Suzie shares her greatest fear.
Suzie shares her greatest fear.
What really matters?
I’ve asked this a hundred times over the last 3 years since my husband’s diagnosis of cancer.
Before he passed, in the early stages of cancer diagnosis shock, what mattered was fighting it. Our lives were consumed with appointments and treatments and side effects. I didn’t even think of sadness or defeat. We focused on victory and being warrior strong. Oh we loved each other and what mattered was fighting the enemy, the big “C”. Then came the big “T” the word “terminal.” What mattered shifted to making time slow down, still fighting but the enemy was now… time, and somehow we needed to make every second count. Life became more and more precious as we had long conversations without words. Then suddenly, there was our last dance and good bye. All that mattered left with my beloved that day. And, for a long time, nothing mattered.
It was in this dark place of death, that I saw what I couldn’t see in the light of life. I saw how precious and life-giving relationships were. In the midnight of my loss the lights of frienship and sisterhood stood out more intensely. It was as if God had placed beautiful night lights along the path I must walk, so that, even in the deepest darkness of my grief I’d see a way through it all. In the valley of the shadow of death, I was not alone.
So… what matters now?
I am asking that question again… it’s been 2 and half years since my beloved husband and I had our last dance and I saw him into heaven. I’d have to say, along with the beautiful relationships God’s given me, I’d add… purpose to what matters. We do not find purpose alone. Purpose is in the moment you reach out into the stories and lives of sisters and friends. It’s looking into their eyes and seeing their heart. When someone took the time to look into my eyes, see my heart and hear my grief… I mattered. And… when I mattered… I had purpose… and meant something to someone.
It’s when I realized that God gave me life so I could speak life into someone else that this journey mattered. It’s when I could stand in the gap for someone hurting and pray for them that I found the ache of my grief lessen. It still aches terribly, but I have hope, that one day it will soften.
Suzie introduces her daughter and Registered Dietician Stephanie who explains grief and food.
I first realized I had superpowers about two months after my husband’s death. I was out of state at a birthday party for a good friend whose other friends only knew me from a distance. Last they had seen me was years ago with my (alive) husband and our two children at a wedding.
Word spread quickly through the party that day that I was now widowed to (gasp!) suicide, after a party go-er casually asked me, “So where’s John at this weekend?” and I responded with, “In an urn in his parents living room…that’s where bad husbands who shoot themselves have to go.”
And gradually as the whispers and stares begin to increase (along with the vodka in my fruit punch), I felt a cold sensation ascend my body. I was morphing into: Wonder Widow, and my first super power was the cloak of invisibility. I think I even sprouted a cape…an invisible one of course.
No one could see me once they heard I was widowed, let alone talk to me and they liked it this way. I did not.
I proceeded to get drunk and talk to my reflection in the bathroom mirror every fifteen minutes or so for the remainder of that party. I don’t remember what I said to drunk Michelle, but I do remember feeling small that entire weekend and completely inhibited by my invisibility. I wanted so badly to be normal; to have normal conversations with The Norms (Norms:normal people living normal, non-traumatized lives), but I was no longer normal. I was Wonder Widow, able to repel humans and become invisible in two sentences or less!
As widowhood dragged on, the next superpower that was brought to my attention was flying; which wasn’t nearly as graceful or cool as it sounds because when Wonder Widow flies, she’s basically just catching air as she falls from the bar stool to the sticky, old-beer floor.
Worthless invisible cape.
Years went by with my superpowers overpowering me until I discovered the superpower that changed everything: My Super Strength.
It started slowly at first with the discovery that my ability to become invisible could be a good thing. The Norms didn’t want me around? Well good, I don’t want to be around them either! I began to use my super strength to take my power back as I dropped the widow bomb in conversations as early as possible with strangers to gauge if they were a Norm or a Cray (Cray: crazy, traumatized people with dark senses of humor). The Norms would thankfully make me invisible and the Cray’s would laugh at my dead husband jokes.
If I could use my widow super powers to weed out The Norms and create bonds with The Crays, what else could I do?
I could fly. Eloquently this time.
I realized this last Tuesday when I was flying down the Pacific Coast Highway with the windows rolled down and Courtney Love blaring on my car stereo. Courtney Love always makes me think of flying off of bar stools. Try as I might though, I could not recall the last instance in which I flew off a bar stool. As of late, I had been too busy soaring above my drunken depression and looking down at the buildings of my past traumas that seemed so very surmountable to me now. It was 78 degrees, not a cloud in sight, and the smell of the ocean intoxicated me. As I thought to myself, “I still can’t believe I get to live by the beach,” my cape not only became visible, but also became covered in glitter.
