On Thursday it will be five years.

What an impossibly long time.
I’ve already passed the milestone of Nelson having been dead for as long as we were together. Then I passed the milestone of him being dead for longer than we were together. We had two years together. I’ve now had five of his absence.
Most of the time the pain has gone down to that of a bad toothache; you’ve never really unaware of it, but you can live with it as long as you accomodate it.
There’s no root canal for grief.

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Grief triggers…

 

Today, I encountered one.

It’s pretty easy to encounter them in my line of work, actually–plenty of situations where you might find them. So there was one. But it’s not just that. It’s this time of year.

This time of year, I can feel October approaching, like drums in my ears. Everything is rawer and closer to the surface. There’s no helping it. It just is.

I just have to ride the grief wave until it passes. Today’s little wave, and the season’s big wave. December, January will come, and I will breathe easier, but til then, everything hurts a little more. Everything is a little sharper. It can’t be helped. I don’t like it. But I can live with it.

You bear with must be borne until you discover that you’ve borne it.

 

Posted in CPE, fall, grief, grief season, grieving, loss, PTSD, seasons, unwedded widow, unwedded widowhood, widow, widowhood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

October is coming.

I know I’ve not posted for a while.

I thought that once I finished my internship, I’d have time to post to my blog. Well, no. I spent the summer scrambling to get a chaplain residency, which I was able to do. I spent the first part of the summer writing my application and sending it off and interviewing, and the second half securing my apartment and taking care of logistical details related to moving to a new city. It was an exhausting summer.

My new city of [X] is further south than my former city of [Y]. Everyone says “ya’ll” here and iced tea is very easy to find. I haven’t quite settled in yet, though. I don’t really have a community of friends like I did back home, either in Y or where I went to seminary, further north.

I’m at week three of my new job and we are still technically in orientation, but we are now doing clinical work on our units. I’m busy, busy, busy, but I’m enjoying it. I like the human connection of listening to patients and staff and praying for them if they want prayer. A lot of the time, they tell me what their real issue is when I ask them what they want prayer for. Of course, if they don’t want prayer, I have to hope I’ve covered my bases adequately with active listening. I’m very much still learning.

October is coming. October 3rd was our anniversary. This will be our third anniversary since his death. We only had two years as a couple. It’s like a drum beat in my ears, the approach of the anniversaries. First our anniversary of dating, October 3rd, then November 6th, the anniversary of his death. The third anniversary of his death. Again, we only had two years together. Two years and one month.

I find myself missing him more than usual this time of year. It pulls at me like a tidal pull. Hard to believe he’s been dead longer than I ever knew him. Hard to believe. There are some people whose impact on your life is disproportionate, like a perfectly clear stream disturbed by a smooth pebble, where the ripples go on and on and on. Infinite ripples.

only three years

already three years

an eternity in three years

impossible

I miss him. I go on, I live my life, I have, at last, found meaningful work and am living in my own place, but that tidal pull of missing is not alleviated by any of it. It simply…continues.

Thaes oferaode, thisses swa maeg.

 

Posted in CPE, grief, hospital chaplaincy, labels, loss, seasons, unwedded widow, unwedded widowhood, widow, widowhood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life at the hospital

I am just about to finish a nine-month hospital chaplaincy internship at a major urban hospital.

This has been the main reason why my posts have fallen off so sharply.

It’s one thing to be processing one’s own grief and PTSD from sudden loss, and another thing entirely to be helping other people manage theirs. Both these things were at play and overloaded my circuits.

There’s compassion fatigue, and then there’s plain old PTSD. I’ve seen things I’d have rather not seen. The hospital’s ER was like a war zone. Stabbing victims, gunshot wound victims (which I came to know by the abbreviation GSW), people who had been in motor vehicle accidents (MVAs)…Burn victims who made the entire ER area smell charred…Fall victims who had severe head injuries. After a while I could tell who was and wasn’t going to make it. If they were shouting bloody murder, I was relieved. It meant that one wasn’t going to die that night, thank God. I saw countless intubations, on-the-spot surgeries, blood on the floor…The cleaning people had a busy job in the trauma unit of the ER. I watched and I prayed. I felt drained by it all.

I would watch them come in and die in front of me, and then later, I would be called to accompany the doctor(s), possibly a nurse or two, and police staff to the death notification. I started doing this in June (for my first unit) and never have I gotten used to death notifications. It tears my heart out every time. The keen, intense nature of fresh grief would pull me back into flashback mode and I’d have to fight my way out of it. And then I’d find myself carrying their sorrow afterward, after I’d left them, into the light of morning, into the next day. Even now I have only to close my eyes and I can still see case after case…

I would be called to Code Blues, invariably in the middle of the night. I have observed CPR now so many times, I know how it goes. It is nothing like TV. They pound on the chest, they inject chemicals; if there are electrical charges they are like stickers that attach to the chest. The old-fashioned kind they like on TV are no longer used–but TV is not big on verisimilitude when it comes to medicine, I have found.

Even if the person was revived by the Code Blue, they were not necessarily out of the woods. More than once I would be summoned for a Code Blue only to be summoned later for a death call–the family had decided to ‘pull the plug.’ But nine times out of ten, CPR does not revive the patient. They all work really hard, sometimes for the better part of an hour, and the person does not respond. Sometimes I have gotten there just after a code has been called and that person is simply the wrong color…that is never a good sign.

