A Simple Hello…

Happy Sunday to you all!

I’m grateful to be at what some of us consider the end of our week and some consider it to be the beginning of the next week. No one likes to be caught in the “middle” of many things, but this is one time the middle is a good place to be. Take a few minutes and think about what you accomplished this past week. Was it a lot? A little? Nothing? Nothing isn’t really a factor in this question, because if you woke up every day and that’s all you did, you still did something! I’ll admit that this past week started out by showing all the signs of being a week where I would have to dig in and “embrace the suck.” Thankfully I was wrong. Very wrong! Monday was the worst day I had and by Wednesday I was back on track. Getting knocked down isn’t fun, nor is the pain we experience, but we have the ability to get back up and keep moving forward as long as we can breathe. I’m still breathing.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn to incorporate into my life since my husband died is the knowing that every time I wake up from a nap or a full night’s sleep: the sting of loss is new in that very second. Daydreaming brings the same sting as well. And if the daydream is about him, I usually have tears streaming down my face without even realizing it. It’s okay. I would rather feel the sting 10,000 times a day than to never experience it. That sting lets me know that he was. And that he is. And that he will be forever in my heart.

As I look back over the life of my blog, I see so much pain and anguish and sadness. I also see strength and grit and and tenderness. Let me admit here and now that I know there were times where it seems I was unfair, and I was. This blog was born out of the worst type of pain I’d ever experienced up until my beloved died and the pain I wrote about sometimes came across as hateful. I really can’t apologize for where I was, though I know I should. I know I’ll never hear an apology directed towards me, and that’s okay, too. The further away from the events of May of 2018, the less power they hold over me. God hasn’t given any of us a spirit of fear, and I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. It’s the same for the pain of grief. The further away from the date my husband finally succumbed to the ravaging effects of his stroke, the pain of grief becomes less harsh. The sting? I can deal with it. I almost welcome it, like I said. It lets me know that he was loved and that I was, too.

I’m not a perfect person, I don’t want to be. I’m perfectly loved and that’s what really makes it possible for me to push my way out of the darkness and live in the light. When we sink to our knees in prayer, we don’t always get the answers we WANT. We get the answers we NEED. We all know there is a difference between want and need. What happened recently isn’t important anymore, it’s what I’ve learned that makes all the difference. I’ve forgiven myself and pray for forgiveness from the person I hurt. I know the saying is “forgive and forget” and I’m good at the former, not the latter. Each day I wake up is another day towards forgetting. This is an area of my life I need to work on. I try, and fail. And try again. And fail, again. Don’t we all?

When life doesn’t turn out like you thought it would, leave the darker parts of it behind you. Let the sun shine upon you and warm your battered spirit. When you cry out to God or the Universe or whatever higher power you believe in and you get no response, look deep within and try to be patient. The answer is out there somewhere, and it will come to you when you truly need it. I got my answer about this past week’s turmoil on Wednesday and now it’s a solid comfort to my spirit. I hope you find the same peace.

Be well dear readers and remember, in a world where you can be anything, please be kind! Until next time…

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

I went…

The last few days have been a struggle. I wandered down the rabbit holes of estrangement, regret, self-doubt and a host of other mostly negative places… Let me explain.

I went down the rabbit hole of angst on Monday past. Something happened because I had the audacity to think for myself. Something I’ve gained a good deal of insight into since my beloved died almost 14 months ago. Beware… thinking for yourself and of others should come with warning labels! Actually, I think there is a manual for that, it’s called the Bible. At least in this house that’s what is. If you’re not a believer, you may see the warning manual as light, positive energy, the calm before the storm… I’m sure you get the picture.

Angst. Not a welcome brick in the backpack of life that I carry. Someone reached out to me in the early days of March (the 2nd) and presented a simple proposal. Did I want to be a part of something to honor someone we both love? Yes! Sign me up! I was told that I’d have more information by that weekend, and never received anything else. I try really hard to not push this person in any way, the fights that usually ensue have a tendency to crush my already shattered heart. I waited for almost 3 weeks before taking matters into my own hands and sought the information I needed to make a decision. Not a good thing… This has become a massive issue. I’ve been accused of overshadowing, being overly dramatic and was flat out punched in the gut (metaphorically speaking). I was going to do something kind for the person we both love, and still will, just not as part of the original proposal. Both the proposal initiator and I deserve peace, and I’m not biting my nose off to spite my face, I’m just tossing the brick of angst into my sea of tranquility and moving forward.

