Sunday, October 13, 2013

My time at the ocean

If I had written this post when I first arrived home last evening, it would have had a different theme.  I was on a super high after spending 4 days in Folly Beach, South Carolina at an ArtBeach Retreat. A beautiful beach house, butterflies, amazing art lessons, sunrises that take your breath away, wonderful women, daily dolphin visits, yoga on the beach, dragonflies, Hummer limo ride, laughter, connections, sharing. It was exactly what I needed at this time in my life. It filled my heart and touched my soul.

Even the flight delays yesterday didn't dampen my spirit. I was excited to return home, to get busy DOING the things I've been thinking, planning, preparing to do but could not actually get STARTED doing. I felt I had turned an important corner.

And then life hit me up side the head yet again. I don't want to share details, but think it's important for other widows - other people - to know that there is no escaping the ups and downs of life. They happen to all of us. What we must do is find a way to live through them. Somehow. Tears during the night when the issue first surfaced. Little sleep. More tears. Tears again this morning when my feelings were hurt by some silly Facebook stuff. Good Lord, I'm 62 years old.  But a hurt nonetheless ... and it caused my ugly feelings to surface ... I am friendless, invisible, unappreciated, unliked, unwanted.

Many may be surprised to learn I have these feelings ... often. They see my posts on Facebook and in Widowed Village. I'm the cheerleader, the volunteer, the positive one, the 'never say no' gal. I'm the one trying new things, stepping outside my comfort zone. But rest assured I carry these ugly feelings with me wherever I go; I just work extra hard to try to keep them below the surface. I believe it's important to not put a focus on the negative. When Vern was alive, I didn't have to work hard at that. His support and love helped me to be strong and confident. But now ... now it's just me. And it's hard work to do this stuff on my own. While I'm missing him.  But I must. There is no other choice.

During the cancer years and since Vern's death, I have bristled when people would say how STRONG I was. It felt like an excuse to not have to offer assistance or encouragement or anything at all ... because my strength during these hard times surely meant I didn't need anything from anyone. So I've resented the word STRONG.  But during the retreat we had an opportunity to get henna tattoos (they aren't permanent) ... and I chose to have the Japanese symbol for STRONG painted on my left wrist. Time for me to embrace it. I AM strong. Damn it. I have to be.

Oh - and then I decided to get another henna tattoo on my right forearm. Love this one. I'll surprise a few people at work tomorrow, I'm sure.

So what are my take-aways from all this?

  • I know that I must find a way to spend time at the ocean regularly. It has to become a priority. Don't know yet how that will happen, but I am going to put that on my vision board and keep those positive thoughts vibrating out into the universe. 
  • I know that I need to spend time doing something creative each day. Journaling, painting, doodling, stitching ... whatever speaks to me each day.
  • I know I need to spend less time on my laptop. I didn't take it with me on this trip and I got along just fine. Going to try setting a timer to limit myself.
  • I know that I am strong ... and that's ok.
  • And the big issue?  Well, I'll think about it tomorrow (as Scarlett O'Hara said).

Friday, October 4, 2013

A dream ... finally

I honestly don't recall the last time I remembered a dream. Before Vern got sick I had vivid dreams and remembered them all. But during the cancer years I didn't sleep much and when I did it was for very short periods of time. He needed me a lot during the nights and I guess I never had enough time to get into that 'dream' sleep.  My body apparently got used to that and it became my routine even after Vern died.

I've envied my widow friends who share amazing dreams or visits from their lost loves and wished that I could have that experience.  And - finally - it has happened.  I awoke this morning remembering a little visit from my Vern. A soft voice in my ear of love, support, reassurance. And a reminder that he is with me always, holding me up whenever I need it.

You see, it's been a rough week.  Can't share details, but an old wound was reopened and it hurt. Bad. I didn't expect that it would. Thought that I had settled all of that. Sent that person off to Pluto, thanks to Brave Girl Camp, where their actions could no longer hurt me. And it was working. But this action got through. And I cried. And I thought very seriously about retiring immediately and running away. Somewhere. Anywhere. To a place where I knew no one and no one could ever hurt me again.

And I missed Vern. Deeply.

Really needed to talk to him about this. He always had such an amazing ability to understand an issue completely and to be able to offer suggestions to help me find my way through the rough spots.

And last night he did that again in my dream. I am grateful. I am blessed.

And I've now sent this person to a galaxy in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field ...  I googled to find what the farthest distance was from Earth, since Pluto obviously didn't cut it.