By ‘death call’ I mean a call in which the person was either dying or had already died. They constituted the majority of my calls when I was on call.

As far as ‘pulling the plug,’ I have come to hate that term. The very first death I ever saw at the hospital–way back last June–was a lady who died on the ventilator. The staff had to inform her family that her chest moving up and down was because of the machine, not because she was alive. I was horrified. I had three death calls that night–my second night on call ever–and the last one, when they took that poor man off all the machinery and let him die in peace, it was a relief. He just sighed and departed. Ventilators don’t stop people from dying. They might slow it down a little and make it more uncomfortable. The same goes for all those other machines. They might slow it, but they won’t stop it if the elevator is going to the top floor…

I saw people who had died of cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, stroke…all kinds of things. I saw so many people in that hospital, mostly African-American, in their fifties who looked to be in their seventies, ill with kidney failure, heart disease, and diabetes. It’s an epidemic. I wonder why there isn’t more news coverage of this. Honestly, it’s an outrage.

It is one thing, hearing about shooting deaths on the news, or hearing about some tragedy or other in the news, and another thing entirely to be the point person for that crisis. When it’s on you…And when I was on call, it was all on me. Nobody else. I was the spiritual care/emotional care person for the hospital. Having a crisis? Need a hug? Need a prayer? That’s me.

Or at least, it has been, since last June, when I started my first unit. My second CPE (clinical pastoral education) unit ends tomorrow. I have two units to go. I’m not sure when I’m going to tackle them. I want to deal with some of this PTSD first. The flashbacks. I still jump every time I hear an ambulance go by or hear a pager go off. I have to remind myself that the pager isn’t for me, that I’m not on duty. That trauma code? That’s not for me.

I haven’t gotten an entire week’s sleep, uninterrupted, without a night of on-call to disrupt it, in nearly a year. I vaguely remember what that was like. I would kind of like to rediscover it.

Posted in CPE, grief, PTSD | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Thanks for following the breadcrumbs…

…I’m sure we’ll have some fun here on WordPress.

Or at least some good times.

Or at least some times.

Ok. One thing is certain: Blogging shall occur, here, on WordPress, by me. And hopefully it shall be enjoyed by all.

So say we all?

More to follow…after my on-call…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

coal and diamonds

I hope that
all this pressure
has a purpose.
If that ream of coal
were sentient
would it cry out
as it’s made into diamond?
Let this be for something.
Oh, let this be for something.
If I’m to be crushed–
and I am crushed–
I am utterly crushed,
I am brought very low–
Let it turn me into diamond.
But oh, how it hurts.
Let it turn me into diamond.
Amen.

written Friday, May 21, 2010
originally published to http://alphabetaparkinglot.blogspot.com/2010/05/coal-and-diamondswritten-today.html


Posted in grief poem, grief poem I wrote, grieving, prayer, unwedded widowhood | 2 Comments

I thought I knew you; what did I know?

I’m looking through you
Where did you go?
I thought I knew you
What did I know?
You don’t look different
But you have changed
I’m looking through you
You’re not the same

Your lips are moving
I cannot hear
Your voice is soothing
But the words aren’t clear
You don’t sound different
I’ve learned the game
I’m looking through you
You’re not the same

Why, tell me why
Did you not treat me right?
Love has a nasty habit
Of disappearing overnight

You’re thinking of me
The same old way
You were above me
But not today
The only difference
Is you’re down there
I’m looking through you
And you’re nowhere

Why, tell me why
Did you not treat me right?
Love has a nasty habit
Of disappearing overnight

I’m looking through you
Where did you go?
I thought I knew you
What did I know?
You don’t look different
But you have changed
I’m looking through you
You’re not the same

Two years ago, a week after the funeral, I lost my best friend.
I’m trying to write about this. I still can’t get myself to do it. To write about the whole scope of our relationship. How long was it? 20 years?
She had already stopped speaking to me over something else, before that. I had hurt her feelings inadvertenantly. She told me this when I finally spoke to her the week after the funeral when she basically told me she didn’t want to be friends anymore. She could not handle my problems on top of hers, she said.

And I had just buried Nelson. Grief on grief? Yes. The two were so intertwined, then.

I only write about it now because it has been two years since I have last spoken to her and I have finally reached the point where I can say there is nothing left of that friendship to salvage. At one point I still had hopes, somewhere deep down. But I have to admit, now, if I saw her, what would I say to her? After two years? The two worst of my life? The anger has given way to a dull numbness. I would say hello, how are you, how are things. But we would not be friends again. Some broken things cannot be healed again. Not even the warm nostalgia of twenty years can mend this kind of silence.

There’s so much I’m leaving out of this account still. This is as much as I can bear to write, now.

It’s as much as I can do to admit that it’s gone and won’t come back. That she’s gone and won’t be my friend anymore. It hurts bitterly. Even after two years. Two and a half.

Posted in friends, grief, grieving, loss, loss of friends, reflection, rejection, sadness | 2 Comments

Thaes oferaode, thisses swa maeg–That was overcome, this also may…

My dear readers, I apologise for not writing.

It has been an awful, horrible, no good, very bad fall. I’m so glad it’s over with. Every time I was about to write something, it seemed I had another assignment due for my internship. Actually I have another assignment due for my internship tomorrow, but I’m tired of shirking this blog. I keep composing posts in my head, I might as well publish one.

