To Risk Love

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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.

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.

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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.

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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?

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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

When the Light Goes Out Look Within

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I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. During my early years, I lived in South Brooklyn, in an area that is now known as Boerum Hill. I loved taking walks with my father and I’m sure my mother was relieved when I did, as I was a very precocious child, always talking, very curious, very sensitive. Life for me never was about the big picture, it was always about the details.

My father took me all over the city the.We rode on  the Staten Island Ferry, roamed through Prospect Park and the Zoo, the museums, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, and all the iconic New York City sites of that time. I loved going out with my dad. It was a special time between me and him. I could talk all I want, and ask a zillion questions, and he never seemed to mind, in fact he encouraged my inquisitive nature and curious mind.

On Sundays we would go out to get the papers, the Sunday New York Times and the New York Post, which was actually a liberal paper at that time, the voice of the worker,oh but then I do digress.

We never got the Sunday Daily News and, believe me, this was much to my chagrin, as I always wanted to look at the funnies. This small custom set me apart from my peers because my little school friends would chat about Dick Tracy and all the other other comic strips, and I had no clue as to what they were talking about.When I told them my parents didn’t get the Daily News, as according to their politics, they didn’t consider it a paper worth reading, my friends looked at me as if I had five heads. My mother and father, both with very strong political views , felt that this paper was an extreme example of yellow journalism stoking the fears of some at the expense of others, but, oh yes, again I do digress.

One Sunday, as my father and I walked along the cobblestone streets of South Brooklyn, we passed a church, St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church, located on Sackett Street. I asked my dad, “What is that building?” He explained to me that it was a church where one went to pray to God. Now I did pray to God at night when my parents said my prayers with me but I was always intrigued by the notion of God. This beautiful, archetypal old church, where I assumed God lived, indicated by the triumphant tolling of the bells, usually as we were passing by, was a place that I was very curious about. My father said we could go “sometime”. Well, don’t tell me sometime, as I figured that meant soon which meant it would be happening imminently. I was a rather impatient little girl, a trait that has carried over into adulthood.

One day my father announced that we were going to go to Mass at St. Agnes. I was so excited, and I imagined that this meant we would be wearing masks. Hey, I was four or five….what did I know. We entered the beautiful church and found a seat in one of the back pews. The priest was so far away and was speaking in a foreign tongue; I found the whole experience to be amazing and intimidating. Anyway, I recited familiar prayers, as I smelled the incense, watched the procession of priests and altar boys and considered the sacred rituals to be somewhat of a mystery, but grand. When it was time for Holy Communion, this meant that my dad had to leave me in the pew while he made his way down the long, long aisle to receive the sacrament. Now if this were the present, I would’ve been able to go up with him, but back in those days there were many things that occurred in churches, deemed inappropriate then, but permissible today.When I looked like I was about to cry, my father asked a woman in the pew to keep an eye on me. She was very nice and pointed her finger to show me that my father wasn’t going to disappear, as it seemed to me. She motioned her finger to create an invisible trail that my eye could follow which reassured me that my dad was indeed in sight. You see, my father was my was my guiding light. I knew that everything was okay as long as he and my mother were near. I felt confident and safe.

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My husband Chuck was also a beacon of light for me. I didn’t have to see him, but as long as he was in my life I felt a sense of reassurance, calm, and security. This is what his presence in my life gave to me; he was my source of light and strength. Chuck was my my cheerleader, my backup guy. My father was like that for me too, as he felt that I could do anything and he was always cheering me on.When I lost my dad eleven years ago I mourned him woefully until the day my husband’s doctor called and said,” We think we see something on your husband’s pancreas.” I immediately tucked away my grief for the loss of my father so I could give full attention to my husband and the long hard road that awaited us both. I wished my father could have been there at that time for me, but again, he loved Chuck dearly, like a son, and I know he would have been sorely pained by news of Chuck’s illness.
I always knew that I could count on both of them and I felt  that when something went  left in my life, I had an added assurance that dad or Chuck  had my back. They were both like lighthouses in the distance representing a beacon of light which guided my steps. I always expected them to be there so you can only imagine that my life came to a halt when they were both gone within a four year span. Soon after I discovered that all I had was myself to guide and cheer me on. It was kind of like rediscovering my ruby red slippers and hearing Glinda the Good Witch utter the words, “Yvonne you’ve always had the power.”After all my anchors were washed away, I had to go deep and find my own beacon of light to help me as I adjusted  my sail and traveled in a new direction.

