Friday, January 28, 2011

We need to talk ....

I'm adjusting to some of the changes of living without my precious Vern in my life, but what I'm missing the most these days is having him here to talk to. Even when he wasn't feeling well, we talked. If I was at work and needed to share something, we talked.  On the drive into work or back home, we talked.  When I arrived home, we talked about our day.  And during the last few years, neither of us got much sleep - so we talked through the night. He was the other half of me ... he always helped me to see all sides of an issue, to work my way through problems, to heal my heart when my feelings were hurt by others' insensitivities or when I was faced with making a big decision.  I need him now.

So many times each day something will happen and I will think, "I need to tell Vern" ... and then the jolt of realization hits me and my heart hurts once again with my loss.  I know this isn't unusual. We talked about it last night during my online bereavement group chat and others have the same experience.  Knowing this is normal for widows doesn't make it any easier, however.

So I talk to Vern ... sometimes out loud, sometimes just sitting in his chair with my eyes closed and the little extra bag of his ashes held close to my heart.  It helps sometimes, but it isn't anything close to enough. But it's all I have.

I'm facing a really big decision that I can't discuss with anyone else and oh boy do I need Vern. I have absolutely no doubt that he would ask the right questions and say the right words that would lead me to know the right choice to make.  So I'll talk to him this weekend about this issue and wait for him to give me the right answer.

... and to explain the photo accompanying this post ...
My fellow caregiver/widow/bereavement group/Facebook/blogger friend, John, posted about a photo of their "second wedded kiss" in his blog and it reminded me of this photo of Vern & I.  It brought me a smile this morning.  A nice memory of so long ago (August 23, 1969) when I was just 18 and Vern was 28. The beginning of our wonderful life together ... 41 years ... I so wish there were 41 more years to come.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

4 months

The 22nd has arrived yet again, marking 4 months since my dear Vern left this earth. I don't know that I've made fantastic progress - but I'm taking the time I feel I need, to do the things I think I need to do. Does that make sense?  I guess I'm just trying not to judge myself with "I should'ves" as far as my grief journey is concerned.  Our cancer journey was unique and this next stage is uniquely mine. At the beginning, I felt I needed to read as many grief books as possible. I learned a lot and was reinforced that what I was feeling so often really wasn't unique at all. And I learned that it's perfectly normal to make forward progress and then have a setback. So I'm trying to just feel my way through this and not have any expectations.  It is what it is (a favorite saying of mine).  I've had friends say I need to do this or that ... and while their advice may be wise, I no longer feel an obligation to follow it. When the timing is right, then I'll take those next steps. 

And with that said, I'm rather proud that I took some forward steps this week:
  • I'm joining co-workers at The Melting Pot after work Wednesday (my first time there).
  • I'm attending a former co-worker's annual chili party on Saturday.
  • I bought a couple of "squares" for the Super Bowl from a co-worker to make it a bit more fun to watch the game. Was also invited to their big party, but the game falls on Vern's birthday and I'd prefer to have that day to myself, so I declined.
  • I started a beginning yoga class last week and will be going there Tuesdays after work.
  • I'm going on my first Red Rock canyon hike Feb. 5 with friends.
  • I've vowed that this will be the last weekend I allow myself to "cocoon" the entire 3 days - and I may actually venture out today or tomorrow.
I continue to gain so much from my fellow widows/ers and their blogs, along with my Thursday online bereavement support group. I cannot tell you how much it helps to share thoughts, feelings and experiences with those who truly understand.  One of the blogs brought me to a beautiful song I hadn't heard before. It's from the Broadway show "Wicked" and is about the friendship between Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West ... but it touched me deeply with words that applied to how I feel about Vern:  "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."  I've added it to my "Special You Tube Videos" listed under "Resource Links" over in the right-hand column if you'd like to listen to it.

I still feel a need to visit the oncology office and dialysis center, but whenever I drive by either location I'm still overcome with emotions and memories. There were very few visits to either place when Vern felt well. And I'm a little afraid I might not get the responses I'm looking for - and that could send me backward in my healing.  Perhaps this is something I'm just not going to be able to do. I've started to write personal notes to the special people who helped Vern & I navigate that horribly difficult cancer road, but I just haven't been able to express my feelings the way I want.  Guess this task will just have to stay on my list for awhile.

"I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it."  Maya Angelou

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Oh the paperwork ....