Allie Brosh at her brilliant blog Hyperbole and a Half has an excellent explanation for at least half of the reason I’ve been feeling so terrible (and has also greatly contributed to my lack of posting). Yes, that post is titled “Adventures in Depression.” But this fall/winter has been more than just depression. It’s been a strange mix of depression plus grief plus some other stuff I really don’t want to get into on the blog. Just a whole festival of emotional stuff.

It’s been a country music song worth of stuff. It was grief season…the year of seconds. The second year since he was alive for our anniversary, October 3rd. The second year since his death, November 6th. Between those dates, my elderly dog, who had been ailing for quite some time with a painful rectal tumor (probably cancerous) stopped responding to her painkillers and meds and had to be put to sleep. She was 14 years old, which is a good run for a dog her size (medium-sized), but she was dearly loved, and I didn’t want to see her go. I think I would have taken her death a bit easier if Nelson were still living.

Then, the same weekend that Nelson died, my grandmother was rushed to the hospital with two life-threatening conditions–fluid around her heart and blood clots in her lungs. This was on a Friday. I know Nelson’s death was officially on Saturday, but it felt like Friday since I was still up…I think it must have been around the cusp of midnight. I still wish I knew the hour of his death. Not that it matters, matters, but I wish I knew. I wish I could find out. Anyway. This is why finding out on Friday, so close to midnight, and then contacting people (relatives) to tell them about it around midnight, was such a trigger for me. I was so convinced she was going to die. My mom and aunt went down to SC to see her at the hospital the next day. It was very scary. I have seen enough old folks in the hospital in similar conditions doing poorly or dying in intensive care to totally hit the panic button. Hospitals aren’t magic. They do all they can to help people, but there are limits to what they can do. Plus, if someone you love dies, you don’t take these things for granted anymore. And my grandmother is 87, and frail.

She was in the hospital for a week. My mother and aunt (her twin) arranged meals on wheels, and then arranged visits for my grandparents for the three-week period that they won’t have help. (My other aunt who had moved to SC to help them out was going to visit her children and grandchildren for the holidays.) One week was my aunt (my mom’s twin) and uncle, the next week was me and my mom, and the week after was yet another aunt, her husband, my cousin, and my cousin’s kid.

I celebrated the holidays by getting sick as a dog. It started with a cold. I remember when it started. It was an on-call shift when I couldn’t stop sneezing. Then it settled in my nose and turned into sinusitis. Naturally, the doctor prescribed the wrong antibiotic on the first go-round, so back to the doctor I went (after the trip to SC, at which point I had picked up another infection to boot). Those antibiotics worked on bug #2 but not on the first one. Long story short, I was sick for two months–December and January. Still sick now, actually–still on antibiotics. Tired of ’em, but glad they’re working.

How have I felt? Like something left under your shoe. Or something crushed under earthmoving equipment. Or like Sisyphus? Struggle. Pain. Darkness. I finally understand why the old hands at grief call it “The Grief Monster.” But you can’t really beat it back with a stick. You have to learn to live with it somehow, come to terms with it. Something. Tame it. Turn it into your pet? Ha.

And I feel like I’ve been told so many times, “Nobody wants to hear it,” I hesitate to say it anymore. I hesitate to write it.

I’m at the point where I’m thinking about thinking about dating…the eHarmony ads no longer seem like a personal affront, like a reminder of “Hey, remember how you found Nelson and then he died? Ha ha! Doesn’t your life suck?” It’s more like, “Oh yeah, I was going to set up a profile again. I need to get a new picture. All my good ones are pretty old.” And the Valentine’s Day ads, although annoying, no longer make me want to throw a brick (or a hand grenade) through my television set. Maybe a whiffle ball. I still hate them. And ‘Singles and Widows Awareness Day,’ which is what Valentine’s Day ought to be called, frankly.

So, progress…

The world keeps turning. People I know, friends, fellow bloggers, keep getting engaged, getting married, getting on with their lives. I hear about that and feel…partly jealous, partly numb, partly, “oh yeah, time to do something in that department, yeah, on the list….” I need to find a place after my internship. I’m working on that. I don’t think I have enough brain cells to spare on that and romance. Excuses, excuses? Maybe. I’m calling it widow brain, mixed in with some ADD and exhaustion.

My internship. Can’t really talk about it here. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to talk about it later. Just not now.

I leave you with the classic R.E.M. single “Everybody Hurts.” (R.E.M. is my favorite band, you know. Did they have to break up this fall? Seriously! When it rains it pours!)

Posted in depression, Everybody Hurts, fall, grief, grief season, grieving, R.E.M., sadness | Leave a comment

Punchy Tips for Great Unsolicited Advice

This post was originally posted on my old blog on May 31, 2010. I still need to post something reflective about my CPE experience, but it’s still in the process of ending, so I’ll write about it once it’s fully wrapped up. Til then, I hope you enjoy this blast from the recent past!

