May 25, 2018 approaches
Me After Six Years
“A healer does not heal you.
is someone who
holds space for
you while you awaken
so that you may heal yourself.”
~ Maryam Hasnaa
I am in a better place today than I was on May 25th, 2012. It has not been an easy journey and I know it is an ongoing one. Just because I have days that I actually smile and feel light-hearted does not mean that my life without Jim is OK. I continue to miss him. Every day things come up and I wish Jim were here to help me. The small things are the hardest for me now when trying to cope. I have needed to reach out for help on things that Jim would have been able to take care of so easily. Changing light bulbs, replacing the A/C filters, cleaning ceiling fans, changing batteries in the smoke detectors, hooking up cables for TVs and computers, taking the air vents down and cleaning them, taking sunscreens down or putting them up for the summer months, lifting heavy things, and so many other things that need tended to as one cares for a home.
But this is not the purpose of this reflection for that was not who Jim was. He was more than someone who took care of things. He was thoughtful and caring. He was my soul mate for forty years. He was a loving father and grandfather. I could go on and on and perhaps one day I will write more about Jim but today I want to talk about asking for help if you need it.
Asking for help takes courage. People don’t just show up and do things for you so it’s necessary to ask. I never expect to have these things done for free either but I’m so grateful when someone does change a light bulb or A/C filter and refuse payment ~ cookies and milk are always appreciated. In those first years, I found myself feeling sorry for myself because I just thought that others would know that I needed help to get some work done. I would take part in my own ‘pity party’ and spend days blaming others for their thoughtlessness. It got me nowhere. So I decided to make a list of things I could no longer do and looked for people who were handy in those many areas. I live in an active adult community with mostly retired people and we have an e-group that allows us to talk to each other in a closed social media setting. Word of mouth is a great way to find out who can do what. When I started my list I bulleted it into different categories and before I knew it I had handymen, tree trimmers, landscapers, window washers, cleaning people, drivers, and even house watchers if I had to go out of state. Asking for help is not a weakness. My desire is to remain in my home for as long as I can and with the right people around me, I think it will be possible.
I continue to be grateful to everyone for their loving support over the years for I would not be where I am today without all the support. I have special people who have nudged me on as I stumbled in this unfamiliar territory of living without my Jim. I remain grateful to Marty for making a safe place for us to come so we are not alone. She has been a continued guiding light and has always been with me on my journey. I am inspired by all the ‘gems’ she finds for us. I have not been left alone, as I had been promised. I’m still learning how to navigate this grief. Those of you who are in early pain allow it to happen, don’t push it away. Lean on those who come here and know that one day, you will not hurt as you do today. The pain will always be there only not as intense.
Grief is hard work. Many knowledgeable people say it doesn’t matter how long it has been if we don’t tend to our grief we do not get anywhere. If we only do one or two months of grief work over many years we are really only one or two months into our journey. Our mourning is never over but we do learn to carry it with us as we live the best we know how.
I look back over the last six years and I can say, “Hey Anne, you are doing OK on most days. Give yourself a pat on the back or better yet treat yourself to a dish of chocolate ice cream or a piece of dark chocolate fudge or a chocolate donut or a chocolate Dove bar.” Focusing on the positive helps me move through my grief. It still remains a choice for me and I really am grateful for each day.
One last thing before I close ~ those of you who have followed me know I had many health issues early on in my grief. Most of them have been resolved. I still have heart failure (after two years I can say that it is managed), my other health issues sometimes flair up but I don’t panic when they do. My health is only one part of who I am. I am very much into holistic healing and shy away from any diagnostic tests that doctors want to put me through. At 75 years young I don’t need to be spending all my time in a doctor’s office. I will continue to use physical therapy when needed for my spinal issues and arthritis but I have said NO to tests that are just looking for something! I frown on prescribed medications and only allow them in my body if there is nothing else for me to use. The first few years after Jim died I grazed and almost never sat at the table to eat. Today I am very conscious of the foods I eat and for most meals, I do sit at the table or out on the patio if weather permits. It’s a conscious choice for me. Chocolate, licorice, popcorn, Cheetos, and nuts are still my go-to snacks. And I always have fresh cut veggies in the refrigerator, too. I have always been conscious of eating healthily but lost my way for a few years.
Most of my hobbies have not changed. I listen to music. I read and spend time in my yard and I do my coloring. I am still addicted to Pinterest ~ it relaxes me. I try to take part in at least one new activity twice a year. We have a wonderful arts & craft center that offers many creative opportunities and it is a chance to get out with other people. I do not use the fitness center as I need to but maybe that will change! I like to cook and often add some of Jim’s favorite foods to my menus when having friends over. Sometimes I bake banana nut bread, pineapple upside down cake, chocolate brownies, and anything with apples because those were some of Jim’s favorite desserts. I don’t eat all of these things but I do take them to the people who helped us out when Jim was still with me. We gained the friendship of many folks during my five years of caring for Jim. I continue to be a volunteer as I am able. I am a Unit Coordinator here in my community. A Unit coordinator is~ a Kare bear (our name) volunteer who greets new residents, visits the sick and brings them small gifts if they were hospitalized, tend to families who have lost a loved one by offering comfort, bringing food trays if families are having a gathering after the death of their loved one and helping the family with a death notice and any other paperwork ~ plus many other things.
Last week I was surprised with a recognition pin for my past ten years of volunteering as a Kare bear coordinator. It is nice to be appreciated. I didn’t even realize it had been ten years! I continue to visit those who are in their last months or days of life if they request it. I am an end-of-life doula volunteer and I like this part of my life now. As a certified volunteer member of Hospice Foundation of America, I do what I am able to do as a volunteer. Volunteering is a part of my healing.
As I focus on taking care of my physical, mental and spiritual needs I now spend more time in the outdoors, I continue to journal and meditate. Visiting Tools for Healing and Marty’s Grief Healing Blog on our grief healing discussion groups website gives me solid information to continue my grief journey. I know that the roller coaster ride will continue to have its rough spots but the ride doesn’t scare me like it did in early grief.
I am only one of the thousands who are on this grief path ~ my way is just that ~ my way. Others will find their own path. If you reach out you will not walk your journey alone. And remember, asking is not admitting defeat rather it is showing strength.