When I met with the funeral director after Vern passed he handed me this big green box and said it had everything I needed to take care of all of the required paperwork ... but that I could wait to deal with all of that ... 6 months even.  Well, we haven't even reached the 4 month mark and I've learned I can no longer ignore some of it. I don't feel like dealing with it - I don't want to take Vern's name off our bank account - but I'm not being given a choice.  We've had an account at this credit union since we moved here in 1982, with both of our names on it. But I got a call telling me that they were closing that account because Vern was the primary. What?!?  I hate it, but my voice broke and I had to grab those big girl panties once again. Why on earth would they need to close the account?  Come to find out, it was because I have an account there in my name and you're not allowed to have two accounts. OK, then why not close that one (it was only opened to secure an auto loan many years ago in my name) and leave our main account intact? The main account is where my paychecks are automatically deposited and where all of my bills are linked to. I'm just not up to having to make all those changes and, luckily, the guy on the other end of the phone heard me (or didn't want to deal with a crying widow).  He said they rarely do it, but he could move the money from MY account over to OUR account and change the name on it. Then he started talking about the IRAs Vern had in there - not much, but since Vern would have turned 70 this year it means he would have had to start drawing. More discussion ... and eventually the understanding that those could be transferred over to me without penalties. I offered to come in to sign paperwork, but he said he'd send it. (That makes me laugh ... maybe I scared him and he'd rather not have to deal with me face-to-face?)

And then there's the IRS. I received the anticipated certified letter from them this week detailing the hefty penalties involved.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I did not file our taxes the past couple of years.  Yes, I know ... it's not like me. Perhaps I was secretly hoping the IRS would knock on the door and take me away to debtors' prison and I wouldn't have to deal with all that I was living with.  Stupid? Yes, of course. And I certainly would have fought ever leaving Vern. So why did I do it, and why haven't I dealt with it yet? I honestly don't know.  It is the only secret I ever kept from Vern and I'm saddened by that.  So another supply of big girl panties is at the ready as I finally tackle this issue.

I received a very complimentary proposal from someone who would like me to work for them. It's been nice to think about, but I'm not ready to make a change there yet.  I'll hit 60 this year and 25 years at my company, so there are opportunities for me to consider retiring in the not-too-distant future - when I'm ready.  I'd still like to look into getting a place in Florida, but must get all of the IRS stuff settled to see what I can do financially.

I think I'm doing ok overall. Work feels better and I'm trying to get back on top of everything there that might have slipped through the cracks since I have taken so much time off.  I've come to terms with those who have disappointed me and have placed those feelings where they need to be so they don't hinder my healing. I have a lot of clean up to do around the house. I've kept far too many things over the years and could probably qualify for one of those 'clean house/hoarder' shows. Losing Vern has emphasized that 'things' or 'stuff' isn't what is important so I think I'll be able to easily donate or toss much of what has accumulated.  I joined Angie's List so I can find some good, reliable, trustworthy people to take care of things that need to be done around the house.

I still find a need for solitude on my days off.  My biggest emotion these days is sadness that Vern is no longer here to share my life. The tears still come, often at surprising times, but they don't overwhelm me these days. Cocooning brings me comfort, but then when it comes time to return to work I feel guilty for having completely wasted all those hours.  I surf the 'Net, read, start a project, stop working on the project, watch movies, make lists, play on Facebook, read blogs, go through old photos, reminisce. Not really productive, but it feels good for me right now to just 'hunker down' in the home Vern and I shared here in Nevada for 27 years.

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." - Khalil Gibran

Friday, January 7, 2011

My continuing ride

Up and down ... hold on tight ... some corkscrews and twisting turns ... yes, the roller coaster ride of emotions continues.  But, if I'm honest, I do believe I'm making some forward progress.

Work is good for me and I'm fearful of where I would be if I didn't have that in my life. I no longer feel I must hide my true feelings when there, but I also notice that I have less times when grief overcomes me while at work. I'm kept so busy that my mind doesn't have the time to focus on my sorrow. So for 4 days a week, I have 11 hours that I'm pretty much able to feel "normal".  The drive in and back home can still be troubling ... and my evenings and weekends need some real work. Before cancer entered our lives in 2006, we both were far too devoted to our jobs. The jobs came first and we just squeezed in our together time when we could. We both learned the hard way that when you're no longer able to devote everything to the job, it - and so many of the people you thought were your friends - disappear. I won't make that mistake again. But this history of not carving out time for myself, along with the 4+ years caring for Vern when there just weren't any available extra moments makes this new journey rather difficult. I'm spending some time this month developing a list of things I might like to do to occupy this down time. It's a step forward.

I'm finding wonderful support with the online bereavement group I participate in each Thursday. That hour & a half flies by with words of support and encouragement from those who are working their way through the loss of a loved one. I'm so glad I found that group - and that I gave myself time to get used to the chat format.

