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Any thoughts or suggestions appreciated... I'm stuck in this relentless grief cycling over and over even after three years. I took wonderful care of Larry, no doubt in my mind and I know he would say the same. He thanked me daily for all I did for him (do it again in a heartbeat). We fought a long hard battle and his was so strong. But we were in it together, we were a team, I was going to save him and I DIDN'T. He died. Now slowly I've been killing myself. My faith has been so shaken that when someone tries to console me with ... God is with you etc. I can't accept that for myself. Larry died, where was God then. When others say he wants you to be happy, I can't for the life of me grasp that thought. Our dreams died. Our future stopped. He's gone and so goes my life. Yes, he loved me with all his heart. I know he still does but why can't I apply it to my life now? I've felt guilty for being alive. I don't take care of myself and its pretty self sabotaging. I notice I can barely choose to do anything that might make my life easier. I take care of OUR dogs and feel sad for them because their lives changed drastically also. Where am I getting stuck??? I need help in figuring this out because this life is slowly killing me and for some reason I think thats my plan. Deborah

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Deborah, While I'm not even two months into this, you hit the nail on the head for me. I'm doing the same things to myself, it seems. It's like I either have to sink or swim, to live or die, but when you don't have the desire to swim, what do you do about it? I hope someone on here can give you some comfort or tell you something that will help in some way and in turn, it will help us both.

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Deb and Mel - you're both in a place where I've been, and I'm sure I will be again. When I went to my therapist yesterday, I was talking about these same feelings - what could I have done differently - did I do enough - I'm feeling guilty for being here. He said "Marsha, not to be harsh, but you didn't get away with anything. You - and I - and all of us, will die, will face that same thing". So superwoman here starting laughing. We can't control the time or the way of when our times come. Deb - Being left behind to deal with the b---it sucks, cut and dry. It's a constant, minute to minute, hour to hour struggle. Sometimes when I look at Joe's picture next to the computer, I literally can't believe it. But I know, too, that Joe also had control over his own life. By that I mean, no matter what I did, or felt, or prayed - he chose to live those last few months the way he wanted to. As close as we were, he was his own person, and did what he wanted. There was nothing I could do to save him. And, as much as you did, as much as you loved him, as much as you prayed, there was nothing you could do, either. I'm sorry if I sound harsh - I so care for you. Please email me at marjoe@charter.com anytime - I'm here for you. Peace and Hugs, Marsha

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Deborah, dear ~

You said, "he loved me with all his heart. I know he still does but why can't I apply it to my life now?"

I cannot help but wonder if you realize what a special person you are, and if you love yourself even half as much as your husband loved you, and as he still loves you now.

I want to share this bit of wisdom with you, in hopes that it speaks to you and offers you some comfort, as you face whatever lies ahead. As you read it, think of your beloved husband, and what he's given to you:

Loving Ourselves First

We are at our most hopeless and despairing in our loss when we’ve not yet learned how to give ourselves or provide for ourselves what it is that we received from another who is now gone. It is true of any loss in life (when children grow up and leave home; when we lose a job and the identity that goes with it; when we lose a significant other who was the only source of unconditional love in our life).

To find the gift in loss, we must first learn what it is that our loved one gave us that we don’t yet give to ourselves — and then find ways to learn somehow to provide this for ourselves — to become more whole, more inter-dependent as opposed to dependent on those we love, for the sake of our own growth and our own relationships. Ask yourself this question: Do you love yourself the way you love your deceased beloved? And do you love yourself the way your deceased beloved loves you?

You may respect yourself for certain roles and certain accomplishments, but do you love yourself — unconditionally — even half as much or as fully as your beloved loves you? Loving another can be so out of balance. You can never ever reconcile the grief of losing a loved one as long as you pine for what that person gave you without even trying to learn to give it to yourself — to love yourself.

The lesson here is that the profound, unconditional love we get from our loved ones need not die with them. We need not be without that love, even after their death. You can learn to love yourself.

We still need to be loved by others — but if we don’t love ourselves first, we need and expect too much from other beings to meet our needs. If we’re dependent only on an external source for love, we set ourselves up for horrible suffering at the time of separation or death. When we learn to love ourselves, we will still experience the pain of loss, but our suffering will change to quiet grace.

