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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

I slept in till 7AM, and once awake tried to recall the last Christmas break I spent with Bruce. The holiday has always been difficult for me. First, because I do not celebrate Christmas-so always felt that I did not belong, a troubling theme in my life. Second, because the holidays are about family, and there never seemed to be enough family gatherings this time of year-I was always missing someone-my parents, my cousins, my kids and now my husband. Belonging is my holiday loss, it always seemed that others belonged somewhere on the holidays. Others were invited places and that became a tradition and so they belonged to a group. I was amazed that even my kids were not included in the Christmas's that their friend's families celebrated when they were growing up.

Bruce loved going away for the holidays-just he and I. Most years we went to Hawaii, and in some ways bypassed my feelings about belonging. Who needed to belong when we were miles away from home? But yet there was always this lingering sadness, I was away from my family. The last year we traveled, I watched other families who had traveled together enjoy Christmas dinner at a beautiful resort in Kauai. The children were all dressed up and excited about Santa. They belonged to the big group enjoying the "most wonderful time of the year".

The last year Bruce was alive, we were undergoing the remodeling of our kitchen and I was really sick with the flu. Bruce had the holiday movies on television non-stop. I made a bed for myself on the couch and we sat and watched sappy movies, one after another. Bruce always teared up at the end when Santa, or the angel helped the protagonist find the perfect Christmas gift-love, companionship, a long lost family, a better life. It was a very uneventful holiday, I have difficulty remembering any of the details. But the shape of it still lingers-he and I together on the couch. He, absolutely captivated with Christmas, the music, the myths, the movies. Me, feeling a sense of loss-even then. How ironic.

So today I am going to join my cousins for lunch and maybe the day will pass and hold a little comfort for me. I am almost through this holiday and remain intact.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Changes

I have been thinking about the last entry, especially in light of the phone calls and conversations that followed from my family. I know that often these entries are hard to read because they seem so sad. I guess what makes the process of coping with the loss so hard is that change comes when you never really wanted any. Maybe that is always true, you fall into a routine and you get used to that routine. And invariably you are pushed in to a change that you never requested: maybe a change in a job because you got laid off, or a change in your spending because money is tight. Even a change in your trip to work because the freeway has construction. It is the magnitude of the change that is alarming here-I have to change and frankly do not want to. I was comfortable letting Bruce do the social stuff-planning the trips, the getting together with friends etc. Now I have to re-invent myself-which on the surface may seem exciting but in reality is not something I ever anticipated. My life was fine the way it was before his death. I had a busy career and a busy life with a very funny, loving, social husband who planned our extracurricular activities so that I had a very full life. Now my days are full with work but there is little else that occupies me. All of this would be fine, except the isolation, especially around the holidays, is hard to deal with.

So I need to take this non-social me and re-tool. Ugggh. I need to meet some new people or at least reach out to the people that I have shunned so successfully after Bruce's death. I am so talented at shutting everyone out. But I need to make the choice about whether to re-tool as I call it or be happy all by myself. Something has got to change.

I will think on this some more.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bad Day

Yesterday was a very hard day and I am still trying to figure out what set it off. I guess it started early in the morning when I was thinking about how hard it is not to have someone love me as much as Bruce did. Even when I was angry at him-I knew that he loved me. He frequently looked at me with such love and tenderness in his eyes and just before he died he told me that when I walked into the room, he still felt dizzy with love. Another widow told me what she really missed was loving her husband and pouring energy into him. I have to acknowledge that what I really miss is being loved. I was always aware that Bruce wanted to spend time with me all the time. This sometimes was a burden, but the absence of this all consuming love is horrific. I am often left feeling that really no one wants to spend time with me. And of course, I think about the people in my life, and the activities they are involved with. I am alone during the holidays, have no plans for a summer vacation.... Time stands before me and I need to do the work to bring everyone together. I do not really want to put the energy into planning things where I feel as if I am forcing others to be around me and I am not such good company. I am not sure what the answer is.

Yesterday, I also felt stressed by the work that I need to do and how inadequate I feel about my ability to do a good job. How much of this is the grief and the sadness and how much of this needs to be repaired, I do not know. I sometimes wonder if I need to retire from everything and start fresh. There is no pleasure in doing what I am doing because I feel that I am doing such a poor job. I have trouble with the smallest things such as getting papers graded and teaching a class. But the biggest issue is that I really do not get any pleasure or excitement from my job. I guess, like everything else, I am just going through the motions hoping that one day I will derive some pleasure from my life. When does this feeling end? I thought I had turned the corner, but at various points in the week, the distress is worse than ever.

And so I need to rally to be able to finish out the year. I need to be at meetings, preparing for them so that I get my work done. I need to finish grading papers. I need to take a trip to help out a family member. I need to try and revise a grant, and plan for the next quarter's courses. And I do not want to do any of it but have to push through and just do it. Where is my cheerleader now? Who will care when I don't get things done? Who will even know about it?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Home for the Holidays

I have been trying to remember bits and pieces and waiting then for the accompanying sadness. Less of a tidal wave, more of light veil wrapped around me. As I say endlessly, I miss him. The holidays bring more images of us, of him and in contrast the life I now own. I know that I dream of him. Yesterday, I think I dreamed that I was spending money we did not have and he was reminding me of the fact. The kids were younger and so the dream involved the whole family, maybe a bit of the past mixed with the imagined scenario.

I am pretty resigned to spend the holidays by myself, at home. Bebe will bypass the vet and I will try and plan each day with some time for school work, some time for house work (need to start organizing and throwing or giving away) and some time for relaxation (knitting and watching movies). I am a bit concerned that the time will pass with me accomplishing nothing but laying on the couch-so maybe I will set up a few days with nothing but couch time (I need to plan this at the end of some work time or work will not happen). Truth is that I am totally without any motivation to do anything, just want to crawl in to bed and stay there. Familiar lament, I know, but there it is. I am not sure if it will pass or how long it has been present.

Seems like I have been concentrating on just getting through the days. Part of my grief seems so surreal, and I try not to think, just do. Last week, our rabbi emeritus died, a wonderful man who knew Bruce and I very well. He called me once a week after Bruce died. I have spent the past week attending a funeral and paying a condolence call. I watched the recent widow cope with the death, while watching those of us who are less recent cope with the loss. I think I relived the grief I faced when Bruce died, when I attended the events surrounding the funeral. Not surprising that this happens-I think that sometimes my emotional state is hypersensitive to the events around me.

Time to start the day and get through it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Brick Wall ahead

Well, last entry I thought I had turned a corner. Saturday eve I encountered the brick wall. As soon as the last guest left after the Thanksgiving weekend, the sadness enveloped me. I spent the rest of the weekend sad and inconsolable. I thought about other Thanksgiving weekends when after it was over, it was Bruce and I and I suddenly missed him so much. And I also thought about the month ahead. First there would be the Christmas movies and discussion of the holidays. People will be planning trips and visits. Everyone who doesn't travel will be looking forward to spending time with loved ones at home. I am not looking forward to the emptiness that will accompany my holiday. And I am sufficiently sad enough so that I am not inclined to try and make the best of it.

I know that I need to work on this last piece.
Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Familiarity

Yesterday, I said goodbye to the psychiatrist and the magic pills. It is funny how I feel that I come to the office to advocate for myself when I sit across the room from him. There is definitely a push-pull. He believes that medication can solve some of life's problems and I don't. I am probably being unfair when I say this about him. He is one of the smartest people I have met and to his credit knows so much about the medications used for psychological purposes. He obviously cares and spends a good bit of time talking to his patients. Unusual these days for a psychiatrist. But we said goodbye with the understanding that he is there when I need him. I imagine that I will see him again in the future but for now I am ready to go it alone for awhile.

I keep on seeing the corner ahead-am I "turning a corner"? That phrase so captures a vision of walking down a familiar street; approaching the turn to the unknown. What is interesting is that there is less a sense of fear than of anticipation. I move cautiously as I do not know what to expect. Yesterday I spoke to Dr. K about the grief street that I have lived on since February 20, 2009. Initially I was so stunned by my loss, by the chain of events that took Bruce from me. I sometimes still feel that "what happened" moment. And the shock stayed with me, so that every single day I relived the moments and the confusion that I felt when I considered my new circumstances.

The second phase of my grief was the adjustment to being by myself. Every new crisis resulted in fear, anger and sadness. I considered that my life without Bruce was not worth living-without really considering how my decisions about my life did not just occur in a vacuum. I was living alone, and felt so isolated, but there were people in my life who would suffer if I were to leave them. I had to start looking around me and choosing to move back into a world that I had trouble recognizing. Coming home at night was challenging and I would have flashes of memories in contrast to the emptiness. And I was so very very sad.

So what now? I am feeling more like myself, more accepting of my situation. I come back home after a long day and am not so stunned when he isn't home. I have to push myself to remember and see him greet me with a drink in his hand and dinner in preparation because I am getting so used to being alone. One day follows the other and the months pass. I try not to dwell on the happiness that I shared with him just days before his death. And of course, I miss him so much. But life has a familiar quality now; I am settling into new routines. There are some days when I am surrounded by my family and I feel grateful that there are so many good people in my life, even though my dear sweet man is gone.

