Saturday, December 25, 2010

The sparkles are back!

Christmas Eve day was very difficult ... little memories kept flooding in and the tears just would not stop. Puffy eyes, still coughing and stuffed up, no decorations, no gifts or Christmas smells in the house ... I was a mess physically and emotionally. And I had absolutely no desire to do a thing to change it.

And then I received a surprise phone call from a fellow MM caregiver who lost his wife on December 8.  There's a special bond among caregivers, but especially MM caregivers, I think. It's a tough cancer, one that can affect everyone so differently. I'm amazed at how close I feel to people I've never met, who live in other states and countries. Our one connection is that we proudly care for and love our spouses as they battle myeloma ... and now some of us join in our sorrow as we mourn the loves of our life. My conversation with Craig helped me feel better and I hope it helped him, too. He has said I served as a "beacon" for him as he followed our story on CaringBridge and now here on this blog. That's why I decided to continue to write; if just one person is helped by reading my story then it's worth it. And I find it helpful to learn that others are having the same feelings, challenges, sorrows - it reassures me that I'm not going crazy, that this is as 'normal' as things are going to be for awhile. Thank you, Craig. I appreciate your kindness in reaching out.  I'm not very good at doing that.

I had planned to go to a Christmas Eve service but my emotions were still too close to the surface, so I decided it was best to stay home. My two favorite Christmas movies are "White Christmas" and "Miracle on 34th Street" and I just hadn't felt up to watching them yet this year. But after the phone call, I thought I'd give it a try since AMC was carrying them back-to-back.  (I also love "Elf" but that one doesn't pull at the heartstrings as much and I was able to laugh my way through that one the other night.)  I enjoyed "White Christmas", a few tears along the way but I cried in most of those same parts before losing Vern. I got through part of "Miracle" and then became really sleepy so decided to try watching it in bed (silly of me since I always fall asleep). Before heading to bed, however, I reminded Jeremy there was a garbage bag that needed to be taken out to the trash. He headed out the door and came running back in ... "The sparkles are back!"

I ran to the front door and there they were ... covering the front steps, the front porch, sidewalk, driveway, street. I fell apart - but in a glorious, good way.  I was overwhelmed that someone remembered, that someone took the time to do such a special thing for me on Christmas Eve. I got up several times during the night and opened the front door to look at them and I tried to take some photos of them early this morning, but this is the only one that turned out. Isn't it spectacular? A poem was also left and it reduced me to tears once again.  I had been feeling so sad because it felt that no one remembered Vern, his name was never mentioned by others. Even when I visited my family, no one brought him up. This poem reassures me that he is, indeed, remembered. Merry Christmas ... I received such a wonderful gift.

We Remember
In the rising of the sun and its going down,
We remember  him.
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter,
We remember  him;
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring,
We remember him;
In the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn,
We remember him.
In the beginning of the year and when it ends,
We remember him;
When we are weary and in need of strength,
We remember him;
When we are lost and sick at heart,
We remember him;
When we have joys we yearn to share,
We remember him.
So long as we live, he too shall live,
For he is now a part of us, as we remember him.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What was lost, has been found

This hasn't been an easy week, but today seems to be starting off on a more positive note so I'm hopeful the fog has cleared for awhile. Still have a chest cold, but the cough seems to have improved a bit this morning ... I made it through the 3 month anniversary date ... the rain has finally left southern Nevada and the sun is shining ... and I haven't cried yet today.  All positive signs, I think.

I hadn't ventured outside the house since returning from vacation. I just couldn't keep the tears at bay and with all of the rain and gloomy weather I just huddled myself inside. But on Tuesday I had to force myself to open that front door.  Social Security needed a copy of the death certificate and I had a certified letter waiting for me at the post office. I put it off until the afternoon and finally kicked myself out the door. As luck would have it, I arrived at the Social Security office at 4:03 ... and they lock the doors at 4:00. Their hours are 8-5, but I guess they want to ensure their employees get to walk out the door at 5:00.  Nice, huh?  It was a bit frustrating, given it was pouring rain, but nothing I could do about it.  So I headed out to find the post office that held my special Christmas greeting from the IRS. (It wasn't at the little post office right around the corner from my house.)  The clouds were hanging very low and the drive along Horizon Ridge was just beautiful. Tried to take a photo, but I wasn't able to capture the beauty. The post office lot was packed, of course, and the line reached to the door. I knew it wouldn't get any better, so I just mustered up some patience and waited.  It only took about 10 minutes for me to reach a clerk ... who told me I was in the wrong line. Uhhhh ... there was only one line coming in through the door. No, there's a special little spot for picking up things. Who knew? So I headed over there to wait some more. While waiting, I couldn't help but hear the conversations going on around me. Some older folks were quite perturbed with a woman who had a whole pile of packages, cards, etc. taking up space at the "single service" line (no, I hadn't seen this line from my spot way in the back either). They were being rather hateful and when the woman finally finished they attacked her ... telling her how angry they were that she was in that line and took up so much time. The woman didn't say a word, just moved on with her walker, but the clerk spoke up and said she was handicapped and had a right to be in that line. That brought on "I'm handicapped, too" by the angry elders. I just couldn't help myself .... I turned to them and said "Merry Christmas" ... and then heard several others repeat my words. It did stop their complaining, but I seriously doubt they 'got it'. It's a shame when people are so caught up in themselves that they can't show any compassion for others who are having a tough time. Sometimes the folks having a tough time don't show they're suffering, but they sure would appreciate a kind word or just a smile or holding the door for them (I know I have lately). Those little things that we were taught to do when we were kids seem to have disappeared ... especially during the holiday rush. It's a shame.

I have carried Vern's wallet in my purse for quite awhile. I kept it with me so I'd have the ID and insurance/medicare cards available for doctor or hospital visits, but after he passed I kept it because it made me feel better to have it there - and to see his smiling face on his drivers license (which showed through the outside). But when I was getting things ready for our vacation I thought it probably was safer not to carry it, so I put it away.  And now I can't find it. I have looked in all of my normal hiding spots, and it's not there.  I've prayed, I've cried, I've beat myself up for being so stupid ... but I can't find it. I remember thinking about what to do with it the morning we were to leave, but the memory stops right there. ....... 10 minute lapse .... While typing this, a thought popped into my head, so I retrieved my wallet and looked through all of the compartments. Vern's license was there!!!!  (along with a $100 bill - wow!)  Well, now I can't say I've had no tears today. Such a relief. Still don't know where the wallet is, but I don't care about that - it was his drivers license that I needed. Yes, today is going to be a good day.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Perhaps it's because I'm sick or because we've had a string of cloudy, rainy days here in the desert since I returned ... or maybe this happens to others around the 3 month mark or because it's the holidays ... but I'm feeling rather melancholy. And I've decided I need to change how I write here. I started out wanting this blog to provide a pathway for those caregivers who will follow me, to help them know that what they are feeling is normal or to provide some resources I've found helpful. But just as I did with Vern's CaringBridge site, I've been holding back, not sharing my true feelings for fear of scaring people off, offending them or providing too much information.  I will tell you; this is hard stuff  - very hard - and it's not going to be helpful if I'm not honest about what I'm experiencing.

