Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Anger- the New Sadness?

Is 47 the proper age for a mid-life crisis? Is 47 the proper time for menopause (which means hormones and changes that are out of our control)? I hear 50 is the age that women make lots of changes and just stop taking things they shouldn’t take anymore. Is that me?

I wish someone could explain it to me. As a person who has struggled with depression most of my life, I am somewhat comfortable with it. I know that sounds weird. It’s true, though. I am familiar with crying regularly, know what despair is like, and all that jazz.

When Tim got sick, I remember there being a switch to anxiety. I could count on one hand how many times in my life I had experienced an anxiety attack before that day in Roswell when we got the diagnosis. After that, I found myself passing out, nearly passing out, breathing into paper bags, etc.. That hasn’t been the norm over the last couple of years, but lately I’ve been teetering on the edge again.

I have a friend who, well, let’s say his primary emotion is anger. I’ve heard him F-bomb everything and everyone in sight. I’ve watched his face turn red. I’ve worried about him often, wondering if he will have a heart attack before he’s 50. He defends his positions with confidence, but I wonder if his life is any better than mine. I strive to “be the bigger person.” Angry or sad? Neither one seems like a great quality of life.

This week I’ve found myself angry. Instead of responding like I usually do, I’ve been angry. Red-hot angry. Throwing around my own F-bombs. Deciding I don’t need to be so damn forgiving anymore. I don’t want to be bitter or hateful, but do I really need to put myself out like I do? It’s like some magic number got reached inside of me and all my cheeks are used up. I can’t turn the other one anymore.

Before I could even finish writing this blog, I found out my GPS got stolen out of my car last night. I have been locking everything since the money was stolen from my house just two weeks ago. How the car happened to be unlocked I will never know or understand. Can you believe that? The police came right away. I think they are getting used to me by now. The good news is, they already caught the guy. They said it was dumb luck, but they caught him. He went up and down our street and stole a bunch of stuff, including someone’s car. The police came back with my GPS cover. Yep, that’s mine. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find the GPS but they are still looking. Sick feeling, angry beyond belief. The last thing I F$%^&*G need right now is to spend money on another GPS. I’m broke. I signed a statement and you bet your ass I will press charges. Where is the person that would give you my pants if you stole my shirt? She’s left the building.

A couple of days ago, I discovered some people were accusing me of purposefully changing my stepdaughter’s last name in the paper to benefit myself. I couldn’t believe it. First of all, it was a ridiculous thought. It would have served ZERO purpose to do such a thing. But more importantly, I’ve taken crap from these people for 15 years. I’ve done nothing but be the “bigger person.” Decided I’m done. No more. I’ve gotten phone calls from people who will try to make it right again, but I’ve refused to call back. I just don’t have it in me. Too angry. Just too damn pissed off. No more cheeks to turn. The first 40,000 times they insulted me without reason I was forgiving. Can’t do it anymore.

I still cry. I can cry at a mere word. But mostly, I’m just angry. I feel like my chest hurts. Last night I had to call a few friends to talk me down from a full-blown panic attack. I could feel it coming on- like soon I wouldn’t be able to breathe.

I received an email this morning from an old high school friend. He talked about how nice I was all those years ago. I responded with how I am suddenly questioning if it’s been worth it. I’ve hurt people and made mistakes in my life, without a doubt. But mostly, I have been NICE. Not stupid, but nice. Not naive, but nice. (Well, maybe naive sometimes.) I’m not an idiot; I’ve just chosen on purpose to respond with kindness. Where has it gotten me? For years, it was the internal satisfaction of feeling like I’ve done the right thing. Why, all of a sudden, is that not enough anymore?

Anger or sadness? I know they are both part of the human experience, but I don’t like either one of them. I’d like to try happiness on for a change. If anyone knows how to get some of that, let me know. I’d do just about anything to trade in this crap I’m feeling.

I know you probably expect more from me than this. Maybe that other woman will come back soon. But right now, I don’t have anything inspiring to offer. Just pure human nature. At its worst.

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Greeting Cards

Another absolute hit-the-nail-on-the-head greeting card. This one came from Brigette and it was written by Linda Barnes.