After I’d  left my first Mass with my dad, I complained to him that I was tired after that long service. I also told him that I didn’t like the fact that he had to leave me to go to Communion as I was afraid he’d disappear. I told him too, that I felt my first church experience had been very overwhelming and that I’d be fine not going again for a long, long time. I added that I was so surprised that we didn’t have to wear masks at Mass. Later that day I heard my father say to my mother, “Well, I don’t think she’ll be wanting to go to church again for a long time.” My mother said, “Well that’s good.” I heard them chuckle to each other, and I just thought they were so right. I didn’t want to risk losing my father in a sea of sacred pomp and ceremony and smelly smoke.

After a spouse or loved one dies, we sometimes feel as though a light in us has gone out. The energy, personality of the one we’ve lost meant so much to us, and we suddenly find ourselves in a long tunnel leading down a lonely, bleak road to points unknown. Our beacons of light have disappeared and one feels abandoned and alone. However, when we’re ready, we can reach out to a myriad of grief and recovery resources and search until we find the right one to suit our needs. That connection with others will help us to begin to feel less alone as we begin to repair our broken hearts and create a new life and our new normal.

We might also discover that the light we miss has now become a part of us. Our loved ones are a part of us still and our own inner light and strength will soon overshadow our grief as we become stronger. In time,we will come to know that we are being guided and strengthened from within. I like to call this the spiritual legacy left us by those who have gone on. So after awhile, look within, and you will feel a familiar presence no longer in the form of the lost spouse, or loved one, but now a part of the fabric of who you are and who you are becoming which is brave in a new world.

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Want to know how you can discover your light within ? Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse   available on Amazon.com : http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu.

 

Embracing the Pain of Loss

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No one wants to have his or her heart broken. When you lose a spouse the pain can be excruciating, unpredictable and relentless. This harsh deep hurt can also be accompanied by anxiety and fear.

People do not want to feel the pain that accompanies loss after losing someone they love. It’s understandable that there are many who wish to shield themselves from it. Why? Because it hurts. Sometimes the pain is so excruciating and debilitating that it can even manifest itself as actual body aches.

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But what if I were to suggest that maybe it’s better to lean into the pain rather than shy away from it?

Although we may not always be able to embrace the pain of loss, confronting it is better than ignoring it. When you push it away,it never really goes anywhere. Then one day when least expected those old painful feelings that one mistakenly thought were gone,will make themselves known and demand to be dealt with.

When I began to grieve, I did not know what to expect. Once I was in the throes of my grief journey I knew that it was an experience like no other.
At some point I found myself feeling as if I was whirling in a tunnel with no way out. The grief and sorrow became my shadow following me wherever I went. I soon began to feel that this was the beginning of my new normal forever and I just made up my mind to relinquish control and surrender to it.
But surprising and unexpected events happened along the way as I lived my “new normal”. In my case, my healing was connected to my interactions with others: friends,family and strangers.

As I created new routines for myself, I began to encounter people who I might never have had a chance to meet under other circumstances. Sometimes they’d share an observation, or insight or a personal memory that would give me a new perspective on my own life. Because I was able to find the strength, even as I suffered, to live life simultaneously with grieving, eventually I would see an opening in the grief tunnel which encouraged me to keep pushing forward. I soon began to understand that I could get through the muck and mire as long as I persisted.

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Persist, embrace,mourn, persist, embrace,mourn…..this is the path that I followed as I grieved.

We are born into a world where we are not immune to life’s adversities and misfortunes or death. Some people endure much more than their share, but we must trust that there will be a light that will guide us along the way. When we lose a spouse or someone else we’ve loved, although the initial pain can be unbearable, one’s acquiescence, will actually be the very thing that heals.

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We must face the pain of grief

By facing our grief and sorrow, we will find that the road to healing will be made straight in less time than we can imagine.

