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Three Years: When Do We Start Feeling Normal?


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I am hoping to hear from people who lost their spouses three or more years ago. It will be three years for me in August and I've been doing really okay, but recently, a couple of months ago, I've started feeling worse again. It's not that my grief is worse - it's more a problem of figuring out how to have a life on my own. I have no idea who I am any longer, or what I want, or where I want to be.

It's hard to figure this out, and even harder to express. Lately I've been noticing more and more how different my life is from others. I know other single people who do just fine, so I know it can be done. However, I suppose I had expected to come farther over the course of three years than I've done. I really thought I would have a normal life again, but things still seem wrong, like wearing poor-fitting clothes and uncomfortable shoes.

Everyone at work talks about their daily events, their families, their plans - especially now that spring is on its way and people are thinking of summer and vacation time. It feels so alien. I used to be one of them, and now I have very little to share. In fact, apart from looking forward to the snow and ice melting, I don't really care about spring and summer.

My sons are all living abroad - either going to school or working. One of them just got his Masters degree and has been very frustrated over not being able to find a job. I notice that I tend to take all their worries and pile it up on my own worries, until I can't do anything at all. I just don't have any energy left for a life - and if I did, what would I do? I'd like to be closer to my kids and possibly move back home to the states, but I don't seem to be able to get the energy or initiative to do anything about it. Plus, major life changes like this require money - and I don't have much of that either.

I am really becoming concerned that I'll stay in this non-life rut forever, in limbo, and become this bitter person, envious of everyone else who has a partner and a life. I don't want that to happen, but I can feel that bitterness bubbling up quite frequently.

Has anyone else had these kinds of feelings at this stage? I had more energy when I was newly bereaved than I do now. It's almost as though I'm just waiting for my days to run out, so I can move on to something better than this life. That sounds depressing, I know.

I hate to wallow like this, but I really am at a loss. Any ideas are welcome. But just so you know, I don't have time to volunteer anywhere. I work full time and have two extra freelance jobs.

Thanks,

Melina

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I have no idea who I am any longer, or what I want, or where I want to be. ....It's hard to figure this out, and even harder to express. Lately I've been noticing more and more how different my life is from others. ....Everyone at work talks about their daily events, their families, their plans - especially now that spring is on its way and people are thinking of summer and vacation time. It feels so alien. I used to be one of them, and now I have very little to share. In fact, apart from looking forward to the snow and ice melting, .....I am really becoming concerned that I'll stay in this non-life rut forever, in limbo, and become this bitter person, envious of everyone else who has a partner and a life. I don't want that to happen, but I can feel that bitterness bubbling up quite frequently......Has anyone else had these kinds of feelings at this stage? ....I hate to wallow like this, but I really am at a loss.

Hi Melina, As you know I am now just past the 3 year mark and frankly the time leading up to it felt like I was going backwards. It was hard to remember that I am walking a labyrinth of grief and when one walks a labyrinth and makes a turn, it feels like you are going right back where you just came from but I wasn't...I was on a parallel path that was bringing me closer to the center...wherever that is. I felt lost most of March and into April and even last week had a melt down related to the chaos I created by having painters come in. This is the first time in weeks that I feel better but most of it was related to the 3rd anniversary...I also came into it with expectations (a dirty word in my book) that i would be all settled into a new life, even happy. Alas, it does not work that way for me. I am on this grief journey and learning over and over again to just be on it, be where I am. Yes, I do not know this new me very well but the old me is still inside...in some ways. And I agree that spring (which still has not arrived here) brings with it people talking about trips, vacations, fun times on weekends and more. I find that difficult and feel more vulnerable because though I am invited along often it is not like being with Bill and I too feel like an alien at times and find my own company easier. Sooo, now I am back to feeling that this journey is what it is, takes as long as it takes, it is my normal which will keep evolving and which will still have the occasional tsunami knock me down and carry me to the deep. I know grief is mine forever but it is not as crippling as it was (except for moments) and I am learning to carry it. When you use the word 'wallow' it reminds me of the early days when you felt you were wallowing close to 3 years ago. Maybe find a new word for the times when you feel badly, sad, low, depressed, exhausted, lonely. Maybe just calling it grieving instead of wallowing. This is a long journey. I think we tend to forgot how much our lives have changed. My life was close to 100% wrapped in and around Bill's and his was the same for me. Like tendrils of my Clematis vine that I carefully tend in my front yard (and am waiting for now)...I cannot separate those tendrils from each other or even easily from the trellis. Our lives just grew together and were one. So now the wounds from each tendril being torn away from (not gently lifted) our husbands' exists and bleeds. It takes a long time at least for me, it does. I think about my cousin, an orthopedic surgeon and sports med MD for the U of Nebraska football team years ago. One moment on a surfboard and he lost the use of all 4 limbs. I KNOW it took years for him to adjust from that loss and create a new normal consulting at the hospital, reading x-rays, giving up sports (he was once their quarterback) etc. We were not surprised at all when five years later he still struggled with that adjustment as did his wife and I think still does most days to some degree. We are the same. We lost part of us so this will take a while. And yes the world goes on and so do the lives of our friends and that is tough to witness. It is for me when friends begin to talk about where they are going, their trip to Spain (as happened Monday) etc. I feel sometimes as if I am wasting my days but I am doing my best and that is all I can do....5 steps forward and 3 back...then 8 forward and 1 back and on and on. YOU are not alone. It seems to me that what you and I and others are experiencing is just normal/common whatever grief....adjusting to a loss that turned our lives and hearts inside out and ripped them asunder. I will never be the same but I have hope now (new) to find meaning and moments of happiness and joy...someday.

