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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grief Unadorned

"Good grief!", (no pun intended) I can hear you saying. Is she going to ratchet on again about grief? Well, yeah so if you don't want to read this post, now would be a really, really good time to click on the delete/close key. Actually, Glenda wrote a post on Virtual Friends - Real Sisters and it started me thinking all over again. Just like deju vu...all over again except it's constant...about how people have responded to Dave's death and how I'm handling it, coping with it, dealing with it and, in two words, I'm not. At least, I'm not dealing coping handling how some think I should be coping dealing handling and, when I honestly respond to them they are seldom seen, never to be heard from again.
So, do you think it's the "honestly" part or the fact I respond at all? It surprises me that sometimes it hurts that some of  those folks have disappeared but I try not to waste too much thought and energy on them. That's in huge part because there's only so much energy and strength to go 'round and the more I give to away, the less I have for what really matters right now. Surviving. Animals. Farm work. Paperwork. Eating. Sleeping. me.
Some while ago, I was talking to someone about Patrick Swayze's wife and her book, Worth Fighting For: Love, Loss, and Moving Forward and this person said, "well, how tough could her grief have been? I mean, she's found time to write a couple of books about it; seems to me she's cashing in on her husband's death." I don't recall I said anything because I didn't know what to say but, last week I saw Lisa Niemi Swayze's book at the library and brought it home to read. Later, I stated doing i-net searches on her, her husband, grief and have found some interesting material.
One person berated Lisa for taking off her wedding ring and taking on her husband's last name. Apparently, Lisa and Patrick were married for more than three decades and she waited to take his last name after he died. Now, I don't know any of this for sure; it's just what I've read on the i-net and, too often, that's like rumors and opinions and y'alll know what's said about those.
Anyway, I think I understand why she took her husband's last name, now, months after he's died. They didn't have any children and the longer one is dead, the more people forget. That's one of the things that hurts so dreadfully; people forget. Even worse, they don't want to listen when, once again, someone brings up the name Patrick, Dave or you fill in the name of your loved one gone ahead.
About her book: it's helping me simply because she's so dang honest and honesty is something I appreciate even when I don't like it.
When Dave got sick, early days in treatment were terrible horrible difficult and sometimes I responded unkindly not so well. It made makes me furious Dave would do things that, deliberately, put him behind the eight ball and caused him to regress and not move forward. Yes, I realized it was Dave's decision, always, to do what he thought best wanted to do for himself but I hated when those decisions would put him in hospital, fighting for his life. I hated the fights we had when I didn't handle his crummy decisions with grace and kindness. I hated I loved him so much I despised his decisions that put him at even greater risk.
I hated when so-called friends couldn't handle cope deal with Dave's illness and used any excuse to stay away. One acquaintance thought we were close enough she could ask us for $6K loan. Mind, this woman is someone neither Dave nor I ever met and only knew through e-mails. When she found out we were not that close and two  months later when I told her Dave had cancer, she never responded. Yes, that's right...we've never heard from her again. So, was it not loaning her the $6K or Dave had cancer...hmmmmm... yet, her by-line is "love you. mean it." Seriously?
Another woman whom I've known for more than four decades wrote me a letter, making sure it arrived two or three days after Dave was buried, and said, "I'm now a liberal and we have nothing in common." WOW! Did she honestly think her political leanings weren't known or that we cared? For  Dave's sake, I still hate she was so lacking in basic human decency she couldn't didn't send Dave a card, e-mail or even pick up the stinkin' telephone while he was fighting for his life. And, yes, she did know because she referenced his illness in her letter to me. One favor she did, she let me know her friendship is conditional so neither of us have to waste any more time on the other. Thanks!
If you're a regular reader, you know I recently wrote this: "Dave would tell me, It's my job to protect and provide for you and my family." I'd reply, "And it's my job to take care of you."
In his fight with cancer, doctors, nurses, "friends" I became Dave's protector and would, sometimes quite fiercely, get between Dave and them. I would threaten, cajole, plead, beg and do whatever I had to do to protect Dave. It didn't matter what people thought of me as long as Dave was protected and shielded.
Now, he's dead, grief my constant companion and I am my own protector. People, again not friends and in some instances not even acquaintances but merely someone whom I've met, tell me how and when and why I should deal with grief, set it aside, get on with my life.
To quote Brenda Leigh Johnson, "Why thank yew. Thank yew so much." 
I've written before about the Stages of Grief and am finding out there is more insight into grief and the grieving process. Dr. Ursula Weide writes "Can Grief be Brief?" and knows first hand because her husband died at age 47. Dr. Weide is a Fellow in Thanatology and her writings have helped me are helping me understand I'm not losing my mind nor getting dementia. Traumatic bereavement is Very Real and, in my words, it takes as long as it takes. There's no magic pill, no amount of exercise, no amount of prayer that will put me on the other side until I get there. I can't predict the triggers that will render me impotent, on my belly on the kitchen floor, sobbing my heart out. I can only hope and pray those triggers continue to happen at home and not in public is what it is. Grief, my grief, isn't pretty; it's raw, a gaping, messy wound that rips naked emotion out of me and brings dark thoughts. Grief is physical: my muscles hurt and joints ache and I feel I age a decade every hour. I wrestle with life and, most days, it's a violent effort to stay upright much less move forward. I am in mortal combat.

