Looking Back Has Merit – My Sixties

Talking about my birthday is not something I normally do, but this year, it has a purpose I couldn’t ignore.

A New Decade Birthday

Some people celebrate their birthday with a cake. I celebrate with fresh flowers that I buy and arrange. It’s like a double gift to myself. This quilt has many layers of meaning, but most importantly, almost all the material was in my fabric stash. I donated it to Mom’s friend, Lola, who made tied quilts for St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Monte Vista, Colorado. Lola then pieced it into my favorite design, Log Cabin. Mom bought it for her guest bedroom, but now it is mine.

Looking back over ten years

As I lay awake at the end of the day before my 70th birthday, I naturally played the timeline of my 60s in my mind. It was both scary and hopeful.

Ten years ago, I considered signing up for psychic medium Kim Moore’s ten-month course “Psychic and Personal Development.” The only way I could consider it was to drop the first word, psychic. On the last day, I sent her an email asking to be her student. The nine women met every third Saturday. The classes were mostly at her business on South Wadsworth in Denver, Colorado. But we also gathered for a couple of excursions.

As I grew in understanding an alternative way of looking at life, my husband, Pablo, was sinking deeper and deeper into despair, which resulted in his suicide. Kim and my fellow students came to my home eight days later, and we cleared the energy together.

Perhaps I thought that would solve everything. So, I put it all behind me and sought a replacement relationship. Yes, I really did.

Please avoid my mistakes

My life before I turned 60 was filled with pleasing others and looking for someone to complete my life. At the time of Pablo’s suicide nine years ago, I had no idea how to grieve because I didn’t know who I was. It took almost nine years and the deaths of three more loved ones for me to start to discover answers.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Rule 1 – It’s important to make time to grieve.

What does it mean to make time to grieve? When I finally allowed the emotions of grief to emerge fully, I took time after starting my day to revisit the feelings I had immediately after my losses. Before this, I was afraid to delve deep. It helped when I prayed for the strength to let go of control and the courage to start the process.

Each time, my deep crying was short-lived, perhaps a minute. But the relief and calmness afterward have never left me.

Since I was alone, there was no choice but to go through this alone. You may find that too scary. If you choose to have someone with you, let them know you want them there for moral support but to keep their distance unless you motion them to come to you. Alternatively, you may seek a therapist who specializes in grief or a grief coach.

Follow the path that feels right for you.

Rule 2 – Grief is a normal reaction to loss

Your friends might not know how to comfort you. This is also very common. If you want to be completely alone, that’s okay. If you have someone to run interference, that is ideal; a pastor or best friend comes to mind.

Final Thoughts

Give yourself time to work through all your feelings. But also permit yourself to find joy in beautiful memories, the kiss of a loving pet, or random acts of kindness that come your way. It’s okay to allow unexpected moments of joy to embrace you.

Today Marks One Year

Today marks one year since my mother’s soul passed over. But, as one life ends, another begins. Her birth allowed her grandmother to see how a new life overshadowed her son’s death. And now, after one year, I feel my life begin anew.

Does one year seem a long time to feel the wounds of grief heal? Or perhaps it has been a time of healing other wounds too.

What is the Right Way to Grieve?

I’ve got some good news for you. First, there isn’t one right way to grieve. Each person moves through grief differently. And that will change each time you experience it. After all, death marks the end of physical life, but you shared so many memorable moments before.

Second, no one can judge your grief experience. It belongs to you.

However, there has been much research about the grieving process, which may help you understand your feelings.

I can best illustrate some of this process by sharing my experience with complicated grief.

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief occurs when you can’t resume normal activities because your grief keeps getting in the way. As expected, this aspect of grief is multi-faceted. For me, the most obvious was my delayed grief.

Delayed Grief

Delayed grief occurred when I had excessive reactions years after my father died.

Dad loved visiting Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. He started making knives late in life using blacksmithing techniques, including pattern welding. He admired the beauty of Samuel Yellin‘s ironwork on the gates and bridges that connect to the tower’s location. This photo was taken during one of my parents’ winter visits to Florida in the 1980s, after they had moved to Saguache County, Colorado.

