Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How life's fragile...

A person very close to me was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few weeks ago. The day he was scheduled to get tests for his surgery, he had a major stroke. We almost lost him. It brings back grief because I know I'll never have him in my life the same way he was before. It's like a death. And we've been mourning and thinking and remembering.

Life is hard. We know that and live it, but sometimes it just slaps you in the face.

My thoughts go to anyone who is dealing with a major illness in addition to your grief.

Hang in there.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear Lisa (and readers...)

I received this email recently and the sender asked me to post it and see what others thought.

Dear Lisa,

God bless you for reaching out to the widowed. I just happen to find your website this morning when I am feeling overwhelmed again with grief after getting through the summer here in the northeast. I lost my husband in 2005 to a sudden heart attack. Your opening page of your website says it all. At this point , I'm either growing or I just continue making mistakes , or I am growing and learning and becoming stronger through all the decisions I have to make alone and they never seem like the right decisions unless my husband were here to help me. The truth is , nothing ever seems right.

Maybe I will feel that way the rest of my life. This morning I am going on another job interview, I don't know if I should take it. I don't know if it will fit. I have a nine-year-old, he was six when his father died. Our lives have been on a constant rollercoaster of having to make decisions on my own, I hate it. I have lost my anchor and the man who kept me stable the last 25 years. I had four children with him and our lives were normal. So I have been dating, And that ends up disastrous too. I look for someone or something to belong to, I need an identity it seems. I have lost myself when I lost my husband. So I attach myself right away and go out of my way, to please the new person, and then I crash and I can't handle the relationship any longer. Not to mention that my son doesn't seem to get along with any of the men I date. This is a serious issue because I long for companionship and affection, but the guys I am dating are not widowed and do not understand my or grieving times and my son's behavior at times.

I wonder if you could discuss this subject and I could hear from other widows. Is this normal? Or is this just my personality exposing itself. I have no health insurance since my husband died so neither my son or myself has ever seen a grief counselor. if you can refer me to one I would appreciate it. I live in Rhode Island. Thanks you again for listening to me, and for your website this morning. I have had many dreams about my husband. They were mostly in the first year of my grief. He would only smile and be still, but I knew it was real and it was his spririt coming to me . I still dream of him on special occasions like our anniversary and birthdays of our children. Thank you.

Well, from my personal opinion, I can say the ONE lingering thing with me is my inability to make a decision. I do, but it takes me forever and I feel paralyzed sometimes. Jeff and I made decisions together so it's not that he did all the work, it's just I get scared about making the wrong decisions. Then, after getting ripped off from contractors, my level of trust was very low so decision-making takes me an extra long time and I'm always doubting myself.

You sound like you need companionship and then get scared. My suggestion, hold off on the relationship stuff for just a little while and focus on other things -- new hobbies, time with your son, travel, whatever makes you happy. Once you become a little more content with being independent, you won't feel the need to cling to any man that comes along. Your son is going through his own grief, having a hard time seeing you with anyone but daddy. Understand that. There's no reason your son needs to have a relationship with your boyfriends if you are only casually dating. If he does get to like one of them, and you break up, he's losing another father-figure. Wait until one is serious and then welcome your son in, but expect that it might take time.

Anyone else have something to add?


Friday, October 17, 2008

Death's Gift

Georgia Weithe, author of "Shining Moments: Finding Hope in Facing Death," talks about death bringing gifts. At first, I have to admit, when Jeff died I didn't want to think there was a gift in any of it. But if you really think about it, there is. What was mine? Well, independence, and not in the way you think. Jeff believed in me, never stopped me from doing something I wanted to try and although I've had other boyfriends prior to when I met Jeff, they were either intimidated because I had a brain or they didn't care less about my desire to be a writer. Jeff was different. He was my support, my cheerleader. I was even told from the aide in the hospital that visited Jeff that he talked a lot about the kids and me and my career.

How is that a gift? Well, I know I can handle anything because that lives on with me. I've been through so much, but taking Jeff away made me have to stand up and realize that I can do it all because my cheerleader made me believe that. Here's Georgia's blurb for this website from her book. What's your gift?

Death’s Gift

Ten years ago death took my father, but it gave me an important gift. It showed me that we take much for granted in life, because we assume there will always be another day to pay attention to the beauty around us, or to alter or elevate the quality of our relationships with those we love. The illusion that life on earth never ends allows us to pretend we can continue as we are forever.