I am not sure how long this feeling will last. The holidays are approaching and after Thanksgiving I am usually very down in the dumps-so I am prepared for the overwhelming sadness to return. Today though I am feeling OK.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visiting my past

I finally got over my fear of flying by myself and got on a plane to visit a good friend. Coincidentally this friend now lives in a town where Bruce and I lived for 2 years. So I visited me and the ghosts of my past life. A bit eerie but I am now back home having survived a visit to my former life 24 years ago.

I felt pangs of sadness, but do not remember our time in Boston being the high point of my past-so was glad that I was not bombarded with happy memories. Most of the memories were fleeting as is my usual state of affairs. I vaguely recalled places in the town where we had been and brief glimpses of events that we all participated in. My friend and I visited the New England Book Fair, an institution that still exists in Needham, MA. I even bought the kids books for old times sake.

What most struck me was how we have all changed. How life's challenges wear us down. My friend has taken on some new responsibilities and I worry that she is sagging under the weight. How do we cope, why do we choose to keep on going? The human spirit is indeed amazing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nearly 21 months

February is right around the corner and it will be 2 years. Time moves quickly and I have yet to decide whether this is good or bad. When Bruce first died, I thought the planet would cease to revolve, that time would literally stop. Reminds me of the W.H. Auden poem:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

But time has marched on and as I have said before the memories fade and new routines replace the old. They are not routines that I have welcomed but I am comforted by the sameness. Funny how everything shifts, and the expectations are lowered. I do enjoy certain things in my life but the enjoyment is at a different level-it is just ok. I have a good time, not a great time. Almost as if my taste buds are dulled.

And I have stopped thinking about the future. Why dwell on what will be when I was so blindsided by an event that I could not have predicted? The future holds something but I do not know what. All is uncertainty and so I cling to the routines that I have built in to my life in his absence.

I move along a pathway that is still dark. One foot in front of another. Don't think too much, just do.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Fading memories

Yes, I have written about this before. Faded memories of him, although I think I dream about him. Okay by me, even though I do not remember my dreams-I am comforted by the fact that I wake up feeling that we have visited during the night. I miss him. At least 10 times daily, I think about how much I miss him and want to tell him things. I lean over to Bebe and talk to her about it but she doesn't quite fill the void.

The void. It occurs to me that as he fades, I am getting used to it. Someone told me that as time passes that what replaces the past is the new normal. So I am setting my new routines and getting used to the empty house. Last night was Halloween, a holiday that he loved and the second one without him. Particularly bittersweet because we moved the October before he died in to our brand new home-we moved in on the 30th of October, 2008. We celebrated Halloween in our new home the next day and he was excited about all the children in our neighborhood clamoring for candy. We had 34 years of setting up our life and it has been 20 months in the "new normal"

The "new normal" is not as horrible as it used to be. I do not always mind being alone-I just wish that I had him coming home to look forward to. I miss him, I am lonely for him, I want to talk to him. But as time goes on, it is beginning to feel normal that he is not here and not coming home. I guess I resent this as well-but I am getting used to it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Magic Pill failure

I think that I am done with the magic pills. Lately I have been feeling so out of control that I think the magic has gone awry. Hard to describe how I am feeling but suffice it to say it is like a magic carpet ride going 90 miles and hour down the highway. We have tinkered with the formula but I am ready to call it quits.

I have been flakier than usual-more forgetful, more distracted, more in my head. I have also been shopping. I haven't racked up bills more than I can handle but it is as if I stored all of my shopping impulses from the past 2 years and funneled them in the magic pill bottle. And because I have a hard time making any decisions-I have been returning items as fast as I have been buying. I have seen this behavior in the widows that I know - retail therapy, sometimes cheaper than the real thing. Whatever the cause, the meds or me-it has me feeling out of control and a bit dangerous.

So this week, I will try and leave the magic behind. I don't really believe in magic anyway. Let's hope I can return to the slightly dampened me, quiet and somewhat restrained. It is a me that I like much better.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Equilibrium

I vacillate. This week I was busier than usual with work. This meant that I came home late and struggled to keep Bebe fed and walked in light of that busy schedule. Did I miss Bruce? You bet. I missed his picking up the slack, his waiting for me when I walked through the door. I missed him taking care of the garage door when it started acting up. I even missed him nagging me to go to the gym, and coming home to yet another insipid judge show. As an aside, he watched every judge show on the air-no matter how silly they were. Judge Judy and the People's Court were the best-Judge Alex and Judge Joe Brown towards the bottom and then there were others that even dipped below those.

So I digress. I vacillate between being totally devastated by my loss and totally getting used to being by myself. Some days I actually am not surprised when he doesn't walk in the door, greeting Bebe first and then me. It is beginning to feel "normal" to be alone. As I have written before, it is not the "alone" part of my widowhood that is so bad, it is the "without him" part that is awful. I am sad, I am pissed off at the universe for taking him away. I am also getting used to being by myself, to dealing with life with all it's complications by myself. Even though I get frightened dealing with some of the parts of my life that I deal with, I do deal with it all, even if I do not deal with it well.

And I guess I mourn the loss of the mourning. When grief leaves, what is there to replace it? Does the emptiness inside me spread? Will I forget what it was like to be loved the way he loved me? I will just join the ranks of those people who are alone. It won't matter that I was once part of a couple, that I opened the door to my house and there were people there who thrived on my presence. Now when I open the door, there is a moment when I long for Bruce calling out to say hi, and the kids running towards me complaining about their day. But I open the door and there is silence - and then Bebe walks towards me with a toy in her mouth and Frankie the cat starts the meowing. I guess I am lucky that I have pets. That there is something waiting for me at home.

So that was this week. Who knows what next week will bring. Maybe each day the grief will rise up and greet me like an old adversary, comfortable-yet hard to deal with. Maybe the grief will begin to fade and I will forget that my life was once full of love and laughter. I guess I will have to wait and see.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

old friends

This past weekend, I had a visit from some very old friends. When I first met Bruce, he introduced me to his friends H&J. Howie was a friend from high school, and Howie had a girlfriend Joyce. They had known Bruce for awhile and had also known his other girlfriends. We double dated frequently and kept up with them even when we moved, and they moved from Brooklyn. And then we lost touch for about 25 years. About 3 years before Bruce died, they found us again and we met a few times over the next few years. The highlight was our trip to Europe where H&J and Bruce and I walked all over Paris, enjoying the scenery and our renewed friendship.

When Bruce died, Howie and Joyce literally dropped everything and came to the funeral. I remain so grateful to them for rushing out to California to be with me. This past weekend, they were going to Northern California and came out to see me first. It was bittersweet as always-I was glad to see them, reminisce, and hear about Bruce's antics before I met him.

These past 2 weeks are a bit better and I do not well up as frequently as I did before. I think that I am so glad his birthday is over. I visited his gravestone last week and dropped a tear or two. This week is so busy-I do not have much time to give in to my emotions. Blessing or curse? Not sure.

It is pouring here-thunder and lightening and my garage door will not close. Where is my sweet man when I need him?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back to you

I have been a sporadic blogger lately. Years ago, when I wasn't writing (whether it was journaling or writing poetry) it was because everything was going so well. I had to be miserable to write. So it is a fair assumption that because I have not written all is going well. Not true on grief street. It could mean a variety of things-sometimes I do not write because I am so sad that I do not see the point.

Since he died, I have these very long slumps. I use to say that I was having a bad day or bad week. Then I realized that I said this a lot, and it was not just the day or the week that was hard. My life is hard and there is no respite on the horizon. I get really quiet then. I don't make conversation, I don't write. I don't see the point-why should I go on about how hard life is without him. I have been there, done that and have a closet full of tee shirts. And frankly-I don't even want to hear it anymore.

But I wonder what it means, and when I will turn a corner on this. Maybe never. I guess I am different than I was last year and I will be different next year as well. Last week my slump was about his 56th birthday-so sad to acknowledge it and a world without him. But I cannot say that life is better now than it was last year. So hard to say that it will be better next year as well. And so there is no hope that life will get better. I say this knowing how dismal it sounds and that I am probably being overly dramatic about it. But this is the way I feel. I have changed so much since he died that even I do not recognize myself. I guess I am waiting for the miracle-that one day it will hurt, but the pain will only be a small piece of who I am. I am not sure that I see this in my future.

I have to be patient, and then take responsibility for creating a future that will be good. I am not ready for that yet.

Monday, October 4, 2010

No, he isn't coming home

It struck me last night that there is a part of me that lives as if he is coming home. I struggle with changing anything-because down deep I think that one day he will walk through the door and ask me about the changes. I analyzed this-is this the way I have felt since he died-or is this now? I have come to accept that my thoughts vary from day to day but do I really believe that he is coming home?

It is hard to accept the finality of his death, at least for me. We lived together for so long-that it feels surreal to be without him. It is like suspended animation and one day I will wake up and there we will all be. So do I cling to the way things were done before he died because there is comfort in that-or am I so in denial that I cannot move on? Of course, I would like to believe in the former-that I am finding comfort where I can, and that with time, I will fully incorporate a reality without him.