— Teresa Wagner, in Legacies of Love

I'd like to point you to some other readings that I hope will offer you some additional insights:

When Everything Matters, by Nina Aisen

Grief, Transition and Healing, by Jo Christner, PsyD (attached file, below)

Healing Through Creating Balance, by Jo Christner, PsyD (attached file, below)

Finding Meaning in Grief, by Sameet M. Kuman, PhD (attached file, below)

How Long Does Grief Last, by Judy Tatelbaum (attached file, below)

GriefTransitionHealing.Christner.doc

HealingThroughCreatingBalance.Christner.doc

Finding_Meaning_in_Grief.doc

HowLongDoesGriefLast.JudyTatelbaum.doc

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Deborah, even if we do everything in our power to keep our loved ones with us, it doesn't always happen. The key words her are "everything in our power" -- because we don't have the ability to choose who survives and who doesn't. And we don't have the power to avoid or prevent all the things we DON'T want to happen. Not to say we can't try to prevent the bad things; it's just that sometimes they happen even when we've done everything right. That's how life is.

When my husband had his heart attack, I kept him alive by doing CPR until the paramedics arrived and they did all they could. But he didn't survive. I thought it was my fault, that maybe I hadn't done CPR correctly or hadn't done enough of it. But a nurse reassured me I had nothing to blame myself for. She told me that, contrary to what we see in the movies, CPR saves lives only a small percentage of the time. She said that Bill's chances for survival were never very good from the get-go, but I had given him that last slim chance to make it, though the outcome was never in my hands.

Try to believe that you're still on this earth for a reason, because there's something you're still meant to do. Thinking this way helps me, and it has led me into doing volunteer work. It might take some time and some searching before you figure out your reasons for going on, but it's worth the effort.

As part of my volunteer training, the other people in my class and I went through an exercise that had two goals: to help us understand the impact of loss on other people (not just us), and to help us identify what things are most important in our own lives. The exercise was very powerful and emotional; many of us cried while participating. If you want to take a close look at what still matters to you, consider trying it.

The exercise went like this: we each got 20 slips of paper, and we were asked to write on them the names of five people or animals who are important to us, five activities we enjoy, five values we believe in (like honesty, faith, etc.), and five things or possessions we would have trouble giving up. Then an instructor told a story about a man with cancer and what happened to him from the time he suspected he had it until it was certain it would kill him. The instructor stopped at different points in the story and at each stop, we had to tear up two or three of our paper slips. It wasn't difficult at first, but got harder after we had given up things easiest to let go of. I kept track of which items I let go of first all the way through to the end. which revealed what means the most to me: taking care of my pets and family. Maybe the exercise will help you, too.

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Deborah, Thank you for bringing this topic up. It is certainly something we must address as our grief seems to go on and on and it feels like so little has changed. The other replies are terrific, they each bring so much to this discussion and help us refocus our energies. The only thing I can add is a realization that I had some time ago and was just discussing with Kay earlier today. At times I feel that I am actually hanging on to my grief, that at this point I might be lost without the pain. For so long now I have defined myself by what I have been through, I am a widower and that isn`t going to change. Ever. A part of me seems to need to hang on to that definition because the next step is unknown. Who will I be if I try to move on. Part of me doesn`t want to give up grieving because I am afraid of losing all she meant to me, all we were together. It is sort of like thinking that I will lose what little I have left of her if I even try to move on. The next step isn`t easy, but it is necessary. No, we couldn`t save them, We never stood a chance, regardless of how it happened. And we know we can`t bring them back, no matter what we are willing to sacrifice. We have lost their physical presence. But we don`t have to worry about ever losing what they meant to us. We have grieved for them, we will continue to grieve for them. No matter how we try, we can`t change that overnight. We have honored them and we will always love them. But now, as Marty reminds us, it is time to love ourselves, even if we have never done that before. We have to love ourselves and care for ourselves because they loved us, they showed us we are important. We have to care for ourselves because it needs to be done and we are the ones that have to do it. We are the best ones to honor their memory and tell everyone all about them and all of their gifts to the world. We need to care for ourselves for these reasons, we have to go on. It`s not easy, None of this has been easy, why should easy start now. But after all we have been through, we can handle this. This is the only part guaranteed to get easier as time goes on. Come on Deborah, join me in honoring our spouses by healing ourselves. We have the world`s best support group behind us. We can do this. Love, (((Hugs))) and Prayers

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Dear Deb,

After reading the replies to your post, I really can't add anything useful. There is a lot of really good advice here. But, before I read them, I thought of the one thing that has helped me in very difficult times and I want to share it with you. I wrote this at a very low point in my life and carried it around in my pocket so I could read it when needed. It literally saved my life. The changes that transpired since then have beeen too numerous to mention. I really feel that without it, without asking for God's help, I wouldn't be here at all. I've kept this very private, but if it can help, you are welcome to it. It's My Prayer...

