Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Soul mates

I recently had two referrals for grief counseling. One was male, one female. Both lost their spouses recently (three months or less). And both told me their spouse was their soul mate.

I think the older I get, the less I know what that means. I used to think it meant that person that could finish your sentences because they think pretty much the same way you do. Sometimes now I wonder if your soul mate is that person that just never goes away. If you know someone’s dark side/sides, all of their imperfections, and you just love the heck out of them anyway, maybe that is your soul mate.

Anyhow, I don’t think I’ve ever met mine. Tim and I loved each other. We worked very hard at becoming excellent partners to each other. I think we definitely achieved that. But I wouldn’t have called us soul mates. I don’t think he would have either, not that I ever remember talking about it.

I digressed. The point is being an observer of grief, I found these two people who approached their losses very differently. I honestly think part of it is due to gender. I’m not sure all of it comes down to that one factor though. The guy came in and expressed his grief verbally, but outwardly seemed incredibly together. He didn’t cry, although he said he did often. He felt he mostly came because his kids and doctor worry about him. He said he understood grief and seemed to be able to articulate his emotions and the whole painful process. After a few days I got a polite text that said he would not be returning to therapy. I found myself torn between knowing that people express grief differently and we yell all the time about how there is no formula to grieve the “right” way. But part of me wondered if he was keeping it all on the head level. You can talk about grief without letting it into your depths. I suspect that is why Dr. Grace referred him, that maybe she was wondering if there was more beneath the surface. But it looks like I won’t find out.

The woman was entirely different. She continues to come in every week and wonders if she has lost herself. She has panic attacks at times, and usually cries through most of session. She thinks she is doing terribly. I keep reassuring her she is just fine. She is simply in great pain. Tremendous, horrific pain. It may never leave her, but it will change. It will lessen, it will morph. She has already seen some shifts in herself and credits that to the new medication Dr. Grace put her on and the sessions she has had with me. In particular, she has found breathing techniques immeasurably helpful. She can’t believe something so simple can be so powerful.

Again, perhaps this is just the difference between male and female grief. Perhaps this is grief embraced and grief denied. But it doesn’t matter. I know it sounds corny, but I truly mean this: I count it an honor and sacred responsibility when anyone walks in my office and allows me to see their grief, in whatever form it is. It heals little pieces of me as well. So thanks to both of you, and all those clients over the last 20 years that have enriched my life!

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Disappointment

I am a slow learner sometimes. In fact, sometimes I don’t learn, period. Today’s blog is evidence of that. I have found myself embroiled in conversations about politics this week and have ended up crying every time. So what am I doing? Blogging about it. Talk about opening yourself up for more criticism and never learning your lesson. But I write about what effects me deeply and today’s blow got me riled up again.

I am not saying anything new when I say that never before in my lifetime have I ever observed an election causing so much passionate ugliness and divisiveness. Here is my vulnerable confession that I shouldn’t be making “in public” but here goes: I don’t vote.

I am not proud of it, so I don’t advertise it. I am also not ashamed of it either. And I have come to the conclusion after this week that I absolutely deserve to be respected for my decision. I did not come to it lightly or without agonizing. (Those of you that know me, when I have ever done anything in my life without over thinking it and feeling painfully responsible to the point of lunacy?)

When I was in my 20’s and a new voter, I voted by topics I was passionate about. Specifically, the issue of pro-choice and pro-life. And no, I won’t say what side I fall on. That’s not what this blog is about. But eventually, voting that way did not sit well with me. The election that year was between Dukakis and Bush. I determined to make an intelligent vote so I did what I usually did- I poured myself into it with all of my heart and passion.

Every single day I watched the McNeil/Lehrer news hour because they were so educational in their approach of news reporting. They also would have debates regularly of any topic they were covering to provide all sides of an idea. I read the “US News and World Report” from cover to cover. Every single week. It was incredibly time-consuming. The more information I got, the more confused I got. Not only was there abortion to consider, there was education. And warfare. And health. And economics. And environment. And. And. And. And.

And that was just the presidential election. There are numerous names and positions on a voting ballot. I was overwhelmed. I was beyond overwhelmed. In fact, I felt sick. I could not vote with any type of personal integrity whatsoever. I felt like if I couldn’t figure it out, I couldn’t vote. I didn’t like it. I know intelligent people vote. But I couldn’t grasp it.