Keep in touch,

Mary

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Hello Melina,

I saw your post and wanted to post my thoughts...I am at 3 years and 2 months since Ruth passed, I've been trying to be & live normal again but to be honest I have found nothing "normal" in my new life, in fact I've come to see I do not want a "normal" so to speak as then I will take for granted all I have learned in this journey of grief, I say that as I watch other people who really have no clue what life is truly about, I am not being judgmental, I just see so many unhappy people in the day to day life when they should be thankful they have there Spouse, Partner, or Significant Other yet they are bickering, ungrateful, and seem miserable...I like my new life each day as I am so thankful I have been able to learn and grow from this most life changing event, I have found a new love and take this journey with never missing a moment to share a smile, hand holding, and general being like a teenager in love not allowing that "take for granted" routine that many of us get into, I myself was like that always thinking Ruth would always come home from work, always be there to talk to, always be there to cuddle, and when she got sick I quickly discovered there would be a day she would not come home!

We all hold our futures in our own hands and minds, we just need to get our hands wet and the mind working on "the plan" to regain a new us, I don't want to sound harsh but many of us linger in this grief of our own choosing, I myself found that I was feeling sorry for myself and saw no light, I felt bad and wanted out of this trend I was on a path to no where...then I said to myself one day "Ruth would not be Happy seeing me this way" and decided to make "the plan"...
You can find a new routine but "normal" I don't think that's possible as the other half of our once "normal" is no longer here as we know it, but we can still always cherish the memories as we build our "new sense of normal" with what ever course we choose...

May Peace Be With You

NATS

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Dear Melina,

I am so glad you came here to post and share. I am so sorry for your loss and pain.

I am only 14 months out from my beloved husband leaving after a three-year struggle with intestinal cancer. There are days when I feel not only that I am wallowing, but that I am almost drowning in my grief. Yet, there are also moments of joy, and I am trying to notice and cherish each such moment, to give it recognition, appreciation, and help those moments of being alive again to grow longer and help to heal my heart.

Doug and I were a very active, social couple, and it is hard to feel so isolated in my grief that I have only enough energy for the office some days, and to get myself through the days. Yes, this is partly due to emergency spine surgery 5 months after Doug left, certainly, but mostly just trying to find my way in a world that still feels fractured and a life that is still out of balance for me.

But I am finding a few minutes of joy most days, and I cherish those moments. If you are not having any moments of joy or hours of happiness, come back and join us here for a while, were there is love, laughter, sharing, compassion, and such incredible support.

There has not been a day for me without tears, but now, the tears pass in a little while, and I can remind myself that it is healing and helpful to let the tears wash the grief from my heart. I intend that the grief will be replaced with love and love of life. I worked out that I can find one thing to be grateful for each day, and I write them down, sometimes on big sheets of newsprint, and tape them to the wall, so I can look at them each day, and remember that life is not all shadows, and that good comes into my life even if Doug is not here to share it with me. I know he is smiling in my heart. Brave words, as I sit here with tears streaming down my face. :)

I am sorry I do not know your history. But Mary is right, that sometimes it helps to re-frame the subject away from words that can get us stuck. You are surviving, and you are reaching out for support and help, and those are very good things in your life. You are taking care of yourself and your emotional needs by sharing here with us. That is a beginning of getting out of the rut. I was in a horrible rut when I first showed up here, filled with hard anger, despair, hopelessness, and so much grief that the pain was enough to make me want to run away from my own heart. And there were health issues, too. This place has been incredibly helpful in my healing, and getting back in to some sort of balance with life.

There are many wonderful meditations here in the meditation thread.

All of this that i have written may not be what you are trying to find for solace, and if not, keep coming back, and we will try to find other words and images to help you to heal. Life is a blessing and a gift, and everyone here wants you to be able to have the joy and richness of your life again.

