Pages

Monday, October 6, 2014

The multi-faceted years of grief: Going deeper

Many people have heard that the first year of loss is the worst. I disagree. I think that it is different than the first, but not necessarily the worst. Neither are good for that matter. 
For this post, I will be examining the differences between the first and second year of grief from my perspective, so that any and all may try to understand some of the things that a grieving person goes through on a deeper level. 

Year One

  • It is not okay to just assume that the bereaved are okay because they survived the first year. 
  • That is what the first year is all about, learning to survive. 
  • The body kicks into fight or flight response and the survivors do just that, survive, because they have no other choice. 
  • I bring this up because many people look at the bereaved and think they're okay because they seem to be handling their new life well, and they might smile sometimes in public. This is what you see, but may not necessarily be what occurs behind closed doors. 
  • The bereaved may try to reinvent themselves because everything else in their life just drastically changed, so why not them too.
  • It is not just losing a loved one. It is everything that comes with it. Financial stability, a father or mother to the children, a companion and partner, help around the house etc. 
  • Family dynamics also shift. Holidays and family gatherings are not the same. Family and friend relationships are not the same and some are lost.  
  • People don't look at you the same. The look of pity is, in my opinion, one of the worst.
  • Every monumental date - holidays, birthdays, anniversaries etc. are emotional and painful, and even if you have prepared yourself, you cannot prepare enough for the ache in your soul. 
  • You learn to see the signs of your loved one still being present in some way in the world. You learn to listen to your gut, and if you haven't start listening! Hang on to it and keep your eyes open. You will need this skill more than you think down the road. 
Year Two
  • By now, the bereaved is used to surviving on their own. But, let me make it clear that just because they are used to it, it does not in any way, shape or form make it easier. 
  • The support from the first year is now mostly gone. People have gone back to their lives, and assume you're okay now, so the help dissipates. 
  • It becomes increasingly more difficult to see other people be happy and move on with their lives. 
  • Where there was hope the first year, there is a void in the second. 
  • The reality that there are many items of the deceased that need to be given away or sold has to be dealt with. This is stressful, and no one wants to do it, or help with it. You're on your own.
  • It's like reopening a wound when getting rid of things that you're used to sitting around the house, but at some point logic has to take over. If it's not useful, and the kids, you or family members won't want it, then get rid of it. 
  • The loneliness takes over at times. You are increasingly aware that you are alone in this world. You watch others find partners and be happy and you sit on the back-burner and wonder "why not me?"
  • You realize that you aren't open to a relationship and that answers the prior question.
  • Now comes the real struggle of the second year.... how do you once again become open and/or why would you want to?
  • You certainly don't have time to date with all of the added duties on your plate, after all, you are now mother and father of the household, you do it all
  • Furthermore, you are pickier than you used to be because of the relationship you had with the deceased and you now have children that you must look out for. 
  • It becomes increasingly important that you are wise with your decision of who you let into your life, because unlike before you had kids, there is no longer one person to look out for and make sure that the other person meshes with, there are three (in my case). 
  • Because of all that is above, finding someone seems almost hopeless. By this time in your life most people are settled, and "all the good ones" taken. The old adage of "there are plenty of fish in the sea" is not applicable here. This meme amuses me to no end. It absolutely is not all about looks as this meme implies, but it is still how a widowed woman feels when trying to even comprehend dating again. 
  • You feel sad and unhappy some of the time, but feel like no one notices or cares anymore because it's just normal. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it's not. Find someone to talk to, whether it be a friend, family member, doctor or counselor. You may have to be pickier about who you talk to about these things these days. There are some that just don't want to hear it anymore. That's okay, find someone who will listen and give good advice and no judgement. 
  • Remember those signs I talked about earlier? You'll continue to see them. Take comfort in them. Listen to them, because they can be a guiding force and that is one of the biggest things you'll need the second year.
  • Guidance. Where do you go from here? How do you decide? You listen to your gut and you follow the signs. External forces can be your greatest asset in determining your future. 
  • Reach deep down to the core of your soul and figure out what it's telling you in the second year. It may be completely different than you imagined your life would be. It's okay. Your life has changed and you have changed and so your purpose and life goals may have changed as well, in fact, I can almost guarantee they will. Find your purpose. 
They say the only way to get through grief is through it. I agree of course. You can't hide from it, you can't run from it, you can't pretend it never happened. It is what it is, and all you can do is move forward, weep, beg and pray that one day it will get better. 

