On Grief and This Damn Virus

Since my husband’s death in late 2018, I have been dealing with grief.  I did other times with other losses prior to his death, but his is the one that has affected me the most.  So, I know something about grief and trying to put the pieces back together.

I have been thinking of all of the changes in our lives due to this damn corona virus.  There have been so many changes and they may continue for a while.  I am realizing that there is a lot that we need to grieve and then be able to move forward.

Merriam-Webster defines grief as:

  • 1adeep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement 
  • 1ba cause of such suffering — life’s joys and griefs
  • 2a: trouble and annoyance

These definitions are appropriate and part of what we are dealing with right now.

I think that social distancing is very important to slow and hopefully stop the spread of this virus which seems to be spreading more and more each day.  It is something that many of us can do in order to help those on the front lines become equipped to deal with it and all of the illnesses that people have.

Still, it is hard since we are so used to always being on the go, being with our friends and family, and not having to think twice of when we come and go.  I think it is important to deal with this grief and the fact that our life is just not the same now.  I also think that we can do that and then move on and make the best of our situations.  At least, I am praying for that to be the case.

My heart aches and breaks for those who are losing loved ones because of this virus. It saddens me that they can’t be with them at the hospital to say goodbye, or be at the funeral home to make plans, or have a funeral or memorial since it isn’t safe.  As hard as all of that was for me, I am fortunate that I had that chance.

I am thinking of the high school seniors who cannot see their classmates, friends and teachers and enjoy the times of being the big men and women on campus.  I am heartbroken for college students who had to pack up their dorms, go back home, and do online classes.  They should be able to enjoy life away and go to a lecture hall full of other students.

I am thinking of the middle school and high school students who don’t have the chance to see their friends in the hallway between classes, or at lunch, or at the many activities that they enjoy — sports, the arts, music, and clubs.

I am thinking of the elementary school student who doesn’t understand why they cannot go to school and see their friends and their teachers. They want to be there to read something and to color and sit on the floor at story time.

I am also thinking of all of the nurses and doctors and other medical staff who are on the front lines of this.  They are why we have to be home.  They are why our lives have been upended.  They have to be able to treat those who need the help without worrying that they don’t have enough beds or supplies to do so.

I am thinking of all of those out of work right now and struggling to pay their bills.  My hope is that they can find something in the meantime or get help from others.  Food is being provided at various agencies and many companies are waiving bills and shut offs for now.  So that is good.

I am thinking of those who are still having to work in other industries and not sure if it is safe or not.  Thanks to them for continuing to keep what we need going.  We appreciate you and your sacrifices.

I am thinking of the teachers, principals, school boards, and other educators working frantically to have at-home school options for students.  They are working hard to ensure that all kids have what they need to keep learning.  It has been a challenge and is taking time but is important.

I am thinking of our leaders and officials working with the medical professionals to try and do the best by us.  Granted there are problems, but they are trying.  After all, this is unprecedented, never-before-seen stuff.

I am thinking of our elderly at home or in nursing homes or assisted living when visiting is not permitted.  Perhaps we can do it through a window, or with regular phone calls, or with letters.  We should check with each facility or those at home and our doctors to see what to do.

My prayer is that we can all try to deal with the changes in our lives and then figure out what we can do to help.  We are in this together and are dependent on one another now like never before.  May we be considerate of others, help as needed and as we can, and may we still try to find some fun and happiness, despite no much negative.

If we can sew, let’s do that.  If we can provide some food or money to a local food bank, let’s do that.  If we can call our friends and check in on our loved ones, let’s do that.  If we can gather our families together online, let’s do that.  If we can buy just enough for what we need without hoarding, let’s do that.

May we work on this together, although we are apart.  May we help one another.  And, may we always, always love.

Grocery Shopping in the Pandemic Era

Hi and Happy Sunday!  At least I hope it is a good one. This morning, I went to the grocery store.   It was Aldi and it went better than I had expected.  Before going, I didn’t know what to expect in this era of the worldwide pandemic and everyone trying to avoid one another. I told the employees thank you for being there and working so we have the food and items that we need.

I found most of what I wanted and that was a great thing.  However, many shelves were empty of Kleenex, wipes, and cleaners.  They had some but not a lot of toilet paper.  Canned vegetables and bottles of water had limits on how many you could buy — four for the veggies and two sets of 24 bottles for the water.  And bread and some other items were limited.