October 7th is approaching and he would have been 56 years old. I was prepared to let this go without any acknowledgment-after all, Bruce would say he can't have a birthday if he is dead. But I know that it is in my thoughts. Birthdays are a big deal to me, a way to celebrate a life. Even, I guess, a life cut short.

Happy Birthday week, Bruce.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

abnormal grief

When is grief abnormal? I can't quite believe that you can be married to someone for 34 years and then be expected to get on with your life after a year or two. So is it abnormal to feel so sad after 19 months? I think that the first 15 months I was in shock-not believing that it was possible that he died. It was so sudden, and there was no warning. I thought that we had taken care of everything and that he would never die of anything cardiac. And then it happened. He was there one minute and gone the next. I still have trouble really believing that he is gone and will never return. It is further complicated by the fact that we got married so young (I was just 19), so we grew up together. When I have a thought-I have to wonder where it came from, is it his or mine. We were so enmeshed, so to me it makes sense that my bereavement is a long term prospect.

But yet the sadness is so overwhelming at times. This week, I have been leaking tears-something that I did not think possible for me. I usually don't cry and when I do, it is so dramatic. Wailing, sniffling, sobbing. This week I have ladylike tears that appear at the corners of my eyes and can start and then stop at any time.

I guess I have learned patience - if only patience for myself. I am preparing myself for the fact that I may be in this funk for awhile. I think it is ok and to be expected and I guess if those around me don't understand it-there is nothing that I can do. I just have to be patient with myself and they have to be patient with me. I do have hope that one day, I won't feel so sad. I am not sure when that will be but I will try to hold on to that for the future.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

hiatus

I haven't written for a long time. It is not because the magic pill worked it's magic, or that the doom and gloom is subsiding. I have been traveling and then overwhelmed with my schedule and caring for my injured dog. And missing Bruce something fierce. But that is old news and not something that I felt up to sharing. It is tiresome to whine continuously about the state of my life. Even for me. It has occurred to me that this is not getting any easier. And that it won't get easier any time soon. I will just continue to live each day as well as I can.

I guess too there are really no magic pills. Or therapists that will erase the grief. No activities that will be a permanent distraction. Nothing can help this-and so far time has not eased the distress or sadness that I feel. I just have to keep going.

Last night we had a blackout for about 4 hours and as I was contemplating my state of affairs I missed my husband. We could have had fun with the blackout-eating cold cheese sandwiches, and ice cream as it melted. Lighting candles, wondering how we would get the garage door open in the morning. Instead I was annoyed, a bit worried and sad.

More soon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This is for you Carole, and for me too

OK-so I was asked today if I had 1 enjoyable thing that I experienced today. Funny, before Bruce died it was three-now we are attempting to find one. It is a good exercise, I need to remind myself every day - what was enjoyable. It doesn't matter how small-I know that it is my best interest to find something.

The weird thing is that part of me does not want to acknowledge the joy. I do not think it is guilt that I am alive and he isn't. I know that it is ok to find pleasure in things and I do. I just feel so sad, I am wallowing in it. Maybe down deep I think that if I am miserable enough, he will come home, or maybe it is that if I am miserable enough, some good things will come my way? We had such a great few months back in September of 2008. We found this house, we sold ours, we reduced our debt, we bought such beautiful things for our beautiful house and we finally felt like we were climbing out of the hole and then Wham! One bad thing followed another-culminating with the death and then life was so bad and it remains bad. If I suffer enough, will things turn around? I do not know. But I am going to force myself to find something to acknowledge that is positive in each day.

So here goes:

What was good today:

The flowers were planted and my back patio and front patio looks good. I get pleasure from seeing it in order.

I watched a show called the Big C about a woman dying of cancer-who takes control of things in her life that were out of control. She thinks back to her adolescent son as a small boy and tries to connect with him. I thought of my 2 now adult children. I remember pieces of their childhood and the pleasure I got from them. I especially remember my little boy's arms and how he would crawl around on the ground which prompted people to call him bug. I remember my little girl's face as she slept, peaceful and flushed with sleep. I remember how we would play games in the car and on vacation, and how we would have song fests on long drives.
I got pleasure from watching the show-even though the storyline was rather macabre.

Tomorrow is another opportunity to find pleasure. More then.

after the unveiling

The unveiling was hard. The unveiling was nicely done. After the unveiling I felt doubly sad-as if the band-aid was pulled off the wound (as a friend of mine so aptly put it). It reminded me of what I was missing especially as family and friends spoke about Bruce and what they remembered about him. Someone said he was generous, someone else how he did not ever hold a grudge. I cried a bit, little leaky tears as the prayers were said over the gravestone.

I look back and remember how numb I was - how surprised I was by his death. Now how overwhelmed I am by his absence. How is it possible to miss someone so much? And not be able to tell the person you told everything to, how sad you are? He was the one that I complained to, and I would have complained to him about the loss.

I looked at his name on the stone and his name shimmered. Like him. He was a star in a crowd, often singled out on the street because he looked so dapper. People would stop him and compliment him on his matching socks and Hawaiian shirt. Right before he died, he was pretty thin and so proud of himself, that he practically lit up with glee. Sunday, his gravestone twinkled. It matched who he was in life.

The rabbi said that this was the end of the mourning period but I am not sure that it means anything to me. Mourning Bruce will take a long time. I am beginning to realize that his loss will be something I carry with me, maybe forever.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The visit

Yesterday I delayed as long as I could and then I visited the stone. I slowly approached the area and noted that there was a funeral very close by, in fact I could hear the service from the stone. I was disappointed that I could not be alone. I felt conspicuous - something that I came alone just to avoid. But I went up to the stone to look, to touch his name and to see how it affected me. I was washed over with a profound sadness-that continues. I teared up but did not cry. I wanted to-but was so aware of the activity to my left. I am not sure why it is so hard for me to cry. I would think it would bring some relief. But for some reason, I don't unless I am totally overwhelmed. I went to my car and left the cemetery, feeling so sad. I then went to pick up some food for the unveiling. At that point, I really did not feel like attending to buying, preparing or serving anything to anyone.

I still have the headache that started yesterday after the visit. Maybe it will last till Monday. Seeing his name reinforced his death in a way that makes no sense. I know that he is dead, I saw him die, I saw him in the coffin, I saw him buried. But staring at his name on the stone brought it back and my head is so filled with thoughts of him since then. When I went to sleep last night, before I fell asleep, I tried to relive the trip we took the summer before he died. Bruce and I walking the streets of Scotland, holding hands. Just after he died, I did that every night while I waited for sleep. It was comforting. But it gets harder to retrieve the memory and I worked hard last night to walk the streets with him hoping for some relief.

Friday, August 20, 2010

eighteen months exactly

Today it is Friday the 20th of August and it is exactly 18 months since Bruce died. I haven't always paid much attention to the 20th each month-but Fridays always make me a little sad. He died on a Friday the 20th in February so the fact that it is the Friday the 20th of August is creepy, especially since the unveiling is Sunday. We have scheduled the unveiling for Sunday but I am going to go today and check out the stone myself at the cemetery. I want to be prepared to see his name on the stone. I am not sure how I will feel-whether I will break down and cry, or just feel an overwhelming sadness.

It is interesting to think about my response to seeing his name and a beginning and end date. When we put a plaque at the synagogue, it really hit home that he was gone. Almost as if I need to see his name on something to really believe that he is dead. I want to touch his name on the stone and feel his absence. I know this sounds weird but I feel that it is another step in the process of acknowledging the loss and trying to create a life without him. What would I do if he were cremated? Would it bring any closure-where would I see his name?

I have not visited the cemetery much since he died, because it doesn't mean much to stand at a patch of grass and feel his presence. That is not where he is-if he indeed is somewhere. Maybe I will feel differently at the gravestone. Maybe I will "visit" him more often. Interesting to consider, especially if I think about the fact that I always wanted to be cremated. It may be that burial brings some odd closure to the process of acknowledging the death.

Anyway, we will see. I feel pretty brave to be going by myself, but I am doing this because I really do not like crying in front of other people. I have images of myself at the grave on Sunday and after the stone is unveiled throwing myself down and wailing in front of the rabbi and family members. I thought about whether it was sacrilegious to go before the stone is "unveiled" and then decided if it was a sin, what could possibly happen to me? My husband died, I buried my cat last year, my daughter is still out of work. I know I need to count my blessings but life has thrown me many challenges these past 18 months and I am not sure that I am out of the woods. When Bruce was first diagnosed with cardiac problems I lived with so much uncertainty about his health. I would worry about something happening to him. Then he died, and now I worry about the next catastrophe. But life has been pretty bad and if it gets any worse, I will just have to deal with it. I need to see the stone, need to touch his name, need to know whether I feel his presence there and whether the stone brings me any peace or comfort. But I know it will be a shock to see it and I am very unsure what emotions will overwhelm me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Magic Pill so far

So, it has been 3 days and I am still evaluating. It may be too early to tell, so I will give it a month and see how I feel. I feel a tiny buzz if I concentrate on it. I still feel pretty sad and this is complicated by the coming weekend and the gravestone.

