Friday, November 29, 2013

So Much to Be Thankful For

As hard as it is to believe another Thanksgiving has come and gone. It fell late in November this year which leaves a very short time to get ready for Christmas. With that in mind I started early this morning determined to finish all of my decorating today. To get myself in the "spirit" I pulled out all of my Christmas cd's to listen to as I began to decorate. I have several that I like, but my favorite is Josh Groban's Noel, so I put it in first. I've probably listened to that cd a hundred times and know every song that's on it, but for some reason this morning the sixth song, Thankful, caught my attention. I stopped what I was doing, replayed the song, and really listened to the words. I suddenly realized what a wonderful song this is for moving from the Thanksgiving season into the Christmas season. I also felt like it contained a message meant specifically for me this year..."There's so much to be thankful for."

We celebrated our fifth Thanksgiving without Eddie yesterday, and as always his absence was felt especially at the dinner table. I hurt for Trey because I know how much he still misses his father. I felt regret that Emily will never have the chance to get to know her "Papi." I thought about Eddie's parents and how unbelievably difficult losing a child (regardless of the age) must be. But for the first time I did not cry, and I didn't feel any sadness for myself. As I shared recently, I've been struggling with some renewed feelings of anger, resentment, and blame. I know that can be expected from time to time in the years following a loss of any kind, but what I needed to realize is that I cannot let myself get too wrapped up in those feelings again or they will take over completely. I received that message "loud and clear" through these words from Josh Groban's Thankful...

"Some days we forget to look around us
Some days we can't see the joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give
So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can't see
It's up to us to be the change
Look beyond ourselves...
Each of us must find our truth
We're so long overdue...
And even though we all can still do more
There's so much to be thankful for."
So with those words in mind I went back and looked at the pictures we had taken after dinner last night and saw exactly what this song was telling me...I was surrounded by joy. I had my 98-year old grandmother with me for yet another celebration. I had both of my parents here - each doing exceptionally well under the circumstances. My son who, despite his own trials and losses, has grown into a hard-working man and father was  at home. And my granddaughter, who is growing up way too fast, was here to remind us all of what life is really about. We had more food than we could possibly eat, good conversation mixed with laughter over memories from the past, a comfortable living room where we could relax and watch the traditional Thanksgiving day football games on television, and a fire (complete with the new puppy sleeping in front of it) to keep us warm.

In addition to what I saw in the pictures from last night I thought about what I have to look forward to. In the immediate future I have some very dear and special friends coming from "home" tomorrow to go to Fantasy in Lights and spend the night with me. I have dinner and a show at the River Center next week with a group of great friends who always make me smile and laugh. I have weekly get-togethers for dinner, social time, football (or any other reason) with some new friends who I feel like I've known all my life. Of course there will be plenty of Christmas parties and visits with friends and relatives to keep me busy during this next month. Looking ahead I've already planned a trip with friends from Hazlehurst to see Cher in concert in Jacksonville next May as well as another girls' vacation to Cozumel in July and hopefully a trip to New York next December. And in the not-too-distant future (June 2015 to be exact) I can officially retire! Then who knows...

My life may not have turned out exactly as I expected or planned. I  may have had things happen that I didn't choose and that I don't like. I may not be able to control how I feel (or sometimes even what I say) all of the time. And I certainly don't know everything the future holds. But I do know this about the present..."There's so much to be thankful for."

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm

If you’ve read my blog from the beginning you know I’ve written about all of the things I did in an effort to recover and move on after Eddie’s death…reading books on grief, researching information about suicide, talking with a pastor, seeing a counselor and a psychiatrist, reading devotions and the Bible, praying, and finally writing. In my reading (especially about suicide) I often came across stories of people who were still dealing with their loss many years after the event  – some as many as 20 years later – but I vowed I would never be one of those people. I knew it would take time to recover from what happened, but I truly believed there would come a point in my life where I reached the end of my “coping” period. I was determined that, although I knew Eddie’s suicide would always be a part of my life, I wasn’t going to let it be something I had to “deal” with on a daily basis forever.

