Central Park’s Bow Bridge symbolizes so many things to me. It reminds me of my late husband, Chuck’s, love for Central Park and how he used it’s vast natural resources to teach children science and marine biology, as well as give my son and his nephews many adventures there. They would climb hills, charging through the landscape, while exploring the high points and low points of this rich,lush, beautiful, free park. Central Park is the 5th largest park in New York City, and it is set on 843 acres of land.
At a certain point in the park, about 80th St, one can glimpse the towers of the majestic Beresford, a luxury prewar coop located on New York’s Upper West Side’s Central Park West. These towers remind me of the spires of another iconic building, the El Dorado. Seeing these towers prompt me to recall my father’s advice that whenever I got turned around in the Park going from Eastside to the Westside I should look for the towers of the El Dorado and they would always lead me home.
The Bow Bridge, with its interlocking circle design on the bannisters has an even more specific meaning for me. It conjures up a memory of a lovely time at an art festival in a town far away from New York. It was five years after my husband’s death and I was beginning to live my life more fully while taking a leap of faith. As I perused the art along the streets, I was surprised to see so many artistic paintings of the Bow Bridge. I felt moved and proud of the many inspired interpretations of that beautiful bridge. Each one that I saw made me think,”My bridge”, in my little New York mind.
I truly believe everything happens in it’s own time when we’re ready ……the soul knows. This was the time that I emerged from the gray frost of winter into the crisp brilliant colors of fall. The risk to travel far from home, unearthed the key to my destiny and opened a new door for me. During that period, five years since my husband’s death, I began to write words that spilled onto each and every page from the depths of my soul.
I was no longer a bud and and little did I know, a blooming flower was about to emerge. Change and taking risks is what living is all about. Amidst all that life puts us through we are expected to have lessons, learn lessons and grow. Without learning the lessons, we will continue to have more lessons. However, if we don’t learn what we’re being taught, each new lesson will become more becoming more difficult, until our days are done.
We cannot grow if we run in place, holding onto hurts, regrets, anger, jealousies and guilt. Running in place only digs one a hole until we become buried beneath our life’s “stuff”. Closing ourselves off is not playing it safe, putting up a protective shield, does not lead to growth and will not protect us from the emotional scarring that can come with living life. It only stunts our evolution, as we live with our myopic thoughts, barren and isolated, barricading ourselves behind walls of our own making.
Fall has always been a special time for me. As a former educator, that first September breeze, always made me feel that it was an opportunity to start over, to renew, to begin again. It was, indeed a new year, not unlike January 1st, which ushers in the New Year for all, this new year was a mid-year refresh. New lessons would be taught and learned, with end of year growth, hopefully. Then on to new horizons, newer lessons, chapters opened and closed, new journeys. Life is like crossing a bridge, some bridges not as beautifully embellished as the Bow Bridge, some tarnished and stained with mud, some rickety, some fragile, some painful underfoot. But by being present, letting go of the past, taking risks, each crossing will get easier and the burden lighter. These are the memories conjured up in my mind’s eye when I think of the Bow Bridge. This is a bridge that has withstood the weathering of time, and it reminds me of myself, as it and we continue onto our journey’s end…….toward always unfolding New Beginnings.
What landmark in your town reminds you of what you have endured since having lost your spouse?
Back in the winter of 2009, about 4 months after Chuck had passed away, I’d decided that I was ready for a bereavement group. I set up an interview and when I arrived the facilitator asked me to tell my story. I immediately found myself weeping uncontrollably. My husband had been treated for his cancer at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City, and this was my first trip back to the facility since my husband had been discharged and put on hospice care at home. I automatically had flashbacks of that time leading up to his death. I hadn’t anticipated that this ordinary interview would be so jarring, but it was. The facilitator handed me tissues, I cried and cried as I wiped away the constant flow of tears. When I was done and deemed ready for a group, I left feeling drained as I walked out onto the street.The late winter air had turned a bit cooler and very windy.
I walked across to Park Ave. and hailed a cab. As I was riding up Park Ave., I decided to close my eyes, which were still bleary behind my huge black sunglasses. Because of the sudden shift in temperature I rolled the window up and left maybe 1/2 inch open for a little air. I was immersed in my sad thoughts when suddenly, a bunch of pink cherry blossoms flew into the window and landed on my lap. I was so startled, and I let out a small scream. At that point, the cab driver eyed me through the rearview mirror curiously. The little blossoms floated in for about 30 seconds and fell onto my lap. I knew, in that moment, that that was Chuck sending me a sign of comfort and reassurance. I wept silently all the rest of the way home. Another time I was in my elevator with a woman whose son had been taught by my husband. She was talking about Mr.Loftin and recalling memories of times she herself had spent with him in his classroom and on class trips. As she got off at her floor, the overhead lights in the elevator began blinking, kind of like a Morse Code. I was startled and about to call the woman to witness what was taking place, but I couldn’t recall her name (widow brain). The doors shut and the lights blinked until I reached my floor, then when I got off they stopped.I would continue to have many of these occurrences and, initially, right after Chuck had passed, it wasn’t immediately apparent to me that they might be signals from my husband. However, when I became aware that these events appeared intentional and not random, I began to pay attention.
One night, I had risen and gone out into my dining room to sit at my table and watch TV; it was around 4:00 o’clock in the morning. At that time, I used to have a beautiful fan above my dining room table. It was controlled by remote that I kept on the wall in a remote holder. That morning, it was a freezing in the dead of winter and just about a few weeks after Chuck had passed. As I sat watching TV, I suddenly began to feel cold. When I looked up the fan was whirring above my head. I was astonished and quickly retrieved the remote to shut the fan off. I shared this experience with a friend and she suggested that I talked to Chuck and tell him that I appreciated “ hearing from him” but that I’d prefer if the signs came in the daytime and that they did not make me feel uncomfortable. At that point I was willing to do anything and soon after having “spoken” to my husband the signs became less frequent and were confined to the day. Eventually the frequency of them diminished greatly and I took this to mean that Chuck’s spirit did not want to hamper my recovery, because, after all, he was no longer here and I still had a life to continue on this earthly plane.
One of the gentlemen in my bereavement group called these occurrences supernatural experiences. He felt that this was a great way to describe unusual occurrences that happen after a loved one has passed away and that the name did not necessarily have to be attached to any kind of religious experience. Some folks have them and are reluctant to talk about them, while many never have them or do not make the connection that a sudden unusual occurrence might be a signal from their lost loved one. Still others have them and will talk about them freely if they have a receptive listener or audience. Many, however, dismiss the whole notion of spirit and spiritual connections or signs from the dead and all of these responses are just fine.I’ve learned to just meet people where they’re at.