Remember, your spouse is sad that they had to leave, but their life is done and they want you to go on and live the rest of your’s the way that you were meant to. So don’t be afraid to explore new possibilities, don’t be afraid to take chances as you rebuild a new life on your own.
Although we think we can delay suffering, there is no avoiding it.The pain will always remain and at some point will need to be faced.In the end, leaning into the pain is when true healing takes place.

 

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How to Draw Strength from Loss

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Daily we hear of so many tragic events that occur around the world.Recently,a woman at a gas pump was randomly hit and killed by car; people at an airport were shot and killed indiscriminately by a disturbed individual.Daily men and women lose children, parents, spouses and siblings. Sometimes people lose their whole family as a result of various accidents, and other tragic occurrences, often without warning.

How does one get past these losses, losses that occur with random regularity?I know from my own experience it is not easy. Unless individuals have gone through the experience of losing a loved one and dealt with the aftermath, no one can possibly know what the family members face.

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My husband was ill with cancer that awful period coinciding with Barack Obama’s campaign that was built on hope. That one word became my daily mantra as I prayed and hoped for a miracle. I remained steadfast in my commitment to the care of my husband and never gave up the hope that he could miraculously pull through.

One of the things that sustained me was what people around me said and more importantly,what they didn’t say. During this time, all sorts of folks, colleagues, friends, acquaintances shared with me their own stories of having dealt with the illness,specifically pancreatic cancer, of a loved one.But they always stopped short of sharing the inevitable outcome – death.And no one told me that my husband would ultimately leave this earth, never to be seen again.

I believe that through God’s goodness and grace, I was shielded from hearing things that would weaken my resolve which would have consequently caused me to lose faith. The hope that I clung to like a lifeline, kept me going until I knew that my husband’s “soul (was) sliding down to die”. (My Father’s Eyes – Eric Clapton)

After he was gone, I became almost catatonic as I numbly prepared for Chuck’s funeral. I knew that this was my new normal, not feeling, not being present, dealing with anxiety and panic feeling nervous and shaken. Although I didn’t appear this way to the outside world, this was my inner state and the beginning of a new life without my beloved.

How did I get past this stage?

I decided to face the music. The temptation to hide under the covers until who knew when was great, but my need to survive was greater. I fought the strong urge to run in place, delay the work that needed to be done. Instead I dove right in, crying, weeping, railing at God, sorting, donating, rearranging my home and my life. I wanted to blur the edges of my life with Chuck as I entered into the unknown. Little did I know that this was the start of my new beginning.

As the eighth anniversary of my husband’s death approaches, I’m reminded of the time when everything in my life was changing.New business and residential development in my neighborhood,new friends, new work, new home. I had this feeling of hope throughout the year I cared for Chuck and that optimism, though buried within the shadow of my grief, would years later slowly emerge as I began to live my new life.

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As I look back on it all I recall that I never took on the burden of “having to be strong”.For whom would I be doing this; to show somebody, what? I didn’t have small children that I had to be there for; I had only myself.When I look back on all I’ve accomplished since my husband’s death, I know that it’s this profound loss that has propelled and strengthened me. 

My strength is not superficial,worn for the comfort of others. My strength is in the rebuilding of my spirit and my belief in the ultimate goodness of humanity, life ,love and the hope of finding joy again.

When you have lost a spouse, you must know in your soul, that you are not bound by the expectations of others. Some will tell you to be strong, you’ll get over it, you’ll be okay, but none of these words will mean anything to you. They are mere words from those who wish to help.

Finally,you can choose to ride the grief wave however you wish. You can swim parallel to it you can go with the ebb and flow of the wave, or you can dive right in, it’s all up to you. I would suggest that you succumb to your brokenness, feel the weakness that accompanies grief.Feel the pain and cry, cry, cry; do not hold it in. The grief journey is a life changing experience and it is meant to be. But, eventually, you will become stronger because of it as it will become the bedrock of your new beginning.

Loss will transform you and you will come out on the other side strengthened by your ability to have gotten through this journey and you will be emboldened by the knowledge that you can now face your new beginning.

