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Acceptance


melina

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I like the idea of this group - Living with Loss. I understand it's for those who have been walking the grief road for quite a while. Now at 14 months out, it's good to be able to share thoughts and feelings with others in the same "time zone".

I had an awful last week where almost everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. I had to make an emergency visit to my grief counselor. Usually we meet once every two weeks, but she made an exception for me. Luckily I get to decide how often I go.

Besides being upset about the events of the week, I was also feeling despair over the fact that I'm still feeling Thyge's loss so deeply. The grief is still very much there, after 14 months. She said maybe it was because I was finally accepting the fact that he was dead. But I don't feel like I'm accepting it at all! I know that he's dead, but I don't accept it. I'm still so bitter about it. I still don't want to be around other couples. I can be with friends, but not their husbands.

I wonder when or if that will ever change.

Melina

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Yes, this group feels more appropriate it. At 18 months I, too, am feeling the loss of Bill VERY deeply. Some days worse than others, some a bit better. I think, for me, it is the result of REALLY living without him, day in and day out, seeing my life without him....day after day after day...seeing what I need to do or at least knowing that i have to do something to find meaning but not having a clue what that is short of just filling time and that will never work for me. Each day is a challenge. Each day is empty and distractions help pass the time. The things I do enjoy (painting, training the dog, reading) are difficult to do because my motivation and energy are below zero. Just have trouble getting off dead center. If I agree to do something with a group, I force myself to go...like going to my paint group (Local Color). So I guess that helps to do things with others but if I have to push myself and don't really ever get there emotionally even though present physically...that is no life.

Melina, I know from talking with you and sharing that you and i are pretty much in the same place and we both know there is no magic pill...I am just waiting, doing my best and trying to accept myself where I am and as I am....hoping that someday I will once again enjoy anything. You are right, it is like sitting on a plateau or walking on one. In Colorado we had the Grand Mesa...miles long. Lovely in spring with all the wild flowers but endless with only very sharp drops around the edges....I feel like I am trapped on one with only an occasionaly occurrance of meaning. Helping others feels ok but nothing feels great. Bill and I were used to totally enjoying a simple thing like a ride on a lovely day like today...autumn colors and hot coffee with maybe a stop at the orchard for Gala apples (finally chosen after tasting 20 kinds). I really don't want a new normal. I liked the one I had. It worked.

Now i am heading out to have breakfast with 6 other people (I am the only single) but glad to have the distraction. Then I volunteered to assist with our local film festival downtown....boring. If this is life - it has to change. I am with you...I do not think acceptance of Bill's death is on the horizon soon. Mary

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Hi Melina,

I am farther along with my journey and I can not really remember at 14 months I think I was still pretty numb and worried about what was going to happen to me... I lost my mom and dad in the same year so I was grieving my mom and than dad died and I had to deal with them both... It has now been 7 years and things are better but special days still are a big problem for me... I do miss my mom but realized that she is in my heart and all I have to do is go somewhere quiet and close my eyes and think of her and this seems to help me just by knowing she is looking down at me and sending her love my way... Shelley

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Well, I just went to breakfast with 3 couples who were all talking about their camping trips, plans for the day, summer vacations etc. All the things Bill and I would do. I joined in as if nothing felt horrible, shared some of my experiences about Bill and me and our RV life over two years as they were thinking of doing that.... 90 minutes of that and I got into my car and the flood gates open up and I find myself alone again as they go off hand in hand to enjoy their day on the river or in the woods....probably feeling good that they included me in breakfast and as grateful as I am for that...well.... This hurt does not go away. I make myself do things but most of it hurts. At 18 months, pain and loneliness predominate. This IS my life now. I can not be with other people in their lives 24/7 nor do I want to. In an hour I am volunteering at our local film festival...poorly attended because of the gorgeous weather and color...but it might feel good to hide in a theater and maybe find someone I know to sit with. I am no longer first in anyone's life...no longer can I take anyone for granted as I did Bill's presence in my life....not that I was unaware each day of how grateful I was for him and he for me. Living with loss in year two is horrible. I can't wait till winter when there is less going on, the skies are gray reflecting my soul right now.... but then...the holidays.

