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Grief After The One Year Mark


melina

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I wonder how many others on this site are struggling with new waves of grief after the one year mark. Somehow I just assumed that things would be easier after a year, but it seems in many ways much harder. It's now been 15 months since I lost my husband.

Being alone and lonely is devastating. My husband and I raised four sons - so our house was always busy and noisy. Now it's just me and the dog. I was never very social - my family was enough for me. If I were to become more social now, I'd basically have to change my personality - and I just don't have the energy.

People have been telling me to get a hobby or get active in some way - but after I get home from work and walk the dog, I spend the rest of my time doing nothing at all. I feel paralyzed by grief. I know that our grief journey is a roller coaster - but this roller coaster has been hurtling downward for quite some time.

Is this what's called "complicated grief"? Am I depressed? I can't seem to get a grip on this and the future seems hopeless.

Even my grief counselor mentioned "self-pity" in our last session. That irritated me, but then I thought - is that what this is? If so - how do I rid myself of it?

Melina

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Melina, dear,

You are not alone; this is one of those myths about grief that simply does not hold true. Most people expect to feel better after that first year, as if they've reached some sort of significant milestone in their grief journey. Instead, as that second year draws near, they find themselves feeling worse ~ and that can feel very unsettling. But think about it: For anyone grieving a significant loss, especially when that was a spouse or life partner, the first year is a time of adjusting and learning to survive. Then comes the second year, and for many mourners it is even harder than the first, as this is when they are grappling with the harsh reality that their loved one is gone forever, along with all the secondary losses that accompany this death, including greatly diminished social support, financial instability or loss of religious faith.

As I'm sure you've noticed, many of our members are still actively mourning, even though their losses occurred three, four and five years ago. Fortunately, this site is one place where you can come to be surrounded by others who will not hold you to some arbitrary timetable and won't judge you for not being "over it" yet. I think that is why this site continues to be one of the most powerful sources of support for the bereaved.

I don't know if you're a reader, but below is a list of some of the books I would recommend most highly for those who have passed the first year of grief and are looking for some direction (click on the links to read Amazon's description and reviews of each):

Good Grief: Healing Through the Shadow of Loss

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss

Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss

The Healing Power of Love: Transcending the Loss of a Spouse to New Love

I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can: How Young Widows and Widowers Cope and Heal

How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies

Life After Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life after Experiencing Major Loss

Seven Choices: Finding Daylight After Loss Shatters Your World

Transcending Loss: Understanding the Lifelong Impact of Grief & How to Make It Meaningful

Tough Transitions: Navigating Your Way Through Difficult Times

You Don't Have to Suffer: A Handbook for Moving Beyond Life's Crises

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Dear Melina,

I haven't reached one year yet. But I know by talking in my grief support group meetings, and I go every week, both run by the same hospice counselor, but two different towns. So I see different people in both groups, and almost everyone in the second or more years dealing with grief, has said that the second year is very different than the first, and is a lot harder to get through. I think that it is true, when you have had that deep and true love in your life. I really do not know what that means, when people say just get over it. Get over what? The loss of your best friend, soul mate, lover, husband or wife. You really never "get over it", you always have them with us. In our hearts, souls and minds, all the good and bad memories. How can someone expect a person to forget that those feelings of true love, those happy memories, we all have, and of course the bad one also. We just cannot take an eraser and wipe our minds, souls and hearts clean of those. We never will, so we find a new normal, back in the land of the living again. I do not have any idea how year number two will be for me. I know the 8+ months have had many waves, up and down. But we will survive, because that is what our loved ones wanted from us. To go ahead in life, but never forget, NO. We will never forget

I wish you find peace and comfort again in your life, like I will try to find in mine, because Pauline wanted that for me. She told me many times over the years, to grieve, but yet keep going forwards in life.