“They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Well, what if you didn’t sign up for extra-strength training?
What if you’d rather catch a few breaks once in a while?
Is that so much to ask?
At some point, you’d think you’d be entitled to a free pass or two:
Skip this challenge.
Avoid that crisis.
Delete those problems.
It’s not that you’re not strong or that you don’t have what it takes to get through this.
You are, you do, and you will.
But you’ve built enough character already, and it’s time for things to lighten up a little!
I know it’s not really my call, but if I were in charge of life’s wheel of fortune, you’d get a free spin.
And I’d be right there, cheering you on!”

Love, love, love it. I don’t think I’m entitled to less pain than anyone else. I read this once in a book and I try to remember it: Instead of asking why me, how about why not me?

I met with my clients this week that lost their dad last month. I blogged about them earlier. I listened as this young man struggled through the “What did I do to deserve this?” phase. At 25, his mom abandoned him at 5, his dad dies at 25. In between he has lost both of his grandparents and two uncles. I didn’t have a lot to say other than I promised him I wouldn’t say a bunch of crap that wasn’t true to try and make him feel better. I promised to walk the journey with him and probably shed a few of my own tears because I miss his dad too.

Yesterday I spent all day at my uncle’s funeral. It was an hour and 20 minute drive for me. It was a mixture of watching familiar family dynamics, reminiscing about my really young childhood days, and just being angry that I am averaging one funeral a month.

During my evening sessions, I found that “Blue for Ben” passed away last night. For those of you who don’t live in western NY, he is a beautiful little boy who just had his 5th birthday last week. The entire community has rallied behind the family in their battle. The city will be in mourning.

This morning, I texted a friend at 7:30 AM and said, “Well, no funerals today. It’s gotta be a better one, right?” By 9:00 AM I texted them back and said “Scratch yet. I just found out my client’s step-son committed suicide.” I talked with her and tried to support her. I felt terribly guilty having to say I couldn’t attend the wake or funeral. I just can’t manage another one in my schedule. Mostly though, I just can’t handle it emotionally. So much death and loss and dying and sadness. I hate it when I let people down because everyone was there for me when Tim died. Everyone. I hate when I can’t pay it forward.

If you believe in the Law of Attraction, I wonder why I keep attracting death.

But you know I’m a big believer in balancing the bitter with the sweet. So honestly, it rings a little hollow at this exact moment, but the truth is I’m still blessed beyond belief. I have lots of loving friends and family. I’m not sick. My kids are great. My daughter released her book and it’s wonderful. The pool is getting opened today and the hot tub is ready. Those are luxuries most people don’t have.

So I promise I will keep trying every day, as many times a day as necessary, to be truthfully present and face whatever heartaches there are as bravely as I can face them. And I promise to remember all the good and beautiful there is in life and with all sincerity know how lucky I am.


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Just Another Bad Week?

Blah, blah, blah.

I feel like a broken, whiny record.

I had a really tough seven hour day at an author event this weekend that sent me spiraling down into the abyss I go to sometimes. Is it time to give up on the book? Is it time to stop trying to sell myself because the rejection is too painful?

Then another broken relationship, same week. We were supposed to have one of those month anniversary things in a couple of days. Instead I am experiencing the all too familiar abyss I go to sometimes. Is it time to give up on relationships? I never get used to it. Each time there is a little less of me left. Why do I taste connection and love with someone, and then have it disappear again? Is it time to stop trying to sell myself because the rejection is too painful?

May 7. Of course. Perfect timing with the bad career day and the break-up. The marker day I never expected to be a marker day. I remember the first May 7 I went through after Tim died. I tanked badly and couldn’t even figure out why. My mind didn’t clue in but my body was right on target. May 7 was the day Tim went in for a routine surgery and came out with Stage IV cancer. The day we were blind sided and irrevocably changed.

Mother’s Day too. Banner week. I have had a hard time with it since my mom died. I miss her terribly. Now Mother’s Day is even more difficult because my spouse isn’t here to help my kids remember me. Kind of like a double whammy. Will it ever stop feeling like we are a broken family?

That’s enough in one week to make any sane person crazy. Just add in all the demolition going on in my house, caring for clients, trying to be a mom, and managing all the “normal” things life brings every day. Oh yea, and meeting with my financial advisor and finding out I’m totally screwed in a few years. We used to talk about “when I turn 60” and I would brush it off. In my heart, I always knew that I wanted to partner with someone again so that just didn’t worry me. This year, for the first time, I sincerely had to face the fact that I may never partner with anyone again. That may truly be the reality. Not pessimism, truly reality.

