Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Grief work

Terence and his dog Cead, October 2011
 Lately, my days are quiet and lonely- filled with all the emotions related to grief and mourning; denial, loneliness, confusion, helplessness, guilt, anxiety, disappointment, anger, sadness, resentment, inadequacy, fear, envy, depression, pain, dread, bitterness, loss, anguish, dismay, sorrow, apathy, distrust, lack of emotions have been  intense, draining, and hard to hold back; they are tangled up inside of me and run deep. 

I am attending grief recovery groups a couple of times a week.  Seems like a valuable investment of my time.  There are several new widows and together we are simultaneously doing our grief work.  There are also several women who have been widows any where from 5 to 9 years that have never (until now) joined a group but had figured they could work through the mourning process alone...and they are stuck. In grief...THAT ALONE makes me want to make sure I give the grieving process it's due season- to attend to the sorrow and sadness; address the angry feelings and overcome all the fears.  The last place I want to be in 5 years is exactly where I'm at now.

 The only remedy for grief, is to grieve.

Grief is a journey and from what I've observed (in my few short weeks as a widow )- is that it can be perilous if you don't understand it's power and work through it.

Looking at this chart and evaluating my emotional state, I'm somewhere between the "Shock" and "feelings of loss" but transitioning into "needing to let go".

Sometimes I feel normal and think I am doing well then something happens. I received a phone call (insurance stuff) from a very nice but confused lady on the other end. It seems I filled out the form(s) in a rather confusing manner. To be honest, I don't even remember filling it out I've been so disoriented. "Did you get re-married?" she asks. "No----oh no, no, no....." says I. "Oh, okay-the 'married box' was checked"(I have difficulty dealing with that stupid box!)...she goes on; "Did he pass away this year?" .  "Yes....(what did I do now?)". I sighed. "I thought so" she said patiently- "but you marked down 2010"...and it went on;  'yes' instead of 'no's', wrong signatures or no signatures, a page missing... by the time she was done asking her questions I wondered how I even got that that thing mailed out. And I felt sorry for her!

I'm so disoriented.  I'm getting  my mail returned to me- it seems I am sending off the wrong checks/letters to the wrong address, or at least putting them in the wrong envelopes.  It's a crazy time, and boy do I miss Terence in the midst of all this.

Halloween parties at school today
Fortunately Terence was a very diligent husband and prepared me well for his absence.  We talked and prayed about everything; spiritual, emotional and financial which is providing me the freedom to grieve and not have unnecessary worries. 

My grief work is simple but not easy.  Here's my agenda for a typical day:
My days are spent trying to:
  •  greet the day (some days I can't).
  • accept the crying (most days I do).
  • deepen my faith (read my bible, go to church).
  • keep a journal (write, write,write!)
  • walk each day (even if it's just to the mailbox:)
  • surround myself with a support network (church, grief recovery groups,etc)
  • postpone some decisions (I already failed this one: I cut 20 inches of my hair off right after he passed away!)
  • live in the present (This is the most difficult for me, because Terence is not here in the present with me).
  • venture out alone (I have coffee or breakfast by myself, go the the library or shopping several times a day).
It sounds so simple, but living " intentionally" is so exhausting- and it takes a lot of thought and inner effort..........

Fortunately, the 'real grief work' that I do is not work at all.  I ultimately rest in the Lord.

 Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

            "What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. 
All that we love deeply becomes a part of us" ~ Hellen Keller.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I tend to dread the trials in my life.

Over the past three years (36 months- not mistakenly the same period of time we fought cancer)  I have been exploring how God teaches me humility through difficult circumstances (or trials).

The tumultuous waves leaves me with sand in my pants.

I tend to dread the trials in my life: conflicts with other people, physical limitations and sickness, lack of money or other resources, weaknesses, dealing with sinful habits, etc. I tend to think that my life will be better if I have fewer trials and more comfort.

 I want to consider a different attitude toward such circumstances. If pride is my greatest enemy and humility my greatest friend, then circumstances that lead to humility are also my friend.

Making peace with my limitations/weaknesses is an expression of humility.
In many ways have I have come face-to-face with own limitations.

 I've realized that:
•   I can’t do the things I used to do physically...aging is real.
 •  I can't control my children.
•   I can't control cancer.
•   I can’t handle all the circumstances that surround me (work, home, church, friendships, etc.).

When my limitations are exposed, it would be a huge mistake to think, “If I just try harder and seek God more, I won’t have these limitations.”

There is a place for trying harder and for seeking God more.  But our goal in life isn’t to get so strong and competent and “together” that we no longer have limitations or weaknesses. That’s not going to happen.  Our limitations aren’t a curse. They’re an opportunity to learn humility.  They are a God-given reminder that He is omni-everything and we are omni-nothing.

I am making peace with my limitations. 2 Corinthians 12:9. Jesus said this to Paul-
"And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me".


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The trauma of survival

There are many dimensions of grief that lead to healing.
The trauma of survival
Sunday October 14, 2012
by sherry

There are many dimensions of grieving and I am told all are necessary- working through my grief will lead to my healing.

"Eight weeks ago, I watched my best friend die".  I survived the death of my husband.

