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.