Hey kids! My tens of readers know by now that I’m going through what I’m starting to call The Whole Grief Thing. I may just start abbreviating it as TWGT just like the kids in Prince Caspian started calling their dwarf companion Our Dear Little Friend, which became DLF, and then they forgot what it had stood for…But I digress. But I digress because this whole post is a digression, sorta…

The wonderful and inimitible Supa Freshwidow posed this question on Facebook:

NEWS FLASH: Some widowed people are “difficult!” — Is it hard to deal with a grieving person? Do we have ridiculous standards, are we needy friends, and subject to mood swings? Are you more or less of a pain in the @$ since your loss? Is that going to change, d’you think?

One of the responses to the question dealt with the issue of how annoying it is as a widowed person to get unsolicited advice. It being the wee hours of the morning (hello insomnia, my old friend), and I being a bit punchy, started coming up with ridiculous pieces of advice that could be offered. Because in some ways, a lot of the advice that one gets in this situation (no matter how sensible it may seem) often comes across just as ridiculous as some of the silliness I’m about to share.

On a more serious note, before I launch into The Silly, I think people are driven to offer advice because they are discomfited by their friend’s sorrow/pain, and want to Fix It. Sometimes this is driven by concern for their friend, sometimes this is driven by the desire to make the friend’s pain go away so they can stop worrying about their grievng friend…They’re ok? Ok, I can stop worrying now and all’s right with the world…To have someone suffering on and on and on can feel something like a bystander watching the horrible BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill…you want to make it stop, but you don’t know how, and you don’t have any power over what gets done. And that can be enormously frustrating.

I think people genuinely do want to help (for the most part), and whatever bits of advice they can think of, they throw your way, just in case it will help. Often, unfortunately, it has the opposite effect of what is intended (Cf: Law of Unintended Consequences). For the most part, people genuinely mean well, but hit a wrong note hard enough, and oh it is ouchy…Of course the whole “I’m going to avoid you because I’m at a total loss as to what to say” approach doesn’t help so much either…

Therefore, in the full spirit of Punchy Tongue-in-Cheek silliness, let me present
*drum roll please*:

Unsolicited Advice Gone Wild!
Cause if it’s gonna be useless, it might as well be funny!

1. Paint your house. Every week! Start with fuschia. You can accessorize with turquoise trim! Your homeowner’s association will thank you!

2. Join the French Foreign Legion. Because, well, why not?
3. Go on a round the world trip, visiting only cities and countries starting with the letter ‘E.’ Ekaterinburg, Estonia, and Ecuador, anyone?
4. Show your love for your dearly departed by cutting your hair very short and then shaving all your hair except that which spells out his or her name. Then dye it blue, because you are blue. You can declare your grief to the world and be hipster and avant garde too!
5. Tattoo his or her name on your forehead.
6. Start wearing your dearly departed’s clothes, become a street person, and build a church brick by brick every night. Oh wait, that’s already been done. (Cf: St. Ksenia of St Petersburg)
7. Take up llama farming. Or alpacas. Lovely wool! Plus, they spit. What more could you want?
8. Make sure that you live in a yurt while doing your llama farming. 
9. Move to the northernmost part of Alaska and live out of an igloo in the winter and a sod house in summer. Insist on being called “Bubba.” Even if you are female. 
10. Play the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach with a kazoo. 
11. Found a kazoo symphony in order to pull off item 10.
12. Eat only your loved one’s favorite foods. Especially if they were, say, friend liver and lima beans.** The nastier the better, in fact. As a bonus, you get to guilt trip over it if you don’t!
That’s all I can think of at the moment…Please help me out and suggest more!

Thank you, my tens of readers! :)

**This was not part of the original post, but it may be clear to the reader that I hate both lima beans and fried liver. I should include lentils in there for a nasty food trifecta.

Posted in advice, DGI, grief, grieving, kazoos, silliness | 1 Comment

CPE, CPE, CPE, is there anything else? Oh yeah, CPE…

So it looks like I missed the big Camp Widow contest……Win a scholarship to Camp Widow, yada yada yada…Yes, I missed it. I have been running myself ragged and am plumb wore out. Let’s say, in theory, I’d won…I’d still have had to scare up airfare out of thin air. And expenses. And hotel fees, assuming a friend didn’t let me crash on their sofa for the weekend…only to return to another two weeks of insanely intense CPE. I said uncle. Next year, I hope…

That’s assuming I’m not scheduled for an on-call shift that weekend. I can’t remember. I’m only keeping track one week ahead. This week, I had Tuesday night. That was Tuesday all day at the hospital, then all night, then into the next day. I was there til 4 pm the next day. That is a long time.

The trouble with CPE is that, what with HIPAA and privacy and everything else, I’m not sure what I’m allowed to share. Suffice it to say that three people died on my on-call shift last Sunday night, and I spent time with a dying man and his family last week. I’m spending time in the borderlands…No, it’s not all people dying, but last week definitely marked a mental boundary shift in my mind. Just like with Nelson’s death, there’s the Time Before and the Time After.

I hear that you can get a job doing chaplaincy work in hospice with only the first unit of CPE. Part of me finds that idea appealing. But is my job right now a major PTSD trigger? Um, yeah, and I had it beforehand. I need to do something about that so I can do something for others. Because doing this just reinforces that I want to do this. This resonates with me. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment…or maybe I’ve found my charism, as my priest puts it….

Posted in CPE, hospital chaplaincy, reflection | 2 Comments

May is among the cruelest months.

