Sunday, May 4, 2014

Let's Have a Real Conversation about Grieving in America

Today, I saw a friend.  Her Mom had recently passed.  I asked her how her week was for her (because when you're grieving, you can't answer the question how are you because you're all over the place).  Her eyes welled up with tears and we agreed to go outside and talk.  When we did, we were followed by a woman who we did not know.  My friend started to tell me how much she missed her Mom and how things feel out of control.  Emotions I can very much relate to.  She wanted her Mom to see her graduate college which for this friend was a huge achievement in her life.  The stranger said to both of us, "but she'll be there."  Perhaps yes, but here's what happens to me when somebody says that to me.  It pushes away the grief.  what I hear is, "I do not honor what you are feeling, I can't handle it"

The truth is, my friend missed her Mom.  She wanted her to see her graduate.  I wanted to spend my 50th birthday party with Larry.  Honoring disappointing moments helps me move through the grief.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Two Years, Progress & Pain

I wish there was some kind of social mechanism in place for widows where, around the anniversary of your spouse's death,  friends  came to your house and spent time with you, played board games on rainy eves or took you out as a nice distraction.   Maybe even pulled out a few pics and stories of your spouse.  A mechanism where people took the time to share your grief but not wallow in it.

Around this time of year, I am haunted by visual and verbal memories of the end of Larry's life. It was not an easy end. There are so many equally bad memories that I can't even share one.  I've been through death before and it was different.  Larry dealt with it by being in denial.  I am not judging him, I don't know what I'd do in his shoes, and perhaps he lived longer because of it, but what it did was create an elephant in the room.  Decisions had to be made and because none were made, things were left things pretty messy.   April 23 will be the second anniversary of Larry's death I am still dealing with lawyers and paperwork and I'm not even the executor.

I am still bitter about most of his friends disappearing from my life. Bitter about Larry appointing his a friend as executor, about the venom that sprouted from his daughter post fire (quite common yet she was uncommonly hurtful), bitter about people who say insensitive things and yet all this is a normal widow's experience apparently and it helps to know this.

People do not look at me and say, "poor Sharyn".  They see that I've made some great choices, that I have a good head on my shoulders, they see my strength, see me taking steps to reclaim my life and spirit. I have gratitude for my strength, gratitude for the people who have been helpful, gratitude that I have the skills to have several jobs.  I would prefer to be perceived this way but I think most people don't understand how long a loss of this magnitude lasts.  I feel like I'm seven years old.  The losses made me feel vulnerable enough but the aftershock of nasty lawyers, townships, Larry's daughter, Larry's friends and your standard workplace dramas continue to make me feel unsafe.  People are not handling me with kid gloves anymore because I've done a good job appearing like I'm fine now.

The way that I am employed (several jobs to make ends meet)  makes it hard to have a social life. One of my jobs is a little lonely, then I go home to an empty house where I used to have two dogs and husband to greet me and make me feel safe in the world.   The losses still hurt like hell.  There's positive change, but there's also anxiety associated with any change.

In a week and a half, I will be scattering Larry's ashes.  Of course, they are hand made ashes because I lost his ashes in the fire.  I took some notebooks that a friend gave me back after the fire and burned them on the grill.  I think Larry would like the fact that there was some cooking involved in creating fake ashes.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

Attempts to Lighten Up

I keep wanting to say "this is my last post".  I want to move on from the grief.  I have tried.  I have started to date again, made a conscious decision to walk away from suing the township because my physical needs are met (thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers).  I live in a beautiful little home and I can pay my bills.  I wish that were enough for me.

From January to end of April is my tough time.  The anniversary of all of my tragedies…the fire, loosing sweet Montana dog in the fire, my brother's birthday and death, my first divorce, Larry's birthday and Larry's passing.  When I write it out, it's no wonder I'm not a bundle of joy right now.

A lot of people have suggested that I start dating again…not necessarily to find true love but just to have some fun.  I have to say that it has not been fun but has given me some fun stories.  Because I didn't feel comfortable sticking a picture up of my entire body online, I started dieting.  This is my last frontier of overindulgence that  I just don't want to give up.  Food has helped me cope and now I'm out in life emotionally naked.  I wish this year were about finding the joy in life again, but it has been more about the discipline of looking at finances, home repairs, and trying to be responsible for the way my fifty year old body feels.   I have been so diligent at trying to make changes so that I can enjoy life again, but so far, I have had very little harvest for all the sowing I've done.  Sigh.  

