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Monday, December 26, 2011

My Ideal Life

The holidays are half over and I made it through without being totally in despair.  I went to bed last night and conjured up Bruce-trying hard to place my hand in his hand and remembering that feeling of being with him.  I miss him so much this time of year.  I spent the last 2 days driving back and forth to my daughters.  The drive was tiring but therapeutic - I saw the ocean at my side and felt some renewal.  The visit also good for me as I napped with the new little guy in the family and then he smiled at me and all was lovely.

As I tried last night to walk the street hand in hand with Bruce, I felt the tightness in my throat and wanted to cry.  The sadness is there even though I recognize it is up to me now to create my future.  One of the things that Bruce and I shared was the belief that we are responsible for our own happiness.  He held little patience for people who were miserable-and did not at least try to rectify their situation.  I must confess I feel the same - but am a bit caught up in my own apathy to change much.  Part of the issue is that I am not sure what I would want my life to be, now that I am widowed.  It is such an adjustment, the death so shocking that it has taken a long time to fully integrate the notion that he will not be back.  Do I really accept that?  As my memories fade-I have written before that it seems my past belonged to some other me, but what about my future?  My future needs to be written-as I functioned before with some idea of what it would be based on my 34 years with Bruce.  Now it needs to be revised and I guess I need to figure out what I am reaching for so that I can work to make it happen.

So I am going to pursue this as well as tackling a new enemy within-resistance.  It has taken over me and I glide through my days without getting much done and the ever growing laundry list of things to do is overwhelming.  I am capable of moving through this and I will.  At least today I feel that I can.   

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More than the blues

Calling being down in the dumps-"the blues" seems to be a misnomer, at least for me right now.  I feel extremely sad-hard to get motivated to do the things that I need to do.  I feel as if I am constantly trying to push through a very heavy doorway-and not even anticipating anything good on the other side.  Really do want to turn off the phone, not answer the door and just not go out for the remainder.

I am trying though.  Even getting out of bed is a major effort - but I am doing it.  I am sitting here writing and yesterday even went to the gym.  BUT I DON'T WANT TO.  There is the constant struggle and I am exhausted just trying to push through it.  What is on the other side I do not know.

I am not sure what will make things better.  I know that I am irritable and impatient.  Life is frustrating and there are too many things to deal with.  If I could organize myself, it may be that I can figure out what is important and what isn't.  Organizing myself takes effort- and there is not alot of energy to harness for that task.

Maybe I need some assistance-but that also takes some work.  Why are things so complicated? 

Friday, December 2, 2011


I guess it is official.  I have debated since Sunday and by now I have officially accepted that I am down in the dumps.  I am depressed, sad, - whatever is the label, I am there.  There are a bunch of reasons-it is December and usually right after Thanksgiving I feel the tug of the sadness begin to poke at me.  I miss my husband and hate the impending holiday good cheer that is everywhere.  It is also the third and final month of my sabbatical and I am not looking forward to January.  Once January starts there will be so much more that I am supposed to be doing. 

Since Bruce died, it is also the time that I remember most about the last 3 months of his life.  We celebrated Thanksgiving with the brand new house in a state of remodel and then immediately after we geared up to finish the kitchen, the flooring and looked forward to settling in to our new life.  This of course never occurred - and within weeks of being almost ready to relax and enjoy the new house-he was gone.  I start to anticipate the anniversary of his death as soon as I put away the Thanksgiving leftovers these last two years.  And I am stuck in the memory of all of the events that followed back in December of 2008 and January of 2009.  I had the flu and he so lovingly worried about me (how ironic).  Once I recovered, we made plans to have an open house and invite our friends.

I still find it hard to believe that he is gone and I am left alone.  While it is true that I am doing better this year than last-I still have the blues.  I have so much to be grateful for and to look forward to.  But that does not stop the sadness - I still manage to feel that it is there-even though I can smile at the new little man in my life and celebrate the upcoming wedding of my son.

I wonder if will always be this way. 

Friday, November 11, 2011


If I could remove anticipation from my psyche - my world would be a better place.  It seems that I spend much of my time before an event, or a deadline becoming anxious just anticipating it all.  Even anticipating the "good" things leaves me full of angst.

In addition to anticipation-resistance is also an enemy.  I resist doing some things that I know would be beneficial and I am not sure why.  When Bruce was alive he would help me put this all in perspective-with him gone, my ability to hold these old habits at bay are so much harder.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some good days and some bad days

Today was one of those bad days.  A day that started off like any other but gradually I realized that I was in a funk and could not really tell why.  Sometimes I think that I will wake up and it will all be part of some bad dream.  I'll reach over to his side of the bed and grab on to his teashirt and he will be there.  Or I will come home and he will be making dinner and the television will be on to one of the infamous "Judge" shows.  And then I realize that it won't happen-that he is gone and my life has gone on without him.  All of this happens quickly and the sadness washes over me.