As I started to recover from my experience and began the process of rebuilding my life, I gradually gave up the things I'd been doing that had initially helped me to heal and move on. Giving up some of those was the right thing to do. I had read enough information on grief and suicide, and I wasn’t learning anything new, so I stopped reading and researching. Although I was comforted by the time I spent with the pastor, even he agreed we eventually reached a point where he had nothing new to tell me, so I ended my visits with him. The same was true of the counselor. The time I spent sharing with her was invaluable, but eventually the sessions became repetitive, so I chose to end them. I knew then and I still know now I made the right choice at the right time in all of these decisions. Unfortunately I also changed the other things I had been doing, and that was a mistake. I felt like I had said all there was to say with my writing, so I ended my blog (with the exception of an occasional post). While it wasn’t necessary to continue sharing what I wrote, I should have continued to write in some form, even if it was just a journal that no one read but me. I didn't realize until now what a great form of therapy my writing was. It gave me an outlet to express my true feelings – feelings I now realize I was keeping bottled up inside. And somewhere along the way, I can’t even pinpoint exactly when, I quit reading devotions and the Bible and gave up my daily prayers (that's a topic for another time).
I replaced my old methods for dealing with my experience with new ventures and activities. Most of these have been positive and have helped me move forward with my life. I reconnected with friends from the past, formed close bonds with new friends, and started traveling. These have all been good for me and have provided me with experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. At the same time though I made it a point to stay so busy I didn’t have time to think about the past, and when a thought or memory would start to creep into my head I’d push it out before it had a chance to get stuck in my mind. Little did I know these thoughts and the feelings associated with them weren’t really going away – they were staying with me building up inside just like a fire slowly beginning to burn deep down in a volcano. I had small indications this was happening – I’ve felt anger and resentment again – but just as with the thoughts and memories I chose to ignore the feelings. I didn’t recognize the harm I was doing until it was too late. The volcano erupted and all of the suppressed anger, resentment, fear, questions, blame, and hurt came spewing out.
If I had been alone when this happened it would have been okay. I could have ranted, raved, and carried on until I got it all out, and no one would have witnessed it or been hurt by my words. I wasn't alone though. Someone totally undeserving of the treatment they received was here to bear the brunt of my explosion of emotions. Without even knowing it and through no fault of their own, this person became a stand in, and I unloaded all of the pent up anger, frustration, and blame I've been feeling towards Eddie on them. Too late I realized how harmful keeping everything bottled up inside of me has been. Now only time will tell whether my words and actions have destroyed a valued friendship.
So here I am four and a half years later - much better than I was but still with a long way to go. I guess I'll be one of those people in the books after all still dealing with what happened years down the road. I don't like it, I didn't choose it, but this is life. We live it, make mistakes, learn from it, and carry on. Like the line in the Zac Brown song As She's Walking Away says..."may have lost this battle, live to fight another day."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Championship Afternoon

Anyone who follows the Atlanta Braves and knows me very well probably could have predicted that today's game would lead to another entry in my blog. The Braves clinched the National League East division title this afternoon for the first time in eight years. If you're not a baseball fan this doesn't mean a thing to you. But if you are a fan and particularly a Braves fan you know exactly what it means. As I wrote in my last entry our household was always big on sports, and we followed the Braves even before they had winning teams. Because Eddie played baseball all through high school and college it was his favorite sport. He watched every game he possibly could on television and went to games in Atlanta whenever he had the opportunity. He was the typical armchair manager always telling which pitch should be thrown, who should play where, whether the batter should take or swing, and when it was time to make a substitution.

I had seen his reactions when the Braves started having winning seasons during the 1990's after being a losing franchise for so many years. I knew how excited he would have been watching them clinch their division again today after eight years, and it made me sad that he wasn't here to see it. I've come to realize lately that any sadness I still feel about Eddie's death is because of what he's missing by not being here. He took away a great deal from Trey, his family, his friends, and me with his suicide, but he took away even more from himself. He deprived us of the life we had known, but we are adjusting and will go on with different lives. I do not feel sorry for myself, but I do feel sorry for what Eddie will never get to experience.

