#AtoZChallenge S is For Scared

dark road

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I admit it. I’m scared.

Twenty-three months alone and I still have nothing figured out.

What lies on the road up ahead? Am I even on the right road?

I’ve never been a timid or fearful person. I’ve never had a problem making decisions.

In our marriage, I came up with the plans and Den carried them out. Unless it was tech or music-related, Den was light on details. I, on the other hand, could overthink myself into another dimension, so it worked for us.

Now, decisions are hard.

It’s not that I fear making a wrong decision, I don’t want to make any decisions… because I’m now a party of one.

But that’s not how life is lived, right?

We have to move on, make decisions… and live.

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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Image by Simaah from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge R is For Rest

rest

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Grief is exhausting.

I can eat healthy meals, exercise daily, and sleep 8-10 hours a night (okay, actually four)… and wake up feeling as though I never closed my eyes.

My body will allow me to sleep—sometimes—but my mind won’t allow me to rest. There’s no rejuvenation of energy, no refreshed feeling ready to face a new day.

Because my heart is stuck back on the worst day of my life, and my mind is looking for a way to move forward.

The conflict has worn on me for months.

And it has worn me down.

Without sufficient rest, preexisting conditions get worse, and new health issues appear.

I know firsthand how debilitating lack of rest can negatively impact one’s life and mental health.

I’ve tried countless ways to get my mind into a restful state. Aromatherapy, relaxing music, and homeopathic cures have brought me no success in my search for mindful rest.

I’ve even tried prescription sleeping pills, and no… just no. Never again.

Of course, there is no easy fix because resting is not the key issue, grief is.

And, grief is a process that will not be controlled or rushed.

These days, I have no set bedtime. I sleep when my body tells me to, be it two in the morning or two in the afternoon.

I might sleep for two hours, or perhaps even six.

I won’t say it’s a refreshing sleep, but I do feel more rested than trying to follow a clock… or the sun. 😀

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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atoz badge 2021

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge Q is For Quiet

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I’ve always loved the quiet.

Maybe it comes from growing up in a house with my parents and eight siblings. It was always so noisy. 🙂

A quick blink and I was a wife and mother chasing my own children around the house, tripping over toys. Why do their favorite toys always make noise???

Den and I would plop on the couch exhausted, grateful for bedtime, and the quiet.

Fisher Price corn poppers and toy drum sets were replaced by stereos, video games and lots of friends as the teen years held us hostage. Den and I would look at each other and sigh, knowing time wasn’t on our side and we’d miss these years all too soon.

When our youngest left home, Den stood in the family room that night, grinning. “Fle,” he said, “hear that?”

“What am I supposed to be hearing?”

“Nothing! Absolutely nothing! It’s quiet!”

Then he ran up and down the hallway whooping and hollering like a mad man. I could only laugh and shake my head at my oldest child. 😀

However, after twenty-seven years of raising a family as Mom and Dad, we only had eight and a half together as Felicia and Dennis before he was taken from me much too soon.

Then I had the quiet forced upon me and it wasn’t always a comfort.

It suffocated and taunted me.

It mocked me. I could almost hear it say, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Sometimes the quiet is just too damn noisy.

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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atoz badge 2021

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge P is For Prescription Meds

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After Den died and my grief led to depression and anxiety, I began to count days.

I believed that after a certain amount of time passed, I’d be fine.

Three weeks. Six weeks. I couldn’t see recovery on the horizon.

At ten weeks, I had the rug pulled from under me when Mom died.

Life was fuzzy and out of focus, but I still fought against my grief.

Common sense won the battle in February 2020, and I reached out to my doctor’s office for a referral.

Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived and became the thing that wouldn’t leave.

However, I persisted, cutting through useless forms and clueless health care professionals and finally met with a counselor in April 2020 via video-conferencing.

After two sessions, I was mad at myself for not going into counseling sooner.

While it was calming and helping to restore my focus, counseling along wasn’t enough, and my therapist recommended seeing a psychiatrist for prescription meds.

WHAT???  A PSYCHIATRIST? I’M NOT CRAZY! AND PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WILL I BE ABLE TO FUNCTION? WILL I BE A ZOMBIE? WILL I GET ADDICTED?

