The Damned Parking Spot… and other triggers…

I pulled into the parking lot at the pizza place. I had just under 20 mins to get my pizza and get back to work – half hour break does not give me much time to clear my head.

I looked down at the parking space. It had one of those concrete barriers in front of the store-front protecting the walkway and the pizza store.

I could faintly read the letters “Video Update Parking Only”

Oh fuck I gotta tell Mark this….

Oh wait.  I can’t.

Sadness washed over me.  Not the deep, broken, painful grief storm that hits me when a trigger gets me, but the sadness of “oh yeah… that’s gone” and the reminder that for a moment, I forgot and I wanted to tell him something.

Something he’d think was funny.  Something he could relate to but no one else in my life could.

A Video Update store I’d never been to but I knew where it was now. It was on the cusp of his territory as District Manager.  He managed from Williams Lake to Prince Rupert and I’d never been to the Williams Lake store.

And I saw it… the faint markings of the remnants of a business that died out in 2010… well actually before that. 2010 was when the company that bought out Video Update finally went bankrupt.

It was the faint markings of a life gone by.

I let the sadness wash over me, then I picked up my pizza and headed back to work.

At work, I was dressing the wound of a patient who was from my home town. We talked about the places we knew. We talked about how much it changed. We talked about how it was not our home anymore.

And then he started talking about his medical history.  About how he used to be diabetic but he wasn’t.  How he had had a pancreas transplant. How this had happened at Vancouver General Hospital 20 years ago.

And all I could think about was how 6 year ago, I was told it wasn’t a possibility. That maybe somewhere, some one had done it, but it wasn’t really possible.

And in the middle of wound care, my most favourite thing in the world to do in nursing…

I fell apart and had to leave the room.

I lost my mind and started crying.

Because 6 years ago I was told that it wasn’t possible and what if it had been and it would have saved his life?

It’s all a moot point now.  But at that moment, on that day, my heart broke again.

And instead of the wave of sadness like at the pizza joint… I was hit with the deep ugly sobs that always result in me looking like I’ve smoked a lot of pot.  Bloodshot eyes and blotchy face and cannot hide that from anyone.

I’m happy for the gentleman who is living his best happiest.

Life is full of triggers.  Some will be a gentle reminder….  some will be a brick wall I run into full force.

I’m grateful that I loved well enough to still grieve that hard.

Happy New Year!

It’s a hard time of year for those who lost someone.

I received an email from someone this morning who lost their husband on Christmas morning.

I can’t offer her any words of comfort.  There is nothing comforting I can say or offer her.

I had a fantastic, amazing, incredible New Years. I rang in 2018 with my Chapter 2.  I thought about my late husband for a bit before my Sexxy Chef got home.

I reflected on the way my life has changed this past year, the things that have become very important to me and the things that are no longer important.

I miss him.  I miss the life we had.

I wouldn’t trade my past with him for anything. It still boggles my mind that he’s NOT here.  It still seems incredibly surreal that he’s been gone for 5 1/2 years.  Each June 26, each January 1 brings me that much closer to him being gone for longer than I had him.

If you’re reading this and you’re hurting from the loss of a loved one… it does get different.

Not better, just different. It did for me, anyhow.

I miss him. I love my life now.  The two are not diametrically opposed.  They co-exist in my heart (mostly) seamlessly.

If you’re hurting… reach out. If not to someone in your life, find an online group, send me an email, anything.  But reach out.  Life is good.  It sucks right now but it can be good again.

Happy 2018!  happy-new-year-wishes

Never Forgotten

It’s been a softer year this year.

The pain hasn’t been as intense.

The longing hasn’t been as intense.

And most importantly, I haven’t spent the past month or so fighting my brain.  Suicide hasn’t been an option.

For the past 4 years, my brain has been telling me that suicide is an option around this time of year.  This year? That hasn’t happened.

I’ve looked towards those further out in this journey than me to see how I might react as days and months go by.  2nd year was harder than the first just like they said.  Things got harder and easier, just like they said.

But around 5 years, it seems that widows and widowers start to diverge.  There’s those who are still grieving hard and then there’s those for whom it gets softer.

That’s not to say that those who are grieving hard haven’t moved forward, some of them are remarried and some are still alone.  And for the ones who it’s gotten softer, they are either still alone or remarried.  There is no hard and fast rules.  It just comes down to a matter of there being some who are grieving hard still and some for whom the grief has softened somewhat.