I went down the rabbit hole of anger because of the scenario just described and I’m happy to write that I’m not angry anymore. What’s the point? Monday was just a shit day, and I reacted poorly, I admit it. I apologized, though was told that just because I say something doesn’t make it true. That’s correct. This is not one of those times. I’m sorry I engaged in a back and forth and threw stones at someone else, I lost my composure. It happens to ALL of us from time to time. Just because I love this other person I don’t have the right to act out of ill will. I realize that. What I also realize is there are ways to avoid this kind of crazy cycle in the future. I can stop trying to make this person see my heart. I can stop wishing this person would lay down the daggers and swords and knives that seem to be permanently buried in my back. I can look ahead, focus on that which is good, and take steps in a different direction. Check! This morning I woke up refreshed, with a happy demeanor, and with the knowledge that the joy I always seek is just beyond the horizon of forgiveness. I forgive myself for acting poorly, and I forgive the other person as well.

I went down the rabbit hole of self-doubt after this happened, but I don’t live there. I’m human. You’re human. We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Self-doubt stop being my companion a long time ago and that’s one brick I won’t ever knowingly carry in my backpack. I matter. And if I only matter to me, that’s enough. I know that’s not the case, but as long as I keep my eyes and heart focused on Jesus, I know I’ll always matter to Him. That’s more than enough!

I went down the rabbit hole of many more feelings simply because I am me. I’m broken, but there’s so much beauty in the brokenness. I’m tenderhearted, and that tenderheartedness is often mistaken for being overly dramatic or too sensitive. I would rather have my heart crushed 1000 times over by this particular person than to crush someone else’s heart. I’ve learned so many positive things because of the conflicted relationship between us and sharing those things with others through this blog is a healing thing for me. I’ve been told that my blog is inappropriate and not appreciated, that’s okay. I’ve been told that I only tell my own side of the story. You think? It’s MY blog, not a community free for all. I’ve been ridiculed, demeaned, thrown away, burned in effigy, forgotten, hated and scorned because I write this blog. I’ve also been loved, supported, thanked, trusted, hugged and encouraged by people around the world through my blog. The old saying is “You can’t make everyone happy all the time” and I know this to be true. I wish I could, my empathetic self almost demands it. As long as I continue to serve others, apologize when I mess up, (which is frequently) and walk with my hand in the Lord’s, I’ll stay out of the rabbit holes more than I’d be in them.

Thanks for reading. In a world where you can be anything, I hope you choose to be kind.

Photo by Guillaume Meurice on Pexels.com

Broken

Broken…

What does that mean to you?

Hello Friends, I’m writing today about a subject that looks different for each and every one of us. Broken, by definition (Oxford online dictionary) means: 1.) having been fractured or damaged and no longer in one piece or in working order. 2.) (of a person) having given up all hope; despairing. I have been, and am, both. The second description is less of who I am than the first, though it wasn’t all that long ago in the reverse. I am no longer despairing. I haven’t given up. I’ve accepted. In that acceptance I’ve found that I have hope, though at times the hope is fleeting. Fleeting is better than non-existent.

Broken isn’t always bad. Sometimes we need breaking. An addict that wants to become and stay sober has to break their habit of drug use, drinking, anger, etc… As humans, sometimes we have to break cycles of addiction, abuse and neglect. More often than not, we become chain breakers of repeated circumstances. Of chains cast upon us by generations past. Being broken can open doors to the healing that we all crave. And need.