Friday, September 27, 2013


I've passed the 3 year mark ... sounds like a long time. But it doesn't always feel like a long time. And yet, some days it feels like forever .... I miss him.

When someone asks how long it's been and they hear '3 years' I usually see the look. It's been that long? You should be "over it" by now.  And I resent that - but I don't show it. I've become really, really good at hiding my true feelings. It's just easier that way. For me. I don't necessarily recommend it for others.

The days leading up to September 22 were once again harder than the actual day. I took a couple of days off work so I could have the time to reflect, to feel what I needed to feel. And I wallowed in it. Felt it. Grieved it. All of it.  And then I decided I needed to finally do something I'd been putting off ... get his Mustang running again. So on Saturday, Sept. 21st, I spent several hours doing just that. AAA got it running again with a new battery; I took it down for an oil change and a car wash. Because the battery had died, it didn't pass the smog test so that meant I had to go to DMV to get a 10-day extension (since the license tags expired at the end of July while it sat in the driveway). And the A/C compressor died, too. Just couldn't be easy, could it?  But I did it all and it felt good.

September 22 was a lovely Sunday. Cooler temps, a light breeze, a perfect day for a drive with the top down. I headed out to Red Rock Canyon, a favorite spot for Vern & I over the years. Learned that I qualified for a $10 Lifetime Pass to the National Parks - a perk for hitting 62 this year. I drove along the 13 mile loop, stopping now and then to take photos. Had to pull off when the Diamond Rio song "One More Day" came on; it always makes me cry. And then The Calling's "I'll Go Wherever You Will Go" played. OK - thank you Mr. Radio DJ Guy. That's quite enough.  Decided to head down the road to Spring Mountain Ranch while I was in the area and it was beautiful. Found a little bench in the shade by the ranch house and just enjoyed the view and let my thoughts flow.

I've chosen to spend this special day alone the first two years. That felt like the right thing to do then. But this was the right thing for me to do this year. Nature and all its beauty can have quite a healing power. Am I "over it"?  Oh no ... don't expect that to ever happen. But time has allowed me to learn how to recognize and listen to that inner voice that knows exactly what I need to do to get through the tough days - and time has given me the strength to be selfish when I must ... to do what I must to live this life without my Vern. 
"But for those who love, time is eternity."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The wound remains

I really expected this year wouldn't be quite so hard ... that my thoughts wouldn't take me back to this day 3 years ago ... the last day he was here in this house. The day I had to call 911 for the final time. But it has. The sadness. The heaviness. It seems to reside in my heart and burst forth even before I realize what the date is. Perhaps it will always be like this. An annual rewind of  one of the most important weeks of my life.

I find myself needing to go back to my CaringBridge journal to read again of those days. To try to understand how I could not have known that it was the beginning of the end. The signs are there ... in hindsight. And I beat myself up for not seeing them then. For not talking to Vern about it when he was still able to talk about it.  But I didn't and I can't change that now.  I did not expect that he would not come home. I did not expect that call would lead us to hospice. I had no idea when those 6 EMTs gently lifted my love onto a gurney on the 14th day of September in 2010 that he would be gone just 8 days later.

During those hard cancer years I didn't realize I had a wound, too -  there was no time, no energy, no desire to worry about me. My entire life was devoted to caring for him, to ease his pain, to research the questions, to be his advocate in the difficult medical community, to watch for signs, to give shots, to administer IVs and pills, to take blood pressure, to measure oxygen levels, to clean and rebandage that stinkin' wound that wouldn't heal, to spend countless nights curled up in a chair next to him as we waited in the hospital for the latest crisis to be handled, to flush his PICC line, to get him to his dialysis and chemo and doctor and blood transfusion appointments, to deal with that colostomy bag, to keep his spirits positive, to love him.  But my wound was there, festering just below the surface, waiting ... waiting ... waiting to break through and rip me open when he was gone.

Three years ... that wound is still there. It has healed at times - on the surface, just like Vern's. But it remains. Always and forever. A reminder of both the hard times and the blessings that were ours. Yes, blessings. There were many, even in the midst of the heartaches. Some days I can focus on the light ... some days are wrapped in the darkness. But the one constant is love. It was there ... it IS there ... always.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Loneliness vs Solitude

Language has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone.
And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone.
~Paul Tillich

This past Friday would have been our 44th wedding anniversary.  I spent this one alone ... again ... as I have since Vern died. I miss him. I'm lonely for him and the life we shared.