Blessings to you, dear Melina.

fae

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Melina,

I want to respond to your post before reading others' replies. To be quite honest, if by "this stage" you mean loss over three years but as many years out as it goes, I too am in "that stage". It's been almost eight years for me. I tried to create a new life with someone else and that didn't work...tried twice, but as I realize now, it was just a diversion. Diversions are tempting as they take your mind off your loss and how different your life has become...but they don't work in the sense that you STILL don't have that life that you did. I have accepted that my life is not and never will be the same. I have accepted that I was lucky to have had George in my life and that he was my soul mate and we had an amazing once-in-a-lifetime love. And yes, I believe that way. I think it might be different for others, but my experience has taught me that it is this way for me. So many things about him show me that he was amazingly unique and made just for me! I am okay being alone (most of the time) except I do get lonely sometimes and yes, I'll admit, it does pretty much seem like a "non-life". I know there are people out there that live as single people quite contentedly...others who seem to be passing time waiting for "that right one" to enter their life. For me, I don't seem to fit into either category. I am not waiting for anyone, just surviving and honestly, kind of wishing "my time" would hurry up and come so I could be with George. I don't voice that out loud very often, I don't feel depressed, I don't want to worry my kids, nothing like that, but they have busy full lives without me and I feel like my time has come and gone and is this all that is left? I have a friend that is widowed and she dates a lot but it also seems like a diversion. Almost like drowning out your sorrows so you don't have time to think. I think I am in a healthier spot right now as I allow myself to feel my loss and am more content than I have been since I started this journey, and am not wishing for any particular thing...I am just taking each day as it comes. I look forward to grandchildren someday, but don't know if I'll live close enough by to get to enjoy them. I also know you can't stake your happiness or life on grandchildren...I've seen others who loved their grandchildren but it didn't fulfill them. No, it has to come from within. I get a lot of joy out of my dog (a lot of challenges too!) but I know he won't last the rest of my life...then what? I don't know. I hope someday I find some sense of purpose, some passion. For now, I'm probably right about where you are. So much for progress. That doesn't mean this is where you'll be at eight years out...remember, I had diversions that undoubtedly stifled my progress on this journey, and everyone's journey is unique to them so we can't compare or have certain expectations. It just is what it is. I try to stay in the moment as much as I can so I can savor the little things...the sunsets, the snowfall, a beautiful day. I am a nature person, so I enjoy it fully. I am learning about myself and learning to be okay with just me. Yes, it's a new experience, but I feel I've come further than the rest of my life put together.

I hope that's helped you some, not sure if it has or not...it's just my journey. You'll come to terms with who you are and where you are too. I wish it didn't take so long but it seems to.

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Hi Melina,

I find myself coming on the site today after not contributing for such a long time for a myriad of reasons and noticed your post. Thank you for sharing with us Melina. I am sorry for how you are feeling and I can share that I too felt that at several different times along my journey. It will be 10 years this December 25th that Melissa chose suicide.

I believe that when our spouse dies it is not just a one level loss but multi-layered and dimensional. And we need to grieve not only the loss of our spouse but the loss of "us" the couple. I am wondering if perhaps that even though you are feeling worse and maybe wondering am I going backwards in the journey you indeed are moving forward in the process. It sounds like you are seeing more clearly and feeling more intently with realizing that who you are; what you want; and where you want to be may need to adjusted because part of the "us" has died. And so I can tell you that I too went through these realizations and felt as if things were worse again too.

I prefer to use the word "identity" versus "normal" and the indentity you had as part of the couple died too when your husband died. And so that identity was normal as is the identity that you have now as a widow. To me both are normal and so that is why I prefer to use the word identity.

And yes I remember and resonate so well and you phrased it well with the words "things seem wrong; like wearing poor fitting clothes. To have to develop and accept even that our identity is different now was excruitating for me when I first felt it.

Dear Melina I have felt the exact same way as you do now and in that moment I did not know that it was a forward movement in my journey. Now though, I have to look behind to see myself in that view and moment and what I can tell you is that I have every confidence that you too will one day be looking behind and see this moment where you are at now and know too that it was part of the journey and movement forward.

And how I found my identity was to just begin; try different things; discard what does not feel good; and keep those that do; and allow yourself to feel all the anger...rage even and express it out to the universe by way of writing, painting, ripping up paper, going for a drive by yourself in the car and screaming out loud...these were some of my ways to express anger and rage so that the bitterness you speak of did not keep bubbling up for me. I encourage you to find your ways of expressing it.

I encourage you Melina....take good care....

Blessings and Courage ~ Carol Ann

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Hi Carol Ann,

Good to see you. I remember you from a while back. I think you were kind of leaving as I was kind of coming aboard but we overlapped for a while. Nice post to Melina...very helpful to me also. I remember your blue type also :)

Mary

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Melina - I totally get this. I think when we all say (and I may be wrong, but...) we're doing ok, it's two sided. We actually are doing ok, in some respects. Ok, I'll go back to the saying I instead of we. I don't want to talk for anyone else. Yeah, I'm doing ok. I do all the things "normal" people are supposed to do, ie, work, exercise, interacting with other humans, and sometimes, actually a lot of the time, I enjoy it. This is the deal, though - and this is something I feel deep inside my heart - I can't go back to the place I was before. I can't go back to the bubble of thinking everything's going to be just fine, because I know that everything can be fine, then it won't be fine, and it can change on a dime. I know I can't live my life thinking like this, and most of the time, I don't - but it's always there. And this is what I'M struggling with. Marsha

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Good to hear from you Carol Ann

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi again.

