to his room, he didn’t even look like the man I had just seen 22 hours before. He was skeletal, and grey. I took his hand again and stayed by his side for the next week, leaving him only when asked by staff or to shower. I told him over and over and over again that he was loved, that he could go and that we would always be together, our bond was beyond the physical. I asked his oldest brother to come that night, and he did. He sat with us for several hours and it was a blessing. When his brother asked him what he was doing, my husband replied “I’m sleeping.” I also heard him say I love you two times to me and the last word he said was “what.”

On Friday evening our youngest daughter flew into Boston. My brother picked her up at the airport and brought her to hospice. She was shattered by what she saw, and so brave. We watched her father’s body begin to be ravaged by fevers, and while Tylenol suppositories helped initially to manage the fevers, it wasn’t long before the beast of fever took hold and never let go. We would sit by his bed, play soft music, read to him, talk to him and hold his hand. We would watch the snow fall outside the windows of his room and talk about how her young children would have to grow up without their “Poppy.” It did then, it does now, and it always will make me incredibly sad that my husband is gone and that our two youngest grandchildren will only know him through memories and pictures. My husband was created to be a grandfather, and he relished the role. Our daughter flew home on February 8th, knowing she would never see her Daddy again. She and I both prayed for God’s mercy, begging Him to take our beloved husband and daddy home.

After our daughter left, I had my bother come and see my husband on Tuesday, February 9th. By now the fevers were not abating, they were raging. He was burning up and each minute he was fading. At this point he was completely unresponsive. He was bathed many times a day as the fevers made him soaked with sweat. I never left his side except to use the restroom, and when asked by staff. Every morning the doctor would look for the “mottling” of his feet and hands, and it began to appear more prominently by Tuesday afternoon. When my brother left, I sat by his side, no noise or music or talking, just holding his hand. Everything we needed to say had been said. Now we were just waiting…

On Wednesday morning, when I looked at my husband’s feet, I knew he would die that day. It was snowing out. Again. I texted my sister-in-love who only lived about 20 minutes away and asked her to bring me hot chocolate from Panera Bread. She did, but I never drank it. By the time she got to his room, he had started to turn yellow, from jaundice. He was beyond emaciated. He reminded me of Skeletor from He-man. We both held a hand, we talked to him and we called our sister-in-love in NH so she could say good-bye. As I was on the phone with her, my other sister-in-love said my name twice, I looked at my husband, hung up the phone and he took his final breath. It was 12:25pm and I felt a part of myself die with him. I sobbed in my sister-in-love’s arms, she sobbed in mine, and we said goodbye. My husband’s oldest brother was on his way to hospice from work, but he arrived after my husband died. It broke my heart to have to meet him at the elevator, knowing when those doors opened, I wouldn’t have to say anything. He would know. He did. We embraced in the hallway and then went back to my husband’s room. His older brother was shocked at the physical changes the last few days had brought his baby brother, and was relieved for my husband that his suffering was now over. My husband’s pain ended, finally, but now our family had to learn to cope with a new and everlasting pain.

I have spent the days since February 10, 2021 learning how to become a different version of the woman married to the man that was my husband. He has been laid to rest in the National Cemetery of Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. He lives on in the blue eyes of our grandchildren. He lives on in the hearts of his three remaining brothers. He lives on in the music I listen to on the radio in the car. He lives on… My life will never be the same, I accept that. What I won’t, and can’t accept is that my life will not be good again. It is good. I have wonderful connections with people that I never would have met had it not been for my husband. I have a confidence and determination that my husband helped encourage over the many years we were together, and I intend to keep being both confident and determined. I will keep his memory alive for our grandchildren. I will carry his name in my heart and share our love story with those willing to listen. I said goodbye to the body that carried the spirit of the man I love, but not to the spirit of the man who loved me. We will always be connected, and knowing this brings comfort. Much comfort…

A long goodbye? Yes. In many ways. A permanent goodbye? Never…

Never Letting Go, photo by Barb Enos