I do believe that after we lose his spouse, we can still connect with them although they are no longer here with us. We might even get answers that come in the form of dreams, random thoughts, discovery of surprise treasures around the home, or through nature or any experience that brings peace, surprise, comfort or makes one feel that their loved one is near.The same gentleman from my bereavement group spoke about how he would go to bed at night and feel the covers being pulled up on him when he was falling off to sleep.He soon found that when he shared his experience with his daughter,she told him that she too had been having the same experience when she fell off to sleep. They concluded that it was their wife/mother who was tucking them in as they slept.
It is hard to figure out what’s real and what’s not or what to make of these “experiences”. Some might call them little miracles while others might call them weird. I’m sure that when people have these experiences it’s not easy for them to share only to face ridicule from friends and family. I believe it’s a good idea to record each sign so that after a while you can look back on what you’ve seen and heard and possibly find answers or just comfort in what you have witnessed. I did find each experience a little scary and unsettling. For example, there was the time right after Chuck had passed away that every time I passed my elevator it opened and closed on my floor over and over when I walked by in the hallway. There was also the discovery of a Mother’s Day card, never sent to me, signed by Chuck the day before the first Mother’s Day. Over time I became more used to these signs and I believed it was Chuck letting me know he was keeping watch and that I would one day be OK.
Which brings me to the pink flower petals found on the rug under my air conditioner in my bedroom this year. It was a day or two before Chuck’s birthday and there on the rug lay a beautiful bright pink flower petal. The window was closed and there weren’t any flowers in my bedroom. It wasn’t a silk petal but a real pink flower petal. Later that day, I came across another just like the other on the floor of my balcony. I took them and saved them adding them to my now faded cherry blossom petals that had found their way through a teeny opening flown into my lap so many years before.
I believe, with certainty that these were all signs from Chuck. In the beginning they were to bring comfort to me, but as time went on and the signs became less frequent, I realized that Chuck was sending me a signal that he wanted me to move on with my life. I believe that the sudden gift of the flower petals was his way of giving me a thumbs up on my progress. He wanted me to go on with my life, and I have and he is satisfied.
Many people who lose a spouse will have signs from their loved ones, and many more are eager to share stories with the receptive listener. Some chalk these experiences up to wishful thinking, active imaginations, etc. But still others relate stories of loved ones appearing on a beach, or by their side, or of a dog appearing to guide one through a tough neighborhood and then disappearing. Sometimes people can smell the scent of a loved one, they hear their loved one called their name, they see someone on the street that looks like the deceased person and they feel these are all signs of reassurance. However the messages come and the signs are manifested, if we do not notice them, we miss the opportunity to connect with our lost loved ones once more.
I would suggest, particularly to those who have become fresh widows, that you try to be open to indications that your spouse is sending you signs of love. For he or she as they struggle to acclimate to their new plane, want you to know that you are still loved, that you will grieve and soon recover, and that you must continue on with your new life knowing that the love you once had is still with you and that is where it will always remain.
Fresh blossoms from Chuck
To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guideto Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5
I can say undeniably, that I am no longer the person I once was since losing my husband to pancreatic cancer in 2009. However, it has taken me many years to be able to look back at the cumulative progression of my grief experience. I have recalled my long, long mourning, my struggle to rebuild my life and my eventual emergence into my “new normal”.
As the world turns so do we. We often find ourselves beginning again, turning from old ways to new beginnings via life’s constantly changing circumstances and also by being exposed to new ideas. We are always given an opportunity to open ourselves up to fresher ways of thinking and living our lives. We think that things will remain the same, but they do not, and the news is that they aren’t suppose to. This is all a natural part of life, yours and mine.
My life before my husband was just that…… before him. When Chuck and I became husband and wife my life totally changed. I was no longer the single woman I’d once been, as I was now in a sacred partnership. I had to learn to accommodate another person’s feelings, habits, routines, idiosyncrasies, values, and emotions. Chuck had to do the same with me. In so doing, we had to learn to compromise, which sometimes got a little messy, but in the end it always worked out for the highest good of each of us and our little family. Life with another involves change and accommodation. We cannot expect to hold sway in every decision, and contrary to popular thought, one person doesnot alwaysknow what’s best at all times. Honoring, listening and respecting a partner’s point of view is a good way to keep harmony in a marriage, oh but then, I do digress.
There are very few 50/50 relationships. Some couples say they do things 50/50, especially nowadays, but if someone gets ill or is out of work, or is forced out of the blue to assume an unforeseen responsibility that alters the normal routine of family life, more than likely the husband or wife will have to assume the burden of picking up the slack for the better good of the family. It is at these times when a couple must rely on their love bond, which undergirds the foundation of their marriage, in order to deal with whatever lies ahead. That loveis the key underpinning of all successful marriages.
Through the struggles and unpredictable situations that will arise in all relationships as we live and grow older, we might be surprised to find out that after the difficulty, the outcome may offer a blessing in disguise. One’s life may take a turn and end up on a road that one never expected to be on. However, one must continue to work through the personal pain of grief and loss so as not to get stuck on a road with no end in sight.
My husband Chuck and I had a life together. We cared for ill parents, who seemed to age very quickly, out of the blue. We took on these unexpected new challenges and we became the parents, in essence, to our parents. For so many of us, eventually the parent-child roles will be reversed. My husband truly stepped up to the plate. As I began to care for my father, Chuck chipped in as if it were his dad. He became not only someone I could lean on, but the man I could rely on to assist me as I cared for my dad. We adapted our lives to meet the challenges that were quickly coming our way. Our mutual love and commitment, strengthened our bond, allowing us to be there for each other as the words “in sickness and in health” became our reality in truth.Never did we imagine, little did we know, that our sacred promise would be put to the test in a way that would initially shake us up. In the end, our joint resolve was to see things through, no matter what. We were a fierce force together until the end. After my husband died, and when the dust had settled I would soon begin my own journey through the grieving process and settle into a new life, one that I could have never imagined.
I read many widows’ stories and laments, numerous ones mirroring my own. Women with children, women who’ve been married over 40, 50, 60 years. Some women have been married a year or two or ten. Sudden illnesses, heart attacks, rare diseases, long-term sickness, accidents. They write about the pain and how they’ll never get over the loss. They write about how life will never be the same. While it’s true you will never get over the loss, in time the pain will soften. Eventually, the hurt will lessen until it becomes a part of the fabric of who you are. You will have a new perspective on your life, friendships, the world, love, death, and all intangible aspects of being a part of the living.