Broken people hurt people, and the cycle of brokenness is perpetuated. As you know, if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, I started writing because my husband and I were estranged from our oldest daughter. She accused us (mostly me) of heinous things, and the power in those statements damn near ruined us. Damn near. What has happened since the estrangement began is beautiful, yet sad. As time marched across the vast emptiness of shattered and broken hearts, we were growing without realizing it. We spent the first year trying to find a way to make sense of a non-sensical situation. A letter came. Another boulder to break the miniscule, and I do mean miniscule, healing that had begun to sprout through the cracks in our hearts. The letter became a tool in the healing process, not a detriment. We knew the day that courier showed up at our door that we could remain broken and struggling, or that we could accept and move forward. Without her. We chose the latter. Accepting that you’ve been thrown away like nothing more than a gum wrapper is beyond difficult to process, not impossible. Seven months after the letter arrived, my husband suffered a catastrophic stroke that would ultimately end his life. More breaking…

Breaking someone’s spirit because you can doesn’t make it right. I’ve done this very thing and am grateful that I, too, was broken because of my actions. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to be as right as I thought I did. Being right, or winning, isn’t winning anything if the victory is hollow. I’d rather lose a fight to hold onto peace and experience healing than to win an empty cup. Sometimes acceptance becomes our trophy, we just have to be willing to be open to what the lack of fighting may bring.

Being broken sucks. Plain and simple. If you’re shattered and experiencing so much pain that you can barely see, breathe. Just breathe. Sometimes being able to breathe is all we get when the white hot pain of brokenness rains down on us like a violent storm. Don’t bother with the umbrella, the winds of pain and heartache will continue to rip it out of your hands. Stand as strong and as fast as you can manage to against the tempest. Lean in. Breathe. I promise there will come a day when sunlight breaks through the proverbial darkness. You probably won’t recognize the light at first, I didn’t. As you put one foot in front of the other, your path becomes more well lit. Someday, you’ll look behind yourself and realize you’ve made progress towards that sliver of sunlight.

It’s been almost a year since my beloved died from that afformentioned stroke, and my heart is healing, yet stays broken as well. I’ve made many changes in my own life over the past year, and I’m proud of myself (mostly) for the way I’ve learned to accept what is, and isn’t, part of my life. I’ve moved. I start college (after a 40 year break) next month for my English degree. I’ve attended conferences that offer peer support to America’s families of its fallen heros. I’ve found a church that I like and I’ve met some wonderful people there. I also feel regret. I’ve lost people over the past year because I’m healing in a way they don’t understand. Part of the journey to heal our brokenness brings more brokenness, how could it not? It’s okay. I’ve adopted a new fur baby that makes me laugh out loud with her silly antics. I spend time with my youngest daughter, her husband and their terrific kids. I pray, without ceasing, for myself and others around the world. Music is never not on in my apartment. Music is like breathing for me, I can’t live without it. I’m learning that there is so much beauty in my brokenness that I can’t contain it all and I feel compelled to share it with all of you.

Being broken is hard, that’s for sure. What we choose to do with our brokenness is individual to each of us. For me, the hardest part of being broken is finding a way to accept myself when I make a poor decision. I’m human, I hurt, and the self-recrimination I place on myself after a poor decision can last for many, many days. Even many months. It’s when I get to a place where I can look back behind myself, that I see the healing that’s happened.

Go, be broken, and live. It is possible. Give yourself ALL the grace and mercy you deserve and forgive yourself. Forgive others. Life is messy, and this broken woman in Southwestern Pennsylvania hopes that you can see the beauty in the mess…

Photo by Barb Enos

Triggers…

What is a trigger in regards to mental health?

In mental health terms, a trigger refers to something that affects your emotional state, often significantly, by causing extreme overwhelm or distress. A trigger affects your ability to remain present in the moment. It may bring up specific thought patterns or influence your behavior.

(definition copied from Google search)

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything, in any form. I’ve been so busy moving, unpacking, and driving back and forth across the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania that my laptop has begun to feel neglected. So has my mental health. I can’t begin to stress enough how much my mindset affects every facet of my life.

Every. Single. One.

Every. Single. Day. 

Not a day goes by where the hamster wheels of grief, sadness, loneliness, misgiving and misunderstanding don’t seem to turn. And squeak. It seems they never stop. They do, however, slow down from time to time.

