Sunday, January 31, 2010

The last day of the first month

Today is the last day of the first month of the first full year I will spend without Keith. I know, that's a mouth full. I have finally been able to stop counting the days only to start keeping track of this entire new year.

My grief has been so heavy the last few days. I don't know of a specific trigger. I don't know when it will lessen. I just know that I cry very easily. I know that I miss Keith so much that my pain is physical.

I wish I could be on the other side of this journey. I know that it is God's plan at work here, not mine. I know that God has a purpose for all of this. I just can't see it. I don't understand it. I have a difficult time answering the kids when they don't understand why God called their dad home so soon in their lives.

I guess this is what having faith means. Believing in what you can not see. I do believe. I don't know how I would be able to withstand 14 years worth of storms without my faith and belief in God Almighty. I don't know how to answer my kids when I don't understand. I don't know why God's plan was to take Keith home when we still needed him the most. All I have for an answer is faith. Have faith. Don't be afraid, God is here. I tell myself this over and over and over again.

It is difficult to convince myself that God is here when I feel so alone. It is difficult to convince myself that I can do this that is my life without Keith by my side. It is difficult to be me on a daily basis. All I know to do is have faith.

I am tired of feeling so defeated and sad. I actually wanted to cheer today. I completely finished all of the laundry and it only took me two days. I finished it before the hamper was full again. That's something you can't understand unless you've been there. I have felt so overwhelmed by EVERYTHING that I haven't been able to keep up with anything. I got the laundry done. I felt so successful today just because I got the laundry done. I hope this feeling of success will carry through to tomorrow and I can complete another task.

I have to take it day by day. Sometimes it's ten minutes at a time. Beyond that is just too overwhelming.

Today is the last day of the first month of the first full year. Next Sunday is seven months.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

How you can help me --author unknown

The following was sent to me by a dear friend. It was contributed by another dear friend who's husband suddenly passed on Sept. 10, 2008. I realize that it is long, but I would like for you to take the time to read it. It speaks very clearly to what I am feeling, usually on a daily basis. It is the most concise description of what dealing with the death of a spouse has been like for me. I see myself in each and every word written.
Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don't abandon me with the excuse that you don't want to upset me. You can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that."

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don't see me.

I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my loved one's death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for watching our children and grandchildren grow, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

I don't have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." I'll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.
(b) Send me a card on special holidays, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can't make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.
(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may say no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up then I really will be alone.
(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to go home alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely. Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I'm experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don't tell me you know how I feel, or that it's time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve.

Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding. Thank you for praying for me.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My absence

My blog absence has not been from being too busy. It has been from dealing with grief that has been so intense I have needed to do some private journaling.

A few nights ago, I woke up several times just overwhelmed with grief missing Keith. It didn't send me spiraling into another big episode of depression, but there are a few rough edges that I'm not too sure about. I took MLC's advice and allowed myself to feel the grief, the sadness, the emptiness, and the loneliness that Keith's death has caused. A portion of allowing these feelings to surface and be dealt with was to write in my private journal.

It helped. Writing here helps as well. I didn't realize until I was dealing with these very deep, very intense feelings that this wasn't an episode I wanted to share publicly...right then. Some day I might. Right now, it's just too raw...too much...too intense...too personal.

The further into this first year I get the more I realize that dealing with grief isn't getting any easier. I've had well meaning souls tell me the second 6 months is easier than the first. Well, I'm not even through the first full month of the second 6 months and it isn't getting any easier. If anything, it's harder. The blinders are off. Realization has fully kicked in.

I have learned that I traded being a full time caregiver for the love of my life to being a full time single parent to a teenager and a preteen. At least when I was Keith's caregiver, I had another adult in the house. He still helped with the parenting to the very end.

I'm ending abruptly, because more grief has reared it's head. I've got to go cry for a little while.

Pray for me to be at peace.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finally better

I am finally better. The terribleness (is that a word?) of Friday is finally gone and I feel so much better. I am not in the dark pit of depression and I don't feel quite so fragile.

I don't want to go into a lot of detail about my episode of depression. It is very difficult for me to go back to that place. I do want to share that I felt God's presence with me during the darkest parts. He truly answered my pleas for help and kept me from completely falling into abyss.

Depression is very scary. In the worst of it Friday, it felt like my mind was turning on me. I don't ever want to experience that again.