And for me, things have softened.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still have days of ugly cries.  I have moments of tears leaking down my face while I’m almost unaware of it. I have days where the pain is still so intense I can’t breathe.

But those days are further apart.  Those moments happen less often.  And the pain doesn’t last as long as it used to.

So here I am. June 26.  The day he died 5 years ago. Getting ready for work.

And this is what I mean by softer.

Every other year I have been unable to function.  This year… I’m going to work with people who will trigger memories and tweak the pain.  This year, I did not take the day off like I normally do.

This year… I’m living.

He is never far from my mind.  His name is said on a fairly regular basis. He will never be forgotten as long as I live, as long as my children live.

He died. It devastated me. I almost died with him (there’s an actual study on that.  People DO die of a broken heart!)

But this year I’m living.

This year I’m going to go care for people who may or may not have the chance to go  home. (Some do, some don’t)

This year, I’m going to love the hell out of anyone who needs it.

This year, I’m going to lean into the man who has embraced ALL of me, and offered me a future.

This year, I’m going to say his name, watch the memorial video and then roll over to snuggle my Sexxy Chef and get some sleep because I have to go back to work tomorrow.

I miss him, terribly.

Mark W. Smith
May 18, 1963 – June 26, 2012
Forever Loved
Forever Missed
Forever Remembered

 

Not as Bad

Things aren’t as bad as they were last year.  The pain of missing him is still there, and the grief storms hit on occasion, but I don’t have that overwhelming depression.

Things are better.

Things continue to get better.

There has been no cutting nor has there been a desire to cut.  There IS a desire to not do anything or go anywhere, but I’m committed to doing things and so therefore… I do them.

I’m not dying inside. I miss him.  But it’s not killing me this year.

Almost 5 years… and I’m doing okay this year.  So far.

Grey's Anatomy

It’s Your Birthday.

I’m writing this a day early.

You see, tomorrow is your birthday.  But it’s also date night. And while it’s your birthday, you’re DEAD and I have date night with my LIVING fiance.

I had to think this morning. I had to count the number of years you’d been gone vs how old you were when you died in order to remember that this would have been your 54th birthday.

It’s not that I don’t miss you – I miss you with every fibre of my being. It makes me cry when I stop and think about it.  I keep myself so busy that I don’t have time to stop and think a lot of the time.  I don’t want to miss you that much when I’m snuggled up to him. I don’t want to be laying in bed with him and wishing it were you.

I don’t want to be sad about you and have him make jokes to cheer me up when I just want to miss you.

I need those things to be somewhat separate. I need to miss you when I miss you and love him when I love him. They do intersect – he’s freaking amazing when it comes to my grief over you.

But there’s a shame, a guilt about missing you when I’m so happy with him. I don’t want to make him feel bad for not being you – but I don’t want him to be you – I want him to be him.

But it’s YOUR birthday tomorrow.  My 5th without you. My 6th without you at home. Actually my 7th without you at home – you were with Wade on your 48th, remember? You spent that birthday with Wade, the next birthday in the hospital and then you were gone.

Happy Birthday my Forever 49 Love.  You are missed. You are loved. You are always remembered.

 

I Said YES!!

Sometimes, the world conspires to make you incredibly, irrevokably happy.

On November 5, in the early hours of the morning, my Sexxy Chef proposed to me.

Of course I said YES!!

 

 

 

The ring is being sized. I can’t wear it for a couple weeks – and that’s ok.

The date has been chosen.  Location is 95% sure – I just need to see it again and confirm that YES, I can set up the wedding the way I want in the space that’s available.

Plans… plans… and more plans.

Love happens again.  Happiness happens again.

It’s the weirdest thing, being so incredibly, amazingly happy – with that thread of sorrow going through it all.

The guilt of “how can I be this happy when he’s still dead?”

Going through so many things that I did for the first wedding.  Making plans.

I don’t even know how to explain it.

I’m ridiculously HAPPY and I want to shout it to the world.  I can’t wait to start my life with my Sexxy Chef.  I can’t wait to be Mrs. Sexxy Chef.

But I’ve been Mrs. Smith for the majority of my adult life.  It will be 19 years of being Mrs. Smith when I become Mrs. Sexxy Chef.

That’s weird to me.  Never mind the fact that I’m trying to wrap my head around what will be my new name.

New Beginnings

I’ve got an amazing new beginning ahead of me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But man… did I have to lose so much to get what’s ahead of me?

