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.