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Archive for the ‘Grief stuff’ Category

You were feeling pretty crappy,   really.           The pain was rough,    and your ankles and calves had been swelling for the past 24 hours.         You weren’t coughing too,   too much – but you were coughing.

 

I got your meds ready,   gave you a Perc and a Xanax.

 

Asked you if you wanted to go to the ER – I know the S&S of acute CHF,   and I was scared.          You said no.         So,    we called the nurse’s line.         They said to give you another dose of Lasix.       And so,   we did.

 

You promised that if things didn’t clear up  by Boxing Day,   we’d go to the ER.

 

And at 1:20am on Christmas morning….

 

You had to leave me.

 

Even now,  darlin’ – I miss you.

 

RIP,   babe.

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Do you know somebody recently widowed who is about to spend their first holiday season without their spouse?

S/he is already feeling bewildered,  agonized,  lost,  in immense emotional,  physical (yes – grief is a very physical process too) and spiritual pain.        There isn’t much you can do to break through that or push it to one side and to be honest,   that’s a good thing – she is going to have to experience and endure all of those raw feelings in order to heal and move forward.        But what you can do,   is be the friend who isn’t going to bombard her with cliches,  or offer well-intended but not-so-useful help.      You can be the friend who helps in the small but vital ways that make every difference.

So,  a few tips.

Don’t feel bad about telling her (I’m going to use “her” all the way through this,  k?) about your family,    or your plans.       We’re suffering terribly,   yes,   but we also need to know that there IS life going on somewhere.        We need to know that there is a world outside of our devastation – that there is normality at least somewhere.          There’s no need to emphasize the romantic evening you have planned with your spouse,    but encourage her to talk about Christmas traditions.      Talk about yours,  but more importantly – listen to hers.     Encourage her to talk about her late spouse.          And bring plenty of Kleenex.

In the same token of not throwing your perfect marriage at her,   don’t go heads on into complaining about your spouse.     S/he could be the biggest prick on the planet and you could be wishing for divorce papers in your Christmas Stocking – but keep that to yourself.    You see even when we absolute hated our spouse for whatever reason (god really do I have to pick his goddamn socks up off the damn floor AGAIN?!?!??)  – we’d literally give a limb just to be able to complain at them one more time.       We no longer have that option and it’s very easy for us to react with anger and bitterness,  “At least you still HAVE your husband!”.

Instead of asking if there’s anything you can do  –  while this is sweet,  it  leaves your friend just as lost as she was five minutes ago because we can’t even think of what to eat for breakfast let alone think about what we actually might need –   offer something specific.        Tell her that you’ll come over at X time next week and help wrap Christmas gifts for the kids with her.          Or you’d love to take her to lunch at X time – where would she prefer to go?       Give her something definite.          Something to focus on.

Bring her a care package.          Widows run out of everything.      Seriously.      I ran out of toothpaste,    toilet paper,   dish soap…couldn’t find my favourite hair brush,    lost my sneakers.           A notebook or journal and a few pens will also be appreciated,   as will post-it notes (we forget everything too – specially in those first few weeks.     We need to write stuff down!).

Take her to the movies.        Not to distract her so much as…well..ok,    yes,  as something of a distraction.       But more to let her know that she can do things and perhaps even experience a break in the initial grief,    with a friend she can trust.

Above all – let her talk,   and let her cry.         There is no shame in tears,    and this is going to be the worst Christmas of her entire life.

It’s not going to be a Happy Christmas for her.          But you can help it not be a Hellish Christmas.

Tee

x

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Elizabeth.

Today we lost another to cancer.

 

Elizabeth Edwards – wife of Senator John Edwards – died earlier today at home surrounded by her family.

 

My heart goes out to her whole family.        Even the dickhead who cheated on her.

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If sniffing envelopes became an Olympic event I’d take the gold medal for sure.

This is what happens when you’re in love,   I suppose,     though admittedly I’ve never been much of an envelope sniffer before.

There is a skill to sniffing envelopes.      You cannot simply rush in there willy-nilly and have at it.   No no no no no.   You must first take time to savour the texture.   To run your fingers across the opening.    The stickiness must tease you and entice you into probing further.

You might even be tempted to lick, at this point.     But first, you will slowly inhale that gorgeous scent.   It might be musky.   It might remind you of sandalwood, or amber.    Or perhaps something you can’t quite place.

