*** If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up, this is a healing journey.
This is my story as I walked along side of my husband Paul, during his battle with cancer. The journey began in 2011- these are the emails and journal posts that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop.
This began as a way to update everyone and soon became my therapy. You may notice that I jump around a bit, or that my grammar sucks… it is what it is. My Yoga teacher told me a few years ago… “How we do anything, is how we do everything” ***
Well today is Fat Tuesday… I just want to go sit at the Meijer Bakery counter in hopes of seeing my friend Frank. Frank was one of my biggest supporters (from my gym family) during Paul’s illness and after he passed. I had many… but my friendship with Frank was so cool. We would banter and joke- and he told me his weakness was donuts. Especially Paczki’s…
He prayed for me and told me that when he woke in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep… he would pray some more. He worried for me. When I came back to work at the gym- Frank and I shared some tears. He told me how concerned he was… I smiled and told him what I had learned many years ago- If you’re going to pray- why worry- and if you’re going to worry- why pray? Frank said that he felt like he was lightening my load. He felt that if he worried with me, and for me… that he could take away some of my pain. I miss Frank.
A part of my healing since Paul’s death has been forgiveness. I didn’t want to admit that I was angry with God. Who would? I also didn’t want to admit that I resented people whose life didn’t revolve around me and my sadness. I had to acknowledge this anger and these unknown feelings before I could begin to heal them. For me, that has been a process. It didn’t happen all at once. It still happens today.
I have always believed myself to be an open-minded person. What I have realized over the past two and a half years- I am open-minded… if you believe like I do, or you’re not trying to convince me to believe like you. Wow. Big stuff.
I have many Christian friends. I also have many gay friends. I have single friends and I also have many married friends. I have some who are agnostic and some who are self-proclaimed Atheists. Some of my friends are religious and some are spiritual. Why does any of this matter in the healing process? Let me tell you why… People will support you with whatever their belief is. Period. People will offer to you- what they know best.
My belief is not relevant at this time. Your belief is also not relevant to this story either. My point is that we want people to offer to us- what we would offer to them. When I need a massage, I want my massage therapist to give me- “my kind of massage”. (The one that I give to my massage clients…) When I have my heart set on ice-cream and I look in the freezer and there is none… French toast is not a substitute.
What I have learned is that sometimes what I want- is not really what I need. I have learned how to be flexible. I have learned to trust the process. I am gracious and appreciative for ALL of the support that is given to me.
If I remain open and teachable, sometimes I find a new way. Sometimes my path would have led me to the exact same spot… but maybe it would have been at a later time. Maybe your path is the one that I need, right now. How do we know which path is the right one??? People listen to me carefully… you will also know.
If I am struggling to make things happen and doing everything in my power, to create my desired outcome… it’s me in control, not God. If I am doing my best to just get by, tripping over each and every day- then it’s me that’s running the show- not God. When I dig my heals in and “KNOW beyond a doubt” that this is what I am supposed to be doing… and I am not feeling fulfilled… I need to sit quietly and look at who is calling the shots.
Healing Denise looks different each day. I am a work in progress.
I have worked really hard to be a better version of me. But here’s the deal- I have old stuff that prevents me from healing stuff from today. Say what?? You heard me. Old hurts. Old wounds. Old resentments. These are the things that keep me trapped and unable to see a solution today.
How do I know these things? How can I let go of these things? How is it possible to heal stuff that is so old- I am not even aware that it’s holding me back?? For me- I rely on the pang in my belly, close friends, and a conscious that I have developed over the years.
If I am doing the same things over and over- and not moving forward- chances are I am hauling around some old junk. If I am bringing people into my life and learning the same lessons over and over- chances are… it may be time to let some of that old stuff go.
God will keep bringing those old wounds back around with a new bow, a big new beautiful package, new wrapping paper… until I am ready to look at them. He will keep showing me new ways to heal those old hurts… and when I am ready. I will work on them. God will keep bringing them around… until I am ready.
Recently I shared a story with a friend and told her about how I was able to jump forward directly into the solution. I was able to see my path clearly and I was able to share it and teach her while I was actually living it. A wise woman once told me this… You can teach- while you are still learning.
As I have prepared this part of my story… I have read back through some of the old posts and journal entries… It has seemed like not much progress was being made at times. It also seemed like I was throwing myself a pity party, many times. It wasn’t like that all of the time… but those are some of the times when I chose to write.