I believe it will. 




Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Nasty

Today, I am experiencing a deluge of nasty feelings. All of which I have striven to get rid of in my life and heart. They are back today. I feel as though I have lost my serenity. What I am about to say may hurt some people's feelings but, let's face it, this is real, and I am being honest. If you don't like it, then I am sorry that you cannot accept the reality of someone else's perceptions. It is difficult enough for me to admit that I am feeling these things, but here goes, because I guarantee that someone, somewhere, is currently, will in the future or has already felt this way.

 I cannot express how difficult it is for me to maintain a positive attitude at times. I struggle with watching other people be happy. Perfect people, perfect lives, no evident struggle. Perhaps they are better than I at hiding the struggle, or perhaps they have not dealt with their issues and will one day have to face them. In a short time the horrible feelings of jealousy, bitterness, resentment and anger have resurfaced in my heart. There surfaces a longing for things and places I don't have.

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow. Why then, oh, why can't I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow why, oh, why can't I?


It is not pretty, but I do know that I must choose to deal with my emotions as they come, and am working to not internalize them. If I let them sit unsaid, it eats me up, and I have decided that I no longer have the time, patience or energy to let my emotions control me.

You may have money, a great job, have traveled the world. the beautiful house with the white picket fence, external beauty, a loving spouse, 2.5 children and a dog. But, are you happy? Do you know who you are? Have you taken the time to get to know yourself deep down, disregarding the worldly things that surround you and what you physically possess? Do you recognize that none of that matters, and that you cannot take it with you in the end? I tell myself all of these things and I believe them, but sometimes I want those other things too. It's human, it's natural, and I am bitter that I have little of it at times, until I remember that "things" have never made me happy. It's always been loving relationships that have fulfilled me.

In due time you say? Time is fleeting, in essence, it's already gone. If I am not happy, it's not because I have none of these things. It's because I have chosen to be unhappy with my lot in life by succumbing to the evil green monster of jealousy and all that comes with it. At times, I can see the Wicked Witch of the West coming out in me and it's not pretty. Someone pour water on me so I can melt into nothingness. (Furthermore, even if I was a good witch, a house would just get dropped on me and my shoes stolen by some peppy brat with a little dog.)

Follow the yellow brick road.. to where? To the land of Oz where there is a giant, beautiful, sparkly castle and a lying man behind a curtain? No thanks. I'll take the little farmhouse in Kansas that is simple and "boring", for it is full of love and therefore has everything I need.

That's nasty. It's nitty gritty, hardcore emotional stuff. I only hope that someday if you ever feel these things, you remember that even the peppy brat with a dog once longed for a better place, and eventually realized how great her home was. For the record, I forgive the girl, even though she stole my shoes.




Saturday, September 13, 2014

Labeling

This week at one of my Zumba classes I had a participant ask me where my boys were. They typically come with me to every class. The conversation proceeded as follows:

"The boys are at the parade with a friend today."
"Oh, are you married?"
"No, I'm actually a widow."
Shakes head. "It seems like more and more marriages are ending that way these days"
(Realizing that what I had actually said had not sunk in) "Well, this wasn't actually my fault. (I realize some divorces aren't peoples fault either, this is just the vibe I got so I went with it in my response) My husband died of cancer 2 years ago."
"Oh... well I hope you find someone soon.Those boys need a man in their life."
"Yes, and I will someday. I'm taking my time. It's important that I find someone that is good for all three of us."
"Yes I guess that's true. You could end up in more trouble if you are with someone wrong. He must have been young."
"Yes, he was 37."
"Well I hope you find someone really soon."
"Thank you.