I think it is time for many of us to start using this forum. I feel weird posting this kind of thing on a site where people who are extremely raw having lost their spouses just a few weeks ago are in such huge pain...It certainly can't give them much hope. I still feel that pain and it is still huge but living with it for 18 months I know it well enough to know what is coming and how it will feel. It changes. I do not wail very often now...though the tears flow daily for one reason or another...like today. But I will pull myself together and go out and smile at a world that hurts so much. As much as the rawness has developed a thin membrane, I am in pain constantly and it has become a part of my life....pain and I walk hand in hand on a daily basis...sad to say.

From where I am sitting, I see the colorful trees and sunshine and I can feel the warmth of the weather. Rain might make it easier.

Mary

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Dear Ones,

As painful as it is to be where you are now, I can only tell you that it is normal and necessary for you to be there.

In his insightful books about coping with significant loss (Transitions and The Way of Transition), author William Bridges notes that every transition requires spending some time in what he calls the neutral zone – a seemingly unproductive "time-out" when we feel totally disconnected from people and things in the past and emotionally unconnected to the present. During this time, he says, "we aren't sure what is happening to us or when it will be over. We don't know whether we are going crazy or becoming enlightened . . . the old reality looks transparent and nothing feels solid anymore." Unfortunately, he says, this neutral zone "is the phase of the transition process that the modern world pays least attention to. Treating ourselves like appliances that can be unplugged and plugged in again at will or cars that stop and start with the twist of a key, we have forgotten the importance of fallow time and winter and rests in music. We have abandoned a whole system of dealing with the neutral zone through ritual, and we have tried to deal with personal change as though it were some kind of readjustment. In so doing, we have lost any way of making sense of the lostness and confusion that we encounter when we have gone through disengagement or disenchantment or disidentification (p. 130)."

In her book, Tough Transitions: Navigating Your Way through Difficult Times, Elizabeth Harper Neeld writes that when our old assumptive world has been shattered by significant loss, it takes time to build a new one, and we must allow ourselves the time and space we'll need for Reviewing:

"We have to find new purpose and meaning where the old has been destroyed. We have to examine and reflect on what we now believe, what we now know. We have to establish new patterns. Make new habits. Think new thoughts. In this interim between the shattering of an assumptive world and the building of a new one, we often experience deep sorrow, sadness, sometimes even depression. Often we feel we have lost our identity. We may feel consumed with anger or guilt. We may wonder if anything is ever going to be worthwhile again. Or we may just feel devastatingly tired (p. 49)."

What are some helpful strategies for navigating this neutral zone? Bridges recommends the following:

•Find a regular time and place to be alone – "a genuine sort of aloneness in which inner signals can make themselves heard."

•Begin a log of neutral zone experiences – Pick a day and describe your mood, what happened that day, what you thought about or puzzled over, what decisions you wish you could have made, what dreams you remember having.

•Write an autobiography – Reminiscing helps you make sense of the past and suggests possibilities for the future.

•Discover what you really want – Use this time to think about and identify what you really want out of your life.

•Take a neutral zone retreat – Take some time away to go on your own version of a passage journey. Spend a few days alone, in as simple and quiet a setting as possible, during which you reflect consciously on the transition process in your own life just now.

In a similar vein, Elizabeth Harper Neeld suggests that we use what she calls Reviewing Time to pause and examine: "to take a second look. To reconsider, rethink, and reflect on how this tough transition is affecting our lives. To ask, 'What do I need to see? What reassessment can I make? What might I do differently?'" She encourages the use of creative activities such as the expressive arts, writing, prayer, meditation, listening to music; and imagining possibility: exploring, making lists, learning just to be (mindfulness), and practicing active waiting (paying attention). Elizabeth's Web site http://www.elizabethharperneeld.com/ contains a number of readings and practical suggestions, including things that help when life gets tough and things that have brought her joy.