Larry wanted his ashes scattered (illegally) in two places.  Because one place was connected with his children, I gave half the ashes to his daughter a week before the fire.  I lost my half in the fire.  I found out she kept a handful of his ashes and promised them to me but when I started to email and call for the ashes, things ended very badly between us.  She accused me of all kinds of things and requested I never contact the family again.  I said my goodbyes to Jordan, Larry's autistic son who I had been having over to my house once a month for an outing.  Sadly, I feel that if anything ever happened to Jordan while in my care that at least the daughter would try to sue me.  After all that has happened to me, I simply can't afford the liability, emotionally or otherwise.

I'm going to scatter self made ashes from some books that Larry had that were given back to me after the fire.  They are books of wine labels that Larry collected.  I had some of Larry's things in my office (some beautiful pictures and even one wedding pic).  Larry's brother and sister in law gave me some pics too.  So ashes will be scattered on his birthday or the anniversary of his passing which are just two days apart.  Raise your proverbial glasses and here's hoping that things do lighten up a bit for me so that I can be useful in society again and feel good.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Look at the Bright Side

It is holiday time and the losses hurt less than they did last year, but things still hurt.

Most of Larry's friends have disappeared which makes me VERY grateful for the ones that have remained and bother to stay in touch...Steve Heberling and Fahad Javaid, Bob Theer.

Larry's daughter has a handful of Larry's ashes and has ignored all phone calls and Facebook requests for months to get them. (My half were lost in the fire) He wanted me to scatter them in two specific locations and I gave her half of the ashes and she scattered all but a handful in one spot.   I can think of no reason why she is ignoring me.  So it's hard to know I may never be able to honor his wishes.  I do continue to have Jordan, his son, to my house once a month, in fact, he is here now.

I am still really stinging my former town's treatment towards me.

Those are the things that still really hurt.  What I can take from my losses is that I have the unique advantage of appreciating ten fold when things feel good.  When I look around my home, most of my possessions were donated to me and I feel so grateful for what people did for me physically.

But do things feel good right now?  Sometimes.  I still have a situation that is very stressful for me that I need to change.  I am taking steps to change the stress but it is hard to change something when you feel like you are drowning.  I need a break of some kind.  

I am overeating to compensate although I would really like to feel vital and healthy, I can't seem to break the habit.  That makes my Fibromyalgia flare up so I am in a LOT of pain on a daily basis.  Between the physical pain and the stressful situation, I have been very forgetful which bothers me because people feel like you don't care about them when you forget to do something, say something, be somewhere to meet them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, there are a lot worse situations than mine, but I kind of hate when people try to make me look at the bright side.  I do look at the bright side and I feel that I'm healing quickly BECAUSE I allow myself to feel bad as well as good.  How many of the people who want me to look at the bright side have been through the death of their life partner, a fire where there was no water, lost all their possessions and a pet all in the span of 9 months? That's two-thirds of what I called family.

If life looked like how I wanted it to look, people would call me and offer to come over or share a meal or a movie simply to acknowledge that things must still be difficult.  My Mom who knows the pain of loosing a child does.  I'm lucky to have her.

Here's the refrain of what people do, they see me and say, "You look fantastic."  I don't feel like I look fantastic at all so I don't really trust that.   Maybe it's the hot pink lipstick.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A promise kept

Just finished up teaching the monthly Video Camera Basics Class and packing some things for my big trip to France.  After Larry passed.  I had to ask myself what would make me happy.  The only thing I could think of was being in a place that had happy memories...France.  I made a promise to myself to go and off I go again to visit the same friends in the same places and I don't mind this a bit.  It feels like home.  

Speaking of home.  Everyone who visits my new home in Bordentown expresses more or less these words, "this house is so adorable, it's so you." And it has been such a safe haven.  Those who know the extreme trouble it was for me to get this house due to my firebug status in the insurance world also know that I almost gave up.  In fact it was touch and go up until the last hour.  I'm glad that it all worked out.  I'm having such a good time in my new town.  I ended up with really great neighbors on each side.  Oakley is so happy to have a yard again.  She doesn't care that it's about 1/20th of the size...she only cares that I'm there and that there are squirrels to chase.