My life has changed drastically from my former life before my husband died. The life I have now is rich and full. It was unimaginable to me in the early stages of my grief that I would ever be in this really good place, but it was created out of the ashes of my tragic loss and formed by the tiny steps that I took to come back to life again. The things I have experienced, the amazing people who have been put in my path and have helped me grow; all this would not have taken place had my husband lived. And, although I would rather have had him here with me, I now understand that that was not in the cards for me and spending this period of my life alone was a part of my destiny. All the pain, and the changes strengthened me, made me wiser, more empathetic, more perceptive, more intuitive. I understand the fragility of life and how the most salient thing is to remember that people, not things, are important. Caring for others is doing God’s work.
Every loss is meant to transform those who are left. These are those watershed moments that define and shape us. You are being asked to step up to a higher level of consciousness when you are faced with unexpected changes in conditions, which can lead to opportunities for a higher state of self-awareness and the possibility of coming into more of your own. Remember, in life the ultimate goal is to live consciously and to learn our lessons as we ascend, otherwise you will only be living life running in place.
Ofcourse, when it comes to losing a spouse, the initial challenge is getting through the grief and pain of loss and that is always up to those who grieve. Keep in mind. after loss, (although hard to understand initially when blinded by the veil of grief) you’re being given an opportunity to decide if you are going to remain in pain, running in place or shed the shackles of grief and walk toward something new.
It’s up to you.
To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guideto Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu
This year, actually this month will be the twelfth year since my husband Chuck passed away from pancreatic cancer. It seems like a long while ago and only moments all at the same time. Funny how after you lose a spouse the time morphs into an endless stream of time: night, day, day, night. Weeks seem like days, months seem like weeks and years seem like some yet to be determined series of stages stretched out into seamlessly stitched together moments that transcend years, turning time into a flowing succession of days, differentiated only by light and dark.
The year that Chuck passed away I recall that I was anxious about leaving that year behind. I knew that I’d never be able to “feel his presence” in the same way again. I wouldn’t be able to say that he just said this a few weeks before or that he’d just done that a few months earlier. Once I stepped into the new year I felt I would no longer feel his presence, just his absence.
There were so many things to get used to after the loss. I had to learn new ways of living without him on the planet. Quantity of towels in the bathroom, setting the table, what to do with his drinking mug, going places alone were just some of the adjustments I needed to make. When it came to bouncing ideas off somebody or getting a second opinion or sharing something funny, I had to come to grips with his permanent absence and my sudden thrust into “oneness”.
But here is what also occurred as I entered a New Year, I was slowly leaving my past behind. Although I didn’t stop grieving, far from it, the new year, in retrospect, was the start of my new beginning. I was truly starting over again, from square one. During that period, I began to create new routines, develop new interests, revisit past interests, change my living space and take a good look at who I wanted to be. I decided that being me, my authentic me, was a good start and so I began to forge a new life rebuilding it brick by brick.
I examined old ideas, attitudes and lifestyles. I planned to retain some semblance of who I had been before Chuck, but I also explored fresher ways of being myself. It was a crash course in starting over and I was being taught by the world around me, which was moving faster than the speed of light. I was beginning to see everything with fresh eyes, an open mind, an open heart, and an open spirit. All of this was happening consciously and unconsciously as I grieved and continued to move my life forward.
As the years passed I could feel changes taking place within myself and in my life. I was different, my home was transformed, and I realized that I was in the midst of my new beginning.
I knew, as I continued to mourn my husband’s death, that I didn’t want to get stuck in my grief or “widow narrative” so, after a time, I allowed my new life to mold me. And although, in the beginning, I did not want to betray my lost husband by going on with my life, I came to understand that he was no longer here and he would never want me to spend the rest of my days mourning him. Chuck would want me to live a full life just as we did together, when he was here.
I sort of relived that period after my husband’s death during this time of COVID. Because of the shutdown and the advice to stay at home in order to reduce the spread and contain the disease, as I sheltered in place, I was reminded of the early days after my loss. This time, however, I consciously worked on myself. Although I missed seeing people, for some reason feelings of loneliness and isolation were few and far between. I chose to take this time to do the things I had been putting off and to focus on personal goals, plans and basically the rest of my life. I knew I couldn’t maintain the discipline and the concentration I would need if I became distracted. I wanted to come out of this period ready for my new beginning as I knew that the world would never be the same after such a sudden change in routine. My period of mourning, back in 2009, prepared me for this time as I prepared to face whatever else would be expected of me. I gained new insights as I continued to live my life with expectation and humility. My humanity became renewed and my compassion for others became heightened. I became most grateful for my life’s experiences, the good and not so good, which I now know have strengthened me for the living of these days. I no longer have to talk about those things as they are what make me me, and I am grateful. I cherish my family even more as well as my friends. I lost friends all to non COVID related circumstances, and mourned each and every one. I know that the clock is ticking and it’s important to be good listeners, give those who need you your time, your actual presence. It’s important to send love to those you have in your life and to those you no longer want in your life or whom you’ve outgrown. Wish them all well, and then keep going.
My advice to all who are embarking on a new year of self-discovery and expansion is to treat the new year as your new beginning and an opportunity to live life differently. Discard those “obstructions” in your life that prevent you from making new friends, keeping friends, creating opportunities for new and fresh relationships, for chances to be adventurous, see new things and to take risks.
Looking for companionship? Well, stop telling yourself that the “pickins are thin“, because the Universe will give you that…..zero. Stop listening to others’ perceptions when looking for a mate, learn to tweak your criteria and your expectations as you might miss a soulmate who comes wrapped in a different packaging than you desired. Know that the interior matters so much more than the exterior. Like little 4 year old internet sensation Ayaan Diop think of yourself “as smart, blessed and highly favored” and repeat this and other affirmations that affirm the positivity of who you are and who you are becoming. You will always be becoming…and if you have positive expectations you will reap the benefits of those thoughts. Remember mind and body are all connected. But then, how could they not be? Decide to live and think differently and this applies to those who have experienced loss as well as anyone who would like to tweak his or her life in positive ways.
Don’t allow this new year to be another missed opportunity to make changes that improve the conditions of your life. Being busy with a variety of activities is a good start to activating your new way of living. But nothing can compare to time alone, without distractions, as you think about who you are becoming at this moment in time and how you want that life to be. As long as we are able to fall asleep nightly and awaken to a new day, we’ll always be able to start over. Use this new year, in the time of this pandemic as a time to mark your new beginning. Become introspective, no matter how uncomfortable that may feel, and then make the changes that will help you to feel productive, alive and whole again, orpossibly, even for the first time.
Happy New Year
To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World: A Guideto Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu
I believe that being a happy human is not so out of reach.My husband Chuck was a contented, balanced human being, however, I would never characterize him as happy. He had moments where he was happy, but they were few and far between.He gained great satisfaction from positive events in his life, but I rarely, if ever, saw him giddy or ecstatic with joy. It was the way he was wired. He did, however, possess a good temperament and a sweet nature, although his gallows humor could be a little tough to get used to. But that was my Chuck, not perfect, but then neither was I (although I told him I was and he believed me).
