I’m totally amazed and touched by the outpouring I’ve received from my last post Back With a Vengeance. In addition to the comments posted on this blog, and new followers, I’ve had many posts of support on Facebook, phone calls, private messenger messages, text messages and the list goes on. What amazes me most is the sharing of personal stories – grief, depression, some of detailed and sad experiences – past and present.
Friends text me to see how I am. Some call and ask if I will walk, come over, “How are you?” “What can I do?”
When you’re depressed you feel alone. You think, “I don’t want to burden anyone. I don’t want people to think I’m complaining. My life looks good and I shouldn’t complain…” and lots of other things go through your mind. It might not seem rational to other people who look inside from the outside, but we all feel alone, when we are alone in our heads.
Thanks to all of you who have reached out. You have given me moments of clarity, something I realize now I haven’t felt for a while. You have reminded me that I’m not really alone and I’m strong when I need to be and, most important, that will get through this. So I had to tell you that your messages have meant so much to me and sharing your personal stories has been uplifting and humbling.
We are all human. We all feel happiness and pain. Life is a journey and often a roller coaster. It can be difficult to navigate. Thank you for reminding me that we all feel this together.
I’ve been working hard to live my life one day at a time since Bob died, because the one real lesson I learned is that we really don’t know when our last tomorrow will be. Thank you for reminding me of this. And thank you for your stories and outpouring of love and caring. It means a lot to me.
I recently took part in a memoir writing course, hoping it would help me write the memoir I’ve been struggling with – about my life with Bob, my husband who died four years ago June 8th, and grief, and whatever else this book will be when I write it. But I just can’t seem to get the writing down in any way that isn’t jumbled.
I tried to write a submission for critique. The first one wasn’t good. The second attempt wasn’t much better. Overall, it was a painful struggle. When it came time for the critique of my piece – the last of all the submissions – the facilitator didn’t go through my story like she had for the others. She asked questions.
“What was Bob like? From what you’re saying, without saying it, I think we can tell he was intrigued by you when he met you. I think he was introverted, kind and shy.”
But these were conjecture based on what was in between the words. I hadn’t said who he was and in missing that I missed what made him important to me, and to others who knew him.
So I’m going to do my best to tackle this again, and maybe by sharing this I am revealing just a small part of who he was.
Bob fought for his life the entire time I knew him and without complaint. We had a good marriage. We weren’t best friends, we became kindred spirits. We rarely fought each other; we fought for his life together. He had Crohn’s Disease – an often debilitating illness causing so much pain it’s palpable, especially to those who love you the most. We fought the disease one operation after the other until his death. “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” And yet, during the 30 years I knew him he never once complained about his lot in life. He barely complained about the excruciating pain until it became unbearable and he would tell me it was time to go to the hospital.
Bob was the most honest person I ever met. Over the past four years I’ve encountered people who are bitter over broken relationships, divorce and deceit. I can tell you without any hesitation that Bob would never do that to me. We actually had this conversation and I remember saying that cheating on someone would be the worst pain you could inflict on them. “That one act can affect another human being’s self-esteem and makes them question their self-worth. It’s better to admit you harbored those feelings and walk away before you acted causing irreparable pain to another human being,” I said. He agreed. I trusted that Bob would never do that and I know he didn’t. He was, as we say in Yiddish, a mensch – a person of integrity and honor.
Bob was analytical and a mediator. He always said “There are three sides to every story, yours, mine and the truth.” He was soft spoken and rarely raised his voice in anger. When he did, people would stop whatever they were doing. They would listen to him as he analyzed the situation, having weighed all the pros and cons before speaking up. In one of his jobs he was asked to be a mediator and in another job he was approached to be a union representative because people knew he would be fair and honest. He proved himself to be fair in all instances and took his job mediating on behalf of others very seriously.
Bob was respected by everyone who knew him. During his last months, his co-workers and supervisors from the automotive parts plant, where Bob was a lead-hand electrician, came to the hospital to talk to him about his return to work. They had decided to put him in charge of their apprentice program because he was so patient and good at teaching those who were in trade training. He was humbled and elated at the opportunity to take on this role, which never happened because he didn’t make it back to work.
At his visitation services grown men came and cried on my shoulder saying how much they would miss him. The day of he was buried, the plant he worked at shut down production at 11:00 a.m. when the funeral began. There’s a sizable financial cost to involved with shutting down a plant, even for a short while and, believe me, this isn’t done for everyone.
We have a daughter and he had two children from a previous marriage. His daughter has a child, our granddaughter. Bob was an amazing father. His children looked up to him and wanted to make him proud. It wasn’t hard to do that. He was proud of each of them and always let them know this, not with constant praise but by being there to counsel them whenever they had problems. It was dad they often turned to when they were struggling. They knew he’d have the answer they needed to hear. His granddaughter was nine when he was in the hospital those last months. No matter how sick he was, when she came to visit he’d swing his feet over the side of the bed, sit next to her and whisper quietly having a special, private conversation only a grandfather and granddaughter can have. When he died his children were bereft and to this day they all miss him profoundly.
