“My Vulnerability is my Courage”

They see me as a strong and independent person.

They think I am confident and self-assured.

They expect to see a smile on my face.

They believe I can navigate this journey.

What they do not see is that,

Grief and loss have robbed me of my confidence and sense of security.

Things I could once do with ease are now overwhelming.

I feel vulnerable, and that is uncomfortable.

Tears come when I least expect them.

Decisions are harder to make without my partner.

Social gatherings with family and friends,

Are a reminder that someone important is missing.

People do not know what to say,

And sometimes avoid me.

My broken heart while invisible to the public,

Is a constant reminder to me.

With patience and understanding,

I will one day regain my sense of confidence and security.

I will come to understand that my vulnerability was not a weakness,

But rather it was me being courageous and forging my path forward.

And one day, when I think of my loved one,

I will have a smile on my face rather than a tear in my eye.

The Deep Dark Hole

The Deep Dark Hole

It was a Friday eight weeks after my husband’s death. “He died on a Friday.”

I was assigned to my local office that day. That’s where I got “the call”

I was driving his truck for the first time. “He died in his truck”.

It was the Perfect Storm”

I just should have stayed home that day. I was sad and exhausted and things were not going well at work. Perhaps I had returned to work too early? Perhaps I was not ready to be fully engaged in my job?

Who was I to be making these decisions anyway? I had no experience with profound loss. I could not think straight let alone make decisions like how long I should stay out of work and how many hours I should work.  I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to do my share of the work, I wanted to keep busy and not be so sad all the time.

The problem was the grief was still so fresh. At some point that morning, it all caught up with me, the sadness, the loneliness, the confusion about what I should do. I spoke to my supervisor and we agreed I should go home and that moving forward, I would work fewer hours and not do as much as I had been doing.

Of course I had to drive the truck home. By the time I reached my house I was overwhelmed with sadness. I had pain in the very depth of my soul and I could not manage my grief. I felt like I was spinning out of control. I thought I could not go on any longer, that living without my husband was not going to work for me. If only someone could just give me a shot and knock me out so I did not have to feel this way, I would welcome that. I would welcome being in a coma until the pain was gone.

I felt like I was in a deep dark hole. A big pit like the one in the movie “Silence of the Lambs” No one could help me, no one could see me, no one could possibly understand. What was the point? I could not go on! I could not manage this grief anymore. It was just too hard.

What should I do? I had no answers. At some point I managed to call my sister and ask her to please come and be with me. She of course came right away. She had never seen anyone like this before. She had never seen me like this. The poor thing did not know how to help. Think of happy things she said. Think of your family, your grandchildren. I said this is so much bigger than that. I cannot see my way out of this. I am not looking at my world the way you and everyone else are looking at it.  I see nothing but darkness.

For the first time in my life, I had just a glimpse of what Depression must feel like. It was scary. Everything was dark. I could see no way out of the pit, the “Deep Dark Hole”. I could not see anything but pain, sadness, despair.

For hours my sister sat with me while I cried. Why was this happening? Why was I suffering so much? How would I go on? Should I go on?

None of the things that usually helped me manage my grief were working today. This was so big. I began to think I would feel like this forever and that scared me.

After about seven hours, I became so exhausted and reached a point where I could not fight my way out of the pit any longer. I would collapse there until I found the strength to climb my way out.

Eventually I reached a turning point. How that happened, I will never know. I managed to climb out of the Deep Dark Hole and see a single ray of light.

I would pray that I never enter the Deep Dark Hole again!

I would continue the fight. I would work harder. I would find the strength. I would go on.




Five Years Later

My book Please Bring Soup To Comfort Me While I Grieve covered a two year timeline after the loss of my dad and my husband two weeks apart in September of 2011.

As I navigate the five year anniversary, I thought I would write about where I am today in my grief journey.

Before you experience profound loss, you have no idea where your path will take you. You cannot predict how you will feel as the years go by. It is hard for me to believe it has been five years since I got that horrendous phone call on Friday September 16th; in many ways it stills fees like yesterday. There is still not a day that goes by that I do not think of my husband and all that I lost on that day; his life and my life as I knew it. There is always a new occasion to remind me that someone important is missing.

I guess I would say that I have learned how to live with the day to day reminders. I can talk about my husband now with family and friends and find joy in thinking about the good times we had with him. It does comfort me when people talk about him. It touches my heart when they share stories with me. People cannot possibly know how much that means to me.

My family and friends continue to sustain, love, and support me. They are always there for me. I still get sneak attacks of sadness but I have learned to manage my sad moments by myself and that was an important step for me. I allow myself time to process and work through my grief because one thing I have learned after five years, is that it does not go away so you need to pay attention to it to continue healing.

I continue to face my fears and am proud of myself for doing so. Recently, I sold our lake cabin. It was bittersweet but something I had to do. It was such a special place for us to spend time together and enjoy family and friends. We will always have those memories that we will keep in a special place in our hearts. Selling the cabin is a very important part of my healing.

I remember a time about one year ago-I was feeling particularly tired and cranky. I was not sure why and I did not connect those feelings to my grief. Fortunately, I had the good sense to make an appointment with my grief counselor. After describing to her what I was going through, she said “I think you are depressed.” I was rather shocked by her statement because that never occurred to me. Depression is new to me. I left her office that day feeling relieved to know there was a name for what I was feeling and a reason for my state of mind.

My therapist suggested mindful meditation. She also advised me to check in with my physician. Knowing what was going on gave me the determination to make a plan and work on my sadness. Mindful meditation did help and I realized the ups and downs of grief are powerful and I needed to dig into my grief toolkit and use the tools that have always helped me.

I now take more time to enjoy the people in my life. I spend as much time with my family and friends as possible. We all realize life is short and we do our very best to make our time together fun and meaningful. When I get invited to an out of state event or wedding, I am there. When my friend invited me to Jamaica to spend time with her and her family, I was there. I have been parasailing and swimming with dolphins.

I still have feelings of intense sadness and loss and I accept that it will always be that way. After all, when you lose someone so important, how could it be any different? I own those feelings and work my way through them. I also embrace my happy times and my happy feelings. I acknowledge all that I have been through, learned, and accomplished in five years of grief work.

Since writing and publishing Please Bring Soup To Comfort Me while I Grieve, I have met so many amazing people. People who say they appreciate my book for the vulnerability and honesty I captured. I have shared stories and tears with other grievers. I admire their strength and courage. I am blessed to know each of them and am honored by their stories. I am touched by the feedback I have received about my book and am so pleased that my dream to help people has come true.

My three granddaughters continue to be a source of joy and happiness for me. They still talk about “Beepa” and ask me questions about him. We still go to the cemetery each year and they take their decorated pumpkins and arrange them ever so carefully around the stone. They are writing books of their own now; author pages and all. I am so happy to have inspired that in them. We may just write a book together one of these days.

So five years later, I do still experience grief and loss. I accept that I always will and that allows me the strength and courage to keep living, enjoying friends and family and seek new adventures that bring happiness and fulfillment to my life. After all, I believe we make a conscious choice to engage in life or not to. I choose to “engage.” In the beginning when everyone told me I was strong, I did not believe them and now I think “perhaps they were right”.