Because of these feelings it was an emotional afternoon for me. I was excited to see the Braves win but regretful that Eddie wasn't here to see it too. I knew if he had been he would have gotten on the phone with Trey and his dad immediately after the game to share the excitement of the championship with them. Luckily a very good friend was here to watch the end of the game and the subsequent celebration with me which was a huge help. To that person I would like to say thank you - I don't think you even knew what your being here meant.

I will watch the Braves throughout the playoffs cheering for them like any true fan. I want them to have a long successful run ending with a World Series championship. I know this will mean more emotional times for me, but that's okay because I will have other family members and friends to share the games and the excitement with.

"My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging." ~Hank Aaron

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It's Just a Game

As far back as I can remember sports has always been a part of my life. As a child I watched what few games there were on television with my father and grandfather. As I grew up I became a cheerleader, first for peewee and midget football, then high school football and basketball. In college I continued as a basketball cheerleader for two years. I began following baseball when I met Eddie and soon became an avid fan. I announced the home games and ran the scoreboard during Eddie's senior year at Columbus College and even followed the team to the College World Series in California while seven months pregnant. After our marriage Eddie and I followed both college and professional sports together, especially football and baseball. Our involvement in sports grew after Trey came along. He began playing ball at age five and continued throughout school first in little league baseball, football, and basketball, then with high school baseball and football.

Our favorite teams were (and still are) the Atlanta Braves, Georgia Bulldogs, and Atlanta Falcons. We followed and supported the Braves and Falcons long before they developed winning programs. The opening day for each of these sports and teams was always an exciting and much anticipated time in our home. During college football season our house was always a place to gather and watch the big games. There were times when it was a family get-together, times when it was Trey having his friends over, and times when it was a get-together with the neighbors. There was always plenty of food, drinks, laughter, yelling, cheering, and fun. Of course it was better when our team won, but we always had a great time regardless of the outcome.

Now when each of these seasons starts I am reminded of those times and how much I miss them. I haven't had a get-together at my house for a game since Eddie's death. At first I was afraid it would be too hard without him here. Even now four years later I can still picture him sitting in his recliner, yelling at the television, and even ocassionally throwing a newspaper or magazine at the screen when things didn't go well. We always had to turn the sound down on the television during Georgia games so we could watch the game but listen to Larry Munson. I can smell the hamburgers, steaks, ribs, and chicken that Eddie grilled because you couldn't watch a game without something cooked outside. I can hear the talking and laughing that filled the house and spilled out onto the carport and deck. I can still feel the excitement when our team won and our disappointment when they lost. These are happy pleasant memories that I will always cherish. Now because of those memories I'm no longer afraid to host a get-together. It's time to bring the laughter and fun back to my house and make new memories with new people.

My love for these sports has not changed since Eddie's death, but the importance I place on them has. They were and always will be a great source of entertainment, but winning the big game is no longer a life-altering occurance as I once thought. I know now that regardless of the outcome of any game my life will go on as before. I was reminded of that this weekend with the opening of yet another college football season. I joined a group of friends at a sports bar in town to watch the big game - Georgia vs Clemson. There was the expected cheering, eating, drinking, and fun, but the outcome wasn't what I had hoped for. It was a tight game, but my team lost in the end, and although I was disappointed I didn't take it too seriously. After I got home from watching the game I didn't dwell on the loss; I didn't lose any sleep over it; and I didn't stew about it the following day. Because it is after all only a game, and in the grand scheme of life its outcome has very little meaning.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Long is Long Enough?