Chuck was a man’s man, tough but also warm.For example, there was the time he came home and announced that a neighbor of ours, who I knew only in passing,would be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner.I was surprised that he had invited a stranger (Chuck was not a fan of strangers) into our home for dinner. He went on to explain that the man had told him that he would be spending Thanksgiving alone, and Chuck was not hearing it. It was fine with me, my motto being the more the merrier. When Thanksgiving arrived Frank did not show up. A few months into the next year, Frank passed away from cancer.I did see him before this happened and told him we had missed him that day, it was then that he revealed details of his illness. He said he really appreciated the invitation and had every intention of coming but had been blindsided by his illness.
My husband Chuck loved to teach and advise anyone who sought his counsel, and many, many did. He would impart pearls of wisdom, with the hope that all those he taught would go forth and live successful and fruitful lives. Financial security and independence were very important to him and he felt that this was one of the keys to building a solid foundation for living a successful and productive life. Chuck would love it when those who had been the recipients of his advice would come back to him and share outcomes that were positive and successful. He felt pride in the fact that he was able to give others the building blocks for living a fruitful life, from his perspective. He did not necessarily feel happiness, but more a sense of gratification, satisfaction.Chuck was practical, a realist and very pragmatic….black and white no gray.
I,on the other hand, have always been an optimist, even under the most dire of circumstances. I rarely lose hope and always try to connect to my joy. I was and still am, a Pollyanna of sorts. It’s how I’m wired…who I am. Chuck and I were complete opposites in that way.
Although I’m not happy all the time, the happy experiences that I have had have always left me with a feeling of overwhelming joy and and at times exhilaration. I grew up in a family that expressed,unabashedly, feelings of happiness when the situation called for it. We all became giddy with excitement and I just thought that was the norm for everybody when they experienced great pleasure or good news. But I would soon learn that not all people are comfortable with expressing emotions, particularly feelings of joy or sorrow.
After Chuck passed away my soul became dead, numb. Happiness became an emotion I could no longer access. Even as I began to slowly recover, I found I had lost the ability to “feel” joy. I would soon become satisfied with just being able to put one foot in front of the other and make it through each new day. I felt as though I would never feel happiness again. In those early days of my mourning, I recalled a line from one of Langston Hughes’ poems, ‘life ain’t been no crystal stair’,which reminded me that life is not always going to be filled with good news. Many experiences that people have are full of pain, sorrow and suffering. For some,the pain of whatever is daily, relentless. I would soon sink into the depths of depression, which is very different from just feeling sad. I felt as if I was sinking into an abyss of hopelessness and despair and thought that this was going to be my new normal, my new state of my being and it would have to be okay. So, I settled in for the day-to-day grief, with expectations of no end to the pain in sight.
Many, many months later, years really, I would slowly begin to long to feel joy in my life again. As time wore on and I became more engaged in life again, I began to notice that I had entered a new stage in my grief recovery and that being able to feel joy again might actually be a possibility.I began to experience events that allowed me to see that I could access dormant upbeat feelings.As the direction of my life changed, I thought I might be able to feel joy again.I knew that my husband would be happy for me in heaven.He knew I was his “happy girl” and on some level I believe that he envied my ability to be cheerful bordering on ecstatic when an experience or event warranted such feelings.
I do believe that being able to feel joy has to do with how we were raised, our life experiences and how we internalize and manifest our emotions. In life, we can’t prevent those random interruptions that can cause trauma and turmoil and change the course of our lives, but we can intentionally dwell on good ideas and thoughts and strive to live our lives in accordance with those thoughts. One’s emotional state of well being and positive responses can rub off on others, and inspire those around us to also begin to believe that happy is not so far-fetched. Sometimes that doesn’t always work and others may remain remote, morose, and stoic, but we, who are the optimists, must continue to stay true to who we are and try to avoid being dragged,like quicksand, into another person’s emotional response to situations that we feel are good and positive. Some folks are simply joy killers and although we may not be able to change who they are we do not want them to change who we are either. Feeing joy is critical to coming back to life again. Don’t be afraid of those feelings…..after awhile you will begin to feel that life has possibility again, and again.
To read more about my grief journey and how you can navigate yours read Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse, available on Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu
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I must admit that 2020 did not start off very well. Kobe Bryant’s tragic death two days after the 11th anniversary of the passing of my husband was just a terrible, sad, tragedy. Although I have never been a big sports fan, I felt that loss like everyone else, a big punch to the gut that left us all reeling. Soon after I would unexpectedly lose a friend, Shelly, and the year would proceed like that. I felt that if I could just get to summer and Martha’s Vineyard’s beaches and sands, fun and sun, parties and laziness, all would be right in the world. But that was not going to happen for me as the world was hit with a global pandemic which would change life as we know it, filling many with fear, anxiety, fatigue and despair.
I began to take stock of my life, again. I say again because I do this often.It helps to keep me grounded and to stay the course. Although I canveer off course and that’s when I have my greatest adventures, oh but then, I do digress. I had a friend once who you used to call these moments, What’s it all about Alfie? moments.
I proceeded to look at my list of to do things and got cracking. I cleaned out closets, pantries, I ditched old books, papers, photographs just everything that was no longer relevant to my life. Why was I holding on to text books from my undergraduate years? Would I ever pick them up and read them? Never did. What’s the point in having them in my library? The number of books you have doesn’t mean anything unless you read them or they have a personal meaning to you, the reader. I had made a decision that at this time I wanted to pare down and recreate my surroundings so that it reflected who I am now as well as who I am continuously becoming. No more extraneous stuff tucked away hidden to be discovered by others after I am gone. I would hate for people to find tons of items stacked mixed in with clothing wrapped in neat little bundles hinting at my serious flirtation with hoarding. Don’t laugh, it has happened with folks who have passed. So I figured that with this uninterrupted time I would ditch, purge, and donate when charities finally opened up. Who would be able to identify people in pictures or care about what role they may have played in my life. Mementos from high school, tokens from young pals whose names I no longer remember. They meant something to me at one time, but I never look at the items so why hang onto them. They have lost their sentimental value and no longer conjure up relevant memories. I’ve gone on to live my life and no longer feel attached to those days that came before the NOW.
As soon as the city I live in experienced a lockdown, it became whisper quiet….no planes, cars, trucks, no school noises…nothing. Lots of moving vans however, as people sought refuge in “safer zip codes”, or moved back to Kansas with red shoes and Toto in tow. But how do you escape a ubiquitous invisible enemy, a potentially deadly virus which we were learning more and less about daily. There was daily information mixed with misinformation. But for me it was like being away, an urban-suburban experience. The quiet soothed my spirit which was truly rattled by everything that was occurring around me. I wasn’t going out anywhere. I was going to do what I was asked to do to keep myself and the few around me safe. I am a pragmatist, although I do rely on spirit, so acknowledging the fear helped me to get a handle on it as I figured out how to cope during a most perilous time. So today, I am most grateful for patience, strength, fortitude, direction, God, and the hope I needed to get through these days. My intuition, which is my spirit, allowed me to know the right thing to do while we all waited.