Beloved, I continue to struggle.

Blessings ~ only 24 hours in a day ~


  1. Oh Sandra. Bless your heart (in all ways good....not the dismissal type of bless your heart...which I don't understand BTW,) My heart aches for you. I can't say I understand your grief....I've not had to experience it yet....but I understand that it has to be on YOUR timetable. Everyone is different. I know that I pray that you find your way easier, but the timetable is not defined. I think that most folks don't know how to deal with the honesty of grief. Everyone always wants to be of comfort and try to "fix it"....which is, of course, impossible. I think it stems from the social norm of just shallow responses to the question, "How are you doing?" Most really don't want to know. I hate that you are going through this but I also love that you unknowingly challenge think what the deep pain is, the paralysis that is apt to come at any time, the fact that there is no specific time limit. If any of us is marginally hopeful of spiritual growth, I hope we look at this with new willing to get down on the floor with you, feeling your pain of the pain of losing your closest friend on earth.

    I hope I have made some sense. I am not always able to articulate my feelings...and hurt folks' feelings instead of making folks feel that I am on "their side". I know I have told you before that I keep you in my thoughts and prayers....please know I MEAN IT. Wish I lived closer...

  2. Hi Sandra, Thank you for sharing from your heart in this post. As you know, I share your feelings on grief and also on "conditional" friends. I think of and pray for you often. I know the different seasons remind you of Dave ... you think to yourself, this time last year...
    Thankful for your friendship. God bless.

  3. Gosh Sandra, I am so sorry that you know people who put a time limit of grief. I have always thought I was weird that even though my Mom has been gone 43 years, I still grieve. The pain is gone that cuts like a knife, but still I grieve for all I never shared with her and I look more and more forward to seeing her again in heaven. I remember the morning after the death of my Dad when I looked in the mirror and said, I am a orphan. Then verses about God being the Father to the fatherless and to the widows and orphans.
    I don't think people stop coming around because of thoughtlessness, or I like to think of it that way, but more that they feel bad because they have no words. I think you have done very well in the circumstance that God has allowed you to walk through. I do not want to know this level of pain. I know that it is of course inevitable. But I read you and I ponder your words. I wish I could just come and sit and let you talk.
    I would like to stare at your mountains. I know I have said this before, but you really are doing good, you just can't see it. It really had been such a short amount of time, and grief well it takes as long as it takes. I read something Maggie Smith said, she said loosing her husband does not get easier and she wished people would quit saying that, it is hard every single day, it doesn't get easier, only different.
    I liked that.
    I will continue to pray for you.

  4. Hello Sandra:
    Honest emotion like honest food has always been something which we respect and applaud. From our first meeting, we felt that you were a person of immense integrity, determination and honesty. Your straightforwardness filled us with admiration, your principles inspired us and your unconditional love for your life partner were deeply touching.

    All we hope for you is that you continue to gain strength by expressing your thoughts, by being in the company of positive individuals and by having opportunities to laugh as well as cry. The days grow longer and we hope that rays of sunshine can find their way into your heart. We continue to keep you in our thoughts and prayers.