Life is too challenging. The world much more complicated that it needs to be. Stressful job, high maintenance dog, daughter out of work. As the stress ratchets up, it is increasingly important to keep your mood even. I always believed that it isn't about what happens to you, it is about how you handle what happens. That being said-how much can one person handle? In the midst of catastrophe, how good can your attitude be? That is the real challenge. Still, when I think back to my life before Bruce died, I did not always deal well with my circumstances. But now I realize that my circumstances were pretty good even though I was anxious and unhappy.

Not sure what the answer is-do they make a pill for that too?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Magic Pill

I finally got a prescription for some medication on Friday and now am officially medicated. I did not feel that I could continue to go on although maybe the end of the summer would bring me out of the latest deep valley. I do not want to move on but know that I must. I at some point need to leave the grief behind me.

I am not trying the medication because I think it will erase the pain. I think that the pain will be there always. What has got to change is how distracted I am by the grief so that I have a hard time concentrating on other things. Initially distractions were what helped me cope day to day-now the loss is the distraction. I am lonely and sad and overwhelmed by these emotions. Anything that goes awry totally sends me into a tailspin. I need to be more resilient than that. I need to be able to handle the variances in my life. This week Bebe was sick and I totally freaked out. The volume of work piling up paralyzes me. I need to be able to cope. I am hoping that if my mood lifts slightly, I will be able to manage. I am hoping that I will be able to focus and be productive. I am hoping for some magic from this little pill.

Next week I will finally see the gravestone and I know that I am dreading seeing his name at the grave. Part of me wants to finally place my hand there, but part of me recognizes that it represents another milestone in my loss. This has been such a hard summer, so much harder than the first. It is fitting then that I end the summer with the unveiling of the gravestone, 2 days after the 18 month anniversary of his death.

I continue to wonder how I got here. I remember back to the day on the 20th of February at the gym when he died and wonder how it all happened and how my life changed so radically in a matter of moments. I was a witness to part of it and yet still don't understand how all of this happened. My life before then is a bit dim, almost as if it happened to someone else and my life has always been lonely and sad. Or is this the part of my life that is happening to someone else? At times this feels so surreal.

Well, I am hoping for some magic. Even a smidgen to help me move along, past the gravestone, past the loss, past the life that I lost. On to something different.

Monday, August 9, 2010

August

This summer has been so traumatic. I have been trying to figure out why, why now, why this summer, the second summer without Bruce. I would have thought it would have been easier, a welcome respite from the frantic pace of the academic year. But I packed it full of tasks and deadlines and work without considering the need for play and rest. And I watched as everyone around me took advantage of the summer and planned trips and days off-often with spouses and friends. It has made me feel more isolated and sad than before. Even my neighborhood is vacant-and I can only remember with pain the summers before when we marked the time between our trips and activities.

And a few weeks ago, I got an image of myself one summer long ago. I was teaching somewhere where we were on a 9 month contract and there was no expectation that I would be in the office at all during the summer. I remember feeling so unhappy-not sure how to proceed or what to occupy my time with. Bruce was working on a book and I wanted him to stop work and entertain me. So I have to wonder whether the summertime blues are a natural part of who I am. Has there always been some distress around June, July and August? Some part of me wants to pick at this and some part of me understands that this will bring no comfort. Does it really matter?

I have been thinking too about the use of some aids to help me through this wicked time. Many many of the people in my life have advised me to use some medication. I recognize that there is no magic pill to ease the grief-nothing that anyone can prescribe will bring Bruce to the door - I would take this medication in a minute-no matter what the side effect. But maybe it is time to get help with the other symptoms of my loss.

A dear dear friend asked me the other day-what could I possibly gain from being on medication? What other outcomes do I wish to change (aside from the actual loss, which is beyond my control)? I would like to be less exhausted and sleep better, I would like to be more focused and more productive, I would like to be less overwhelmed with my sadness as it seems to be all consuming even at 17 months from the day that he died. I recognize that there is nothing that can move grief along-it has it's own rhythm. I will move through this at my own pace, maybe whether I am on medication or not. I am cognizant that there is no escape-but maybe there is some help?

I need to do something.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

the road ahead

Last week I decided to take a break and left town for a few days. I was hoping for some relief - some rest so that I could return and be more functional and less bereft. Today I will head back home and tomorrow I will go back to work and see how I feel. The road ahead is somewhat uncertain-at least emotionally.

I am not sure how I will recover from this loss. Sometimes the pain is from missing Bruce and sometimes the pain is from other losses-being alone for the first time, navigating the life that 2 people made, feeling lonely. I lost my best friend, my cheerleader, my confident, my coach. Aside from missing him, it has thrown my whole life and life plan out the window. All the plans we made, the life I imagined-now is meaningless. And with all the pain, is the turmoil. I now need to be somehow more functional than I have ever been. As I write this-I wonder if it is true-I guess I have an excuse now. But who excuses me? I guess I expect myself to be on target - even if I am not sure where the target is anymore.

How will this get easier? Is it merely the "getting" used to his absence, the burden of being the only worker bee in my life? Does the pain ease just because the memories fade with time? I remember being married once and being loved and cared for. I remember being Bruce's everything-feeling that love every single day. I remember coming home from a busy day and unloading my angst on his shoulders and having him spin the day's events. Will I forget this, will my memories feel like they are some dream I had, or good book that I have read? I have been told that at some point I will turn the corner on this intense grief. How does this happen? Do I need to create it?

I know that I am so tired of this new chapter in my life. I need a respite but he is not here to prod me to take some time to recoup. I need to be more aware of the fatigue and the workload. I am on a road I have never traveled before and there are many hills ahead.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

coping

I am not doing very well. It may be fatigue or stress or overcommitment. I have no where to go to escape these feelings - no respite, no let up on this feeling of being so overwhelmed by what has turned out to be my life. How did this happen to me? Why did this happen to me? And why can't I move on?

The emptiness is unbearable. And yet, I isolate myself which only contributes to the emptiness. Hard to reach out and let people in. So I busy myself with commitments and then the weight of those commitments are overwhelming. I want to escape but have no where to go. Where is Bruce when I need him so much?

I need a break-but there is no break from the grief. Where would I go? I already have too much solitude - so going to a place that is solitary won't work. If I go to a place with activity, I will be overwhelmed with that. I want to escape my life, and my sadness.

When will these feelings pass?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

summertime

I anticipated dreading the summer and so filled my days with a variety of work activities. It has only made me tired and sad, anxious about the deadlines associated with the activities and totally stressed out. Still the sadness has seeped in-being busy is not helpful right now.

I am aware that my colleagues are away on trips and there are vacations and family time that I cannot share-I miss Bruce. I miss the anticipation of the summer trips and the usually slower pace with more opportunity to spend time together.

There is no respite. I am just wading through the sadness.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ghosts

I work with the most wonderful people. Since Bruce died they have been concerned about me and frequently check in with me to see how I am doing. The other day one of them came to my office and told me that she wanted to speak to me. I had been visiting with one of my other colleagues and her daughter and she asked them if we could have some time alone. I was a bit apprehensive and when the others left I asked her what was up, indicating that I was concerned about what she wanted to tell me. She assured me that it "was good, she thought" and I should not worry.

This is what she said:

She asked me if I knew that she had never met my husband and that her only knowledge of him was from the funeral. I told her that I knew this and braced myself for the rest of the conversation not knowing where she was heading. She then asked me if he had a white Hawaiian shirt with red lettering and I said that it was entirely possible. She said that she has seen him and that he had been in her thoughts. She frequently is aware of his presence and he is standing with his hands on his hips. He is concerned about me and wants her to tell me that he is with me. She also told me that he has said to remember the heart. My eyes filled with tears listening to her. She mentioned to me that I often say that I cannot feel his presence and that he is totally gone from my life. But she wants me to know that he is very much a presence. She also said that my dog Bebe barks at night because she knows that Bruce is near. She assured me that this is not something that has ever happened to her but she had to share it with me. Apparently this has been going on for awhile and she did not know how I would handle this information.

What do I do with this? I have been very much a non-believer. I am convinced that the soul does not survive and that he is gone, and we will never be together again. I even have trouble resurrecting all of my memories. The skeptic in me says why her? why now? - but I have recognized that I may not be open to the possibilities. The skeptic in me says that there are valid reasons for all of the ghosts and angels people see and part of it is the strong desire to see someone after they die. This colleague recently had a death in her family, her stepfather -so maybe her need to bring closure to his death resulted in her thoughts about me and my loss.
I do not know. I was understandably upset after this encounter, "haunted" by the idea of Bruce haunting her.

And of course, I could not stop myself from sharing this information with the kids at dinner that night. This prompted them to be skeptical and annoyed about someone sharing this information with me. I then had a conversation with my daughter about my wallowing in self-pity-and when I am ready, she assured me, I won't be as sad. I realize that I am a drama queen. I write my saddest thoughts here and that is in what is in my heart. And yet words feel to adequately capture the loss and the sadness. I am not sure that will ever leave me even if I build my life without him, which is hard. I agree that part of me struggles with the sadness. I want to feel this sad-I should feel this sad, my loss is that great. I have never been one to cover up and put on a happy face for the masses. But I tell myself and others that it is ok to do this-if I can still get up and go to work, can still participate in enjoying little things in my day. The bottom line is that I still come home to a lonely empty house-more lonely without him because he really filled the space.