After George Floyd’s death, in your face for the world to see , the social unrest that followed was reminscent of my own activist days back in the late 60’s. Old issues, new issues, this generation said ,“Enough! Black Lives Matter”,while my generation said,“March on, we are with you.” Many of my friends marched with them proud to be a part of a movement for true change. The truth is that African Americans in this country have always had to think about white people in order to shield ourselves from daily, subtle and not so subtle racist remarks and acts of bigotry that we have dealt with on the daily. While we have had to be on guard as we figured out how to maneuver in different situations, white people have never had to consider African Americans, except when deciding where to live. And unless the decision was to be in a diverse community, then the sky was the limit for those seeking homogenized communities. They can move wherever the please, they can eat wherever they want, they can go someplace and not have someone mistake them for the help. They can go into a store and not have someone direct them to the sales rack or follow them throughout the store. These are just basic degrading, insulting, disrespectful experiences that black people have had to deal with for decades.
In order to stay safe while traveling we had various safe routes that we were advised to take to avoid encounters with Klansmen and other white supremacists who might want to do us harm. White people didn’t have to worry about taking those routes, or being barred entry to places like Freedomland Amusement Park. They didn’t have to worry about being caught in a sundown town which could be a matter of life or death for Black folks. They could just be, live life and not be fearful that the color of their skin would find them in the chokehold of a policeman. They don’t have to worry about their sons,but we do.And to watch people pass laws and institute restrictions that deny black folks access or limit how far one can progress,is truly hateful and a blight against this country.This period has allowed so many to see what we’ve always seen.Now the young people, Black and White, have taken up the cause for justice. They are not going to take no for an answer and have said enough is enough. Today, I am thankful to see how people are taking up the mantle of justice fighting for human dignity, equality, the inalienable right to be able to live and survive in this country, on this planet. People are fighting for human dignity, to reverse injustices that black people have had to endure for decades. I am so grateful that we live in a time where finally we will probably get some resolution to a lot of experiences that have plagued us and hampered so many from moving forward. I am thankful that the whole world is watching and there is no turning back now.
While folks were all facing this pandemic, social unrest, climate change, loss of income, and countless deaths due to COVID-19, I was having my own personal challenges. My left knee was giving me problems and right before the pandemic I had been trying to make an appointment to schedule surgery. Having to wait, with increasing pain, when pandemic restrictions eased in my town, I figured I’d schedule surgery. The date given was going to be soon. I had the surgery and I’m recovering and healing well. The date of that surgery was the perfect time as there were no planned events or activities to interfere with the decision to improve my quality of life. No more daily ibuprofen, cold compresses, heat in the AM cold in the PM. The surgery went well and in two days I was home rehabbing and healing. Having been through this before I knew what to expect, but when you’re in the throes of excruciating pain it’s hard to see the end in sight .When I arrived home I had a lot of help and even my cats,Smokey and Zoe, were so happy to see me, they set up sentry at the foot of my bed, ensuring that I would not leave them again anytime soon.
But the sweetest part of this time for me is that my girlfriends, my sister girlfriends were conspiring to ease my burden. Several of them decided to send me dinner everyday for a week. They texted me menus, asked me what I wanted and had it sent. I couldn’t believe how kind and generous they were. Pizza, chicken, paella, black beans, one bestie even went so far as to bake a lasagna and brought me beautiful flowers to brighten my time spent healing. Someone brought me a beautiful bouquet of Lilies along with other fragrant flowers. I was really overcome to tears. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by the most incredibly compassionate, loving individuals and they just stepped up unexpectedly because this is what they do. I am thankful that at this point in life I am surrounded by girlfriends who just unselfishly stepped up and said oh we’re gonna do this for our girl. One person texted me and said we got you. All my life I have been blessed with good pals, but at this point in my life to feel that there are people who are so generous that they can anticipate what you might need and make it happen, was an act of love like no other. Not just them, but so many offers to help out, check in, send flowers, cards and words of encouragement. One person actually saw my FB post and he IM’d me with helpful words of advice and comfort. This time let me know that when people step up like that they are truly caring and compassionate individuals. A friend once told me years ago, when I had been deeply hurt by the actions of some whom I called friends, that some people are very generous with themselves while others are able to give in ways that touch a person’s soul. That is empathy.
It’s the small things that turn out to be big things and it means something. Over the years we have been there for each other,these ladies and I. I am thankful for the loving individuals in my life, not only my girlfriends, but my guy friends who checked in and offered advice and words and stories of encouragement via email and text as if they sensed that I could use a word on a particular day. One such friend sent me emails of encouragement before my surgery just as he did eleven years ago, then, sensing that facing a big surgery without my husband by my side I would be feeling extra anxious and alone. He was right and I am truly grateful for his kindness. I am thankful for all the unselfish love that surrounds me from family and friends. There is an unbroken bond between me and the people in my life who help to make my life extraordinary without wanting anything in return. No tit for tat here, just true love.
This Thanksgiving , even as I’m still digesting the loss of three more precious souls who were in my life, in my orbit, for a while, at various periods, I thank God that my 92 year old mom is well, my family is well, and my life is still full of joy. As I regain mobility I am grateful for the friends who found the time to be there for me when just getting the occasional check in text was enough for me. I am thankful for those who I have lost and grateful that they were in my life for a time as I learned lessons from each and every one, lessons that have remained with me as I move forward in my life.
I hope you too will find something to be grateful for in 2020. Whether it’s the medical professionals who have sacrificed and risked their lives to save lives, or the essential works who have also risked, many having lost their lives to keep essential services running to benefit all of us. Or whether it’s a friend or a relative who has survived COVID-19. It may seem like a hard exercise but think about and remember that you’re still here, and the alone time forces you to befriend yourself, go within and recreate your life in a way that enlightens your stay here as you find meaning for your life before your journey home. It will make this odd twilight time to have not been for naught. It will help you to look beyond the physical as you attempt to figure out what the year 2020 really means to each of us and to the collective “us”.
When I first met my husband, the guy I didn’t know would end up being my husband, I knew he was the one.He had practically every quality I would have wanted in a mate at that time. He was a gentleman, handsome, kind, brilliant, generous, and successful. He knew things I didn’t and we had many interests in common. Years later I would realize that we were actually rather different in a lot of ways, but in the beginning it appeared as if we could have been twins, fraternal of course.