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Read more about grief and recovery after loss in Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all other e-booksellers.

Recovering from Grief : It’s Up to Those Who Grieve

Yvonne Broady

The afternoon after my husband had died, I was thrust into a state of numbness. I experienced shock and disbelief. I spent the afternoon sitting in my living room in my husband’s leather recliner, while friends and family ran around taking care of whatever needed to be tended to. My brother, in Alabama, was command central and my brother-in-law, here in New York, made sure that those who needed to be alerted (funeral home, 911) were.

I dreaded the night to come and many, many nights thereafter not knowing what to expect now that my husband was gone. My son and my brother here in New York and others, broke down the hospital bed, threw out medications (some of which were mine……whoops) and made up my bedroom so that there was very little evidence of what had transpired earlier that day. My feelings were raw and I felt…

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Giving Thanks for the Journey Thus Far

I’m not posting my usual blog this week, as I prepare for a New York Thanksgiving and all that goes with that.I love this time of the year, there’s a brisk chill in the air,with a scent of th…

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Life’s Road Always Leads One Home

When I was a young girl growing up in Brooklyn, New York, my father used to take me to Prospect Park all the time. Each time we’d go, I would sit under the same big oak tree and wonder what my life as a grown-up would be like. My parents were very socially conscious and political activists. They were educated, cultured and interesting people. They exposed me to all things cultural: art, music, and literature. My father bought me a deck of Authors Cards and I had to memorize each author’s name and recite some of their works eg. Robert Louis Stevenson’s poems: Foreign Lands, My Ship and I, My Shadow, all from A Child’s Garden of Verses. These assignments were  part of my “homeschooling” and these lessons have stayed with me and probably added to my already active imagination, as I imagined my life in the future.

Early on I fancied myself a writer. I would sit at my desk, that my father had built, and type on my little typewriter. I was never really typing anything of note, but I felt like a “girl of letters”.As I tapped away at the keyboard I wrote stories about people, places and things. I wrote poems and some were published in what was known as the School Bank News, which was a little local school newspaper published by our neighborhood bank. These were short poems about spring, the weather, the seasons, rainy and sunny days. I would watch programs on our one TV about female writers and imagined myself living in Manhattan writing, meeting a wonderful man, getting married and living happily ever after. Well you know, I daydreamed and lived in my little head a lot.Prospect Pk (1)

As I got older, I still had a very vivid and keen imagination, however, I began writing short stories in my English classes. This all against the backdrop of a burgeoning civil rights movement, with events daily unfolding on our one TV. The Montgomery bus boycott, the emergence of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, the KKK, Birmingham bombings, beatings of civil rights workers, water hoses. All of these events would soon affect my writing. What I wrote began to change from light musings of my future life to thoughts about the changing times. Soon the authors I would be reading included Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Chinua Achebe, James Baldwin, Dorothy West and Mary McCarthy a mixture of black and female authors, that helped to shape my thoughts about life and the way I would come to view the world. We would suffer many losses in the 60’s, so many…. I didn’t really understand “what was goin’ on…..”. I was young and at the beginning of everything.

As the 70’s approached, I began to lose my uncles, my father’s brothers, right into the 80’s and 90’s. These were all sad events in my life. I lost my grandmother in the early 80’s and my godfather, Dr. Eugene Massy, then also, both while my parents were serving in the Peace Corps. These last two losses I considered to be the greatest at that time as they were the two people I was closest to, especially my Nana, who had been in my life since “my beginning. I would mourn her quietly for many years.

When my father passed away in 2005, my life stood still. I had been daddy’s little girl and he was the one who inspired me to write and write and write. His mother, my grandmother, had been a schoolteacher and a published author in her little town of Lowmoor, Virginia. My favorite aunts, Anice and Ailleen, as well as my father often mentioned how I reminded them of her. After his death, a light in me went out. I would mourn him sorely and quietly up until the day that my husband became ill in December 2007. I’d built up a lot of hurts inside keeping everything in, but the pain from the loss of my dad and others became a shadow grief that never really went away.