But this anniversary was different. Because instead of staying secluded in the house in my jammies I decided to drive up to Mt. Charleston. It has been years since I was there. So long, in fact, that I missed the Kyle Canyon turn and didn't realize it until I passed the Paiute reservation. The city's growth has had an impact in that area. 

As I traveled up the mountain, I saw the devastation left by the recent fire and also the glory of nature among the pines. New growth was peeking out already in the midst of the burned area. Bright green sprouts emerging from the high desert soil. And I felt a kindred spirit with the land.

I am also awakening from the devastation. Oh, many thought I was already there. You see, I'm a pretty darn good actress it seems. Few have ever recognized how deeply I keep my sorrow hidden. Some may ask ... I respond that I'm ok and have learned that if I immediately ask how they are the focus shifts and never returns. And that's ok. That's who I am, who I've always been. Except with Vern.

I absorbed all of the natural beauty of this area, pulling off now and then to take a photo or just reflect. It was healing. I arrived at the Lodge and decided to stop to get some lunch. I was seated in the outside patio area where I could enjoy the view - and the many hummingbirds feeding along the roofline. They were entertaining and reminded me of how much Vern loved watching them out our back window from his hospital bed. Tables full of couples and groups surrounded me. Life goes on. We shared pleasantries. I splurged on a dessert and when it arrived the others exclaimed (it was a huge brownie sundae). My response? "It's my 44th wedding anniversary and I felt like treating myself since my husband couldn't be here with me." No one 'got it' ... or at least they didn't appear to understand that the reason he couldn't be there with me was because he had died. As one group left, they said 'congratulations' and the waiter later asked what I was celebrating. I hesitated. I stumbled over the words. Should I share or just let it be? I shared. He was uncomfortable. He didn't charge me for my coffee.

As I headed back down the mountain I stopped again at the burned area, just taking it all in. And then a hummingbird flew up to my front windshield. I was delighted. Why was it here? In this place of blackened and burned vegetation. And then it flew to my open passenger window. It hovered there, looking right at me. I exclaimed. Out loud. It took my breath away. I thought it might actually fly inside the car, but it remained there and then flew off. My God wink. My Vern sending me a message. What a perfect, perfect anniversary gift.

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Vern! I'll never forget him!"

My heart was touched today ... by some very special things.

A dear friend who has dealt with chemo and radiation for breast cancer asked if I would go to the oncologist with her to get the results of her PET scan. Her husband couldn't get off work and she was worried about the results and facing them alone. She has been so very brave and this was absolutely where I needed to be (and my amazing boss had no problem with me coming into work late so I could do this). So R and I thought good, positive thoughts together as we waited for the doctor to come into the examine room.

Now you also need to know that my friend sees the very same oncologist that Vern saw for the 4+ years he battled cancer. Vern & Dr. G had a really special relationship ... sports ... USC ... Ohio State. Used to drive me nuts. I'd be anxious to get test results and they'd spend nearly the entire appointment time talking sports. I hadn't seen Dr. G since before Vern died and with the number of patients he sees I really didn't expect him to remember me after nearly 3 years. But Vern? Yeah ... I did have an expectation that he would be remembered.  So in walks Dr. G and he does his obligatory handshake and 'nice to see you' comment. I saw a flicker of recognition but then my friend asked him point-blank if he remembered me. Sweet man that he is, he said yes (but I didn't believe him ... I have changed quite a bit from those hard caregiving years), so I said "Ohio State" and held out my pendant that has Vern's photo on it. He said, "Vern! I'll never forget him!"  I responded, "me, too" and wrapped my hand around the pendant.  A really precious moment for me because it feels that no one but me (and Jeremy) remember my dear Vern these days.

And then Dr. G shared the wonderful news that my friend's PET scan did not show any metastatic cancer. Hallelujah!!  Two super special moments in just a few moments' time.

And  to top it all off, I received an email this afternoon saying my blog has been named a Top Widower Blog! How cool is that?  I really didn't think many were even reading it any longer, so this was a very nice surprise.  And I'm in excellent company ... I've met many of the other Top Widower Bloggers at Camp Widow.

One more thing ... today is the 22nd ... yep that ol' day of the month that my love left this earth.  Perhaps it was all meant to be. I used to hate the 22nds of each month. The reminder that time kept marching on, adding months to when I last held Vern. But today? Ah, but this 22nd feels mighty good. Good for my dear friend, good for my Vern and good for me, too. Vern's presence was all around me today.