So when I ended my last post with saying I'm doing ok, that wasn't entirely true. I'm struggling. That doesn't mean that I'm in tears 24/7 and can't function, but it also doesn't mean that everything is back to normal (whatever that is). I can laugh and smile at some things and enjoy parts of the holiday season ... but in a split second a grief burst will arrive. I can't predict when it will happen or what will trigger it. I mourn the loss of my lifemate, the person I have been linked to for 41 years, who knew my every thought and with whom I shared every concern. I mourn what our life would have been in the years to come. That he left before seeing Jer get his life on track and with no grandchildren to live on after us. I'm tired of having to do all of the "necessary" things (most of which I put off) and worry that I'll make some serious mistakes. During our 4 year cancer journey I've not handled everything well. My focus was on caring for Vern, so I let things pile up, failed to file income taxes, been late paying bills which I'm sure has impacted our credit rating. Now I have to put all of those things right. Where do I start? Do I let everyone know that Vern has passed? I don't think I'm ready to do that. If his name is taken off accounts, will I be able to qualify to keep them in my name? I talked to Social Security on the phone today and became frantic when I couldn't immediately recall Vern's SS #. I have always been able to spout it out whenever asked. Why did it disappear from my memory bank so quickly? I find I'm much more forgetful these days. I'll put something away and then not be able to find it and have absolutely no memory of where I placed it.  I'm not behaving like "me" and yet I don't even know who "me" is these days. Half of me is gone. I'm envious of those who still have their spouses and get so frustrated (no, I get angry) when they complain of little things that just aren't important. Don't they know? They still have their spouse with them each day ... I don't.

I've debated about whether to continue to post my blog links to my Facebook page. I have mixed feelings about it. Should FB just be happy and funny and light postings? I do have a lot of FB widow friends. I guess those that are walking this road with me or care about how I'm doing will appreciate the link, and those that don't will ignore it - just like they ignore everything else. 

Oh dear, that last statement sounded harsh, didn't it? In the past I would have deleted it, but I guess since I'm feeling it, I'll leave it right there in all its honesty.  Tomorrow will surely be a better day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Getting through the holidays

I decided I needed to take time off work so I wouldn't have to be there for the holiday lunches and parties. Everyone else is in full celebration mode and I'm not. I miss Vern and our life together and I'm trying to figure out who I am now that I'm alone. The holiday season is all about families and togetherness and making memories. I'd like it all to just be over, but then that will just take me closer to Vern's birthday and another celebration I must figure out how to get through. So I headed out of town with Jeremy to the Florida Keys - a place Vern & I had never visited. It was a nice time for Jer and I, and we toasted Vern and talked of how much he would have enjoyed that beautiful place. There were some tears, but I wasn't overwhelmed with sadness. I enjoyed taking some tours on my own and felt I was making some progress with my new 'aloneness'. We also got to see my oldest brother while in Florida and Jer met cousins he's never seen. Before heading back to Las Vegas, we made a quick stop in Michigan to see the rest of my family. It was nice to see everyone, but I felt I had to behave like I do at work ... put on a 'happy face', pretend all is well, be strong, don't cry, don't make anyone feel uncomfortable. No one mentions Vern's name, even though I brought him up a few times, but I've read this is very normal behavior. I was ready to get back home, and I greeted Vern when I walked in the house. It feels good to be back here with him.

I don't return to work until Dec. 27 so I'll need to figure out how to get through next week. I'm not decorating ... Jer is fine with not having a tree this year and since I have no grandchildren, no one else will miss it. There are just too many memories with putting up the tree and the special ornaments we've collected during the past 41 years. I have some projects to get started, so I'm hoping I'll accomplish some things and be distracted enough to get past the holidays.

I'm still reading some recommended grief books, which I'm finding quite helpful, and I enjoy the support of the weekly online bereavement chat group. I still have my 'grief bursts' - which I know are normal and natural - and I sometimes feel just overwhelmed with sadness when hearing about new cancer diagnoses or deaths of friends and co-workers.  But, overall, I think I'm doing ok ... one step at a time.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giving Thanks?

Jeremy and I had Thanksgiving dinner at Willie & Jose's at Sam's Town. We enjoyed reminiscing and toasted Vern with our margaritas. This was a good decision; it was a good day.  The following 3 days, however, weren't so good. I worked myself into a quite a 'funk' and never left the house. It was hard hearing all of the wonderful stories of families and traditions and joy. I didn't feel very thankful, and I felt so alone. It's just Jer and I now; no other family here and few friends.  I miss my guy.

I finally started working on the thank-you notes. I know I should have dealt with this earlier, but I just could not get started. Mailed off half of them yesterday and will get the rest sent off by the end of this week. Maybe that will help me get started on all of the other things that need to be done around here.  The list just keeps growing.

I suspect part of my 'funk' this weekend was caused by the news that my dear UK friend lost her husband last Tuesday.  %#@! MM has claimed yet another warrior.  And yesterday I learned another friend's wife began hospice care after battling myeloma for over 3 years. MM is winning far too many battles lately and it saddens me. My heart hurts for Susie as she says goodbye to her beloved Hamada, and for Craig as he holds Jean close in the days to come. I know too well how difficult the next leg of their journeys will be.

Monday, November 22, 2010

22 = 2

I guess the 22nd of each month is going to be hard for me for awhile. Today marks 2 months since Vern passed (no, I still don't like saying 'died').  No one noted it, but the date's significance was with me from the moment I woke up this morning.

I did a quick Facebook check before heading off to work and saw a post from my dear UK friend. She had posted a new message on her blog, so even though I was running a bit late I took the time to read it because her husband has not been doing well and I've been so concerned.  Her news broke my heart.  H told her he is "very tired" and doesn't want to continue treatment.  H & Vern were both diagnosed in May 2006 and have had some similarities along their MM journeys. This news reduced me to tears and took me right back to mid-September when Vern said the same words to me.

Work continues to be a good place for me to be, as I only had a couple of brief teary moments while there.  But as I walked out to the parking lot after work, there was that great big full moon ... just like I saw on September 22 ... and the memories and tears returned.  I must admit I looked for my gold sparklies in the street when I came home. I so would have loved to see them today.

While reading Facebook posts this evening, I noticed the picture of a FB friend/MM patient that I hadn't seen post in awhile.  I went to her profile to see how she was doing and learned she passed away today.  RIP Karyn.  Stinkin' cancer ... stinkin' MM.

And then there's the mail ... labels that keep coming with Vern's name on them, unending requests from my insurance company to fill out questionnaires explaining Vern's accident and who we're going to sue (what???), and today there was an appeal from St. Rose's Health Foundation addressed to Vern asking for a donation from a 'grateful patient'. Sigh. Maybe it's not realistic, but since their palliative care nurse is the one who called hospice and he was transferred directly from San Martin to Nathan Adelson wouldn't you think they'd know he passed away? 

Kind of a crummy day all around, don't you think?  Although I really don't think these are bad things to experience. I understand they're all necessary feelings that are part of my mourning.  I miss Vern.