God Bless, you Melina

Dwayne

The Best and Most Beautiful Things in Life, can not be Seen or even Touched. They Must be Felt with the HEART!!!!! Helen Keller

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Hi Melina

I have definitely found year two to be very difficult...even harder in some ways. The reality of Bill's absence hits me very hard...I have no words for these days. They are lonelier, sadder, and painful. The house is more silent, I feel like I am in limbo, disconnected and lifeless. I am in the middle of a silent two day mindfulness retreat with Susan Strasbourg and Cheri maples at the UW. Susan is an author and educator Cheri is a former Madison cop and founder of the center for mindfulness and justice. It was 8 hours of meditation and input today and again tomorrow. I sobbed all the way home today. That long stretch of time with ME opened wounds and a river of tears resulted. I go back tomorrow for more, understanding better why I have run from my meditation practice. I need to return to the lifestyle bill and I had...simple, quiet, time with real friends, painting etc. I feel like I will be in this hole of meaninglessness and pain forever. I am in month 19 and feel like someone else is wearing my body. Hopeless is a good word. Empty is another in spite of my efforts to put meaning in my life. Nothing works. I care about little. A friend is even renovating my 3 season room, putting in new windows, insulation, drywall, gas stove and more and as grateful as I am for the incredibly generous and unbelievable gift of my new studio and meditation room...I have no excitement about her attempt to make me feel better. Nothing works so I am just living where I am at. Doing my journaling etc but....emptiness fills my being. You are NOT alone, my friend. We shall chat tomorrow.

Marty, thank you for the great list. I will also look it over. I think to date I have devoured about 40 books on grief. They help.

Mary mfh

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Thanks Marty, Mary and Dwayne. Your voices help me feel less alone.

My kids, I know, are there for me, but they're more concerned with their own young lives and futures - and that is as it should be. I wouldn't want it any other way. It's good to see them flying free - knowing they've grown and learned to manage themselves despite their own grief and loss of their beloved father.

No one else - apart from this group - seems to understand. Not my friends, not my colleagues - and least of all others in my family (siblings, in-laws, etc.).

At work people look at me with astonishment when I mention that I'm still grieving. They either tell me to "do something about it" (i.e. stop whining), or just wave it away and stop talking about it.

What surprises me the most is people who have no sensitivity whatsoever. At this conference I went to - I met many nice people - people I enjoyed being with and liked. At the same time there were women who spoke loudly about their husbands, their long marriages and how glad they were that they had made it that far. They would joke about what they'd do if their husbands were to die, or what their husbands would do if they went first. They'd joke about how their husbands planned to live forever.

Is it just me being overly sensitive - or would it be more normal to consider the widow standing right next to them before saying things like that? They all knew I was widowed a year ago. Did they think I was over it?

At work the other day someone was actually making cremation jokes. At lunch - while I was sitting there! I understand that people just don't think before they speak sometimes, but they kept doing it. When I mentioned it later to a couple of people - they just brushed it away, saying something about "oh, they probably weren't thinking - forget about it". So why didn't someone else stop them?

I don't know. I myself may not have been as sensitive as I should have been around those who recently had this kind of loss, but I don't think I was ever this crass.

Should we expect people to show a little sensitivity at this point or do we just have to live with comments and behavior like this?

If so - how do I continue being out among people? I'm not sure I can handle it. You never know when someone is going to say something stupid. How do the rest of you protect yourselves?

I'm going to post this part on the spouse site as well. There seem to be very few of us here - and I need more feedback. But I am very grateful for your responses and friendship.

Marty - thanks for the book recommendations. I'm not sure I can read any more books on this subject now, but maybe if there's one that goes past the funeral and all that - I could use it. I've been reading mainly books on the idea of life after life. I suppose that's the main thing on my mind these days.