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Marty, thanks so for jumping in here. Affirmation of this space I am in is so helpful. I do feel crazy. The world says...move on...it has been 18 months for God's sake...get over it...what is wrong with you....the latter being a childhood message that I thought I had left behind almost a century ago... but it reared its ugly head again. Bill was such a healer as he thought I was just amazing and wonderful and all good things. He accepted me totally..loved me unconditionally and I did that for him. He was home, my safe place to be.

What you say makes so much sense. About a month ago I blocked off my calendar so I have no commitments before noon every day with rare exception. Now i need to use that time to do exactly what you are suggesting. First I will order a couple of those books. I feel that what i am experiencing is so normal...truly know it is.... but the world does not have a clue so I do feel crazy when I go out there...and go out there I must or I will really feel crazy becoming a recluse. Not my style but it is also not my style to be out there all the time...in fact compared to those we know/knew we were not out there hardly at all...our quiet life was simple and times with friends and at events well chosen.

Anyway your message is MOST helpful. There are no groups for people like me around here. I have checked.

I will study your post and get on this...but having your feedback about the neutral zone really makes sense to me. I have so much to learn about grief and that after losing parents, several best friends, pets, and walking through grief with others for years. I thought I knew but this is a whole new world for me. So at least I am not crazy. My sister is 2 hours away this week, in Milwaukee on business and I have chose NOT to see her because her message is "fix it and move on and what is wrong with you". I need to do this my way. This "close" family of origin in which I was the one seeing the elephant is finally showing its colors, colors I knew were there most of my life. Such a student am I. Thank you, Mary

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This website posted by Marty is LOADED with helpful writings of all kinds. Go to the blog...on the right side are the topics she writes about.

http://www.elizabethharperneeld.com/

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Mary, dear, all I can tell you is that I've been studying, learning about and working with grief (and experiencing it firsthand, of course) for decades ~ and I am still learning. You are SO hard on yourself, and my heart just aches for you. Please, please stop listening to anyone who says "fix it and move on." Ignore that world. You are exactly where you need to be, and you are doing exactly what you need to do. This takes time, and focus, and energy. No one, and I mean NO ONE, knows you better than you do, and you need to trust in yourself to show you the way. This is your journey, and the only voice you need to listen to is your own. Make quiet space and time for it, tune into it, and pay attention to it. You already have all you need inside of you, and you will find your way.

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Thanks, Marty. I felt I made strides this week as I told my sister (the fixer) that I would not drive to Milwaukee to see her (she is there for a week. I have not seen her for a year as she lives outside Boston). This is huge in my family of origin....and I feel really good about saying no. I truly feel I am right where I need to be. It is just very lonely in this spot. I am making more time for myself but need to use it in a more helpful way. I am considering a 4 day getaway to just be away from here and everyone (even the dog :) I appreciate you gently calling a spade a spade i.e. how hard I am on myself. I don't even know when I do that sometimes. I expect a lot of me...I "should" be an expert on grief when I have had a general practice for 40 years with a focus on women's issues and survivors of incest. I know what you say is right on. I really chewed on the post you made earlier today....thanks so much. Well now, the phone is right now ringing and it is my sister (thank you caller ID...her first contact since early August when I told her I would not come to see her and she never responded. I am not answering it tonight. She did not leave a message. So interesting. I have no energy to deal with her stuff. Victory. Thanks, Mary

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Dear Mary, and Melina, and Shelly, and Marty

I do not think that it may be the number of months that pass, before you have reached the acceptance. My life with and without, Pauline is defiantly 2 different lives, but I had accepted her passing long before she passed. Also Pauline had accepted what was going to happen to her, She was really at peace in those final weeks, she showed so much grace at the end. 33 years with the love of your life is a very big loss. I think if she never had MS for so many years, and it would have been a sudden death, I defiantly would not be where I am at today. The MS in the last 11 years gave us time to talk about her end and plan everything out to the very end.