I do like writing my notes to him. It was a little hard getting started, but something happened over the weekend that I needed his advice on how to handle ... so I sat down with the journal and started writing.  Six pages later, I felt a lot better.

Friday, November 19, 2010

A Better Week

I felt like I lived on a roller coaster while Vern battled his disease - the ups and downs of dialysis and chemo treatments, side effects, lab results, blood transfusions, emotions, the good days and bad days we each encountered - and I guess that roller coaster has followed me into my mourning.  In comparison to a bad last week, this week was a pretty good one. I'm sleeping better (perhaps since I'm back in our bed and not in the hospital bed or recliner) and I felt a bit stronger. 

I still had some emotional meltdowns this week, but I know I'll have those for a long time. I never know what will trigger it although a lot of times it's music.  I have satellite radio on in my office with just instrumentals and when the song "More" came on it took me back to our wedding day and I cried.  That same day I had to run over to another building on our campus. The golf cart wasn't available so I drove my car and the song "Babe I'm Leaving" by Styx came on. Gosh - I had to pull over on the side of the road to get through that one.  I guess my point here is that these emotions and tears are perfectly normal and we shouldn't feel a need to hide them in an effort to make others more comfortable.

My heart is heavy as several of my fellow caregivers are in the midst of some very tough times right now. Most are people I've never met, but we got acquainted through the MM online list or Facebook or just through emails. Some have CaringBridge sites, others have blogs, which makes it easy to keep informed about their journeys and offer my support as they previously supported me. Isn't technology amazing? 

I've started a private journal where I write to Vern. One of the hardest things for me is not having him here to share things with. I want to call him when I'm at work to share an experience or ask him a question or get his advice. This sounds like a possible answer to some of my sorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Jeremy and I have received invitations to join friends for Thanksgiving but neither of us felt that was the right thing for us this year. We initially planned to just stay home and I'd fix a small turkey meal for the two of us but have decided we're going to do something very different. We're going to Willie & Jose's (a Mexican restaurant) at Sam's Town for our Thanksgiving dinner. Vern used to love going there before he got sick and since it is so 'not the norm' we figured it would be a nice thing to try this year.

The hospice Vern was at hosts a "Light up a Life" event in early December for everyone who has lost someone there during the past year. Not sure exactly what it will be like, but I look forward to attending to honor his life.  I'm taking a couple of weeks off work in December so I won't have to 'put on a happy face' during all of the holiday lunches and celebrations.  I have to do that during the normal work week but feel it might just be too hard to manage around the holidays. I've booked our flights to Florida and I think this will be a good thing for Jeremy and I to do next month. Just a couple of days in the Keys and a couple to visit my older brother, but I think it will be good to get away for a bit.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. Cherish this time with those you love. And if the one you loved most is not with you this year, then know that you're not alone.  Both of my support groups aren't meeting this week, but I'm here if I can help.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Melancholy: Sadness, Sorrowful, Blue

Wish I lived someplace where it rained a lot ... rain would have fit my mood this week much better than the sunshine we've had here. I took the week off to get some projects completed around the house but didn't really finish much at all. Got a few things started but just didn't have what it took to really get into them like I thought I would. I miss Vern every day, but it was much harder being home this whole week without him here to talk to, to watch tv with, to reminisce, to care for. I curled up in his recliner to read a few 'grief' books on my Kindle and made it through the last of all of the mail I had dumped into boxes. Found some serious things I had ignored that I will need to deal with. Just another thing to make me miss Vern.

Jeremy and I had lunch with Deb & Andi on Veterans Day. We had scheduled it a few weeks ago and it was a wonderful respite from the mood that has overtaken me this week. I'm very happy I went, but don't think our waiter was quite so happy since we stayed there for nearly 3 hours.

My GriefShare group didn't meet this week, but I did join the online group again on Thursday. It's important to have an outlet for all of these emotions - and the online bereavement group provides that.  I can be more honest there with people I don't know than I can with those I face each day. People here think I'm strong and don't see past the protective layer I've put in place. Only a couple even mention Vern. I know they care, but they really don't want to have to deal with my sadness and tears. So having a safe place where I can be me is important. Facing the bills, the house and car repairs, the everyday things that go wrong, all of the 'final' paperwork and then the extreme loneliness of no longer having my best friend here to help me get through these challenges provides a special connection to other widows who are facing the same issues.

I did get a good chuckle while reading "Widow to Widow: Thoughtful, Practical Ideas for Rebuilding Your Life" by Genevieve Davis Ginsburg.  I've said I don't have any anger issues, however, in the "Anger" section, she explains how dealing with "all manner of people who are acting as though the world has not changed are insufferable to the person whose world has just collapsed.  One woman, who was stopped for running a red light, screamed at the policeman, 'How would you like your wife to get a ticket when her husband just died?'"  Wow ... I guess I do have anger issues!  My parting comment to the Henderson motorcycle cop who gave me a ticket a couple of weeks ago was:   "If your spouse dies before you, I hope you remember how very kind you were to me today."

I shared with my online group that I was still sleeping in the hospital bed and hadn't got rid of any of the 'sick' things in the house. I think it helped to write that out and confront it - and I realized it was a step I needed to take. So I took the bed apart last night and I'm gathering the remaining supplies that were still sitting on the fireplace hearth. I have leftover colostomy supplies, PICC line flushes and dressings, gloves, tape, Depends, Nepro. I know there are people who don't have good insurance that could use this stuff, so I'm hopeful I can get it into the right hands. Had planned to stop by the dialysis center yesterday to ask the social worker there about this, but I just haven't felt up to going there yet.  After my meltdown upon entering hospice last week, I know I'm not ready yet. So I'm boxing everything up and putting it out into the sunroom until I feel ready. Someone suggested I ask a friend to do this for me, but I feel a need to return to the dialysis center some time to say my good-byes to the technicians, nurses and other patients we got to know during the past year and a half. This will give me a reason to go there, so it's on a future to-do list and that's ok.

I've struggled with my emotions a lot this week and, perhaps, it was a necessary release since I shove them into the background during my work week. It's only been 7 weeks ... a really short time for mourning ... but a really long time without Vern.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Day of Tears

Grief is what we think and feel on the inside when someone we love dies.  Mourning is the outward expression of our grief.  Everyone grieves when someone loved dies, but if we are to heal, we must also mourn.  "Healing a Spouse's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Husband or Wife Dies" (Alan D. Wolfelt PhD)

I attended a "Getting Through the Holidays" class at Nathan Adelson Hospice yesterday morning. I felt good leaving the house, but memories and tears started up on my drive over since it was the first time going there since Vern passed.  As I drove past UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center that brought more tears and memories of the 20 years Vern spent there supervising the ushers. And then as I drove into NAH, wouldn't you just know the only parking space available was the exact one I had pulled into when Vern was brought there on Sept. 17 and my car stayed there until he passed? I nearly backed out and headed home, but then thought perhaps this was supposed to be a good sign for me - a kind of welcome back - so I took a deep breath and headed inside.  Whoa ... more tears as soon as I stepped through the door. I must admit I thought of that poor woman at the first support group I attended and whispered a little apology to her for not fully understanding how she felt until then.  There were only 4 of us there, along with a really wonderful facilitator.  One lost her husband a year+ ago, another lost her husband in April, and another lost his wife on the same day Vern passed.  There was great information for dealing with the holidays distributed, along with time to share our personal stories and issues. It was good that I attended this session as it confirmed some of my decisions and helped me to be very grateful for some things:  I had Vern with me for 41 years, we had those days at hospice to say our good-byes, I don't need to worry about losing my home; I don't have a young child at home; I have a job and didn't rely on Vern to do everything for me. That said, however, doesn't mean this is easy in any way. It was pointed out that my 4+ years of caregiving adds an extra layer to my mourning, and I agree with that.