  5. Anonymous11:35 AM EDT

    I am sorry for your loss and ache in your heart.
    Here is something I found most helpful in trying to understand a great loss in my heart.
    : The day after we buried Hope,
    I understood for the first time why so many people choose to medicate their pain in so many harmful ways. That day I tried to sleep it away. And in the days that followed, I discovered that I could not sleep it away , shop it away, eat it away , drink it away, or travel it away.
    I just had to feel it. And it hurt. Physically.
    "I realized I had a choice- I could try to stuff the hurt away in a closet , pretend it wasn't there, and wish it would disappear, or I could bring it out into the open, expose it to the Light, prove it, accept it, and allow it to heal. I chose to face it head-on, trudge through it, feel its full weight and do my best to comforont my feelings of loss and hopelesness with the truth of God's Words at every turn....That's what Job did."
    "The world tells us to run from suffering, to avoid it at all costs, to cry out to heaven to take it away. Few of us would choose to suffer. Yet when we know that God has allowed suffering into our lives for a purpose, we can embrace it instead of running from it and we can see God in the mist of suffering."
    Truly what ones heart is feeling in now proof that you have LOVED!
    Take good care of you.

  6. I'm glad - for you, for me, for all of us - that you are writing about this, and I am awed by how articulate you can be when you are pretty much writing your very heart and soul.

    I'm also glad you have animals. Sometimes the routines of livestock and pets can be the only imperative structure in a difficult day, week, year. And the rewards are good for the heart.

    Wish I was close enough to come help with chores now and again.

  7. Oh dear my heart hurts for you. When you said: So, do you think it's the "honestly" part or the fact I respond at all? I think it's mostly because people are so afraid - afraid it will be them on the kitchen floor sobbing next - and they can't bear to think that (the "if I ignore it, it might go away" syndrome). Of course there are just thoughtless people out there too. Life affects all of us differently and YOU have to go through and do what is right for you. Know that you are loved and prayed for daily. Hugs!

  8. Sandra, I sit here with tear filled eyes ... how cruel these self-centered selfish thoughtless people are ... unfortunately, you are better without them.

    The most important part is that you & Dave loved to the depths of ones soul. You grieve how you feel best ... I know I would should Harold go before myself.
    I don't know that I could handle it as well as you are ...

    So terribly sorry you have endured such, my friend.

    Prayers for you ...
    Have a beautiful week ~
    TTFN ~
    Hugs & love,

    ~ GIVEAWAY ends 3/30 ~

  9. So far Sandra, I haven't suffered the kind of grief you are talking about. My parents died, yes, but they had reached the end of their lives and I accepted it as such. I think of them fondly, often. However, I have known great sadness in other ways and when I do, I find most comfort in being with an animal - stroking my cat or watching the birds soaring through the sky. It's things like that that bring me comfort, not sadly, people!
    I'm here listening to you as I often do and being a virtual shoulder to lean on. Take advantage of that if you can.

  10. Sandra, my heart and thoughts are with you, my friend. Forget about shallow-minded people, all of them. No one can tell you how to handle this horrible process. Only you and God know. I applaud you for writing this thoughtful, soul-bareing post. Every one of us, eventually, will face similar circumstances and perhaps your words will help them understand and heal. I love you, ladybug, just the way you are.

  11. Sandra . . .
    I read your words . . . and feel the horrendous grief I felt in my gut all over again . . . I rolled around on the floor, felt like my entire being was wretched, broken, destoyed and then there would be a brief moment of thinking, I think I am okay, and the roller coaster ride started all over again.

    I struggled with feeling avoided by people although now I think it was just because people didn't know what to say.

    I couldn't understand why no one said GARY'S name . . . I loved hearing it, still do and still talk about him, say his name, the whole ball of wax. . .

    I KNOW people are uncomfortable with honesty . . . And I am not going to stop being honest.

    Grief is real, . . . ebbs, flows, physical, mental, sensual . . . change of seasons, birthdays, anniversary's, weddings . . . lasts forever . . . although it changes too . . .

    You are in it . . . I wish you weren't . . . I wish I could help take the pain away . . . even though in my saying, I know I can't take the pain away.

    It is profoundly solitary . . .
    Love, Lynne

    There are things that helped me . . . They may not help you.

  12. Sandra, I'm not going to pretend I know how you feel cuz I don't. I haven't lost a love -- yes, I've lost a parent, but it's not the same, especially when death was prayed for (Alzheimers).

    No one can tell you how long or how hard to grieve. It's up to you.

    I admire you for sharing like you do. I can't imagine how it doesn't help someone, somewhere, out there.