 I try to flip this and count my blessings-my expanding family, and the wonderful folks in my life.  But some days it is harder to feel positive when I miss him and I am tired of being upbeat and managing everything.  I get tired of handling my life (which used to be "our life") alone and have no one to vent to after a long day.  So much internal dialogue - and no energy to find a person who is interested in the details or who is captive long enough to listen to my rants. 

So it is time for bed-and hopes that tomorrow will be better.  Or for me to feel more able to handle what comes my way.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Life Without

The last few days I have been thinking so much about the past 2 and 1/2 years without Bruce.  My life with him seems further and further away-something that I have blogged about previously.  But a piece of me feels missing, a part of my core that will never be replaced.  So even though I sometimes have difficulty remembering all that I would like, there is an emptiness that reminds me of my life before.

I wonder too, what my life would be like now with him.  We would both be sharing in our first grandchild, and he would be tickled at the experience.  I also know that I would be living day to day-somewhat oblivious to my good fortune, that I was still so smitten with my husband of 3 decades.  Do we ever really acknowledge and appreciate what we have?  I know that I told him that I loved him daily.  I rested my hand on his cheek and told him how important he was to me.  But I don't think that I ever really understood how his absence would be my greatest challenge.  And I try not to do the same with the others around me-to be so caught up in the loss that I do not appreciate and take stock of what I have.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I have been thinking a lot about the people that I know and life's rhythms.  My mom always tells me the "the secret to being miserable is having the time to think about it".  With apologies to both my mother and to George Bernard Shaw (his quote), I disagree.  Do we really need to make time to dwell?  And if we do not think about it, does it really mean we are not miserable?  I contend that we need to think about things in order to make changes.  I guess part of healing ourselves is to make changes-and unless we do some deep cognitive analysis, there is no potential for change.

That being said, I think about the other widows that I know and the process of grief.  I think that the human condition does not allow for process.  We focus on the outcome, on the resolution without thinking about how we evolve.  Case in point:  I know of a widow - who has been at this widow stuff a year longer than I have.  I have looked to her as the guide - she after all has been at this longer than I have.  She has been through some of the phases that I have witnessed in others.  The shocked, disconnected phase, the freedom phase (accompanied by various acts of indulgence followed by guilt), the need to be relentlessly busy phase, and the depressed, need help phase.  I assumed that I would move through the phases too in much the same way.  She also went through the dating phase, new boyfriend phase, etc.  But as I watch her progression, and talk to her now-she has confessed to me that she is in a new phase of loneliness and despair.  Her husband died 4 years ago and she still continues to cycle back and forth.  Recently she found an old wedding band and put it on, immediately feeling some comfort.
Interesting to consider.  Yes, I miss my old life and over the past 2 and 1/2 years my life has taken on some changes that make it difficult to forget my loss.  Yes, I live in the same place and hold the same job. But a lot has changed-my relationships with my children and the new blessing-my grandson.  As time passes and things look different to me-it is harder to superimpose my old life with the new.  I would trade it all in a minute to get him back-but as the months fly by-I realize that I am adjusting to life alone.  I do not necessarily like this life, I would not have chosen it - but there it is.

I think of me on the beach-a metaphor since even though I am staying across the street-I have not yet been on the sand.  I gingerly put my toe in the water and wait and see how it goes.  I can not see behind me-the fog too thick.  In a nutshell-this is my life.  I look ahead and approach very cautiously.  Occasionally I can see the past-mostly just as a faint image, and often without trying to hard to envision some memory.  I experiment-not as a scientist anxious for the outcome-but as a novice.  I try to analyze my inner thoughts as a way to move forward.

"An unexamined life is not worth living"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Flip Side

I had a chance to see my family this weekend and also reflect on life as I now know it. True, it always makes me pause when I gather for an event-in this case to celebrate the birth of the new little guy in the family, as I physically miss Bruce beside me. Emotionally-well I cannot even go there. But I so appreciate that I can be surrounded by people that I love and feel the warmth of those who have really known me. We have all shared some history, and that provides some comfort-and no explanation is necessary.

So I reflected on the past 2 and 1/2 years.  Yes, I do reflect back during the celebration and commiseration of events, I think that it is only natural.  But in this case, there were a few other prompts.  The baby was born 5 days before Bruce's birthdate, he was male and during the bris, the rabbi discussed Bruce.  Bruce's photo was displayed on the mantle, and he "watched" us during the ceremony.

As I thought about it-I decided that I am trying hard to concentrate on the flip side of life-the heads and not the tails.  It is much easier to see the negative-our society seems to feed on it.  The problems that need to be solved, the challenges to overcome, the issues to be dealt with.  I try to find a positive-maybe only one a day to remind myself that there is some small joy in my life.  I acknowledge that it sometimes is a stretch-on those days an interesting rerun of Law and Order may be the only thing that I can find, but the effort is worth it.  I have been asked recently to recall the last time that I had fun and I can only think back to life with Bruce.  It was not only fun-he was funny and his sense of humor put even the tensest moments in perspective.  But it is really not fair or even accurate to say that I have not had "fun" since he died.

