Saturday, May 14, 2011

May I use a Widow's Card please?

This has been an emotionally difficult week. I've struggled to keep the tears at bay and have been consumed by an overwhelming sadness. I've felt so very alone, forgotten, left behind and I've had to acknowledge some emotions I'm not very proud of.  Perhaps I need to use a widow card.

I learned last Saturday night that a 49-year-old coworker had suffered a massive stroke. Joyce was in fabulous shape, ate healthy, looked wonderful, was so full of life, planning to retire early in January ... how could this happen? The damage was so severe she was moved to hospice - the same hospice Vern was in - and she passed yesterday. All of the emotions from those 9 days last September when Vern was hospitalized and then moved to hospice came rushing back to me. Everything. The good. The bad. The hurts.

The shock of this tragedy has had a major impact at work. Walking past Joyce's empty desk each day this week was hard. I've prayed for her, for her husband, her boys, her mom, her best friend and family. I know how hard it is to make the decision to move to hospice, even when there really is no other choice. I know how difficult those days in hospice can be for loved ones. And I know how very lonely it can be. But the outpouring of support for Joyce's family has been just amazing. Crowds of family, friends, coworkers have visited and posted on her Facebook page.

And that's where my embarrassing feelings come to play because this has reminded me of how very, very different my experience was. Only a handful of people came by to support me during those final days in hospice; and it was rare to have visitors during all of those hospital stays. We have no family here. What did we do to cause this? Did we send out some kind of signal that said 'stay away'? Is it me? Have I pushed people away? I thought I had put those hurt feelings away, but apparently they’re still hanging around very close to the surface. People seem to have completely forgotten that I lost Vern just 7-1/2 months ago in the very same hospice. The comments and questions I’ve heard this week have been difficult to hear. And when I’ve dared to share my true feelings I’ve felt just horrible guilt. How dare I bring this tragic situation around to me and my feelings?  How. dare. I.

If I could have, I would have signed retirement papers this week, walked right out the door immediately afterward, and headed off somewhere. Close down my FB page, leave my old life behind and go someplace where I know no one and these feelings would not come to play. But, of course, I couldn’t do that. There’s so much to take care of here first. I haven’t even cleared out his clothes yet; haven’t figured out what to do about his car or the wheelchair van; still have hospital-related things stacked up in the corner of the bedroom; messes everywhere that must be dealt with before I can even think of escaping. And then there's the paperwork. And the IRS. Yes, I'll be here awhile.

I know I promised to post my blog entries on Facebook, but I cannot do that with this one. I find it healing to write my true feelings out here. Once I put them in writing, it somehow takes away their sting. But I don’t want anyone to feel they have to DO anything, to feel badly about any of this, to think I’m asking for anything. It is what it is. It happened, it’s over, time to move on. If I don’t link it to FB, I won’t have to deal with any fallout. Coworkers and family have never posted here on the blog; a few post on FB when I've provided the link. My fellow widows and online friends are the only ones who post here, so this is safe. I expect that you will understand these feelings. So this post is just for me. It’s how I’ve felt this week and now that it’s in black & white I can shove these feelings once again back into my secret hiding place while I plan my escape.


Barbara said...

Well Dianne, I am here to stretch my arms as far as they can reach and let you know I am here. And there are many many more in WV. Do not let the number of people who show up or ask impact your emotions. At the end of the day it is nice to see, but it really doesnt matter. No one knows what it feels like to go through what we have experienced unless they have walked in our steps. AND I MEAN NO ONE

After the condolensces, everyone returns to their life, the calendar still flips, day by day, and life moves on whether you are having a good day or bad one.

The only person you need to focus upon is you.
make a list of what needs to get done, identify what is urgent and what is important and give your self time to tackle each task.
I am very structured so this may or may not work for you.

Boo said...

Going back there is traumatic. Seriously. About 6 months after Cliff died, I found myself in the same ward he'd died in ,,, and started physically shaking so much the sister in charge came to check on me, I had to sit down. Be kind to you. Even if they're not, we get it xxx

Anonymous said...

Oh Dianne I can't think of anything suitably consoling to say so am sending a hug instead. xx

Anonymous said...