I had planned to attend the 'Day of the Dead' event at the Springs Preserve later that day, but I was just feeling too wounded to even try that. I headed home, curled up in Vern's recliner and started reading a book called "Heaven" on my Kindle. I had the tv on and an old movie came on I had never seen:  "Sweet November".  Well ... if you've seen it, you know that wasn't a good choice for me.  I think every last tear left in my body was expended yesterday, so perhaps that was what I needed.

The work week was good and this was the first Friday since Vern's service that I ventured out. I needed to get the wheelchair van smogged and the new tag, so I headed out in the morning to take care of that. (For those who don't know what this is ... Nevada requires all vehicles have a smog check before you can renew your vehicle registration and get the license plate tag for the next year. If your vehicle doesn't pass, you need to have some work done first to cut down on the emissions before you can get the tag.)  I haven't yet decided what to do with the 3 vehicles I now have, so I had to pay the $342 fee to renew it.  And then I had an appointment in the afternoon to get my hair cut and colored.  I've been doing this myself while Vern was ill; just didn't feel I wanted to spend the time away from him to go somewhere to have it done. But when he was in the hospital the last time, he asked me to go get my hair done at a salon - so this was for him.  It's short and very red - more the color of when I was younger - but I think I'll get used to it. I had let it go so there's a pretty dramatic color change.  It did feel good to do something 'normal' and to hear all of the conversations going on at the salon.

I didn't sleep well last night - kept waking up every couple of hours since Jeremy wasn't feeling well. I gave him some medicine and he's skipping golf today.  Need to get him feeling good so he can help me get some projects done. Thursday is Veterans Day, so I'm taking Monday-Wednesday off so I have 10 full days to get things done.  Walked out back this morning and found the DirecTV wires hanging down on the ground.  Guess yesterday's wind must have caught them. So a trip to Home Depot is on tap for today to get a ladder and some of those clippy things to put the wires back up on the eaves. Hope they'll know what I mean when I use the term 'clippy things'.  Then I must attack the remaining piles of paperwork since I received a notice yesterday that I had failed to pay our property tax installments in August and October. Oh boy. It's nice that we've lived in this house for 27 years and it's paid off, but if I ignore the tax bills I could still lose it. Then it's on to the garage .... if you don't hear from me next week, send a rescue crew.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Support Groups

I tried 3 different grief support groups this week.  Each was very different, which is probably a good thing since we all have different needs.  I do wish there was one specifically dedicated to widows/ers because I believe what we face is very different from those who have lost a parent, sibling or child.  There are some widow-specific groups in other parts of the country, but I haven't found any here in Southern Nevada.

The first I attended was an informal newly bereaved group at hospice. There were only 4 of us there, plus the facilitator.  All were widows; two had lost their husbands a year ago and the other was new to the group, too, and had lost her husband 6 months ago.  The facilitator allowed the other new person - who really needs 1-on-1 counseling in my opinion - to dominate the session.  I may not have sobbed during the entire hour, but I'm hurting, too, and I just don't have it in me to support someone I just met who was having such a difficult time.  Crossed that group off my list.

I've connected with a recent widow through Facebook who lives in Colorado and find it very helpful to see we're experiencing similar things. She's the one who told me about GriefShare (thank you, Patty!). This is a program offered nationally and is nondenominationally religion-based.  There are several groups who meet in my area.  I initially planned to attend one at a church near my home - but getting from my office on the other side of town took longer than expected and added more stress than I need right now, so I passed on that one. Decided to try another GriefShare group the following evening at a church closer to where I work.  Even though I arrived late (the web site had the wrong start time posted), I really liked this group. They show a DVD and there's a workbook and the facilitator (who also lost her husband) was very good.  There were two other widows/ers there ... one had been married 41 years, too.  Pam, the facilitator, kept things moving and didn't allow one person to take over control of the group.  GriefShare involves 13 sessions and you can start at any time, but Pam gave me a set of all of the CDs so I could catch up with the sessions I've missed.  I'll be continuing with this group.  They also offer a year of daily emails, which I'm finding helpful.

Last night I participated in an online chat support group.  I found this one through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society newsletter:
I had to complete a questionnaire first to get into this group and it was a little hard getting started with the chatting - but I will try it again next week.  It's facilitated by a professional (who I learned at the very end had also recently lost her husband) and provided some good interactions and advice.  It runs 5-6:30pm, so I took my lunch hour at the end of the day (with my boss's permission, since I work until 6pm) and just shut my office door.

I'm attending a Getting Through the Holidays session on Monday. This one is at the hospice Vern was at, which I'm hoping I can enter without becoming emotional. I've requested time off from work in December. Decided it would be best to not be there during all of the holiday party times.

I started going through the sympathy cards - it's difficult and yet the personal messages mean so much.  I'm going to try getting the thank-yous out this weekend.  I'm feeling like two distinctly different people. There's the one at work that is treated like my life hasn't changed. Co-workers really don't want to know what this is like and they sure don't want to have to deal with me crying, so I put on a 'happy face' and act 'normal'.  Then there's the real me that I can be when at home ... the one who doesn't get out of her jammies and just stays inside, not answering the phone or the doorbell.  "Cocooning" was a word used during last night's online chat group.  I like that.

Somewhere in the pile of papers I have stacked everywhere is my new AAA card.  I need to find it because Vern's Mustang is out again and I want to get a Florida tour book so I can make some plans for that trip. The card in my wallet expired in May ... sigh.  Add to that a speeding ticket I received this week from a very nasty motorcycle cop. I sure got my quota of tears in that morning. But it actually turned into a really nice day as I got to visit with several of the 'old-timers' I used to work with at our treatment plants and had lunch with two fabulous co-worker friends.  My ups and downs continue.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baby Steps

This weekend started with sadness at the one month 'anniversary' of Vern's passing, but moved on to some better sleep and a cleaned kitchen.  That's some progress, I think.

I work a 4-10 schedule, so I have Fridays off. They used to overflow with Vern's dialysis treatments, doc appointments and chemo treatments ... but now are a blank slate for me to try to fill.  I had planned to spend the day with my son as we both learn to find a way through our grief. He was going to a local PGA tourney while I shopped in the morning and then we were going to see a movie and have dinner ... but that didn't happen. I spent the entire day in my jammies, doing not much of anything at all - other than feeling lonely and sad. He stayed out all night with friends, trying to work his way through his feelings, and ended up sleeping the day away. I guess it's too soon for us to make plans ahead of time. It's more important to go with what each day brings. This wasn't Jer's fault - even if he hadn't gone out, I just didn't have it in me to leave the house that day and have to interact with others.