  13. What a terrible and beautiful post all in the same breath. You're right, Sandra. It takes as long as it takes, and it WILL take as long as it DOES take. And that's the way it is. And you know that. I'd have a mouthful (or two) to say to the folks who haven't been there and don't get it. How dare they.

    A good friend of mine lost her father unexpectedly. She said the worst part was that a month later, everyone else had moved on. Three months later, everyone else had moved on. Six months later...same thing. She didn't move on. She didn't forget. She said the worst part was that everyone forgot. Everyone went back to normal. And she can't.

    It takes as long as it takes.

    Prayers for you today, and every day, Sandra.

  14. Sandra,
    Praying for true friends to stand with you and help you as you get from here to there... knowing it takes time. And the time to transit grief is different for each person. Your honesty is helping someone today... xo

  15. You are so "right on" about grief. I've said it before that it is a place of isolation. People who haven't experienced grief at its core have no words of comfort to offer. It's frustrating, but not their fault. Grief is a journey...a journey to find out how you have the strength to go on to find peace and joy amidst the most crushing pain. It takes forever--as in--you learn throughout you life about how to deal with death. Grief doesn't ever end. It becomes manageable. Sometimes memories are painful...sometimes joyful and hilarious...sometimes, as Farm Girl just long to rejoin that person. It comes and goes...ebbs and flows. I've learned so much from a lifetime of grief. It has made me a better person, a better wife, a better mother, a better teacher. But, it came with such pain. Hang in there. You are doing your grief work...there's no time line...
    Thinking of you often.

  16. Sandra - something you said I've heard many times - that you don't want your loved one to be forgotten. I have a friend whose child drowned when he was about 2. That has been 28 years ago, and still she grieves for her child. She has told me so many times that she doesn't want people to forget about him. She still talks about him. It's hard for some to handle and so they avoid the topic. It's okay with me. I haven't gone through anything like what you've gone through, but if I live long enough, I'm sure I will. My best friend's 27 year old daughter is dealing with brain cancer, and I don't know how that is going to turn out. But I hope that I can absorb some of what you are sharing with us so that I may be able to be someone that my bestie can lean on. Thank you for sharing. I'm sorry that you're having to go through this grief. Your picture of you and Dave is great - I can tell that you loved each other very much and that you will go on loving him...

  17. Death and dying are both topics that most folks have a very difficult time dealing with and talking about. I deal with it daily and there are some who can't even say "it". Sometimes listening is the very best gift we can give. You have so many caring people that tune in to your "rants" and understand and care. You keep on
    "ranting" when you need to and we will keep listening. In time your will rant less but wont even realize it. We will still be here listening. A whole community with their hands on your back. Thats what we do. Much Love. Kelly

  18. I often wonder about the whys and wherefores of the way people think. It interests me how they come about their attitudes and actions, but.....I'm still so very 'in the dark' and will probably never have an answer to any of it! :)
    My oldest friend, (who is recovering from breast cancer and the treatments for it) and I had a conversation a while back about other people's reactions and attitudes to her cancer and we were amazed at them! One in particular was her stepson whom she would normally get on reasonably well with. She said that after he was told about it, that he wouldn't/couldn't even look her in the face for quite a while!
    I suppose I can't really answer for those people that 'deal' in this way, but it's just occurred to me that perhaps it more about how they have to respond if the person with the 'illness' falls apart in front of them?"What if they cry, should I cry too, should I mention the C word, should I just pretend it's not there??? etc etc", if you get my drift. Or is it maybe about maturity or even lack of it in being able to deal with the coping? Not that any of that is any excuse.
    Oops, sorry Sandra think I'm on a soap box and I'll jump off it now, before I break it! :))
    I hope you keep on being that honestly responding, down to earth, take me as I come lady that you are. Isn't that what being true to yourself and your soul is all about? x

  19. I have learned so much for you Sandra. You have opened your heart and shared so much with your readers and weather you know it or not you are teaching. Thank you for being brave and honest enough to share such real, raw, emotions. I will be praying for you and the continued strength to get through each day. I've never met you - but i have a feeling you are a much stronger woman then you think.

