#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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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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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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Image by almavanta from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge Update #2

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I’m happy with the past week.

There were a couple of days I didn’t think I’d continue because getting the words out of my head, past my heart and onto paper was daunting. However, in the end, quitting wasn’t an option. If I stopped every time I started, never completing anything because it was confusing or hurt too much, how could I expect to ever truly move forward?

I appreciate all the likes, follows, and comments. They are more encouraging than you know.

Two emails through my contact page especially made me smile. After reading my posts, both people have been inspired to write about their grief journeys. Neither is sure if they’ll share their thoughts, and that’s okay. Sharing it isn’t important, writing it down and learning about yourself is.

I never thought anything I wrote here would inspire anyone, but in this case, it stands to reason. Though we all grieve differently, we are still more alike than we realize.

Have you ever shared your grief or it is something you kept to yourself?

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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 I is For Invisible

Invisible frog

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Did you notice the frog in the bottom right of the photo above?

I’m sure some blog visitors did, but I’ll bet he was also invisible to some.

That’s the way I felt after Den died. I was there, but I wasn’t.

But here’s the thing.

I wasn’t invisible because of what I was going through, but because people either didn’t know how, or didn’t want to be bothered with trying to hold a conversation with me.

I was too sad and they didn’t know how to deal with my grief.

It wasn’t my problem, it was their problem.

This isn’t a condemnation, but more so a reality check.

When you treat those on the grief journey as though they’re invisible, they begin to feel invisible and that can exacerbate their emotional pain.

You can empathize without addressing their grief.

“Hey, I read this amazing book and thought you might enjoy it too,” or “Did you see ‘insert-television-show’? Best episode ever!” or even “I’m having a bad day, you have time to talk?” are all simple ways to reach out and let someone know you’re thinking about them.

Someone in mourning isn’t just in mourning.

Life goes on, including for the bereaved.

Sometimes they’d rather be pulled out of their own heads than  be treated as though they’re invisible.

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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 Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge H is For Healing

healing

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A child falls off his bike and scraps his knee. A little Neosporin and a week later, all traces of the scratch are gone.

A woman misses her step and falls from a ladder, She breaks her wrist, but six weeks in a cast and her wrist is healed.

A man’s life is saved by quadruple bypass surgery. With diet modification and exercise he will live a normal life, but his chest will forever bear the scar of his near-death experience.

A woman loses her husband and is heartbroken, devastated, traumatized.

There is no healing salve, cast, or surgery to help her heal.

There is no time limit for her to heal.

There is no right or wrong way to heal.

But like the heart patient, she will forever bear the scars of her loss and grief.

Some scars are tender to the touch. Others, with the right amount of pressure can re-open.

During her grief journey she will learn not to touch the scar too often and to never apply pressure.

She will find her balance… and her smile, and the courage to move forward, knowing the healing never ends.

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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 silviarita from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge G is For Guilt

Gavel

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The novel coronavirus has claimed more than half a million lives in this country alone since February 2020.

The virus does not discriminate, crossing gender, generational, ethnicity, and socioeconomic groups.

However, it became known soon after the virus was declared a pandemic that senior citizens, people with certain chronic medical conditions, and African-American were high risk for contracting and succumbing to the virus.

My husband and my mother fell into all three groups, and when that information was made public, my first thought was, “I’m glad they’re gone.”

Horrible, right? I thought so too, but I tried to justify it in my mind.

Den was 64 and had End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) which required hemodialysis three times a week. He’d developed a wheeze because of fluid around his heart, and the origins were still unknown.

Mom was 84 and had scleroderma, pulmonary hypertension, a pacemaker, and a defibrillator. Her doctor said her lungs had the thickness of tissue paper.

Despite their health issues, they were both still quite active.

But, with their compromised immune systems, they wouldn’t have had a chance against covid19.

I’ve lost three family members to the virus, and had four survive it. Their stories of struggling to breathe even though each breath brought intense pain are traumatizing.

Along with the pain, their isolation filled them with fear and anxiety, not knowing if they would live or ever see their families again.

Thinking of Den and Mom going through this breaks my heart all over again.

I miss them both every day, and would give anything to have them back… but only in a covid-free world.

And that is my guilt. I’m glad they’re gone, because living would have brought them only suffering.

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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 Okan Caliskan from Pixabay

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#AtoZChallenge F is For Futile

Borg cube

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We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Much like resistance to the cybernetic humanoids of Star Trek fame was futile, resistance to the process of grief is futile.

Trust me, I tried.

I filled my days with blogging book tours, book reviews and author spotlights, and my nights sitting in Den’s recliner staring at the walls.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking, so I’d spend hours browsing the Internet for new recipes to play with, and still spent my nights in Den’s recliner.

I went on a cleaning spree, practically making the place sterile, and it still wasn’t enough. I decided to tackle closets, saving the bedroom closet for last. I spent an entire day in that closet, organizing and packing up Den’s clothes to donate to a homeless shelter, then I spent the entire night putting everything back in the closet, including his clothes.

I was making myself crazy, but it was a secret crazy. No one except me knew the lengths I went to simply for distraction.

My personal dam broke over morning coffee.

I have eleventy-hundred strange, weird, and funny coffee mugs.

Den disliked coffee and had ONE mug for his tea.

Guess which mug I pulled out the cabinet that morning?

I cannot describe the anguish and the pain I felt at that moment.

After what seemed like hours of crying, I had to admit to myself that I couldn’t make myself better.

All the busy activities were futile.

I couldn’t pack the pain away.

I couldn’t choose not to mourn.

Grief would not be ignored.

When I stopped fighting grief, I at last understood that mourning a loss wasn’t a sign of weakness, but a path to healing.

Resistance to it was futile.

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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 Pinterest.CO.UK

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#AtoZChallenge E is For Emotions

smileys

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The loss of a loved one is naturally an emotional time, regardless of the relationship to the deceased.

Sadness from the shock of the loss, whether expected or not, follows through to the sharing of the news with family and friends, the planning and attending of the service, and well into the weeks and months (and years) ahead.

However, the grief journey is full of emotions that build upon or standalone from the sadness.

If the loss is of a spouse, the emotional roller coaster can be debilitating.

There’s anger and betrayal for being abandoned;

Shame and embarrassment for being alone;

Anguish, melancholy and fear of being alone forever;

Guilt and remorse for words unspoken;

Despair and inadequacy at being unworthy;

Forgotten and ignored when you believe your grief is pushed aside.

Some of these emotions are irrational, some are not, but they’re all valid and personal.

I’ve felt every emotion and thought on this list… some several times. And also heartbreak, heartsick, vulnerable, rejected, and helpless.

Because people don’t often talk about their emotional struggles outside of counseling or their inner circles, I didn’t know my feelings were not unusual until I joined a support group, and entered counseling.

Sharing your issues doesn’t necessarily ease your emotional pain, but it will let you know you’re not alone, weird, or losing your mind. ❤

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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 Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

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