To only focus on the negative undermines the love and attention that the people around me offer me.  I have fun with my children, my family, my friends.  I can laugh and enjoy the company and being part of a world of color in contrast to the gray that  surrounds me when I think of a world without Bruce and the sunshine he brought to my life.  So I am trying to look at the flip side-there is the negative but often there is something there that can be seen as a positive-some way to turn around a difficult situation.

These past 2 weeks have been a mixture of sadness and joy-I can focus on either-why not the joy?
It is a constant struggle.

Friday, October 7, 2011

An Adventure

Bruce was always able to turn things around-at least cognitively, and at least for others. He usually told me that I wasn't nervous, just excited. He also was able to spin interesting and difficult times as adventures. When I put together my sabbatical and a first grandchild on the way-I decided that I would rent a place near my daughter and son-in-law's apartment. I imagined myself on the beach soaking up the sun and then making a visit daily to bond with the new person in my life. I also thought that I could help out and further bond with my daughter and son-in-law.

I have come to understand that these "adventures" are often tinged with challenges. Often the "imagined" turns out to be pure fantasy. Although I am doing okay day to day-what I thought life would be like hasn't materialized. The studio is okay but a bit small and isolating. It has been rainy and the beach not especially conducive to sun-bathing. And then there is my concerns about Bebe-her barking, her anxiety, all of the details in settling her.

But when I think about it - although I am a bit disappointed that I cannot fully enjoy my beach experience, I am overjoyed that I am close to my new grandson and children, and a bit proud that I have made this happen in spite of my anxieties and grief. I know that part of the anxiety made me delay and thus hampered my options. But I have learned a bit in the process and gained some self-confidence.

Moving forward is hard but I will do it in spite of myself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A New Life

Finally a new life and some hope for the future. My first grandchild was born on October 2nd, 2011. This is just 5 days before his grandfather's birthday-and Bruce would have been 57 years old. It is joy to welcome this baby boy-even though it is tinged with the regret that Bruce is not here to be part of it. But the sadness is manageable-

I have taken a studio near my daughter to help with anything that needs my input. She is amazing though and I know her Dad would have been so proud to see her handle all of the newness with such confidence. She will be an amazing Mom-loving but structured-the best!

So although there are challenges ahead for me-work has been difficult, and the financial concerns continue-it is all in the context of the joy of new beginnings. More tomorrow!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Long time

It has been a long time between posts. The summer went by at warp speed. The summer before was agonizingly slow and this summer way too fast. August was a flurry of activities with 3 parties, travel to Portland, San Diego and New York. My mood is both up and down. I am excited about the positive events coming up-2 new members of the Berg family-a grandchild and daughter-in-law, and so sad that Bruce is not here to share it with me. I continue to struggle with the loss and the aftermath of it. October 1st I start a much needed sabbatical and of course have more on my plate than is possible to ingest. But I am putting one foot in front of the other and attempting to move forward. Is there any other way to exist? I have also promised myself I will start putting my thoughts on paper instead of the running commentary (a la Carrie Bradshaw) that exists in my head. Blogging is good for me-maybe helps me keep grounded. I guess I will have to see how it all turns out.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Emotional overtones

I have begun to dissect this feeling of being overwhelmed and decided that there definitely is an emotional component to it. There is always too much going on-but when I couple the amount of work to be done with emotional turmoil, it puts me over the edge.
Last week, I made a vow to myself to dismantle Bruce's office and I have made some good progress. It was harder than I thought-too many memories buried in the books and the paperwork. Much of the stuff evoked the past-some of it happy, some of it not, some entirely neutral. But it was a glimpse back and of course I both worry and welcome that without the things-those times are not retrievable. They remain buried deep with all of the other thoughts clogging up my brain.

And then in the middle of the week, there was the Emergency Room drama with my son and the resulting worry and emotional "hangover" the next day. It took a full two days to work it through and I continue to be a bit emotionally unsettled.

I have trouble articulating how I feel-almost like a fog engulfs me and I get lost in the emotions that bombard me. I know that it sometimes contributes to the inertia, interrupts my sleep and preoccupies my thoughts. I guess I have always responded to the emotional tugs before the cognition kicks in. I can (thanks to years of therapy) take all of this apart and provide a perfect rational response. But the emotional sensors are still on overload. I just got to keep on going, set small tasks and work through the turmoil. I know that I am strong and capable.

Even though I am sometimes beset by my emotions-it is who I am. Contributes to my passion, my enthusiasm and my empathy for others. Now I just have to learn to tame it and do good work while emotionally challenged! Small steps.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Before Bruce died, I worried all the time about his health. I was aware that his Dad died at an early age. In fact many of his family members died prematurely. Bruce always said that he was not going to live long-when he made it past 50 we were elated and began planning for retirement. Retirement was not something he thought he would ever need to consider. But even though we were a bit relaxed and figured we had made it past 50 and we were home free, I still worried. There was always this underlying anxiety. Any medical event could rattle me and cause me to become very anxious after I dealt with the issue. When Bruce died, although I was devastated, a part of my anxiety died with him.