So it seems fitting that after the death of my husband Chuck, I would eventually put pen to paper and express my feelings of enduring loss, sorrow and the rebuilding of my life. Only this time, after having lived a full and rich life, I could now share my experiences, advice and wisdom with others.Image result for writing pen on book images

When I look at my life’s trajectory and the road that I’ve traveled, full of losses, pain, and silent grieving, I can see how I’ve arrived at this place. Now that I’ve felt the pain and endured the suffering, I feel free.

This is the road that has led me home.

 

To find out how you can survive grief after the loss of a spouse read Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon.com just copy and paste this link to purchase your copy:   http://tinyurl.com/qghzw3e  

Uncluttering and Discovering Yourself

My late husband Chuck was a real pack rat. He kept so many mementos from his early days in high school, college and business. He had old report cards, and letters, playbills and tons of old record albums. He even had his college beanie emblazoned with the H which stood for his undergrad alma mater, Howard University. These items along with his faded Howard University athletic tank were  all tucked away in a duffel bag in a closet.

We were city apartment dwellers with no basement to hide and store memorabilia and personal keepsakes. Chuck did pull out the shirt often and wear it around the house. My husband loved to read and thus had a huge collection of books. He liked to reread his favorites usually about History, American History, wars and a good mystery now and then. He read all the local papers daily including the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.

I  am a collector of things also: old postcards, letters, jewelry, letters from long gone relatives and beaus and long-ago pen pals, along with all the correspondence from my parents which were sent to me when they served in the Peace Corps in the 80s.

I have old photos and lovely Limoges boxes, a collection of beautiful timepieces which I try to pull out and wear with regularity. I have many of the books my son read when he was a little boy, and some of his baby clothes neatly packed away for the future grandson (or granddaughter). I used to want to hang onto some classic styles hoping that they would make a comeback. A white button-down shirt, black ankle pants, Mary Jane shoes. Although I was right on a few occasions most of the time when the style did make a comeback, it would reemerge tweaked in a way that suited the prevailing fashion trends.

I used to plead with my husband to throw out all the papers that he had accumulated over the years. He promised that he would, but he never really did; they were like a security blanket for him. The more the piles rose the more secure in his fortress he felt. My husband’s insistence on holding onto everything made me very sensitive about my own predilection for collecting “things”. So I put myself in check and would periodically ditch those items that no longer held meaning for me.

He was Inspired to Purge

After Chuck died, I was faced with many decisions, one of the most important being what to keep and what to throw away. The year Chuck was ill was the year he finally “got it”, unfortunately it was a lot too late. During that period, while I was at work, Chuck sorted through all of his papers and documents and photographs and began to get rid of an accumulation of many years of “stuff”. The items that he treasured he put into an album. These included awards, letters of commendation, and all sorts of treasures that were important to him. He began creating a visual legacy for he knew that his time was limited.

It would be a long while before I could pore over his carefully curated collection. These were the items that he felt would tell “his story” and leave his mark in this place.

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 A Very Sacred Task

Eventually, I edited his belongings and kept only those things that had meaning to me. This very sacred task got me thinking about my own assortment of keepsakes which included correspondences, journals, notes, postcards, and pictures. I realized that I was holding onto items from my past that no longer held the same meaning that they once did. There was a lifetime of old photos of grammar school chums, names I could no longer recall. Books, with tattered covers falling off, vestiges from my undergraduate psychology class, my graduate school philosophy and education classes too. They filled up my library and made it look very impressive, but I never opened them as they no longer held meaning for me. I found drawings that I had created years before in art classes that I’d taken at the Brooklyn Museum and the Art Students League. These were proof that I had once dabbled in pen and ink, and watercolor, and that I loved drawing portraits of anyone who would sit for me (usually a reluctant brother or my sister). As I purged, I came to the realization that these were items that were part of a life that I no longer had. I no longer needed to prove anything to anyone about my intellect or artistic talent. After all, I was me  ,just as I am, after all was said and done. I also decided that I did not want to leave my only son with tons of items to sort through that would hold little meaning for him once I had finally left this place.