So what still gets me down?  Occasionally, the fact that I have no family heirlooms.  But mostly, it is still extremely stressful to both run a business and have a part time job.  I don't have a whole lot of free time, but I do have some and I schedule some.

I am still pretty upset by almost all of Larry's friends abandoning me.  Now that the fire has wiped out physical memories, it's as if our life together never happened.  If you're thinking that maybe they don't know it's important to me, they know.  The words came out of my mouth and fell on deaf ears.  If I can take one thing away from this, however, is how special the few that remained are to me.

My blood still boils when I think about my former mayor and how the local government treated me.  Man, you would think I was an arsonist.  They were downright cruel and wrong.

My small romances of last month have come to a screeching halt, but that's ok.  France is waiting for me and that's been a long standing romance since I was young.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hitting the Lottery

It is almost midnight and I am making potato salad for a small party.  Normally, it would totally annoy me that I need to complete tasks this late in the day but I had my first fantastic day post fire.  I have been taking a bunch of risks with people and things and I hit the lottery today.

I have been slightly lonely at my new home in Bordentown so I stuck a letter in neighbor's mailbox inviting her over.  She came over tonight and it was a home run visit.  Then, I stuck another letter in my next door neighbor's mailbox explaining why my dog is running around the yard when I'm not home (because I'm working long hours and I can't find a dog walker yet) and asked if he had a power drill.  The power drill arrived tonight and both neighbors are going to take turns walking Oakley while I am in France (soon) at no charge (are you jealous yet?) and they put me in touch with someone who knows a dogwalker in Bordentown.

While sipping really good wine, the neighbor who saved me from slight loneliness told me she has had the best times of her life while living in this neighborhood.  We have already shared an incident on the street which has us all bonding and laughing about it weeks after it happened.

I am also apparently a man magnet these days.  Here's my recipe...let your hair go grey, gain a lot of weight, wear hand me down clothes donated post fire, talk about your dead husband.  Oh, don't forget to have not one but two tragedies to be sure you've got a lot of emotional baggage.  Be dissatisfied with at least one major part of your life.  Yep, that's the recipe.  I've done everything wrong.  I must have one heck of a personality.  Many of my stories about romance are very funny, one involves a man confessing that he's a sex and love addict and inviting me to visit his homeland of Columbia in the next breath.  (I have a witness)   Another involves a man trapped in a jail cell at my workplace.  (Again, I have a witness).

 Suddenly, life is light and fun sometimes and recovery seems possible.  I deserve this.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


I moved into my permanent home on my 51st birthday a week ago Friday.  Things are resolving with lightening speed these days.  I have a permanent place to live, my land is completely cleared and almost ready to sell (one thing left to resolve), Larry's estate is almost settled, I've ultimately decided not to sue my former township.  So things that were making my blood boil are 99 percent complete.  Now we're down to petty annoyances because I'm still tired and grouchy from the ordeal of the fire and loosing both Larry and Montana.   Most of my to do list was comprised of things that I had to do and not things I wanted to do but that is slowly shifting and changing.   I sat in my new backyard with a cup of coffee this am and listened to the soft zee zee of cedar waxwings, watched a Carolina wren climb down my Rose of Sharon tree.  Said hello to a pair of cardinals as they quickly landed on my fence, discovered me and moved on, listened to the sleepy chirp of crickets and neighbors going about their Saturday morning routine.  Oakley barked and pointed at some squirrels performing acrobatics from the tall pine trees beyond my property and sniffed the air; happy to have a yard again.

Inside, the house has tons of character and all who see it  say, "yes, this house feels like you".  And so not only do I have my faithful companion of a dog to love, a dog who probably saved my sanity, but I have a new home to love and play house in, decorate and clean and cook.. This is the type of home where, with so many vestiges of the past,  it just feels right to have bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast and iced tea in a earthenware pitcher and a pie to share when friends come.

Yes, there is finally a place to rest and recover.