So what are the take-aways from this day?  Well, this graphic kind of says it for me ....

Friday, July 5, 2013

Random Thoughts on a Long Holiday Weekend

Holidays are still not good days for me. Guess it's just that my 'aloneness' seems emphasized and I find myself missing Vern more on these days. So I do my best to just ignore them. Stay inside, no TV, let the day pass unnoticed. Almost. And maybe this one was rough because it was just a couple of days after my return from Camp Widow. A bit of a Camp crash perhaps.

Attending Camp as the volunteer coordinator is a very different experience than when I attended as a camper and only did a little volunteering. But I feel this is what I need to be doing. Giving back. Thinking of others. It's good for me and I think I'm good for it, too. And I think I'll get better at managing my time as I get more Camps under my belt.

The best part of Camp for me has always been the connections made with others. And I met some wonderful new people in San Diego. Some from Widowed Village, some not. And some amazing local widows who just wanted to volunteer and not attend the workshops. Wow - what a blessing they were! I'm going to need to find some of those wids in Tampa.

It's summer in Vegas and it is HOT HOT HOT. No outside work on my horizon. Well, maybe just a little bit of yard trimming at daybreak or sunset. I noticed today that the lantana has already spread out onto the sidewalk. Amazing that anything will grow when it's this hot. It's 7pm and 108. Ugh.

So here we are ... a nice break before beginning work on the March Camp volunteers ... what to do with that time?  I'm still working, but I need to have things to keep me busy on the weekends so I don't revert back to my hermit stage. I think perhaps it's time to focus on me just a bit. I'm sleeping better (for the most part) but my eating habits are horrible. I skip meals, don't drink much water and have Blizzards for dinner. So I'm going to try to get back to drinking the required amount of water daily and eating throughout the day. And I'm going to pull the clothes off the treadmill and start walking. OK - don't hold me to any of that ... but I'm going to try.

I'm always encouraging other widows to try new things, to step outside their comfort zone to find things that can bring them joy. Some are easier to do than others, but it's important to just try. If it's not a good fit, then you don't need to do it again or even finish it. But maybe ... just maybe ... you'll find something that you love to do and all the trials will be worth it.

I took a 1-day photography class at the Springs Preserve last month. It was hard going alone. It was hard eating lunch alone in the cafe. No one offered for me to join them and I'm not one who would ever ask. But I sucked it up and did it instead of leaving. And the afternoon portion of the class was the best part.

I signed up months ago for the online Brave Girl & LifeBook art classes but my volunteer work got in the way and I've not touched them. Thankfully, they're available through the end of the year so I'm going to jump back into those. I'm not an artist by any means, but I like how I feel when I'm doing some of this creative, multimedia stuff. And it includes journaling and life lessons, too. So I'm going to schedule art time each week.

I just signed up for The Chopra Center's "Awaken to Happiness" 8-week online course. It's free and sounded like it might have some good self-reflective stuff in it. We can all use more happiness in our lives, right? Especially us widows. Here's a link if you're interested in that:   I also signed up for their next 21-Day Meditation Challenge; this one is on "Miraculous Relationships".   I enjoyed the "Creating Abundance" challenge so we'll see if this one speaks to me.

I'll end with my Camp Widow taxi driver story.  He picked me up at the airport and asked whether I was there for vacation or a conference. I shared the Camp Widow story. He then asked if I was dating and I shared that I didn't plan to date or remarry. I was lectured the rest of the ride to the hotel about how I needed to have someone else in my life, it's not right to be alone, why on earth would I say I wouldn't date, how could I not want someone else in my life.  I tried to explain, really I did. But he would have none of it. Thankfully, it's a short distance to the hotel and I was rescued by the hotel bellman opening up my door. My goodness, that was unexpected. But after I escaped it did make me smile.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Me by Jo Dee Messina

An online friend posted this video on Facebook and the words really spoke to me. When I wrote my blog post yesterday, this was pretty much how I was feeling - even though I wasn't able to really say that. Jo Dee's words speak for me.