Melina

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Melina, I need to leave for retreat in a minute...so short response. Thank you for your email. YOU are NOT doing self pity. You are grieving the loss of the love of your life, your life style, the stability you had, and so much. We are all here for each other because societies can't get it. More when I return tonight. Peace, friend

Mary mfh

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I have been working on my publication, Voice of the River Valley (www.voiceoftherivervalley.com is the old website. And this is the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/voiceoftherivervalley) most of the day. New website to be one launched in December and a snazzy one at that thanks to my geek and my plan...syncs with Facebook and Twitter and will have a live calendar.......Voice as everyone calls it is a local publication that Bill and I started and which I do mostly alone every month. I have 5 columnists and volunteers to help me distribute it...a job Bill and I so enjoyed and which I now dread each month.

I have been sitting at my computer in the silence of our home for 5 hours. It is Saturday, gray, cold...snow is about gone until the next batch. Bottom line is that it is oh so lonely. In spite of having tea with a friend at 10 am and helping her with her tech toys...talking to one person for an hour does not even put a drop of fill in an empty day.

I look ahead today, at almost 19 months since Bill died, and wonder what my life will look like in a year, five years, 15 years....I know it will always be laden with an emptiness that only I will know. My grief counselor, who I saw this week after a long time, said this is what she calls fruitful darkness...like a seed in the earth...changes happening, roots going out and eventually fruit. I guess that sounds ok but caring about it is difficult today. I have come to hate the weekends. I am busy...on deadline for my publication...but the incredible energy that was Bill's is gone...and tears fall when I stop working and realize the silence and emptiness. My life....

Mary mfh

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  • 10 months later...

Melina-

I can relate so much to what you are saying. I am 6 days away from the year anniversary of my husband's death. And boy oh boy about a month ago it hit again. I was not expecting it and I thought I had come so far. But the uncontrollable throws of greif just hit and all it seems we can do is ride the wave....

I too am taken aback by co-workers, friends and family that seem so surprised that I am still grieving...what are you kidding me. I don't think they mean to be cruel, but sometimes, it makes you wonder that they don't have any sensitivity towards a greiving widow. It was relayed to me by a friend in fact that because I was taking a lot of time off of work after my husband died, that "I was milking his death for all it was worth!" Can you imagine saying that about anybody. I sorry but I can't. I quess I'm different because I always tried to be sensitive around persons who were grieving and had lost loved ones.

I feel very scared that I am on my own now. I never realized that at the year mark it would hit me so hard that my husband is really gone and his physical body is not coming back. I know I will get thru this, but the acceptance that I will never get over it, is really really hard.

I don't believe people really do understand unless they have been thru it themselves and then even some that have seem so indifferent to someone else's grief. Almost like a jealousy of your loss as if I guess the spotlight is off of their grief...so strange. It has been a long hard road and will continue to be. One thing I am positively sure of is that I will never be the same person ever again.

I am determined to keep moving forward, although my heart aches, I know my husband would be in pain to see me in such pain. One thing I find that does help is to go with your grief. Be good to yourself. Love yourself and do things loving for yourself. I think about the loving things my husband did for me and then I do them for myself. I've started putting fresh flowers in my bedroom every other week to cheer me up a little. That's one thing my husband gave me thru out our 33 years of marriage was to give me flowers all the time.

I hope I'm not rambling...I do tend to do that these days, but I hope my sharing will help you with your grief and pain.

Signed,

Crazy

(cuz that's how I feel most of the time)

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Dear Crazy,

Rambling or not this is where we all are. I am too new to this grief stuff (almost four months) but what I do know is there are people on this site that share raw feelings and give me much to think about. I love your idea of the fresh flowers. My Jim, when he was still able, did the same thing for me. If you can find them - read some of the earlier postings from Kay and Mary. There will always be those moments of being scared. For me right now I'm still too afraid to keep walking through the 'tunnel'. I keep stopping, afraid that the reality of his not coming back will strike me when I'm out in public! Anne

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  • 4 months later...