Yeah, I was pretty over-the-top dramatic.

But, I agreed to the referral and soon found out I’d been apprehensive for nothing.

The doctor was/is amazing!

She knew which questions to ask as I described the last year of my life.

When she pulled out her drug reference, she suggested I open another browser and do my own search too.

We decided on something for anxiety and went from there.

Dosages have been adjusted, and new meds added over the last year, but never once have I felt drugged or like a zombie. (I hate zombies! 😀  )

Medications are not a miracle cure for grief, but they can aid in lowering anxiety, allowing focus to return. Without focus, there is no hope, direction, or sense of peace.

Now, I have all three… as long as I stay out of my own way.

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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atoz badge 2021

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge O is For Overwhelmed

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During a scene in the 1989 movie, Steel Magnolias, Dolly Parton’s character, Truvy says, “I have a strict policy that nobody cries alone in my presence.”

Hi, I’m Truvy! 😀

When I sense deep, emotional pain in someone and it brings them to tears, I become instant cry-buddy.

I don’t feel the pain or its weight, and once the crying ends, I’m only left with concern for the person in pain. There are no other lasting effects for me.

That changed after Den died.

I couldn’t watch a movie or television program, read a book, or even chat with friends in my support groups. Anyone or anything dying triggered an instant meltdown that weighed me down for hours afterward.

It was overwhelming and exhausting.

For a while, I’d sit in my living room in silence for days, knowing even a news update could send me spiraling.

I also knew this was harmful to my mental health. Despite believing myself to be a strong person, I realized I was no match for full-on grief. I couldn’t beat it with mind-over-matter or fake my way through it.

After several useless doctor appointments with my former PCP—yeah, had to get rid of her—I entered counseling.

Miracle cure? Fast road to healing?

Nooooope!

I still get overwhelmed, and maybe I always will.

I can’t control the triggers or emotions they release, but I can control my response to them.

And that is making all the difference.

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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atoz badge 2021

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Image from Pinterest

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#AtoZChallenge N is For Normal

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“You’ll be back to normal in no time.”

“Don’t worry. Normalcy will return soon. It just takes time.”

“You’ll adjust to your new normal.”

Normal is subjective and relative… and it evolves.

We all know people have the best intentions in mind when attempting to extend comfort and compassion to someone who’s just suffered the loss of a loved one. But in MY personal experience, the last thing I want to hear is I and/or my life will be normal again one day.

For me, normal would be waking up next to Den, then calling my mom to tell her many, many, corny puns. She loved those.

But that will never happen.

So, while I have to move on, take a different path, or begin a new journey, there will never be anything normal about it.

 

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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Image from PhilosophyTalk.org

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#AtoZChallenge M is For Mom

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While my Mom’s health had been on a downward decline for four months, her death was still unexpected.

When my brother called me that Sunday morning with the news, I cried, but as the oldest sibling in Arizona, it was my responsibility to tell my two sisters and extended family.

I went into autopilot.

I’d lost Den only nine and a half weeks earlier and didn’t have the wherewithal to be a source of support for anyone.

Mom made her own final arrangements, and I knew there would be a simple cremation and no funeral service.

Not having to make immediate travel plans was a blessing and a curse.

I wasn’t in a good place mentally or physically to travel, but by not gathering  with my siblings for a service, I was cushioned from the full impact of losing Mom… and it would remain that way for four and a half months, until Christmas morning.

My children all came home for a week during the holidays, our first without their dad. There was tears and sadness, but also, so much laughter and silliness, I truly felt lighter. I woke up early for my Christmas morning call to Mom, anxious to tell her how well the kids were doing.  I had my phone in my hand before I caught myself and it was like a gut punch.

I couldn’t call Mom, now or ever again.

I lost all the progress I’d made on my grief journey that day. Starting over was especially hard not having either of my two biggest cheerleaders to lean on.

It’s hard to explain how difficult January and February were, while it also seemed easier. Mom and Den had similar faith-based, but pragmatic views on life and death, but I found more comfort in my grief for Mom than for Den.