The date range of October 2nd thru November 18th is loaded with triggers for me and my family. Especially this year, the year of “firsts” without our beloved “Grumpy Poppy.” My husband was half of the heartbeat of our home, and now that heart is irrevocably broken. On Oct. 2nd, 2019, I hugged my husband for the last time as he hugged me back. A full on body to body hug on our front porch. The kind of hug that had I known it was the last one, I never would have let go…He was leaving for an extended trip to New England to visit family. I watched his truck fade from sight as he drove away from our little ranch house in the Lowcountry of SC. Little did I know Oct. 2nd would become a triggering date. October 20th, October 30th, November 2nd, November 8th, Veteran’s Day and November 18th are now all triggering dates for me. They always will be. My hope is that as the wheels turn and squeak through this time period, they will surely spin with less force as my endurance grows. Am I ever going to forget? No. Absolutely not. Perhaps the best I can, and do hope for, is that the triggers, when pulled, lose their force as time marches on.

When someone we love dies, a part of us dies, too. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I’ve spent the days since my beloved died trying to find that one piece of me that died when he did. I know I’ll never find it, though my spirit keeps watch for the tiniest glimpse of even a reflection of light bouncing off the missing piece. I think that piece was the one piece that gave me strength to deal with triggers. I don’t know what to call that piece, other than missing, and that’s okay. Missing seems an appropriate thing to call that one piece. It sums up what I’ve been doing since my husband died. Missing him. Missing our life together. Missing his hugs. Missing his presence. Missing the me I was as part of an us. 

When our minds and hearts pull the triggers of our emotions on us, most of us are not able to recognize the “why” of our reaction to the discharges. At least not right away.  I know I’ve floundered through these past couple of weeks trying to figure out just why I have been soooooo sad. The obvious reason speaks for itself, but there is more to it than the loss. And the triggers. I’ve been so hyper-focused on moving from MA to PA, I didn’t consider that when it actually happened there would be a massive let-down. I had to say good-bye, again, to my brother-in-love, who flew from FL to MA to drive the rental truck to PA. My daughter’s family suffered the loss of their beloved dog to cancer. Triggers; being pulled over and over and over again. We spend our time planning and researching and setting-up our lives, not realizing when the goal is met that we are left standing on the other edge of accomplishment. Yes, I moved. I found an apartment I can manage on my own. I’ve saved for this life-changing event, remained focused and determined, and yet the sadness was, and is, my constant companion. I’m not sad I moved, but I am sad that I left my family and friends in MA. I achieved my goal of being closer to my grandchildren, but I wasn’t fully aware of the fact that the move would be far more expensive emotionally than financially. 

I reached out to TAPS.org (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) when I finally crashed into the wall of myself. I’ve cried and sobbed and begged for relief from the ever present pain of the triggering dates and memories. My Peer Mentor is amazing, she helps me see that the hamster wheel can, and will slow down. She also helps me realize that I can continue to move forward in peace, as long as I give myself some grace. We HAVE to feel, it just happens. I wish it didn’t, but it does. I remind myself frequently that the pain I feel is in direct relation to the loss of my husband. The pain helps me remember that what we shared was, and is, REAL. He was, but more importantly, still is, my person. He always will be. The white hot pain of his loss will become more of a glowing ember, it’s just going to take time. There will be more triggers before there are less, and I need to be ready to face them head-on. TAPS.org will be right there beside me; they’re right beside all of us. TAPS.org is a family of broken people, and I firmly believe that being broken together is far better than being whole apart. None of us are meant to be alone. While each and every one of us needs alone time, and that’s healthy, navigating the twists and turns on the pathways of grieving sometimes means we need to be carried by others. Others that “get it.” I get it…

Be well, dear hearts, and remember always that help is readily available to all of us. The TAPS.org family, of which I am honored to be a part, is a phone call, text, and/or an email away. There are many worthy non-profit agencies available to us, we just have to seek them out. The triggers will come, and when they are firing faster than you can understand, trust your gut and reach out. You are NOT alone…

Photo by Barb Enos Revere Beach, MA.

Building a Better Boat…

Hello!

It’s been a bit, but I’m still out here and still moving forward. I just heard Build a Better Boat by Kenny Chesney and it prompted me to take a bit of a breather during these final, frenzied days in Boston and share my heart. I’m moving to Southwestern PA next weekend and while I’m looking forward to it for many reasons, I’m also very nervous. The song made me think about what’s been going on since I made the decision to move and gave me a moment to pause and reflect.