After six weeks of dating, Chuck told me I was the “one” and he was in love. I was rather stunned, it seemed so fast, but we decided to take our time and see. Back then in the late 80’s we had time…. it was on our side. I welcomed and cherished his love and I loved him back, with all my heart. But there was a part of me that was a little frightened. I was aware of the direction in which our relationship could go and the thought of being with him forever was scary. I also wondered all sorts of things like: what would happen if it didn’t work out, what if we fell out of love, what if we couldn’t get along after a while, what if this, what if that. As time went on, we decided that we were going to get married and, by then, I was sure it was right and was willing to take the risk and marry my beloved.
Love always involves risk. The most well-intentioned, compatible couples, never really know what the future will bring to a relationship. You can never know how time and unforeseen circumstances will impact your union. Because of this uncertainty, many people are afraid to take that risk. Past relationships, personal family histories can impact how one feels about coupling, so some remain solo, not willing to take that step and risk love. Individuals get used to their lives being neat and tidy and after years of being alone, they become unwilling to complicate their lives with the messiness and complexities of loving another, and that’s just fine for them. Some even claim to want to find love, but somewhere within them there is something, a childhood experience, a past love experience, something that sabotages that desire. Thus, they keep saying what they want without really believing it will happen.
For some, after losing a spouse and the veil of grief has fallen away, one of the greatest dilemmas that one faces is whether one should take the risk to love again. Early on, in my bereavement group, we discussed the possibility of finding love again. For me, during that period, my grief was so raw that that idea was far from anything I could’ve ever imagined doing ever again. Some of the people in the group felt they’d had their “one”. Still, for others, whose grief was still fresh, that thought seemed kind of creepy. We also discussed the fact that if we were to consider falling in love again, there was always the possibility of losing another spouse or partner. We had all been through so much watching our spouses deteriorate as they battled various forms of cancer, so we were not so sure if we were willing to take another risk of losing a loved one again. For myself, personally, I felt that I could not ever survive another death of a spouse. The pain from losing Chuck was so intense, that I dismissed the possibility of love in my future, at least at that point in time.
Recently, I received a lovely note, in response to a note I had written, from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. I had written her to thank her for a book she had given me at Chuck’s funeral, which was the only book that really addressed what I would soon be experiencing. The woman had given it to me because it was a book she had used when she was grieving the loss of her second husband. In this note she went on to explain that after a few years she met a wonderful guy, married again, but after nearly 8 years she would have to return to that book for comfort again as she buried her third spouse, who succumbed to the same illness that her second husband had. She questioned why God would have had her repeat that experience. I know that my friend was really afraid to risk loving again, but in time she met a new gentleman and they are now happily married. She had decided, after a time, to take another leap of faith.
With love comes many risks. We never really know how things will turn out, but we have the highest hopes for the best. People rarely go into a marriage thinking that their partner will leave them, that love will turn sour, that their spouse will get ill or die. We are hopeful that our unions will be fruitful, full of love and last forever. The fact that one day it will end never enters our minds as we begin a new journey with a husband or wife.
We must make every attempt to live life to the fullest and to avoid playing it safe. Living has to do with jumping in there, taking a leap of faith, putting aside fears and taking a risk. When you do, life has texture, and color, and meaning and is full of surprises and wonder. When we play it safe our hearts may never get broken, but we will never know the wonderfulness of connecting with someone intimately, loving them and opening our hearts, and allowing someone else to care for it. That’s when one must have trust, have faith and be willing to be brave.
The folks in my bereavement group have become an extended family. Since that time in 2009, many have made big changes in their lives. A few have decided to take a risk and are now happily ensconced in new relationships. It is what our lost spouses would want for all of us, to carry on, be unafraid and, maybe, risk love again. Just like my friend, who risked love a second time, and a third, and a fourth which added to the beautiful mystery of what we call life, her life. After all, she took a risk when she married my husband, he was her first, and I took a risk when I married him too, as I was his third wife. For me it was a risk well taken as I opened my heart up and entrusted him with it.
Now, after all that I’ve been through, having lost Chuck, I may be willing to do it all over again. It was an experience that has enriched my life, increased the depth of the scope of my vision as to what life has to hold, and it has allowed me to know that it is “better to have loved than never to have loved at all.” A big risk, as I forge my new beginning but, in the scheme of things, what is life without risk?
Read more about how I rose from the depths of grief in Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/qghzw3e
After my husband passed away in 2009, I would face many challenges, one of which was being alone. When I was a teenager, I yearned to be free of the responsibility of caring for my younger brothers and sisters. They were wonderful, but sometimes devilish and a handful. Many years later, I would have that desired time to myself which would last at least four or five years. After that period in my life, I would never live alone again until my husband passed away.
I got used to the rhythm of my life with my husband and son: academic life, social activities, work life, family time. Chuck and I rarely spent time away from each other and we seldom went away without one another. Once he went on a weekend Marine Biology retreat and another time when his beloved dad died, he spent the weekend at his parents’ brownstone in Brooklyn. I went on several girls’ trips to the spa, the beach, but I always, always missed my husband Chuck and couldn’t wait to get home to see him again. He was my lifelong partner, my compadre, my everything. When I cared for him when he was ill I was the devoted caretaker fulfilling my vow “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”. I have often thought that he would have taken much better care of me as that was his nature, to take care undauntingly, willingly, lovingly, steadfastly, but I gave it my best.
I recall once when I had gone out with girlfriends and became suddenly ill, later attributed to something I had eaten, I had to leave the restaurant unexpectedly. A dear friend of mine hopped in a cab with me and rode with me home. When I arrived, there was my Chuck ready to greet me. He wasn’t repelled by my disheveled appearance, he just took my hand and led me upstairs, helped me undress and saw to it that I got cleaned up and put into bed straight away. He washed my clothes, and fed me crackers, he even called our doctor, and talked to me till I fell asleep. I didn’t have to ask him if he could take care of me, he just did and knew the right thing to do. It comes with the territory you know- love, commitment, caring for the one you love.
Years later and a short time after Chuck had passed away, when I was living all alone, I came down with a virus. As I lay in my bed writhing with pain , I had that moment where I came to the realization that I was truly alone. The one person I could rely on to be there for me emotionally and physically was gone. That stark reality at that time led me to weep in my pain, tears of enormous sorrow. But that incident was also the beginning of my slow awareness that I would have to be there for myself from then on. No more consolation, no more words of comfort, no more kisses, no more hugs. It took awhile to acclimate myself to my new way of living. Alone, alone, all alone, just me, myself and me again. Soon I would come to appreciate my time spent with me.
This brings me to the time we’re living in now. We’ve been asked to stay home during this pandemic, and as the outside world begins to open up people are understandably anxious to get out and get on the move. Still others remain cautious. Most people I speak to have recreated their lives in ways that prevent them from getting cabin fever or going stir crazy. A daily walk, masked, and then back home again. Sitting out in the yard in a controlled space, and terraces and balconies in urban settings, are very essential at this time.