A co-worker gave me a bottle of wine to try and I may have found something to help me sleep better. No, I didn't drink the whole thing ... but a glass or two of wine in the evening has helped me have a sounder sleep the past two nights. I still stay up until after midnight, but feel more rested when I awake. Not sure whether I'll try it during the work week as those nights are much shorter.

I had a dream Thursday night where I heard Vern call "Dianne" as he used to do during the night when he needed me. I sat right up and answered him, as usual ... and then looked at the recliner and he wasn't there. Jer came out of his room to find out what was going on - guess I responded louder than I thought.  It brought tears - but also a little peace as I felt Vern reaching out to me. Yes, I'm still sleeping in the hospital bed in the family room; although I spent a couple of nights in his recliner, too, when I was really missing him. Just not ready to put the bed away - and his recliner will stay here forever. Jer and I both find it peaceful to sit in it.

I do feel I'm making some progress and think I'm going to take some time off to get some things done around here. I spent yesterday cleaning up the kitchen and tossing expired things out of the cupboards and frig. It felt good, so I think getting some of the other messes cleared out will be helpful, too.  I've even scheduled an appointment to get my hair cut and colored at a salon Nov. 5.  Baby steps.

Have decided I don't want to be here for Christmas, so planning to take some time off then, too.  Wasn't sure where I wanted to go but then the idea of heading to Florida came to mind. Vern had wanted to travel there to see my older brother but he just wasn't up to the long plane ride so we never made it.  So Jer and I will be flying out sometime in December.  My brother lives in Okeechobee and I have a dear cousin in Daytona Beach I'd love to see. Would also like to drive down to the Keys; never been there and I'd like to conquer my fear of bridges by driving that really long one. Going to contact my friend the travel agent this week to see what we can set up.

I'm going to try a GriefShare support group this Tuesday night after work and also signed up for a professionally-facilitated online support group on Thursday.  Neither of them are widow-specific, so I may not find them helpful. I'm participating in a couple of  Facebook pages dedicated to widows, which I do relate to. Initially was scared off by the "young widow" designation, but I've been welcomed and was told I still fit that window. Made me smile.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Full Moon

Seeing the full moon on my way home from work tonight reminded me of my first night at home after Vern passed. It will be a month tomorrow ... but it feels like yesterday. More tears on the drive home as I missed him.
I'm still working. It keeps me so very busy that I don't have time to think about everything. I know that's just putting things off, but it feels like the right thing to do for now. I'm going to try digging into that file box the mortuary sent home with me. I hadn't thought much about all of the things I need to do, but learned today I should have filled out papers at work to take Vern off my insurance. I need to bring in a death certificate Monday to get that done, so figure I should try to do some of the other necessary paperwork while I'm at it.
Received a sympathy card from Cancer & Blood Specialists today, with some personal notes from the nurses. I was having some difficulty with not having closure with the medical professionals we've seen these past 4+ years. It hurt to think they just forgot Vern once he was gone, and yet I guess I could understand they might need to do that in order to keep doing what they do. But receiving this card today really touched my heart. Of course, I still think it would have been nice if Dr. Gollard had signed it, but he didn't. I thought that he and Vern had a real connection.
Jeremy called me at work today to share a special visit. The mailman we've had ever since we moved into this house back in 1983 retired last year. He and Vern often chatted and he would always ask me about Vern whenever he was hospitalized. He stopped by the house today to offer his condolences. Wow. There are some 'friends' who stopped visiting or calling and yet this man took the time to come over and let us know how sorry he was that Vern had passed. Guess that just demonstrates how very different people can be. I have no room in my life for anger or to harbor resentments toward those who just didn't have the time to let Vern know what he meant to them or to send a card or make a phone call. But it takes a real effort, I must admit.
Going to have a Mom & son day tomorrow. Someone gave Jeremy a pass to the Justin Timberlake golf tourney so I'm going to drop him off there while I do some shopping. He'll call me when he's ready to leave and then we plan to go to a movie and have dinner. We thought it would be a good thing for us to be together on the one month date, however, some think we're making a mistake with our choice of movies: "Hereafter". But it just feels right to both of us. Yes - I'll be bringing plenty of kleenex.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Angel Wings

Vern wanted to be cremated, but it took me awhile to come to terms with that. I had a varied religious upbringing, attending Quaker, Southern Baptist and Assembly of God churches in my younger years, and somewhere along the line picked up that cremation was wrong because it desecrates the body. I read a lot and talked to some people and eventually changed my mind about that. And I can tell you that being there when Vern took his last breath assured me that his soul left his body and that shell was only useful here on earth. How could I want to believe that he would have to return to a body that had caused him such pain? And having his ashes here with me has brought me such deep comfort. I don't know whether I'll stay in Las Vegas after I retire, so this way he will be with me no matter where I am. Someone mentioned they have jewelry that you can add a tiny bit of your loved one's ashes to, so I started looking at what was available. I was amazed at the choices, but the moment I saw the angel wings shaped into a heart I knew that was the one for me. As I shared on CaringBridge, Vern saw an angel in the room at hospice and I had prayed that angels would surround him to lift him to Heaven.

This is my first weekend without my big work project hanging over me. I've caught up on some sleep but haven't done much else. I just feel so lost without Vern here. I'm working my way through the piles of mail and have only found one unpaid bill so far, but it's hard to get focused on anything. I still haven't started through the box from the mortuary or any of the sympathy cards and thank you's. I know I need to.

Guess I should start making some to-do lists and try to check things off as I can. One thing at the top of the list was the yard ... what a mess. It's needed attention for some time but I just couldn't spend time out there while taking care of Vern and working. I think Vern had something to do with the knock on the door this morning. It was a landscaper who is out there right now trimming the mesquite trees and overgrown bushes, cleaning out the weeds, blowing out the neighbor's pine needles. All it took was some cash and now that's one thing I don't have to worry about until Spring. Although I told them not to touch the roses. Those are Vern's and I need to give them some special attention.

I'm going to head back to work tomorrow since I left such a mess there on Thursday after the event. I do want to take some time off - I think I must take some time off - but want to get things in order first so I don't have any of that hanging over my head. I was also supposed to move into a different office last month, so I need to get that task completed before I take off. My son isn't happy that I'm going back tomorrow since I had originally said I would just return to get through the event. He's concerned that I keep delaying dealing with all of this and it's not good. I'm not sure. I have no choice but to deal with it 24 hours a day/7 days a week. I am lonely. I cry often. I miss him. Vern was my best friend and we would talk to each other each day while I was at work. Not a day goes by that I don't start to pick up the phone or think about telling him something and then have to stop myself. This is hard.