I don’t really want to build a better boat, I have to. Life has an uncanny way of pushing us along even when we absolutely refuse to step on to the platform of the ride. I’m not the type to hide in the corner, even when my flight instinct kicks in. I have, however, become the type to try and work my way through whatever roadblocks are thrown in front of me. I’ve learned that a lot of the roadblocks are of my own making and as I work through whatever the situation is, the situation becomes part of building that better boat. Sometimes I withdraw, and though others may not understand my withdrawal, I have to sort myself out first. I’m tender-hearted. I can’t (and don’t want to) change that. I’ve learned that being so makes me more misunderstood by others. I don’t know how to make someone understand that my silence and lack of interaction isn’t about them, it’s about me… and while that may sound selfish, it’s not. It’s self-care. And that’s a blog idea I’ve written about previously. Self-care is imperative for all of us. If we run on empty all the time, what do we have left to give anyone else? Life is full of moments where self-care can be, and will be, viewed as selfishness. It’s an unintended consequence that happens when I put the brakes on and face the roadblock head-on.

Building a better boat takes patience, something I never wanted to have to learn. The last 4 years of my life have been beyond erratic. Painful. Lonely. Confusing. I’ve been lost and found. I’ve been kicked and slapped by fate so hard, the sting will never fade. I’ve deliberately hurt those I love the most, not because I wanted to, but because I’ve had to. I’ve learned that some things, no matter how much they matter to me, matter to no one else. I can’t begin to let people know how sorry I am that my time frame for working my way through the hurts and grief and misunderstandings is so unpredictable. It takes as long, or as short, as it does. Patience is a virtue we all need more of and I’ll gladly be the first to admit that I lack it at times when it’s needed the most. Other times I possess so much of it, I don’t recognize myself. I left my husband in 2017, I managed to leave him without his knowing what was coming, and three days later, all I wanted to do was turn that car around and drive straight back into his arms. I broke him. I broke me. I broke our family. Three days after I drove out of our driveway, I wanted to go home. He was beyond hurt, and I am sorry. I know he knew that. He was enraged, and hurt, and beyond broken. So was I. He found the strength to say that we needed to see where the separation could take us and that I needed to be patient. He knew me better than anyone. He knew what an impossible task that would be for me. Patience didn’t come easy to me, it still doesn’t. 7 weeks after I left him, I went home. We worked hard to rebuild the marriage that I burned to the ground… The beauty that was painted from the ashes became something we never lost again. Patience played a huge roll in our reuniting, and because we practiced patience, we were able to build a better boat. Together.

Building a better boat is hard. There’s not a single doubt in my mind that it’s an impossible task to complete alone. There are moments I feel like I’m standing on the edge of an abyss so deep, and so dark, that if I lose my balance, I’ll simply disappear. Sometimes I think we may all want to disappear, and seeking a little personal time is okay. The boat I’m building is smaller than the boat that capsized when my beloved husband died. The new boat will have a minimal amount of stuff on board, but the deck, the berthing compartment and the galley will be absolutely full of memories. The memories of a life well lived, and a love so true, will be the wind in the sails. The storms will surely continue to roll in and toss the new boat from side to side, but the strength within the foundation of the new boat will prevail. I’ll proudly and humbly steer this new, smaller boat as steadily as possible, knowing that from time to time I may need a life saving ring tossed into the waves. I don’t have a choice about moving into the open waters on my own in many ways, but I do know that I have many life rafts waiting on shore should I need them.

Building this new boat has been challenging. I don’t necessarily think it’s better, it’s just different. My life is different now, not better. I miss my sailor (he was a US Navy sailor) and I miss the anchor he was in my life. I miss the hugs and the warmth and the adventure. I miss what could have been, and am trying hard to be comfortable in facing what is. The waves and storms and riptides will pull my new boat in a million different directions, but my heart will always be seeking the true north that my beloved was. No compass will ever point me in a direction where he doesn’t exist…

Generosity…

Hello world,

I’ve recently returned from a weekend conference in Columbus, Ohio…

How many people can say they practice generosity? I thought I did, and I do, but not on the scale of what I experienced this past weekend. Not even close. I probably shouldn’t even be writing about my weekend until I find a way to process, and put into words, how much this past weekend means to me and the impact it’s had on the life-long journey of healing that stretches out in front of me.