Everyone who experiences a loss in their life handles it in their own way. There is no timeline showing how long a person should grieve or exactly when the grieving should end. I believe we each approach the task of grieving in the way that works best for us. Generally though, the first year is the most difficult for everyone. That is when we experience the "firsts" without our loved one - the first birthday, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first anniversary - the first everything. But making it through that first year doesn't mean you've reached the finish line in your race to complete the grieving process. Grief can continue in varying forms and intensities for years. So the only answer to the question of how long a person should grieve seems to be as long as it takes.

I began writing my blog in May 2011 just over two years after Eddie's death. I wrote regularly in the beginning in an effort to tell the whole story of his suicide and what it did to those of us who were left behind. Writing proved to be great therapy for me, and my blog (unexpectedly) seemed to offer comfort and inspiration to others. I was surprised at the number of people I heard from telling me of similar experiences they had been through in their lives. I never knew how "common" suicide is until I experienced it in my own life. My writing has tapered off during the past year. I've mainly written when something specific happened that I wanted others to know. There have been a couple of times when I've thought I was ready to end my blog only to have something come up later that I felt needed to be shared.

I recognize now the time has come to bring my writing to a close once and for all. My blog has provided an outlet for expressing my grief, anger, sadness, frustration, guilt, resentment, and questions. It served its purpose, but I believe continuing to write about my experience now is only keeping the wound open for me. I have reached the point where I feel it has been long enough. It is time for me to let go of the past in order to move ahead with my future. Letting go completely isn't easy - I have to let go of not only what happened but also how it made me feel about myself.

A very close, special friend put it best to me recently when he compared the aftermath of Eddie's death to a broken glass. He said I have been sweeping up the pieces for four years, and it's time for me to stop sweeping now. He told me I have cleaned up all I can, and I'm not responsible for fixing or repairing what happened - I cannot put the glass back together again. He was very firm with me (which I obviously needed) and told me things I've heard a hundred times before - what happened wasn't my fault, I didn't cause it, I couldn't have prevented it, no one blames me so I shouldn't blame myself, I have nothing to feel guilty about, and I have to give myself permission to be happy again. The difference was this time I actually began to believe all of these things are true.

Until now I've been afraid to let go because I thought it also meant forgetting. But I know now that isn't true - letting go does not mean forgetting. Eddie was a part of my life for almost 30 years, and I will remember the good times we shared. He is the father of my child. He had many positive traits that made him a very special person. He is a part of who I am today, and he will be a part of me for the rest of my life. Eddie made the choice to end his life - it was his choice and his alone. Now I am making my choice - I choose to continue my life and to make every effort to be as happy as I possibly can. I believe I have reached my finish line, and all I can say is it took as long as it took.

"Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more. We are like grass that is green in the morning but mowed down and withered before the evening shadows fall. Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should." Psalms 39:4; 90:5, 12 (TLB)

Please Remember Me ~Tim McGraw

"When all our tears have reached the sea
Part of you will live in me
Way down deep inside my heart...
The days keep coming without fail
A new wind is gonna find your sail
That's where your journey starts...
Remember me when you're out walkin'
When the snow falls high outside your door
Late at night when you're not sleepin'
And moonlight falls across your floor
When I can't hurt you anymore...
Please remember me."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Merry-Go-Round

I posted this from Lee Brice's I Drive Your Truck on my Facebook page a couple of days ago ..."I've cussed, I've prayed, I've said good-bye, shook my fist and asked God why, these days when I'm missing you so much." I chose this because it expresses perfectly what I've done and how I've felt this past week. Normally I compare what I've experienced to being on a roller coaster filled with highs and lows - happy and up one day, sad and down the next. This week has been more of a merry-go-round though. I've done everything the song says...I've gotten mad and cussed, I've prayed while at the same time questioning whether my prayers are worth the effort (though I know they are), I've blamed Eddie, myself and others. I've gone round and round with these feelings and emotions and always end up back where I started, with that same old burning question "why"? Unfortunately I'm no closer now to having an answer (and probably never will be) than I was four years ago. For the most part I do pretty well throughout the year, but I've learned to expect a setback during the weeks surrounding the anniversary of Eddie's death. I know now to prepare myself for periods of sadness and even depression during this time. Every year I tell myself that I'm going to go somewhere and get away from everything, but so far that hasn't happened. When it comes right down to it I don't ever seem to have it in me to just pick up and go away. I always end up doing the same thing - remembering, reflecting, reading, and ultimately writing.