The store wasn’t crowded and I have to say that was a relief.  I had a hard time deciding to shop and where to shop but ultimately decided to go to this our normal store.  People stayed a good distance from one another and were polite.  I wore my regular winter gloves while I was there. Not sure if they did anything, but it helped not directly touching things.

In addition to food, I found some work gloves that include latex.  I haven’t been able to find the other kind of gloves and wanted to have something.  My city may be shutting down soon so I wanted to be sure that I have what we will need for a while longer.  (Images are from Power Point clip art.)

My shopping took about as long as it took me to clean everything when I got back home.  Before taking stuff out of the trunk of my car, I wiped all items that I had purchased with disinfecting wipes, including the shopping bags, which were recyclable. I left my shoes in the garage that I wore to the store, wiped several parts of the car, and then went inside, and put the gloves in the washing machine.

I then washed my hands and went back outside.  I then brought the food, drinks, and waters inside, washed my hands again, and put them away.  Right after that I took a hot shower.  When finished and dressed, I put all of the clothes in the washing machine on hot.  And washed my hands again.

It was a tough decision this morning to go to the store, but I knew I needed to now before things get worse and I don’t want to leave the house.  In addition, I have ordered a few items that we need for home projects, a DVD of a favorite show that Kirk and I enjoyed, and some items for our growing boy.

Those will be delivered soon and will also be wiped down. Boxes will be left outside and we will be washing hands after touching them as we do with everything that is coming in to the house.  We are wiping down surfaces and doing our best to have a clean house.  I just hope it’s enough.

You see, I have mild asthma and a lot of allergies.  I have had my share of upper respiratory infections and bronchitis over the years.  For months, my son and I have been using OTC allergy medications which help us stay healthy during the high pollen season and cold and flu season. Also, I have an inhaler that I use as needed and nose spray.  I hope and pray that these habits will help us through this.

So much is unknown and being speculated about. We are listening to the numbers, paying attention to the scientists, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. We are also listening to the White House Task Force, Governors, and other elected officials. We are taking it all seriously.  Still, I cannot watch too much or I get overwhelmed with worry and fear.

We normally eat take out and food from drive-thrus and enjoy going to restaurants.  We aren’t doing that now and probably won’t for quite a while. More than a week ago, we got takeout from a restaurant run by family friends. This is one of the few places that I feel comfortable doing that but, that too is on hold for now.

It is amazing the number of people all over the world who are staying at home to try and stop the spread — or at least slow it down until more can be learned about it and until the hospitals can catch up and have all of the supplies that they need.  I am glad to see that we are, for the most part, in this together.

Also amazing are all of the brave and wonderful people who are working outside of their homes so that life can continue on in some form or another.

Here a few of the people who I want to say thanks to (I hope I included everyone) —

  • Nurses, doctors, researchers, EMTs, paramedics, the national guard, our military and civilian forces, first responders, firefighters, X-ray technicians, police officers, janitors, volunteers, bank tellers, journalists, reporters,
  • School superintendents and school boards, principals, teachers, assistants, pastors, counselors, truck drivers, mechanics, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, cooks, servers, clerks at stores, those in transportation and travel,
  • Retail store employees, those who stock the shelves, librarians, civic leaders, plant workers, farmers, mail carriers, utility workers, those advising on how to use technology to communicate with each other,
  • Drivers delivering food and needed supplies, small business owners, financial advisers, accountants, parents, children, families, friends, and our government leaders who are trying to do the best for us.

There Is Comfort In The Normal

There is comfort in the normal, at least for me.  I am talking about a normal routine of the days with knowing what is coming and what is expected. Of having things scheduled that are fun and items to look forward to.  And, life returning to normal.  We aren’t quite there but every day leads us closer to a happy new normal.

It has been a lot to adjust to.  We are doing our best, failing at some things, having success in other things, and continuing to move forward.  Two in our family instead of three is just one of many factors that we are dealing with.

Although it has been 1 year and 4 months since my husband passed away, it seems like yesterday in some ways.  I still want to talk with him and see him again.  I still want to hear his voice, his laugh, and something about his day.  I still want him here and probably always will.  And, I still don’t understand why this happened to him, to us, and to all who loved him.

Some people may think that I should be past it more than I am.  But, when you wake up every single morning knowing you won’t see your life partner again, it is hard.  Many days I am fine and remember him fondly and with happiness.  Yet there are other days when all I can think about is everything that he will miss and not be a part of.

As Vanessa Bryant stated during her eulogy for her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna, there are things that she will never get to see her child do or experience as well as her husband.  I can totally relate to that.  It saddens me to think that Kirk isn’t here to see his son graduate from high school, or get married, or have kids.  He doesn’t get to see his nieces and nephews and their children grow up.