All in all, I do not believe in ghosts or angels. I am not sure what to think about this recent encounter. I am not sure what to say to those who tell me that Bruce is creating miracles for me wherever he is. It does not help me with his loss to know that there are others who can see him or talk to him about me. I am here alone, left to deal with the devastating void that his death has created.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

random thoughts

I am frequently engaging in an internal dialogue-perhaps I always have but since Bruce died, I am more aware of it. Among other things that I really miss is the discussion or maybe accurately the venting that I did to Bruce when I got home from various places - work, lunch with a friend, shopping. We did so much together so maybe the dialogue always took place about what we were doing. Occasionally Bruce would tell me I was chattering away or that I forgot that we no longer were involved in the conversation that we had the day before. But he always knew what I was talking about and often we would simultaneously say the same sarcastic comment in response to a news report or social event.

I miss the intimacy of him and me. Knowing that he and I were there for each other gave me so much stability. And the life that we built together now has to be organized by me alone. Too much responsibility - not anything that I would have agreed too-yet here I am. It is hard sometimes to remember how or that I was loved. I know that he loved me very much and that the love we had grew and shifted over time. The history that we shared, the knowledge that we had of each other is gone forever. Funny how that now that it is gone, it is more earthshaking than a 9.7 quake.

The days pass. I sometimes feel like I am emotionless and then other times that I am caught in a web of feelings and I cannot find my way out. Memories whiz by, sometimes so ethereal that it is hard to focus on them. They float by as I doing one thing or another, and it almost feels like I need to rewind to realize that it was a memory of him evoked by a random act.

I think of things that I need to process, but by the time I am sitting in front of the computer they are gone and I face the empty page and nothing comes to me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

fireworks

This past weekend was July 4th. As I did last year, I spent this year in San Diego with the kids. We sat on the beach and watched fireworks. Bruce loved fireworks and I do remember vividly the discussions about where and how we would see them each year. It was a bit of a struggle-since I do not like loud noises and don't like being out in a crowd watching them. But I ignored my hesitations last year and sat on the beach with the kids and repeated it this year and watched them again. It was cold and rather dismal. A bit ironic that I am watching fireworks now, and when Bruce was alive, it was difficult to get me to do it-even though he wanted to so badly.

July so far has been cold and although people in the Northeast have been complaining about the heat-we have had a cold snap unlike any other year I can remember. Even though the weather echoes my mood-I could do with some warmth and some sunshine. I continue to be rather exhausted, slept a lot this weekend and could do with some more.

And like any other holiday weekend so far since Bruce died, I miss him.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

being alone

Aside from the June gloom, the widows I know complain of the loneliness. It is such a difficult part of the death. Initially as I mourned, I missed him, wanted him to fill the emptiness in my heart and in the house. Gradually I have gotten use to missing him, even though at times I am filled with such profound sadness, I can fall to my knees and scream. But I am also left with facing being alone, something that takes me quite by surprise, because it is so hard to get used to.

I have written before about how the theme of being alone has moved in and out of my life before Bruce's death. Why is it so difficult now? If I had small children at home now, would I still feel so alone? How much of the feeling of being alone is tied to the grief and how much relates to the actual day to day emptiness? I try to puzzle this out as if I can come to some magic conclusion and my life would be better. I am offended that the aloneness has wrapped itself around me and I am suffocating with the weight of it.

Why am I so needy and why is being alone so hard? I want to embrace it. I can think back to times in my past when the house was so chaotic with children and pets and him that I longed for some peace and quiet. Well now every day is quiet, but there is no peace-just a long lonely silence.

My widowhood is so multi-layered, so many things to mourn and get used to.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

june gloom

I am so overwhelmed by sadness lately. And of course, I never get past the eyes filled with tears part. I am tired and cranky-but given the past year and 4 months-it is not entirely a new experience. I wondered yesterday whether it is complicated by June gloom? No sun until late in the day when the marine layer burns off. It has been cloudy and cold every day. And apparently, other widows that I know feel the same. They tell me it feels that it is getting worse not better-more upsetting, more paralyzing. I am beginning to feel as if June gloom is partly responsible.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

summer doldrums

I was so sad yesterday-felt the weight of it immediately when I woke up. It followed me all day. Is it just the beginning of summer? The remembrance of summers past when we traveled?, when we enjoyed the longer days and the lighter work load? I am not sure, but I am haunted by days not too long ago-was it just two years ago when we were traveling to Paris thru the Chunnel?

Of course, I wish I were able to be back there and part of me is. It is not enough of a visit. The edges are fuzzy-too much work to fully remember all of the details. I find myself aware of the dates without any of the enjoyment that accompanied them.

I am to sad right now-too filled with longing to have it back. The good and the bad of it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

end of the school year

It has been a long time. I move from exhaustion to sadness as the academic year officially comes to an end. Usually a time for a deep breath and the start of vacation, or at least a less frenetic pace. Before Bruce died, we were overjoyed at the start of the summer although my schedule and his were always mismatched. When he stopped teaching for the year, I was still in full swing. By the time that I stopped, he had started teaching summer session. But we were still happy about the approach of the summertime. Sometimes we went to Hawaii, and the year before he died, we went to Europe.

So I have no energy to write, no energy to have coffee with my new found family of widows. I am tired. My exhaustion since he has died always is accompanied by a cranky irritable "I do not want to do this anymore" attitude. It is as if I could simply decide I have had enough of his absence and he would magically appear. As if it were that easy.

As time goes on, I know that this too shall pass. Do not mistake this for optimism. I just know that the days will march on-no matter what my mood, or how tired I am of my lonely life. Maybe tomorrow, I will find the energy to pick up the phone, or take care of the hundreds of items on the "to do" list. Maybe tomorrow, I will feel a bit less sad.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

mourning



i have been dressing in black since he died. Not everyday, but many days when i consider my mood, i find that black or gray echoes my mood. It's funny how i am mourning. i also stopped wearing jewelry. It's almost as if i set aside part of who i am - tucked it away in remembrance of who i was. i am not sure that the person that i was will ever come back. i am still sorting this all out.

The weather has been dismal this Spring-also feeding in to my mood. Cold and dark the last 2 days in the usual Sunny California. i was reminded of a film that i saw a few months after he died. Kate and i watched a lot of movies and 1 movie that i saw was about Queen Victoria morning Prince Albert. She mourns for years.

i miss him and there is no end in sight. When i dream of him, i am reminded even in my dreams that he is dead. The distractions are good-but i still come home to his absence and it still makes me terribly sad.

Today is Kate's birthday. He would have been so proud of how well she supports me-how there she is for me. He was always so amazed by her accomplishments and her intelligence.

Happy Birthday baby girl.

Friday, June 4, 2010

no surprise

i was thinking yesterday that it is no surprise that i am so off kilter without Bruce. i got married so young-just turned 19 the week before i got married. In some ways, i was a young 19, in some ways not so young. Life was a bit turbulent growing up and i was very introspective, fascinated even then about human behavior. Bruce was my first real love. i had boyfriends in the past, but no one person who i was really intimate with, who directed me in the way that he did. He was extremely bossy-maybe even a bully. i let him dictate to me. At some point, i realized that i went from home where my mother told me what to do and think, to my marriage where my husband told me what to do and think.

So there was no period of time where i formed an identity independently. And i have never really been alone. Although, this gives me a perspective, it does not really help me to cope. It just informs me about how hard this is, and how unprepared i was for the loss.

So now what? i miss him. i dislike that i feel so out of my element without him. And our relationship changed so much over the years as we both grew up (he was only 20 when we married and like me - a young and old 20 year old). We really worked hard on the bossy bully him and the introspective wimpy me. We were finally in sync, and our hard work was finally coming to fruition. i knew me through him. In some ways, i understood myself in response to him-where i had been and where i was. i feel lost, and have a hard time feeling sure about anything. And i miss him. i was always entertained by him. And so loved.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

o canada

i am not sure how it was actually decided that Canada was the best place to celebrate Memorial Weekend but we did it last year and then again this past weekend. The long weekends are hard for me. It is not because we did anything big-although Bruce would have loved going places. He loved to go on trips anywhere - even liked the idea of going somewhere close and staying over in the hotel. Traveling to San Diego or to LA, Bruce always wanted to stay overnight in a hotel and i always wanted to be at home. Ironic that we are sometimes so out of synch with those that are so important to us.

A long weekend at home was perfect before Bruce died. We would often spend a day catching up with work and get to spend some really good quality time, watching movies, breakfasting at the beach, etc. i have written about this before, how now the long weekends stretch before me and i am confronted so by the loneliness in my life. Last year, Vancouver was the place we went to escape the Memorial Day blues. One would think he was a veteran, the way i react to the holiday. But we traveled to Canada and it was such a good distraction that we (or i) decided to do it again. This time we went to Victoria, BC.

Bruce would have loved the trip-the museum with the totems and information about the First nation peoples, the Castle with the interesting stories about the family that lived there (she was a widow too) and the gardens. It was a lovely trip with many distractions. i was surrounded by my kids, and the feeling that i still have a family, still have people who love me who won't let me disappear.