First off - thank you so much for all your comments. Carol Ann, it was good to hear from you again. I hope things are settling for you in a positive sense.

I've read through all your replies again. Some days I wish it was possible to gather everyone on this site for coffee and a good talk. I don't really have anyone to talk to about these things here "in the flesh".

Things are very difficult at the moment. I feel as though I've taken a huge step backwards. Mostly it has to do with my kids. They are all twenty-somethings. The youngest is a student and basically doing okay. The other three have completed their studies but are having trouble finding jobs.

My husband and I always encouraged our sons to follow their hearts and their passions. That led to them studying things they were interested in, traveling to other countries to study, and also falling in love with girls from foreign lands. It sounds great - but in practical terms, it might not have been the best idea. They can't find work and the fact that their girlfriends/wives are from other countries has made it difficult to find a place to live and still be together. I feel like my husband and I made a big mistake by not encouraging them to find practical careers that would ensure their futures.

Three of our four sons have been keeping a positive perspective, but one of them has become very depressed. I just don't know how to help him. I can't find him a job. He has a big student loan to pay off, and no income. His wife works, but nurses don't make that much money.

I deeply wish my husband was here to talk to. I woke up this morning to a rainy Saturday and started to cry. If only he'd been here. We could spend the day doing stuff in the house and talk over this matter. This one son who is feeling down was especially close to his father. They could talk for a couple of hours on the phone. I know he feels the loss as much as I do.

I just don't understand why it has to be this way. Why couldn't our lives run normally - as it seems to do for my colleages and friends and their families? It's just so unfair. And I feel like such a terrible parent.

Is anyone out there? I need a shoulder or two to cry on.

Melina

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Hi Melina, It is 6:30am here and I have been up a while and decided to check email and found your post. I am so sorry for the difficult day/times you are having. I do so understand your wish that your husband was here...believe me, I do understand it, especially as it pertains to your one son who was so close to him and who is struggling the most. I am not the best one re kids since I have not had kids but I do understand how you would be so concerned about their finding jobs and being happy. I think mom's are moms forever and until those kids are settled and happy and employed you will be concerned for their well being and worried

I hear you wondering if you trained them right by teaching them to go after their passions and dreams. I just do not see how that was a mistake. Granted it makes job finding difficult in this world economy at this time but in the long run, I think it is the greatest gift you coujld have given them. but once they get on track, they will be far better off than those kids who were taught to take a job and keep it...no matter what. I think most of the college grads here are having job finding problems and taking anything they can get while they keep looking. Not sure when the economies around the world will turn a round again. And I know parents worry about them. I also think they find their way as you and I did many years ago but things were different then and jobs were there for us. I wish someone had taught me to follow my passion...took me a long time to learn that. I do not think it was a mistake but I understand your worries that they are having troubles finding jobs and living all over the world because they are with women who live all over the world.

You know I have no answers but I am happy to listen and be here for and with you. I wish I could wave a magic wand over those kids and you and all would be well...jobs and joy for all. It is another rainy cold Saturday here also and I know it sounds weird but if it is possible to miss Bill a tiny bit less, I miss him less on days like this because on warm sunny days we would be out having fun somewhere in the woods or on the road or even doing things at home together. Granted the difference is minimal. None of your sons are in Norway...is that correct? I wondered if one of them was nearby but I think they are all elsewhere and that does make it more difficult for you, I am sure. Having just one of them nearby would be good, I would think. I agree, it would be fun to have a gathering of the group on the forum...coffee together. I wish you had a group you there that you could bounce things around with, even one or two. I was thinking the other day how we all seem to use this group for support but also to share things we would have shared just spontaneously with our husbands. E.G. as i shared my frustration and pain with the chaos i have lived in for a month (which is over now) I was just saying to people here what I would have shared with Bill...even having friends I can share with, in other words, I do not go to the phone and tell them all these little things I share here...I might tell them when I see them but not in the detail I spill out here by any means. My closest girl friend has been going through chemo and so I even backed off sharing with her but she is out of state and we share mostly by email also.

I will check back in a while to see if you posted. I have some kids coming in two hours to clean up my flower beds etc. My back is not great these days after moving so much in the house with the painters etc. so they will come and assist in order to raise money for their upcoming trip to Africa to build a school. Works for everyone.

Until later,
Mary

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Thanks for reaching out, Mary.I hope we've given our kids a good upbringing. But I'm wondering if we've prepared them enough for the harshness of the world.