Hello Melina - I understand how you feel - it is now 14 months since the loss of my husband and it is now I feel more lonely than ever. I just do things automatically every day and I have to admit I'm fed up of people's comments on you should get a hobby etc. Unless they have experienced the loss themselves they have no idea of how you feel inside. It is the emptiness and the depression that occurs often - I tried to pull myself together the other day by going out for a short walk but I ended up in tears - it just came on unexpectedly. I feel better talking to people who have lost their husbands - in the same boat and I try to avoid couples as they do not want to understand you and keep talking about how great things are with them which hurts - they are so insensitive.

Do not try to be brave but give way to your feelings - be your natural self and do not try to supress your feelings from people - never mind what they think as they have not experienced what you are going through. I send my love to you and support and a listening ear any time.

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I found it hard too, even though it was my ex-husband who died, still, I loved him and we had separated because he was gay, not because we didn't love each other. It took at least two years before I stopped crying every single day, and people really didn't get it, the usual comment was, "Why do you care, he was an ex."

My father died in December 2006. I believe my mother was in shock the first year. The second year she developed a great deal of anxiety and digestive disorders (evidently stress-related.) She couldn't sleep, she couldn't eat. We spent a lot of time with her and on the phone with her. A few months later she met a woman who was recently widowed, and they seemed to help each other, since they both understood how it felt. It took my mother years to start to move ahead with her life, but we never pressured her. I had been through grief support, and knew this was normal, though it was hard to see her suffer.

It has now been 6 years. In the past two years, my mother joined a pilates class which she enjoyed. This year she has also started mah-jong classes and games. She is much more social, though now she is 85.

I tell this to show that it is normal to take years to adjust and create your new normal, your greatly changed life. But slowly, it does happen. We still talk about my dad, we never avoid the subject. And she still wears her wedding rings.

My parents were married for 56 years. Such a huge change in a life, to be widowed. Just this past December, my aunt, who is 90, said how she hates to have Dec. 14th come around again. That is the anniversary of my uncle's death. She still feels it, though he died 15 years ago.

Of course we never forget those we love.

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  • 1 month later...

I sit here frustrated as I'm not generally at a loss for words, but am right now - so I guess I'll just say thx for the comments and replies. Can definitely relate. I won't do the year 1 vs year 2 thing because I had a lot of things going on other than the loss itself since then, such that those 2 years are very diff. anyway. But I can appreciate what everyone is saying. I think it's because the realities of this are starting to really sink in. Early on we perhaps kids ourselves a little and deep down think maybe it isn't really true (even though we know it is) and we'll wake up soon - but as more time goes on, that reality that this is just that - reality - starts to take hold.

Hang in there all, my sympathies to you.

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Dear widower,

I agree with you that over time the fog lifts and our losses feel very real and the secondary losses surface. I guess that is one of the benefits of having a forum like this because we all understand that even though the journey is unique to each person and the timing and circumstances are as well. Glad to see you here and having a loss of words is, of course, always acceptable. Peace, Mary

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am on my second year which I have heard is harder than the first year. My hubby had Alzheimer's so I really lost him about 4 years before he died. I am now having trouble with what do I do with my life and making decisions is so very hard alone. We designed and he helped build our retirement house on a lake in MO. It's very nice and there are a lot of memories here for me and our three children and their families. I have an awesome view that we loved. So now I sit here and wonder about leaving all this but I have no desire to move anywhere. I know that wherever I would go "myslef" will go along so a change in location probably won't help but then again it might. There isn't a whole lot of activity as it is rural but I can go 1/2 hour and be in a pretty nice small town. I just feel so mixed up with my life right now and frustrated. I feel my friends have pulled away and they are mainly couples which I hear happens. I don't have anyone come over anymore and the phone doesn't ring. Just feel empty. I sound like a real complainer!! I really am not and I do keep busy going and doing. Also have a big yard to care for but I kind of like that. I think the first year I was challenged by all I had to do(which I had already done hence the Alzheimer) and was proud of myself for being able to do it all. Now it is mundane and I know I HAVE to do all these things.