I am motivated by pain.
As I read through some of my writings- it seems like a very sad story from a dear old friend. I can say today that I don’t hurt for those memories.
I am a better person because of the journey. Sometimes when I read an entry… I cry and think- wow- how sad for her… It’s almost as if I am reading another person’s life. I often think back and wonder if I should have sought medical help? Was I depressed? Was I just working my way, the best way that I knew how? Was I just getting by with the tools that I had at the moment? I think so.
I have many spiritual people that I have worked with over the years. I am not an expert- but on my journey- I have found a few things that worked for me. Your journey may include praying, meditation, a grief recovery or support class or it may just be time. My journey has included many of those things- and it now includes yoga.
I have found that writing Yoga Nidra’s have been a direct path into my healing. When I guide a class in a NIdra, I feel empowered and free. Nidra means Yogic Sleep. I write a guided meditation and work it along with a short yoga practice… They are transforming. Really.
My friend Mary and I went on a girls trip last year. I put together a picture board on Pinterest and manifested this trip. I wasn’t sure why I needed to be there- I just knew I needed to go to Sedona Az.
While we were in Arizona, I decided to search for a yoga class. A wonderful woman named Heather led us that evening- and it was a Yoga Nidra. The Nidra spoke to my soul and she motivated me to start writing again. I shared with her after the class how much her words meant to me. I felt, that class- was the reason I needed to be in Az. She suggested that I go home immediately, while the memories and thoughts were fresh, and to journal about it. I did just that.
During the Nidra, Titled “Resilience”, she asked us to bring forward the most painful memory that we had… There was so much more than this… but at that moment, all I could think of was the memory of Paul and the mess I had with his daughters. I needed peace. I needed to make this okay.
A remarkable thing happened when I wrote about my need to heal this. The healing began.
When I got home, the very day that I got home from Az… I got an email from Jennifer. She apologized. She said during her healing, she said and did things that she was not proud of. (I knew that it wasn’t personal… but it was amazing to finally let it all go…) Boom. Magic. All possible, because I became willing.
All possible in my mind- because of Yoga. If I had not been willing to look into this pain, been willing to see my part and agree to work on it… I am not sure I would’ve gotten the email. I think, no- I believe- My willingness, set things in motion.
Many people have said that they aren’t flexible so they can’t do yoga. Yoga is not about being flexible. For me- it’s a discovery of mind, body and spirit. its the most divine connection between all of these. To me, this is the truest sense of spiritual awareness… It’s a way for me to listen to me. If I can feel stress in a certain area of my body- I am that much closer to defining the cause and releasing it.
It has been said that Yoga is not about the ability to touch your toes- but what you learn about your body on the way down to your toes. It’s a journey of self-exploration and discovery that you will never find in another type of therapy.
People have shared their experiences with Yoga and here are some of the adverse things that I have heard: “It conflicts with my religion.” “I can’t quiet my mind.” “It’s boring.” “It’s not a quick enough pace.” “It makes my stomach upset when I do some of the poses.”
I can’t speak for you or convince you why you should try it again… I can only share with you why and how it works for me.
I have learned through yoga how to push through fear.
I have learned how to set goals and stick to them.
I have also learned to cut myself some slack.
I am okay with being a 49 year (Now 53!) old woman who is not perfect.
Yoga is not a religion.
Yoga can consist of chants and awareness of energy or vibrations, but not always.
I have heard of many yoga classes where the teacher plays Christian, Spa or even gentle pop music. I believe that true spirituality does not conflict. Ever. If I am in a place of love, which is supported by my religion or by my lack thereof- I cannot feel conflict. Love does not fear and does not support fear.
There are dozens of health benefits and reasons to do Yoga. I encourage you to open your mind and see if you could too- learn to love again through self-discovery. Learn to forgive. Learn to open up. Learn to give and live in a place of Love.
Some of the other things that bring me peace and healing have been: Music. Writing. Meditation. Reading. Prayer. Spending time with friends in nature. Belly laughs and compliments from and to random strangers.
I had a realization a few weeks after I started dating Tom… Tom pointed out something that bothered him… about me.
Oh hell no… what? Me?
In each of us is a little person with faults… old hurts and insecurities. (Imagine a scared little wounded girl, her name is Denise. She has short bangs, hunched shoulders and doesn’t speak openly or clearly… she listens a lot- because she doesn’t think her voice is important.)
