Not a writer

You might think to yourself, “Where does this woman get off, does she think she is a writer or something?” But alas, no. I, in fact, do not think of myself as any sort of writer. I have never been a writer, not really. The closest I have ever come to being a writer involves presentations, calculating emails, and being known for my “wordsmithing” in certain business circles. I am not a writer.

My daughter is a writer, she enjoys writing short stories, and has even written a novel. She is creative and a writer, I am not. She gets that from her father. My daughter is a writer.

My late husband was a writer, it was a passion of his. He was very creative, he drafted a novel, wrote papers, and stories, and many a poem. My late husband was a writer.

Honestly, I write very similarly to the way I speak. It is a stream-of-consciousness approach. I have only started writing recently. Years after his passing, I have found my voice. Maybe. Or maybe it is his voice that I have found.

Contradictions and Small Steps

After my husband passed away, I quickly realized how many contradictions occur during the experience of grief.

Take for instance, those special moments with your children. Those moments of pride for their accomplishments. You are so happy and so proud, but at the same time, you cannot help but dread the fact that you cannot share with your lost loved one.

Or perhaps those desires to see see photos, videos, of a loved one passed, so you can feel close to them, but at the same time you hesitate to look at them because of the pain and hurt they bring to the surface.

There is loneliness that consumes you, paired with the desire to be around others, however, you also want to be left alone. You long for companionship and to be with friends and family, but are burdened with overwhelming desire to stay behind closed doors.

You want your friends and family to reach out, but you are frustrated because you feel their support is empty or shallow, because you can’t find peace and comfort from them.

You may be grateful to God for having time with your lost one, and yet angry at God for taking him/her away.

I could go on and on about the duality that is grief, but I think you get the point. Grief is an uncomfortableness. It is being uncomfortable in your own body and mind, never finding any position or thought that can alleviate it. You try everything, but it never gets better. You have to just learn to live with it. It is an arthritis of the soul.

How do you treat this ache? Well, you can never really cure it, but what you can do is stretch it out and exercise your muscles. What do I mean?

Start slow, small steps, and let in some of what you think you need. For example, allow yourself a night out with friends. It may exhaust you, like if you were to jog around the block for the first time, but after practice you will get used to it, tolerate it. You may even feel good during or after. Pat yourself on the back for your accomplishment, and move forward. You are ready to go further, add more exercises, take another step. It gets better if you let it, and if you work it. But it is not going to get there on it’s own, you have to take responsibility and move it forward.

Take another step.

What you don’t know about grief can fill a blog…

I wish grief was simple. I wish it was something you get over, like a cold, the flu, or even a break-up. But it is not. It is crazy, complicated, and chocked full of things you never knew, never wanted to know, and things no one prepares you for.

Things nobody admits or talks about…

  • Grief lasts a lifetime, you are never really over it, you just learn to live with it and work around it.
  • Grief causes physical pain, sometimes aches, sometimes illness, headaches, fatigue…
  • How much grief changes a you, as a person, you are never quite the same
  • Through grief, your perception of the world changes, and so do your priorities in life
  • Loneliness, or how alone you might feel in the day-to-day.
    • How many friends you may lose
    • How once close relationships may change
  • You may have to search to find the right person to listen
  • The “red tape” items that continue to pop up. Like old accounts, bills, registrations, etc. (my late husband still gets mail, it has been 8 years, and I have since moved from our old address)
  • The view of your relationship with your loved one, prior to losing your loved one, gets scrutinized, judged, and assumptions made.
  • How hard it is to shed your old life, to create something new or at least tolerable.

Re-building your life can be a challenge for anyone, even the strongest, most confident person. But rebuilding a life, while dealing with the unexpected, is undoubtedly more challenging and complicated than people understand. The way to do it?…one tiny step at a time. One small move in the right direction. Is it easy?…nope. Is it worth it?…YES! Ten fold. In order for your own inner peace and well-being…YES!

Give yourself permission

Grief is a wild, weird, worried, and wacky journey. With that said, you need to grant yourself permission.

Permission to grieve, allow yourself those quiet times of self pity, where you allow yourself to feel all of the raw emotion. You are entitled to your feelings, just try not to hang out in that dark space too long.

But more importantly,

Permission to enjoy life, even for a minute. Find something or some way to let the burden of grief go, even if just temporarily.

Here I have posted a photo of myself. This is actually only 4 months after my husband passed. I signed myself up for an adventure. This is me swimming with the dolphins. I allowed myself to relax, enjoy, and put aside the difficult emotions of the previous 4 months to be in this moment. It made all the difference in my grief journey.

Give yourself permission

What if?

