Thursday, April 5, 2018

Till death do us part

"In good times as well as in bad, in sickness as well as in health, for richer or for poorer...until death do us part."

Most of us said the same vows-or a variation of the same-when we got married.

However, when we were young, all the potential bad things were imaginary-even the thought of losing your partner to death.

"The death of a beloved in amputation. But when two people marry, each one has to accept that one of them will die before the other."-Madeleine L'Engle

Obviously, true.

It just doesn't make the loss any easier to accept when it's your reality.

When you're the one navigating through life after the loss.

But please will navigate through it.

And your partner would have expected/wanted nothing less.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Canine advice

10 Things We Can Learn From Our Dogs That Will Make Us Happier and Healthier Humans-By Lisa Zawistowski

1. Live in the moment
2. Forgive
3. Reward yourself with treats once in a while
4. Take good care of yourself
5. Attitude is everything
6. Walk in nature
7. Hugs matter
8. Know your real needs
9. Take time for the simple things
10. Love is the only thing that really matters

"Express gratitude for the good things in your life, savor life's joys, learn to forgive and avoid overthinking things."

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Normal grief?

Grieving or depressed?

It's a good question, especially when in the midst of trying to regain your footing in the world.

The medical community often considers anyone who grieves beyond two weeks as being depressed.

Allen Frances MD has noted "medicalizing normal grief stigmatizes and reduces the normalcy and dignity of the pain, short circuits the expected existential processing of the loss, reduces reliance on the many well established cultural rituals for consoling grief, and would subject many people to unnecessary and potentially harmful medication."

Grief is an inescapable part of the human experience.

Grief will effect all of us in our lifetime and there is really no one right way to grieve.

The symptoms of grief and depression do overlap.

Allan Schwartz, PhD notes:

"It has been said that an important difference between grief and major depression is that in grief the feelings of loss of the loved one is compensated for by the warm memories that are carried with the one who suffered the loss. One the other hand, major depression is characterized by feelings of loss resulting in internal feelings of emptiness. Nothing, not memories or anything, compensates for or balances the feelings of loss."

Good memories can compensate somewhat for a loss. It also encourages you to want to create more good memories. Working through grief takes time.

"Ultimately, mourning runs its own course and resolves it's self."-Allan Schwartz PhD

"People don't get over grief. Reconciliation is a more appropriate term-when the mourner moves forward in life without the physical presence of the person who died. The person who died will never be forgotten but you can and you will move forward in your life."Alan Wolfelt PhD

Monday, February 26, 2018

Don't worry, it shall pass

"Bereavement is a darkness unknown to the imagination of the unbereaved."-Iris Murdoch

"When I'm feeling good I know that things can change quickly and I will probably feel low again.  When I'm feeling low I know that things can change quickly and I will probably feel happy again.
However I'm feeling at the moment, I know that this too shall pass."

I came across a quote that was really helpful: "as time goes by, there will be longer periods of relief and longer periods between the extremes of emotions but, you will continue to be emotionally ambushed at unexpected times."

The term "emotionally ambushed" made so much sense.

It's exactly how I felt and helped to explain what was happening to me-how I could be doing fine one moment and then in tears the next.

Working through grief is hard.

"The experience of sudden loss of love and the recovery process that follows can provide a basis for growing and expanding us as human beings in ways we never thought were possible."

One of my favorite notes in a sympathy card from a friend, who had lost his wife years ago, was: "please know that eventually you will find the light at the end of the tunnel in which you find yourself in at this time."

So will you.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Bereavement fear

One of my best friends gave me the short book by C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.

It's about his thoughts on life, death, and faith while in the midst of a loss.

He wrote it after the death of his wife.

It illustrates how a strong Christian can question, and then rediscover, his faith when navigating through bereavement/grief.

I've read it 4-5 times-each re-read brings new insights.

The first sentence of the first chapter:

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear."

I had crazy fears after the loss of T-it was strangely reassuring to read this simple sentence.

There's another sentence, in the 1st chapter, to illustrate that grief is the gift that keeps on giving:

"I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief."

William Shakespheare noted "everyone can master a grief but he that has it."

I wanted to remind so many (all of whom had the best of intentions), of this, who implied that I should consider socializing more relatively soon after T's death.

Fear, eventually, does abate and grief, considerably, softens.

But it takes time.

Take the time.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The gift of time together

Second journal entry:

"Grief can destroy you, or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn't allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it's over and you're alone, you begin to see that it wasn't just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying about a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can't get off your knees for a long time, you're driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life."-Dean Koontz

An amazing quote.

I've shared this with others, who are in the midst of grief, because it was so helpful to me. I knew T would never want me to disrespect the gift of life.

It also reminded me of a quote from the movie Shawshank Redemption: "I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying."

This became my second mantra.

I wasn't exactly sure yet what I was going to do but at least I was starting to feel a little motivated to do just that.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The first journal entry and the first mantra

I started this blog on Day #60 of Life without T.

The first 59 days were a struggle for sure-filled with all the usual feelings related to bereavement-extreme sadness, crying spells, anxiety over pretty much everything, insomnia, anorexia, weight loss, guilt and questioning if I could have been a better husband and/or told T more often how much I appreciated and loved her. I felt overwhelmed and had recurring thoughts of wishing I had been the first to die.

There were also times that I was angry at her for leaving me and forcing me to figure out so many things on my own. These represented the times that I was actually the most functional, in terms of getting things done, however, so that was sort of a good thing.

Before my daughter returned for the start of her second year of college she gave me a blank notebook. I knew what it was meant for. She has written in a journal for some time. It encouraged me to read more and put my thoughts, or those of others, down in writing.

The first entry was 8/19/2015. It was from a blog entitled "Lost Without Her:"

"You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived. You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back, or you can open your eyes and see that she has left. Your heart can be empty because you can't see her or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember her only that she is gone or you can cherish her memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back OR you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on."

"Smile, open your eyes, love and go on" became the first of many mantras I used for helping me to get through a day.

The mantras didn't stop the waves of emotion but they did help to keep me from drowning.

It was a good start.