I know everyone means well when they say I must do something nice for me. But I'm not there yet. It feels like that would be saying I'm happy to not have to be caring for Vern any longer so I can spoil myself. I would give anything to have him back here with me - along with all of the work that involved - but that isn't possible. And, truthfully, I can't wish for that. He was so very tired of all of the treatments and the pain and he deserves to be free of that. I just need to try to find a happy medium in all of this. I'm confident that I will ... it's just going to take some time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time to Heal - Day 1

So very much has occurred this past month:

  • 4 days spent 24/7 with Vern in the hospital
  • 4 days spent 24/7 with Vern in hospice
  • Vern's passing
  • 4 days of preparing for his service
  • 1 day off work
  • 16 days non-stop preparing for work event

The work event was this week - Celebrating You Week - with the big luncheon held yesterday (an annual appreciation luncheon and award ceremony for 1100 employees). It was a success. Oh, there were a couple who complained about the food and I had a typo in the program (argh!) but overall it was a hugely successful and positive event for everyone. So now it has ended. No more very long hours at the office ... no more very long hours spent each night working on the details and making tissue paper flowers for the centerpieces ... no more ....

I've been getting by on 2-3 hours of sleep each night this week, but made some of that up last night. Had a scary drive home from work, as I caught myself sliding into the other traffic lane three times after dozing off a bit. Turned the radio on loud and the air conditioner full blast to get me safely home. I tried to sit at the computer, but immediately dozed off, so decided to head to bed at 7:30pm and slept until 5:30am. Do I feel better? No. I feel like I'm in a fog and I ache all over. But I think that's just a result of a very tough work week and a very old and out of shape body lifting things I shouldn't have. That will improve as the day progresses, I'm sure.

So I guess now it's time to begin the healing process and I'm not quite sure where to start. Many have said I need to take time for 'me' ... but 'me' is all I have now and I don't think I remember how to do that. I am proud of the way I cared for Vern during his 4+ year MM journey, but admit I wasn't good at all in taking care of me. I only went out shopping when I absolutely had to, I cut and colored my own hair ... I wanted to be with Vern whenever I didn't have to be at work and I took it to extreme. Before Vern passed, he told me he wanted me to go get my hair cut at a salon. I asked if my cuts looked that bad and we chuckled over it. But now, instead of not wanting to leave him, these mundane tasks just seem so very unimportant.

So today is Day 1 and I will try to make a step forward. I had worried that once the frantic pace of my work project ended I would crash and burn. I don't feel that way today. I'm feeling sad and the tears have started up, but I'm not depressed and I'm not concerned. As I look around the family room, I see I could easily spend the next month just getting things cleaned up and organized around here. The last month's mail and newspapers are in piles around the room. So that will be my task for today. To see if there are any important things in that unbelievably huge pile of mail.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sleep ....

I'm still having difficulty sleeping. I woke around 3am again today. Perhaps it's still part of my old life. I used to have to wake at that time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in order to get Vern ready to head off to dialysis. It made for very long days, although since I had Fridays off we'd try to take a little nap after we got back home and before we had to head over to his oncologist for his chemo treatment. There's a hole in my life now where all of the caregiving duties once were. There's a hole in my heart, too.

Dialysis ... just thinking about that word brings me pain. I realize now that I pushed Vern to keep going longer than he really wanted. He was such a sweetheart (oh my, there's that word that brings tears as I recall him saying it over and over to me while in his hospice bed) ... He knew I needed time to come to terms with this and I'm quite sure that's why he didn't discuss it. But during the past few months he kept saying how very tired he was ... and he stopped eating. Why didn't I see what he was trying to tell me? It took the issue with him not being able to get out of his recliner to start us down that path. And yet on 'that morning' that was the beginning of the end I still didn't get it. I was angry with him because he didn't appear to even want to try to get out of the chair to go to dialysis. I demonstrated how he didn't need to use his arms to push himself up. "Just use your legs and I'll grab under your arm", I said. He couldn't. When I learned that the Multiple Myeloma had completely eaten away his clavicle I felt horrific guilt. My God, of course he couldn't get up. I apologized - over and over again - and know he understood. But even then, I didn't 'get' where we were headed. Denial. It took two doctors using the same words to finally register. I posted about this on CaringBridge ( so I won't repeat it here.

I spend a lot of time reading about grief and reading widow's blogs. There are many. Do I find comfort knowing I'm not the only one feeling this way? No. Grief can be very selfish. No one else knows what it was like to be Vern's wife, to have found each other so unexpectedly 41 years ago, to share our memories, how very special he was, my soul mate, my best friend. So their experience can't possibly be the same as mine. Their pain can't possible be as big as mine. But, of course, I know that's not true. So every now and then a post will connect with me, letting me know that what I'm feeling isn't unusual. I guess that's a good thing, so I'll keep reading.

And I think I'm finding all of this tougher right now because some of my closest MM warriors and caregivers are dealing with hospice or facing that decision at this point. My heart hurts for them as they work through these decisions. And it brings everything that occurred from Sept. 14-22 right back to me. It happened so very fast. Not enough time ... never enough time.

The mortuary gave me this big file box and said it had everything in there to help me deal with the necessary paperwork. I've not opened it. I think he said I could ignore it for 30 days, so that sounds about right. I haven't yet written thank-yous. I haven't even read all of the cards and messages I've received. I'll look to see who they are from, but haven't even opened them up. Not sure why I'm feeling that way. Guess I'll deal with it when I need to have a good cry. Although I don't really need to push that issue ... the tears pop up quite easily on their own.

So my message, once again, is to cherish the time you have with those you love. Don't take it for granted, as it can be snatched away so very quickly. And when there is no more time ... it hurts ... a lot.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Random Thoughts

Our annual employee recognition week arrives on Monday and that's my big project. It was so frantically busy this week with event preparations that time just flew by and I didn't have a spare moment during the day to think about my sadness. Nights and weekends, however, are still difficult. I'm a little concerned about how I will cope once the event is over. Will I be able to go to work and get into a 'normal' routine or will the grief and loss hit me between the eyes and knock me out? I'm not making any specific plans just yet, but I may take some time off. I promised Vern that I would get the garage cleared out so I can park my car in there and be safe. That project will take quite awhile as I can be quite the packrat. I may even venture over to the ocean for a long weekend. The trip to Hana is on the horizon; not sure when I'll feel up to that.

Last Monday was a tear-free day. It hit me when I got home that I hadn't cried on my way into work and the drive back home, as I had been doing daily. As soon as that thought came into my mind; however, the guilt set in. How could I not have cried? I still miss Vern terribly. I didn't need to worry too much about this ... the daily tears returned the next day and haven't let up. I'm not afraid of the tears - they're a good release when my emotions are raw.

I am blessed to have so many cyber friends. An old friend from back east commented about how pleased she was that I had so many friends out here to support me because she read their messages on CaringBridge. She was shocked when I told her that most were people I had never met. MM patients and caregivers are a mighty strong and loving group. And now two of my dearest caregiver friends are suffering. One's husband entered hospice this week and the other received devastating news yesterday and is faced with some big decisions. My heart hurts for both of them, as I know how very hard these decisions are to make.