There are still a few left overs from Friday, but I can deal with that.

I met with MLC for a session yesterday. We talked about the possibility that my antidepressant is not working as well as it could. We also talked about the possibility that this was just a break through episode of depression that could be a result of all of the emotional stress caused by the holidays and Nick's upcoming visit to Birmingham (which is tomorrow BTW).

MLC gave me some more tools to help me in a time of crisis should it occur again. He is watching me VERY closely for signs that the depression is indeed becoming uncontrolled. He really wants to give me time to get through whatever happens tomorrow. He wants me to have some "down time" emotionally to see how I respond and react.

The holiday season was indeed very stressful for me. I checked my emotions into Happyville. I didn't let myself feel very many of the emotions that came with this being our first Christmas season without Keith. Now that the holidays are over, maybe I can find some solid footing and address my emotions.

My Lovely Doctor and I have also talked about my episode of depression. I'll go in for a check up in three weeks. I can always go sooner if I have another bad episode.

Thank you for the prayers. I truly felt the hand of God holding me and keeping me safe from harm.

Pray for us tomorrow as we journey to Birmingham once again. The activity of the cancer and the need for surgery and/or chemo will be assessed. Tomorrow is a big day.

We are ready to be free from the bonds of cancer. December marked 14 years that we have been on this journey with Nick.

In His Grip,

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yes, I have had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day today concerning my emotions. I have been in the depths of the darkest episode of depression since I was diagnosed in late October. I woke up with it this morning. It has consumed my day. During the worst parts of it, I was afraid it would consume me...literally.

I did speak with MLC at length about what has been going on today. I'm some better, but I'm not out of it yet. It may take a few days before I am totally out from under this darkness that is hovering. MLC does not think that it is a coincidence that this episode showed up two days after my huge emotional rage release. That's also not saying that every time I get angry I will suffer through an episode of depression. It just happened this time.

I don't really feel steady enough to really write about any more of the details of today. I don't know that I ever will. I have been in a very scary mental and emotional place today. Please know that I am truly in need of prayer today and even through the next few days.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Venting and raging

This post is a hard one for me. I am trying to be open and honest about my feelings, because I believe that is what God wants me to do in order for His Light to truly shine through me. So, get your big girl (or boy) pants on. This is going to be very open and very honest.

In some of my previous posts, I wrote about the heart ache and hurt I have been feeling or sometimes not allowing myself to fully feel. Yesterday, I met with MLC for another session. This was only my second session with him since right before Christmas and New Years. I didn't know yesterday during my session what was to come later in the day. In my session, MLC and I began addressing my aching heart and the depth of the sadness I am feeling.

I usually try not to come home right after my sessions with MLC primarily because my emotions are raw and very much on the surface. Coming home and facing my empty house while everything is so fresh and raw is very hard on me. Yesterday was different though. I didn't really have anywhere I needed to go other than Sam's Club for just a few things. I did that, and came on home. I didn't even get the things out of my SUV. I just came in the house. I sat down on my bed and started to cry. The crying led to screaming, which continued with more crying. I was having a good ol fit that I reigned in when the phone rang. See, it is against my nature to let the phone go unanswered, even though I have caller ID, voice mail, and an answering machine. I know I'm a little OCD that way.

I never went back to my venting yesterday. I primed some more of my bathroom instead. It was later in the afternoon when I just got angry...really angry. I don't know exactly at what, but I think that was what I was working on venting that didn't fully get vented when I shut it down. I stayed angry all evening until I went to bed. It wasn't an anger that I took out on anyone other than myself really. I just couldn't stand to be in my skin, yet I didn't allow myself the freedom to let it out either.

I didn't necessarily feel angry right away this morning. After I got the kids to school this morning, I was home alone once again. Loneliness is a big part of my grief that I still have trouble adjusting to. I came in the house, sat on my bed, and began to cry. As I was crying, I felt like I was consumed by a massive amount of, not anger, but rage. A rage that was (and still is) frightening to me. I have never felt so much rage in me before...ever. I felt paralyzed by it. Everything that I touched I thought about throwing or smashing.

I called MLC IMMEDIATELY, because I was so frightened by what I was feeling. He was able to give me some very good direction and advice on how to deal with everything that I was feeling. He was able to help me understand some of the "why's" of what I was feeling. One thing MLC was VERY FIRM on was that I could not vent my rage in anyway that would hurt myself or someone else. I knew this, but it was very good to hear it from someone else.