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 A Final Act of Love

As I sorted through all of my things I began to feel a bit freer. It was like going to a resort or hotel and breathing a  sigh of relief at being away from the hustle and bustle of city life, having arrived only with the bare necessities in my suitcase. Thus, in a big way, my husband inspired me to do my own housecleaning. There was enough to deal with after he died, so the fact that he considered me in his final days and finally got rid of the clutter was what I considered an extreme and selfless act of love. I didn’t have to wonder what this meant to him, who these people were in a pic, why a document was important. It spared me the sorrow, I surely would have felt, as I touched and smelled more items that were a part of my husband’s life here.The memories that my purging, decluttering, sorting and ditching conjured up were snapshots of a former life and times long gone. And even though I no longer have the tangible items which I never looked at anyway, I have the memories permanently etched in my mind that I can access whenever I like. I decided that I no longer needed those material things to help me relive my past, particularly now that I was embracing a new beginning.

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The Past Can Block One’s Future

As time goes on we find that we have accumulated so many things that we don’t ever use and never look at. They become a security blanket of sorts, but they can also become the “thing” that can prevent us from moving forward. Of course many people have collections of items that they display, that they change seasonally, that they look at frequently. Then there are those items that you may want to save for future generations to peruse as they research who their ancestors were. But oftentimes there’s just an accumulation of memories from our past that can prevent us from being in the now. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hold on to timeworn treasures that tell “our stories” but we have to discern, at some point, whether our story is going to mean anything to those who come after us….those who have to go through our stuff deciding what should stay and what should go. Our friends and family will not know why we held onto a collection of coins, or who certain people are in faded photos, now faded and torn, or why a special handkerchief  is neatly folded inside a Ziploc baggie.

 Locking The Memories in My Heart

I decided to lock these memories in my heart and save my only child from having to deal with a puzzle after I’m gone.

There’s a lot to be said for living with less, not more. One’s  history is an accumulation of a life well lived (or not), but experiences all. Many of these events in life are meticulously recorded or collected in the form of keepsakes and memorabilia with the intention that we will one day look back on our lives with sadness, fondness and sentimental thoughts. But often these items can clutter our lives and prevent us from living or moving forward. Sometimes, unwittingly, we hold on tightly to the past which prevents us from truly living in the present.

I was able to let go of a lot of my husband’s items in stages over about a five year period. I was able to give away most of his beautiful clothing in the beginning, which I rushed to do, because I was afraid if I did not it would be hard for me to do it later the longer I held onto them. I did not want to go into the closet and look at his clothing every day, with a very lightheaded feeling of anxiety, as I put my face in his coats and shirts and weep and weep and weep. I was already weeping without having to have the constant reminder of the daunting task that awaited. But there were little items like cufflinks, and watches, and glasses, and handkerchiefs, gloves, etc. that I was able to let go of as time ensued. Time does give one a new perspective on things and gradually, I was able to hold onto a modest collection of his possessions without having to have felt overwhelmed had I taken on the task of getting rid of everything initially.

Open a Portal to New Experiences

At some point we must begin to think about the items from our past, and decide whether it’s necessary to hold onto everything. We will want to keep some things from deceased loved ones for sure, but we may find that as we gradually discard those objects that no longer hold the same meaning that they once did, we will be opening a portal to new experiences that will be just as fulfilling and maybe even more meaningful than the old.

Life is finite, and our experiences are always unfolding. Let’s make room for new ones and keep the old ones locked in our hearts.

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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

Staying Stuck or Becoming Free

 

As I design my new website and tweak add-ons and ideas, one thing I have decided to do is to expand the scope of my writing.

I’ve always been interested in how human beings interact with each other. I’m curious about why people do the things they do, say the things they say, live the way they live,  think the way they think and treat others the way they do. But more importantly, it is the way we treat ourselves, the decisions we make that impact our own lives that intrigues me most.
So, as I begin to shift gears, I will be writing about a variety of topics focusing not only on grief and  recovery but also life matters, home matters, and love matters.

 I knew that he was the one………..

When I was dating my husband Chuck, I knew almost immediately that he was the one.I knew also, that I would want to spend the rest of my life married to him. Chuck had been down that road twice, being married, and although he knew I was the one sooner than I expected, and told me so, eventually, as time marched on, I would learn that he was a bit gun shy and unsure as to whether he wanted to walk down the aisle again.