Yesterday, I realized that it was not gone, just dormant. My 27 year old son ended up in the Emergency Department due to a pinched nerve. I was concerned when he had symptoms radiating down his arm but even more shaken when he fainted in the ED. I realized that my worry was not over. He is fine, thankfully. But I am so traumatized by the event. Perhaps it is the worry in combination with the getting rid of Bruce's things. I am emotionally overwhelmed, tired, sad and yes-worried.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

stuff revisited

I decided it was time to get rid of Bruce's stuff and even as I write this, I feel a sharp pain. Is it betrayal? I know how much his stuff meant to him. As a boy growing up, he often felt deprived. As an adult-he so enjoyed the fact that he could have some of what he wanted. He loved his stuff. And he collected and saved much of it over his lifetime. The emotional cloud descended as I attempted to sort through his office at home. I found lots of his treasures: the collection of credit cards that he used since he was first able to obtain one, the collection of matchbooks from every restaurant he went to (some of these with me), the collection of toys that used to decorate his office, the batman memorabilia, the pens, the cameras, and so on. There were memos and old ticket stubs. I relived my past with him through much of the stuff that I needed to sort.

And as it did so many months ago, it occurred to me that we so value our stuff and often fail to put what these things are in perspective. Aren't they just things? Maybe not-maybe they represent who we are and what we value. But the sad fact is that we cannot take the stuff with us when we die. And often the value that we place on the stuff is not shared by anyone else.

Since Bruce was a qualitative sociologist-I imagine that this is the perfect research project. But then since there is so much to go through and sort-what would best represent him?

So my plan is to sort through and systemically remove his stuff from my life. It seems as if there should be a special ceremony for this-because his presence is so evident in the stuff that remains throughout the house. I thought that I was ready for this but I am feeling irritable and out of sorts. But it has been long enough and I have decided that it is time.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I am alone much of the time. I analyze my life and thinking process as I walk Bebe and go about my day. I realize that after Bruce died I became extremely passive. I still have yet to fully take the reigns and bring some control to the day to day. It is hard to plan much. Is this a consequence of my grief or is this who I have always been? Difficult to know who am I without the partner that I grew up around. It is almost as if I am experiencing myself without the context of my marriage. Strange new world of me alone.

There are also the possibilities that exist now. How do I come to know myself and then make choices about what to do in my future? Funny how in my marriage there were times when Bruce and I would get confused about which one of us liked something. Even the kids confuse us-for example, it was Bruce who liked asparagus and me who liked cauliflower. Seemingly unimportant now-but only illustrate how the lines blur. While I was always fiercely independent, there were less choices to be made-because the other needed to be considered. Now there is just me-and I often do not know what I want in the absence of his opinion. It is resistance that guided me then-so his preference often triggered a resistance or acquiescence. This helped me to have insights about what I wanted.

The resistance lingers and I feel like a leaf on a tree, letting the wind dictate my direction. I resist making plans, resist controlling my time, resist those things that I need to do to move forward.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This Time of Year

This time of year always brings a certain sadness. The sadness comes without warning and I have to think about it and then remember that it was around this time in 2008 when Bruce and I traveled to London and had the most fantastic time. We left for London on June 24th, 2008 and did not return home for 2 weeks. When I have trouble falling asleep at night I try and recapture Bruce and I walking down the streets in London, Edinburgh, Paris and Dublin. I am holding his hand and we are laughing, so enjoying our time away.

This was always the time of year when we had some "free time". Bruce loved to vacation and he would plan at least a trip to Hawaii. This is the first year I will not be going since 2001. He loved Hawaii and loved vacationing. It was something that he lobbied for and eventually I would give in and we would go. Vacationing was not something that was easy for me-but I loved him and his enthusiasm was contagious. Ironic now that I welcome the time away with the kids. I love to travel with them to new and interesting places.

So the summer begins and he is not here to help me through it. I will carry the sadness with me this year although it is more bearable. There are things to do and now some new events to look forward to.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The New Normal Revisited

Yesterday it occurred to me that I am getting used to my solitary life. I walked Bebe and had difficulty remembering life with Bruce. This is the the final awful layer of my grief that I have blogged about before. There was the initial loss, an ice cold water bath-so shocking and painful. There was the cold numbness after, and then the realized loss-when the pain of missing him was so present and I could reach across my pillow imaging him on the other side of the bed. There was the loss experienced floating in and out of my past and present-where I was distracted and then I would think of him and his image would come to me and the sadness overwhelmed me. And now this-the day to day life without him, filled with a routine that I never wanted yet am "married" to. I am used to it, perhaps even find comfort in the familiarity of it. And occasionally there is the pain of realizing that my loss has been so great that there is no recovery. But here I am, used to a life I have never imagined.