November is the cruelest month. (Sorry, T.S. Eliot…November, not April.) That was when Nelson died. This is the month of the six-month sadiversary…this year, it’s a year and six months. Everything is counted by that. Everything.

May is a heavy month. My aunt died in May, 20 years ago, a week before my 16 birthday. It’s another sadiversary, many more years removed than Nelson’s, but it still reberverates across the decades. It leaves echoes.

It’s now been two years since I graduated from seminary. Two years ago, I graduated, and was radiantly happy. Then I moved back to my home state, away from my beloved, because there were more jobs there. I never would have done that if I knew he were going to die…or were in any danger of dying whatsoever. And yet he was. His heart was about to give out, and I left NY, and him, thinking it would only be a temporary separation, not knowing that our temporary separation was going to turn into a permanent one.

And now I’m afraid of long-distance relationships, because in my mind, the two things are somehow connected…A friend of mine had a long-distance relationship with someone in another country and it honestly petrified me on some level. Long-distance means they’ll die! Of course, rationally, I know it doesn’t. Tell that to my simmering subconscious.

Two years ago, I graduated. A year and a half ago, the world ended. My internship is coming up, but so is the second anniversary of that awful summer, the last summer we had together, in which we had hardly any time in each other’s presence, in which I had migraines lasting weeks at a time, and he had a kidney stone. And I couldn’t drive up there to help him because I was immobilized with a migraine. I look back, and I wonder why it took me so long to finally seek medical attention for the migraines. It wasn’t until I got a prescription drug that they finally went away. Recently I read that migraines lasting over 72 hours put you at risk of a stroke. No wonder the attending physician recommended a CT scan. I never got one…

I still have to remind myself that it’s not my fault that he died, but I still wish–with all my heart I still wish–that I had spent that summer with him, not with my parents and the shitty job and the migraines in Virginia.

And today…Today is my birthday. Never mind which one. I feel like I’ve aged a thousand years since Nelson died, and yet the world around me’s hardly changed at all. Happy birthday to me?

Sometimes it’s hard to write to this blog because I spend so much time trying to keep afloat, keep going, not think about it too much lest it overwhelm me…and sometimes there are just no words for it, just a feeling of sadness, emptiness, and loneliness, and everything else.

Or there’ll be a crisis, like I had last week–well, not a crisis-crisis, just something I needed to vent about really a whole lot to someone I trusted implicitly. That list has gotten pretty damn short since Nelson died. He would have been my automatic go-to person. I would have told him, we would have agreed on what a travesty the thing I got upset about was, and I would have gotten it out of my system. I eventually found someone to confide in, but it wasn’t the same. It just isn’t the same. It’s never the same anymore.

“Here and now/ Will we ever be again?/ For I have found/ All that shimmers in this world is sure to fade/ Away/ Again”

Posted in grief, grieving, reflection, seasons, T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land", unwedded widow, unwedded widowhood, widowhood | 3 Comments

Good news! Summer internship! Yay!

I have neglected my poor blog, and you, dear readers. But there was a reason for it, and the reason was good. The reason was that I was BUSY. Really busy. Busier than I’ve been since Nelson died and I lost my job and all that other stuff went down. And I’d think of blogging, but I’d be too busy freaking out about my to-do list.

I did my taxes, which is good, because the government doesn’t like it if you don’t. Also: tax return. Me likey. But the bigger thing I did was finally send out my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) applications. Clinical Pastoral Education is hospital chaplaincy training. A week after sending the first one (the one which had no application fee), I got a call from [that hospital] CPE supervisor saying they were all full up for the summer, but she could save me a spot for the fall extended unit. I said that would be great! She also told me who else was still accepting applications in the area, so I sent the rest of my applications off that day. Before the week was out, I had heard from 2 of them saying they wanted me to interview. Also, I heard from the first hospital–she called and told me that a spot had opened up for the summer unit, would I like to come interview?

Long story short, I had three interviews–one on Monday, one on Friday, and the last one was the following Monday. The last interview was also the first place I had heard from. I ended up deciding on the place I interviewed with on Friday–since all three of them offered me places!

So, after telling the hospital I decided on (henceforth “Hospital”) that I would be going with them, and sending them my deposit check, I had to fill out this online application. It took three days. That was the last week of Lent. (Holy Week is technically its own thing.) I hit “Send.” It told me that my session had expired. I had no available brain cells left for it at that point, so after cursing at my computer and the internet a bit, I decided to give it a break.

The next day was Lazarus Saturday. I had choir practice, Divine Liturgy, then choir practice again. Then I ran to my other church (the church where I have my grief support group) to try to help out with the Pascha bread baking. Only by the time me and my friend got there (I brought my friend, who needs some kind of internet nickname for blogging purposes…suggestions welcome), all the bread had been baked, but I could still help with the glazing and the sugaring. The bread gets glazed, sugared, then popped back in the oven for a minute or two. Bulgarian Pascha Bread…it’s heavenly. Anyhoo, then I had confession, and I was going to try to talk to Father about something, but he had no time that day (go figure–everybody and their uncle had confession that day, I think). But somebody was having a pysanky workshop. Pysanky are Russian/Ukrainian decorated Easter eggs–you use a stylus and hot beeswax to make the designs. I’ve always wanted to learn how it was done. So I finally got my chance! :) Then it was time for vespers–well, actually, it was vigil, since it was the eve of Palm Sunday. I went up and sang, which was probably imprudent, since I’d sung so much that morning, and my voice had gotten froggy. After the service I got some palms and pussy willows to take home (pussy willows are a Russian/Eastern European tradition for Palm Sunday, since there are no palms that far north).