I’m happy. I’m in love.  I’m looking forward to a long, happy, healthy future with my Sexxy Chef.

But I want to tell my Mark all about how happy I am.  He’d be happy for me.  He’d celebrate with me.

Long live love.

Is it Okay?

Is it okay to have moments, hours, days where I am so incredibly happy that I don’t think about him?

Is it okay to enjoy my life so very much that I don’t have a moment of breathlessness because he’s not here to share it with?

Is it okay to have things in my life happen that I DON’T want to share with him?

Is it okay to miss him, but be okay with him not being here?

A year or two ago, someone dear to me asked me “Why are you grieving so hard?” and I was flabbergasted that he would even consider asking me that.  After all, I lost the love of my life!  I had everything I knew turned upside down!

Today, I ask myself, “Why are you not grieving as hard?” Does this mean I didn’t love him as much as I thought I did? Does it mean that I don’t miss him as much as I said I did?

How could I spend a day, being ridiculously happy, and not want to share it with him?  How could I have moments that don’t belong to him?

The guilt, that I should have a life that I don’t want him included in all the parts, it confuses me.

How could I not want him included in all the parts of my life? How could I have pieces of me that I want just for me?

I don’t understand it.

But I’m pretty fucking happy, even if the happy is tinged with guilt.  And the only thing I want to share with him is that I AM happy.

I didn’t die with him.

A piece of me did, but that piece?  The part that is growing back?  That’s mine.

Don't Cry

This is becoming more and more real for me.  It happened.  It was beautiful. It was amazing.  It was painful and awful at times.  We weren’t perfect but we were perfectly imperfect for each other. And I’m getting to the point where I can smile… because it happened.

New Beginnings

I Just Found Out…

4+ years.

And I get a message:  I’ve been thinking about Mark a lot lately and thought I’d look him up and just found out he’d passed….

4+ years.

Shouldn’t the times of having to tell people be over by now?

Shouldn’t the moments of having to console someone while I’m crying be over?

They aren’t.  And that’s ok.

I was given a gift this morning.  A gift of someone who wanted to talk about Mark. Who remembers Mark.  Who can tell me stories I didn’t know of Mark.

That, my fellow widows, is the most amazing gift of all.

Yes, I cried.

Yes, I was sad.

But OMG…. to be able to hear someone talk about Mark and tell me the stories they remember… that is a gift.

And then I was given another gift… the gift of unconditional love.  The gift of my Sexxy Chef loving me, holding me while I cried, kissing away my tears, then making me smile because he is *that* awesome.

I’m blessed in so many ways.

I love my life.  I love the life Before … and the life After…

But thank you to whatever part of the universe that blessed me with the gift of memories of Mark… even if they weren’t mine.

17 Years

As I write this, my new Love is in our bed, sleeping peacefully because he has to work in the morning.  I have no where to be; I have some stuff to do at home but for the most part, my next 3 weeks are my own.

I snuck out of the bedroom. I wanted a few minutes to myself to write this post and I haven’t managed to get them today.  It’s been a busy day.  My friend from Vancouver Island was up visiting this weekend.  My daughter was over printing pictures of my grandson. The drive to the airport was just over an hour and when I got home, there were extra people in the house.

It’s hard to just feel when there are people around.  My house was too people-y.

On the way back from the airport, I had a cry. I talked to him. I yelled at him.I raged against the unfairness of it all.

I was supposed to have 50 years with him and I got barely 14. Not quite 13 married.

There’s a part of me that still rages about that.  Because, yanno, I miss him.  I miss his smile. I miss his laugh.  I miss the look in his eyes when he thought I wasn’t noticing.

But there’s the part of me that doesn’t.

I have a beautiful life in so many ways.

I’m going  back to school – and able to make a difference in other people’s lives.

I’ve met people who are amazing and fun and make a HUGE difference in mine.

I’ve got a new love who loves me intensely.

I’ve got a good life.

And none of it.  NONE of it would have happened if he was still here.

I miss him. I miss my Mark with so much intensity that I don’t know how to breathe when I think of it.

I miss him.  And I’m grateful for every. single. day. I got with him. He taught me so much and allowed me to become more myself than I would have been able to without him.

I wish I could be celebrating the end of an amazing day with Mark. I wish he were here to see his grandsons.  I wish, with all my heart, that we had gotten those 50 years.