There is sometimes a paralyzing fear that comes with a being a widowed parent. This fear can keep you up at night, have your mind racing, and cripple you in the world of what if. There is an abundance of pressure on the remaining living parent, and it can create shifts in behavior that some may find illogical or irrational.

It is my obligation as a parent to protect my child. In order to meet my obligation, I need to take care of child, my household, and myself; in effect, establishing a cocoon of safety. Suddenly, even an overnight business trip out of town creates a increased risk. So many irrational thoughts suddenly become rationalized in my over-wound brain. I have never had a fear of flying, but what if?

What if something happens to me? What will happen to my daughter? Will her life be ruined? Who will take care of her? What damage will be done? And no matter what, her life will be set on a different course.

I am driving, alone in my car, in crazy Atlanta traffic. What if I get in a wreck? What if I am hurt and can’t reach out? Who will pick up my daughter after school? How will she know what happened? or where I am? or what to do?

What if I lose my job? How do I keep a roof over our heads and support us? (BTW, this actually happened this year)

I am also suddenly an overprotective mama-bear who, if backed in a corner, will fight to the death to protect her cub. But then, if I do that, she will be alone. So how do I keep it all together? What if?

Stability is important, but never so much as when you are parenting alone, with no real safety net, no other parent in the wings, everything is riding on what you do and say. It is a daunting responsibility. It takes mustering up strength each day to push forward, to sometimes ignore the internal voice of fear, and try to think in a more logical and practical way. Just another example of the strength a widow possesses, that isn’t always realized.

(This blog entry is a little different from my normal, more confident rants, I wanted to give a glimpse of the fear and trepidation that enters my mind and contributes to my lunacy, and perhaps a better understanding of the crazed mind of a widow.)

Give yourself a break

Everyone deserves a break, to reinvigorate themselves, or get ready for battle, to gain some new perspective, or to just simply get some rest. There is no rule, written or unwritten, that says a widow or widower needs to live in a state of depression, or remain at the bottom of a downward spiral. Give yourself permission to put the grief aside, even if only for a short time. Trust me, it isn’t going anywhere. And that downward spiral? There is only one way to go from the bottom, and that is upward.

There are many times, during the course of my grieving, when I did not do the right thing, or make the healthy choice. But, there was this one thing that I did, just 3.5 months after my husband’s passing, that probably made all the difference in following months, that helped me more mentally than counseling, grief group, or anything else I threw at it. I took a trip. My daughter and I took a trip.

My daughter, A, was just 8 years old at the time. School had literally finished the day prior, and we left town. We boarded a Disney cruise for 8 days! Sounds weird, I know. My husband had been gone less than 4 months, and here I am going on a fancy vacation. Some might even think it is scandalous, but I don’t care. Mentally and emotionally I was drained. My daughter and I had been facing a new reality and quite frankly we were stressed out, and an 8 year old shouldn’t have to be stressed. So we left. We put everything on hold, passports in hand, we went on an adventure!

I have traveled a more than most, but less than some. I have been all over the US, the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and even China, but this by far was the best vacation, even topped my honeymoon! My daughter and I let it all go, we did things we had never done before, like explore a cave, and swim with dolphins. We were pampered by the staff, we made new friends, had some quiet time apart, and some fabulous bonding time together. We still talk about this trip, the fun we had, and how much we laughed!

I am not saying that everyone who is grieving should drop everything and take a grand vacation. But what I am saying is every now and then a person needs to let go. To relax, to give themselves permission to have fun, to rest, to laugh. It feels really good, and you deserve to feel good. And who knows, you just may change something in your life for the better, something that helps you climb out of the “pit of despair.”

Don’t let the grief consume you, learn to grieve on your own terms, in your own time, and in your own way.

Big News!

I have been invited to be a guest on a podcast to discuss grief and grieving! The podcast is called Tendrils of Grief. (I am including a link if you want to check it out in advance.) We will record in two weeks and I will announce when it airs. VERY EXCITING.

Find the comfort in grief

There are literally hundreds of thousands of rants (this may be a gross exaggeration) about stupid and inconsiderate things you can say to someone who is grieving, or more specifically in my case, grieving a spouse.

People who are grieving are overly sensitive and overly critical of the people in their lives trying to support them. Too often it is too easy to criticize something someone says, to take it the wrong way, or to brush aside the intent for the content. Someone who is grieving is bristly, easily offended, and often irrational.

People who are grieving want to find comfort when there is none to be found.

People in our lives try too hard to support the grieving, they tend to be awkward, they do not know what to do, they do not know what to say, and truly, is there a really a right thing to do or say??? I want to focus on the opposite for a second. What about the good things that people do and say? Let’s talk about those.