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Dear Nemo

I am so sorry for your loss. You have found a good place here...you will find that no one judges you and we all understand how huge the loss of our spouse is. I lost my husband 3 years ago this past week and yes, it was to Alzheimer's and I also lost him in many ways long before his body died though he knew me to the end. As for the second year, it can be difficult in a different way. The fog has lifted, the firsts are pretty much over though every day is a first; people move on as you have found out; couples leave you out; and you start to see and experience the secondary losses. We here are either in the midst of all this or a bit beyond year two as I am. What I see is that somehow we all make it. I have completed three years and I still do not know where my path is going. I live one day at a time and trust that in time i will know more about my path than I know today. Yes, we take ourselves with us wherever we go. i chose and still choose to stay put. You may choose to move or stay put but until that is clear...it is probably best to not decide anything. I urge you to join us here and gain love and support as you tackle year two. As for it being harder... I would say for many it is not harder but rather a different kind of hard as different insights surface. What i know is we are all making it, allowing our losses to transform us and each of us is doing that in our own unique way. I think the word patience is key....and I would not get concerned about feeling lost or on an unknown path...it all unravels itself. Allowing yourself to just be where you are is a huge step forward on this path. Peace to you and do think about returning. In time, people will respond..everyone comes and goes at random times....Peace, Mary

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I just finished reading all these again and it just says where I feel I am. I have never felt this hopelessness before in my life and I don't like it. I know what everyone means about people pulling away as I feel that. I feel they think I should just get busy and get involved and I know that would help too. I just don't know what way to turn or what to get involved in. There is always the nursing home but I don't feel that is what I need. I want to be around uplifting situations and the only thing I can think of is a hospital 1/2 hour away. I just feel like my world has been cut away. I am realizing that I am now just Linda alone in the world and needing to find a whole new life. I went from my folks house to Jim's house so have never been on my own. Now at 74 I'm tossed out in a completely different situation. There is a sick, empty feeling in me now that I don't know how to deal with. I have not had grief couseling as after Jim died I felt I could handle it, and I did that first year. I hear people talk about grief counseling and that it just makes you feel worse listening to all the bad things people are saying. Someone else told me to go to the nursing home(where Jim was with Alz.) and help others who have no one and it will make me feel better. I don't seem to have the motivation.

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Linda, I do believe that at about the one year mark (give or take) the fog has finally lifted and we begin to see that every single corner of our lives has been affected by the loss of our spouse. You and I are about the same age. I just turned 73 and starting a new life when we loved what we had is a challenge. The only way I know of to go through this is to take it a day or an hour at a time; listen to your OWN voice about what you want and need; and trust somehow that you will, like all of us, eventually find your way. It takes time. There are a lot of pieces to this journey...dealing with the loss of the most important person in our lives is just the beginning, tough as it is. Figuring out what end is up takes a long time...as you now know...everything changes...routine, meals, shopping, schedule, holidays, evenings, mornings, waking, sleeping, eating. The list is as long as you can imagine...you know that. So my big lesson is and has been patience. At 3 years now I do better most days. I even have periods where I am absorbed in something besides grief and Bill and loss and tears. As for grief counseling....consider, if you wish, one on one grief counseling as opposed to a group...Your local Hospice may provide you with a list of people in your area who are good. Be sure you are comfortable with the person...but it is something to think about. My heart goes out to you. I wish my magic wand worked...but of course, there is no magic wand...there is, however, this place with people who embrace you and do not judgment you and who get it because they are all in the midst of it.

Peace to your heart, Mary

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Some people are greatly benefited by grief support groups as they know they are not alone and what they are experiencing is normal, given the circumstances. It took me a long time to feel comfortable being "on my own", but that doesn't mean it's my absolute preference...I would still rather have George back, it just means I'm not scared of being alone anymore and am more comfortable with having to make choices and decisions. 74 is quite an age to have to be on your own for the first time, but that doesn't mean you can't do it. There are quite a few here going through the same things. One year is relatively short in the grand scheme of things, I think I was still in a fog at that time. It took me probably three years to fully process George's death.