The place I am at today is acceptance of here passing. At only 7+ months. I had a plan in place before she passed. That alone did help me to reach my goals, after. I do have a new life and will be in a new career as part of my love and the years spent care giving, Yes long term care giving, took a toll on my body. Months of sickness followed, but I never took my eyes off my goal. Because of that it has helped me to move forward at a much faster pace, than many others. I can even enjoy a day full of laughter again. That is a huge step. I still have times, like we all do when we see or hear something that reminds us of the love we lost, and the tears flow again, but that is healthy and good. Saturday I spent all day with Greg. Our church is holding a giant yard sale all weekend long. We shopped at the sale, went for a late breakfast, and we had so much fun, and laughter, I had not done for a long time. It felt so good to be among the living again and just yo enjoy the little things in life again. Last night I took my camera and tri-pod down to the park and water front and took some pictures of the big almost moon, the north star, and the moon light reflecting off the water. I did not realize that I had spent 2 hours down there until I got back home. I was just such a beautiful evening in the North East, I just had to get out and enjoy the night air.

I have accepted the passing of Pauline, and I am in the life of the living, ready for my school to start November 7 for the start of my new career. Nothing will stop me now.

God Bless

Dwayne

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This forum certainly feels like a better place for us "oldies" to share. As Mary said, our pain is less raw, but always there.

Marty, interesting reading..thanks

We all are too hard on ourselves, we have to learn that this process is most likely a life long experience that we will be going through.I was having a conversation with a fellow that lost his wife 10 years ago, and he said there are times when out of the blue the searing, heart wrenching pain just hits out of nowhere.

I find that usually once a day I get the heart breaking pain , it doesn't last long, as I remember the wonderful marriage we had and our children.The good times make it easier to cope, I also have many quotes that I can read and my photo scrapbbooks on our life together help me through the day.

Lainey

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Marty - I loved this first paragraph - it put into words exactly what I've been (or tried to) be doing. I'm the opposite of most widows, I guess. I retreated instead of jumping out. Keeping my (our) business going has, of course, been in the forefront. But I've also given myself a heck of a lot of neutral time, as Bridges calls it so eloquently. Does it make anything easier? No, not really - but when I look back over the thousands of baby steps and see where I am to where I was, it's then I see the difference. One more thing - to me, when I stopped thinking of grief as something to get through, and instead realized that every day has just been my life...it puts things in a different perspective. It kind of took a burden of sorts off of me. I'm still a work in progress, lol. Hugs, Marsha

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I saw this on a Facebook grief site today: When you are grieving, it is like becoming aturtle. You need time to retreat to your shell. Pulling into its protectivecover can give you the time and space to begin to reorient to your life withloss. It may take awhile before you feel like venturing out of your shell.Rest. Give yourself the time. Go slowly. Be a turtle.

Found myself making more helpful use of the morning...I love the idea of neutral timeaccording to Bridges. Feels so right. Lainey, I too find myself not staying in the huge tearful places as long...I have days that are pretty low but not as emotional. More in touch with sadness and more in touch with gratitude for what we had.

I find exhaustion to be a huge deal. Part of it due to interrupted sleep...MRI next week for shoulder. We tried everything else...PT for months. Things like the art class I am leaving for shortly feel like Mt. Everest.

I agree, this topic feels more appropriate for many of us.

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Dear Mary,

I like the quote you found, about being like a turtle. It fits so well as to what we do as we have lost our loved ones. Some take a long time to come out of their shell. Some cane, see a light outside the shell and slowly and with caution come out back into the sunshine of life again. :)

God Bless

Dwayne

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