During my time of reflecting this past week I realized several things...some I already knew but needed to be reminded of; others I'm just now learning and accepting for the first time. I was reminded once again how many wonderful family members and friends I have who saw me through the difficult times four years ago and are still there for me when I need them now. I had cards, calls, texts, Facebook messages, people who went to dinner with me, and those who just listened when I needed to talk. I am truly blessed and grateful to have these people in my life. Something not so positive that I was reminded of is how much anger and bitterness I'm still carrying around. I've worked to overcome these feelings, but they're still there buried inside and resurface from time to time usually when I least expect it. I've realized that until I deal with these feelings once and for all I'm never going to be able to completely forgive Eddie or even myself for what happened.

Recently I've been wondering whether I might be ready to have a serious relationship in my life again. I've decided after this past week that the answer is no. I took several things to the cemetery this week, both for Eddie's birthday and the anniversary of his death. One of these was a balloon that said "I love you, today, tomorrow, always." I chose that particular one because what it said is true. Despite the problems we had during the last several years of our marriage, the things we dealt with together before he died, and what I dealt with alone after his death, I never stopped loving him - and I never will. We were together for almost 30 years, and he will be with me for the rest of my life. The love I feel for him now may be different from what I felt when we were together, but it's a form of love just the same. If I ever decide to have a relationship with someone else, they will have to be understanding and willing to accept that Eddie will always be a part of me. Another reason I've decided I'm not ready for a serious relationship is that I don't tust easily (if at all). As bad as that may sound I've had to accept that it's true. My experience has caused me to constantly question myself as well as others. Until I can deal with this, just as with the anger and bitterness, I won't be ready for a relationship with anyone else.

I've also realized this week that at some point I will have to leave Columbus. I do not believe I can ever find peace, be content, or feel true happiness again living here. There are just too many reminders, memories, and even ghosts around every corner. I know I may not be able to move for a couple of years though. Because of the economy and cuts in education, I can't give up the job I have and expect to find a position somewhere else. No place is going to hire someone with 28 years' experience and a six-year degree when they can get a beginning teacher with a bachelor's degree for much less money! I understand I will just have to be patient, but when the situation is right I know I will want to move. I've mentioned to a couple of friends from my hometown that I might want to move back there one day. They think I'm crazy because in all honesty there's not much there (in terms of things to do) - no shopping malls, nice restaurants, theaters, or entertainment of any kind. But as I've told them, my hometown is a connection to a time in my life that Eddie wasn't a part of. As Miranda Lambert's song The House That Built Me says "I thought if I could touch this place or feel it, this brokenness inside me might start healing. Out here it's like I'm someone else; I thought that maybe I could find myself."

The things I've thought about and reflected on this past week may prove something that a few people have said about me - I think too much and overanalyze everything in my life. While this may be true, I personally don't believe there's anything wrong with it. I think and analyze in order to understand and try to make sense of what has happened. It's something I've always done and will probably always do. I've tried to change, to relax a little more, to not think so much, and to let things just happen, but that's not me. While I know I can't control everything in my life or make things happen the way I want them to, thinking and analyzing are a part of who I am and what I do. Those who truly care about me and want to be a part of my life will accept me as I am and not expect me to change.