Perhaps it was because Den was my husband and of the same generation.

Or maybe simply because Mom was MOM. The woman who gave me life, raised me, and instilled the basic values I still hold dear; or how she told me on many occasions how proud she was of the woman I grew into and the wife and mother I became.

These are some of the thoughts that ramble around inside my head and my heart, and lead me to feel sorry for those, who for whatever reason, never had a strong relationship with their mother. They missed out on learning and sharing so much with her while she was here.

And, even more after she’s gone.

Mom and me

Mother’s day, 2007

 

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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#AtoZChallenge L is For Love

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I read the quote somewhere that “Grief is love with no place to go.”

That hit home with me, and as time went on, it also made me realize something.

Grief is love with no place to go… until you give it back to yourself.

We’re always harder on ourselves than anyone else could ever be.

But when we lose someone important to us, we need to be kind to ourselves.

I’ll never get Den back or experience the love we had together, but perhaps by extending myself kindness and love, I’ll never forget the depth of the love we had, and not build up a fear of love, forever associating it grief and pain.

Love doesn’t heal ALL wounds, but it can make the journey easier.

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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atoz badge 2021

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge K is For Kindness

be kind

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Being kind takes no effort.

It comes naturally to some people.

The morning Den died, there was an endless parade of total strangers through my living room… paramedics, law enforcement, victim advocates, mortuary staff.

I cannot remember names, but I remember each and every face because there was so much kindness in their eyes.

My sisters and youngest son hadn’t arrived yet, but on the worst day of my life, I felt comforted by the kindness of strangers.

Over the coming weeks as I transitioned to widow-status, I was always surprised by—and still comforted by—the kindness of strangers who were patient with my tears and delayed response to questions.

Ironically, where I should have received the most kindness from, family, it was slow in coming, if it ever showed up at all.

Those who know me know I’m no fragile flower, so I wasn’t bothered by the actions—or inactions—of family members. But, when I was approached over the weeks and months after losing Den to reach out and comfort OTHER family members—and no, there was no loss, just the consequences of their own actions—it took everything in me not to snap.

Instead, I responded that I still wasn’t in a comfortable place since losing my husband, but I’d definitely keep them in my thoughts and prayers.

See how kindness works? 😀

Remember to extend a little kindness whenever you can. You just might make someone’s day.

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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atoz badge 2021

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Image by reneebigelow from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge J is For Joy

laughing dog

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This is one of my favorite posts because joy is such a wonderful feeling.

All while our children were growing up, Den and I taught them to celebrate life and find joy in the little things. Those years are my fondest memories as the children learned to find joy in:

a sleeping puppy,

a sibling walking for the first time,

a day at the zoo,

making dinner over a camp stove after an earthquake,

learning all the words to a favored song,

reading a book,

dancing,

completing schoolwork before it’s due,

making dinner for their grandparents,

a night at the drive-in,

family walks,

helping others,

honoring a teacher.

Good memories… and lessons learned from the past. Lessons I’ve called up and reused many times these last twenty-two months.

Each day, I look for my joy. It might show up first thing in the morning or much later in the day. But I know it’s coming.

Today, it came near lunchtime with a call from my favorite aunt, Roxie.

She lost her husband the week before Christmas, and after our twenty questions of how and what we were honestly feeling, we spent the next two hours whooping and hollering about the silly, goofy things our guys used to do.

After I hung up, I smiled, feeling light… and happy. Not simply because of our conversation, but the shared experience.

Auntie and I didn’t ignore or deny our grief. But after honestly addressing it, we were able to move past it instead of wallowing in it… which hasn’t always been the case.

And that brought me joy.

What brings you joy? Where do you find it?

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On May 30, 2019, I lost Dennis, my husband of over thirty-five years. Ten short weeks later on August 18, 2019, I lost my eighty-four-year-old mother. My grief journey has not been an easy one. While we know grief has five stages, there are many situations and feelings some bereaved never get to express, and I’m using my first AtoZ Challenge to say things I’ve never been able to give voice to. I hope you’ll follow my journey.

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atoz badge 2021

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Image by almavanta from Pixabay

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