Facing My Fears….A Trip Back

It was the trip I didn’t know how to process. I was flying back to the place that give me happiness with my career and most importantly, my wife, Sally, who passed away from cancer last year. I sold my house, and relocated, at least for the time-being, to the area I grew up. This is now my safe place.

I arrived in Idaho the previous evening and one of the first things I did was to call friends and family to calm me down and assure he I am doing the right thing. Thoughts were racing to just repack and go to the airport and head back to the sanctuary of where my family and friends reside. No one was available to take my calls. You can only imagine the craziness in  my head.

We’ll, I did set up business and personal meetings, so I needed to do this. Prior to this trip, my emotions were all over the place. The ups and downs were making things even harder as I’ve passed 10 months. I keep blaming the ups and downs on the impending 1-year anniversary since her passing, which is coming fast.

I was afraid of the reminders, the memories, the guilt of going on, and so forth of being back to Idaho. But, I faced my fears and went to the places that made my life so good on my first full day.  Honestly, instead of experiencing the overwhelming sadness, which I thought I would get, I remembered the joy and wonderful times we had. The people I had left behind seemed very glad to see me and I was great to see them.

I even visited Sally’s old work place. I still see her behind the cosmetic counter helping everyone who needed it. Her workplace and even the customers miss her too. She obviously left a big impression on this area as well.

Continuing down this path, I realize there are no rules and no time limits on this grieving process. Everyone is different and what we do may be different. And, sometimes, we have to do different things, even when others don’t get what you’re doing. I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to feel a little joy, at least once in a while. But, this is going to be a long journey with more ups and downs. I miss Sally every single moment.

In just a short time back in Idaho, I learned a great deal, more than I bargained for. Sitting here writing this, I do feel a sense of pride and I think my adorable wife, Sally, would be proud as well.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Tomorrow I fly to the place where my wife and I shared 13 years of our 33 years together. It’s a difficult area to go back to because there are so many memories. When we arrived in Idaho, we had only a few friends and no family. We built a tremendous life together in that state, but things are different now.

I’m going back to check on the possibility of a master’s program at one of their colleges. I will also visit the friends who supported me during the worst experience of my life. I wish I could say that I was excited. Instead, I fell like I’m on a new emotional roller-coaster. Seeing these people, despite all the history, will be good. It’s always nice to see friendly faces.

My life in Idaho was awesome. I did everything I wanted to do in my career. I was proud of the accomplishments and enjoyed our life that we both worked so hard to make. Sally’s job at Macy’s was also good. Many people in the community would come to her for cosmetic advise and she definitely knew her stuff. Every day, we would have lunch together as I would make time in the middle of the day just to enjoy another meal with Sally. Also, I wasn’t a fan of cooking meals for myself.

But, as I mentioned in other blogs, I sold my house and left the area. I couldn’t take the familiarity of a place that brought so much, and that she is no longer a part of it. However, it was home for a long time. People respected the work I did and there is a part of me that wants to go back.

I keep wondering, would it be a good idea to return? Or, perhaps I should go to some place that has no connection to our history and just start over. These thoughts constantly race through my head. I don’t question the selling of our home or leaving the area for a while. I do question on where I go from here. We’ve always had some kind of “plan” when we moved to different places.

I know that I’m putting tremendous pressure on myself to resolve my future. Others sense that as well. I understand that the grieving process takes time, but emotionally, sometimes it doesn’t matter. Trying to give myself time is difficult. There are so many days when I feel, “this does not compute,” or, “how do I fix this?”

I hope to get an idea later in this week where the path will start to lead. It will be a strange feeling to be back in the area to where I owe so much, but find it hard to stay. I wish I could make sense of this.

For those who read this, I have a question. When you became widowed, did you make a big change? I realize you’re supposed to wait on big changes, but circumstances may dictate otherwise.

Where Do I Live Now?

2012-07-13 10.36.21It’s almost hard to believe that over a year ago I lived in a 3,300 square foot home that overlooked a lake. My wife, Sally, loved the home. I literally had to take up many jobs to help pay for the thing, but looking back, it was well worth it.

Once my wife passed away from cancer last May, I immediately put the house up for sale. It was our home, not mine. When Sally left this world, I only spent one additional night in the house. Her co-worker, who became good friends in a short period of time, literally put me up in her and husband’s home until it was time to leave.

