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."