After we ended our call, I began to cry again. This time I was praying too. I KNEW that I needed God to provide me with an outlet for the rage that was consuming me. HE alone was the only ONE who was safe with me during my rage. I got out a garbage bag and decided I was going to destroy some of the funeral plants that are almost dead. On my way back into the living room to attack the plants, my attention settled on my basket full of magazines that have already been read, but not thrown away or given away yet.

I fully believe that God led me to that basket of magazines. I began to tear up those magazines. Some page by page, others by ripping in half. I tore up these old magazines for most of an hour. I tore up, ripped up, screamed, yelled, and cried for most of an hour. I was utterly exhausted when I was finally finished. I made enough of a mess to fill up over half of a tall kitchen garbage bag. I did make myself eat some lunch and rest until it was time to get the kids home.

How am I now? Well, I'm tired. The rough edges of my rage are smoothed out. I don't know that it is finished, but I am no longer paralyzed by it. I am totally in control of my emotions. I no longer feel the need to smash or break something. I have a session scheduled with MLC tomorrow morning. I'm pretty sure this will be a major topic during our time together.

Please continue to pray for me. This is the hardest thing I have ever done.

Monday, January 11, 2010


My heart is hurting. It has been for several days. The pain has been so intense I have not even been able to give voice to it. Everything is so jumbled up in my heart and my mind. I can't seem to make sense of it all.

January 7 marked six months since Keith's passing. I've blogged about these anniversaries as they have passed. I didn't this time. I wish I could say it was because I have healed enough that I am not marking time anymore. I can not though. I haven't blogged about it, because I haven't fully acknowledged the reality of it.

I'm pretty sure that has something to do with my heart hurting. Every beat of my heart hurts...aches for my husband. I ache with an intensity I never thought possible. I ask God several times a day how I am going to endure this. I ask God several times a day to carry me, because I just can't. I beg God to numb the pain...just a little.

It hasn't hurt this bad everyday in a while. I don't know what has made it so bad this time around. MLC says that it is probably related to a new level of reality settling in. I just know that it hurts.

Don't worry. This isn't the depression. It's simply grief, although there is nothing simple about grief. Grief is hard work and it takes a lot of effort to get through it.

Six months. Half of a year. I remember when 6 months meant the end of the prescribed chemo regimen. That six months was a reason to celebrate, to wait on with anticipation, a chance to return to our life before cancer invaded. This time six months is not something I want to celebrate. I am sad that it is here. It means that our life will never return to the way it was before cancer invaded.

Six months. Half of a year.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Crying and Painting

I got a wild hair that it was time to paint my bathroom Tuesday. I had errands to run anyway, so a stop by Lowe's to buy some light sage greenish paint seemed like a good idea. Here I am in Lowe's looking at the hundreds of paint chips they have. I didn't like any of the greens. Not a one. Each one looked minty green or pea green or puke green to me. So, I bought purple. Yes, purple. The actual name is stardust evening. My thoughts were along the lines of a pale purple/lilac with a hint of gray. In my mind's eye, it looked absolutely beautiful and restful.

I buy a gallon of the paint along with a gallon of oil based Kilz to prime with. Why that? Because 1. There are a couple of spots of water damage from where the roof leaked a few years ago that I hadn't gotten around to painting yet. 2. It being a bathroom, I thought it would be better to use that in a high moisture area. I walked by the paint brushes, rollers, sand paper, and putty knives thinking, "This is not the first time any painting has been done. I've got all of these things are at home." I also buy a dry wall patch kit to fix the hole in the wall from moving a light fixture.

I come home only to realize that I can not find the half dozen putty knives I KNOW we have. I also could not find the sand paper or all of the paint rollers. UGH! I found enough to get started. My neighbor graciously let me borrow some sand paper and putty knives. He even came over and fixed the hole for me. :o) I don't know what Keith did with all of our paint supplies, but I sure couldn't find them.

I removed the wallpaper border and started sanding the walls down. I was pretty far into the sanding process when my coughing made me realize that I had not put on a mask before I started sanding. Not good, but I did put a mask on at that point. Then I started priming the linen storage area with the Kilz. I did turn the exhaust fan on in the bathroom, but I didn't realize until after I finished priming that area that I should have opened the bedroom window too. At one point, I stepped off the ladder onto the floor, except both my feet were already on the floor. Yep, I inhaled way too much Kilz. I decided to call it a night on the painting.