If you’ve been a follower of mine, you know this blog was born out of a pain so deep, and so dark, I was literally bleeding to death via my laptop. It began because our oldest daughter threw her family of origin away. She cast her parents and sister aside, and ripped apart so many relationships through her actions it seemed none of us would ever heal. The human spirit, however broken, always seems to find ways to begin the healing processes we all so desperately need throughout our lives. Flight, fight, fawn or freeze; these are the innate defensive responses that live in every single person. In the early stages of the estrangement, my first response was to fight, and I tried, it took me 10 months to just breathe…

Fast forward from May of 2018 to October of 2019. My husband and I sold a home in NC and bought a house in the Lowcountry of SC. Our “forever” home. It was small, on a small lot in a neighborhood that was mostly rural and had an older population. Perfect for us, as we were staring down the path of retirement. The estrangement was still a part of our lives, though by this time we had found ways to cope. and to let go. Life was quiet, simple and full of love. We were close to our youngest daughter and her family. Lot’s of grand baby love! We were back in an area we loved, had a community we appreciated, and I had a wonderful job with UPS. Roadblocks were in the rear-view mirror. Or so we thought…

The massive head-on collision barreling toward us was stealthy. Sneaky. Silent. My husband crashed into it in a preliminary way on October 20, 2019. It was like a side swipe, a tiny glimpse of the on-coming crash between an economy car and a massive freight train. The accident happened on October 30, 2019 and the aftermath will never not be felt. We all know what can happen when a freight train hits an economy car. The pictures are downright gruesome. Lives are shattered. Nothing, absolutely nothing, remains as it was.

This past weekend was like having an insurance adjuster visit the scene of the aforementioned train crash. And having that adjuster find fault with the train, not the car. The train represents the Grim Reaper in my head, and he was just waiting for my husband to approach the most dangerous intersection of his life. Just waiting. Well, the Grim Reaper has zero power over me now, though the carnage wreaked at that intersection can never physically be undone. My husband didn’t die in the crash, he didn’t die on the operating table and he didn’t die due to lack of care. It took 16 months after the collision for him to die, the after affects of the train crash too much for his vital organs to keep working properly. He fought, and he thrived, and then the Grim Reaper’s cousin, known as Covid-19, decided to visit him. That made it so no one else could. No one he loved, not just me. No visits from his daughters, his grandchildren, his brothers, etc… Sorry (not sorry) for the language, but fuck Covid. Those innate responses we all possess? Fight was my husband’s companion after the stroke, flight never had a place in his recovery. The stroke didn’t make him give up, the isolation of Covid did. Anyway, the weekend. Generosity. And such…

Generosity comes in many forms, from many directions and from many, many different people. TAPS.org is an amazing non-profit! The acronym stands for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. Survivors of military personnel. Any survivor is welcome to join the TAPS family and I am ever grateful that I did. I’m a self-aware person, I believe in determination and I try to live with a constant sense of mindfulness. TAPS is there to help me, and so many others, every second of every day. It’s a peer support network for all military family members, and friends, left reeling from the loss of a loved one that served. The military person doesn’t have to be KIA (killed in action) for family to avail themselves of the services,educational benefits, and support of TAPS. There are groups for survivors of all manner of death. Suicide, accident, homicide, sudden death, long-term illness, etc… If your person wore the uniform of any of the Armed Services, you can seek help.

TAPS holds regional seminars around the country every year and a National Conference is held each year over the Memorial Day Weekend in Washington, D.C.. The organization started in 1994, born out of a deep rooted need when the wife of an Army officer lost her husband in a military plane crash. If you want to learn more about the founder, please research TAPS.org at your leisure, you’ll be amazed at how one woman, in what was a very dark time in her life, knew she needed “more” than what she was finding outside the community of the military. Her vision and drive created an organization that personifies generosity at every turn, and the need never seems to end. Freedom isn’t free, we Americans know this, and to have such a caring and safe place to manage the grief that never seems to end is simply a gift. People don’t “get it” if they’ve never served, and that’s okay. They don’t have to get it. The people that do get it, well, I met so many of them at this conference. I don’t know how to make anyone understand that the level of generosity was second only to the love and compassion shown to me, a stranger in a foreign, but also familiar, land…