So I’ve been saying to various people, that maybe I should give up. Maybe it’s time. In whatever area I was talking about, I found myself saying those words. Maybe I should give up.

I still feel like throwing up a lot. I still start crying without notice on a regular basis. I know there are people who have it much, much worse. I absolutely know it. Then I feel guilt for being so damn sad. I know better, but my emotions just won’t give in to what my brain tells them.

BUT BUT BUT…

Last night Summer showed up unexpectedly at my house. She said she had a Mother’s Day gift for me. I laughed because, well, I’m not her mother. But in it were seven plastic wine glasses. It reminded me that summer is coming (supposedly, anyway) and that lots and lots of people come to my house of all ages and enjoy the pool and hot tub. And we share lots of wine and blender drinks and campfires. And there are usually lots of happy times.

Then there was one other small package. It was a magnet for my fridge. I have a couple of others in the same series that other close friends have given me. I read it and couldn’t believe it.

She Who Never Gives Up by Suzy Toronto

“Lemons to lemonade,
she always hangs in there.
When opportunity knocks,
it sometimes knocks her down,
but she never lets it
get her down for long.

She is a triumphant, shining example
of a woman who truly knows how to
survive life’s ups and downs.
She understands the value of
family, friendship, and,
most importantly,
the gift of time.
Putting aside all judgment,
she generously shares her
unconditional love.”

I cry just reading it. I don’t feel like that woman, but my close peeps see me this way. They tell me all the time. I would do anything to be like the woman described in that poem. That is the woman I want to be. Some would say it describes me to a tee. My goal is to see myself that way, if that is indeed true.

SO NO GIVING UP. I MAY FEEL LIKE SHIT, BUT NO GIVING UP. NOT TODAY ANYWAYS!


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Cold Water in the Face

Life has been busy. My clients have required a little extra T.L.C. (meaning more phone calls between sessions, collaboration with parents, psychologists, addiction specialists, schedule changes, etc.), all of which I absolutely don’t mind. But it’s funny how it seems to come in waves.

Then add in repairing/painting the kitchen. You know how house projects are. Way more complicated, expensive, and time-consuming than you originally imagined. Dry wall dust everywhere. People in your house morning, afternoon, evening. All your regular up-keep is shot to hell. Feeling a bit guilty that everyone else has also turned their lives upside down to help you.

A dear friend who is depressed and struggling with so much. I’m not doing much to help.

And just normal life working, parenting, church…

You might have read last week that I had a chance to be on the radio. Slightly under five minutes of air time, but a wait of over 80 minutes to get that. There are times when my house is a circus and last week was one of them. My dad was here because it was Wednesday. Colin and Frankie were here because, well, they live here. My boyfriend’s roommate was here because he was working on the kitchen walls. My graphic artist was here because we were working on my daughter’s book. Then my client and his son arrive because, well, they had an appointment.

Are you keeping track of how many men that is? A whole house full of them. I was still on hold, thinking I would be on any second and it was an excellent chance to talk about death/dying. And let’s face it. It was a great chance to promote the book.

So my clients came into the kitchen and waited with us on hold. Any second turned into minutes. The entire hour of their session they sat and waited. I asked them if they could come back same time next week and they said, “Sure.” I told them I’d give them a freebie for all their trouble. Now I wouldn’t get away with that with just any clients. These guys? I’ve seen them (there is another son as well) since 2002. Twelve years. We’ve known each other a very long time.

Yesterday comes and again my house is a circus. Then I get a call and everything stops and spins.

My client’s son calls me, I assume to confirm their appointment. He calmly tells me that his father, barely over 50 years old, died the night before. Just out doing yard work with his boys, feels sick, starts vomiting, and falls. They call 911. They run tests. They say he has blood on his brain. He dies a few hours later.

WHAT??? I am in shock. I start sobbing. I tell him I know I’m the therapist but he is doing fantastic handling things and I am falling apart. He says quietly, “I know, it’s ok.” Thankfully, someone who loves me is here in my kitchen when I hang up. He asks, “What can I do?” I tell him exactly what he is doing. Just keep hugging me and let me cry.

I know this song and drill far too well. Yet I still get shocked. And I start second guessing myself.