The imagined life.... We all are guilty of creating a life that does not always jive with reality. I imagine my life or did before Bruce died as a fairly uneventful walk down a long road. Sure, I thought there would be small cracks in the sidewalk - but did not imagine that anything big would alter the course of my path. I saw grandchildren and retirement, travel and minor money issues. I did not see death or disability - did not think that crises would get in my way. There are so many around me who have experienced the "unthinkable". Cancer, death, financial ruin, job loss-so many stressors. How does one reconcile the reality of their life with what was imagined?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

30 years ago

Thirty years ago today my life changed forever. I remember the day vividly, waking up at 5AM with contractions. I had decided the night before that I was staying home from work anyway-I had a week left before my due date and I was tired. I had worked many days in a row at the hospital in the ICU, and I thought I could use a mental health day.

But my plans for the day were not happening! I had contractions and was even more cranky than I thought possible. There was a tinge of excitement because I was anticipating the arrival of my first child. Bruce, of course was ecstatic-and we called the doctor as soon as we could to announce that I was in labor. His advice was to sit tight and hold off for a bit. Keep busy, he said and then Bruce proceeded to take the advice very seriously. He had me vacuuming and shopping, baking and cleaning until I finally broke into tears. I fell asleep on the couch around 4PM, an indication that my contractions were not all that intense if I could sleep through them.

The phone rang and it was my cousin. As I sat up to answer, my water broke and I was really on the way. I called the doctor and jumped into a shower (something I later learned was not allowed) and dressed in new jeans. Even though I was a nurse, I misunderstood about the amniotic fluid and thought that once my water broke-I was done with the fluid, so I was really surprised that my new jeans and Bruce's car were soaked by the time we got to the hospital. A few hours later, my first child was born, a small beautiful little girl. She weighed just 6lbs, 9ozs.

Bruce and I were such proud parents. She was the apple of his eye, they shared so many things. They both loved Disney, aquariums and musical theater. They were quick witted and so bright and both were very critical of others. She was able to get him out of a bad mood pretty successfully. I know that he was very proud of the woman that she had become before he died. He would have loved to share this day with her.

I had a dream last night and my children were small and Bruce and I were navigating the difficulties of parenthood. As I look ahead to this day, the day of my first child's 30th birthday and the beginning of her first year as a mother, I am reminded of the three of us those first few years that we were a family.

I will miss Bruce today celebrating the birthday of our first-sharing memories of her childhood. Happy Birthday my beautiful little girl, and capable mother to be, with love from me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I am not resilient at all. There were a few months when things were a bit better and now it seems that we are back to coping with bad news. Illness, financial difficulties and stress an old friend that has come to sit beside me once again. I can count my blessings but it is hard when there seems to be so much turmoil around me.

How does one weather the storm? I used to turn to Bruce for support or at least companionship when life became difficult. His sense of humor and then mine would kick in and we would joke about the harsh realities. It helped us to get through some really rough times. Now I am alone in it and hard to not give in and be morose.

But I know that I and those around me will persevere and I need to try and put these things in context and hope for the best. I have gotten through some very challenging crises over the years especially the last 2 since Bruce died. I will try and focus on the positives.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Camp Widow

Sometime last year I came across a website that was called Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation. There was a camp experience call Camp Widow-particularly designed as a weekend about loss of a spouse. It is right down the block-in San Diego. I only discovered it after the 2010 weekend. This year I am contemplating signing up.

Thinking about camp reminds me of my childhood. I spent many summers at "sleep a way" camp in the mountains near NYC. The summers were both terrifying and rewarding. I cried at the start of the summer because I was homesick and at the end because I was leaving camp for home. It was hard to make friends and get acclimated to the environment each year. I often felt isolated and as if I did not belong. Funny how I never felt that way once I was married and had a family. I knew that I belonged somewhere-Bruce and the kids did that for me. Now alone again, those feelings still are there. But I am getting better about feeling more comfortable on my own. I can be in a room and not know anyone and as long as I am interested in what is going on in the room and have my security blanket (my knitting), I am fine. Those feelings persist and accounts for my trepidation about going to camp.

I have met some amazing people on this journey. Most of them are widows. Easy to reach out to those who have had the rug pulled out from them-like me. I enjoy their companionship. Maybe it is that we do belong to a group of sorts-we have a new identity and that identity forever changes us. So in addition to being a nurse and a teacher and a knitter, I am now also a widow.

So I think I will sign up and once more go away to camp. And maybe there will be tears this time too-maybe even some homesickness and some fear of making friends. But I have learned that I am a bit resilient and that when I am feeling really bad that perhaps that too will pass.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Little Things

There are a few things that I deliberately changed after Bruce died. First, I did not wear jewelry. Not that I accessorized all that much, but I did change earrings and wear pins and some of the beautiful necklaces that he purchased for me. After he died, I closed the jewelry box and never opened it. I just recently started wearing some of the pins that I have-most of them quirky comic relief items. And I do wince mentally when I think of how he and I would laugh about the choices that I made with respect to the pins that I wore.

I still have difficulty changing my earrings. I had trouble caring about my appearance after-so putting on make-up was hard. I do wear minimal make-up now.

I stopped buying flowers for myself. Before Bruce died, I bought flowers weekly. I am back to buying flowers again.