I surprised myself and joined some co-workers for dinner at Bahama Breeze after work yesterday. I had agreed to attend before Vern passed and after everything changed I really didn't think I would be up to going. The gal who organizes these occasional get-togethers is so special, however, that I just couldn't let her down by not showing. So I headed over there fully expecting to just stay for a few minutes and leave before dinner. Instead, I ordered dinner and enjoyed myself talking about normal things and sharing some laughter. Yes, I did have some tears on the way home - but I think Vern was happy to see me do it. He knows how easy it is for me to 'hunker down' at home and not venture out anywhere. So it was a step in the right direction. Dana suggested our group's next outing be line dancing at Stoney's ... it may be awhile before I'm up for that.

I'm not blog-savvy and haven't been able to figure out how to post links here, so that's why the last two posts contain articles I wanted to reference. Bear with me please.

Grieving & the Holidays

I'm a fan of Steven Kalas, a local author and counselor. He wrote this article back in 2007 and I've shared it many times with my cyber MM and caregiver friends who have experienced a loss. Now it's something I need to consider.

Grieving well can be an important part of the holidays. You first feel the breeze of it a few days before Halloween. Like that subtle sense that the barometer is dropping. Like a tide is ever so slightly beginning to turn. Something changes in the air. Excitement dances with dread.

The momentum is exponential. Inexorable. Faster and faster, and there's nothing you can do about it. Planning. Shopping. Cooking. The post office. Parties, and then some more parties. More shopping. More cooking. Oh, and drinking. I have an idea! Why don't we drink some more!

It begins as a trickle and ends in a perfect storm: The Holidays.

Human beings invest huge chunks of meaning in the rhythm of late November and December -- the days of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Entire family histories are defined chiefly by holiday memories, for better or for worse.

Which is why about this time of year I always find myself thinking of grieving families -- families looking down the barrel of the first Thanksgiving and first Christmas season without Grandma or Grandpa, without a son or daughter, without a wife or husband, without Mom or Dad.

"You see them every day/ They wear the bravest face/ They've lost someone they love/ They are the grieving ones."

For most of us, The Holidays promise warmth and joy, if some harried stress. For grieving families, the First Holidays threaten great darkness. Those families often ask, "How do we get through the holidays?"

So here's an early holiday gift to bereaved families facing the First Holidays. A quick primer of ideas in service to hope and healing.

* Predict sadness: The surest way to make things feel awkward and dark and difficult is to try to make them feel normal. To "put on a cheery face." To make sure everything stays the same. See, nothing is normal. Someone you love is dead. They aren't there. Nothing is the same.

* Expect tears to flow in the midst of smiles and grandkids and gravy and gifts. Don't be surprised when conversations lull or silence lapses. Don't resist these moments; rather, cherish them.

* Take a few moments for yourself. Step out on the back porch or into the backyard. Include a trip to the cemetery or creche, alone or with family members. Light a candle in a house of worship, or otherwise participate in a religious observation.

* Say the name of your deceased loved one out loud.

* Symbolic transfer: Was there a particular niche the deceased occupied in the family? Especially around the holidays? If Grandpa was known for making his famous stuffing recipe, then Grandma might consider giving that recipe to the oldest son, or to a favorite grandchild. Make a dramatic presentation out of it: Would he/she now do the family the honor of preparing and bringing this dish?

Perhaps a dead brother became an Eagle Scout. Mom, Dad -- why not wrap that Eagle badge as a gift to the surviving brother? Did Grandpa put himself through college as a pool shark? Pass the cue stick into someone's care.

* Symbolic absence: I know a family that set a place at the Thanksgiving table for the deceased husband/father. On the back of the chair they hung the man's raggedy fishing hat. Another family laid a high school letter sweater across a chair around the Christmas tree. Still another family cleared a living room tea table and created a sort of shrine to a deceased child: a photo montage, a Hot Wheels car, superhero action figures, etc.

You'll be surprised how not depressing this is. Sobering, moving, powerful, comforting -- but not depressing.

* Symbolic upending: The First Holidays are a good time to introduce new traditions and practices. Instead of turkey, serve prime rib for Thanksgiving dinner. Open gifts Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. Or you can get really radical, such as the bereaved family I know who vacated Las Vegas for Christmas and all went skiing in Utah. Opened their presents around a fireplace in a ski lodge.

The point is that death leaves nothing the same. Some families find a kind of peace in holiday observations that reflect this radical change (rather than trying to pretend nothing has changed).

Yes, entire family histories are shaped by memories of the holidays. And great family histories include the history of death. This pain, this ache -- it's forming you. Shaping you. Changing you. And if you're willing to endure, this grief will make you more.

"Grief is a noble art/ Each tear will stretch your heart/ There's more room now for love/ God bless the grieving ones."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Things Every New Widow Should Know

Some really good advice in this article I found online (published September 25, 2009 by Donna Thacker at

Coping with Grief One Step at a Time...

If you are a new widow, the first thing to know is that you will hate that word. It will seem strange and distasteful to you, yet you will encounter it over and over from now on. Every paper, or internet form will ask for your "status" and you will have to choose widow where you have always chosen married. It is okay to hate that word, because fate stuck you with a new designation, when you really still feel that you are married.


You will be hit with so many emotions you really won't know what you are feeling. At first there will be a sense of shock. You will proceed almost as if you are living in a surreal world, where you are just going through the motions. There is a tired numbness, especially if your spouse has been ill for awhile.

Disbelief may be present. You know that you have lost your spouse, yet it doesn't seem real. You may feel like you expect them to walk in and tell you it is all a cruel joke. You may feel anger. The anger may be directed at yourself, those around you, the doctors that cared for your spouse, or even your spouse for leaving you.

It is okay to express those emotions. You will shed countless tears, and then you will apologize to those around you. It is okay to cry without saying you're sorry to those seeing your tears. You need to let your emotions out, however they come. If you need to scream and yell, do that too. Believe me it will help. Never apologize for your grief; you have a right to express it.

Settling Insurance

It is important to know what type of insurances your spouse had. If he spent time in a hospital and you had medical insurance most of the bill will be taken care of. Expect that the hospital will start to call almost immediately asking for payment of any portion you owe. They are just doing their job, but at the time, you will think the person on the phone is the most heartless person you ever met. You will feel angry that they are not even giving you time to grieve before you have to start settling affairs.

Filling out papers for the life insurance will be like proving your very existence, and reliving your husband's death all over again. The company may even call you on the phone and expect you to be able to answer their questions on command. They will want to know all about the illness or reason for death, the dates and addresses for all hospital stays during the illness, and what the exact cause of death was.

If you are not able to handle this discussion yet, it is wise to have a family member or good friend on hand to do it. The sooner you proceed with the paper work, the sooner you will have money to settle the other affairs, such as doctor bills. You may need the insurance money to live on, or to take care of your children. Getting it settled will help to ease your stress.

Knowing What's Right

As you go through the grieving process and start to figure out how to live this new life you didn't want, people may offer advice and or suggestions that they think will make it better. Nothing will make it better, but only you will know when it is the right time to proceed with different stages of this new lonely life.