"We don't 'get over' the deepest pains of life, nor should we. During an average lifetime there are many pains, many grieves to be borne. We don't 'get over' them; we learn to live with them, to go on growing, deepening, and understanding." ~Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Whatever Will Be Will Be

As hard as it is to believe another March is here. It seems the older I get the faster this month comes back around. This will be the fourth year since Eddie's death. This entire month is always difficult but the week of March 13-20 is especially hard. I've made up my mind though that this year I'm not going to dwell on the negative. I'm going to do what I can to remember the good, and I plan to keep myself as busy as possible throughout the month. I started on a positive note by spending last evening talking to a good friend for several hours. Throughout our conversation I was pleasantly surprised at how often I was able to mention Eddie without it making me sad. I've already made plans to spend this coming weekend with friends from South Georgia, and we're also going to see Elton John in concert March 20th. I know none of this will stop me from remembering what happened, but I've learned that surrounding myself with friends and activity is the best way to get through the hard times.

I've thought a great deal recently about where I've been, where I am now, and where I'm going with my life. I guess I've developed a somewhat matter-of-fact attitude and am slowly but surely making decisions and moving ahead. I don't like what happened, but I've had to accept that it did happen. I may not like the changes Eddie's death forced me to make, but I've made them just the same. I've learned that no amount of looking back or wishing can undo the events of the past, so I may as well look ahead and focus on the future. I accomplished my goal of completing my specialist's degree - now I need a new venture to devote my extra time and energy to. I haven't decided yet exactly what that will be, though I am considering several things. For now I will concentrate on the things I already have in my life - my family, my friends, my job, my personal relationships - and I'll approach my future the same way I'm dealing with my past - by accepting that I can't force things to turn out the way I want them to. Like the old Doris Day song says "Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be, the future's not ours, to see." 

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
by Helen Steiner Rice

"Yesterday's dead, tomorrow's unborn
So there's nothing to fear and nothing to mourn,
For all that is past and all that has been
Can never return to be lived once again.
And what lies ahead, or the things that will be,
Are still in God's hands, so it is not up to me
To live in the future that is God's great unknown,
For the past and the present God claims for His own.
So all I need do is to live for today
And trust God to show me the truth and the way,
For it's only the memory of things that have been
And expecting tomorrow to bring trouble again
That fills my today, which God wants to bless,
With uncertain fears and borrowed distress.
For all I need live for is this one little minute,
For life's here and now and eternity's in it."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Opening the Door

I read back over my last two posts and noticed how drastically different my attitude and emotions were from one to the next.  While it's true that I'm still on a roller coaster when it comes to my feelings, I can honestly say there are many more highs than lows now.  I may have periods when I get down and even a little depressed, but these are few and far between compared to four years ago.  I've accepted what happened in my life and adjusted to the changes it caused.  Now I'm at a point where I feel like it's time for some changes of my own choosing.  The problem is I'm not sure what it is I want to change.  I love my family, friends, and my children at school, but I have to wonder ... Am I ready for a different job?  Do I want a new house?  Do I need to move to a new town so I can have a fresh start?  It could be one of these.  It could be all of these.  It could be none of these.  I haven't figured that out yet.  I just know I feel the need for change.

I've also been contemplating whether it's time to change my attitude about the possibility of a relationship in my life one day.  Sometimes I think I'm ready and want that again, but as soon as the thought enters my mind I get scared and slam the door shut on the idea.  I've had people tell me the only way to find out is to take the chance.  Others have told me it's not worth the risk.  I value the advice of my family and friends and respect everyone's right to their own opinion.  But I know ultimately I am the only one who can make these decisions, and hopefully I'll recognize if and when the time is right.  I came across a poem recently by Shel Silverstein that seemed to reinforce my thinking ...

"There is a voice inside you
That whispers all day long,
'I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.'
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend,
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you -
Just listen to the voice that speaks inside."

I've been told by others that I think too much - that I overanalyze everything I say and do - and maybe they're right.  Sometimes I wish I could be a little more spontaneous, even a little bit of a risk-taker.  When Trey graduated from high school I gave him a cd of Lee Ann Womack's I Hope You Dance.  I told him that was my wish for him as he began his adult life.  I've listened to that song again and wonder if now it's time for me to apply the words to myself ... "I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance; never settle for the path of least resistance.  Living might be a chance but it's worth taking.  Loving might be a mistake but it's worth making.  When you get the choice to sit it out or dance - I hope you dance." 