Generosity doesn’t always have to be on such a grand scale… It can be something as simple as sharing a smile, lending a helping hand or simply praying for someone. We ALL, no matter who we are or what we do, have hurt and anguish in our lives. Simply saying hello on the street too a stranger can lighten the heaviest of burdens of the person to whom you say good morning. Being generous might mean you buy the coffee for the car behind you in the drive-thru line, stop and let a car out of a side street during your morning commute, or even just giving a few minutes of your time to a neighbor in need. Generosity breeds kindness and kindness breeds generosity, and we can all acknowledge that those two attributes are most definitely something this world needs a whole lot more of! TAPS generosity is beyond amazing and made possible by some pretty fantastic supporters. To those supporters I say a humble thank-you. Thank you from the bottom of my broken and shattered heart. It’s because of the support of so many that I know I am going to be okay. I’ll never be the same, I’ll always hurt. I’ll always miss my husband. And, I’ll always miss what might have been. I can grow with TAPS, I can give back by volunteering when I’m able and I can spread the kindness and generosity I’m blessed to receive with others.

So, go out into your world, live your best life and be generous. You don’t need to be rich in money to share the gifts of generosity and kindness, you just have to be willing…

Be kind always, remember to breathe and, say thank-you to someone who has served…

Until next time…

(Image credit belongs to: Grief to Gratitude)

Sunday Thoughts…

Hi,

Yes, it’s been a bit, I’ve been living my life and trying to heal. I’m moving forward with the grief of my husband’s death still holding one hand, but in the other? The other hand has been multi-purpose. It’s been drying my tears, pushing me towards my new life in Pennsylvania, and steering the methods of whatever it takes to get me there.

I’m currently house-sitting for some dear friends while they’re on vacation and just like last year, I am thoroughly enjoying their deck. Their home is a ranch style, very comfortable and in a safe neighborhood about 30 miles southwest of Boston. I’ve been thinking that being here is like having “training wheels.” I’m almost ready to take the training wheels off and move out on my own. I haven’t lived on my own since June of 2020, and am beyond thankful for the support of my family and friends during these dark times in my life. This summer has been hard on me emotionally, I’ve withdrawn from people after being hurt by someone I trusted, and am finally able to see the sunshine again…

When someone hurts us, we can only control our reaction to what’s been done, not the actions done to us. I realized as soon as the words left this person’s mouth that I would never be the same again. Wanna know what else I’ve come to realize? I realize that because of one sentence, I’m okay with not being who I was. I am very different now, and I actually like me more than I did before. Sure, what was said was hurtful. The words piercing my heart and leaving me feeling like I didn’t matter. This event also showed me that I am not without boundaries, self-respect, and value. Maybe I don’t matter to the person who hurt me, that’s okay. I still matter. To me. To my children and grandchildren. To a few select friends that I still trust. I don’t need more than that. I’ve also learned to pull back on how much I share on social media, to stop and REALLY think about what I’m saying, and to listen to my gut more. To value my personal space and privacy. Silver linings for sure…

The heatwave that has gripped Northern New England broke overnight, and today is just freaking glorious!!! I’m doing what I love by writing, listening to music and making plans to spend time with people I love in the coming days. I’m still sad, overwhelmingly so, and am accepting that sadness is my constant companion these days. I’m also happy. Happy that the sun is shining. Happy that I am able to enjoy the gifts that Mother Nature has granted us today. Happy that I got to see 10 turkeys in the backyard and watch them wander off. It may seem silly to notice such simple things, but just think about all the things that demand our attention on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit on the deck, listen to your favorite music and take in the beauty of your small portion of this world. Appreciation is good for the spirit!

With the day being as lovely as it is, I’m thinking that I may not be leaving my little haven of paradise for the madness of the shopping center down the road. I have two shirts I need to return, and am thinking they can wait for another day. As I sit here and revel in the sunshine, I realize I don’t want to trade the peace and quiet of this deck for the chaos and madness of a big box store. I have everything I need to make it through the day without sacrificing my peace of mind. I’d rather stay here, quietly thinking about my husband and just enjoying the ability to be. We all need to treat ourselves from time to time, no matter what that looks like. I’m staying close to home today, not listening to or giving in to the voices in my head that say I need to “go and do.” I am doing by not going and doing, and that’s that!