But coming home is hard. Even while i am away, i have to resist the urge to call him and tell him that i arrived safely. i see souvenirs that he would have loved and want to bring them home to him. And then when i arrive home to the empty house, i am confronted once again with the reality of his death.

Hard to imagine the road ahead when i thought i had everything so well organized in my life. His death so unpredicable-now my life so uncertain.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

myths

i met with someone the other day who is an internationally known researcher on stress and coping. She has interviewed hundreds of people about loss and talked to me about common myths about bereavement. It was helpful to know, as i suspected, that how one deals with loss is extremely individual. There is no time line-it takes as long as it takes. i also realized while i was talking to her that it is not unusual to hold on to a part of the person that one has lost. i have held on to things because Bruce loved things and i can get a visual, a memory, when i see his things and remember the circumstances accompanying them.

There are also people who can put themselves back in a moment from the past and relive that moment. Individual differences account for this and i am not able to do this. Apparently people who can close their eyes and be back in a moment are good hypnosis candidates. For the rest of us-me included-there may be other things that trigger a memory.

Ultimately, i am coping with this horrific event in my life. i guess it doesn't make a difference whether i am coping well or not-for who makes the quality judgment? i get up in the morning and i function and as long as i keep doing that i guess i will be ok. It doesn't matter whether i want to function or not - i can't even think about what i want aside from him walking through the door. And i have thought about him coming home. i do not think i would be surprised, and the days without him would just melt away-as if this nightmare just ended. i guess eventually this image will also fade.

So in all of her interviews with the bereaved, she could not tell me what makes the difference over time and when it happens that the pain subsides a bit. She could tell me what was not helpful according to the hundreds that she has spoken with. It does not help to have people want to "fix" it-to make you better and get over the loss. It does not help to try to find meaning in the loss-as if there were some reason that it happened. i have people in my life who want to help me put this away, when there really is no place for it. The road ahead is dark and uncertain. i just have to continue on my way, hoping that one day there will be some direction that i am heading towards, and the ground beneath me will be firm.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

the weekend

Weekends are especially hard. i used to love weekends when he was alive. They gave us time and although we didn't always plan events sometime the long stretch of days without plans was wonderful. We would usually grab a movie with friends and then have dinner. Sometimes on Sunday morning we would get up early and go to the beach to have breakfast overlooking the ocean. But most of all it was a chance for us to be together, without rushing around.

Yesterday, the weekend looming, i felt such an intense wave of sadness wash over me. Another weekend. So much to feel sad about-i miss him, i am lonely and i am too apathetic and isolated to reach out. It is not that i want to do anything either. My natural inclination after the busy week is just to sit around. i have nowhere to go and no one to go with-which could be a good thing. Maybe sometimes it is a good thing-but last night, it felt bad-making me miss him all the more.

Recently, i was thinking about how good everything was right before he died. And now i feel as if all of the work i did to achieve some measure of success is gone. i was mentally good-having come away from menopause and his illness with lots of anxiety-i finally had some control over that. i was physically in good shape, we went to the gym daily and i felt fit. i was getting a handle on my new job and i had a beautiful new house, finally able to decorate and enjoy. And then the death. Now i am depressed. My body is full of aches and pains and i have trouble getting myself motivated to exercise. So much changed in one morning.

How and when will i ever recover from this?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

cemeteries and gravestones

When Bruce was alive, he gave his students an interesting project to do. He called it the cemetery project and had them go to a cemetery and spend some time observing the headstones. They would often come away with interesting tidbits about the people who were buried there. Ironic now that i spend time in a cemetery visiting his grave. Yesterday, I ordered the headstone, something that i should have gotten taken care of in the first year.

Part of the small steps that i am now making to move through the grief, the headstone is yet another thing i must push myself to do. Visiting the grave is a strange experience. i know that i am in the cemetery, but i am really just visiting a patch of grass-and i am never quite sure that the patch of grass is the right one. It is a beautiful location overlooking Newport Beach, and the rolling lawns and the gravestones of others, make it a peaceful place to come. i am not sure what to do with myself while i am there so i usually wander. i do my own little cemetery project, noting the gravestones and information about Bruce's neighbors. i can't help thinking about what he would say if he were watching over me.

i am so aware of the resistance that i have to fully integrating his death. But i push myself now because i know it is the right thing to do. i hope that it brings me some comfort finally. i guess there is no other option.

Monday, May 17, 2010

small steps

i am making some small steps. Last week (or maybe the week before), i removed the toothbrush from his side of the sink. i tried to throw it away but dug it out of the garbage and put it in a drawer. On Friday, i took all of his underwear and put it in the trash and left it there. By Friday afternoon the trash was gone and i had succeeded in moving a bit forward. Yesterday, we hung some pictures in the family room, a task that Bruce and i were going to do the weekend that he died.

Small steps forward and the emotional toil is enormous. i do not want to take steps without him beside me. He always wanted to hold my hand as we walked. After his heart attack and bypass surgery we would walk for miles around the neighborhood in the morning. He would hold my hand or grab my sweatshirt to move me forward at his pace. We speed walked almost as a unit. No wonder that i am having so much trouble taking steps without him.

But i know that my survival depends on my moving on. i cannot hold on to my life with him forever-some of that life in the form of material things must go. So next week, i will take another small step and maybe at some point some day, the only things i will hold on to will be the memories.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

why now?

i have been struggling these past 2 weeks in a worse state than usual and i have been wondering why now? Nothing really is different. But i have been in a really sad state. Mother's day came and went and yes, even that reminds me that i am without him. He was always quick to point out that he really did not need to acknowledge Mother's Day since "I was not his Mother". But he did rally the kids when they were little before my daughter took over and planned things. Still part of being the Mom was having him be the Dad. So maybe part of the current tsunami of grief is about Mother's Day and the upcoming Father's Day that follows.

But i am thinking that maybe some of this is the realization that my life needs to change-that i need to start getting rid of his things and make my life about me alone. i am trying to push myself forward. i never really believed that i would do things when i was ready-which is what everyone tries to tell me. i don't buy into that i will be motivated by some inner time line. i have always pushed myself against my inclination to sit back. i have gotten where i am because of the push-i guess i feel if i wait till i am ready, i may be 92 and wheelchair bound. So i propel myself forward and i always had his help. i actively get up and do something, even though my desire is to do nothing-lie in bed and read a good book.

The conversation that i had with the widows made me feel that there was some sense of urgency about the stuff. Maybe i feel that i would be mentally healthier if i can start to come to terms with the things he left behind. It has also uncovered some resistance - i guess it is the final acknowledgment that he is gone and will never be here. Even though i know this intellectually, i think if i look around and his things are gone, it somehow reinforces my loss. Everything reminds me of him and has a specific memory tied to it. He wanted this big house and had the vision, which we made happen. Once his things are gone-there will be a new emptiness. i already deal with the emptiness that accompanied losing him-now when i look around there will be empty drawers, empty rooms-more emptiness that i cannot fill.

So maybe i am being anticipating a new chapter in my grieving? i do not know. i do know that i need to get a handle on all of this-i am just too sad lately. But i do not know how to begin to deal with this flood of sadness. Yes, i am being self-absorbed and self-indulgent, and this too needs to pass. But for now, i will wade through the feelings until i figure out how to get past it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

still missing him

Missing him sometimes comes in waves. i am ok one minute and then overwhelmed with missing him the next. Not sure why but these past 2 weeks have been especially hard. Last night i was struck as i left to walk the dog how much we complimented each other. i was always trying to spend as little as possible on things and he would often say that i got what i paid for. He usually got me to agree to spend more and get nicer stuff.

i thought about that as i contemplated replacing or buying things over the years. Who will do that for me now that he is gone? We had a great rhythm, he and i. i look around the house and i have a story about all the purchases that we made together. My friend Lil said last night that the house was like a newlywed's house with everything new and shiny when he died. Like we were starting over. She said that it would be hard for me to see the house as mine since most of the things, including the house had no history. He died 4 months after we moved in and most of those months were about renovation and then unpacking.

Recently i thought that in order to resurrect my life, i would need to work hard to bring some good things in. What i did not realize was that the hard work already began, i will have to work hard to avoid being swallowed by the quicksand that is grief. Everyday is hard work.

Friday, May 7, 2010

griefstreet

When Bruce died, i was in shock for a long time and supposed that eventually the numbness would wear off. What i did not anticipate was that the numbness would be replaced by pain and then the pain would be replaced by depression. Bruce used to tell me that i had a hard time visualizing the way things could be-like if we were to redo the flooring and i could not imagine what it would look like. Well, of course he was right, i cannot accurately predict how i will feel about anything in my future. i am a bit unnerved that my image of the widow me is so different from the romantic view that i had envisioned.

As time passes, i increase the window of time for my life on grief street. i thought that the passage of the year would put me in a better place than when he first died. Then i thought that it would take two-now i am thinking that it may be 5 or forever. i am not sure that i can ever recover. There are grief recovery workshops but i wonder how do you recover from this type of blow? Like a boxer in the ring, i may be able to get up and go a few more rounds-but i am not the same. What this has done to my psyche is irreparable. i am not the same, i do not recognize myself sometimes. What happened to me-was who i was, buried with him on Newport Coast?