Either way, this moment should not be rushed, and should be committed to memory  . But even if you do so, you’ll find yourself wanting more, craving, yearning for and obsessed with drowning in that scent.

I am a certified, qualified expert at sniffing envelopes.

Carry on.

(it occurs to me that if you take out “sniffing envelopes” and insert any number of body parts that this entry would carry quite the different connotation. Try it…go on, I dare you…)

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The path of widowhood is,  to bastardize a cliche and abuse the hell out of several metaphors,   paved with thorns and fraught with peril.

Losing a spouse (and for convenience I’m including “boy/girlfriend”, fiance/e, significant other etc in that label) rips you apart and leaves an empty shell where your heart once resided.

You are devastated, distraught, helpless, bewildered, lonely, lost and a million other things – grief threatens to drown you in relentless waves and there are times when you really, truly aren’t sure whether you’ll make it through the next ten minutes, let alone the next day, or week, or month.

It is all you can attend to, and it takes every last bit of willpower to even get out of bed in the morning.   You can’t sleep,  can’t eat,  you forget  things, and your emotions resemble a Picasso painting after a really bad argument with Salvador Dali with Charles Manson as referee.

But as with everything, these feelings do change over time.     Grief isn’t something you ever get over;  rather you adapt to it, and it becomes a part of you.     You’re not broken, no – though it will feel as if you’ve been shattered into a million shards of agony – but you’re changed.

Everything changes.     Without change, we’d atrophy, we’d fade away.     We’d lose.      Change is simply change – in itself it carries no baggage, no “good” or “bad”.      It just is. How we react to change is what defines us.

The initial period of being shell-shocked – truly an essential coping mechanism to protect you in those first excruciating days, weeks and months – eventually changes and gives way to a familiarity.    Not necessarily acceptance yet,   but at least a sense of knowing that this is your new normal.

Then one day and often  from out of the blue  the sun does appear again.    A smile,  a laugh,  a giggle will break through those clouds.

And then you notice more things.       You remember to smell that rose.       To actually taste that food,     to see people again.        You begin to live, instead of simply existing.        You begin to pick yourself up a little bit.       Out of zombie-mode,      life continues.

Your perspective has changed – perhaps suddenly, perhaps slowly and imperceptibly.        You see things differently now;  you’re far less likely to take things for granted, and you do realise what’s really important, and what’s not.   You appreciate things – your feelings, your experiences, your loved ones, your life – in a more intimate and mindful manner than before.

Gradually you begin to notice…well…people again.     And lo and behold,  you will eventually be able to feel happiness.     To feel a kinship with others again.     To flirt a little, to smile that secret little smile again.

And yes – you will fall in love again….which is often where the difference between widowhood and nonwidowhood become most screamingly, painfully apparent.

Dating, falling in love, is complicated enough when you’re single and relatively normal.  But when you’re a widow – oh, you’re not just on a different dating page.  You’re not in the same dating book.   You’re not even in the same library.

You’re on an entirely different Dating Planet, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

But it reminds you that you’re alive.

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(this is from a fellow widow who felt the need to share)

This is a great example of “did I say that out loud?” This happened at University of the West Indies in October last year. In an OESH class, the Professor was discussing the high glucose levels found in semen which gives the sperm all the energy for their journey.

A female Masters’ candidate raised her hand and asked,  “If I understand you correctly, you’re saying there is a lot of glucose, as in sugar, in semen?”

“That’s correct,” responded the professor, going on to add statistical info.

Raising her hand again, she asked,   “Then why doesn’t it taste sweet?”      After a stunned silence, the whole class burst out  laughing.      The poor girl’s face turned bright red, and as she realized exactly what she had inadvertently said (or rather implied),  she picked up her books without a word and walked out of class, never to return.    However, as she was going out the door, the professor’s reply was classic.

Totally straight-faced he answered her question. “It doesn’t taste sweet because the taste buds for sweetness are on the tip of your tongue and not in the back of your throat.”

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This is a small packet of surgical lubricant:

And this is a small packet of mayonnaise:

When you are hungry,  and it’s the middle of the night and you’re really sleepy please take the time to see what exactly it is that you’re mixing up for your sandwich.

My tuna cried.

It really did.

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