#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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#AtoZChallenge D is For Died

bereaved

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“My cell phone died.”

“My laptop died.”

“The fridge died.”

“That doggone car battery died.”

Things around us die every day.  Think about how many times a day we say something died. It’s a regular word—a verb—we use when something is inactive or no longer has life.

However, when loved ones die, it becomes a four-letter word.

I couldn’t say the word for several weeks after Den died without bursting into tears. I say, “He’s gone.”

But, I noticed most folks who reached out to me couldn’t say it either.

They’d say Den, “passed away,” “passed on,” “was in a better place,” “was in heaven,” “sleeping,” and believe or not… “checked out.” Seriously?

I believe for me it was hard to say until I accepted the fact Den was NOT coming back. No matter how many times I looked out the window for him or “heard” his keys in the front door, it changed nothing.

Our three adult children were all very close to their dad, each with their own unique relationship. Lindsey, the youngest, has no problem saying the word. And she talks more about Den than her brothers, Drew and David. They still have a problem using the word died, and I never said anything about it, knowing they would in their own time.

However, when David spoke of “Dad’s departure” just two weeks ago, I knew it was time.

I told him his dad didn’t catch a flight to San Diego or a train to Dallas. He DIED. End of story.

Dave said he never used the word around ME for fear of upsetting ME.

Wait. What?

We talked and straightened it out—with Lin and Drew laughing on the sidelines—and I reminded them all we promised not to tread lightly around each other.

Though the word still stings at times, I got through this post without crying, so I know I’m making progress.

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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 Update #1

 

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I’ve never participated in the A to Z Challenge before.

It wasn’t my intention to join the challenge this year either. Just over a week ago, commenting on a friend’s blog about her entry, I said, “This isn’t my year.”

But when inspiration comes, you have to go with the flow.

I’ve written very little about losing Den and Mom. It was always too raw, too close, too real. The words were in my head and heart, but there was a blockage somewhere holding them all inside, suffocating me and exacerbating my grief. So I walked away.

A few weeks ago, my therapist suggested I try writing letters to myself on bad days when my emotions and feelings were out of control.

I did, and it helped. While there were tears, I noticed there was no longer a blockage and the words flowed from me.

This milestone inspired me to use the A to Z Challenge to chronicle my grief journey thus far.

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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 C is For Couple

holding hands

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Married folks have several names for each other inside the marriage… husband, wife, mate, spouse, partner. These labels can also used by those outside the marriage, but one thing all marriages have in common is they’re considered a couple.

I’m no longer part of a couple.

I’m now the single woman, the poor widow, the fifth wheel.

It’s an odd feeling.

It wasn’t that long ago Den and I hosted dinners and cookouts. While so many of the guests were married couples or people in long-term relationships, we always made sure to include our widowed friends. We didn’t want them to ever feel forgotten or left out.

Now that I’m a member of Team Widow, I can understand why widows turned down so many invitations.

It’s hard to attend a gathering of couples… and widows. Even if it’s family.

I’ve accepted exactly one dinner invitation since becoming a widow. Everyone was nice and welcoming. There were no awkward moments or conversations, but I felt out of place… out of sync, and knew it would be a long time before I accepted another dinner invitation. (In the spring of 2020, covid-19 became a pandemic and I didn’t have to worry about dinner invitations.)

Like most couples, Den and I had our shtick. Making faces at each other across the room. Snarky comments at the drink table. And of course, once we got home, a recap of the evening with many movie references and one-liners.

I went to bed one night a married woman, part of a couple, and woke up a widow.  I trembled as I dialed 9-1-1, knowing my life was about to change in ways I wasn’t ready for, and that I would have to face them as a party of one.

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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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Photo by Samuel Rodriguez on Unsplash

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