I will spare you a detailed description of Holy Week, which was last week. Suffice it to say: there was church. There was lots and lots of church. Churchy goodness. I do like church. I sang a great deal. I’m out of singing-every-day condition these days, but I had a great time. By the end of the Pascha (Easter) service, which ended around 2:30 am (or was it 3? who’s counting at that point? not me!), my voice was croaking.

We call this week Bright Week. Today is Bright Tuesday. Very apt, since it’s about 85 degrees, and sunny. Today I went back to the Hospital because I had to report to Occupational Health. I had to bring my immunization records, of which I have plenty. Although they keep coming out with new vaccines that I have not been vaccinated with, like pneumonococcal somethingorother and so forth. Should I get those? Eh, who knows. One thing’s for sure, I’m not going to work at the hospital without getting a flu shot first.

But today. Today I had a TB test called a PPD. I have to come back on Thursday. Then I get the PPD read, and I also get something called a Fit test, and honestly, I’m really not sure what that is. I’m going to Google it. Next week, I have to come back on Tuesday, and get another PPD, and then come back again next Thursday and have that read. Then, I understand, I will get some manner of form clearing me to attend an orientation session. Only after the orientation session will I get another form saying I have cleared Occupational Health and am A-OK to work at the Hospital. It’s all a gigantic pain in the tuchus, but whatever I have to do, right? I wish I could just get it all done in one day, though. Or two days next to each other. It’s like, gimme my rubber stamp! Oy…I understand why they do this, of course. It’s just, lemme get it over with.

Which is pretty much how I feel about another friend of mine’s upcoming wedding, which I shall attend, and at which I shall sing. I will sing, and concentrate on the lyrics, and the choir director, and not on the gigantic ouch, which I am sure I will think about anyway. Then I will congratulate the bride and groom, say hello to a few people, and flee. Luckily my grief group is meeting that very same afternoon. I hope I will not miss the whole thing due to the wedding, which I am glad will soon be over with, since I am sick of hearing about it. I’m happy for you, ok, buddy? Ca you find another topic to talk about? Please? Sometimes? Occasionally? Ever? (This friend is male, btw. Let’s call him Chandler. Yes, like from “Friends.” He’s a little bit like that Chandler, too.)

My emotions have been up! and down. And then up again! and down again. Ooh, such a roller coaster ride, except without the fun.

But at least life in general is moving in a forwards direction…

Posted in CPE, grief, grief group, hospital chaplaincy, ouch, yay | 4 Comments

Finally feeling better–at last!

It certainly took long enough! Good grief!

Just an update to let ya’ll know how I am. Better. Much better. And when I compare me now to me last year, I can’t believe how much better I’m doing and how much better I’m feeling. My brain no longer feels like it’s been hit with a shovel. Try it sometime. That will replicate just part of the feeling. That, and dropping without warning into a deep chasm…just walking along, doot doo doo, la la la, shovel, chasm. Or was it chasm, shovel? I think it was more like chasm, shovel. Started to collect myself and CLANG!!!

My point. My point? My point is, don’t try this at home, kids. I really could have used some warning on this whole grief thing. Even a day to brace myself, I think, would have helped the whole cognitive dissonance/generalized WTF?!?!? sensation. I’m trying to describe it from a year and four months later. For some reason it’s gotten harder to keep count. I’ve never been good at counting. Or math. I have downright dyscalculia (like dyslexia, but for math), frankly, and I’d get it officially diagnosed if I had the grand it would take to do so. Always have, but the whole mental rescrambling that grief has done to my brain hasn’t exactly helped.

Life in general. It’s better. I am actually feeling motivated to–get this!–wear lip gloss. OMG. What a step. A year ago any form of makeup, even lip gloss (at least of any color) seemed like a complete waste of time. Getting ogled at the beach actually annoyed me. No, not just annoyed. It made me mad. It made me mad that it wasn’t Nelson to look that way at me, and that he wouldn’t be there to look that way at me any more, and these random guys were a poor substitute.

Right now? I think I’d be more like, eh, who cares. So that’s progress of a sort. I suppose.

I also wore an actual bracelet to church. A fancy silver cuff, from India, which I bought back in the ’90s when both silver and gold were cheaper and when I had actual money (ah….money….for incidental expenses!). I’ve pondered doing such things before but this was the first time I felt motivated enough to actually act on it. I think that means something. I don’t know what.

Also, unlike last year, I can contemplate dating a guy who isn’t Nelson without feeling nauseated. Yes, last year (the first year) I would literally feel sick to my stomach at the thought of dating another guy. Now…I can at least ponder the idea. The thought of acting on it still feels like too much work. I have too much else to do right now. I need to get a job. I need to get my hospital chaplaincy training (CPE) application in. I need to get the other aspects of my life restarted. I need to take care of me before I start thinking about being with somebody else. It just seems like good emotional housekeeping. 

I’m not judging anybody who does/did it a different way. We’re all in more or less the same boat, but we didn’t all come from the same starting point, and things pan out slightly (sometimes very) different for everybody depending on all kinds of things. So I’m not being judgy. I’m just saying this is where I am right now. I’m just trying to take this thing one day at a time. I pretty much went “Splat!” I’m rebuilding. That’s how it is.