But as the saying goes… if wishes were horses…

I can’t change the past. I can honour him, honour our life together, do good for other people, but I can’t change the past.

Happy Anniversary my Love.  I will love you for the rest of my life. You left me with beautiful memories, four amazing children, and a lifetime of love. I was your happy ever after. I got the fairy tale of “until death” and I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d love you and walk that journey with you again if I were asked – even knowing that our paths would diverge.

I love you.

She Died

I have said from day one that I need my first death in nursing to be during clinical, so that I had a safe place to process it. I wanted the support of my classmates and instructor to help me go through it.

I’ve been in my 2nd clinical rotation for the past 4 weeks. It was in a long term care facility.  The clients there are residents for the rest of their lives. They are admitted… knowing they’ll never go home.  Most of them have MOST directives of M1.

This means do nothing.  If they are dying, they get comfort care only, no extraordinary measures to save their lives.

Over the weekend, before my last 3 days of clinical, one of the residents had a huge decline. She was put on palliative care. Her daughter flew in to be at her side. They didn’t expect her to last long.

I advised my instructor, and followed the LPN/care aides in her care.  She wasn’t my assigned client, she wasn’t in my assigned “family” of residents, but in the 3 weeks prior, she had been someone I had seen frequently because she sat at the same table as my assigned clients.

One of the first things I remember about her is that she was singing along to the music playing during lunch. She was so sweet.

Her daughter was incredible.  She had taught nursing for many years, and was ok with nursing students watching and learning from the experience.

Yesterday, it was clear that she wasn’t going to be long in this world. I knew that this was my opportunity – that I needed to *be* a nurse in this instance.  I started with a “safe” family member – the son-in-law – and asked him if there was anything I could do for him, and let him know that I was available if he needed anything.  He seemed surprised and grateful that I had asked.

At lunch, a quick conversation with my instructor and having to take baby steps in learning to deal with it, letting her know that I wasn’t hiding from what was happening, that I was taking as much time with the resident as I had before.

After lunch, after feeding one of my clients, I felt brave enough to go in and talk to the daughter.

It was an incredible conversation. We talked about her dying mother.  We talked about my goals in nursing.  We talked about her cousin who’s an ICU nurse. We talked about her cousin’s daughter who was in ICU for the same thing that Mark was. We talked about books.  We talked about the waiting game.  We talked about my experiences with Mark and what killed him.

And I stood there, talking to a woman who was about to lose her mother, and I didn’t lose my composure.

My biggest fear: I was scared to approach any of the family and burst out in tears. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to maintain any sort of professional demeanor.  I was afraid that all the emotions and feelings and memories would overwhelm me and I’d breakdown, again, at clinical. I was afraid I would be unable to maintain the professional buffer of emotions I needed to be an effective nurse.

I am that person that confronts my fears, steps into the chaos to find the pattern and doesn’t hide from potentially painful situations.  When I am ready to face them, I step into them full force.  My counselor has called me the most self-aware person she’s ever worked with.

I confronted them yesterday.

And today she died. I had said to a friend of mine that while death sucks, we knew she was dying and could she please do it in the morning when there was time for me to learn from it?

Then, she died.

I had checked on the daughter almost as soon as I came in. Let her know that I was there, and was there anything she needed?  There wasn’t.

15 minutes into my shift, one of the other care aides came out asking for a nurse to come pronounce. I immediately walked back to the room to comfort the daughter. I needed to put myself in that space. I needed to confront that fear of what would I do if a client died?

I was there for her. I spoke to her and offered comfort, and stepped out when I felt appropriate.

I went with the nurse to help prepare the body.

I went with the nurse when the funeral home showed up to pick her up.

I watched as they pulled her over from the bed to a stretcher and zipped the shroud around her.

I watched as they covered her in their blanket.

I watched as they covered her in the dignity blanket.

I watched as they wheeled her past… and I hugged the daughter briefly and told the story about how the first time I met her she was singing along to the music.

I was able to face the one thing that terrified me as a nurse, and I was able to do it in a way that helped me to care for the client, the client’s family and myself.

She died today.  And I was able to learn from that experience. I was able to face fears. I was able to watch, remember and move forward.

I will always remember the sweet woman who sung wordlessly to the music that was playing on the radio, while eating her lunch. She may have died, but I will always remember her. In her last moments, she made SUCH a huge difference in my life.  For that, I thank her. And while I will maintain her privacy and dignity by not naming names, I will keep her in my heart forever.

Grey's Anatomy