At times life just feels so overwhelming. And often it just takes one thing to tip me over. I feel as though I no longer have a buffer or a shield against difficult and painful things. I have no defense mechanisms. I know I've been isolating myself lately, and that probably just makes it worse. But I'm so tired of being around people who simply don't have the problems I'm facing. My friends here seem to enjoy life and take problems in their stride. Just don't know how to manage this. It's as though life is swallowing me whole.

Anyway - thanks for being here....

Melina

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Melina,

I do understand how you're feeling, oh so much! I miss being able to talk things over with George, and it's especially hard when it's something important like this.

Please don't second guess yourselves...you've done a tremendous job of parenting. The times are hard, they are here too. To be stuck in a lifelong job with something you feel no passion or enjoyment for...well that is to live my life now, and that is very hard. I think it's good that they pursued their dreams and who knows but what things won't turn around and that education put to use after all. For now he may have to take just any job to get by, while continuing to pursue his career opportunities. Things cannot continue as they are forever. Our history shows cycles and we've been in this cycle for some time now, but it has to have an upsurge eventually.

Our kids are and always will be tremendously important to us and we feel for them so strongly...but as they grow up, they are ultimately responsible to figure things out for themselves and make their own decisions. I worry about my daughter but I can't change anything, it's her life and her choices. We can only be here as a sounding board for them...it's up to them to get their own jobs and figure their own lives out. I think sometimes that being the parent of a grown child is much more difficult than being the parent of a minor...we have no control yet we have a lifetime of wisdom...and it seems to count for naught sometimes.

You are not alone here, you are understood and safe here. I know it's hard to find anyone out there that gets it, I guess that's why we all keep coming here. I wish it were easier for you...for all of us.

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Melina, my dear, I just wanted to acknowledge your stopping by to say hello ~ So nice to see you here with us again. You have been missed.

As the mother of two grown sons, I so agree with what Kay has said. We do our best to bring our kids to healthy and happy adulthood, but once that is done, the rest really is up to them. One of the most important lessons I've learned as a mother is that, as Kay says, we never, ever stop worrying about our kids, no matter their age. I did not expect that, but I've discovered it is true. And it IS so much harder when they're grown, precisely because we have so little control and even less say over the choices they make. And when they fall in love with someone, and bring other women, other mother figures and other families of origin into the picture, we really learn how little control we have!

I truly do believe that the best way to take care of our children is to take good care of ourselves first. That is true whether our kids are little or grown. I wonder what would happen if you turned your attention back onto yourself, dear Melina, instead of onto your sons, and focused more on what it is that you'd like to do with your own life. See, for example, Transitons: How to Recapture 'The Drive'

In any event, as both Kay and Mary said, we are still here for you, we support you in your struggle, and you are always welcome here.

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Metteline, I hope you are ok with my posting the following very long post on your site. It seems appropriate because it is, in part, about being three years into this journey. And it may give you some food for thought...not sure about that. I think it also relates to the great article that Marty linked to her response above).

---------------------------------

A Soliloquy at 3 Years (A sequel to the Labyrinth of Grief)

"So, you are having a bad 'post chaos and spring' weekend. Everyone who is grieving, really grieving, knows 'bad' and what it involves: tears, negative self talk, longing, loneliness, sadness, expectations (God forbid), looking too far ahead, shame, guilt, anger (at self), and who knows what else. Your first inclination is to just give up, hang it all up and join the millions of people on this planet who do not really grieve their grief or who quit too soon and go on smiling empty smiles. You could be one of those who talks themselves into feeling good when they are bleeding and shredded inside but too afraid to own it all...for fear of shame. Wow! You can be the like all those clients you find so challenging because they refuse to look. You can be superficial like so many on the planet. Followed by that decision, you can say good-bye to everyone on the forum because there are so many there who are new (weeks, months, one or two years) to this journey and you have been around too long. You could say your good-byes, quietly disappear and go back to work doing a half a** job because you, yourself, did not stick with what is essential to your peace...i.e. walking the talk, walking the walk through grief for as long as it takes....which is forever in some ways."

So as I ponder all that, doing a few things in the house to make more order. At noon I sit down with some lunch and flip on the DVR. The face that pops up on the screen is that of Brene´ Brown, a rerun of her interview on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah. This would be my third time through this interview and her book is sitting here. Not ten minutes into this interview (on vulnerability, on being real, on not being perfect and more); I get in touch with the fact that I am a major chicken clucking around my newly painted hen house saying, "So what. So it's painted. Who cares? I will just do another meaningless project. I will spend the rest of my life doing meaningless projects that distract me and make me feel good for about fifteen minutes. I can get the windows washed, carpets cleaned, put in a garden or two, plant veggies, read dozens of books, and well, I can create a list as long as my life. You are sick and tired of going out with the same people? Yes, they are important, very important, but the empty chatter is devastating. Where is the substance? You and Bill had substance or such a deep connection that silence worked sometimes. Why did you not get tired of Bill? But you didn't and when you needed space from each other, you took it. But you were never bored with his company. You never said, 'Oh, I will have lunch with Bill again..how boring.' You both took great joy in being together. And he is no longer here and none of these local friends, as dear as they are to you, can make you feel like Bill did. It is over, Mary. Give it up. Well, better yet -just give up. Poor you. Just go eat worms."