We agreed that we had a great relationship, that we got along really well and we enjoyed a lot of the same things. We loved being in each other’s company and had a lot of fun together especially on weekends after our long work weeks. Sometimes, on evenings when he taught, he’d surprise my son and I by popping over and joining us for dinner or just hanging out for a bit before heading home to his apartment on W. 71st St. in Manhattan. I love good surprises…he did not,oh but then, I do digress.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Around the two-year mark, I felt that I wasn’t sure that a marriage would happen, as complacency had set in and we didn’t seem to be moving forward,but just running in place.
I was a bit frustrated and decided to confide in a close male friend about my dilemma. Ironically enough, my dear friend was in the same predicament, dating someone who wanted to get married, and because of his own personal history, he was not sure whether or not he was ready to move forward yet either.
I remember the day that I went to meet him at his office;it was a raining cats and dogs and I was feeling as forlorn as the weather. I sat down and I shared with him what was on my mind. He said that he had met Chuck on several occasions and he really liked him a lot. My friend then asked me how I felt about him. I told him I was in love. He then advised me to “put the pressure on”. I told my friend I didn’t know how to do that very well, and he stunned me by saying that he had observed me over the years in various professional situations and felt that when I wanted something, I was able to strongly advocate for my myself quite well. So, he concluded, he felt confident that I could do the same thing in my personal relationship. I told him I was afraid to do that and his response to me was, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I responded with, “Chuck would say that he did not want to get married.” My friend then said, “And don’t you need to know that?” Adding, “You are still young, you have your whole life ahead of you and why keep the blinders on? You should know what he really wants to do. Two years is long enough and you need to know so that you can meet someone else and go on with your life.”
My friend also said that he knew it would be painful for me if it ended up that Chuck really did not want to spend the rest of his life with me, but better to endure the pain now then to find out years from now. I could end up feeling that I’d wasted my time in a dead end relationship.
I left his office that day and decided to face the fear of losing Chuck or losing time. Wishing and hoping would not make things so and in order to move from A to B, I needed to take control of my own destiny and destination.
I took my dear friend’s advice that day and I began to nudge gently. A year after that conversation with my friend, Chuck and I were walking down the aisle of St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University, in New York City.

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The truth will set you free…….always

On the receiving line when my friend greeted the two of us after the ceremony he said,” I should have been in this wedding because I am responsible for the two of you getting married.” Chuck looked at me and whispered, “What did he mean by that?” I quickly answered, “Beats me!”

My friend helped me to take control of my situation. He laid everything in my lap and helped me to face the possibility of dealing with the pain of loss now as opposed to the pain of loss down the road, which would have had an even greater impact on my life. Facing that fear prevented me from wasting anymore time in a stagnant relationship. What I really needed was to have what I wanted and to not waste another moment that could turn into years of anguish and frustration and long suffering.

We must take the blinders off…………..

Facing our fears is something that many people have difficulty doing. It’s the reason we have so many addicted people, depression, violence, unhappiness and regret. The fear of not wanting to face reality or keeping the blinders on prevents one from dealing with whatever it is that prevents us from moving our lives forward toward what we really want for ourselves. We become stuck, hoping and wishing, or we numb our feelings. Thus, we continue dealing with the physical desires as opposed to the desires of our soul.

Wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’

Many people remain in relationships way past the time that they should hoping that in time things will go their way. Meanwhile, precious time is creeping by as they lose themselves in a dead-end situations instead of standing up to their fears and therefore standing up for themselves. We do not want to be rejected, we do not want to feel like failures, we do not want to be alone. In actuality, however, we really have a fear of the unknown.
By remaining a the situation out of fear, we not only give away our power, but  we will prevent our lives from moving and unfolding in a way that will benefit us the most.
At some point we must get rid of the fear and speak up on our own behalf. Whatever pain we undergo by facing the truth will never equal the devastation of remaining in a place too long or of suffering in silence. First you must identify what you really want and go for it.