It’s been a little more than 6 months since my husband died, though it feels like 60 years. I miss him. So much. I’ve come to realize just how much I miss the touch of another human being. The hugs I always gave and received? Gone. The simple touch of his hand on my lower back? Gone. I’d give almost anything to have him back, and while I know that’s an impossibility, the craving that lives within me for the touch of another is not gone. Nor is it impossible. It’s not the same when someone else hugs me, it can’t be. No one loved me like he did. No one knows me like he did. No one could ever take his place in my life, or in my heart. He was my person. I was his. We were an us. When you become a me after being an us for more than half of your life, the transition is fraught with emotion, growing pains and tears. Time is supposed to help, so whenever time decides to get on board and journey with this broken woman, I’m ready! Until then, I will hug my friends and family, wipe my own tears and move forward with as much purpose as I am able. Living a purpose driven life will give me opportunities to honor the memory of my beloved.

I’m hanging on, and am so grateful that I have the opportunity to share my journey with people through this blog. Life isn’t always harsh, though sometimes it feels that way. This summer has been painful for me, but also enlightening. I have to keep my eyes on the roads ahead, while looking back and figuring out which roads to avoid. The curves and bends can seem scary, especially when they come out of nowhere. Keep looking forward, keep unpacking the unnecessary baggage you carry, and stay the course. Life is to be lived. And savored. Take the bitter and at least try to make it into something sweet, you may be surprised at what happens. Embrace the suck as the Navy Seals say, and turn the suck into success!

Until next time remember to be kind always, smile and believe in yourself!

Carrying the Luggage of Grief…


As most of you that know me well, you know I’m planning on moving to Southwestern PA in the fall. My life looks nothing like I thought it would, still I move forward. I miss my husband more every day, and can hear him encouraging me to seek joy. Being closer to our grandchildren was part of the reason we moved to the Charleston area in 2018. So much has changed since then…

I am a widow… A word that defines my marital status, not a word that defines me. I’m a MiMi, Mom (in-law,) Sister, Friend, Sister-in-love, Auntie… All words that define roles in my life, they are not all of me.

I struggle daily with the thoughts of not being good enough. I struggle daily with being rejected. I struggle daily with trying to figure out what I did wrong, and why I feel less than. On the flip side of all the negative? I work daily towards my goal, towards PA. I have remained dedicated to self-care as I promised myself I would. I try daily to remember that I am worthy of love. I try daily to be kind. I try daily to let go and let God. I’m not good at letting go, but I’m not good at being an emotional punching bag either.

I have changed so much along this journey, and I’m so grateful for those changes. I’ve learned that there are far more unintended consequences to be dealt with when I, or someone else, says or does something without thought. Then again, maybe things are said and done with thought that were not intended to hurt. Words hurt. Words hurt me more now than ever, and they help as well. I find much healing in being able to express my thoughts through written words. I find confusion, angst and dismissiveness as well.

Learning continues along the journey of grief, and the roadblocks, twists, and turns, become less harrowing as times marches on. As I march forward. The heaviness of the luggage of grief becomes lighter, the noise becomes a softer humming and the darkness that dwells within is turning to light. There is no switch inside my heart, or head, to turn the lights on suddenly, it’s a slow turn of a dimmer switch. Very slow. Somedays, all I can manage is to touch the switch. Sometimes I can turn it, and other days I can’t even find it.

Grief has no GPS. Grief is full of detours. Grief is the cliff edge of the mountain, and the chasm below. Grief is grey skies, torrential downpours and angry horizons. Grief is also a companion that never goes home. Grief is love with no place to go…

I’ve read many times that grief is the price we pay for love. I wholly believe this. Grief costs more than I will ever be able to give, yet I keep grieving. And giving. Oxymoronic at best. How the hell do I look forward without looking back? I don’t. It’s that simple and beyond complicated at the same time.

The luggage of grief is not required to be carried every single day. Somedays you can just carry a backpack. Somedays you can carry a wallet. Somedays, though not many, you might actually not have to carry any luggage at all. Those days are a long time in coming… I haven’t had one yet, nor do I expect to have one anytime soon. I do HOPE that I have many as time goes on.

Remember always to be kind, and show kindness to yourself. You ARE deserving of kindness, love and compassion, as am I. Grief makes for a lonely companion, but we are not alone…

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…