The road I took was bumpy, cracked and full of holes.

The path ahead looms dreary, unsure of my own goals.

What do I do? Where do I go? What if I can’t be strong?

I need a hand to guide me. On this trek do I belong?

Lord, lift my troubled spirit, replace my shakes with calm.

Quiet all my thoughts now and take them in your palm.

And if I try to grab them, determined I may be,

Please know that I’m not able and your help I seek from Thee.

My mind races through dilemmas, crushed hopes and haunts of shame.

Don’t let me be the scared one, looking for someone to blame.

I used to think life’s lessons, though hard as they have been,

Were meant for just one reason, inner strength could then be seen.

What are my lessons now, Lord? This weak and trembling ache?

If there’s a chance for growth here, please hurry lest I break.

I drive myself insane now, worried if I dare

To take the steps most needed, to begin my own self-care.

I used to feel confident and see my future clear…

Now my eyes and heart are blurry, so is the love I’ve held most dear.

Please carry my soul to gentler waters, so I may hear your voice.

And in advance I thank you, for helping with my choice.

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Thanks everyone for sharing!! Not Coping, thanks for taking the time to write so early in your grief, Marsha, I know you've always got my back thanks, Fred, I really appreciate that you replied and thank you for the encouragement, KathyG, I got alot out of what you shared, Kath - that poem is very inspiring and I think that may help, I'm going to print it out and carry it with me, thank you and of course our "Marty", thank you!!

I would like to add that before Larry I had never experienced unconditional love in my life. I had not had that as a child, nor any relationship prior to meeting Larry. Not to use as an excuse but quite honestly I don't know how to give it to myself but I know I need to in order to survive and have any kind of life. When I met Larry it took quite some time for me to let any walls down and trust that kind of love. Thats part of why losing him has hurt so bad, I knew I was loved. You've all given me things to think about and I appreciate your support so much. Deborah

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Deborah,

You could take a word processor to your original post, replace your name with mine and Larry's name with Janet's, and you would have a pretty accurate description of my feelings at various times in the last few months. I've had the same issues with guilt and God. I marvel at how Janet kept her faith through the entire ordeal. What you said about unconditional love in your last post also resonates with me. I still love Janet very much, even though she is not here, and I dearly miss the feeling of being the focus of her unconditional love. I don't know how anyone ever gets over that. Take care, Deborah.

Mike

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Guest Vickie O'Neil

Deborah,

Your husband dyed while waiting for Transplant, as did mine. We all fought that brave fight together & it was not a pretty story. Deb, I feel the same way, guilty, I didn't do enough, I couldn't donate my Liver. I feel awful that I'm alive, & really dead inside...I am angry with God..& I'm killing myself with grief & stress.

Our dreams dyed, too. The only thing I've done...is preach incessantly about organ donation...over & over...others may live!

How to get out of the spin cycle on the brain..I don't know. I don't go to a therapist, nor take anti depressants, I try to run my body & Our Dogs every day on the mountain to just tire myself out...if I can't sleep I stay up & read books..& I drink beer till I crash. Sometimes I go to sleep at 800 sometimes at 2 AM.

I care Deborah, so if you ever choose to you can write the story for me about the waiting for transplant...vickiespiekerman@cox.net

Vickie O'Nel

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Deborah, I hope you can realize how very valuable you are...not only to Larry, but to all of us, but most of all, Deborah, to you. You need to look inside yourself and see what it was that Larry loved you so unconditionally for and really realize it...it still exists, you are worthy of taking good care of yourself the way he would want you to, and loving yourself. I guess I always felt I needed validated by someone else, I am learning now that I don't need that, my own approval is good enough for me. I learned this lesson the hard way but it is sticking. If you ever want to talk, you have my number and my email address. I love you!

Kay

KathyG, Thank you for sharing that exercise, I was surprised to learn my answers...what was included, what wasn't. It tells me what's important.

Kath, Thank you for sharing that poem, it should be published! I am going to save it to read whenever I need it.

Fred has extended a challenge, is anyone going to take it? It's something to think about.

Marty has given us some good food for thought too...things I am just now learning...how to love myself and take care of myself, focus on me right now. All my life has been about taking care of others, now I am learning that it is healthy, imperative, to take care of me.

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