He isn’t here for Ian to talk to as he goes through all of the changes of becoming a teenager.  He isn’t here to comfort him when he is hurt or upset.  He isn’t here to help him laugh in the way that only he could.  He isn’t here for a challenging homework assignment.  He isn’t here for family vacations or family game night or to see a new movie.

He isn’t here for the latest Lego build, latest story or idea.  And, in a few months, he will not be here for Ian’s chorus concert.  Yet, I know he is always with Ian and with me, just in a very different way.  And, he certainly is part of the reason that our son is such a great young man.

At times this causes me a lot of pain and anguish and tears.  But, I still have to continue on, live life, be there to enjoy times with our family and friends, and show up for Ian and other loved ones.  I try to remember that I am strengthened by a man who loved me for 20 years until death parted us.  What a blessing that is.

On a good day, I can focus on the fact that I am still here for all of these things.  I am here to be Ian’s champion, confidant, mother, and to love him with all that I have and am.  I know that he loves his dad and can carry their bond and relationship throughout his life. He also misses his dad but does grab life every day and makes the most of it.  I am learning so much from him.

Since emotions have been all over the place a lot lately, the times that life is normal are comforting and special.  I am talking about waking up, getting ready for school, making breakfast for Ian, talking with him on the drive to school each morning, then coming home for my routine before starting work in the home office.

I am enjoying my cups of coffee or tea with cream, my oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, watching a recorded show or the morning news show. I then have some time to think, pray, and read a passage from my book of inspiration in dealing with grief. And sometimes a walk before all of that starts or an afternoon walk.

I then am working and staying busy. Then when Ian comes home from school, we talk about his day, he tells me something that happened or an idea that he has, he has a snack, and then we talk about homework.  He has a short break and then gets to work.  I try to help him as much as I can.  My blessing is that I can work at home and be in the same room with him while he is doing that.

Normal also is reading a book from the library, going to church and then lunch with my parents, watching a movie or TV show, seeing friends and laughing over a meal, attending a baby shower or birthday party, having time with family, going to a store to buy what we need and occasionally the special treat, and exercising.

Since Kirk’s death, there are a lot of days when I haven’t felt like myself, or things haven’t been normal.  I am dealing with so much that we did together and that has taken time to adjust.  Each day, I have something that I am trying to accomplish. There have been days when all I could do was get dressed and get Ian to school.

I have realized that I took for granted some things that Kirk did for me and for our family.  He helped in so many ways that I would sometimes fuss about.  Now I think, why did I waste that time with him instead of appreciate it?  I suppose that is normal, but I don’t like that I did what I did.

Today, I am thankful for:

  • The gorgeous sunrise I enjoyed on the way to the grocery store on Monday morning (It is the photo at the top of this blog)
  • Sun peaking through the fog this morning
  • Our upcoming spring break with a business trip and opportunity to see some friends and family
  • Some days at home where we can work on projects
  • An interesting library book
  • My son, my parents, in-laws, friends, and family who have our backs and love us unconditionally.  We love them the same
  • My prayer group friends
  • Having more days when I don’t feel sad or lost, but instead happy and hopeful for Ian and for me as we press on

May God bless you and help you whether your life is normal or not.

Grief In The Night

A week ago, I had a really rough night.  I had been sick with an upper respiratory infection, been sad, and been dealing with a lot.  So, my grief seemed to get the better of me for a little while.  This blog is about that experience.

I shared it with some loved ones prior to posting it.  One of them said that guilt is not of God.  That is true and so very important to remember.  However, when the guilt comes to you in the middle of the night, you tend to believe it, at least for a little while.

When I am sick, I often feel sad or bad.  I suppose I get the blues at those times.  So on this recent Sunday night, I was up until about 12:30 a.m. with a coughing fit that just wouldn’t stop.  I made some hot tea, got a mouthful of cough drops and then started thinking of my late husband and everything that happened the day that he died.

Parts of that entire morning are still there in vivid clarity. I remember him falling out of the bed face down, I remember trying to turn him over and figure out how to help him. I remember calling 911.  While I was still talking, two police officers came in to the house, turned him over and started CPR.

Soon after they arrived, several firefighters arrived to help, then the paramedics from the ambulance service.  They all worked on my love while I talked with the officers about what happened.  As they worked, our son was still asleep upstairs – having no idea what was going on.