I’m somebody’s daughter, somebody’s friend
A shoulder to lean on - no matter when

I’m somebody’s teacher, when they don’t understand
Got a seat in the bleachers, I’m the world’s biggest fan

Oh well

I wish I was half the woman I’ve gotta be
Wish I had all the answers right in front of me
I’m everything to everyone and I’m scared as I can be
When I look into the mirror all I see … is me

I’m somebody’s sweetheart, somebody’s girl
Someone’s direction to find their way in this world

I’ve got to be perfect, even when I feel bad
I’ve got to keep giving when I gave all I had

Oh well

I wish I was half the woman I’ve gotta be
Wish I had all the answers right in front of me
I’m everything to everyone and I’m scared as I can be
When I look into the mirror all I see … is me

When I feel uncertain
I’m on my knees to pray
I know that it’s all worth it
that at the end of the day

Wish I was half the woman I’ve gotta be
I wish I had all the answers right in front of me
I’m everything to everyone and I’m scared as I can be
Cuz when I look into the mirror all I see …

Is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s girl
Someone’s direction to find their way in this world ….

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Birthday .....

When I was younger, May was always a special month. My birthday, my Dad's birthday and 2 of my sisters' birthdays all fell within one week. And Mother's Day usually landed close by, too.  Lots of celebrating and good memories.

But since Vern died, it seems that May takes me to a dark place. That long, incredibly hard cancer journey began in May. And even though it's been 7 years (how is that possible?) I can still see in my mind's eye the day when we first heard the word cancer. I can see us in the dr's office looking at the scans, hear the dr tell us how bad it is, that immediate surgery is needed and I must check him into the hospital now. I recall driving down the street towards the hospital, but then pulling off into a residential area. I found a shaded spot and pulled up next to the curb. Holding hands. Silence. Tears. Drawing strength from one another to face the challenge.  During the 4+ year cancer battle I don't recall thinking much about May. Or any specific dates. It was such an effort to just keep doing what needed to be done. But now ... now that I'm alone ... May seems to be the month I will find myself crying at the drop of a hat ... songs, comments, stories ... it doesn't take much to get the tears flowing. I'm not consciously thinking about it, but it's there ... those memories ... lurking just below the surface. And I can tell you that spending a birthday without Vern is just not something I can enjoy.  I miss him. And it's just a reminder that one more year has passed without him.

I sometimes get so tired of feeling it's my responsibility to always be the positive one, to always be strong, to always set a good example of how to survive losing the love of your life. Really tired. But I can't help myself. It's who I am. And who I am is because of the years and the love I shared with Vern. So I keep on keeping on.

So while this has been kind of a tough day ... there have been some special moments that I am grateful for:
  • Had a wonderful long lunch with my friend and fellow widow, Linda. 
  • Received lots of online birthday wishes.
  • Saw a couple of posts from widows who have appreciated my comments and support.
  • Had a nice phone conversation with my "little" brother and one of my sisters.
  • Received a lovely bouquet of tulips from my brother and his sweet wife.
And I smiled when I saw Google wishing me a Happy Birthday.

So I made it through today fairly well, actually. I got out of my pajamas - that's an improvement from previous years. And I ventured outside the house ... another improvement. And it's one day closer to the end of May.

Friday, April 26, 2013

I've returned from camp ... Camp Widow, that is

I just returned from my 4th Camp Widow. That may sound depressing to anyone who has never attended one of these very special events, but let me assure you it isn't. Camp has helped me to grow, to find my way, to find my purpose.

Each of my experiences has been different - mainly due to how far out I was from losing Vern.

  • I was 11 months out for my first camp in San Diego in August 2011. I was afraid of going where I knew no one except for the Widowed Village friends I had met online. It was emotional, but it was exactly what I needed at that time. I had found my tribe. People who got it, who understood how hard it is to move forward when you've lost the love of your life. And a very special friendship came out of that camp (♥ Lisa M).
  • My second camp in Myrtle Beach in April 2012 was the first East Coast camp and it was amazing. The hotel is right on the beach, so I was able to go out to the ocean whenever I felt the need (I feel a close connection to Vern whenever I'm at the ocean's edge). It's a smaller hotel, a smaller number of campers, it felt comfortable. And I finally was able to meet a very young widow with 2 children who I had such a special connection to in Widowed Village (♥ Crystal)
  • My third camp in San Diego in August 2012 was the first time (well, the only time, actually) that I drove Vern's Mustang alone to California. That was a big step. I even stopped at Crystal Pier ... really, really hard and I could not stay ... but at least I walked up to cottage #9 and embraced those memories. Baby steps. Made possible because of Camp Widow.
  • This year's East Coast camp was again at Myrtle Beach - I still love that ocean-front location - but it was different, because it was my first one as the Soaring Spirits National Volunteer Coordinator. An excellent learning experience ... and a reinforcement of my need to change my ways when it comes to my procrastination and delegation issues. I was finally able to meet a long-time online friend from NPRs Our Cancer (♥ Kathie - I do hope I'll have another opportunity to spend some time with you) and another special friendship was made with an amazing woman (♥ Debi).  I can assure you I will be better prepared for this year's West Coast camp in June so I'm able to carve out time for these special connections. They are the heart of Camp Widow.