For me, this time, reminds me of that period of my life when I had lost my husband forever, and had to figure out how to navigate my aloneness and see what that would be like; it was a process. Like then, after we were shut in, on lockdown, I felt untethered to my known world anxious to hear my friends’ voices, but soon after I’d retreat to my space, choosing to become re-acquainted with myself, my work, my home, my life, my soul.
This moment in time, I believe, is meant for us all to get re-acquainted with ourselves. Putting down cell phones, giving social media a break, re-evaluating our material possessions, reconnecting with books, thinking, doing and knowing, and experiencing the unbearable lightness of being. It’s time to face regrets and fears and demons and it’s a good place to renovate ourselves so that we come out of this better. This is the time when we must think about the unthinkable, but the inevitable, our own mortality, and how we make our time left, whether 10, 30 or 50 years more meaningful.
Why are so many people afraid of getting to know themselves more fully, more intimately? Probably because they’re afraid of what they may encounter hidden within the crevices of their subconscious. The rush, rush of the daily no longer exists in this time, so what excuse do we have for not connecting with the one person we are closest to, ourselves? There’s only so much ZOOM, FaceTime, Go To Meetngs, etc., keeping one connected to others, still outer directed, that we can do until it becomes another distraction from being one with ourselves. We should be able to find contentment within, once we take the time to excavate our souls. This takes undivided attention which this unanticipated fortuitous time provides. No need to be anxious even as loneliness sets in. You are meant to care for yourself as no other person can. You will slowly begin to be with others again overtime, but who will you be, what will you have learned, who do you have to forgive, what do you have to forget? How will you fulfill your purpose, the reason that you are here?
We must seize the moment to step into our inner sanctum, amidst the quiet and solitude. Some have probably never visited that place before because it’s too scary to deal with the parts of us that lie dormant waiting to be awakened, given attention, looked at closely and made peace with. The human touch, your human touch, is there for you at this time as you practice self care, since no one else is available to care for you, but you. Our normal lives are full of distractions, so in this unusual time that is not what we need. One day someone may be put in your stead who can be there for you in that way but don’t count on it. In the meantime you will have to care for yourself, and you can do it, no matter how much of a people person you say you are. You can vibe on your alone time and cherish it when you’re done. Do not focus on the loneliness but on the happiness and the joy that you will find as you enter your inner sanctum and turn your loneliness into wholeness. You may have to step on prickly thorns along the way, but that is what this life is meant to be,uncomfortability leads to growth if we push through. Then when this incredible time in history comes to a close you will feel as if you can step into the next chapter, knowing that time was not wasted, as you walk into the new normal that awaits YOU and Us.
Read more about rebuilding a life after loss in my book Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/qghzw3e or you can order at Barnes and Noble.
Anyone who knows me well or who has at least read my book, they’re familiar with the fact that I do believe that the dead can communicate with the living and vice versa. My belief is based on my own unexpected experiences immediately after my husband had passed away. There were actually, once I became aware of what was occurring around me, several cluster events in the very first two years. They were unexpected, sometimes frightening, reassuring and/or comforting.
I also believe that through these events we can develop a new relationship with a spouse and even get answers to lingering questions that remain with a widow or widower. Once you realize that you’re experiencing what I call something supernatural, after the initial shock, you can begin to talk to their spirit as if they were still alive. You’ll find that this practice might actually assist with your grieving process as it becomes a tangible outlet for your anxiety and sorrow. You’re not just holding in your feelings but you’re giving them a voice. You may soon hear, find or see answers to lingering questions coming to you as a sudden thought or in a dream. You might even stumble across a tangible item or piece of information that resolves a gnawing question or brings closure to issues that may have been causing one anger, angst, or regret.
As the years have passed since my Chuck has been gone, I no longer have these experiences on a regular basis. I do believe that for myself whatever signs Chuck sent me in the early days after his death, the purpose was to bring me comfort as his spirit made it’s way onto it’s new world and I forged a new path here on my own. Once I recognized these unusual occurrences as something more than routine, I was very reluctant to share what I was experiencing with others, except with a close chosen few. Actually, the first time I revealed my experiences was in a chapter in my book, Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse , called The Supernatural.
This new reality in my new world did not only mean I had to adapt to a new way of being but I also had to navigate another realm, one that seemed on the precipice of life, while I made sure I wouldn’t be engulfed in it.
I’ve found that in recent years, particularly as people begin to lose loved ones, folks are more open to the possibility of communing or receiving messages from the dead. Once, I had a doctor, after I had completed a visit, turn to me and ask, “So, have you had any apparitions from your husband?” I’m asked, on occasion, if I’ve received signs from my husband. I even recall aunts and my grandmother discussing how they’d been visited by brothers, sisters and parents. I was young and just thought this was “crazy talk”, but now I find that people do not summarily dismiss this possibility and are even eager to share their own experiences with me. So I conclude that when it comes to signs from those who have passed onto another place, anything is possible as long as one is open to that possibility. Some are not and that is fine.
This all brings me to this Mother’s Day 2020. When my son was born he was the beautiful boy with the deep dark pools for eyes. So many people saw him as an old soul who might have even been here before. At the time of his birth a couple of people said to me, “We know you wanted a girl but God sent you a son. He was sent here to help you, you’ll see.” I’ve never forgotten those words and my son has proven them to be true. He is the reason that I am a mother and a proud one at that. As I continue to live each day during this odd, surreal COVID time, I’m managing to feel pretty okay, though not without an occasional bout of anxiety.
I’m pretty transparent about my feelings, as I don’t see the need to be the stalwart, the strong one with the the stiff upper lip. This is a scary time and although I have a strong faith, I still can feel vulnerable and admit it. I meditate, work on writing projects and I have a myriad of house projects to keep me distracted. One of my projects that I have going, is to weed out some books from my library. This past week , as I pulled out a few from a shelf, out fell a card, a Mother’s Day card, with a beautiful pop up flower in the center bearing Chuck’s signature. I have no idea how it got there or where it came from. It seemed familiar, but to have it appear now, when the world we live in is going through the worst of times, where everything seems so tentative and fragile, was a comfort in the midst of chaos. At this time when life seems interrupted and the future uncertain, it is exactly what my soul needed, craved really, a sign of reassurance and Chuck did not disappoint. If he were alive, he would have been the protective loving reassuring person I’d married and whom I miss, not always, but at this moment in time. Thus, this sign, allowed me to know that he was still near. He’d been quiet for years, but sent a sign when I needed it most. It assured me that I am not alone and that no matter the outcome all will be well.