  20. Dear Sandra, you are a precious, unique individual. No one else like you. Likewise, it is *your* grief. No one else's. Some may have their formulas for handling grief, their own experiences. That's fine. That's *their* grief. Yours belongs uniquely to you. Most of us want to support and encourage you. Most of us have listening ears and strong shoulders --even over the interent. Most of us would help if there were something we could do to ease the pain. At the moment, I know only to pray for you, and that I do. And will continue to do so.
    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being you.

  21. Dearest Sandra, You have suffered a devastating irreversible loss. As a friend, I want you to know I am standing with you in your pain. I think of you and pray for you often.

    Sending love,

  22. I never turn away from your grief, because it offers much to learn from. I haven't had to face it yet, but I have always known it's possible, and I don't like to be caught without preparation, such as can be made. What has been most (awfully) educational is what others have put you through during Dave's illness, death and afterward. I had no idea people could be so - what? Insensitive? Mean? What? It just blows me away . . . but now I know. And am better prepared.

  23. What can I say that hasn't been said. I just wish I could take even a small piece of your pain, to give you some breathing room. I do understand how you feel as I lost my son and somedays it feels like yesterday. I've been going through some of the things you describe too. My hubby also has a mestatic cancer and last year he had seven ops within six months. He spent another six months in treatment off work. As soon as he could he went back on the road, working as much as he can to make up the money we lost. Now he has another one and has decided he doesn't want to have any treatment. He just keeps going. Nothing I say makes any difference. I've realised now's his decision and I have to respect that. I know that in the future I could be in the same place as you are today.
    Big warm bear hugs to you. Sue (Maa) xox

  24. Sandra, I hope some of the people who have hurt you are guilty only of ignorance, not truly knowing loss so deeply they can even begin to realize what they have done to you & Dave, but for those who do, they are despicable.

    Your grief is YOUR grief, and you have lost a beloved husband.Your time of grieving is between you and God, how dare anyone else pass judgement on this? I pray for you Sister, and all will be well in His time.

  25. All who leave a way for me to contact them privately, receive a personal note. To those who don't leave an e-mail address, please know your comments are appreciated.

    Dear Anonymous, next time, please leave a way for me to contact you and thank you personally. What you wrote is a great help; I've searched the quote you left and it has taken me to yet another website that has brought me comfort. Thank you.

  26. Wow, great post. The quote you left for me on my blog last week regarding my friend's sudden passing was so comforting to me. Thank you for sharing.

  27. {{{Sandra}}} My thoughts and prayers are with you as you go on this journey. You truly have written from your heart.


  28. Anonymous1:46 AM EDT

    I am so sorry for your loss of your man. This is my first time to your blog. i suspect that the people who 'avoid' the 'griever' do so because deep down they are immature & selfish on some level. I say this because I myself am scared to death of death. These past couple of years i have at times found myself being so scared i end up daydreaming of what it will be like when that day comes. it makes me physically sick when i picture it my minds eye the day my dear hubby will no longer be with me. I can go to funerals, and even stop in and visit with the bereaved through the first week or so, but than after that i can't do it. I'm too scared. It hurts so much watching and knowing what that person is going through. Thinking about how they will manage to wake up all alone and carry on that day and the next day. I know i won't be able to bear it when it happens. all i can think of is that makes me a selfish person. I hope that the grieving gets easier for you to bear and that when you think, smell, feel Dave's presence that it will not be so gut wrenching painful and i hope and pray that not all your friends are selfish like i would probably be. I am so sorry you lost your man.

  29. I can't imagine being able to "set aside" the grief of losing a loved one.
    Battle it, beat it somewhat into submission occasionally, stuff it under the cushions for a brief moment perhaps but "set aside"? No I don't think that's possible.
    You may not know it Sandra but you are a beacon to many.

  30. Sandra,
    Nobody completely understands all that we go through, except the Lord. Thankful that He is there.

    People can be so cruel and lack understanding. It's awful. I'm grieving a son's separation from his wife. She was through with him. They have a two year old son. Still, as the details heart aches.

    Life...i don't always embrace very well what's happening.

    Thinking of you,

  31. sorry friend - I haven't been keeping up with blogs and missed this incredible opening of your heart - I am seeing a touch of that part of my own future this week and scared beyond belief. I'm told "well you've done it before" since I was widowed in my 40's - well DUH heck yeah - experience callouses over our hearts and the broken spots don't bleed? not exactly - anyhow - you are loved and I don't want to borrow money OR change your politics!

  32. Just wanted you to know that you are prayed for daily.


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