I missed my last session with this guy to advance my career. I know that it’s not necessary to guilt myself but I feel terrible anyway. But then I remember my career is about helping others and I feel a little less bad. Then I talk to my artist and he reminds me that we had a great time together on hold for that hour. We laughed together and enjoyed ourselves. He said that was probably a much better way to spend an hour together than talking about problems. I feel a lot less bad now.

I’m still up most of the night. With all my lecturing and speaking and writing, did I ever think to discuss end of life issues with this particular family? I can’t remember. This is a family that has dealt with extreme loss. Did he have a will? Life insurance? What are his two sons going to do on their own? Do they know what his wishes are?

Regrets. Worry. Caring. Wondering. Caring deeply. Love. That’s what’s important. Talk about it all the time. I mean, all the time. But it still is a splash of cold water in the face. Life is fleeting. We are mortal. Try to make the most of every moment. Really!


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Good Stuff Happening

It’s been a good week. In spite of the cold!!

Last week I received flowers and chocolates from the group in Indiana that stayed at my house during the blizzard. What a lovely surprise. I have been receiving emails and posts from grateful parents. The warm buzz has continued.

Last Saturday, I was invited to the Nardin Academy’s Relay for Life. It was held at the Burt Fleckinger Center downtown. What a lovely event it was. The majority of the people were older teen girls. I was terribly impressed with the depth and warmth with which they displayed themselves.

There was karaoke and dancing. That was fun. But then the evening ends with the Luminaria service. There were at least a dozen young ladies lined up on the gym floor, along with myself and the other speaker. Each one of them has had a close encounter with terminal illness and/or death. Each one of them. At age 18 or younger. And each one of them wants to do something positive to fight back.

The biggest hero of the night was the last speaker. She is a junior at Hobart College and was a graduate of Nardin Academy. She is also a cancer survivor. At barely 20. She had a delightful, calm and gentle spirit. She told me that this was the first time she had ever spoken in public about her illness. She was a champ. She was the hero among many other heroes that night. It was truly a privilege to be a part of it.

Yesterday I was able to be on the air for just under five minutes on Tom Bauerle’s show. I was clued in by a former client who contacted me. It was a quick chat, but he has promised to visit my site and consider putting links on his. I am looking forward to working with him in the future.

The sun is shining today. It’s still cold as heck, but it seems promising out. I was put on the spot yesterday on the radio about where I am at three years later. There was much to say but little time to say it. I would have to say, life is still bitter and sweet. Life has it’s tough times. There are still times when my heart aches. But there is much, much sweet.

I still have amazing people in my life. While I already have more than one person deserves, I have new people in my life too. People that love and support me and care and make me smile. Honestly, who could ask for more?


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Surprises

If you have ever struggled with depression, you might understand that guilt is also an emotion you sometimes feel. Frankly, you feel guilty for being depressed. Truth be told, I have very little to be depressed about. I have an amazing life.

Turning 47 last week was great when we did the star thing for Tim. We had about 14 people show up, and then several of us went out to dinner afterward.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Brigette told me about a month ago that the Saturday after my birthday she was taking me out. I wasn’t going to know where, but I was to tell the church that I probably wouldn’t make it to church in the morning.

Frankie had a hockey game at 3:00. One of the things I usually whine about is having to go to games by myself. It’s not so much that it’s awful, but there is something about being around all those families that makes me sad. Colin is always there but he stands at the ice rink and doesn’t interact with me.

I’m pretty slow on the draw these days, so it took me quite a while into the game before I realized that it was no coincidence that so many people came that day to see Frankie’s game. I think there were 14 people there. I finally got that Brigette had arranged it all. My brother even came and he hasn’t come to a hockey game in the four years his nephew has been playing. Only Brigette could pull that one off.

It was amazing. I was so happy for Frankie to see all those people there too. We got in the car and Brigette explained that she wanted to find something meaningful for me and she knows how sad I get when I go to his games alone. I thought it was an excellent surprise. She truly got me, and she knows me well. It was extremely meaningful.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Then she told me she was taking me to dinner. Anyone that knows me, knows that food makes me very happy. We had reservations somewhere at 5:00 but again, I had to wait and see where we were going.

We went to a nearby restaurant and headed to the banquet room. Brigette said she was planning an event for someone else and wanted to check out the room before we ate. Made total sense to me.