"Yes, poor you is right. You lost the most important person in your life...ever. You experienced the greatest pain you have ever experienced. Your world fell apart and now it feels empty. You feel sad and lonely for him and lost. Still. You have every right in the world to feel all that. That is fine. Of course, you grieve. Bill was incredible. This is a gigantic loss. What you had was incredible. You both waited a lifetime for it...believed in it. Even people around you miss him. He lit up life. His tenderness and sensitivity and insight was something you had never before experienced. He cherished you..lived to make you happy. No one else will ever cherish you as he did. You will never be first in anyone's life. Ever again. It is over. Many others never ever had what you had. They long for it. Grow up and accept the gift and move on. Put the drama aside...walk on. Feel your pain, your anger, your whatever! But when you do, you may not quit! You may not give up. You may not cast your grief aside as so many do. You are not allowed to deny the importance of the grief you feel for the rare gift of love you shared with Bill. That dishonors Bill; it dishonors you and the love you shared; and it dishonors all who grieve as well as all you believe in personally and professionally. So, you think you get three years to grieve and that is the end of it except for a bad or hard moment now and then -but rarely -and just a moment or an hour. You think you should be further into this labyrinth than you are yet you tell everyone else there is no time frame and you believe it...for them...but not for you. You have helped others in the clinic and in your living room and in their living rooms, even this past week. Yes forty years and you are still struggling to do this grief trek perfectly...whatever that means. First you had to be a perfect caregiver and now you have to be a perfect mourner...when no one on this planet has been able to define perfect let alone prove its existence."

"So, run as far and as fast as you can just when you can see the center of the labyrinth and know it exists. Run away and become half of who you are. Bury your pain, ignore your sadness, become superficial....how you hate superficial. Talk about boring. Do exactly the opposite of what you believe in so deeply; in what you and Bill lived; and what you believe in for others. I do not think so, Mary. I think you need to look again...get honest with yourself...own your pain...be where you are...be peaceful on whatever circuit you are walking on that labyrinth. It is, indeed, the largest labyrinth of your life and though there are no dead ends...it feels endless. But it is where you are. It is your labyrinth. Sit down right where you are if you wish. Rest, but you may not quit. That is not and has never been an option for you. You know tough. You who came so close to quitting once and look what happened when you did not quit...it was not long before Bill walked into your life and the joy you have known was something you had only dreamed of. Why would you quit now? You know you want meaning...must have it. You know you need and want to help others who are on this trek. You want a purpose. You even want to be a decent watercolorist and mom to Bentley. Great role model. You could help others quit when they reach the three year mark. OK, get it? Now, be where you are...renew the commitment...keep on keeping on. You have come so far. You have done it well. You have been as authentic as you can be. And yes, vulnerable."

"So get Bentley out for a walk...feel the sun on your face...chat with whoever you meet. Walk the talk and come home and finish making order here. You can do this. You can do whatever you put your heart and mind to. You always have. You can do two things at once....grieve and create meaning. You've been doing it. So just keep on keeping on."

So I walked Bentley, met someone who had just lost her 15 year old Golden, and told me I made her day by letting her pet and interact with Bentley. I met others also...all of whom petted Bentley. On return I sat and meditated and then turned the TV back on to finish watching Brene´ Brown but instead of that coming up, a program featuring the survivors of the Columbine School shooting was on...each on talking about how that tragic event changed their lives and changed them forever and how they are living now as they still deal with that horrific event and the losses they experienced.

It is time to iron the kitchen curtains, hang some pictures, and then later...take Bentley for his second walk on this lovely much-awaited spring day and fnish watching Brene´ Brown for the third time before I start reading her book. I guess being three years into this journey and 73, I hoped I would be closer to the center but I remind myself again that I will get there when I get there. Tomorrow is a new day and a new week and as I walk the week feeling the grief that is in one hand and the gratitude which is in the other, I will use the days to create meaning and reach out to whoever I meet on this circuit. Many of them are also on a walk through their own labyrinth of grief..I will know them by their eyes and warmth.

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Mary, after a hard day I thought even though I am exhausted I would look in on the forum and found your last message. I had just got into bed in England. I am one year and one day from when my beloved Pete died. The feelings are beyond bad. As far beyond bad as ts possible for me to bear. But you have helped me so much and this last posting perhaps most of all. I can't express how much and I won't even try. All I want to say is thank you. You speak straight to my heart.