Today I put on the first layer of stardust evening. It is purple. It is way more purple than the color chip indicated. I guess I am going to have to live with it. I am not painting my bathroom a second time.

On to the crying. This is the first house project that I've done without Keith. We worked really well together when we did those kinds of projects. We've painted, laid flooring, changed light fixtures, installed custom closet shelving, and hung ceiling fans together. The past two days I have been doing this first project without him. Yesterday was not hard for me. The reality of it all didn't hit me until I was doing the cutting in this morning. Keith hated cutting in. He tried everything he could to get out of it. I didn't mind the cutting in. While I did the cutting in, Keith would begin rolling on the paint.

I've spent a lot of time cutting in and crying, rolling on the paint and crying.

I don't know how long it will take me to finish the whole bathroom, but I will. I'm sure I'll spend some more time crying while I paint too.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vastly different

This is another one of those posts that I didn't finish, but I am going to share anyway. I don't really have anything to add to finish out my thoughts. My thoughts and emotions are pretty scrambled right now. I am just going to let this post speak for itself. It is another dawning of my new reality.

***Originally written on Monday, January 4, 2010***

The realization of how vastly different my life is now, compared to one year ago, hit me like a ton of bricks today. Kacie wanted to go to the mall to spend her birthday and Christmas money. She shopped and shopped. Afterward, we stopped at McDonald's for some ice cream. Yes, my kids eat ice cream even when it is 27 degrees outside. Me, I had a latte. Anyway, it was while the three of us were sitting there the big realization hit me.

One year ago, and likely others before that, Keith and I were sitting in the chemo area of the oncology clinic while he got pumped full of chemo. That's what we did on Monday's. Then we would come home, Keith would go to bed, and I work to keep the kids occupied and semi quiet. Since school did not start back today, I would have needed to either find a sitter or someone to go with Keith for the day. So many details.

Today, the kids and I went shopping and out for ice cream. We didn't go anywhere near the oncology clinic. We came home and played a loud game of Uno Flash. We had leftover pizza for dinner.

It dawned on me that these are things that we would be doing if Keith had been able to be well here on earth. Today was a "normal" day. Today we lived.

I know it doesn't seem like much, but take a moment to consider just how we lived every day for 5 1/2 years. Chemo and cancer dictated what we did and when we did it. There were so many parts of our lives that the cancer or the chemo interfered with...from what we ate to where we went. The chemo schedule Keith was on made it impossible for me to take the kids to the mall and out for ice cream on a Monday. The chemo side effects made it difficult for me to play a loud card game with the kids on a Monday evening. The chemo side effects made it difficult for us to eat left over pizza without me making something special for Keith to eat on a Monday. I didn't have to worry about who would take care of the kids or Keith, because I couldn't be in two places at once.

The realization of how much my life has changed in six short months is overwhelming.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Another first

Today marks one more first since Keith's death in July. Kacie turned 10 today. It is so difficult to comprehend that 10 years have gone by since she was born. My thoughts turn to what our family has been through during this 10 years.

We began this decade as a new millennium, worried about Y2K, I was very pregnant, Nick was almost 3 1/2 years post transplant and cancer free. We were so excited to be expecting this baby. Keith and I didn't think we would have more children after the terrible health crises Nick had and seemed to keep having. Then God blessed us with this sweet little girl.

God's timing in Kacie's birth still amazes me to this day. The days between Thanksgiving and New Year's have been very difficult for me since Nick's cancer was found the Monday after Thanksgiving 1995. That Christmas, Keith and I were so afraid it would be our last one with our sweet little boy. We began to spend lots of time on 4 Tower (the chemo floor) at Children's Hospital that winter. Cancer doesn't stop for holidays.

God answered our prayers and we got one more Christmas with our son the following year. I struggled with the knowledge that there was a mom out there who was having to face her first Christmas without her son. See, her son died and she made the unselfish decision to donate his organs. Nick received that son's liver and gave me one more Christmas with my son. It was difficult for me to accept that for a long time.

December 1997 was another very difficult Christmas. We were only 2 years post diagnosis from the cancer. Nick was not totally out of the woods with the transplant. My dad had passed away suddenly in March of that year. It was our first Christmas without him. Nick developed a sudden infection in his central IV line and needed surgery to take the line out. There were major complications from this minor surgery and Nick nearly died. The very same day that happened, my grandfather lost his fight with colon cancer.