 I think I must be the guilt stage" because my mind replays Terence's last few weeks, last few days and his last few hours.  I find myself sobbing, telling myself, "I didn't realize how sick he was....and  I made him walk to the kitchen to get his own smoothie"  How could've I done such a thing?  Similar scenarios are played over and over in my mind, shattering my heart all over again.  I ask my sisters over and over again (who were present the last few weeks, days and hours) "Did you know he was dying? How come I didn't see it?  And I made him get out of bed up until the very last day....".  

 My mind is playing the 'survivor's guilt' game with my heart.  It should've been me. He was the nice one! I failed in the compassionate caregiver department!  My mind is recalling my unskilled actions, my forgetfulness, my selfishness and my overly emotional behavior. I should've done more. God, are you sure it wasn't supposed to be me?

My mind is mercilessly berating my heart. The trauma of survival as well as the daily fear of survival has a tendency to be all consuming at this point.  To overcome this I have to live every moment of every day with intentional thoughts or else I find myself losing track or truth.

The truth is that none of those thoughts had any type of bearing on  the outcome of Terence's death.  The truth is he had cancer and I didn't.  The truth is I couldn't see his last few days as 'his last' because he needed me ( and I needed me) to continue to hope in tomorrow.

So I survived our cancer journey and he did not. 

There is good news though; He is absent in body, but present with the Lord, and  I will be comforted by the Lord Himself.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. — Matthew 5:4

Grieving is hard work. But attending to this sorrow and allowing myself to mourn brings the eventual payoff: healing.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Turning a page in time.

Fall 2011
My change of season 

Fall is here.  Summer is over.  No more ice-cold smoothies on a hot afternoon.  My spouse died and my marriage is over. No more vacations together. No more mornings drinking coffee together. No more planning for the future together.

Seasons change. It feels like I am turning a page in a book, moving on to the next chapter of my life.  I go from summer to fall to winter to spring. My life went from single, to married, to widowed.

I barely remember my first night as a widow. I spent the entire night staring into darkness. "Terence? are you really gone?" My thoughts went back and forth all night between replaying my husband's last few hours on earth and planning his memorial service.

My life seems confusing and off balance. As I am moving forward to find some sense of direction, without warning, I can collapse in despair. Perhaps a memory is triggered causing me to instantly fall apart. Then sometimes I don’t care to move on and I just want to wallow in memories of Terence. 

I never know if I am going to go forward or backward each day.

My world is still spinning and I sit waiting for my equilibrium to return. Some days I have to pick myself up and make a decision of what to do next, other days, I just do. Sometimes I don't.

Fall 2012
It feels good to have a few productive days of moving forward and then  all of a sudden I have a few days of back sliding into that familiar place of sorrow. Kind of like a few days of sunshine, after a couple days of rain.  I never quite understood what people meant when they said they had a panic attack. I imagined an anxiousness and fear, but had no idea how debilitating it could be until I became a widow. 

My life has taken a new direction, I am trying to reprioritize it. Every morning I  pray that the Lord will surround me with peace so I can face the day. After all, my life was shattered 7 weeks ago. Now, all I can do is handle one moment at a time. God's peace is helping me along in a forward direction.

And so by His grace I turn a page in time and welcome autumn.



Monday, October 1, 2012

The worst and the best

I've been reading Terence's journals.  I am enjoying hearing what he thought, what he had to say about various things.  I've decided to begin to share excerpts with you.

August 31, 2010
 by terence (a letter to me)
"Hi my love! I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate you! You are a wonderful wife to me, I don't have the words to express my love for you!

When I consider the 'better or worse' vows we made, I realize that your love and care for me has made this 'worse' some of the best days of my life"

My thoughts-
by sherry
I am blessed to read this---he actually considered his worst days some of his best. I guess that was because during his illness we spent every minute of our days together- he relished my company and I his. He didn't need to get sick in order to appreciate our time together.  We always have. He compares his cancer fighting days with our fishing trips on the Greys river, our European back backing trip, our visit to Ireland...some of his best times!

His worst days are behind him now.  His suffering is over.  He faced his "worst day" with fierce courage, fighting to his last breath surrounded by his entire family. 

 For me though I am living my worst days and my suffering has only just begun... and I can guarantee you that these are not my best days of my life.

Loneliness is a constant companion.  Terence and I committed to a lifetime together yet we experienced the marriage vow moment  "til death do us part" ...and I find myself alone.

It's been 5 weeks since he died and I find myself living life without exclamation points.  Not only do I lack luster in life, I find myself driving slow, moving slow, thinking slow.  My life is slo-mo. 

Grief is my tireless companion. Just like I was Terence's- but with one exception; I don't enjoy it's company.  In the midst of this anguish I find myself wondering if I will have any 'best days' ever again? My heart asks the question how is that even possible? Will  I ever enjoy life again?
 I am like humpty Dumpty- how can I ever be put back together again?

The Lord in His faithfulness answered me in  scripture:
"...and after you have suffered a little while, the God of all Grace who has called you, will himself restore, strengthen and establish you"  1 Peter 5:10,11

I can't see it now but the Lord promises me that I will enjoy life again... after a 'little while'.

That gives me hope.