Noise

Noise, by definition, is an unwanted sound considered unpleasant, loud or disruptive to hearing. To me? All I can say is is noise is so much more than that which disrupts the ears…

I find myself disrupted by noise quite frequently throughout each day and as I struggle to understand why, I begin to see the changes in myself that are flawed, yet at the same time, perfectly beautiful. I’m a neat freak, I admit it. I also choose to live a minimal lifestyle. Both things, for me, bring peace from the noise of the world around me. I’m not a recluse, though there are days I think I would love to be. The world is a harsh, noise-filled, rat race. I’m not a rat, I don’t race around with seemingly no direction at all. I’d miss the small, intimate moments of joy that would pass me by if I lived my life trying to “just accept” the noise around me.

Not all noise is unwelcomed. Can you even begin to imagine what we’d all miss without noise? The sound of a baby laughing out loud for the first time comes to mind. How sad would it be if we just decided we didn’t want to hear the laughter? How empty would our lives be without music? People who are deaf still enjoy sound as they know it, and the vibrations of life become much more enjoyable when they learn to hear intentionally. We should all be so lucky as to hear with intention, being able to shut out the noises that divide humankind. What about being able to shut out the noises that live inside our heads? Those noises? That internal voice? I’m on a lifelong journey when it comes to being able to discern which noises, which voice, to listen to. As I age, I find myself more in tune with myself, and the noises that bring angst to my heart and spirit affect me greatly. That affect is not always positive, so I work my way through the thought processes that bring negativity and try to find a positive result.

I recently spent some time away from home and was exposed to the type of noise that not only triggered great sadness in my heart, it left me so overwhelmed that I can’t begin to shut it off. I’ve tried. I’ll keep trying, though I’m sure this is another journey that will last years. I’m pretty resolved to the fact that the only way to make it through this journey is a shoulders back, head-up approach, yet my shoulders are exhausted and my head is so damn heavy right now. When does the noise actually abate enough so I can hear myself think? I can stand on top of the highest mountain on earth and scream into the sky, yet no one will hear me. I can run myself to the point of exhaustion, and no one will be there to catch me when I fall. I can cry. I can hide. I can fight. I can give up. I can talk. I can listen. All the while the noise will still be present. Managing the noise as best I can is really all I can do, though how to manage it is a mystery not easily solved. Nothing worth having comes easy, including the absence of too much noise.

Is your life too noisy? Too messy? Do the noises and messes feed off of one another and leave you feeling like you’re bat shit crazy? Are you like me, a highly sensitive person, an empath? I have the capacity to feel so much, and the capacity to hear noise that a lot of people can’t. I’ve spent a great deal of time becoming the person I am right now, and I like her. I like that I’m able to hold myself accountable for my mistakes. I like that I don’t need to have the approval of others. I like that I can make my way in this noisy world. I like that I’m strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when I need help, and brave enough to actually ask for it. I like that I can focus and re-focus on the joy-filled moments my life gives me, even knowing that struggle lurks just around the bend. Struggle isn’t a bad thing, it helps sharpen our coping skills and adds tools to the toolboxes we all have to have to survive. Using those tools, both old and new, is a choice we all have to make for ourselves. Coping with the volume of noise I’ve been exposed to over these past 4+ years has been made more tolerable because my toolbox has what I need in it. Coping with the increase in volume pertaining to the noise I’ve recently been exposed to is going to be tough, I have no doubt about that. I can, and will, find a way to turn down the noise. I have to…

Be well, dear readers and know that I appreciate you all. Very much! Be kind, stay safe and turn down the noise whenever you get the chance!

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!

Things I Wish I Could Say…

To the demons that keep trying to beat me down…

I wish I could say…

I’ve spent more time in the past 30 days giving you space in my head, and heart, than I’d like to admit. I want to reclaim it. The space, not the time. Thank you for understanding.

I wish I could say…

Oh wait, you don’t understand, do you? You don’t know what you said, and that what you’ve said over the past year has been hurtful on so many levels. I didn’t want to believe those thoughts that were spoken out loud. I wanted to believe that because I was hurting then, as I am now, that you couldn’t possibly be who someone said you were. What a fool I’ve been.

I wish I could say…

Sometimes break ups are beyond painful for both parties involved. Somehow I think that you’ll fail to feel pain. Relief and freedom will be your first thoughts, and reactions, to this break-up. I hope that’s true as I never wanted to hurt you. I know what I need to say, and I should have said it long ago. I’ve been absent on purpose. I didn’t want my words to pierce your heart the way yours have pierced mine.

I wish I could say…

I’m done crying over you and am taking back the space in my head, and heart, and re-purposing it. I’m giving it back to the one that makes me feel safe. I will pray for you. Over and over and over again. When I ran back to God, He embraced ALL of me. ALL of my brokenness. ALL of my hurts. ALL of my shame. ALL of my guilt. ALL of my regret. ALL OF ME…

I wish I could say…

When I love, I love hard. I don’t regret loving you, I’m just more cautious now. More guarded. More protective of the pieces of me that you stole and stomped on. More aware that not everyone that says they love me mean it. It’s okay. I’m okay. I hope that you’re okay. It’s a lonely, cruel world, and even more so now that I’ve realized you are not safe for me. I love you, I just have to do it from a distance.

I wish I could say…

Someday, when the sun shines on your face and you turn toward the sun, I hope you can feel my love for you. I will always love you, I just don’t know how to trust you with MY heart anymore. I pray that you find peace in your new life without me, and that you’ll know that I miss you. I’ll miss you always.

I wish I could say…

I believe this isn’t the life we were meant to have, it’s what we’ve got. I would sell my soul back to you if it meant you could give me what I want, but you can’t. I know this now. I accept this. I am no longer as a child, believing you because it’s what I’m supposed do. I don’t believe in you, I don’t know you well enough anymore to display that kind of faith.

I will say…

Remember always to be kind to one another.

Seek joy. Promote Peace. Love fiercely.

Shenandoah National Park Photo by Barb Enos

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…

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