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Kay and Linda, it is tricky to be alone for the first time as someone reaches her 70s. As for dealing with Bill's death...as you know I am at the three year mark and I have not fully processed it...does one ever? Of course things are better with bumps along the road. Linda, it will take time...as I said above..the key is patience...not my greatest strength.

Mary

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My dear Linda, in addition to the wise words already shared with you here, I'd like to add some thoughts. First, please know that it is not at all unusual for you just now to be coming out of that frozen state of numbness you felt in the first year following the death of your beloved Jim. As Mary says, it can take a year for that fog to begin to lift.

You wrote, I have not had grief couseling as after Jim died I felt I could handle it, and I did that first year. I hear people talk about grief counseling and that it just makes you feel worse listening to all the bad things people are saying. Someone else told me to go to the nursing home(where Jim was with Alz.) and help others who have no one and it will make me feel better. I don't seem to have the motivation.

So it sounds as if you are the recipient of lots of unsolicited advice, most especially regarding the benefits of grief counseling, grief support groups and volunteering. I think what is important here is for you to take charge of your own grief journey ~ and the only way to determine which choices work for you is to try them out for yourself and then decide if those choices work for you. I understand your concerns, but having participated in dozens if not hundreds of grief support groups over the years, I can assure you that they are not designed to make you feel worse, and they certainly aren't simply about people saying bad things. Take a look at so many of the posts you will find right here in our forums (which are, after all, virtual support groups) ~ and I think it's safe to say that what you'll find is kindred spirits, all bound by the common experience of loss. Like the people you'll find on our site, bereaved people you meet in a support group are among the most honest, compassionate, caring, authentic, generous and wise individuals you will find anywhere. They know where you are coming from because they are traveling on the same path ~ either right next to you, right behind you, or far enough in front of you to help show you the way. Grief is not meant to be endured alone. And as Mary said, if the thought of an in-person support group does not appeal to you, why not try a few sessions with a grief counselor? It's a wonderful opportunity to obtain the sort of individual understanding and support you need and deserve.

As for "helping others who have no one" when you yourself acknowledge that you don't seem to have the motivation, you may be wise to pay attention to your own good instincts. Maybe your heart is telling you that you still have some grief work to do, before you are ready to give so much of yourself to others.

I invite you to read this article, Linda, and please note the titles listed at the base of it, where you'll find links to additional readings: Finding Grief Support That Is Right For You

When you're ready ~ and only when you are ready ~ you might find this helpful: Healing Grief through the Gift of Volunteering

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Thank you all for the support. It helps so much to vent here my real true feelings. When I was going through the Alz. with Jim I partifcipated in a chat room on Alz.org and I couldn't have done it without the support of so many good people who understood what I was going through. Now I have found you all and I think it will help a lot.

I had a Dr. apt. this week and was lamenting to him(I like him a lot and he went thru the Alz. with Jim) and he gave me lots of good strokes and also agreed with me what I have been going through with the feeling of loss of friends and support. We talked about volunteering too and I am in the process of figuring out what I want to do. I met with a lady in our church who has been given one month and Hospice was there and we talked about me volunteering. We decided I would be better helping in the office as I couldn't seem to keep the tears down while I was there.

I am determined that I will make a new life but it is so very hard.

Is there a way to know when there are replies from what I post. I can't seem to get around like I'd like.

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Linda, you asked, "Is there a way to know when there are replies from what I post. I can't seem to get around like I'd like."

If you click on your name (at the top right side of the main page) you'll see a drop-down list of options. Click on My Settings, and you should find an option, Content I Follow. Choose the Action Notify me of updates.

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