Bok Tower Brass Door
The brass door polishing is partly completed.

I also loved Bok Tower and was a volunteer Garden Guide in the years before COVID. We ended each garden tour at the tower, pointing out Edward Bok’s gravesite with the white flowers and explaining the meaning of the bronze door. On one of these tours, I was suddenly overcome with uncontrolled sobbing. It occurred just as I turned away from my group of twenty tourists to talk about the door.

Taking a deep breath, I wiped the tears away, turned around, and quickly finished the tour. A few people stayed behind to offer their loving understanding. Somehow, I kept from completely breaking down. It was the winter of 2018.

I had lost my grandparents, divorced my first husband, experienced being a suicide survivor of my second marriage, and comforted my father as he died an unaided death at home. All these losses spanned forty-five years, but they had started coming closer together with my husband’s suicide in September 2014 and Dad’s death in April 2015.

Grief doesn’t have to be as dramatic or cumulative as mine to suffer deep wounds. However, when it interferes with normal activity, it’s a sign to seek help, which I have often done.

But What is Normal Activity?

I’d also like to share that my perception of ‘normal activity’ had become skewed.

Did I experience ‘normal activity’ before my 23-year marriage ended in divorce? Then I lived in a world that revolved around my husband’s wants and the demands of mothering two sons. I had no concept of my own dreams. Was that normal?

The truth is that my life doesn’t feel like it was ever normal. What a relief!

So today marks one year. And as I continue healing my grief wounds, I can create a normal life that is mine. The possibilities are endless. Your options to create the life you want are endless too.

With love and compassion,

Four Tips on Responding to Death

Today I offer four tips on responding to death from my viewpoint as a recent widow. My words are not a template for dealing with a similar situation in your life. However, it may help you make decisions when you don’t know what to say or do.

Some Background First

My husband died one week ago. He taught history at the high school I attended and lived in the area his entire life.

His death marks my second time as a widow. You might think it would get easier, but it doesn’t. Nor is it a similar experience. For me, this is proof that dealing with the death of a close loved one is unique for each person, each occurrence.

Although I’m writing through the lens of my own experience, I feel it may help you in your experiences.

Four Tips on Responding to Death

  1. Above all else, respect the surviving spouse.
  2. Look into your heart before you act.
  3. Reach out with a loving, personal memory of the loved one.
  4. Listen without judgment.

Respecting the Spouse

Losing a spouse is about as intimate as it gets. No one else knows the reality they are facing. The first days are tough, both from an emotional standpoint and a logistical one. Shock has always been my first reaction. My reaction to shock is action. Even so, it’s challenging to sift through all the possible steps to take.

By respecting the spouse, you allow them to take the time they need. Furthermore, you communicate with them before acting yourself. The reason is simple. Your actions may further complicate and add unneeded stress.

Look Into Your Heart Before Acting

Even though we are all different, some things are universal. We often do something for a less than loving reason. However, if you can take a few moments after you hear the news of the passing to take some deep breaths and honestly ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? Is it out of love or something else?” Then, consider how to best show support and love for all concerned.

Share a Loving Personal Memory

The sweetest moment this past week was a text I received from one of my husband’s close friends.

“For what it’s worth, he expressed to me his joy at reconnecting with you, despite me breaking his b-$$s about it.”

Of course, my first response was a smile and then a warm feeling in my heart. Next, my day suddenly grew even brighter when I read a Facebook message from a student who shared her favorite memory.

Listen Without Judgment

I know a lot about judgment. It’s taken me most of my life to release a great deal of it. But unfortunately, for many of us, stressful situations allow judgment to resurface.

As I spoke or texted with multiple friends, I found that if they judged me, I reacted negatively. However, my resentment softened and disappeared when they allowed me to let it out and gave me loving examples of what the person who judged me may have felt.

Final Thoughts

There are so many sources of stress and upset in our lives. Most of them are from situations outside our control. Although losing a loved one is inevitable, we always choose our words and actions. May peace and understanding be your guide as you navigate loss within your challenging situation.