I’m going to close by telling you one cool and very healing thing I’ve been doing this week, and that’s going to the church services for the beginning of Great Lent. In the Orthodox Church, Great Lent (as opposed to Christmas Lent/Advent) starts on Monday, not Wednesday, and the whole first week of Lent is called Clean Week. Clean Monday, Clean Tuesday, etc. From Clean Monday through Clean Thursday, we celebrate a service that includes a wonderful hymn called the Canon of St Andrew of Crete. It’s a hymn of repentence that includes scriptural examples from both the Old and New Testaments. It’s really amazing how much scripture it covers. (I’m a church nerd, I like this stuff.) It’s called Clean Week because Lent is kind of the Spring Cleaning of the soul. I like that idea. :)

The main hymn of the service was one that was going through my head a lot after Nelson died. I mean, it was going through my head pretty much constantly. And I never got to sing it last year–I missed the services since I was too much of a space cadet to figure out that they were having them in my area.

But this year, I’ve been going to the services and singing with the choir every night, and this hymn has been giving me chills every time. Every time. I love it! It goes like this:

My soul, my soul, arise!  Why are you sleeping?  The end is drawing near, and you will be confounded.  Awake, then, and, be watchful, that Christ our God may spare you, Who is everywhere present and fills all things.

I will close with the main refrain of the Canon, which is sung after every verse. Really, it is at the heart of Orthodox Christianity.

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.

If I have offended any of you, or given you any hurt, please forgive me.

Posted in grief, grieving, illness | 8 Comments

It’s been a rough month.

Really, really rough.

I’m on my fourth round of antibiotics. Two of them this time, twice daily. To go all month. Still on them.

And just at the point that I was starting to feel a little better, I caught my younger nephew’s cold/stomach virus. I’ve been dizzy and nauseated all week. Which has been making taking the antibiotics a challange. Heck, everything’s a challenge.

I applied for unemployment at the beginning of the month. Had to have a phone interview last week. Did I get it? I’ll find out via letter. Soon, I hope.

I need a job. I need to move out. Things have got to change. Maybe I can couchsurf somewhere. I have just got to find some breathing room. My parents keep ratcheting up the pressure. Which doesn’t help with the stomach virus and the kidney infection and, oh, by the way, the grief. But my folks think I should be over that by now….so they’ve said….

It’s been an FML kind of month, really. Mis.er.a.ble.

Happiness, schmappiness….I just want to get the hell out of Dodge and be able to pay my rent while doing so. OMG. Why must everything be so hard?

Posted in grief, grieving, illness | 4 Comments

Sick and tired of being sick and tired…

I am sick. I have been sick since the week after Thanksgiving. I got an infection that never really went away, and eventually turned into a kidney infection (acute pyelonephretis, for you Latin-lovers out there). If you’re wondering why I haven’t been posting much, that would be why.

On Wednesday, January 5th, I went to South Carolina with my mom and aunt, to visit relatives. This turned out to be a bad idea. I got worse, and there was nowhere to go but the local emergency room. In spite of my telling them that I had seen actual visible blood in my urine in the toilet the day before, nobody there even touched me. No doctor, no nurse, nobody. They just did a cursory look at the urine sample, gave me a ten-day course of Cipro, and sent me home to get worse.

After a miserable twelve-hour drive north (usually only ten, but twelve because of my being sick) last Thursday, I wound up seeing my regular doctor on Friday. She said I needed to go to the local ER to get a CaT scan to rule out appendicitis. I cried. I cussed. “F***!” I said. I cannot afford this. I cannot afford anything. I can’t even afford my regular prescriptions right now. It’s a good thing they don’t charge you for breathing…but wait, they sort of do, since I’m asthmatic. Damn.

At any rate, I was able to get some sort of poverty help thing at the hospital. I was poked, prodded, CaT scanned, and appendicitis was ruled out. Everything CaT-scannable in my innards checks out fine. So there’s that. They sent me home with a new, expensive antibiotic (thankfully, giving me the first dose while there!). They also gave me morphine, which was good, since all the prodding and poking only exacerbated the pain in said innards. And I am no pain wimp.

So, I saw my doctor again on Monday, my urine checks out ok–blood-free. She speculates I might have had a kidney stone. She tells me to finish the antibiotic, and if I’m still sick when it’s over with, to call her up for another appointment.

At this point it looks like the agony part of my sickness adventure is over with and I am down to the tired/wrung-out feeling part.

I’d like to rest for a million years. But I have to find a job and beat off my scary bills with a stick. I almost miss how I felt a year ago, when I was so much in agony over losing Nelson that I couldn’t really worry about practical things, at least not as much. Worry would nibble at me, but it wouldn’t grab. Now…well, it’s like worry has gone from goldfish to piranhas. I really preferred the goldfish.

And it’s not like the missing Nelson part has gone away, either. That’s still there. It’s there with the piranhas.

And here I was thinking 2011 was going to be a better year…I’ve gotten off to an epically bad start! Oy. Bozhe moi gospodi. Gospodi pomilui. Oh my God. Lord have mercy.

Posted in grief, grieving, illness | 14 Comments

So. Christmas. And New Year. Yeah.