The participant meant no harm at all. But it did get me thinking.
1. I was automatically labeled as a divorcee even after the word widow came out of my mouth. How many people have labeled me without even hearing the word? The label doesn't matter, because I have been divorced before and I am now a single mom, I just find it interesting to think about.
2. Why do I need to find someone soon? Why does society think that it is necessary for a woman to find a man? This explains why I see so many people jump from one man to the next in a blink of an eye. Society has brainwashed us into believing that we cannot take care of ourselves and cannot be whole without a man. That makes me sad beyond belief. Yes, I get lonely and I wish that I could have someone by my side that loves me and my boys and would help with finances and things around the house. But, I refuse to settle for someone I know isn't right. Shouldn't we all do that? And shouldn't society tell us that, instead of telling us to find someone quickly?
3. Yes, my boys do need a man in their life. But they need an amazing one. Again, I refuse to settle for some chump. My boys deserve the best.
4. To all of you out there without someone, please be patient. Go slowly. I promise you that it will be worth it, and that YOU are worth it. Take other people's words and advice with a grain of salt. YOU know what right for you. You know deep down in the inner core of your soul. Learn to listen and trust that still, small voice. I promise it will not steer you wrong.

Much love.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Parlez-vous Francais?

Despite what you may see looking in, it's still difficult everyday to get up and face what my world has become. It's strange in a way, because it gets easier and harder at the same time. It's easier because I've become accustomed to this new life, it's harder because each day it becomes more real. There are days that I want to put everything in the back of my car and leave here. Sometimes it's overwhelming to be in this town, in this state. I think that if I didn't have responsibilities here I would have done that long ago. Thank goodness for the small things preventing me from making rash decisions. I long for a day that I don't feel like I have to fight and power through my day. You see, I struggle. Every day. Every day. Whether I am smiling when you see me or not, you can count on the fact that my brain has been whiring non-stop and at some point in my day a tear or two has been shed. Sometimes a river of tears threatens to overtake the space I occupy. There are multiple times in a day that I feel as though I am insane. But, in the midst of all of this I try to find solace in the fact that the best things take time and are the most difficult to obtain. Right now I feel so unsure of everything around me. I don't know what my future holds. There is no solid ground on which I can stand and that is very scary indeed. 

Being a mom is hard. Being a single mom is one thousand times harder. Sometimes I want to yell at the the neighbors to mow my lawn while they're mowing theirs. I don't want to be the only one making decisions for my kids. But I have to. I have to do everything. All of it. Their care, my care, the cleaning, the bills, the anything that needs to be done. Sometimes I freak out. Like I'm doing now. Sometimes I just need to talk about it because it sucks and it's hard and it's a job I would have quit on the first day if I didn't love my children. Being an adult is shitty. I will say it again so you can really understand. Being an adult is really shitty. If I sometimes have to take Xanax to get through parts of my day so I don't have a panic attack there is something wrong. This is what trauma does to the body ya'll. The physical effects of those left behind are not ever talked about. Shocker. But, I have discovered that my body's automatic response to many situations has become fight or flight. Anxiety to the core. Even things that make no sense and shouldn't cause anxiety. Yup, there it is. Before you tell me to exercise or try yoga, yes, I do these and they help. This is occurring after all of the stress/anxiety relieving fixes that you want to share with me. I do them already. I don't want to know what kind of hot mess I'd be without these things.

