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The Value Of Feedback

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A friend who is in one of my book clubs stopped by today just to chat. Like me, she is in transition...hers being retirement. She said to me at one point, "We (the book club members and who knows who else) all saw how traumatized and exhausted you were during the last year of Bill's life." She went on saying more about the trauma they saw. These are the same folks who kept food coming and offers to help.

Now, one might think that I would have been jarred by this feedback but it was a total relief to hear someone else say those words. I have minimized my own trauma and inability to function well during Bill's illness. She was clear that they saw a very traumatized and exhausted woman. I know in hindsight that I was in denial thinking until a week before he died (the hospital doctor fed into that) that we had much more time...not quality time but even another year or so. I remember wanting that and wondering how I could go on. If I had let in to my awareness all that I felt, I know I would not have functioned at all...so denial saved me, in a sense, and allowed me to continue to care for Bill. When he died....even though I did know 5 days before that he was, indeed, dying...I was in a state of shock and further trauma. Our incredible journey, a dream come true for both of us, had come to an end and I could not believe it. The future stopped existing.

The reason this feedback felt like a relief is because of my minimizing and even denying the severity of my trauma and then holding myself unduly responsible for the impatience, fatigue, and some angry statements I made to Bill without considering the hundreds if not thousands of good things I was doing. Thankfully he and I had one of those rare windows in the last month (when he was lucid as if not sick at all) and we could process this enough, share, forgive, state the depth of our love and how blessed we were and just hold each other and cry. Even then I still did not know he was dying. How powerful my mind and my fear of losing him. And still I minimized my tauma expecting so much more of myself.

It was a blessed moment today and frankly a surprising one as this woman is not one who generally relates at that level. Nor is she someone who gets direct and personal. I hugged her. It is another step closer to my healing given to me by an unexpected angel.

Mary mfh

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Sometimes it helps to have someone validate what you know you experienced.

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It is interesting. Some of my friends have told me, since Bill died how traumatized they thought I was. Some may have even said it to me during that time. I do not remember. Today I seemed to hear it at a new level. I have seen this happen a zillion times with clients. Today was my turn. I am sure this is not the end of this but a giant leap forward. Thanks, Mary

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Thank you, Lina,

Sometimes we have to hear things over and over until we are ready to let them in...I guess yesterday was the day.

Thanks, Mary

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Wow several of you are really hitting me where I live lately, ie I can so very much relate to what you are saying and feeling or experienced. I was my beloved's sole caregiver and I would LOVE to hear what you did from others and often, and I don't mean some token "way to go" type statement but something that is clearly sincere and emphatic. I have felt bad even thinking that though as it seems selfish. After all, I didn't do what I did for praise; I did what I was simply supposed to do and wanted very much to do (to help her however I could), and if anything, have often cursed myself for what I didn't do and ways I failed her.

And I was also in denial, big time. I curse myself for that as well. For not being able to face reality about it. And although we said our I love you's etc, there were still some things unsaid, and worst of all, we didn't expect her end when it happened (at least I didn't; if she did, she didn't act it), so we didn't get to say good-bye.

I so hate that all. As if the loss itself wasn't enough, the regrets and things that didn't happen will always haunt me. I am very glad you two were able to avoid this.

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Dear Widower,

I have been working on this regret and guilt thing for a LONG time. I have been in and out of it, around and under it. I have tried to ignore it and hope it away but that failed. I then grabbed onto it and began journaling about it and facing what I felt. Feedback here from Marty was insightful way back when I first opened it up...and got me on a new path with it. I think a few other things have helped me the most: being able to share what I was experiencing (here, with close friends and with a grief counselor I worked with); reading about traumatic grief, guilt, regret and educating myself to a larger degree having now experienced this myself and not just knowing it from a head level; writing and journaling. I have worked really hard with this for the last 18 months but mostly in the past 6 months. I can't say that it is a mute issue now but I do clearly feel like I am free of the bulk of it. I know that my grief is a labyrinth walk and I will fold back on it again but as in a labyrinth walk...one has moved forward even though it does not feel like it and is in a new place. This recent step is the "most forward" I have moved on it (like a major leap) but I have truly worked hard to get here and leave the guilt and regret behind...I even wrote them letters (guilt and regret). Do I wish I could have been superwoman for those 4 years...YES, for sure-he deserved that- but I am not superwoman. I did the best I could given the circumstances. Do I wish I had not succumb to denial, trauma, and even at moments dissociation...surely but I did and now I am ready to put it behind me to the largest degree yet. It is difficult for me to not hold myself to high high standards...a bit of the Irish Catholic guilt training :) combined with other pieces of my life...but I am making great progress here. This next thing is big: I also did not want my grief to be about MY guilt and regret. I want it to be about missing Bill, about our love and our life together. If I was going to continue to focus on MY regrets and guilt (ill based as they were/are) then I knew I would be delaying, distorting or coloring (at least) the true grief I carry in my heart and always will. I recommend Peter Levine's book Waking the Tiger and also his website: http://www.traumahea...king-tiger.html to do some reading about trauma and grief. I think educating ourselves is critical...seeing facts that then distort the illusions and guilt. I have other book titles also but recommend you go to www.griefhealing.com which is Marty's site...it is loaded with good stuff that will help you.

I admire your pursuit of all this. YOU did the best you could given the awful circumstances you were facing. We are human and not perfect....there is no such thing as perfect on this planet anywhere. And yes, I still work on that a bit...but I am very close to the end of it. I can feel it in my bones and my bones are very trustworthy :)



PS I also wrote Bill letters and that helped. I believe he is in tune with me. I know you did not get a chance to talk about your regrets with her but writing letters does help and I believe she reads your heart.

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