I made two vows to myself. One, was that I would try to be the best human being I could being every day of my life. That includes being the best American citizen that I was capable of being. The second vow, was that I would not complain about my government or country. If I wasn’t going to vote, I wasn’t going to be a hypocrite.

The truth is, how do I say this ever so nicely? I think there are countless Americans who vote that are not educated or intelligent regarding the issues. They don’t give much thought to politics or go beyond the surface of the issues. Frankly, they have no idea who or what they are actually voting for. Are they a better American than me? I think not. I think absolutely not.

What I found incredulous, is that being a person without almost no political opinions, I found myself beaten up this week. My friends don’t yell or belittle me with angry tones. But two of my dearest friends made it crystal clear to me that they were disappointed in me as a person. Interestingly, one voted for Trump, the other voted for Clinton. There is almost nothing more devastating to me than disappointing people I care about. While I cried my eyes out, I also find myself extremely angry.

IT IS MY RIGHT AS AN AMERICAN TO DECIDE NOT TO VOTE.

And I believe I should be respected for that decision. I have not spent the last 20 years of my life going around telling people who vote that I think they are stupid. Or disappointing. It is a personal choice. The things that were implied about me- that I am lazy, thoughtless, not as intelligent as I was thought to be? How dare anyone say those things about me. Nothing could be further from the truth. I CAN BE EVERY BIT AS INTELLIGENT AS YOU, PERHAPS EVEN MORE SO, BUT ARRIVE AT A DIFFERENT CONCLUSION THAN YOU DO.

I went to a meeting today with some highly educated folks today. Of course the conversation turned to the inauguration. Again, I didn’t learn my lesson. I told them about the upsetting day I had yesterday and how astounded I was that I was defending myself to people who have known and loved me for years. I joked with them that if they were disappointed in me, they needed to be smart enough not to say so. Then I realized that one of two didn’t need to say a word. She made her disgust and her newfound lowering of respect for me quite obvious. I drove home crying again. Angry as hell again.

I have a responsibility to be a lot of things. And I fail at many of them every single day. I am human and make no apologies for that. I try more than the average bear to be the best I can. I can’t possibly be good at every single thing in life, but I dare say I am pretty proud of how I conduct myself in general with regard to the world of humans around me. And may I be bold enough to say that I even do a better job than a lot of people who vote.

This may be my hurt talking, but I also say to all of those that have felt the need to judge me this week, that I am equally or even more disappointed in you. I expect more respect from those who I have “proven” myself to. Those who know me and the evidence with which I live my life might be surprised about my stance on voting, but I see no reason to be disgusted or disappointed with me. I would rather have them say, “Wow, that’s so interesting. I didn’t know that about her, but if she has made a decision, I know her character and she has made it for good reason, regardless of whether I made the same decision for myself or not.”

I’m not perfect. And I’m sure many more of you will be disappointed in me now too. But I hope to God that more of you can respect me and the choices I have made that work best for my life. I’m pretty sure that is how I treat you. Hell, I’m going to contradict myself. I AM proud of my choice. I take pride in making a decision not to do something if I don’t feel like I can do it well enough. My life speaks for itself.


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Deja Vu

I had a visit from Tim the other night. It didn’t come in a dream or in the form of a hummingbird. He came embodied in his now 14-year-old son, Frankie. We have season Sabres tickets (NHL hockey). Tim had them for years and years. When I first met him, it drove me crazy. I thought the household passion for hockey was ridiculous. I remember Colin and Matthew playing mini-stick hockey in the living room and I would say in disgust to my mom, “Who the heck plays hockey in the living room?”

Of course, I have had to eat my words (and my attitude) about a thousand times since them. Frankie and his brothers and friends still play mini-stick hockey all the time and of course, the best place to play is in the living room. I get it now.

We often struggled financially for the first few years of our marriage. I finally saw a purpose for those damn tickets when the Sabres made the play-offs. People could sell their tickets for enough money to pay for the entire next season! Tim was mortified at the mere suggestion of  selling play-off seats and I couldn’t believe it. Then I went to a play-off game with him. Holy cow. I couldn’t believe it. The energy was out of this world. I never asked him to sell those tickets again. The Sabres in the play-offs? Priceless. No amount of money would be worth it. (Ok, maybe a million bucks or something.)