You may wonder what to do with your spouse's possessions and clothing. Some may advise that it would be easier to get rid of them. This mere suggestion may horrify you and make you feel like you are losing another part of your spouse. All widows have faced this issue and each one has faced it in their own way. If you are comforted with having his clothes hanging in the closet, then let them hang there.

Someone will eventually ask if you are going to continue wearing your wedding rings. The thought probably never even crossed your mind that maybe you were supposed to take them off. You may wonder why you should take them off, because in your heart, you still feel married. The truth is, you may never take them off, or you may take them off tomorrow. That is a decision to be made when you feel the time is right. No one can tell you when or if it is time to remove the wedding rings.

Talk to Those Who Know

There is a measure of comfort in talking to other widows. These women know exactly what you are going through, and they know how you are feeling. The internet is a great source to reach out to other women who have lost their spouses. These widows have been a great source of comfort to me personally. Many of them have written articles similar to this one, and there is usually a way to contact them from their article page.

Internet friends remain a faceless source of comfort; therefore you may find it easier to pour your heart and feelings out to them. I know my internet friends have listened to me, and given me great strength, just by knowing they were a mere email away. They have offered support and encouragement, yet were neither hovering nor intrusive.

Don't be afraid to talk about your feelings, or to ask someone who has been through it how they handled certain things. Of course each situation will be different as we all grieve in our own way. Those of us, who are going through it, know it is not easy. We know about the sorrow and loneliness, and the tears that are shed each night we climb into our empty beds.

Keep Going

This is the most important thing you need to know as a new widow. Keep on living, because you know your spouse would want you to. The best way to do this is to rely on something you do that your spouse was proud of. Maybe he was really proud of your profession. Continue to be the best you can be at your job. Consider it a way of honoring him every time you accomplish something you know he would be proud of.

My husband was always very proud of my writing ability. At first, I had no desire to write, but then something told me to get back to it, because he would have wanted me too. I find myself writing articles that will not only honor his memory, but that may also help someone else that is going through this horrible thing they call being a widow.

Read how other women are coping with being a widow. It may not work exactly that way for you, but then again, you may be able to offer the next piece of advice that will help someone else cope. Above all, even though you may feel terribly alone, you are not. There are many of us just an email away who know exactly how you are feeling.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I haven't ventured away from the house since I 'brought Vern home' on Friday. Haven't been answering the phone or doorbell either. I don't think I'm depressed ... just sad ... and going out to do "normal" things just isn't something I've felt like doing.

I will put on my big girl panties when I head off to work tomorrow and will do my best to keep the tears at bay and just concentrate on work. So I guess the weekends are ok to just be about me. Learning to be alone. Finding a place to put my sadness. I know I have many friends who want me to get out and do things with them. I'm just not ready for that yet. I think I'll know when the time is right.

Today feels better than Friday, so that's some progress - but I'm guessing there will be lots of steps backward along with the steps forward. I had planned to go over to hospice on Friday to see what resources are available there, but just didn't feel up to going back there yet. We entered on a Friday evening, so I think I missed out on the 'orientation' of what all they provide.

I'd like to stop by the dialysis center and the oncology office to thank the staff and say good-bye, but just driving down the street to get to the dialysis center brought me to tears. We traveled that road 3 times a week for a year and a half. And we were at the onc's office for over 4 years. It's hard to not do something. It feels like I need to be sure they remember Vern and how hard he fought and if I just disappear, that won't happen. But I know I'm not ready for that yet.

I shared the story of our street sparkles on our Caring Bridge site ( There were still some there on Friday when I went over to the mortuary, but we've had some rain since then so I'm wondering if they're still out there. Guess I'll need to go outside to check. Maybe I can even get in the car and get some groceries. I'll try.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Vern is home

I picked up Vern's ashes today. I didn't know what to expect or how I would feel about this. Staff was very busy at Palm Mortuary today, so I had to wait for a bit. There were a couple of visitations going on, plus they're gearing up for Tony Curtis' funeral on Monday (which is open to the public). David, the Palm Mortuary director who handled our arrangements, took me back into his office where I had to show my drivers license and sign some papers. We verified it was the correct urn and he placed it inside a carrying bag along with the death certificates. David carried it all out to the car for me and gave me a hug before he left.

Even though I was apprehensive about doing this, it was important to me to bring Vern home. And I must admit that I smiled just a bit that he was "sitting" in the front passenger seat. Vern had been using a wheelchair for the last few months and I had kept telling him I wanted to get him strong enough so he could sit in the front seat of my car facing forward (our wheelchair van had him sitting sideways). I was surprised at how heavy the urn is.

I plan to return to Hana, Maui someday and will leave a bit of his ashes there. That was such a special vacation spot for us in 2003. We were both pretty fit that year, and were able to do a lot of hiking to see all of the waterfalls. We had a return trip planned for June 2006, but Vern's MM diagnosis arrived in May of that year so the trip was cancelled.

The flowers I brought home after the funeral have mostly died, so I'm clearing them out. The house is a wreck. I lived at the hospital and then at hospice since I called the paramedics on Sept. 14 and I just haven't had the energy to address anything until today. I still have to take down the hospital bed, call the company to pick up the oxygen equipment and clear out all of the medical supplies. Hoping I can find someplace that will accept some of these things as a donation for those who can't afford them. I'm not in a rush to do any of this as I'm a bit afraid of how I'll feel when it's all gone. Caring for Vern has been my life for the past 4+ years.

What a difference a week makes

Last Friday was spent finalizing arrangements at the funeral home, gathering photos and making photo boards for the service, a couple of hours at the office ... the day passed pretty quickly and wasn't filled with non-stop tears. The service was on Sunday and I held up surprisingly well. So many people came by - many I never expected to see, some I haven't seen in years - but the love in that room filled many of the holes in my soul from the past 4+ years. It helped that that person in the casket just didn't look like my Vern. Those twinkling eyes and little smile made the man - and without seeing them, it made it easier for both our son and me to remember that he wasn't there. He's finally out of pain and at peace in Heaven.

I returned to work on Tuesday. Had planned to go in on Monday, but just couldn't keep the tears at bay so figured I'd best take an extra day. My first 3 days back at work went well. I was so busy that I kept focused on my projects and could keep my wandering thoughts from consuming me. Tears were a little closer to the surface on Thursday, and I found myself not being able to stop crying during my drive home from work.

And here I am at Friday again. (I work a 4/10 schedule, so I have Fridays off.) Our Fridays were always such busy days. Awake at 3:30am to give Vern some meds and get him dressed. He'd fall back asleep for an hour and then it was time to get into the wheelchair, hook up the portable oxygen and head off to his 3-hour dialysis treatment. He received weekly chemo treatments on Fridays, and also had his weekly oncologist appointment. The day just flew by.

Today is my first real 'alone' Friday. I've spent time reading other widow's blogs, surfing for grief counseling, reading Facebook entries. I'm lost. And yet I have one big task I must do today. The mortuary called and Vern's ashes and death certificates are ready for me to pick up. I'm not sure how difficult this is going to be.