Is this what people need to know if I were to write a memoir? I’m still not sure. But I hope that by giving just a few small insights into who he was, I pay homage to a man who never looked for the limelight, but in his death I hope I honor him with my memories.
I’ve been writing blogs about my journey for a website called Headspace. Right now I have blogs two posted: Till Death Do Us Part: Living the Vows of Marriage andLife After Death: Death, Grief, Mindfulness and Meditation. Two more are slated for publication in November and December, and I’ve been commissioned to write another two. They’re all based on this journey from grief to ‘new normal,’ and in between. The amazing thing is that I’ve come to a point where I can write about the sadness but the ending is uplifting. That’s a huge leap from then to now.
In my last post here I wrote about the beginning of a relationship. It was an amazing journey. I learned I could have feelings for someone else and not feel survivor’s guilt. I learned that I could enjoy life and feel passion. But I also had to learn other lessons that weren’t always uplifting. In the end we parted, and my lesson since then has been that I can live my life as a single person and be a whole person on my own. It’s another chapter in this ‘new normal’ life.
I don’t see myself being alone for the rest of my life. I will never forget Bob and he will always be my husband. Those of you who have gone through this understand. But many of us also feel the need to connect with someone to move into a new chapter even, or especially, after such a profound loss. .
One of the most influential things in my metamorphosis from sad and bereft has to do with opening my home to strangers. I became an Airbnb host in October 2015 and, to date, have hosted more than 40 guests in my home, from as close as my own city. to as far away as New Zealand and China. With each guest I became more confident and comfortable sharing my home. I offer my guests a place of respite and sanctuary from busy schedules in their everyday lives or if their visit brings them here to study or work. In return, they’ve given me gifts and notes of thanks and written glowing reviews on my Airbnb site. I must admit I’m a bit jealous because my cats – Joey and Cassie (get better reviews than I do! And for my efforts I’ve become an Airbnb Superhost, which is really just a status but it’s nice to be recognized for being a kind, caring host.
This week I begin what I think will be the final phase of my mental health healing. I’m taking a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) program for depression, to help with depression relapse. I’ve felt strong enough to handle the sad moments myself these past few months, but having tools to combat it when it reappears can only be a good thing. Depression is like any disease. It doesn’t just disappear. It’s ongoing and must be treated. I use mediation, exercise, work, positive affirmations, gratitude and have good friends surrounding me with love. I am thinking positive thoughts. It feels like another lifetime when I was holding on to dear life. That’s a good thing. I’m stronger now.
I’m even strong enough to work again and actually can focus (no more ‘widow brain’). This year has brought me new clients and a positive attitude about my abilities, capabilities and talents as a writer. I have a more focused perspective about what I want to do and the clients I want to work with. I am manifesting my desires and they appear.
We all lose loved ones and I am close to losing someone very special in my life again. It’s the natural ebb and flow of life. But if I have learned one thing from loss, it’s that someone new comes into our life at just the right time when we need them. And if we are lucky they stay with us, at least for as long as we need them. This keeps the flow coming in. Life and death are not mutually exclusive. They are what we must experience in our time here. And with loss comes more understanding about ourselves. I have learned a lot from loss, and I am sure I still have more to learn.
Someone posted this on Facebook the other day. Bang! It hit home for me in a HUGE way! It will be my mantra this year. Not only that, I plan to ask people who are complaining to “be thankful and stop complaining.”
How did I get into this rut? I’m not sure. But looking back over the past few years I remember complaining…a lot.
When my daughter calls me she sometimes needs to vent. I get it. I’m her mom. We tend to dump our problems on those closest to us, whether it’s just to use someone as a sounding board or when looking for advice, but mostly just to vent. At the end of the conversation she usually says: “Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, mom.” Yep, that explains it perfectly.
A friend of mine, Doreen Pendgracs, and blogger extraordinaire has several blog posts about being thankful, for example: a salute to 2012: it’s been a good year. I’ve read her blogs, and hundreds of posts and blogs on the Internet all focused on this topic. So why is it that I never really got it? And what is it about this small poster that finally opened my eyes, or at least made complete sense to me, as opposed to the messages within all the noise that’s been bombarding me for decades?.
Don’t get me wrong. I do question why I’ve been so blessed. I’m sitting here in my office that’s probably as big as a tent that houses a family somewhere in a refugee camp. I’m not saying I don’t think about that. I do. A lot. Every day. But I still complain about silly little things – the slow driver ahead of me, the fact that it’s cold outside, I don’t like how my hair looks today, I feel fat (when others are starving all over the world). There is definitely inequality going on here. And I get that too. So why don’t I do something about it? I’m going to make that my mission this year.
In the meantime, it’s enlightening to find out how others spent their holidays. Please check out this article.
It’s what really prompted me to write this post and realize that I am so very fortunate; again, not an epiphany but all these things have brought this to the forefront for me, today, the first day of 2013.
So it’s another new year and today is January 1st 2013. Now it’s your turn. What do you have to be thankful for? What will you do this year to make a difference?