The gift that death has to offer is the awareness that all pleasure is finite, all beauty is transient, as well as the knowledge that we will not be here forever to work through our problems with others.

Here are ten things death taught me about how to live:

1. Live your life so you have no regrets.

2. Admit to yourself that life is fleeting and all things as we know them will come to an end; then out of the awareness of the endings, create new beginnings.

3. Begin to heal your life by making choices that allow you to control your own destiny.

4. Acknowledge the presence of those you love, and honor your spouse or partner, your children and your friends.

5. Never resort to violent acts or bring ruthless thoughts into the realm of your being.

6. Bring love into every situation and replace vengeance with peaceful, loving intentions.

7. Elevate your actions to reflect the highest principles of living; show love, respect and honor for all life.

8. Waste no energy on vanity or pride.

9. Be generous and giving and pursue the highest purpose in all you do

10. Let go of life in the sweetest way you know how.

Georgia Weithe is the author of Shining Moments: Finding Hope in Facing Death (Reflections Press, September 2008). To read excerpts, find additional resources, or to join the conversation on her blog visit, www.shiningmoments.net

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Amy Yasbeck -- John Ritter Foundation

I've watched Amy Yasbeck on everything from The Cosby Show, Wings, Just Shoot Me and in the Problem Child movies. Unfortunately, we have something in common. We're both young widows. John Ritter, one of my favorite comedic actors ever, died on September 11, 2003, leaving Yasbeck and Stella, the couple's young daughter.

Yasbeck went on to create The John Ritter Foundation for Aortic Health and TV Guide did an article on her and the organization. She says,

"John really did heal people with laughter, and more and more, as the days, months and years have gone by, we have been able to choose to transform the grief into something positive."

I admire her the way I admire all other widows, regardless of age. But Amy turned John's death into something more and I know many of you have too, just like I did with this website.

Healing with laughter is a tremendous thing. When I get down, I put on The Odd Couple, Laverne & Shirley, I Love Lucy and Three's Company. I laugh, or try to. It's not always easy, but it does help. Check out the organization or start one of your own.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Living with Loss Magazine

LIVING WITH LOSS™ Magazine: Hope and Healing for the Body, Mind and Spirit (formerly known as Bereavement Magazine) features articles, stories, poems and resources for the bereaved by grief educators and presenters, facilitators and caregivers, authors and writers, and most important the bereaved themselves.

"Our mission is to offer compassion and hope with the most current resources, tools and perspectives in the bereavement field. Most important, we invite the bereaved to consider alternative and innovative ways to cope with the diverse issues and concerns that make their grief journey unique.

Professionals who are eminent in the field of grief education write regular departments in each issue from their perspectives about their own grief experiences as bereaved parents, siblings, spouses, children, relatives, friends and co-workers. Columnists include Rev. Dr. Richard Gilbert, Rabbi Earl Grollman, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Dr. Robert Thompson, Nita Aasen, Rachel Kodanaz, Sr. Marilyn Carpenter, Harold Ivan Smith, Dr. J. Shep Jeffreys, Linda Goldman, Harry McDonald, Mitch Carmody, Sandy Goodman, Norm Bouchard, and Editor, Carla Blowey. Department articles present traditional and alternative perspectives, coping techniques and resources that address physical and mental health issues, the psychology of mourning, ecumenical faith and cross-cultural perspectives, the grief of children and seniors, grief in the workplace and even appropriate humor. Topics and articles will present traditional and alternative perspectives, resources and tools for healing the grief that resides in the body, the mind, the heart and the spirit while living with loss."

To order visit www.livingwithloss.com

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Special Guest -- Laurie-Ann Weis

Laurie-Ann Weis and I have been emailing for quite some time. She lost her husband in 1999 as well, the same year I lost Jeff. Here is her story:

"In 1999, I lost my husband to cancer. I was 47 at the time, and it took awhile to sort through my emotions and gather the strength to face daily living again. I stopped teaching and felt utterly drained of spirit. Then I woke one morning with a new calling; I sat down at the computer and six chapters of my life spilled out of me. This memoir, titled The Water Dance, chronicles my life leading up to the death of my husband and how I managed to endure it. By the time it was published I was back in business teaching, writing, and reaching out to other grievers. My second book, The After Journey, sprang from the connections I made with fellow grievers and shares a collection of insights about the practical everyday things we do daily. In the wake of extreme loss, we’ve learned to get back on track and embrace a new definition of joy. My hope is that my books become useful tools in time of need so each day becomes a smoother ride. There are so many ups and downs during widowhood that I felt like I was on an E-ride at Disneyland and needed to buckle my seatbelt.