It went ok.
The beginning of the month was hard. The beginning of the month is always hard. Because that’s when It Happened, you know. It’s the every-month-sadiversary. I do not like it.
And it seems like I spent the rest of the month furiously knitting Christmas presents–I knit three, first for my older nephew (who specified what colors he wanted in his yarn); then for my younger nephew (rainbow yarn); then for my brother (dark brown yarn and light brown yarn). I was going to make jewelry, but when the time came, I found myself staring at my jewelry-making stash, saying, “…I used to know how to do this, I need to get my memory jogged, but there’s no time!” Nothing like that mental-blank-just-when-you-need-to-get-something-done-right-now feeling. Baking also happened. Cookies. There were several days of cookie-baking.
The beauty of the knitting and the cookie-baking was that I was so preoccupied with getting ready for Christmas that it occupied a great deal of my mental space. Christmas itself was celebrated by my family on Christmas Eve, at my aunt’s house, and the day after Christmas, at my family’s house. We had my brother and his family over (my awesome sister-in-law, and both my nephews); plus my aunt and uncle, their three adult children, and two cousins-in-law. It was fairly awesome. I would have found it hard to deal with last year.
The post-Christmas let-down, though. Wow. It’s been like a hangover. Blargh.
And then there was the scary letter from my student loan company, leading to two days of panic attack hell. I called them. I got a forbearance. I’m getting a loan mod. Things will be ok. For the next month at least.
I’m also freaking out about not having a job. And how am I going to pay for my meds (I’m hypothyroid and etc.). 
I’m tired of feeling like Wile E. Coyote. Enough with the anvils!

2010, I never liked you. Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

New Year’s. I’m going to a party. I’m a bit nervous. Last year’s party had a movie, with lovey-dovey couples. Very triggery. I’m a bit scairt. But I’m bringing board games. Board games aplenty! Pity everybody else is a teetotaler, I think New Year’s Eve would be easier to stand sloshed…It was always Our Special Day. Now it’s just a day. To get over with. Well, let’s get on with it then. Tally ho. Board games ahoy.

Posted in grieving, reflection, seasons, unwedded widow, unwedded widowhood, widow, widowhood | 5 Comments

I would like to thank the Academy…

…Har har har. In all seriousness, I would like to thank psychologydegree.net, a website devoted to promoting psychology programs, for recognizing my blog in its “2010 Top Widowhood Blog” award category. Most of the other award-winners were already on my blogroll; the ones that are not, I will be sure to add. If you click on the badge link to the right, or on the link with this post, you can see the full list of winners. This award is kind of a bright spot in a huge bummer of a year….for obvious reasons. I don’t think anybody sets out wanting to write a widowhood blog. I was a vanilla blogger, and I lost the love of my life, so I started this.

Thank you for reading my blog. I deeply appreciate it.

Posted in blog award, grieving, reflection, unwedded widow, unwedded widowhood, widow, widowhood | 2 Comments

One Year…

…as of last Saturday, November 6th. I was too full of grief that weekend to post. I went up to NY for the one-year memorial service. It was good. More on that later. It’s still too fresh now…

I hear that when one of the new Star Wars movies was bootlegged and dubbed into Chinese, they translated, “Nooooooo!” that someone said when a character died, into “Do not want.”

Yeah. I think that sums it up pretty well. Do not want. The whole shebang and ball of wax. Do Not Want. Waiter, this is not the life I ordered, may I send it back? Ugh…

…And now, for my second set of holidays without him. Do Not Want.

Posted in grief, grieving, reflection, seasons, unwedded widowhood, widow, widowhood | Leave a comment

Eleven months, and Sunday would have been our third anniversary

I look at the roses he gave me last year. I had just finished drying them. I only saved the rosebuds. I would have saved the roses entire if I’d known they were to be The Last Roses. They weren’t supposed to be. We were About To Be Engaged. Everything I hated about my life–living with my parents, my shitty job, allergies from hell–was endurable, because I knew that soon they would end and we would be married. I sound like a silly seventh grader. 2getha 4evah! No, not quite. I feared the other shoe dropping, but the other shoe that I feared was a breakup.

Sudden death? I’m afraid my cognitive therapy had worked too well. I told myself his symptoms could have been caused by any number of non-life-threatening conditions. Good God! If I knew then what I know now, I would have hit that panic button so hard…Would it have made any difference? Who knows? What I know about men is, you can’t make them do what they don’t want to do. And he did not like being nagged. I did not want to take on the role of His Other Mother. Oh no.

…And this is where I remind myself, once again, that it was Not My Fault. It was just Something That Happened, that was Tragic. It was not caught within the window that it could be prevented. There’s nothing that can be done about it now but let it go….

Posted in grief, grieving, reflection, seasons, unwedded widowhood, widowhood | 3 Comments

Light my way out of darkness

O Lord,
I am so lost  
Help me
Light my way out of darkness.  

O Lord,
You who are 
The light of the world,
Light my way out of darkness.  

O Lord,  
You who are  
A consuming fire  
Light my way out of darkness.  

O Lord,
You who led
Israel out of Egypt
with your pillar of fire and your pillar of cloud
Also light my way out of darkness.

Posted in desert, grief poem, grief poem I wrote, Israel in the desert, poem, poetry, prayer, reflection | Leave a comment