Jan

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Jan, I am glad it helps you. It took a bit of courage to post it. I know the anniversary is now behind you by a few hours....still thinking of you and sending peace, Mary

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Mary, this is beautiful.

Melina, once again you have said what I am feeling at times--despite everything I am doing that has meaning and is of use to others. It just doesn't bring her back, doesn't make me feel better, and often simply serves to underline everything I've lost. There were times this winter that I felt I was far worse than I was even in the weeks after Jane's death. I'm probably wrong about that but it sure felt that way sometimes.

Then I'm reading Mary's piece and thinking I should be more thankful for the time we had together--that in a world where too many are bereft of anything close to what we had I have no right to complain. It hurts so badly because what we had was truly special. Every time I compare the evolution of my grief with those of most of the people I have known I seem a thousand miles behind.

I know, intellectually, that this is not a race--that my grief--like yours--is the result of factors that make it greater than many others confront. But knowing intellectually is not knowing emotionally--and way too much of the time it still hurts like hell. I feel like Frodo Baggins in "The Lord of the Rings:" "Will this wound ever heal?"

My neighbor has been a widow for 15 years. She lost her husband when he was 38. She had four children--one barely out of diapers when he died. She tells me there are still nights she loses her mind in her grief. he has earned two degrees since his death, gotten all of her kids through high school and into college and beyond. She has done great things and important things that he would be proud of. And she still hurts.

One of my former students sent me a note this weekend about how I become a rock in every community I become a part of. But he is wrong. Sometimes I'd like to be a rock. Rocks feel no pain. But nor do they feel anything like joy. had i not known love i would not now feel this grief that is sometimes so overpowering that I refuse to allow myself to take risks I should take. It is insanely hard to let anyone else into my life, not just because I don't want to feel pain again, but because I don't want to be the cause of anyone else feeling this kind of pain.

But that is not living, either. Jane insisted in her last days that I continue to live. I can't honor her memory by becoming a hermit. And I cannot be who I am without giving my heart and my love freely. In one of Anne Macaffery's Pern novels when a dragon loses its rider it is inconsolable. It goes "between" and does not return. Riders have an equal love for their dragons. When one of the female queen riders loses her dragon a child asks if her heart will ever be whole again. The question never receives a satisfactory answer--at least not yet. But if one has a heart big enough to embrace a dragon then it is a heart that is filled enough with love that it may heal--but not, perhaps, in the way that we expect.

The reason we, perhaps, hurt so much is that we have been gifted with a great love--a love that after the death of the beloved must find some other outlet or consume all that we are. I don't know whether that is true or not--only that I have gradually begun to suspect that it is so. Perhaps, somewhere in there is the key to healing this dragon's heart--or yours.

Peace,

Harry

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Harry, you hit the nail on the head when you said: "thinking I should be more thankful for the time we had together--that in a world where too many are bereft of anything close to what we had I have no right to complain. It hurts so badly because what we had was truly special. Every time I compare the evolution of my grief with those of most of the people I have known I seem a thousand miles behind. I know, intellectually, that this is not a race--that my grief--like yours--is the result of factors that make it greater than many others confront. But knowing intellectually is not knowing emotionally--and way too much of the time it still hurts like hell. I feel like Frodo Baggins in "The Lord of the Rings:" "Will this wound ever heal?"

I tend to compare myself with people I do not even know and then catch myself and feel quite stupid as I know better. Where did that Mary go is had a handle on things most of the time? I see someone who has had a recent loss doing whatever and compare myself without even know that they may go home and sob at night or they are not dealing with the pain or maybe they just do not feel pain. I have never in my life had pain go on for such a long time...especially pain that is so all encompassing in my life. I have had my share of pain way back but this is so different. I can not imagine (and i know that is a bad thing...not to imagine) not missing Bill. It is beyond me so I look ahead and consider ways to create meaning using the pain. Our state is implementing a state wide program where facilitators are being trained to facilitate the conversation around end of life issues with patients and their families. I can have a job doing that if I want. I help a LOT of people that I won't see in therapy because in a small town one has to be careful...I know so many people so when they hurt they come to me and I am happy to help and it puts meaning in my life. But is it enough??? I still feel so empty and so lost in spite of all I am and have done.

I think I am doing well and like you...this winter has felt like a major set back for me. Maybe it isn't but it surely feels that way. So glad to hear what you and Mettelline are feeling and experiencing. It helps. Peace, Mary

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Thank you Mary, and Harry, and then Mary, once again.

I came in from being out cleaning up things in the forest, at least a tiny spot, and found these messages here.

I went out to walk in the forest to show Doug how strong and in balance I am becoming, to walk the balance logs, and to see tiny shoots of green peeking through. Birds are gathering nesting materials. There is a gentle wind, making a whisper in the forest among the pines.