Usually Colin and Frankie get the tickets. They are super great seats. Here is our view of the ice:img_20170110_185749335

See what I mean?

Anyhow, I decided to take Frankie to the game this week. He is a teenager, so of course he wasn’t thrilled with the idea. In fact, he said no at first, but then he came to his senses. Now, he was only eight-years-old when his dad died, but sometimes it freaks me out by how much he can mimic him. Part of me was thinking that I’m the parent so I need to put my foot down. Then I thought better of it and decided not to rock the boat any more than was necessary. Getting him to spend the evening with me was miracle enough.

The first argument, I knew, was going to be parking. Tim knew where to park so you didn’t have to pay. I would only go to one game a year so I would tell him that I wanted to park close and pay. It is cold and miserable in Buffalo in the winter, but he was driving so I always ended up walking and freezing my ass off. Frankie is quite indignant about paying for parking. He thinks it’s ridiculous. It was raining and the winds were horrid, but we parked where he told me to (which was of course, where his dad used to) and walked to the arena. I was cursing under my breath…LOL.

I tried to engage him in conversation throughout the game, but unfortunately I am hopeless. I kept saying the things that absolutely drive him bonkers. Such a woman. I don’t get the intricacies of the game so I comment on things I know. “Hey, number 90 is Ryan O’Reilly? He is the fathead you got for Christmas right? I didn’t realize who he was. He is my favorite player.” Frankie looks at me in shock. Why is he my favorite player? Now I am silent. I can’t possibly explain to him that last year when Emily was in town, she and her friends and I went to a game. Number 90 always warms up the same way and he is different from the other players. He does these stretches that look incredibly sexy and naughty on the ice. I just tell Frankie, “No reason.”

More dumb comments from a mom. Hey, a lot of the players have beards now. What’s up with that? What will they do when it is play-off time when they are supposed to grow beards? Again, Frankie just says, “Grow their beards longer.” He hates that the only thing I seem to notice is the looks of the players. What can I say? I’m a single woman and some of the players that still have teeth are pretty hot.

A second miracle occurred. Frankie agreed to a selfie and even said I could post it. You can tell by his face that he wasn’t thrilled, but he let me.img_20170110_185509102

It was a great game. We actually won. There was a big fight in the first period. Other than embarrassing Frankie by dancing when we scored, we managed quite well together.

Then the drive home (after the long walk to the car) and more arguments about taking the side streets home rather than the thruway. I spent the night with my teenage son and my deceased husband. It was a great night!


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Collateral Beauty

I didn’t blog last week because I just didn’t feel inspired. Now I am snowed in and I just don’t have the energy… Excuses, excuses. Anyhow, I am going to cheat. I can because it is my blog so who is going to tell me I can’t? LOL!

I went to see “Collateral Beauty” this week with my friend Summer. I heard it got smashed down in the reviews. I can’t imagine why. I think it is one of the most brilliant, poignant, and profound movies about grief/loss and death/dying that I have ever seen. If you have the depth to see it, the lives and plots intertwine cleverly and many types of loss are addressed. Ok, not one of the most, THE most.

Will Smith gives you some visuals of grief that you will never forget. There are some lines in there that entire books could be written about. Summer cried several times throughout the movie. Me? I couldn’t cry. I was beyond tears. I was moved and riveted with my stomach squarely stuck in my mouth.

A perfect example of bittersweet. It was gut wrenching but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. If every person could watch it and grasp its meaning, I would never write another book or blog, produce a webinar, give a lecture. It just wouldn’t be necessary.

Personally, I couldn’t have watched it at a better time. Or a worse time. My dreams have been tormenting me by night, even though my conscious days have been fine. The movie was smack in the middle of the torture and I’m sure has inspired the last set of horrendous dreams.

Nevertheless, this blog is a blatant commercial. I can’t say much else about the movie because I would not want to give any of it away. Take your tissues and go. If you have experienced a significant loss firsthand, I would bet money that you will resonate with it very deeply.

Bravo. Sometimes the critics are spot on, and sometimes they have no idea what they are talking about.