On that Tuesday, I was an eloquently flying Wonder Widow on a secret Wonder Widow mission.
The mission? Gumballs. Yes, I Wonder Widow, was following a guy around San Diego county who is selling me his Gum Ball machines. I really want to make a “ball” joke right now, but I wont because I am a fucking lady.
Why was I buying some guy’s gumball machines? Because widowhood is fucking weird, that’s why! Five years ago I was living in a tiny little desert town that no one has ever heard of, working a 9-5 with dreams of going to seminary and growing old with my husband. Now I am living in San Diego with my best friend, five kids, a dwarf bunny and a beta fish that has icks disease, with dreams of owning five-hundred gumball machines so that I never have to go back to working a 9-5 again.
If that’s not flying eloquently, I don’t know what the hell is.
Widowhood takes. It doesn’t care if you are down so low that you are buried; it will kick you anyway. It doesn’t care about your open wounds; it will salt them. Widowhood will take your power from you, and any power you do have, it will use it against you.
The power you once had over your emotions? Gone. The power you once had over how people perceived you? Gone. The power you once had to say no to that cocktail at 8am? Gone.
But once widowhood has beaten you down, broken you beyond recognition and unmercifully buried you under twenty-five tons of shit, you will be presented with a choice. You can go deeper, stay where you are at, or put on your damn cape and fly.
Living through widowhood means that you have been forced to hold your head up high among the whispers and stares. It means you have tied your toddlers shoes while crying. Widowhood means you have felt the physical weight of his old shirt at night as you sleep in it and you still kept right on breathing. Widowhood means you have carried his burdens and yours and possibly those of your children every damn day since you heard the words, “I’m sorry ma’am, he’s gone.”
Widowhood though, also means you have super strength. It’s there whether you have taped into it or not. Over time, you will have muscles the size of the universe that have been built over sleepless nights, and screams, and tears, and a necessity to survive. Flex them my little Wonder Widows! Thrive.
It’s National Widows Day.
I know you don’t pay a lot of attention to these type of things.
But I also know you heard.
I see you cry. Every single day.
It hurts me still.
I wish there was another way.
You know I fought so hard.
With all of my might.
I didn’t want to stop.
You and your daughter.
Both worth the fight.
My body was tired.
My mind so weak.
I had to stop fighting Michelle.
There was no cure to seek.
I want you to know, that you were always the one.
My love for you never went away.
It still hasn’t.
It never will.
By the way, the baby we lost.
I have him.
Yes. A son.
He looks just like you.
Thank goodness for that.
Although he has my cheeks.
Nice and fat.
I know you feel alone.
You’re sad and scared.
You cry out to God angrily, and ask him why I could not be spared.
The answers you are looking for, won’t come to you now.
Just know that eventually, you will see why, and you will see how.
I want you to know that I was there at hospice.
Through the sleep, I saw.
What you did for me.
That was pure.
That was raw.
I heard the eulogy that you read to me.
Yes, I listened.
Yes, I saw.
I love you so much.
I always will.
You are my soul mate.
Past, future and still.
You can do this Michelle.
You are stronger than you know.
Happiness. Not survival.
That should be the goal.
Our love is more than that world.
It is soul to soul.
Copyright 2017 John Polo
We want to send a special shout out to honor all our Hope widow sisters today, on National Widows Day. We appreciate you and are very proud of your resilience in the face of extreme tragic circumstances. We always want to validate your emotions, feelings and thoughts as they matter. You matter.…
Nothing prepares you for widowhood!! It’s a committee that no one wants to be a part of. No instructions, no reference guide, no rules. We are left to pick up the pieces and find out how to get through and survive. Most days, weeks, months, even down to the second that’s all you can do. To us, the word ‘widow’ means: Hope, Strength, Warrior, Resilient, Faith, Overcomer, Determination, and growing your soul and self to new and greater heights than you ever imagined.
As widows ourselves, we know something stunning and magnificent can happen after time; emerging from a devastating loss or tragedy, then transforming and changing, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. It’s not right away, not even soon, but we promise you will see the light in the darkness eventually. There is no time limit, but you will go from surviving to thriving. One of the hardest parts is the acceptance, acknowledgement of the loss and the future that was to be, and then surrendering to it. Knowing you will never get ‘over it’, but learn a better way to ‘get through it’. Remember, you have to feel to heal.