To my widowed friends I say that in the sacred busy-ness of your day, whether, purging ,organizing, reading, exercising, you may find yourself feeling anxious or uncertain about what the future may hold. There’s also this stark reality that your partner is no longer here to accompany you on this journey. I suggest you get quiet, reach out by praying, meditating and talking to them, and see what the universe gives you back. It will always give you back what you need even if you don’t know in what form that will be. For me it was this beautiful Mother’s Day card five days before Mother’s Day in this uncertain time. That for me, was the reassurance that someone was looking out for me, practicing Divine Social Distancing, along with my son Karim. This allowed me to know that whatever the future holds all will be fine with me….and you.
To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu
When my husband passed away in 2009, I was so sad and devastated I could barely breathe. As I tried to adjust to my new life without him it was touch and go for me everyday. The chaotic emotional aftermath of his loss became my new world, my new normal, and consumed my life at that time. I could feel myself experiencing severe anxiety and sometimes felt off balanced. Thus, the day to day struggle to breathe and remain present took every bit of strength I had in me.
A few months after he died I went for an eye exam and it was discovered that I had cataracts. The shock that I got from hearing that news made me feel even more alone, vulnerable and hopeless. “How could I have cataracts? That was what old people got”, I mused. Then a brutal reality set in that I was no longer young and that I actually qualified for many senior citizen benefits. Who knew?In the world that Chuck and I lived in together we seemed immune to the signs of aging. “I wondered,”Like, what is that?
“Also, to top it off, my right knee, which had been a problem for me over the years, really began to give me a lot of pain. After a visit to my MD and after a slew of X-rays I was told that I would eventually need a knee replacement. This operation would eventually take place two years later. When that time arrived, I was fortunate to have had great friends and family around to support me. Someone, out of the blue, even offered to accompany me to the surgery as they understood I would be missing the presence and assurance of my husband. This person offered to be a stand in of sorts so that I wouldn’t feel afraid or alone. At that moment in time that meant everything to me.
I say all of this to say that each new disconcerting health issue that popped up, filled me with anxiety and also drew my attention to the fact that Chuck was no longer present. Hence, I began to miss him more and on another level felt myself begin to slip away, as I confronted the fact that I was falling apart and facing my own mortality. Death, at that time, seemed a welcome respite from all the bad news I’d been receiving health wise in those early years. Death would at least allow me to be with my husband again, I theorized, back then.
At some point,however, I did decide that I wanted to live and not die and that I had to face each ensuing bad news head on, bravely and resolutely. As I did, and as I realized that neither diagnosis was going to lead me to certain death, I gained the courage to face each and every new challenge as best as I could, sensing Chuck’s spirit was with me, placing the right people in my path to assist and comfort me, even if for a brief moment in time. I was never disappointed and always grateful as my life continued to change.
Several people would contact me to let me know of folks who’d had replacements, and they all assured me that I’d be better off than before. When it came time for the surgery I was fortified and ready to get it done, and I never regretted that decision, as I was able to walk better than ever. Five years after I’d been diagnosed with a cataract and it was time for that surgery, little did I know that this girl, who has worn glasses since she was five years old, would be able to see clearer than ever before.
Which brings me to today, the NOW, the very moment we’re in. One day it’ll be known as in the Time of Coronavirus, but now, for many of us, it’s a state of being locked down & shut in for an indeterminate amount of time. We’re washing our hands, spraying everything we touch with antibacterial solutions, wearing masks and pondering our futures a lot.
How long will our world be this way? Who can tell? It’s like Groundhog Day, everyday. We have to adhere to guidelines and wait it out. We can look at countries that have gone through what we’re going through a little before us here in the US, and as we watch their experiences, trial and error, trying to recover, moving forward into their “new normal”, we are also learning that new symptoms and challenges of this virus arise daily. It’s all so much to take in, and can affect all of us in ways that are unsettling. However, for those who have lost a spouse, maybe two years ago, four years ago, last year, last month, 10 years ago, 10 days ago, this must be the very last thing you could ever imagine being a part of. The added loss of freedom of mobility and independence, close contact with loved ones, and the fear of contracting an invisible disease is compounded by the fact that you’re experiencing all of this without your husband or wife by your side. There’s also the fact that you might feel more anxious, nervous, frightened and unsteady. Plus you’re social distancing at a time when you really could use a hug. When a spouse dies one is often becomes confused and out of sorts. The events of today, with the disease spreading around the globe, afflicting thousands upon thousands of people, makes those who are grieving feel more insecure and unsteady, shaking one’s very foundation. Please remember that although we’re going through the worst, having lost our spouses, compounded by this unprecedented event, history shows that if we follow guidelines and use common sense we will survive these uncertain times.
What Should We be Doing During this Forced Confinement ?
I believe it’s an opportunity for us to focus on our lives without our partner and think about how we’re going to lead and create a new life going forward. We must remember that this life never promised that we would be exempt from adversity. We must continue to focus on grieving, but plan for the future as this pandemic will usher us into a new normal.Those who have been grieving for a while are already used to this new normal. As we live our life on pause we can take this opportunity, one which we will probably never have again, to reassess our lives.We can focus on adjusting to life without our spouse, and we can have conversations with ourselves, as well as with our departed loved ones, creating a new relationship with them and with ourselves. We should assess every aspect of our lives and move in a direction that feeds our souls and helps us to feel for others as well as ourselves. This practice will bring forth answers from our spirit that will guide us into our next chapter. This next phase of our lives should be more fulfilling, authentic and full of empathy for others. You may also find your grief compounded by new losses from this disease. Take this time to grieve those lost souls, and try to get a handle on the fear and anxiety, which is normal, because this is a scary time. To say that it is not would be disingenuous.
The familiar rotation of the stars and planets continue and the sun and the moon remain in their familiar place in the heavens. Know also the seasons are still changing and all of the familiar yearly seasonal signs are still occurring, which assures us that all is not lost. The earth hasn’t exploded, and as we care for it going forward, it should continue to be a reliable source of comfort as we wrestle with and make peace with our new normal, post pandemic. Although this has proven to be overwhelming and challenging, we will learn from both of these events, the loss of our spouse and this pandemic. We will learn great lessons which will inform our lives as we step into our new normal along with the whole wide world. With each passing day we will see that we have survived, that we have gained a new strength and awareness, that our hope to be able to pull through is continuing to unfold.We will feel a new confidence with the knowledge that we are brave and will survive it all.
Be present with your feelings, don’t judge them or hold them in contempt, but let them come and go as they are a part of who you are, a part of how you feel life. You must now know that anything you do in your daily life has a ripple effect across the world. We are all connected and maybe this knowledge will help us to do better, be better, live better. Rest assured in the knowledge that you will not die, but live stronger than before having come through these anxious times walking by faith and by sight.