I know this isn't the time of year to make any major decisions, so I'm not planning to do anything right now.  It's even possible that some or all of these feelings will go away in time, though I really doubt they will.  In the meantime, I'll keep trying to figure things out and work on slowly opening my doors just a little.

"Each and every day is a given choice.  To start over, move forward, or change directions all you have to do is decide." ~author unknown

I Hope You Dance video

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It's That Time of Year

Four years ago this month my mother went into the hospital for what was supposed to be a routine appendectomy.  She came out with a diagnosis of cancer.  Six weeks after her diagnosis, following a long battle with alcoholism, my husband took his own life.  To say this is not my favorite time of year is putting it mildly.  I prepare myself as much as possible for these upcoming anniversaires each year.  I try to stay busy and focused on other things.  But the thoughts are always there lingering in the back of my mind, and I know they will eventually come forward.  Sometimes I can tell when they are about to surface, so I do what I can to brace myself.  But at other times they come crashing in without warning and knock me for a loop.  That's exactly what happened this past weekend.  Things were going along very smoothly, and I thought this year was going to be different, maybe even easier.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  Without warning, all of the memories and feelings associated with this time of year hit and hit hard.  I have no idea what caused them.  Was it a song on the radio or a picture I came across?  Was it a sound or a smell?  Was it a trip to the gym or to a particular restaurant?  Was it something someone said?  I have no idea.  I just know it happened, and this time I wasn't prepared. 

Although I wasn't prepared for this to hit when it did, I at least recognized it for what it was - a "grief spasm" - which I have written about before.  According to the book Experiencing Grief by H. Norman Wright a grief spasm is "a normal, sudden, unexpected, upsurge of the emotion grief," and the best way to handle this out-of-control feeling is to "acknowledge it and wait for it to end."  I'm not sure how well I handled it this time, but at least I didn't go completely off the deep end.  I'm sure I said some things I shouldn't have said, did some things I shouldn't have done, went out when I should have stayed home, stayed home when I should have gone out, spent too much time alone, or spent too little time alone ... who knows ... there is no right way to handle it.  All I know is that as quickly and unexpectedly as it hit, it ended in much the same way.  For almost three days I felt as if I had gone back in time to when this all started.  I questioned everything and everybody in my life.  At one point I wanted nothing more than to pack up and run away so the memories couldn't find me.  I even went so far as to tell my son that I wanted to move someplace new where I could start my life over.  I didn't do anything drastic though, and on the third night it was as if someone flipped a switch, and I was okay again.

I doubt very seriously this was the only one of these episodes I'll have this time around.  After all, I still have the anniversary of the events in March to go through.  I can hope though that maybe it just came early this year and won't come again.  If it doesn't I'll be extremely grateful.  But if it does I know I'll get through it just as I have every time before.  And in the meantime, I'll try not to drive others crazy, scare anyone with my wild ideas, or run off to another country to live!

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Life is Too Short

I was coming home from a weekend trip recently and couldn't find any decent stations on the radio.  I put in several CD's that I had in the car and listened to them while I drove.  They were all older CD's, so I'd heard them dozens of times before.  This time though the words to several of the songs caught my attention, and I really listened to them for the first time.  Three in particular seemed to be sending me a message ... I Breathe In, I Breathe Out by Chris Cagle, Days Like These by Jason Aldean, and Tim McGraw's My Next Thirty Years

Chris Cagle's song describes perfectly how I lived for a long time after Eddie's death ... "Until this world stops turning round and my heart believes that you've gone, I breathe in and breathe out, put one foot in front of the other, take one day at a time ..."  I'm not sure at what point I stopped living this way.  I just know that I did.  It hasn't been easy, but going on with my life isn't the daily struggle that it once was.  I breathe easier now and don't think about every move before I make it.  I make plans days, weeks, even months in advance and look forward to them.  I'm gradually starting to enjoy life again, and what's even more important is I'm accepting that it's okay for me to!  I actually believe now it's what Eddie would have wanted.