I then called my parents to see if they could come over and help.  I was not sure that I could drive us to the hospital.  Before they got there, Kirk was taken by ambulance to the hospital.  I had no idea at that time that I would not see him alive again.

I prayed for him to be okay, grabbed his wallet, and my purse, etc.  Then woke up Ian and said we all had to go to the hospital since his dad was taken there.  We then went to the emergency department where I told his name to the person at the desk and presented his insurance card.

We were then led into a side room, not a room where they were working on him.  I should have known something was very wrong with that but I was still in shock at this point and hopeful.  Then a doctor and nurse came in and told us what you hear in movies or TV that changes lives forever.  “We did all we could but we couldn’t revive him.  He has passed away.”

We were all crushed and stunned to hear this news.  I then went to see him and touched his cold hand.  I looked at the man who was my love and had been so full of life.  I cried, I inwardly screamed, and I was in total and complete shock.  It was so hard to see him like that, but part of me knew that he was no longer in pain and was in a better place.  Still, I wanted him to come back to us.

I came back and forth twice to continue to check on Ian since I was worried about how he was doing.  I asked for Kirk’s wedding ring and the nurse took it off his hand and gave it to me.  I feel guilty that I didn’t stay with Kirk longer.  I felt like I deserted him since I didn’t sit vigil with him until the funeral home and donor services came to get him.

I still have some guilt since I put our son before him, although he was my spouse and first love.  But, now I realize that he would have wanted me to comfort our son and be with him.  He would have understood why I had to do what I did.  After all, he loved our child as much as I do.

Thinking back on it, I think he might have been gone as soon as he hit the floor at home.  An autopsy was done that said he had an enlarged heart along with a few other issues.  So, he apparently had a heart attack when he fell.  I have no concept of the length of time that he was on the floor before I called and reacted.  I just hope and pray that if I took too long, that wasn’t part of why he didn’t make it.

So there is guilt about that as well.  And, during that recent middle of the night when I was already not feeling well, it reared its ugly head.  I still feel I should have done more, reacted sooner, called earlier, whatever.  But would that have actually made a difference?

I don’t know, but it is something that I continue to think about.  And, I continue to ask my love to forgive me for failing him since that is what it feels like I did.  I hope that I can one day forgive myself and realize that I truly did all that I could.  That it was, in fact, his time to go, despite what I wanted.

I do know that 10 or more people worked on him between who came to our house, in the ambulance and the staff at the hospital.  They all tried to revive him but had no luck that would actually stick.  And that is heartbreaking.

We had plans; we had just talked about some changes in our life the day before he passed away.  He was excited about them and looking forward to what came next.  I am not sure he had any idea of what was coming.  He didn’t feel well but we thought it was a cold and allergy issues that we all were dealing with.  We thought there was time the next day to take him to the doctor.

So this year on that Sunday night, after crying and thinking about everything from that awful day, I was finally able to settle down and rest.  The next day continued as a normal school day.  It was still hard and full of emotions, but I made it though.  I was able to see the good in our lives and move forward.

I have talked with other people who have also lost loved ones.  A few of them also feel some guilt about wishing more could have been done or an opportunity was missed, or that it was bad timing.  That seems to be part of the grief process of the denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventual acceptance.

Friends and family regularly ask me how I am doing.  Some days, I am able to say pretty well.  But other days, I am broken and sad and not sure what to do with myself.  So, I cry, I pray, and I think about a lovely memory with Kirk.  I try to remember that he is not in pain, that he wouldn’t have liked living as any less than the man that he was.  It is comforting to know that he is in Heaven waiting to see us again.  That is my comfort in this journey that continues to ebb and flow.

I am still a work in progress and probably will be for a long time to come.  It helps me to write about my feelings and to share them.  And, crying also helps.  It also helps to talk about Kirk, to see his picture, to laugh at a memory or a story that he told us, to laugh at jokes he told, and to tell Ian what a wonderful man his dad was.

Ian is growing into someone who Kirk would be very proud of.  He has so much of his dad in him.  That is a blessing and something I treasure. Still I wish his dad was actually here to see it.  I continue to be reminded of all of the things that he is missing and that is a challenge.

If you too are grieving, may you find support, may you have healing, and may you find your way.  May you know that some days will hurt like hell.   May you know that some days will be full of regret and guilt but that some will have hope and joy.

May we live in honor or those who are no longer with us.  May we make the most of the time we have with our loved ones.  May we be thankful for another day.  May we have healing on our path of grief.  And may God continue to bless us.