Following are two excerpts from each book:

*The books can be purchased on Laurie-Ann’s website www.laurieannweis.com or Amazon or call 1-888-232-4444 (Trafford Publishing).

“The Statement” from the book, The Water Dance:

Sometimes I cannot believe that I am still here in this world, that I am still living, breathing and watching the sun curl around the sky and set over the ocean every day. I know that I am not alone in mourning, for people die every day and leave loved ones behind. Death is one of those sure things in life. But coping with death is a very personal experience—something no other person can share in exactly the same way. Pain and grief become you. Pain takes on a force so ferocious as to take hold of you, shake you and never let you go. Until you accept pain as an emotion to manage, as you would anger, frustration and anxiety, it remains a sword.

…Despite all that I had learned and mastered in my years as a teacher and in my struggle to deal with heartbreaking physical limitations since the car wreck, nothing down that path prepared me for planning my ultimate lesson: How to watch a beloved die and then go on to find joy and to laugh again. That path led me to acknowledge Life’s dirty little secrets—the things we all experience with reluctance but don’t dare speak about them often. Pain, setbacks, heartbreaks, misfortunes, disappointments, and loss are among these dirty secrets that life has for us. The personal journeys we take to get from one point to another are filled with Life’s dirty little secrets, and how we choose to handle them allows us the opportunity to find laughter, joy and happiness in the future even when it seems impossible. They are what make the journey human and unique. Along the way, we love, we breathe, we meet new people, we grieve for what we have lost and we move forward. Always in pursuit of new joy.

This book is for the living.

This book is for all that brings us joy and inspiration.

This book is for all of us who need laughter. . .and a reason to keep on going.

“Wedding Rings” from the book, The After Journey

A few months after my husband died, more pain of singledome hit me in the face. I believed if I moved my rings off my left hand, I was progressing through grief, which was so physically and emotionally consuming that it drowned me. I fought my grief by playing this game with my fingers, hoping that by controlling where I put my ring I’d be able to control the grief. I moved my engagement ring and wedding band to my right hand for a few minutes, then an hour, then weekdays. Every weekend, I moved them back to the wedding finger. Weekends were the loneliest. My friends were all with their spouses and children. I faced suicidal Sundays alone. But if I wore my rings, I felt safer and I belonged again.

Secure in my new living routine, I had the rings resized to fit on the middle finger of my left hand. I put them on proudly and left the jewelry store only to come home, cry hysterically, go back the next day and have the jeweler resize them for my wedding finger.

… What we do with our wedding rings is a very personal issue for each of us. We didn’t ask to be single. We are not divorced. I believe whatever we do in our timeline is right.



I didn’t remove my rings. I can’t imagine why I would want to.

~Joyce S.

I am 27 going on 28 next month. About one year and five months after my husband’s accident, I took off my wedding band and the engagement ring. I kept it in my drawer because I decided to release my husband to the Lord and close this chapter in my life. Closure doesn’t mean to forget him. As for his ring, I actually got it back from the hospital when they gave me his belongings. I decided to wear it for him when he was embalmed and dressed up. I wore it and said to him, “We’ll meet again in heaven” because I still very much wanted him to be my lifetime soul mate. Then I took the ring off and put it on his finger. He was cremated with his ring. After the cremation, I was told the diamond didn’t melt but I never searched through the ashes to find it because my relatives suspected the cremators would have taken it and kept it for themselves. I could have used the diamond and made a pendant for my daughter in memory of her daddy. In hindsight, I have no regrets because I wasn’t myself right after his death.

~Abby S.

Last week I sat in the car and cleaned the cookie dough from my rings. When I finished, I went inside to play cards and my diamond ring was gone. I was devastated. Several people helped me look and look. We tore the car and my purse apart. We looked on all of the steps I had taken getting into the building. I had had that ring for 50 years. I couldn’t be without it now. Then I saw it! I had put it on my other hand! I can’t imagine taking my rings off.

~Lana S.