One of the BEST things I experienced from a friend during the early months of grieving: I had a friend who just kept me company, let me lead the conversation, just listened when I felt like talking, and just heard me. She spoke to me when I wanted to talk, and she sat with me in silence when I didn’t want to say anything at all. Most importantly, she NEVER tried to compare anything in her life to mine.

Another great thing I learned, people cared! They may not know the right things to say or do, but I still allowed myself to feel uplifted by theirs words and actions. Until this tragedy struck my life, I didn’t realize, or remember, how many people really cared. I had people from all corners of my life reach out to support me. My best friend and first friend from childhood (since we were about 4 years old) reached out, and called me all the way from China. Friends and family brought me to tears of joy with their sentiment and condolences. I saved every note and every card. They touched me more than I ever thought they would. It is for this reason that I take time now to put thought and sentiment into the cards and notes I write to others. Not just out of sympathy, but in life. People opened up their hearts and wrote to me from places of personal experience. Not everyone, and probably not anyone, really understood my EXACT experience, but they exposed their own and I have nothing but admiration and gratefulness for them for it. They care about me enough to expose their own vulnerability.

And please, do not EVER underestimate the friends and family that make you laugh! Laughter actually DOES help heal the soul. Value the people in your life that can catch you off-guard with a smile or a laugh, keep them close, talk or text them frequently, or in my case keep them going through a group chat that has lasted years, based entirely on inappropriate humor, offensive language, and sarcasm!

People who are grieving want to find comfort when there is none to be found...unless you really look.

Friends and family may drift away in the day to day, but they can be there when you need them, if you just let them.

The Dragonfly

Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads,
there lived a little water beetle in a community of water
beetles.  They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond
with few disturbances and interruptions.

Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of
their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and
would never be seen again.  They knew when this happened; their
friend was dead, gone forever.

Then, one day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge
to climb up that stem.  However, he was determined that he would
not leave forever.  He would come back and tell his friends what
he had found at the top.

When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the
surface of the lily pad, he was so tired, and the sun felt so
warm, that he decided he must take a nap.  As he slept, his body
changed and when he woke up, he had turned into a beautiful
blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings and a slender body
designed for flying.

So, fly he did!  And, as he soared he saw the beauty of a whole
new world and a far superior way of life to what he had never
known existed.

Then he remembered his beetle friends and how they were thinking
by now he was dead.  He wanted to go back to tell them, and
explain to them that he was now more alive than he had ever been
before.  His life had been fulfilled rather than ended.

But, his new body would not go down into the water.  He could
not get back to tell his friends the good news.  Then he
understood that their time would come, when they, too, would
know what he now knew.  So, he raised his wings and flew off
into his joyous new life!

~Author Unknown~

the biggest mistakes of a widowed mom

Am I bad mom? Probably not, but I sometimes feel like one. And during the course of widow-hood, I definitely made some mistakes.

  1. Trying to take on too much with your 8 year old child. Too many activities, sports, etc. My daughter was taking Taekwondo (2 classes a day, 3 days a week), competitive gymnastics (2 days a week, 3 hours a day), not to mention birthday parties, tournaments, talent shows, chorus performances, drama club, etc… It was crazy, exhausting for us both, and brutal. In my mind I wanted her to have every opportunity she wanted, and secretly thought that the busier we were, the less the grief would hurt.
  2. Avoiding other parents…this was for selfish reasons, because it was awkward. But this only proved to isolate my child from time she could be sharing with her friends.
  3. Never showing weakness nor emotion. This thought does not personify strength, it teaches your child a limited range of emotion because, “monkey see, monkey do,” whether you like it or not you lead by example.
  4. Dragging your child to therapy or counseling, because they experienced a loss, so they SHOULD need counseling, right? Guess what, that is not necessarily the case. I learned from an excellent child therapist, specializing in grief, that my child, DID NOT, in fact, need to be there.
  5. Not taking care of yourself. Again, this goes back to taking on too much, and not focusing on what you actually need. Better self care. I learned to employ someone to help clean my house twice a month, someone to cut my lawn because I had never even used a mower before, making time for my friends, and just spending quiet time with a good book.

I had to learn to simplify my life a bit, relax a bit, enjoy my time with my child, and not take everything so seriously. A lesson I have needed to learn over and over, and will probably need to re-learn again soon.

One of the best things I implemented during the early months of grief, “30-second dance party!” I stole the idea from Grey’s Anatomy, where the characters Meredith Grey and Christina Yang would “dance it out” after a bad day at the hospital. With “30-second dance party” we would randomly stop what we were doing, crank up the music, and dance wildly for at least 30 seconds. Feels great to relieve the stress of the day or break the tension in the room. I need to revive it now that she is a teenager…lol. Give it a try!

%d bloggers like this: