Chapter 35

***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. It’s my story, as I walked along side of my husband Paul during his battle with cancer. We began this journey in 2011- these are the emails that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop. *** Update 11.26.12 Hello Everyone, It’s been a bit since I have written an update… Not sure if it’s even appropriate at this point, but because so many people still ask- How are you doing? I thought I would write a little update. (My last post was from the UP in August.) I just got home this evening from WV, visiting Hailey and Cody and Bogey Chupp- for Thanksgiving. The trip was exactly what my soul needed. A nice trip to reflect and to be thankful. My life may not be what I feel it should be… But it’s mine, and I am thankful for it. I have awesome friends and family who have loved me though this… And, I am okay. I am gently reminded on a regular basis that I really am okay. I still feel like I am in a haze… I do still cry a lot… I am working on a routine that works for me… And most importantly, I am working on feeling everything that comes up. (I will explain more later on this process.) A friend reminded me just last week when I was talking to her about not sleeping well… and overall feeling poorly- she said- Denise, you lost your husband. (Four months ago today to be exact.) Give it some time… I guess- because I am not used to everything that keeps happening or coming up… I feel out of sorts. Still. All of these “firsts”. When I talk about people asking me how I am doing, I am not suggesting that it’s a bad thing. I appreciate the concern and the ear to talk things through. I was talking to Paul’s daughter a couple weeks ago and we touched on this… People ask me daily- sometimes ten to fifteen times a day- if I am okay? Again… it’s not a bad thing… it just is. It’s a way for me to process- talk- listen and to talk about my husband. I miss him terribly. It’s hard… but anything in life that is simply that good- should be hard, I suppose. The strange thing about the conversation with Jennifer, was that nobody asks her anymore. After her dad’s memorial… people just don’t talk ask how she is doing or about her dad. A few people have asked me if going back to work has helped? Dp they mean, does keeping busy help? Help with the process or the grief? The answer is no. Nothing makes it better. Nothing makes it feel any less. It’s always there. Always. It’s something that I have to go feel my way through. When a person attends a memorial, they witness grief. They experience sadness. They may even feel bad for the family for a day or two afterward. When a family loses someone, it’s a hole. A gaping hole carved into the very fabric that held them together. It’s like a bad dream… with each new day as a reminder that it isn’t a dream. I have started my book. Most of you may remember that when Paul first got sick, there were emails that went out and I asked everyone to pray and to send love. I believe love is a universal language. It doesn’tconflict with anyones spiritual principles or religion and I feel that is where God lives. In. The. Love. I remember a particular conversation with a friend, he was so shook up when he found out about the cancer… He went to church and he prayed. He asked me what else could he do for us? He is not a religious man, he just felt like he needed to ask God to help, but didn’t know how. He asked me to help him understand. (You don’t know how much your question and your concern impacted me… thank you John Caskey.) I asked him to just send love. When someone doesn’t have a particular faith or a deep relationship with God… Praying seems foreign. We almost feel hypocritical showing up and asking for anything, or undeserving. I know it may come easy to some of us…but he- struggled, and wanted to know how he should be praying or what he should be asking for? I told him to concentrate on a beam of light from God (From heaven above or Papa daddy, as he now calls him) to Paul… and in that beam… to send Love. So… that will be the name of my book. “Just Send Love”. Thanks to Hailey and Cody for the invite to Thanksgiving. Thank you for letting me hog your dog for five days. (Bogey is my granddog, he sensed my grief and didn’t leave my side. He slept with me each night.) They surprised me with a Spa day for my birthday! It was perfect! Thank You to my friend Karen, for coming to watch Cody’s game… it’s nice to travel over 500 miles from home and have a friend in a neighboring town come to visit and hang out. I am in awe of the kindness that people have shown. Truly amazes me each and every day. People have also asked me if it’s getting harder because of the Holidays? I don’t know… it just is. This time of the year was always hard for Paul… he lost his son nine years ago in a car accident- Paul Jr., was his bestfriend. They did everything together. So in our house, every October, things got different. Hunting season brought back memories… then the accident Anniversary… then his son’s birthday… Thanksgiving… his birthday… Christmas and then New Years. So- I am sure it will all hit me soon… but right now- I just miss that… I miss the unusual feeling that had become my norm. I used to call it the “weird”. I had never met his son. But- it’s been my norm for the past few years… almost like the change of the seasons… so- I miss him- missing his son. I find a lot of strength- knowing they are together… but here in my house… I miss that. Please send me an email- and let me know if you’d like to be removed from the email list… I really won’t take it personally… I love each of you- thanks again. Peace and Love, Denise ***This is where the email updates ended. On my computer, I have a journal… along with an unposted email update. I got scared because of a response from someone to the last email… and I didn’t send it. Here it is… along with some Journaling that I did to stay connected to the healing process. Some of these are before the last email update… Some are afterward. This is what it took and the path that I traveled- to get to today. *** 1/22/13 Hello Everyone, Just wanted to share a few thoughts and to let everyone know that I did indeed- survive the Holidays… I was talking to a friend- in order to sort through some feelings. Some old hurts seem to re-surface from time to time that need to be healed…also I always try to check my motives to find out my part in any uncomfortable situation. And… there have been a few recently. Today was no different. What she helped me realize, is that when we deal with the loss of a spouse and the journey through the cancer process…that we suffer from PTSD in some aspects. How could I forget this or not know this? I was with a friend a few weeks ago who was diagnosed with cancer and spent a few hours in the Oncology ward at Spectrum Health.  Since then… anger and shortness seem to be my new friend. Anyone who knows me- knows … this is not who I want to be. This is not who I strive to be… so it’s uncomfortable. My friend had a tumor removed from her uterus the size of a head of lettuce and two smaller ones in her stomach and intestines… Just walking around the hospital gave me a sense of peace, de-ja-vu, and anxiety all at once. Watching woman walk the halls with patches of hair gone… talking about their children. Listening to the fear in their voices. Watching family members with red noses and swollen eyes walk into the elevator…. Damn it… I hate what this does to families. (This friend passed since this post… RIP Kristin C) Okay- so back to my Holiday’s… I survived. It wasn’t easy- but it was okay. It’s all okay… until someone asks me if I miss my husband? Umm… yes… like my left arm. *** That was the last update- but it was never finished- and it was never sent. I will explain why and finish some thoughts now. During the first six months after Paul’s death- I had moved back into my little house, gone back to work and started attending meetings again. I got through my birthday, the Holidays then jumped into the new year. All firsts… and anyone who knows the healing process, knows that these moments stick out. There were times when I honestly felt it was all too much. I went back to work in Sept 2012. It was overwhelming. You may remember, I was the manager of a gym with over 500 members. People would come up to me daily to see how I was doing. Dozens of times a day. People would ask me a question about Paul, about cancer, about the VA hospital, about me, about his girls… As I mentioned above, I had spoken to Paul’s daughter Jennifer, shortly after he died and realized my journey was different than hers. She had lost her dad… and a few weeks later- nobody asked her how she was. This was an uncomfortable phase with us. We avoided each other. Things got sticky. (I won’t go into details because it’s not important… just know this- it was all necessary to bring me too where I am today.) The difference between my grieving process and hers was that each and every day for many months- someone would ask me about my journey… She went through all of those firsts… and nobody asked how it felt to her. I had invited so many people into my world through the updates and being so candid with my feelings- people felt nothing was off limits. Friends would openly discuss my grief and allow me to cry and not interrupt. It was so magical. It was surreal. A friend of mine was upset with me because I wasn’t available to her during a time of need. She responded back to my November update with some painful words. It made me realize when I started the Jan update… that I seemed sort of needy. Or at least that is what I was feeling at the time. Attention seeking? Important? Not sure…. I say these words to not diminish the process or to place blame on anyone. I am merely explaining why I never sent or finished my last update. I am not someone who enjoys the spotlight. I am open and try to be transparent- but by continuing to do the email updates… meant that I felt that I had something to say- and that people would want to hear it? Again… the voice in my head said- Stop it Denise… it’s time to move on. And… that’s what I did. I stopped writing the updates. They were supposed to be about Paul. They were started to update everyone on his condition. They turned into a journal of my feelings and my healing. They were intended for one thing- and ended up being another. It’s okay… I look back at it all now and know it’s all as it should be. So here are a few of the things that stuck out in the process over the next few years… Remember, they jump around with dates. I didn’t update this information publicly. *** Saturday Sept 1,2012 I spent all day yesterday with my mom at Munson Hospital… boy did that bring back some painful memories. Good- yet painful. My heart aches with the loss… as it is healing. I have decided to continue to write as the time allows or the thoughts come forward…hoping to heal. My biggest fear is fear. The thought of being trapped, without options… fear can be so overwhelming. It is the one thing that I am learning more about as I go along. My husband taught me about strength. He taught me thru his illness how to be strong. He taught me with his Marine blood- how to push on and not to get trapped. I love, that he showed me how to be strong. I love that he showed me how to love. I had a massage the other day in Traverse City. When I showed up at the massage office, I asked her to limit the conversation.  I told her that I really just wanted to enjoy the massage and sort of meditate. (Insert smirk here…) I wanted-something different. I wanted an escape. It was funny… AND- not at all what I had anticipated. Not at all- what I thought- I wanted… But exactly what I needed. She was very kind and talented therapist. She did trigger point therapy and Asian body work. She was also a Reiki Practitioner, who had learned from the same teacher that I did. We had an immediate connection. I told her why I wanted what I wanted. She knew I was a massage therapist and that I had lost my husband. She began asking me questions about pressure… then the conversation started rolling about our Reiki Master Teacher- and the blessings of knowing spiritual healing and spiritual people. I told her about how Paul and I had met. I told her about his illness and how I was processing as I went along. She asked about the things I needed to heal. I told her it was anger and my fear. I told her about my book- the reasons I didn’t feel I could write right now… and that I had gotten advice and words of wisdom showing me that if I write my truth- Not wanting to deliberately be harmful-  if someone took offense- then it was their problem and insecurities not mine. If my intent was Not to cause harm… and it did- because of what the other person was working on… then it was their issue- not mine. It was the longest massage I have ever had… our conversation flowed. (Remember that I initially told her I didn’t want conversation… lol) She asked me what I had learned from Paul. She asked me what I had taught Paul. I had to dig deep into painful memories and I cried. I told her that Paul had taught me how to be strong when I didn’t want to be. He was a Marine… he taught me the real meaning of loyalty and showed me the rewards of standing up for what you want. I taught him how to relax. He was a work-a-holic who didn’t know how to separate his work from who he was. I taught him how to enjoy a slug day, and we both taught each other how to love again. During the massage, I learned to accept what God wanted me to have- as he wanted me to have it… not as I felt, that I- needed it. I learned that God will give me what I need, as long as I am open to receive it. She also told me this- and I will never forget it. She said, “Denise, I can’t promise you when it will happen… But I promise you that it will… You are like a buoy floating in the middle of the ocean, just bobbing around without any sense of direction. You don’t know why or what you are doing- but the universe and the people who love you- are supporting you and holding you together in prayer and in love. I don’t know when it will happen… but it will- Anytime someone experiences this level of grief, there will be a huge growth spurt. Huge. At some point, you will be catapulted forward at such a rate of speed… you won’t know what hit you. It’s a gift.”  (This sounded familiar to me… I knew it to be true… but didn’t know why.) Thank You Amy Yee… Namaste. Now- back to my mom’s surgery. My mom had total ankle-replacement surgery and I spent the morning and day with my step dad and early evening with my sisters and nieces. I went to the hospital at 7:00 am and didn’t leave until late. Here’s how it played out…Phil (my step dad) and I were there together. After the surgery- my mom’s Surgeon came out and took us into a room to go over the details. He was directing his conversation to Phil (this is the first time I had met him…) He was going over what to expect, as far as pain. Immediately, I felt myself go into “caregiver mode”. I interrupted and asked him if he knew of my mom’s intolerance to a certain pain medication? He said- Yes… they had discussed it. He continued his conversation and at one point- he said something like- “As we discussed earlier, about her therapy and her healing…” I interrupted again. I said- “Excuse me, but could you please repeat that previous conversation? I was not privy to it- and would like to know what the outcome will look like…” I swear to God – he rolled his eyes at me. He did answer my question and then proceeded with his conversation- to Phil. Okay- here’s the magic… In that instant- right at that very moment… I knew what it was like to be the daughter. During Paul’s illness- I kept a tablet with me at all times. I knew all of the details of every procedure and at times even got the Doctors on the right page. I had all the details, and if you needed to know something- just ask me- not the Dr.’s.  In that instant… I knew what it felt like to be Jennifer and Mellissa. (Paul’s daughters.) They had every right to ask who ever and whatever they wanted. That was their dad. They had every right to act or do whatever they needed to do… to be okay. In my controlling frame of mind… I thought I knew what was best. I thought I knew how they should behave or act and when they should be there… They had every right to be whoever they wanted to be. That was their dad. Just like I had every right to-ask those questions to that surgeon. That was MY mom. Here is the beauty of this…Because I want to heal the anger- God gives me these types of awareness’s. That night as we were all sitting in my mom’s hopsital room… talking and going over the details of her surgery… it all hit me again. You see- I was hurt. I was angry. This was about two months after his death and I was talking to my sisters about my feelings. I was talking about Paul’s daughters- how I felt abandoned- but wasn’t willing to reach out to them. Here’s the real deal… I am going to be honest about this. My communication with his daughter’s had pretty much stopped after the memorial. We had a few emails and a few struggles with “stuff” but it wasn’t at all what I thought it should or would be like. We held Paul’s hand on his death bed and promised to look out for each other. And then… I didn’t see them.  I was throwing myself a pity party about the hospital journey and about why they weren’t helping me. I was sad because I felt like I was doing it all alone… I felt like his family just left it all up to me. I had told them how I wanted it… even went as far as to-say- this is how it’s going to be… then I was pissed that they let me do it. I was hurt. I was angry. I was feeling a lot of things… and they were not pretty. All necessary but not pretty. As I discussed these things with my sisters, I realized this was one of those times- when I could either rally people into my corner and allow them to decorate that pity party with me- or I could see what God- was really wanting to show me. My family is wonderful. They were willing to co-sign anything that I threw out there… after all- I was hurting. I was a mess. They love me. They validated me and made me feel justified in my anger. They did what I needed them to do. Stand with me in my corner. Stand beside me. I no longer felt alone. But I also- didn’t feel good. What the hell? Really? I finally got to play it all out and got everyone to see why I was so mad and hurt… and… I didn’t like it. The next day- I sat down and wrote an email and apologized to Paul’s girls. I wrote an email that said I was sorry for being so controlling and judgmental and until that very moment wasn’t able- or willing, to see what I was doing. Here’s another thing I know because of being in recovery…  Making amends isn’t to ask for forgiveness. It’s to apologize for your behavior and to cleanup where you have wronged. As soon as I was willing to see this- the anger started to subside. I saw that I had a part in all of it. I had set the pace and even dictated the outcome… I apologized and I set the wheels in motion to heal. Today is 01.06.13 I am settled into my house and work is getting better. I survived Christmas and realized that this is going to take a long time to heal. I didn’t understand completely or maybe I just couldn’t comprehend it in that moment…  I wasn’t prepared to lose my husband. I look back now with the help of these emails at my actions… I had completely immersed myself into the process and the fight. I have done some healing and have had lots of help. I see an Acupuncturist, a Spiritual Healer, a Chiropractor and a Massage Therapist. I won’t go into detail about what those appointments entail… let’s just say- I have to learn how to release Paul and his energy back to him and to God. And now from Neale… On this day of your life, Denise, I believe God wants you to know… …that how bad things may look right now means nothing. It’s how good you know they can look with God’s help that counts. Life has a habit of changing itself completely around in 24 hours. Heck, in 24 minutes sometimes. Don’t you dare give up on Tomorrow because of the way things look Today. Don’t even think about it… Love, Your Friend…. Neale Goodmorning- today is 2.24.13 It’s been a few months since I have written. Not sure why- I just know that I was not supposed to open up to the emotions until now. Sometimes, I can just feel things. Sometimes I just know when I am headed into a dark time and when I need to process stuff. I have had a time of that recently. The Holidays were rougher than I let on… It didn’t hit me until Christmas day when my step dad mentioned those we had lost and the loved ones left behind at the blessing before our meal. I couldn’t stop crying. It hit hard and I felt weak. Thought I was going to hyper-ventilate. I cried until I shook. I spent time with Hailey and Cody and my family. Paul’s girls didn’t come up- so I didn’t get to see them. I am going to talk about some painful things in this post-and it’s not meant to be a jab at anyone- they are just my feelings and the things that have come up. I have been feeling very angry and short with people. I have had an extreme sadness and jumped right into the “victim mode”. (As I look back now… I realize I was in a depressed state. I had tools, but I still felt very alone and sad.) I had a few things that popped up recently and immediately I took offense. How dare this person? Why wouldn’t they be thinking of my feelings? This is what I know about me… I have come too far to play the victim card. I am not saying that I am immune to it… I am just saying that I don’t like how I feel when I do it. Today I recognize those feelings and I don’t stay there. I also remember thinking shortly after his death, “DON’T THESE PEOPLE KNOW WHAT I AM GOING THROUGH?” I would walk into a store or a meeting and people would be laughing… I didn’t like it. Today when I am faced with feelings that I don’t like… in other people and in myself. It’s an opportunity to work on me. I am not always willing to see it like this- but I think God will keep bringing it back around until I do take a look at my behavior. Because at the end of the day- I can-only change me. Not other people. Sometimes it means I have to “own my own power”and stand up for what I feel is right. Other times- it’s to gently let go of painful stuff and just know it’s not my garbage. It’s extremely tough to know what is mine- and what is other people’s junk sometimes. This is why I am grateful for a program of recovery and loving friends who don’t validate my BS- but point out my defects and help me, to be a better person. Recently I had a situation that hurt deeply. I really felt like I was giving my all. It was five months after Paul’s death and I had resumed my work and was falling into habits. I started feeling overwhelmed. Almost toxic. I asked to have some relief from work. It wouldn’t have cost anyone money- but me. I was willing to pay for someone to relieve me. I asked my bosses at the gym if I could have my friend who covered during Paul’s illness come in to help. They said no. As a matter of fact, they infomred my that my job was about to change. They told me that the entire format would soon change and that I was going to be expected to do more. (They lived in another state- I ran the gym. I. Did. Everything.) I found myself quite emotional, I wasn’t being heard. I cried. I walked away from the conversation and stepped away to compose myself. About fifteen minutes later, my boss came into the kitchen and said- “I just asked (Husband), how long this stuff takes?” Really? How long “this stuff” takes? She didn’t understand grief, but her husband did. He had lost his first wife. She went into the back room and asked him, “How long does this stuff take?” Like, there is a formula for grief… insert this time, this tool or this emotion and you will be done. WRONG. The lesson came weeks later- when I realized that I didn’t need permission to do what was necessary to keep balance in my life. I was unhappy with the words that were exchanged and had given my power to people. I was relying on them for financial and emotional security. Hmm…. Step back. As I was explaining (okay… complaining) to a friend about the scenario… the answer came to me. I control my destiny, my income and my happiness. If I am looking to-other people for these things- I am giving my power to them. In that instant… I made a shift in my perception and took a new path. I also had an opportunity to look at what makes my heart happy. For a very long time I have been stuck. Probably since Paul’s illness began in 2011. I abandoned the Spiritual Healing Certification program and took-on a new role. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. I am just saying that I am now realizing how completely immersed in this whole thing I have become. It had become my identity. Part of the problem recently has been that I felt my job was to grieve. I went right from caregiver to grieving widow…Who decides when it’s enough? Who decides when you can move on? Nobody can tell me the answer to these questions. Nobody can tell me that it’s time to move on. That answer has to be an individual one. It comes when I am ready. It comes when the time is right. If you’ve lost someone- then it will come when you’re ready too. Don’t rush it… don’t let other people push their reality on to you. It’s your life. Live it like you want. For me, it has come in as hope. I didn’t feel a lot of hope in the beginning. I haven’t felt many new feelings- until recently. This is what it feels like… It feels like old crumpled up and squished down, wrinkly, old wet sweater. Heavy, smelly, old wool sweater. It seems as if I have been weeding through bags and bags of old clothes. Realizing what fits and what I need to get rid of… the problem is- if I never look for new clothes… I am stuck with all of the old stuff. The heavy smelly old stuff. These new feelings have come in like fresh cotton sheets dtraight off the clothes line. They feel crisp and new. They feel like hope. I feel like I have hope. Maybe this is the beginning of that “catapult” the massage therapist spoke of? Hmmm….. Namaste everyone- until there is more… I sign off. Denise

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