Again, 100% shock to walk in and find a room full of people there for a surprise party for me. I could have fallen over. I kept saying, “But I’m only 47” and they all kept saying, “You get nothing when you’re 50 so enjoy it now.” Couldn’t believe it. I was astounded.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Brigette had several of my friends and family who were out of town call throughout the night. They obviously couldn’t make it in person, but they let me know they loved me and wanted to part of the special night.

As if that wasn’t enough.

A few of us then moved upstairs where there was a band playing. It was one of those nights that we were the group everyone was looking at. People- men and women alike- came up and said happy birthday. They bought me drinks. The band sang to me. The band had me come up and sing a chorus with them to a song because they had been told that I sang. And once the guitar player gave me the guitar and I plucked out “Jingle Bells,” the only song I know. Everyone laughed.

It was amazing. Who has friends like that? I do. Lots and lots of them. Trust me. I don’t take them for granted. I know how lucky I am. And I shouldn’t ever feel sad if I could just bask in that love all the time.

But I do struggle with depression. And I do feel it in spite of all that goodness. Today though? Today I choose to just remember the love and the special day and night I had. The day I felt like the luckiest queen in the world! Thanks to all of you…


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Catch 22’s and Other Quandries

I was kind of dreading blogging today. It is the new year and I made all kinds of deals with myself about choosing happiness and choosing to leave the past behind. I really do believe some of that is in our power to choose. So I wanted to blog today about my enthusiasm and the bright start to the new year.

The only problem is, it didn’t quite go as I expected. In spite of my best efforts, I found myself weepy on New Year’s Eve. But it was brief and Frankie and I partied as planned and enjoyed ourselves. New Year’s Day? I had some excellent sessions with clients, but I knew before I went in I could feel my insides breaking down. By 8:00 PM, it overcame me. Sadness, pure and simple. In spite of any choices I attempted to make, the sadness was overwhelming.

My amazing friends supported me like they always do. I got a little snarky (which I don’t always do) but I had myself a full-out cry. Then I talked to another friend and she was able to verbalize some thoughts that helped me wake up this morning with a clearer head. Still some sadness, but not as overwhelming.

I can’t say it was anything particularly new in concept, but it was new words. New phrases. And for whatever reason, that really comforts me. I like when I’m finally able to capture the swirling emotions and label them. And I like it when someone else understands it.

Trying to sort out how a relatively short relationship could have such a tremendous impact on me has been baffling and frustrating to say the least. My friend Grace was able to say some things that hit me square between the eyes. Why is the hole bigger than before? Because I tasted something for the first time in my life. Something that made me feel like “Ah, this is what it is supposed to be. This is home.” She said that no one has ever craved chocolate before they tasted it. It’s knowing what it is that makes you crave it. Now I’ve tasted what I’ve been looking for for so long, so I just want it back, plain and simple. That is why the hole is bigger. Before I was just imagining what life could be like.

This next sentence put a lump in my throat. “The gift you got this Christmas, was loneliness that you never even knew you could feel.” Crap. I’ve felt some pretty intense loneliness before, but I think she was right. Crap. Merry Christmas. That’s quite a gift.

Here’s the next tough concept. “You want it in your life. But the very thing that brought you happiness, brought you intense pain. So you will look for it, but then you will want to run from it. Now that is a nasty Catch 22.” Yep. I think that’s why no matter how many times I reach out, it still feels empty. I wonder how long that will last.

I am smart enough to know that nothing magical happens at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I don’t bother with resolutions anymore. I just try every day to be the best person I can. Sometimes I get in more motivated spurts than others. But I also know I am the captain of my own ship so I was simply going to choose to move on.

I will. I know I will. I always do. But it is going to take a lot more time than anticipated. The standard is now higher than ever. I know what I am looking for and what relationships can feel like. Grace also reminded me that the relationship I had was great because of my contribution to it, not just his. I have had a self-image for so long of being sad and lonely, I wondered sometimes that if happiness slapped me in the face if I would sabotage it or not even recognize it. But I didn’t need to worry. I embraced it when it came. And I could have sustained it. I didn’t create the ending. I have to live with the ending, but I didn’t choose it.

There’s so many more blogs left inside of me about all this philosophical stuff. But for this one, I will just say that every day has to be a possible new start. And if it blows up in my face and I find myself in tears, that is ok too. Because the loss I feel is profound and has a new dimension to it that other losses have not. So I am trying not to be too hard myself, but also choosing to get out of bed every day. I’m trying to smile, but sometimes it just isn’t there. But I will try. I promise.