So, as beautiful, flawed, and broken you feel, battle scars, wounds and all, to hell and back … the beautiful, messy, chaotic life that is now yours, just breathe — take ownership of all of it- It is ENOUGH. YOU are ENOUGH. You can DO IT! Our Hope sisters are here for each other. A sisterhood of us who relate, understand, listen and care. Grief and heartbreak of losing a loved one is an unspoken language, until it happens to you no one on the outside will truly understand. Our Hope Sisters are some of the strongest and most beautiful people we have ever met.
Our Hope Sisters continue to inspire and encourage us daily. We want to tell you how much we care for you, how strong you are and that you can do the tough things! Hang on to your anchor, because Healing Happens.
You are enough. You are strong. You are brave. You are beautiful. You are amazing….. We believe in YOU.
“Pain is real, but so is Hope.”
Chasity Williams, Khadija Ali and Maureen Bobo
Hope for Widows Foundation Directors
Some great advice from Suzie about handling your grief.
by Board Member, Jill Hochman
This article is about Reiki and coping with grief. It is part of the Hope for Widow’s Foundation efforts to help our Hope Sisters find ways to learn to cope with and manage their grief.
I find that Reiki can help me cope when I get in one of those waves of grief or am having stress over some everyday type of concern. I will try to explain what Reiki is, what it is not, what a Reiki treatment is like, and talk about how I believe it helps me deal with grief or other stressors. As a certified Reiki Karuna Master,I try to practice Reiki in a responsible way by not making promises or claims about miraculous healing powers. I focus instead on use of Reiki to bring good energy into our world and I use it to help cope with grief and stress.
I intend for this article is to be a very general explanation about Reiki along with some comments about my personal practice and experience. You can find lots of information on the web or perhaps through Reiki healers in your area. Feel free to private message me with any questions you might have and I will try my best to answer or send you in a helpful direction.
First , What is Reiki?
According to the International Association of Reiki Professionals (IARP), “Reiki is [a] subtle and effective form of energy healing using spiritually guided life force energy… [p]racticed in every country of the world.” While often considered to be spiritual in nature, Reiki is not “[a]ffiliated with any particular religion or religious practice.”
Reiki is a way to help calm your mind and to deal with stress. Reiki has five basic principles. I use these principles everyday as affirmations. They are:
Just for today, do not be angry
Just for today, do not worry
Just for today, be grateful
Just for today, work hard
Just for today, be kind to others.
The principles are my mantra. Not only do I tell them to myself each morning, I repeat them when I need to ground myself or when I feel the need to help people or animals who are in stress. The words in the principles illustrate how Reiki does not harm and has everything to do with setting positive intentions. Kind of like karma, the principles remind me that it is good to be positive and send out positive thoughts. Please know that it is not easy for me to be positive but practicing Reiki means that I try. So using Reiki becomes one of the ways to help me cope with my grief as well as grief experienced by others.
What Reiki is Not?
Understanding what Reiki is not is important. This is because there are many misconceptions about Reiki and opinions about it based on misconceptions. To know if Reiki can be useful to you, a basic understanding of what Reiki is as well as what it isn’t can help you decide.
Most importantly, Reiki is NOT a religion nor is it a replacement for medical treatment. Nor is Reiki a process to transfer energy from one person to another.
How Does Reiki Work?
Reiki works on the theory that we all have energy centers in our body. These are called chakras and are the same as the chakras that are used in yoga. The 7 major chakras are located along your body from the very top of your head to the base of your spine. The chakras each have a connection to our emotions. The chakras and their emotional relationship are:
The Crown — connection to spirituality
Third Eye — ability to focus, connects to intuition, imagination, wisdom and decisions
Throat — connection to our ability to communicate
Heart — love, inner peace, joy
Solar Plexus — self-confidence, esteem and self-worth
Sacral — sense of pleasure and sexuality
Root — survival issues
When the energy in these centers is aligned, then we feel our best. If one or more of them is blocked or the energy is unbalanced, then we do not feel right. Reiki works to bring the energy flowing through our chakras into alignment. Repeating the 5 principles helps put us in a spiritual place where the energy can more easily flow in balance.
What is a Reiki Treatment Like?
Reiki treatments can be done in person or can be sent to people in need. The later is called distance Reiki.