And I held to my heart the little shell that Doug had stuck into a tree for me to find, and I just sat and cried. It was grief and gratitude, because, yes, those of us who have loved with our whole being, one spirit to another, one mind to another, and sharing one heart, have known something so very extraordinary, by all I can figure out, that I sometimes think my heart is simply not big enough for all of Doug's love that flows through me in so many ways each day. I exist inside of our love. It is my home, and my life.

Life is so completely woven with our shared love. I don't expect that I will every find my way out of this pattern, and that is just fine. I will weave new threads, and make new patterns, when it is time.

Each day, when we open our hearts and share from the places in our hearts that were first unlocked, opened, and celebrated with our Beloved, we made a small change in favor of Light on the Earth. I do believe that completely. Being given the blessing of this much Love brings with it those gifts of awareness, compassion, insight, and grace, to each of us in our own, unique way.

I try to focus some days on just sharing some of this Love with at least one other person. It is still very painful to feel the emptiness around the edges of that center of Light and Love within my heart, but it is also where I find my solace and faith. I can feel Doug's gentle love going with mine as I send out Love to someone. Maybe I can help someone to find a little balance and beauty again. I know I find it here, among this Tribe, from all of you. It is a blessing beyond words. Thank you.

Some day, there will be a new balance, and I will carry this grief more easily. Meanwhile, I am so incredibly grateful for our Love which brings me to joy and celebration when I can get past the pain. And sometimes, that happens.

This fire is the safest place I have found to be with others as we travel along. Thank you for your courage and open hearts.

Thank you.

*<twinkles>*

fae

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Mary, I do believe there is something healing about Golden Retrievers, they are just special dogs...I'm glad that lady got to meet Bentley!

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Again thank you everyone for your replies. I've spent some time reading through all of them, thinking about them, trying to apply them in my daily life. Nice to hear from you all again - Mary, Marty, Kay, Harry - and all the rest of you who I still don't know well. But I do know a little about how it feels to be you.

Kay and Marty - and Mary too - thanks for your responses about how to deal with grown children. I know they have to live their own lives now, but I do feel it's almost harder now than it was when they were small and we had some control over their lives. We could still help and mold them. Now it's up to them and I'm always afraid we haven't done a good enough job. I guess no one is perfect though. I hurt when they hurt and I'm tired of hurting.

I just wish I could come to grips with why I'm feeling so lost and tired now, after nearly three years. I seriously did have more energy that first year. I may have cried nearly all the time, but I certainly got a lot done. Now I don't cry, but I just seem to shuffle around like a cow (do cows shuffle?) trying to figure out my life. I wish my guardian angel - if I have one - would suddenly appear and tell me what I'm supposed to do and point me in the right direction. I wish I could just sit down and talk with my husband, my best friend. That's basically what I really want.

I still practice as a psychologist - which must seem bizarre to many of you. Somehow I am able to function well at work and do a fairly decent job in my career - both as a neuropsychologist and a psychotherapist. People seem pleased with the work I do - at least most of the time. But when I come home, I'm this vague, directionless mess. It's as though I'm two completely different people.It's a very lonely existence. I hope things start to change soon. Granted, I should probably try to pay attention to the good things that happen, and do what makes me feel happy. If I can only figure out what those things are.

Melina

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Melina, it most certainly IS harder when your kids are grown and we have no control, at least to me it is. I'm trying to let go of my daughter (I've never had to worry about my son, he decides things for himself and the choices always seem wise) but I still worry about her.

Yeah I'd say cows kind of shuffle, or plod along, they're rather slow paced unless they're young. Professionally and personally are two different things. Professionally I never had a hard time, I just go into that mode, but then I was taught to keep professional and personal lives separate, so I've just learned to leave personal life at home and accomplish what I must...then when going home it's a different story. I can relate.

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Melina, I really don't have anything to add to what all the others have said, they have said it so very well. Just so glad to see you posting, and want you to now that you are in my thoughts. Carol Ann, so very good to hear from you again also, I had been wondering about you.

Melina, I hit the 3 year mark in January, and have had a harder time than I actually did after the 1st anniversary of his death. Maybe it is finally sinking in that he is really really not coming back. Mike and I never had childen together, and by the time we married, I only had one at home, all are in late 30s and early 40s now. So I cannot relate to that part from experience. I just know I miss him still, and there are still times the SUG will hit me, not as often, and not as long, but I think it will always be there.

A young second cousin of mine, age 40, died of a massive heart attack on Monday, very similar to Mike's death. As I sat and talked with Shell, his wife, I told her that nothing I could say to her would really help, but to just look at me....I had survived, and she would also. Feel so very sad for her, and for his young life being cut off. He was a paralegal with Arkansas Legal Aid and also worked at the radio station as the voice for ads. Coming back from Wal-mart on Tues, I heard him doing an ad...made me cry.

They had no children, but she had children from previous marriage who loved Chris very much.

Love to you all, and if you pray, pray for my young cousin' family, please.

Mary (Queeniemary) in Arkansas

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