This is my official I have no clue what the hell I am doing with myself at this point in time and it freaks me out post. No, I don't want your assurance that it will be ok. I know that. Trust me, I do. What I want is for the universe to stop giving me the signs it has been giving me, like the number 11 everywhere, all. the. time and pennies dropping (look up what they mean, I have not the time and energy to explain). No habla espanol. Just put it in writing already universe. In English.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Things No One Tells You About Being a Widow With Kids

1. No one actually understands unless they have been through widowhood too. It will frustrate you.
2. You will feel as though everything you know has been ripped out from underneath you. Because it was.
3. You will feel cheated by life. Because you were.
4. You will feel lied to by the powers that be and angry at them too. It's normal and I assure you it will not go away for quite some time.
5. The enormity of the responsibility of being a single parent will overwhelm you at times. It's okay to cry. It's also okay to ask for help.
6. People will try to compare their divorce stories to your spouse dying stories. It is not the same. By any means. They may or may not understand that. Love them anyway.
7. When you stop wearing a wedding ring and you're out in public with your children, strangers will look at your finger and they will judge you. Smile and feel no need to explain. Judgement is their problem, not yours.
8. Many people you love will not know what to say to you and may seem like they don't care. Remember that some people cannot put into words how they feel, and they cannot comprehend your pain.
9. You will sometimes hate "happy" families. Remember that the grass is NOT always greener.
10. You will feel guilty when you find things that make you happy. Remember that your loved one would have wanted you to be happy. Carry on!
11. You will see signs that your loved one is with you. Pay attention. Talk to him. He's listening.
12. Your children will have fond memories of their dad. Cultivate them and soak up their smiles as they remember.
13. Your children will be spiritually more stable than you are. Encourage them and listen to their wisdom.
14. You will have rough days. Especially around holidays. It will blindside you. Be prepared.
15. You will find that your physical health directly affects your mental health. Exercise daily and eat healthy foods. You deserve it and your kids deserve a healthy mother.
16. You will not feel worthwhile. The catastrophe of losing your spouse will make you feel as though you are not enough and don't deserve happiness. You ARE enough. You DO deserve happiness.
17. Nothing will ever be the same.
18. You will never stop loving him.
19. People will expect you to go back to your normal life because they get to go back to theirs. It doesn't work that way.
20. Your job is to take care of your children. Make it a priority. Remember you have to be healthy to be the best parent you can be. It's okay to put yourself first sometimes.
21. You will survive.
22. You will forever be changed.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Out of the woodwork

Over the last year and a half, I feel as though I have been surviving and doing well, but not really doing my very best. For those of you that know me, I usually put 110% into everything that I do. For some things I have been doing that, but not for anything that really puts me in the limelight. I've been trying to hide I suppose as part of my healing process. I have watched others take opportunities that I should have taken, and would have taken on a normal day. Loss has changed me. It has turned my world upside down and changed my view of the world around me. You see, I don't have to take all of the opportunities that are paraded in front of me, because I have something that is more important. My children. They are my real responsibility right now despite what others may see. I only get one chance to raise them and shape them into the men that will all too soon enter the world as adults. I am proud of the little men that they are, and will continue to be there to raise them first hand. If that means that I don't get to perform as much as I would like,  or have a grand career, then so be it. All of that will still be there when my kids are older. I am trusting that I am where I supposed to be right now. I may be a widowed mother of two children that now has to start over, but that's okay. I am in no hurry to "find a man" to take care of me. I don't need a man to validate my worth. My worth has already been set my my maker, my children, my family and instilled in me by Rob.

As I continue this road, I can feel myself reawakening and becoming ready to come out of the woodwork. My inner leader is eager to re-emerge. I know my talents and skill set and am ready to use them. My teaching, administrative and leadership skills are mine to continue to cultivate. This summer I have already traveled to 3 states, trained to be a Zumba instructor and affiliate, became an ambassador for Plexus products and am training with my boys for a 5K. Summer school starts next. Bring it on life. Team Barefoot Bob is ready!