I have difficulty watching anything resembling a situation comedy on television. Life just isn't that funny. It would delight Bruce when I would watch a program that made me laugh out loud. Hard to find anything truly entertaining at this point in my life.

Funny how these little things speak volumes. I almost wanted to be immersed in a world of gray and black-color was not available to me on grief street. I guess the inner pain needed to be reflected outward. I still wear lots of black. If I were Catholic - I would have contemplated moving in to a convent. I needed that dark silent place to mimic what was happening inside.

How much his life touched mine and how his loss irrevocably changed me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

What defines us

I have heard people say that the death of a spouse should not be what defines us. But how can that not be true-such a big part of my life, more than half at this point. How can Bruce's death not be part of who am I now?

My husband's death is what defines me. I awake every morning as a widow-someone robbed of a vital part of my life. I go on with my day and occasionally I lose sight of my widowhood and for a moment, I am again Jill, Bruce's Jill and then I remember.

It has been a major trauma in my life-perhaps the greatest trauma I have known thus far. Ironic then that I am expected to create a new life from the ashes. How does one do this? I am still at a loss and function in a kind of one foot in front of another reality. I know that this is not enough-but how to move past the life I once crafted over so many years.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The New Normal

I have heard the term "new normal" so much since Bruce died. It is interesting because I do not think of anything about my life now as normal. I have somewhat of a routine, but it still feels as if I am in some experimental condition. I continue to tread water but cannot really go anywhere. Am I creating a new life for myself?-it does not feel that way. I am just doing what I need to do right now until I figure this life out.

My mood is better and I am looking forward. This is helped by the fact that good things are on the horizon: a relative moving closer, a baby in the family, a sabbatical, perhaps a wedding. But the more that I look forward the further away Bruce is.

There is nothing about this life that approaches normality. I do what I do because I have to. I am not aware of choices that I am making although of course, I choose everyday. But these are small choices-like what I have for breakfast. All the big choices are out of my hands. This is not the life that I chose for myself. It was the life that was handed to me.

Nothing normal about that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Another Widows Story continued

Long time between posts. I had my birthday and my anniversary. I celebrated my anniversary with my kids in Palm Desert, a place that Bruce and I enjoyed on many occasion. He loved going away and Palm Desert had all the ingredients for a great getaway. Bruce loved the shopping, the eating out, the desert landscape. I thought of him as I did some of these things and wished for him to be with me again.

But I had great company-my children and their significant others (who I consider as my children as well) are the people that I love spending time with. They are kind, caring, and wildly entertaining. When I am with them, I laugh and truly enjoy life. They are the best part of Bruce and it is so "normalizing" to be with them.

I am missing Bruce a lot these days. Not a boo hoo kind of experience, but a longing for him as I tackle hurdles and issues at work and home. I miss his company in the evening, and his sage advice or comments when I get home from work or get an e-mail that sends me into a tailspin. Bebe tries to be a good listener but unfortunately as a dog, she is more interested in playing ball or chewing her Nylabone.

I finally finished Joyce Carol Oates book: A Widow's Story. It really focuses on the first few months after her husband Ray dies. Interesting how she really separates her personal and professional self. She is both Joyce Smith, widow of Ray Smith and Joyce Carol Oates, the writer and professor. Her grief overwhelms the personal self while the professional self attends lectures and gives talks all over the country. I marvel that she is able to keep some separation even though she is very devastated by her husband's death. And then at the end-she meets a stranger and the book ends. I learned that she re-married 6 months after Ray dies and I think that it is this stranger (who almost literally falls in her lap at a dinner party) who becomes her 2nd husband.

I thought about this a lot. Is it better to fill the void quickly before you get used to being alone? There are many widows and widowers who do this. Many were quick to condemn Joyce Carol Oates for her quick turnaround from grieving widow to blushing bride. But a part of me refuses to condemn this behavior. We need to continue-to find some reason to go on after the devastating loss of our loves. Whatever helps us achieve this end is okay. And-unless you have experienced a loss like this-it is hard to have any perspective. I worry that the more that I get used to being alone-the harder it will be to invest in someone else. Being alone, truly alone is hard. And the idea of being alone for the rest of my life seems to re-fresh my grief. I grieve for the loss now and for the loss of my future with the man I love. I grieve for what I will not get to share with him-the wedding, the grandchildren, the commiserating about our growing old, and the retirement. More on this in the next entry.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy Birthday

For as long as I can remember in my marriage, I had a thing about birthdays. It was not just mine. I decorated the kids rooms with balloons and presents even when they were infants. As far as my birthday was concerned, I wanted the world to stop and for the people in my life to throw me a party. I wanted to be the only house that mail was delivered. I felt conflicted about this-how narcissistic of me to want this! But I wanted it anyway. And there were many years that the anticipation of my birthday coming-just did not measure up to the day. The first year that I was married was devastating. Bruce hinted for weeks how special it would be. I purposely did not make plans with anyone-so that I would not ruin his "surprises". To his credit, he planned a wonderful event-we went in to the city (NYC) to see a play and have dinner and I kept on thinking that at some point, I would see my parents and my friends around every corner. But that was not part of his plan. Finally we arrived home, "for the last surprise". I felt sure as I walked the dog that I would get home and the crowd would be waiting. My last surprise of the day was the GREEN CAKE, something that I hated throughout my childhood and hoped never to see again as an adult. Being born on St. Patrick's Day left my birthday diet full of green items-something I abhorred when the food was not naturally green.