Last evening, I had the opportunity to meet a fellow MM caregiver who recently lost his wife. He and his family came through Vegas on their trip to California and we were able to have a nice face-to-face conversation over coffee.  We've been exchanging emails, CaringBridge and Facebook posts as we each faced our challenges so it was really nice to meet in person. Why is it that cancer seems to enter the lives of the nicest people?

I've heard Vern's voice while watching a couple of movies during this past week. He loved Avatar and I was overcome when I heard Jake & Eywa say "I see you". Vern said that to me while in hospice and I didn't make the connection at the time, but when I heard/saw it in Avatar I remembered and felt his presence. I also watched The Notebook, not really a smart thing since it's a tear-jerker even when you're not dealing with grief.  But, again, Vern's voice reached me when James Garner said "you & me", "my sweetheart", "I love you so much" when holding Gena Rowlands. Those were the remaining few words Vern spoke to me while in hospice. A very special gift from my guy.

I visited our CaringBridge site this week to look something up, and ended up reading quite a bit of it. I'm just amazed at all that we experienced. It was certainly not the typical MM journey, with so many unusual medical issues and crises, but it was such a special bonding time for Vern & I. Re-reading it, I can't understand how I didn't see the end coming ... but I sure didn't.  This read did reinforce that I absolutely cannot wish for Vern to return to all that he endured. So I must learn how to move on with him in my heart. 

"Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light." (Helen Keller)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A new year ahead

Those sparkles were such a wonderful surprise. I don't know who did this 'random act of kindness' but it is something I will never, ever forget.  I assumed that anyone reading this blog had also been reading my CaringBridge posts previously, but learned that wasn't the case when I was asked by some what the sparkles were all about.  So here's a quick explanation:  Just before Vern passed I told him he would soon be running, skipping, jumping - even doing cartwheels if he felt like it - on Heaven's streets of gold because his tired body would not be traveling with him.  The day before his memorial service, I came home to find our street "sparkling" like little pieces of gold were imbedded in the pavement in front of me.  The sun was shining and making them sparkle - and it was especially heavy right in front of our house. I felt it was a message from Vern that all was well. He's up there walking the "streets of gold" and just wanted to share a tiny bit of that with me down here.  It made me smile.

That special gift, however, wasn't enough to keep my spirits high on Christmas and the day after. I let myself wallow in my sadness and loneliness and dreaded having to return to work. I even thought about taking yet another week off, but eventually decided to make the effort to head into work on Monday. I am so glad I did. Alot of people were on vacation so it was a quieter pace which allowed for some extra conversations. When co-workers stopped by to ask about my Florida Keys vacation, I didn't hesitate to share my thoughts of Vern instead of keeping them to myself as I had been doing. I began to feel energized. During a couple of the conversations, the possibility of purchasing a home in Florida came up when I said how much I loved the Keys. I shared that Vern didn't have a huge life insurance policy, so buying a vacation home just wasn't in my budget. But they shared that friends and relatives have homes on the gulf coast and there are some that are quite inexpensive right now. Websites were shared and I spent time that evening surfing the 'net ... and getting excited.  There are 55+ communities with manufactured homes in the $20,000 range!  I could do that! The possibility started to grow in my mind and I began sharing it with others throughout the week. Their excitement for me just increased my own excitement. So I'm going to keep following this path and see where it leads me. I'm looking in the Ft. Myers/Naples area, so if you have any info to share ... please do!

This little experience has made a HUGE improvement in how I'm feeling. I'm actually thinking positively about what my future will hold instead of concentrating on all that I have lost. Vern & I used to vacation in Florida when we lived in Michigan and we actually considered moving there instead of Nevada. After our Crystal Pier vacations, we began discussing how we could easily live in a tiny space if it was near the ocean and dreamed of where we might move when I retire. Vern didn't want to have to deal with snow or hurricanes and we couldn't afford Hawaii or California, so we figured we'd end up staying here in Nevada.  But now I see some options and I feel Vern's support with this idea.

This past week has been the best I've had since losing Vern. There are still tears when special songs or memories overtake me, but I haven't felt myself falling into despair when I'm here at home as I was doing previously. I struggled with some thoughts, however, that it's too soon for me to feel like this. But my dear friend, Deb, assured me that was not the case. This is a tribute to my dear Vern and is what he would want for me. I'm honoring him and the wonderful life we had together. He would not want me to continue as I was, with secluding myself in the house except for when I had to go to work. So instead of feeling I have lost half of me, I now feel Vern strongly inside of me ... encouraging me, pushing me, whispering support in my mind ... for me to be all I can be.

I know my feelings can - and probably will - ebb and flow, but I'm going to wrap myself up in these positive thoughts for now and make the best of them.  I posted this quote from a poem by Mary Oliver on my Facebook page this morning that fits with how I'm currently feeling and think it's good for all of us to ponder:  "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"