As I’ve matured, I am no longer afraid to ask questions and  I face situations head on. I do not want to remain in the dark hoping for the best. One must stand in one’s truth and face the fact that not every situation may go your way, no matter how long or how much you wish it so. Facing the truth of a matter will set you free. You will be able to explore other career paths, other relationship options, other friendships that await. Once you’ve faced the situations that prevent you from having the life you really want you will be transformed and no longer transfixed.

Postscript: My friend eventually married his long time girlfriend.They lived happily creating a new and wonderful life together until he passed away a few years ago. Nothing is promised and time marches on, but there’s always time to make changes and choices that will move you toward your heart’s desire and your destiny.

 

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/jnjs5

 

Riding the Waves of Grief

 

A few years ago, I was sitting in a neighborhood nail salon getting a manicure. The front of the salon has a huge window which allows one to people watch with ease. When I get my nails done , I don’t want to move for fear of messing up my freshly painted nails, so I read or gaze out the window while I wait for my nails to dry.

As I sat watching the sunset on Columbus Avenue and as the late afternoon sun cast a burnished glow onto the street, people were hurrying past at the end of the workday, or walking leisurely, picking up school children, or running errands as the weekend approached. Because it was unusually warm for March that year, near 70 that day, there were more people than usual strolling or rushing by. I was lost in thought when suddenly I felt a lump in my throat out of the blue. Then, prompted by nothing in particular, I began to miss my husband. Now, it’s been a while since I’ve been overcome by  such feelings; in the initial months and years after his death, I would feel like that often. But this, this feeling really took me by surprise.There was just something about the late afternoon sun and the unusual warmth of the day that evoked a memory.

My husband and I taught in schools that were three blocks apart. In the mornings we often left for work together, walking to our jobs, my hand in his. I would leave him at his school’s corner as I continued on. Occasionally, after work, I would walk to his school, usually on a Friday, so we could go home together. We would walk together, running errands as we made our way up Columbus Avenue. During the Christmas season, generally on the last day before vacation, I would drop by his school and we’d come home together, generally lugging our work, gifts from the children or other items we wanted to keep secure until vacation was over. It always felt good, walking home with my husband Chuck, especially during the holidays, because it was generally cold and I felt especially close to him as we prepared to celebrate the season.

I read about so many people who struggle with the waves of grief and emotions that come unexpectedly as one initially grieves and also long after the acute pain has subsided. Sometimes prompted by a scent, or someone that reminds us of our lost loved one, sometimes the sight of a bird, a sound, or the whisper of the wind. When I’m in my church I will hear a particularly beautiful or poignant hymn, and for whatever reason it will conjure up wistful thoughts that appear and then go away.Often, when we finally feel we have a handle on our grief, even years later, something occurs that sparks a memory and we are overcome with feelings that we have not felt in a while.It can be a bit unnerving but, rest assured, this is all normal.

I was seven years in then, and although I have since moved on from years of grieving, I still have moments where I am propelled backwards in time, as some“thing” sparks an emotional response. Initially, when this occurred, I would feel a bit shaken, but now I’ve learned to just ride the wave, go with the flow. Eventually, for me, the tidal waves ceased and were replaced by small waves that once shook me up, but now wash over me like a warm familiar glow.This is a byproduct of the grief experience, the unexpected prompts that set in motion a swell of old feelings, thought buried and long gone.

We must not be hard on ourselves. We will have these little setbacks for an indeterminable amount of time, probably forever.Even as you move toward new relationships, should one choose, there will still be sparks, memories long buried, that have become a part of the fabric of who we are now. It doesn’t mean that one is still grieving, or that we don’t love who we love now, it’s just a reminder of an important part of your life experience, that is now and forever etched into your soul.Why does this happen? Because we  are human and we have loved and experienced loss.

Memories will come in like clouds, morphing and then disappearing. Try to imagine these memories as clouds, and instead of passing them by, grab hold, float along, let a cloud envelope you, feel the emotions and then let it go.

Life is like that, feelings…ebbing and flowing, as is grief which is a part of the human experience. As we move through our sorrow know that we should rise and fall with the ebb and flow, and then continue on to a new horizon.

After my nails were done, I walked onto the avenue feeling grateful for having had love from Chuck and for the memories etched in my soul, that still come and go.

 

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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