If you get a Reiki treatment in person, you will lay down or sit comfortably so that you can try to relax. You remain fully clothed and the practitioner should not touch you unless they have your permission. Soft music may be playing similar to what is played when you get a massage. The practitioner will move their hands over you and use symbols which they draw in the air, on their own hands, or maybe even on the roof of their mouth with their tongues. Each symbol has specific uses and are — at least in theory — secret. But, you can go to the internet and find them as well as explanations of their use(s). Treatments times depend on your practitioner as well as what they feel needs to be done. Some practitioners may place crystals on you or near you and some may use drums or crystal bowls during your treatment. Treatments do not hurt and you usually leave feeling relaxed. This is a good thing even if you are not totally healed.
If you get distance Reiki, you are not in the presence of the practitioner. Instead they are sending you Reiki. When you hear a Reiki practitioner say something like “sending you healing or calming light”, they are sending you Reiki. To be fair, a practitioner should ask if sending Reiki is ok with you before sending. This is because a Reiki practitioners respect the fact that there are people who and religions which do not accept the practice. If a Reiki practitioner does not know when Reiki is ok to send, they may say something like “surrounding you with calming thoughts or light.” This similar to sending prayers or positive thoughts to the person and is intended for the highest good.
How does Reiki Help Grief:
You can find lots of information on the web about Reiki and grief. Instead of repeating that here, I will give my thoughts which come from my own experience.
I was a Reiki practitioner before my husband became sick. So, I used Reiki on him. But, I gave Reiki up when he died because I felt as if it did not save my husband. The facts are that nothing except a miracle could have saved him. Reiki is not a replacement for medicine — it is a complement to it. As time went by, I went for a Reiki treatment because of the overwhelming sadness I was feeling. And, you got it: I cried the whole time. The good news was that I was finally able to sleep for 4 hours straight that night and the next. This much needed rest helped me get through making some big financial decisions. So, I took up my practice once again and went for more treatments. I also treated a few people at a local Reiki Share.
I also began once again to use the 5 principles each morning in the shower — please don’t laugh as this beats crying in the shower. Repeating them helps set me up to better face the day. I also use Reiki when I read many of our Hope Sisters’ posts. In my mind, I surround those Hope Sisters with calm and light. Although I don’t know for sure if this helps them, it helps me to know I have done something, albeit small, to help. Sending out positive energy and intentions helps me feel better. When I find myself drowning in grief, I will think of positive light and energy and place my hands over my Heart or my Solar Plexus chakras. I let myself feel the energy and believe it helps get me through the tidal waves that hit. So, Reiki has become one of my coping mechanisms. Maybe it can help you too.
I believe, that grief changes.
I believe, that grief lessens.
I believe, that grief itself does indeed get easier.
As the full out meltdowns seem to become a thing of the past, and the gut wrenching tears become less frequent, there is, however, one thing that becomes more profound.
For the last few months I have been feeling a certain way.
I believe it began shortly after the one year anniversary of her passing.
Michelle’s birthday was in November. Christmas, of course, in December. January the month that she was called Home.
Not only did I gorge myself for those three months, to the tune of an additional eight pounds, but I grieved.
Her birthday, the Holiday’s, and the day that she passed away.
It was so much more than that though.
Those three months were so difficult, as every day I relived the horrific memories that they brought with them.
The last three months of her epic cancer battle.
But, I got through it.
The first year passed, and my intense grief began to fade a bit.
But, something else reared its ugly head.
Something, that I was not anticipating.
Something, that I did not think was even humanly possible.
I started to miss Michelle, more.
I started to feel the absence of Michelle, more.
Fifteen months in to this journey I have learned so much.
And now, I have learned this:
Hardcore grief lessens, a bit.
Hardcore grief eases, a bit.
While the moments where you catch yourself on the floor, with tears coming down so hard, that you fear you may wake a neighbor or break a rib, become less and less frequent, absence grows.
The hours and days tick away, and we grow to feel further and further away from them.
Somehow. Someway. We miss them more.
Somehow. Someway. We feel their absence more.
We ache for their hand. To hold it just one more time.
We ache for their lips. For just one more kiss.
We ache for their smile. To see it even for a second, would bring us the ultimate bliss.
We ache for them.
For their presence.
For their very being.
For just one more second. Of just one more day.
We miss them.
Now more than ever.
We miss them in everything that we do.
We feel their absence in every breath that we take.
Yes, grief changes.
Yes, grief lessens.
Yes, it does get easier in time.
The missing though. It gets worse.
The absence though. It intensifies.
That is why ‘We aren‘t over it yet’.
That is why we NEVER get over it.
The longer that we go without them, the more that we miss them.
© Copyright 2017 John Polo
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