P.S. If you're interested here are the links for my Plexus site and my Zumba site. If not, disregard this post script :)

http://danelleeckhart.myplexusproducts.com
http://deckhart.zumba.com/ - I'm not teaching yet but hope to very soon!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tunneling Inward

Yesterday, I just needed to write. Four pages of writing until it was time to go to class. I am often frustrated at the lack of understanding for the difficult journey I face. Sometimes hearing that I am doing a good job is not enough, when all I want is to know that it will be ok someday and perhaps a hug to accompany it. Sometimes the condescending or blank look I get from people if I'm having a down day frustrates me. Then I remember I am generally surround by less life experienced beings (I'm not convinced all of them are people sometimes, so I'll just call them beings).  This is some of what I wrote:

No one truly understands my angst, my grief, my loneliness. You. You were what I lived for, what I poured my heart and soul into. A life was built with the two of us. Then there were three and four. We fought to make sure we had a world of goodness and security for our children, for each other. One day, one fine day we reached the top. The pinnacle of our achievement together. Then it was quickly stripped away. All of it gone in an instant. I resented that my hard work now had to be put to the side, again. After all, I had given so much of me already. How could it be that I was being asked to give more? I didn't have more for a while. I gave what I could but I somehow felt that it wasn't enough. That I was being selfish to keep doing what I had worked so hard for. Escalation into deeper, darker, sickness where I could not and did not have any other choice but to drop it all for fear that I would miss a single moment with you. But still, the annoyance at me being tired, of me trying to be strong but sometimes failing. And then, you were gone. I stepped out of the room and you were gone. I woke the children, told them of you passing. And then I screamed, my soul screamed and wept from the abyss that had now been formed. I buried you in the ground alone with all of our hopes and dreams. And there they will stay because you are gone.

Now in the silence I sit and ponder. I see all that I have experienced and to fully comprehend is sometimes still crushing and brings about a sense of hopelessness. But yet in the dark there is still a light, glistening in the fallen tears I cry. The hope that all will be well one day. That my struggle has not been for naught. Seeking to find purpose in this lonely barren place. But I, I think it should be so that I walk this road alone. The vast road that lies ahead is for me and my sons. It is out for the taking. I only can hope that the pain is worth the prize that I hope will be at the end of this dark, deep tunnel or nothingness.
~
Sounds dark. It was. It was a time that I was feeling dark, with a latte that was made incorrectly, and weather inappropriate attire. I was cold, and uncaffeinated. Figuratively and literally. It happens. I am dark sometimes and not easily understood. It doesn't mean I'm going to drive myself off a cliff, but it might mean that I need more sleep, alone time and that I may eat my feelings while I regroup. As an introvert, I generally need more quiet and alone time anyhow. My energy reserves are pretty depleted in general due to the enormous amount of stress I have gone through in the last couple of (ten...) years. I have found that I have to keep an careful eye on them, and take the time that I need as I need it, and not after. Self care is something I can say that I am improving in. Point for me.

Today, after an interesting and enlightening conversation with ma meiullerure amie, I began to read about learning to be alone. I realized that part of my struggle is the loss of Rob, and part of it is process of learning to live alone. Most of my life has been spent living with someone else, whether it be my parents, friends or lover. Although I live with two little people, it is not the same as living with an adult that is capable of taking care of themself.  Due to my duties as a mother, I am not often left with real time to myself or solitude. Even if they're gone for an afternoon or evening, it is not enough time for me to decompress and go inward. A trip somewhere, by myself, may be on the horizon. I think it's time I focus on learning to really love myself.

While reading I also came across a few things. The first was an interesting saying that when you get married you are also signing up to be a widow someday. The second was that most the women writing were significantly older than I, meaning they had overall been married longer, had grown children, and had already had significant time in life to settle into a career etc. Really, the only similarity I share with most of these women is that our husbands died. I wonder how many more facets of this process I will discover as time moves on. Random ramblings of a few days. It may not make sense to anyone, but in reality, this blog is as much for me as anyone else.

Summer is free to hurry itself along and kick winters behind out of my life. Here's to warmer weather, a correctly made latte, weather appropriate clothes, going inward and the journey of learning to live alone. Namaste.