In two short years, I began to dread the most joy filled holiday of the year. I struggled each and ever year, until we were blessed with the birth of a healthy baby girl just at the end of a season that contained so much heart ache for me. God's timing is amazing. He gave me something to look forward to. He gave me something joyful to focus on instead of the pain.

I had begun to heal and had found the joy that had been lost. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, while still painful at times, became easier to celebrate. Then December 21, 2003 happened. Keith was diagnosed with colon cancer caused by an unknown genetic condition. It was also anticipated that Nick had the same condition. We spent Christmas in the hospital that year. I hauled 9 year old Nick, 3 year old Kacie, and all the presents I could carry to the hospital on Christmas morning so that we could open presents as a family.

Quite frankly...the holidays began to really suck for me then. Keith came home from the hospital the day before Kacie's 4th birthday. My wonderful friends put together a birthday party for her on her birthday. Keith sat in the recliner or on the couch watching his baby girl celebrate her 4th birthday. Just days before, Keith and I weren't entirely sure that he would live to see that day. God's timing once again was amazing. We had that sweet girl's birthday to focus on instead of everything else bad that was happening around us.

Each and every holiday season since has been spent with the shadow of death hanging over my head and heart. I would wonder, as I took out the decorations, baked treats, or cooked special meals, if this would be our last with Keith. He continued to fight the cancer with everything he had. Then January 3rd would happen. The bright spot in the darkness. Kacie's birthday. Celebrating her special day not only marked the end of a difficult season, but the beginning of a new and exciting year for her.

This year even her birthday has been tough. I've had to try harder than I think I ever had to make this day special for her. Celebrating your children's birthdays when their father has recently died is very hard. For Keith and I, there has always been that special moment when our eyes would meet and we would be remembering the very moment that our baby took his or her first breath. We would be remembering so many of those magical moments that only parents can share on their child's birthday.

I didn't have that today. I didn't have it in August when it was Nick's birthday. I didn't fully comprehend this loss on Nick's birthday. It was still too soon after Keith's death. The fog had not lifted yet.

I didn't have that moment when our eyes met and we were both remembering those first moments of our sweet baby's life. I didn't have his hand to squeeze when I get weepy, because my baby is growing up.

I am sad today that Keith is not here to share in Kacie turning "double digits". I'm sad that I don't have those special moments with him. I'm sad for so many things today that come as a result of Keith's death.

But...God's timing is still amazing. Only He knows how Kacie's next ten years will be spent. I still have this wonderful day to celebrate at the end of a season filled with difficult and painful memories.

Today, I can say I made it. I made it through the first birthdays of both kids and Keith, the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's since Keith died. I made it by the grace of God. He has carried me and He will continue to carry me through the next firsts that are sure to come.


Friday, January 1, 2010


This is how I am coping on this day that is...well, this day. I am pretending that it is just another day. I am pretending that there is nothing special about today.

You can call me crazy, but I have it on good authority that I am not (MLC assures me of that very thing frequently). I just simply cannot cope with today any other way. I am taking a lesson from Scarlett O'Hara. I will indeed think about this another day. I don't want to think about it today. I probably won't think about it tomorrow or the next day either.

Kacie's birthday is Sunday. I have to focus on that. I have to get through that.

School will start back on Tuesday. I have to focus on that too. I have to get through that. I will miss having the kids company during the day. I had not realized how lonely I was during the days when I am home by myself. Even with their fighting, it's been nice having them home. I am ready to get back into a routine of sorts though. Nick and Kacie being home isn't routine, no matter how comforting it is to me.

So, my plan is to keep pretending or coping as best I can. It's working so far. I'm fairly certain that MLC will have plenty to say about the way I have chosen to get through this extremely difficult time of year. Until I speak with him, I am going along with what works.

Kacie's tummy issues didn't last all night last night. She felt crummy most of the night though. She went straight to bed once we got home and stayed there. I was able to fall asleep before the clock turned over to midnight. Kacie has eaten pretty normally today and has been fine. I am exhausted. I didn't sleep very well listening for her during the night. I am hoping tonight will be much better.

I am just simply falling into the arms of God and letting Him take care of me. I can't do this on my own. He is going to have to carry me.