I cried then, full of disappointment about the day and wanting so much to have my folks and friends celebrate with me. Bruce never did get that the birthday was about my wanting a celebration and not just with me and him. He was so happy just to be with me and did not feel it necessary to share me with others.

The years that followed were full of some excellent birthdays as well as other disasters. But I am choosing now to remember only the good ones. There was the birthday in Santa Barbara at a beautiful bed and breakfast and lots of presents over a long weekend. There was the surprise party he made me and I was really surprised! One year after work the kids and Bruce blindfolded me and took me for ice cream sundaes at Ghiradelli. There was the year that Kate made dinner for all of us - a wonderful Italian meal with lots of courses. Some of the years we traveled and I spent the day at the airport waiting to be whisked away to some far destination. I think the first one was to Paris for Kate's graduation trip and the second was on my sabbatical when we flew to London. In recent years, Bruce started giving me a week long celebration and had presents waiting for me every day.

And now? Since Bruce died, I do not care about my birthday at all. Maybe this will change. It is just another day, just another reminder of how much I miss him and how much my life has changed. The kids try and make it special-but I still dread it and cannot wait for the month to pass. What follows the birthday is the anniversary of our marriage. This year would have been 36 years-on the 26th. Too painful to think about - even after 2 years.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another Widow's Story

I am reading "A Widow's Story" by Joyce Carol Oates. It is not an easy read, as her husband died suddenly and she is totally bereft without him. I am a third into her narration, and she is almost "sleep-walking" through her days, and being helped by kind friends and a variety of medicinal aids. Of course, I can totally relate. What is the most interesting thing about the story is that apparently 6 months after her husband's death she remarried. I read something about her while just beginning to read the book, and she mentions her husband and his name is different that her husband in the book. I was astonished and did some searching on the web. Sure enough, the reviews refer to her wedding and the fact that she does not discuss this in the book.

So-what do I take from this? Am I encouraged that as devastating as the loss of a long time spouse is (she was married 40 plus years to Ray and they were as close as Bruce and I were), there is life after? Am I a bit shocked that she was able to reach out of her disabling reaction to her husband's death to date and remarry within such a short period of time? Is that the healthiest of reactions vs. the long adjustment period that I seem to be having? I guess I again wonder how this all proceeds from here......

What is healthy behavior post spouse death? Is the healthiest thing to create a new life and move forward? Do I wait until I am ready? I am not even sure what that means....

Monday, February 28, 2011

Who am I?

Monday morning. I enter my office at work and look over at my small photo of Bruce next to my computer. Try to remember the way I felt 2 plus years ago when I could be sure that he was on his way to work, or settling in to teach his class. My life so intertwined with his that I could count on his presence to give me courage-even when he was not with me. I was Bruce's Jill. Funny that I feel this way now-if you would have asked me about this before his death, I would have been insulted to think that my identity was so merged with his. Not very liberated of me but there it is. I guess I am like the feminist in the foxhole, fervently proclaiming my independence until they bombing starts or in this case until the "man" vanishes.

So who am I now. I have written about this before-difficult that one's identity or the perception of my identity can change over time. True, I am still a mother-but feel less like a mother day to day as my children are adults. True too that I am not now a wife. What else has changed over the past 2 years? So much of what I knew about myself was reflected in his eyes and now that they are closed forever-how can I possibly understand myself. Especially given the trauma with bereavement.

This weekend I spoke with another widow about the creation of our life. My life was set-I was at the top of the hill and could anticipate the downward slope and knew even a bit about the bumps and curves ahead. Now the road is uncertain. I have no idea what is ahead and even though I acknowledge that much of the journey is in my hands-I feel less able to map my route. So much of my confidence is gone.

I think that I need some time to think. I am now more used to being by myself-and the loneliness is less devastating. Also time to plan the next steps on the road-even if it is just 10 paces forward.

Monday, February 21, 2011

On to the 3rd year

Yesterday was the 2 year anniversary. I decided to spend it alone-made no plans and told everyone that I would be okay and I was. I slept till 7, and then got up, walked Bebe and settled in for a day filled with no big plans. I would watch movies and not do any work.

Of course, I thought of Bruce all day and missed his presence on the couch next to me. We used to have movie marathons all throughout our marriage, even when the kids were little. There was always a running commentary-kind of like mystery science theater. The first movie was "Two Weeks", a sad movie about a woman dying of cancer, who summons her 4 kids to spend her last days with her and take care of her. And of course, I cried throughout the movie. I cried for her and cried for me and Bruce and what my life has become without him.