And so i live on grief street and may have that address for a very long time. i guess he was right about my ability to foresee the future without him-it feels dark and sad. i was so dependent on him for so many things. i could do anything, knowing that he was home and waiting for my call.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Shades of gray

i have been feeling lower than usual. Not sure why-there is no event coming up or special day to remember. Yesterday morning i did not want to get out of the car after returning from the gym. Why bother?
But i got out of the car and walked the dog and took a shower, got dressed and went to work. And i thought about my life all day. Its as if when he died the color disappeared from my vision and all i can see are shades of gray. Some days i try hard to think of some positives but lately there are none that i can identified. i get tired of having to wade through the quicksand.
Bruce was the one who said that attitude was everything and he often reframed what i was feeling into something more positive. "No", he would often say, "You are not anxious, you are excited"- and we often referred to catastrophes as "adventures". So what do i do now that the person who could turn things around for me is gone? i have never been good about doing this for myself and it does not seem as if i will ever get started.
i hate this world without him. He infused my life with color and laughter. He could always get me to perk up, even if it was because i was exasperated. i do not feel strong enough or energetic enough to do this for myself.
i have stopped trying to find the positives in every day. Just feeling veiled by my grief-so that my vision is restricted. I need to find some motivation to continue trudging along.

Monday, May 3, 2010

denial

ok-so now i admit i am bit in denial-or aspire to be in denial. i put the toothbrush in the garbage and then took it out and placed it in the drawer. There is definitely an emotional tie to all of his things. And also my things that are tied to memories with him. i am trying to figure this out. There is fear there-fear of losing the memories that i have of him. The things are a gateway to him and i guess i am afraid that if i lose the things i will lose the memories as well.

But it borders on the absurd. Can i throw anything out? So much effort at trying to determine how much an emotional string exists in looking over all the stuff. How much can i push myself. i believe that there is growth there-that if i push myself enough, it will be healthier for me.

On a completely different train of thought-i was thinking about the complex set of losses. Not just him, but also the companionship and friendship of someone. i feel so solitary now. So would the loss of him be different if not compounded by the loss of everyone?

Friday, April 30, 2010

stuff

Bruce loved stuff. More than i do in fact. And it is creepy that i still have not gotten rid of anything of his. Almost as if i expect he will come home and get upset because i have thrown his things out. But also because each thing is a memory. And how do i choose which memory to discard? i want them all, no matter how trivial they seem.

i thought that it is a bit strange but did not realize how unusual it was even among the widows in my group. And this made me feel more different and creepy than i normally do. i know that i am an anomaly in the group. i work and they are retired, i struggle financially and they seem to have enough, they seem so well adjusted and i feel so traumatized, and their husbands were all sick for a while and mine just disappeared one day.

Last Sunday when i confessed that my husband's toothbrush remains exactly where he left it on Friday morning the 20th of 2009, they looked at me with alarm. And then i mentioned that everything remained intact, his hat on the coat rack, the novel that he was reading in the bathroom, all of his clothes in the closet. It seems that the day after the funeral, they purged. And now they are all remodeling their houses, making it all over in their singular vision.

i have been told by some that it takes time and that i will be ready one day to get rid of his things. i am not so sure. i guess it is so complicated for me. Overwhelming physically and emotionally. The volume of stuff. But also the meaning of things. And while it is possible to do a little bit at a time, i get home at the end of a day at work and i am exhausted. Part of this is depression-i understand how the day is so much work and my energy level is not what it used to be. It is hard to interact when all i feel like doing is curling up into a ball under the bed and not come out-ever. So going through the day and then coming home and going thru the stuff is too much.
The widows suggested that i put his toothbrush in a drawer-the first step to eventually getting it to the garbage can. Maybe i will try this.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

in context

i think about the past - obviously. i am struck by how things seem when you look at context. So, while i may have complained before Bruce died about being overwhelmed, it was nothing compared to how overwhelmed i am now. i may have been anxious at times or depressed-but again all of that pales in comparison with how i feel now. And i am able to look at others and realize that they may not have a clue about how their life can change in an instant - and whatever they are concerned about can get so much worse-in context.

But i also understand that if i had never been married or had a family, this part of my life would not be so bad. It is only in context, looking back on the past, that i appreciate what i had. For some people it is normal to have a full day and come home to emptiness. Being alone may be part of what is normal. i work with someone who is not married, and lives alone and seems to live a very solitary life. So, aren't i better off that i had a very full life, with marriage and children and career? Or am i worse off because my life is so empty compared to what i once had.

i am not sure.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Alone

i was thinking the other day about how my life has changed. i grew up in a small house where we all shared a small bathroom, and i shared a room with my sister. i enjoyed the solitude that i experienced in bits and pieces, but i think i felt alone a lot-even though it seemed that the house was so small and we were not quiet people. But i never lived alone, and am not sure growing up if i was lonely or whether i enjoyed being by myself. My parents were not home - both worked, and they played poker on Saturday nights while i watched TV. i remember now being alone watching television even as a teenager.

As i was thinking the other day, i remember thinking about the circle of life. We grow up in a family, then create a family of our own. The children leave the nest and then it is just 2. When your spouse dies, you are alone and this may be the first time in your life that you are alone. That is hard, being alone for the first time, because the solitude is overwhelming.

But i am now questioning the premise that this is the first time that i am alone. Yes, i have never lived alone, but i am very familiar with being and feeling alone. Is this different? i guess anything accompanying grief is more complicated, more laden with emotions, more difficult to pull apart. Like a best friend, there are times that i welcome being alone and times when it is suffocating. Living alone may be too much alone time even for me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

the life that was

i wonder if i will ever be the way i used to be. i feel so serious, so devoid of humor. Of course, he encouraged the comic in me, although my family is the first to express that i am not really a "funny person". But i hear his play on words, his jokes, his brand of NY humor all the time in my mind. i do not find anything funny though these days.

Day to day-i am overwhelmed by more sadness and than i am distracted and i push it down. It rises up-usually in the morning, or as i walk to my parking spot anticipating an evening without him. Going home is hard. It is like i have a full time job plus the grief is like the second job that i had to take on. i am tired from all the work-and i am unable to let go of it. Too much hard work ahead as i try to plow through. i am trying to take things one by one, but i am tired and cranky. And there is no relief, i do not cry, and i cannot be comforted. i know that this time will pass but there is no guarantee that next year will be easier. i am still grappling with the life that i lost and the life that is left. it is not enough of a life for me. i cannot change it at this point, and maybe never. i am not sure how to deal with that.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

baby steps

i have fallen in to a routine of sorts and still i struggle with the loneliness. A few weeks ago, one of the widows that i know said that although she is lonely, she is only lonely for her dead spouse. i know how that is. It is not about filling the space but about filling the space with him. i get easily frustrated with people who do not share my likes and dislikes. Bruce and i had fallen into a rhythm too. We were comfortable with the same things or we tolerated the differences that we had. Sometimes we could not remember which one of us liked a certain thing and we would argue that it was the other one who liked it.

i still miss him too much. And writing here feels so much like whining that i get tired of the same complaints. Of course i miss him. But this is a way to process the grief. i am not sure what that means yet-but know that it is what i am supposed to do.

Monday, April 12, 2010

evaluating loss

i recently picked up a book that was recommended to me. It is called Living with Loss by Dan Moseley. The beginning pages talk about what is lost when someone we love dies. There are multiple losses. So it leads me to the question - what is loss for me?

i lost my companion, my best friend, my intimate partner and thus my ability to be intimate. i lost my sounding board, my mentor, my solid ground. i lost my shield, my respite, my map, my nightlight. i feel as if i lost everything the day he died. The earthquakes last week were a perfect metaphor for my grief-the ground beneath me is unsteady and i can not even assess the damage.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

the second year

i thought the second year would be easier. But i have been wrong about almost everything thus far. it is not that it is harder-i am more used to my life without him. i think that the first year was about getting over the shock of the fact that he is gone. i was numb most of the time and every now and then the pain would rock me, really deep agonizing pain. This year is more like a dull ache that sometimes is irritating and unbearable.

i can't even cry anymore, just one sob, a screwed up face and then that is it. Occasionally i well up when i speak of how much i miss him. Would crying help? i am not sure. So many losses result from this one great loss. And i continue to feel the edges of my loneliness - only rarely aware of the sharpness of the pain. Otherwise, i move through the days and try not to think about the bleakness of my world without him.

Yes, i am dramatic and this blog has turned into one long wailing wall. But it is hard to continue to complain to those around-even if i thought that anyone was interested, there are no words to express my despair. So i do it here, intermittently. i experiment with the words, process the thoughts that occur to me as i sit often in the early morning. i wake up and contemplate how full my life was before that day. How i was enveloped by his love, and that really helped me to venture out into the world. No safety net anymore.