I know from my own experience the words to Days Like These are truer than most people realize ... "Life is short."  Because I know this I've decided I should take more of that song to heart ... "Life is short, let's go live it, ain't no time for wasting time, days like these they go by way too fast, days like these you wanna make them last."  I've always been a very serious, cautious, responsible, schedule-oriented person.  I've always done what was expected of me and tried to please others before myself.  While I don't intend to become selfish, careless, or irresponsible, I am making an attempt to live a happier, more relaxed life.  I want to laugh more, travel more, have fun, and maybe even do things on a the spur of the moment once in a while (although that last one may prove to be difficult for me).

At 51 years old many people may not think they have 30 years of life left.  But with the longevity on my mother's side (my grandmother is 97 and going strong) I truly believe I'll be around for at least that much longer!  With that in mind I'm going to apply My Next Thirty Years to my future ... "Now it's time to focus in on where I go from here ... My next thirty years I'm gonna have some fun ... Cry a little less, laugh a little more ... Figure out just what I'm doing here ... "  I don't know for sure what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, and I may not know exactly how much time I have left, but I do know that despite how I felt four years ago my life isn't over.  I plan to make the most of my future and not have any regrets ... "My next thirty years will be the best years of my life ..."

"As you grow older, you'll find the only things you regret are the things you didn't do." ~Zachary Scott 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Don't Hold On Too Tightly

I expect to get advice and receive inspiration from counselors, preachers, poems, books and quotes from famous people. I don't usually expect to get it from television shows though, but that's exactly what happened recently. While watching a rerun of Law and Order - not exactly a show where you expect anything profound or inspirational - I heard something that made me stop and think. A woman visiting her husband's killer in prison told him she had to find a way to forgive him for what he had done, because if she continued to fixate on him and what he took away from her she would slowly lose herself. That statement at the conclusion of the show made me examine what I'm doing and how I've handled things since Eddie died. I know I've made great strides in moving forward with my life. I love my family and my job, and they both keep me very busy. I finished my specialist's degree which was a huge relief and an accomplishment that I'm proud of. I enjoy spending time with my friends and am thankful that I've reconnected with some old friends and even made some new ones. I made it through this last holiday season with the least amount of sadness I've felt since Eddie's death. On the outside all of these are good, positive things and signs of moving forward.

But now I think it's time for me to focus on moving forward from the inside. While I don't believe I've fixated on or been obsessed with Eddie's death, I do know his alcoholism and subsequent suicide had a profound effect on how I think and feel. I love and care about my family, friends, and children at school. I experience feelings just like everyone else. I'm happy when good things happen, and I hurt because of the bad. But at the same time I recognize that my heart has become somewhat hardened over the years as a result of what I've been through. I'm guarded and careful about who I open up to and how much I share with others. I've been completely closed to the idea of any real relationship with someone new - because I don't want to allow myself to be hurt again and because a part of me is still connected to Eddie. It's been almost four years since he died, but I'm just beginning to see that I'm still holding on to the bad times that I experienced both before and after his death. Like the David Gates and Bread song, Everything I Own, says "Nobody else could ever know the part of me that can't let go."

The longer I hold on to the negative though, the more of myself I gradually lose. It's time to find a way to get rid of the bad memories while still keeping the good ones. I don't know yet how I will accomplish this; I just know it's time to start trying. After the episode of Law and Order, I took out several photo albums and spent a couple of hours looking at old pictures. I tried to focus on the happy times - birthday parties, vacations, ballgames, graduations. I made a conscience effort to look for pictures with everyone smiling and having a good time. I didn't cry while looking at any of these, and I felt a tiny sense of peace afterwards. It wasn't much, but maybe it was a beginning to softening my heart and opening myself up to new possibilities.

"What we feel, think, and do this moment influences both our present and the future in ways we may never know. Begin. Start right where you are. Consider your possibilities and find inspiration ... to add more meaning and zest to your life." ~Alexandra Stoddard