#AtoZChallenge X is For Xenas

strong woman

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Okay, this isn’t a post about Xena, Warrior Princess! 😀

But then again…

A xenas is a strong, confident woman, so maybe we can take something from Xena.

Though my parents raised my sisters and me to be strong, confident women, the day I lost Den, I lost my strength too.

I was easily confused, would lose my train of thought, and couldn’t make a decision to save my life.

I doubted and second-guessed myself on things as simple as monthly bills, and began to avoid situations where I’d have to make decisions.

When I could no longer put off the dreaded trip to Social Security, I made an appointment, slipped Den’s death certificate into my bag and braced myself.

It turned out to be one of the brightest moments I’d had since Den died.

Mr. L wasn’t simply an overworked, underpaid paper shuffler.

He was a kind, compassionate professional who obviously had empathy for the dozens of people he helped every day.

Mr. L didn’t stare at a document or his computer screen. He’d printed out the documents he’d need for my appointment, positioned them so we could both see them, and what I believed would be a ten-minute, stressful ordeal was instead an uplifting experience which lasted almost an hour.

When I lost Den I also lost more than half my monthly income, and from the past experiences of family and friends, I knew Social Security wasn’t always female-friendly to married women (or widows). My mom was the only female I knew of who’d actually come out on the plus-side.

So, I steeled myself, ready to eat meat only on days with R’s in them, beans on days with S’s in them and buy store brand toilet paper. 😀

However, after Mr. L explained it all to me, I saw I was going to be okay, with no drastic changes even though I hadn’t reached retirement age. I wouldn’t have to choose the store brand toilet paper. YAAY!

(DISCLAIMER: I had NO idea hoarding toilet paper was on the horizon.)

I came away from the appointment feeling lighter, a burden lifted off my shoulders.

Simply because a kind man treated me with respect and dignity, and like an adult.

Because I AM an adult!

DUH, Felicia!

Months of soft voices asking childlike questions came crashing back. I was about to get heated in the parking lot.

How dare anyone treat me like-…

Then I realized how I’d been acting.

But no more!

Den always said one of the things that first attracted him to me was that I was take no prisoners ballsy!

I still consider it a compliment.

This grief journey is not just about learning to navigate life alone with a broken heart.

It’s also about not allowing grief to change or define me.

I am a strong, confident woman, regardless of what life tosses at me… a xenas.

Maybe the Warrior Princess and I do have something in common.

And I love her boots! 🙂

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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 John Hain from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge W is For Wound

wounded

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A longtime friend checks in on me frequently and always greets me with, “How are ya’ healing?”

I appreciate his time, and the fact he acknowledges my grief from the beginning, allowing me to guide the conversation.

His greeting got me to thinking one day.

How AM I healing?

Am I 10% healed? 23%? 47%? Will I ever be fully recovered?

Of course not.

I  believe healing is an ongoing process.

I’ll never get over losing Den, but the wounds to my heart and soul will heal on the surface, and leave scars that protect my inner wounds… and remind me of the love we shared.

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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 Shad0wfall from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge V is For Victory

victory

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In life you have to claim your victories where you can.

That goes doubly so after the loss of a loved one.

Make it through an entire day without crying? Win!

You can look at their empty chair at the dining room table without losing your appetite? Win!

You can face a birthday/anniversary/holiday without having a complete emotional breakdown? Double win!

Personally, I counted it a win after I could open the closet where Den’s clothes still hang… and not smell them.

Like I said. Claim your victories where you can.

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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 Shad0wfall from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge U is For Useless

useless

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If you’ve been following my journey from the beginning, you’ll remember I mentioned irrational feelings after suffering a loss.

Well, feelings of uselessness are close to the top!

From the moment Den was pronounced by the paramedics, I felt like I should be doing something else.

Weird, right?

As the living room filled with people, family members told me I was trying to offer every one coffee, only to be led back to the recliner.

I now know I was in shock that day. However, those feelings still rear their head.

Most of my regular day included doing something for Den.

With those tasks taken from me, I felt lost, not knowing what to do. Useless.

I don’t have those days as often, but now I see them for what they are, and I take deep breaths… breathing through the moment.

I know I’m not useless or worthless.

I’m a widow.

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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 John Hain from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge T is For Time

pocket watch

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A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

Time Heals All Wounds

Time Will Reveal

Wasting Time

Behind the Times

The Time is Now

We share many cute little idioms about time, and we feel like we’ve said something very wise.

But we’re still in a hurry to get to the next thing.

Pandemic aside, Americans stress themselves out with too many self-imposed deadlines.

We pack our planners, and schedule meetings on weekends.

We take our families to the Grand Canyon or Disney World once a year, then come back home and start all over again.

As children grow and leave home, we want their childhoods back.

We lose parents, and want to kick ourselves for choosing Netflix over calling mom.

We lose a spouse or partner and are heartbroken over all the things we’d planned to do one day.

There are two truths about time. It passes, and you can never get it back.

Slow down and look around at what you’re missing.

Reorganize your priorities so you’re giving your loved ones quality time, not whatever time you have left.

Only then can you learn to appreciate time.

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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 FelixMittermeier from Pixabay

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#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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atoz badge 2021

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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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