I remember when I first joined Widowed Village and saw people who were 2, 3, 4 years out from their loss still there ... thinking OMG, please do not let that be me. And yet there I am still. I now get it. Those who are further out can help provide HOPE to those who follow. We can show them that you CAN survive this ... the pain, the loneliness, the sorrow, the fear. That you CAN find a reason to get up each morning, to find some joy, to learn how to do new things, to be comfortable being alone, to give something back to this world.  And there are some who do continue to struggle as the years pass - and we can be there to hold their hands, to assure them they are not alone in this journey ... because it sure can feel that way some days. (I'll always be there for you ♥ Lisa W)

So I'm back home now, catching up at work, catching up at home, catching up on my sleep ... and looking forward to my 5th Camp Widow in just 9 weeks. 9 weeks?!?!  Oh dear ... I'd better get busy! If you're coming and you want to volunteer ... let me know!!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


A lot's been happening lately. I've thought that I need to write about it, but then I get busy doing something and forget all about it. I'm not a great blogger. I don't feel 'inspired' to write on a regular basis. I just write when it feels right and hope that my words will click with someone who needs to read them at that moment.

One of the biggest changes is I'm now the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation's National Volunteer Coordinator! Quite a mouthful, huh? It means that I'm writing a formal volunteer program and job descriptions for volunteers for each of the Camp Widow events and for Widowed Village, our online community. I'll be recruiting and assigning and training the volunteers who are needed in order for our programs to exist. Our East Coast Camp is in April and West Coast is in June, so I'm knee deep in preparing the schedule and getting everything in place. It's a BIG job and it's keeping me very busy after work and on weekends. Which is actually an answer to prayer. How do you like that?

I'm getting close to a point where I can retire from my paying job, but I've been fearful of how I would actually handle that. I haven't been handling my weekends well at all. My Facebook friends would probably argue that point - but they only see what I let them see. Yes, I'm going to Broadway shows at The Smith Center. And yes, I do things occasionally with my Brave Girl buddies or widows. But far more of my weekends continue to be spent in my jammies sitting at this laptop. Not eating well. Not sleeping well. Not even showering on those days I don't leave the house. I know I can't continue that behavior 7 days a week when I retire. So I was praying something would come along to fill my time. Voila!  A phone call from Michele Neff Hernandez and an offer of a fulfilling volunteer position. I'm in!

While many might assume I'm an extrovert, I'm actually an introvert. And these social things take a lot out of me. I need my alone time in order to be "on" during the work week or social outings. So when I schedule something that keeps me busy most of the weekend ... well ... it is a bit unsettling.  Nearly every time I do this, I come very close to cancelling my plans. Just too much. But this is one of those things that I really push myself hard to do. I hear Vern's voice pushing me to do what I know I must do. I know how easy it is to cocoon. And I know that isn't entirely healthy. So a good kick in the pants is what I do to get myself out that door.

Here's a perfect example.  A good friend from Widowed Village, who I met at my very first Camp Widow, asked if I'd like to join her for a Widda Weekend Getaway here in Vegas. I love Lisa and spending time with her sounded perfect, so I signed up. Now this was with an online widowed community that I haven't participated in, so I didn't know any of the other people attending. I worried that I wouldn't be accepted. I'm too old. I'm too fat. I'm a Widowed Villager, not in TheWiddahood. Would they resent my involvement in Widville and Soaring Spirits? I really had to push hard to get myself out that door Friday afternoon, but I am so very happy that I did. It was a marvelous weekend. Full of sharing and caring and new friendships and laughter. Yes, laughter. Widows can laugh, you know. We may feel guilty about it, and seeing photos of ourselves giggling and laughing will sometimes be hard to look at. But we need it. I actually can remember the very first time I laughed hard after Vern died. Someone caught it on camera. And posted it on Facebook. Ouch. That hurt hard. But I survived it. And I survived the comments from those who thought that photo meant I was "over" my grief. Over it?  Really?