I have a lot of admiration and compassion for those two people. They brought in a person who was very sad and did whatever they could to make living conditions as comfortable as possible.

Our home was beautiful, and she was the big reason for that. It was our sanctuary for over 12 years and many memories were made. That was one of the big reasons to sell the place. I just couldn’t bear walking into that house and not see her.

I completely understand that widowed persons will stay in the same house after their loved one has passed. It’s their home. In my case, the memories were too much for me.

So here I am, staying at a relative’s home, because it’s too difficult to be by myself. Still working, but the life I worked so hard to put together, along with my wife, is now gone. I’m trying not to ask for sympathy or pity, but it’s so hard to process on how things can change so quickly.

Looking to the future during this experience is almost impossible. However, I did make the decision to pursue a master’s degree. Where I end up in the long run is anybody’s guess.

It’s interesting that when you’re younger, homes and other possessions seem to be important. I always knew this, but After losing Sally, I realized more than ever that a house is merely four walls. It’s what’s inside that makes it a home.

 

What About That “Eternal Promise”?

It’s been over 10 months since the passing of my beloved wife, Sally. I look back and find it hard to image that everything I worked for, my home, my way of life and Sally is gone.

For such a long time, it was just me and her. We made some friends on our journeys and when we moved to Vermont and Idaho. But, at the end of the day, it was just us. We never had children as it wasn’t meant to be.

On many occasions, we said it would be her and me forever. That was the promise. Now, I’m forced to try to move forward despite the pain.

I realize that I still have a long way to go with the grief and loss. She was the “love of my life” and I believe that no other woman will love me the way she did. Our connection was special and deep. People would notice how we looked at one another, even when we were in our 50s.

As far as happiness in the future, I can only hope at this stage. I’m going to be 55, but making plans to get my master’s degree and resume teaching, a job that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m doing the best I can. This was not part of the original plan for the rest of my life.

I think that we live by a set of rules that we create for ourselves or, perhaps, instilled in us by others over time. Regardless, my I have either been blessed of cursed with keeping a “promise.” It’s what I do and a rule I live by. Once I make that promise, no matter how big or small, I will do everything in my power to fulfill it.

For those who read this, I’m certain that most will think that all of this will change in time. However, my “programming,” at least at this point, forces me to honor any promise that is made, including an eternal one I made to Sally. I do remember the wedding vows, “til death do you part,” but that does not overrule the “promise.”

I saw a great blog by “Ten Thousand Days” that, in my opinion, hits the point. I’m moving forward, but not moving on.  This situation has become my new normal and I have no choice but to accept this big change. I try to “go with the flow,” but still find myself trying to swim against the current.

Prior to her passing, she told me that it was okay for me to find someone else. I also hear from friends and relatives that she would want me to be happy for the rest of my days. On a logical level, this makes sense, but on an emotional one, that’s another matter. Living the life of solitude is not exactly what I had in mind.

What do you think?

 

Coping With Survivor’s Guilt

I managed to get through one of the “big dates” of my wife’s passing. March 24 would have been our 34th year together. It feels like you’re standing and cringing as that date approaches. How bad will the first one feel? Who will I get through the day?

The day started off as expected, emotional. But, friends and family came through and helped out, for which I’m extremely grateful. It would have been so easy for me to just stay in bed.

This first wedding anniversary without her made me realize the grief and guilt will not be going away soon. I fully admit that “survivor’s guilt” is a part of the pain and sickness in my gut.

Those two little words, “what if,” still run through my head. A lot of my guilt stems from not forcing my wife, Sally, to go to the doctor, just for annual checkups with she turned 50. I get it when I hear the saying, “you can force a horse to water, but can’t make it drink.” Still, I can’t help but wonder.

For a long time, she was healthier than me. Sally worked out on the elliptical in a room in our house. Her job required her to be on her feet all day long. She ate well, much better than me. Honestly, I set up our insurance and future based on the fact that I would be the one that would leave first. Life threw me and everyone else a massive “blindside.”

The thought that goes through my head is that if I would have been more persistent, this cancer could have been caught early and things would be different. My sister, who is a doctor, tells me that this type of cancer would have likely not made that much difference in terms of the outcome. Logically, I understand. Emotionally, that’s a different story.