In all of the books that I read about meaning, there is a thread that persists about how the widow attempts to find meaning in the loss. I disagree that I or anyone can find the meaning in that. I believe that loss is somewhat random, maybe dictated by science and not God. The search for meaning happens because the values that we held before the loss are forever altered. What was important to me before Bruce died now does not seem to hold the same meaning, and I am struggling to find my way. I sometimes have an image of myself in a deep underwater cave and I am searching for the opening so I can get some air. Work is harder than I imagined and the latest crisis is that unless I summon the energy, I will fail at that.

He was my cheerleader, my role model, my mentor, my best friend. Of course my life is difficult without him. I get that, but understanding does not make the day to day any easier. I am getting used to life in the house alone-don't mind it most days. I miss him though-miss his being my teammate. We faced challenges together-complained about student papers and faculty meetings, administration and the lack of resources. The challenges seem overwhelming without him to comment on them and I question why I am in such a pressure cooker without him as the valve to let off the steam. It makes the work much harder when I am not totally committed to the task. And my job requires the total commitment to make it work.

So on to year 3. I start the 3rd year back to the magic of medication. This time I am dealing with the anxiety coupled with the depression and hoping that I can turn off the emotional overflow and do good work. I guess we will see.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hard times for all

Feeling so down in the dumps lately and the news is grim everywhere. From the economy to the weather to the unrest in the Middle East. No matter what your political views are the state of the world is dismal. But misery does not love company-I wish that all was better elsewhere so that my sadness was not mirrored in those around me. Maybe it would give me some hope for the future.

But I struggle - I know that I cannot wait for MY world to right itself, but feel unable to charge forward and alter it. And yet it is really up to me. My rationalization is that I need to be patient and let the grief evaporate like some horrible weather pattern. I have heard that one day I shall "turn a corner" - I have written here about this before. Often though there is not a corner to be found. Do I wait? Certainly something has got to be done - by me - about this horrible emotional downturn.

So much of my life was constructed on Bruce's ideas for me-who I was, what I should do with my life, what I was capable of. It was not so much that I was dependent, but I was so young when we met and he had a plan for me. What I did, day to day, had much to do with my reaction to what he said and thought - even in opposition to him, it gave me a direction.

I completely understand then why I have fallen apart now. I was able to continue on after he died on the steam that I created before his death and then all was still in motion. But that steam has dissipated and now everything is spiraling downward. I took on more because "being busy was good" but now I realize that "being busy" can be extremely self-destructive as well. So now I am sad, anxious and overwhelmed. No good can come of this so I need to back pedal and develop a plan. And I will try. Just so much harder now without the guy at home to provide some balance for me as well as the edicts that I can get it done.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Approaching the Second Year Anniversary

I don't think that I ever liked January or February before Bruce died and I certainly have not changed my mind since. These are the bleakest months. Even though I live in California, there is something so dismal about them.

I am approaching the anniversary of the death-the past 2 years like a blur. I remain sad-almost inconsolable. How can a life change so much? I can think of so many bad analogies. Parts of my life are intact-I still work and have the minor ingredients of my life, like Bebe, and my kids. But there is something so fundamental that is missing. It is like a meal without taste, or getting a bouquet of flowers without a scent.

I realize that it is only up to me to create a new life that will be rewarding. It is up to me to move past my past and construct a future. But I do not feel able to do this, hard to move past the inertia and sadness. I am miserable and hoping that it will one day pass-but if it is up to me to do this-how will it happen?

So I look ahead to a month of remembrances. I will remember Bruce unpacking the boxes in his "brand new castle", I will remember the glee that he expressed as he invited people to a housewarming that we planned but never had, I will remember our last Valentine's Day dinner at the Bungalow, and then the last trip to the gym.

If you can read this out there in Cyberspace honey-I love you and miss you more than I can express.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Arrested Development

When does grief become abnormal grief? And if I am experiencing this-then what? I already have a therapist, already have been on medication and off. Now what? Does it help to label that I am stuck?

Sunday, January 2, 2011


The New Year. Time for reinvention or just new resolutions. Anything is possible. So much promise for things to be different. And yet, there is the potential that this year will be just like the last. All change requires work. Part of me wants to sit in the past, buried in the memories prompted by his things. If I get rid of his things, I will have to work too hard to remember him.

There is some comfort in the past-even though it is laced with sadness. Can both exist? It feels comfortable to dwell in a house that once was his, even though at times it pains me that he created something that he never got a chance to enjoy. But as time passes there is more comfort than sadness. And that is what keeps me locked in the past. It is uncomfortable to think of the unknown. If I try something new-what would it be like? There is the potential that new experiences may bring joy-but also require work and possibly lead to disappointment.

Inertia. Easy to go on day to day and not think about changing anything in my life. It is not as if I am just sitting around-my life is busy and my list of things to do is enormous. But every now and then-I get a glimpse of what my life once was and I think that maybe there is more for me out there if I could only harness some energy to try something different. But then I close this blog and go back to my list and my life. Not ready yet? Will I ever be ready?