He didn’t say this to be criticial, it was just an observation, and I took it to heart. I was so hurt… How could such a wonderful weekend leave me with such fear and doubt? I picked up the phone and called a friend. I talked to her and realized I had some insecurities from my childhood. I also had some lingering shame. As an abuse survivor who has dealt with a lot of pain and healing throughout the years- I was surprised that someone else’s opinion about me would matter so much after this much healing… I thought I had worked through that stuff years ago. Guess what? It comes in layers. Healing comes in layers!
So add that to the first relationship since Paul’s death and the commitment to be vulnerable- and there you have it again… fear.
I realized in talking to the second friend- that I was afraid. I liked this guy. Oh. My. God… what if he died too? Hello tears.
You see- signing up for a relationship is one thing- saying you’re ready to date and show someone your faults, your strengths, your body, your fears… equals complete vulnerability.
I wasn’t so sure I was ready for that. In the past- I would’ve pushed Tom away. I would’ve made excuses why this wouldn’t work. I would have created chaos and ill feelings so that I could have pushed him away. I would have let everyone know why he wasn’t perfect and why it wasn’t a good idea.
That’s what years of working on me does… it gives me insight and an ability to see my own BS- before I deal it out for everyone else to see… Before I get a parade of people to back me up.
I let him know about my anxiety and I was also able to heal another layer at the same time. I was able to stand up for what I wanted- and not have to hurt someone in doing so. I was able to tell him what concerned me- why I felt the way that I did… and Boom- the magic continues!
Healing has come in waves- just like the grief did. It swept in and stayed… and so does the healing.
Just when you think you can’t take one more ounce… hold on… you will get relief. When you think you don’t have anything else to give… hold on… You will find strength.
God never abandoned me. Death is a gift. I now know that this process and losing Paul was the most beautiful gift. I have learned so much and I have learned there is so much more to learn.
One more beautiful thing that has happened in this time- many of you know and love May Erlewine… well- she wrote a song for me. She took my words and put them to her beautiful melodies. I am so honored. She recorded it for me in April 2013. Since then, she has re-recorded it with her band and wants to release it on an upcoming album. She owns the rights to the song… and it’s her music… but my heart. The song is also called “Just Send Love”. ❤
Okay my friends- I have enjoyed writing to you immensely… I have enjoyed every opportunity to share my journey. I feel like it is time to close. This is not a good bye. I will write again… but this chapter in my life must be done. In order to finalize this healing- I have to finish this book.
I want to thank you all for your love, support, kindness and encouragement through the past few years. I don’t think I could have survived it without you all.
To my daughter Hailey and her husband Cody- Thank you for all of your help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for looking out for me. Seems odd to say these things to your child… it’s not supposed to be this way… But thank you for being my best friend, for listening to me, painting, being my handymen, holding my hand in the darkest moments of my life and for always dusting me off and helping me back up.
I send love and respect to all who held my hand on this journey. Mom and Phil, Cindy and Don, Rick, Kim and Eric, Poochie and Jordan, Doni and Marc, Jordan and Candice, Gracie, Brock and Kelli, Brenter, Leela, Kitty, Kearney, Mar and Jon, Darlene and The Stella’s, Kerrie, My ATF family, Suzanne, Helen K, Kathy and my recovery sisters/family, Meg, Chris and Steph, Beth, Heather R, Heather G, Wendy, May and Benita. Namaste my dear ones…
I want to send special warm thoughts and well wishes to all of Paul’s family, especially to his daughter’s Mellissa and Jennifer. I know your dad looks down on you and that he is proud of how you have handled these tough times. I thank you, for your love.
Lastly- I want to thank Thomas. Thank you for showing up at the perfect time and for showing me that I can continue on this path of love. Thank you for allowing me to honor these memories and for allowing me to finish the healing. It takes special person to be able to look beyond the broken shell. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. But most of all- thank you for being strong enough in who you are- that this memory didn’t threaten or scare you. I debated in my mind many times about how to finish this book and show people that they too had what it takes to move on after loss. I honestly didn’t know how I would do it- and then you came along.
This book is done. I Love you and miss you Paul Franklin Henry. I thank you for your love and for the memories that I will have forever. Thank you for the wonderful gifts and the lessons that this sadness has brought me. Thank you for watching over me and making sure that I am okay. You promised that you would… and you did.
RIP My Marine.