It's been 2-1/2 years since I last held Vern. That just does not seem possible to me. I miss him. Every single day I miss him. But I'm living my life ... because that is what he would expect me to do. Lots has changed. I've let my hair grow out a bit. I'm in a new job at the company I've worked for for 27 years. I'm a Brave Girl! I'm doing kind things for people who need it - some anonymously - and it feels really good to make a difference.

And yet there's another whole list of things I'm not doing ... or that I need to do.  His car is sitting in the driveway with a dead battery again. I still haven't gotten around to replacing the TV. I still have boxes all over the place that I need to go through. His clothes are still in the closet. There's still hospital stuff out in the sunroom. I've returned to sleeping in his recliner the past few weeks.

So while I'm doing really good in some areas, let me reassure my widow friends that it's ok to still have 'things' to deal with. I don't beat myself up about these things. I'll get to them. Eventually. When it feels right. Until then ... it doesn't hurt anyone to just let them be.

This widow journey is one of ups and downs - smiles and tears - good days and bad. I've learned how to take what each day brings and make the best of it. Or try to.  And when I just can't? Well that's a stay at home in my jammies day. No apologies.

Yes, I've changed. There was no choice.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A little ...

It's been a long weekend, with my normal Friday off plus the holiday today. As usual, I get to this point of my weekend - where I realize that I must set the alarm for 4:30am and be prepared to head back to work - and I regret that I haven't accomplished all of the things I think I should have.

Actually, I've done more this weekend than usual ... cleared some piles, organized some things, got caught up on some paperwork, got the Geek Squad in here for the tv ... but it's also been a weekend where my feelings have been raw, where I've allowed probably innocent comments to hurt me, where I feel I have no true friends who really 'get' me, where I really want to just disappear. And in that rawness I believe no one would even notice. or care. or miss me.

I've never once thought of suicide in the wake of my grief. My faith carries me through the rough times I face. I know that tomorrow is a new day and I will put on that happy face and make it all work. That's what I do.  But others who are faced with those relentless grief demons often do not have the ability to fight them off.

An online friend wrote the following after learning of a widow's suicide. Her words touched me deeply and I saved them.  With the Mindy McCready tragedy in the news, I thought sharing my friend's words might help to remind us to listen for those "little" opportunities that come our way ... and to give just "a little" to perhaps make a big difference in someone's life.

I didn’t know her really, yet the story of her death…. 
Sadness is so often nearer to us than we know.
But what if we did recognize the sadness?
Whatever could we do? 
Whatever could we even say? 
We so easily disregard the power of “a little”. 
In the meantime, darkness can be as close to us as the thickness of a wall.
Doubt can live next door to us and we disbelieve it does.
Our own certainty feels weak so we don’t offer our little strength at all.
The big disregard of so many little things. 
Meanwhile despair disguises itself well. 
Hidden in a little disregard. 

But what if? 
What if we didn’t hesitate “a little”? 
What if we didn’t hold back “a little”?
What if we did “a little”? 
What if we said “a little”?
What if we dared “a little”? 
What if we acted when we got that “little” nudge? 
What if we really understood the power of “a little”?

Would our little make a big difference to someone? 
Could it matter--would it help--even just “a little”.
Our little placed in the hands of God. 
But I only read about someone who I knew a little.
~Sue Burke Lombard

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, My Love

I've taken our "special" days off work since Vern died. It has just always felt like the right thing to do and allowed me to feel however I needed to feel on his birthday, my birthday, our anniversary, his death date. I've not done anything special on those days. Stayed home. Inside. In my jammies. Quiet days filled with memories. And tears.

I'm grateful that I started this blog. While I haven't been a daily writer, I've still captured my feelings along the way. And it's helpful to be able to read back to earlier times. To let the words take me back to those first days, those first months, the first year. To see that time HAS made a difference. The missing him remains the same. Always will. The wound is still there. But it's healing.

Tomorrow is Vern's birthday. And I'm going into work. I thought about taking the day off again. But I think I can do this. His first birthday in Heaven was on Super Bowl Sunday; last year it was a Monday. But with it being a Wednesday this year ... well, somehow that felt reason enough to give it a try. You see, I work hard to keep my sorrow to myself. Especially at work. And I'm feeling stronger in a lot of ways, so I guess this is a test of sorts. Let's see whether I pass it.

Happy Birthday, Vern. I will always love you.