Dianne, I am so sorry you had to go through this trying time. My husband recently had cardiac bypass surgery and I have found that all those "Call me if you need anything" comments may be meant when they're said, but if you do ask for anything it seems to be something inconvenient or too difficult for them to do. By the way, what about your own medical tests? Are you doing okay? My thoughts and prayers are with you and I have been checking for updates on your health. You are not alone.

Sandy said...

Dear Dianne - What a trying time to go through, and it is quite natural to have all those feelings come up again - and to feel a little green that your co-worker's death exuded such a response. It doesn't matter that she might have been a life-long resident of the area and all her family still lived nearby -the pain is the same and it is important to go through that dark place and come out again.
My family lives miles and hours away and I am living in a foreign country now - less expensive and better weather.... but... the cost I will pay is that the people I know here do not know me well if something befalls me.
When you are thinking about your next adventure in life, don't be afraid to think big, but factor in the value of things like friends and family to you.
I don't know what your working relationship was with Joyce, but it is indeed a shocking event - for you, your co-workers, her family and friends. And more sensitive people would completely 'get it' as to why it was like a PTSD event for you and your memories of Vern.
So of all that being said, just know that there are people who care about you, people who are listening, people who want the best for you... I am sure there are more than you know - big hugs!

aleta said...

I wish the week had been easier. Definitely use the Widow card - often! Prayers for you.

Anonymous said...


You have every right to ALL of your feelings. Hoping for the next few days to be much better. Prayer lifted and big hug sent from Alabama

Kerrie said...

You have been so on my mind lately and finally tracked down your site as It was gone from my favorites list somehow!! I am so sorry for all you are going through. I have been going through so many downs with Bill's MM lately and thinking how you have been there before me...I feel terrible about your friend's passing at work, what a shock! Bill is not doing well and is going to have to see the kidney specialist as his kidney function is diminishing. God help us. Sending you much love and you are NEVER forgotten. Kerrie

Anonymous said...

This is the first day I have had the quiet of life to check in on your blog, to know what has been happening to you since I left for the South. I worry that, one day, I will also be trying to cope with what you are coping with. As far as not having very many people in my life, other than my life with Ed and a couple of close friends, he is my life as Vern was yours.He also is a few years older than me. He just turn 68 yesterday and with every year I worry more. You and Vern were as one and that was so wonderful to have for your life together.But the price of leaving ones home and family behind in order to find a new life with the person that meets all of your needs, is that one day, chances are one of us will to be left behind. The comment by Sandy(whom I don't know)is aware of this cost too. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don't wonder how you are "really doing" I suspect that it is very hard for you to share your inner self with anyone but Vern. Most of us that have such a binding relationship with our loves, are that way,and that is the biggest loss of all. I see it with my Mother too, she left the South, moved North and Dad was the center of her universe. Seven years after his passing, and like you, there were not many who ever stop by in or drop in.And it hurts her to the core.I don't know what will happen if and when I could end up following your foot steps, what I do know is that I pray I have the grace and love that you have to get me through it.


Jen said...

Dianne, I think of you often (quite often, actually). I read your entire Caringbridge journal, and it was so enlightening...provided a lot of insight into the love that you and Vern shared (amazing!), and what it means to be a caregiver to someone you love so deeply and unconditionally. When I heard Joyce had been moved to hospice, I immediately thought of you. I wondered how you were coping, but I didn't reach out. There is no way I can understand what you've gone through or continue to go through. I so appreciate your honesty (yes, I stalk your blog), and I am in awe. I have learned some very special lessons from your solace to you, I'm sure, but a testament to the gifts you have to offer. I hope that you follow your dreams, with Vern in your heart.

Michael said...

I know these feelings. Going into a place (like a hospital) for the first time after someone passes and all the memories. I went to a greiving class 6 months after Melody passes away in the same hospital that she died in. It took my 10 minutes to actually get out of the car once it was in the lot...and another 15 minutes to make the 3 minute walk to the elevators. That was huge.
Whatever you do...never crawl inside a hole so deep you can't get out. Pity parties are allowed for a season before you move on. You'll know when it's time! Trust'll know!