I’ll never know if things would have been different. Perhaps not knowing allowed us to live life to its more fullest. We traveled a lot the few years prior to her diagnosis. Maybe her “quality of life” would have been far worse if we did know and went through the long and painful treatments. Regardless, I still wonder “what if.”

This process of grief is relentless. You can run, but you can’t hide. One of the steps I’m trying to work on is “forgiveness,” especially for myself. It’s far from easy. Happiness is something I don’t feel entitled to, at least not now. It’s a matter of trying to be “less sad.”

But, I try to press onward with each day. I try my best to be functional. Making plans for one, two or many months down the road is hard. However, I do make them, just to get some sort of sanity.

Now, I will be bracing for the next two days, her birthday and the one of her passing. I already know the road coming is going to be rough. Again, I’m doing my best.

 

The Task of Going Through “Stuff”

From conversation and personal experience, the most difficult task that a widow or widower must face is going through the “stuff” of their beloved. Shortly after my wife, Sally, passed from rare cancer last year, I made the decision to clean out our house and sell it.

Deciding to sell the house was an easy one for me. I could no longer live in a place that had so many memories. It was also expensive and too big to handle on my own. However, because the home is located in an area that gets snow, I had no choice but to clean it out and get it on the market as soon as possible.

I literally made about 30 trips to the local dump and sold much of the furniture and other possessions. Those things, possessions, clothes and other things are not the same without Sally as we got them “together.”

Going through the majority of this stuff on my own was painstaking and emotionally traumatic, but had to be done. Each item, especially clothing, had a memory attached. I completely understand that they are “things,” but there was still an attachment to my wife.

I’ve talked with many people who still hold on to many possessions of their deceased spouse. I do understand why some of these people do that. It’s so hard to let go of anything. In my case, I gave away all of her clothes. The only thing I wished I would have kept was a beautiful green dress that she would wear on special occasions.

Despite keeping most of her jewelry, I still think about that green dress. Let’s face it, the thing would have been in the closet, but it would have been close by. However, I did make a trip to Atlanta to see my sister. We went to one spot that had a beautiful waterfall. It was a chilly day and she gave me a purple hood to wear. It was chilly enough that I decided to wear it, even though it looked a little feminine.

At the end of the day, after our nice excursion, my sister, Susan told me that purple hood belonged to Sally. I asked to keep it and without hesitation she said yes. That hood sits on top of a 3 by 5 frame with our picture.

I’m not an expert on whether it’s a good idea to keep things or to give them away, sell them or whatever. In my case, I don’t have the green dress, but I do have have the purple hood. You can let me know what you think and what you’ve done as well.

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Trying to Get Through Those “Dates”

When one loses their significant other, especially when it’s the love of your life, the emotional roller-coaster becomes even tougher. I’m now going on month 10 since my darling wife left this world. However, this month comes with another date, our anniversary.

I used every bit of willpower to get through the holidays. For those in this situation, does it seem that the holidays go on forever? Now comes the date of our wedding anniversary, then her birthday and one-year marker. I don’t know how others handle it, but this part of the journey feels like I’m “bracing” for the hurricane of dates to come and go.

Many people have said that, “it doesn’t get better, it just gets easier.” I’ve heard so many “dates” on how long before you start to feel better, or at least somewhat functional. The majority have said it’s about a year-and-a-half. I’ve also heard the second year is the worst because you start losing your support group. The other ones go out to three years and I’ve heard of those struggling after five years and longer. Perhaps I can get more insight to this one too.

I read where the dates of anniversaries, birthdays, etc., mark the passage of time in this what I would call an unwanted journey. Prior to this last week, I thought that I could get through the rough time a little easier as I try to prepare and brace myself.

A quick lesson learned as you can never prepare, no matter how hard you try. This last week was one the worst. Trying to escape the overwhelming sadness that will blindside you is not possible. There’s a lot of truth to the saying, “you can run, but you can’t hide.” I’ve been running as fast and as hard as I can, but there’s no hiding.

One way I’m trying to cope is to do things “out of the box,” or out of my comfort zone. I am trying to do what I can to ease the pain, but realize I just have to “sit in it.” But, once the big dates have passed for year number one, I’m going to take a two-week cruise around Europe, something I would have not considered prior to all of this. I don’t expect to feel better overall, however it’s a different environment which makes for a distraction.

The month of May is one of the big “dates.” Her birthday was on May 8 and she passed late on the night of the 24th. Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe that one year is almost here.

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