What lies ahead in this second year? i am not sure but i am not very ambitious. i am apathetic and think that whatever i plan i can wait till the following year to do.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

dark skies

it has been awhile. i let the days wash over me, try to be busy and not think too much. But there is definitely sadness in everyday. i think it's been a hard few months but cannot honestly say that since he died, there have been many bright spots. Each day that has special meaning is harder but it is also true that the days leading up and the days following the special days may be just as hard. it probably would be wise to stop analyzing it. Which is probably why i haven't written. Why bother to process through when all the processing does not seem to lead to anything. i guess that is called depression.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

regret

When Bruce died i wasn't thinking about regret-at least i don't remember thinking much about it. i guess i can look back on my attempts at journaling and figure that out. i seem to be thinking about it now though, looking ahead to the anniversary of my wedding date on Friday.

What do i regret? i regret not appreciating my good fortune and my sweet sweet man. When i look back as i do almost every minute of every day right now, i remember how often i told him i loved him, and how much i felt he was the best thing in my life and my favorite person ever (in line with my kids). I used to cup his chin in my head and look into his eyes and smile at him. i remember doing this every day. i don't think a day went by in the last few years where i did not express some feeling to him about how much i loved him. But it still feels like it wasn't enough, especially now that he is gone.
i guess i am so devastated by his loss that i feel as if i couldn't possibly have understood how lonely this life is, without him. No one can fill the emptiness in my life right now. i am distracted occasionally, but when the distraction ends, and i come home from work, or when the kids go home, it is still me alone in the house without him. My distractions are only temporary bright spots in an otherwise dark world.
i remember thinking last year that grief is like an illness. i literally felt sick with the loss. This year it is like a punishment that i have been dealt and there are no signs that it will ever end. i guess that is what despair is, that bleak feeling that your life is without any hope, that whatever is bad, will be bad forever. i am reminded of Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill, only to have it roll down again and again.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

happy birthday to me

Today i am 54. On the 26th of March, would have been my 35th anniversary with my husband. These 2 weeks were often very busy and exciting times in my life over the past 35 years. And now they bring sadness and regret. So ironic that the celebrations of my life are now painful reminders of his death.
Last year, i was numb-still dealing with the shock of his loss but this year i can feel something and it is only sadness. i am very very tired.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

time

it occurred to me yesterday when i was having a lighter day that i have figured out how it works. i miss him terribly and it doesn't matter how much time passes. But i think that part of me tucks my life with him away as if it happened to someone else or so far in the past i cannot recognize myself with him. it fades away, and maybe the hurt dims with the memory and we move on. i am so struck by the series of losses: him, the memory of life with him, the feeling of being loved, of being so special to one person, the loss in my children's life, the loss of my best friend, my confidante, my barometer. i can't even name all the losses that occurred with his death. But i feel the impact of these losses daily and then become numb and do not feel them at all. i push them aside so that there is only a dull ache which at times fades until i remember.

i guess i do not expect him to walk through the door anymore. Bebe and i go for our walks and for a long time i expected to see Bruce coming round the corner. i am getting used to his absence, of being alone. it is still painful but my expectations have changed. And there is sadness when i think of that as well. Does pain become a friend in grief? Sometimes all i have is pain when i remember-but at least when there is pain, there is memory.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

introspection

i have always been introspective, in college we used to call it contemplating one's navel. i guess since Bruce died, there is more time to do this. Does widowhood invite introspection? Hard to describe how your whole life is thrown off balance. Yes, i get up and go to work the same way, have the same house, and dog and ...... it seems that everything goes on. But it feels like i am literally on shaky ground and so everything gets examined. i am not sure that others going through this experience need to revisit and examine-but i have. i am always replaying scenes in my head-not necessarily scenes filled with him, which is unfortunate given my interest in reliving my moments of my marriage. i am not sure the introspection is good and i guess i have always felt this way. Too much thinking impairs my living, my ability to act. But i cannot help it. i have heard others talk about the need to find meaning in their life and part of me rejects this. My life has some meaning-just not the meaning that i had lived with for 34 years. So, am i trying to find new meaning? For me, i just wish i could feel some of the security that i felt before. Suddenly i am even more tenuous and insecure than i have ever been. Nothing feels comfortable or natural.
What accounts for these feelings-and are they better not processed? Intellectually, i understand that living alone prompts this, that being alone so much - invites the constant inner dialogue. But again, i am unsure whether this is what is called grief and if i do this ad nauseaum, will i get to the other side of the pain? When i see all of the disasters around the world, i can't help but feel that this is my disaster-my earthquake, my tsunami, my tornado. So then am i rebuilding-or still digging out and assessing? Since i still have not made any changes, thrown out the toothbrush and gone through his clothes, i guess i am a bit stagnant. My apologizes to the victims of natural disaster, as i really cannot compare. At times though, it seems a perfect metaphor for how i feel.

Monday, March 1, 2010

all by myself

since bruce died, i have been thinking a lot about being alone. i went from being in my parent's house to being a student living with my college roommates and then being married. i never lived alone before. Getting adjusted to living alone and processing grief is hard. As a mom, the idea of being by myself was nirvana, now it is too much alone time. i am doing it and maybe am not as lonely as i thought i would be, but it is not time limited. i could be alone for the next 30 years. i guess that is what being a widow means-it is that long stretch of loneliness after death of a spouse. i have always thought that we are essentially alone, even though married, even though a house full of children may await us when we return home. But now everything is context-so when i thought i was alone-i always had someone waiting for me at home and if i didn't return or i was delayed - bruce would be calling and worrying. i miss that. i miss being #1 in someone's life. Because i wasn't really alone at all.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

milestones

A year ago yesterday, i buried my husband. February 24, 2009 was the funeral, a bleak Tuesday. I don't remember everything but more than I thought I would. I thought about it all day. There are parts of this experience that make me confront that he is really gone. One of those moments was the lowering of the coffin into the grave. Another was seeing his name on the memorial plaque that we just put in the synagogue. Other times I can almost pretend it did not happen.

I have been having trouble sleeping and food has lost it's appeal. I know that I have been sad all year but certain milestones bring me back to the extreme sadness phase that accompanies loss.

Not much else to say......

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

the spiral

Sunday i was back in the bleak black hole of grief-and monday was no different. Did time really pass-has it been a year? Some days are so bad i feel that i am still traumatized.

But my mantra is now that i can get through this-i will survive and move along and i do need to be patient with myself. i think that has been the lesson that i have learned this year. yes, the world is very unpredictable, we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking that we know what is ahead. At least, I did. I had it all mapped out-the day in day out weariness of life as usual-until wham-it all changed and i long for the days that i was annoyed by the minutiae of my marriage. My mother would quote that man plans, god laughs. So, I need to stay in the moment and hope that something good is around the corner for me and for the kids. Some peace of mind for me, a job for Kate and some free time for Alex. Life is too stressful. Being patient with myself and with others will enable me to de-stress somewhat.

Weird entry-needed to vent. On with the day.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Start of Year 2


It is the start of year 2. Today was the first day of the second year without him and it was sad. This weekend was distracting-everyone being so sweet and caring. And it was all about him-i looked at pictures and told stories and tonight i was so filled with missing him. i am so tired of life without Bruce - so tired of the struggle to get through the day. But really what choice do i have-what choice do any of us have? i either try hard to focus on him and remember or try hard to avoid thinking of him and move on.

I am having tea and contemplating a nice warm bath-something to comfort me right now. And tomorrow, I will try and get up early and go to the gym and then go to work and be distracted by my busy life. I am going to try to connect more with others and move through the grief that is so troubling, so overwhelming. And even though I am so incredibly sad, I still can feel grateful about what I have-how incredibly wonderful my children are, how lucky I am to be where I am because although I feel pretty bad I know that things can be worse. I hope that one day the pain will subside and I will remember with more joy than sadness the incredible man that I loved so much.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

one year

There is something potentially magical about dates. I think about this often. Pregnancy due dates, birthdays, deadlines for NIH grants. The date arrives and I anticipate so much.
Today I imagined getting up in the morning and having Bruce beside me in the bed. He was on this day oversleeping because in my married life-even 6:30AM on the weekend was sleeping in. I would curl up next to him and we would chat, and pet Bebe. We would talk about the day and the weekend and the kids. We would make plans to see a movie or call our friends Chris and Sam and go to dinner. Finally we would reluctantly get out of bed and take a shower. We showered together for nearly 34 years. I always said it was our contribution to water conservation. In truth, we just liked being together in the shower. We would get dressed and then would take Bebe and do a long walk and then come home and Bruce would make us lattes.

The strange thing is that a small part of me believed that this would actually happen. We watched so much science fiction that I incorporated part of this into my belief system. And since so much of coping with a person's sudden death is magic-one minute they are here and the next minute they are gone, it seems that it is a possibility. After all, I could not have anticipated his disappearance-so isn't it possible that he would just as suddenly reappear?

And Bruce loved those movies where the protagonist would go back in time and reconnect-bringing the wife or husband with them into the future. There were so many movies that we saw where the death is rescinded - suddenly or not so suddenly through some extraordinary occurrence. So why wouldn't I think that it could happen to me?
Do we all live with this disbelief that someone we loved so much is truly gone? I remember studying child development and learning about how children have a tough time grasping the death of someone. But I am having that rough time too-I cannot really understand that he is gone. I get up every day alone and think - where is he, where did he go, can he really be dead? And that small part of me thinks, if I could apply the magic, turn around 3 times and say his name really fast-would he reappear?