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One Step at a Time


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Another long one...

I find myself toward the end of another phase of my grieving process. I've come to some realizations that might help those who are newer. I'm just hitting the 6 month mark of losing my husband, Bill. (He was so much more than a husband!) I can only speak from the perspective of a widow. (Debi, thanks for giving me the encouragement to use that word without shame -- it is what it is, right?) I imagine there are some similarities no matter what close relationship one is grieving.

After Bill passed in July, my life was very hectic. I had family here. There was much activity surrounding Bill's service, his wonderful brother-in-law was working endlessly trying to finish many unfinished remodeling jobs on our home, and his wonderful sister being here as a tremendous support. I think I had one week on my own after they returned home to Spain, then I quickly went back to a high stress job, even though I cut my hours down. I then traveled overseas to visit Bill's family (our family) and spread two of three parts of his ashes (the third yet to be done). When I returned, I realized I was running on empty and gave notice at my job. I've been off work since the end of October 2007. The first month off was almost just as hectic, because I had other deadlines that were volunteer, but deadlines nonetheless. I felt like I wasn't grieving properly, even though I didn't really know what that meant. However, I had started to attend a grief group at my church and found a lot of relief being able to relate to two other recent widows, and to find hope within my faith.

When I left my job, I had a list of things I must do. I had planned to dutifully attack them one at a time. The list was comprised of financial things to sort out, practical things to take care of, and I needed to start addressing the work to be done here at home (finishing the remodeling, organizing, etc.). The sorrow and heartache aside, it's insurmountable what one must deal with practically when a spouse dies. It's six months, and I've only just begun. I'm sure it's very similar to when a surviving parent dies -- especially if you're the one left to deal with it all. Within that I also wanted to spend time with friends in a way that was hard to do when working a lot. At first I thought I wasn't succeeding at any of it. I feared I was wasting valuable time. I was all over the place -- emotionally and practically.

But then a few weeks went by. With no rhyme or reason, I was doing all of it bit by bit. Not at all in the order I had set up for myself, but things were happening. Some of what I thought was urgent initially has now become a "whenever" task. Other things, like establishing a new bank account and going to a financial planner, became top priority. Sometimes I was shocked at what I had accomplished when I was seemingly trudging through life in a fog one day, and in a hyper "out of body" manner the next.

The next phase will be a departure from what I've begun to call my "comfort bubble," and going back into the working world and trying to live within my new financial boundaries (which until recently I've all but ignored). I will be seeking new work opportunities, rather than going back to the old one. I'm nervous about it all. Can I earn enough to keep this life going for a while without being forced to do something drastic? After all, Bill was a high earner and we were a two-income family. How will I handle my new status of "widow" with people I don't know yet? How will I handle knowing I don't have Bill's "financial rabbits" he always managed to pull out of his magic hat? Will I have flexibility so my sweet dog won't be alone all day? How will I handle knowing it really is all up to me? Will I have the courage to break out and strive for what I believe I'm meant to do, rather than just what I know pays the bills?

I still have an endless number of items on my "to do" list. Some are more urgent than others. But there's no panic any longer. They will get done when I'm ready to do them. Sometimes I'll be surprised at the productivity I've managed; other times I'll be disappointed at my lack of action. But in the end, taking it one step at a time, they will get done.

Every time I'm tempted to think Bill would be critical of my way of doing something, I remind myself of the situation I'm working in. I can hear him cheering me on and telling me I'm doing a [expletive] great job at it all. What's next, besides the search for work? The search for someone to fix this damn roof that's leaking all over with these latest storms (something Bill would have done himself)...and then, whatever I think needs to be done.

So to you all who are thinking, "how can I possibly do it all?" Don't think of "it all," just think of the one thing you can do right now. And if there isn't anything you can do right now, don't worry about it. Take your time. It will come. I find the truly urgent items make themselves known.

Wishing all of you the blessings of comfort in this new year...

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"I felt like I wasn't grieving properly, even though I didn't really know what that meant."

You didn't know what that meant, yet are defining it as you go, documenting it, and leaving a trail for others that will be followed.

You are awesome. You're brave and purposeful, even as you feel you are muddling through blindly.



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God Bless you, Teri..

I'd like to add one more job to your list...

If and when you ever get time, can you try to write a book about this experience?

You have a way with words, and they are a comfort to others.

As I've said before, I'm already grieving for my Harry. He's still here, but I miss him. (The old him...the one that did the best "Rocky Balboa" imitation you've ever heard, just to make me laugh). :(

People that haven't been thru "cancer", can't understand that.

When you write and explain your feelings, or say how you are going about day to day things that have to be done, it helps.

I think you could do so many people a world of good.

No pressure or anything, but hurry up and start writing. :wink:

No wonder Bill is cheering you on from "Upstairs"! You're doing an excellent job.

Thanks for sharing,


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Hi Teri-

I just want to say that posts like this are such a help to me and I am sure to others going through this. I know I am not alone in all this endless paperwork and things to muddle through. Who knew how much there was to do when someone passes away?

I have a great financial planner and that was all easily done and transferred. My big hurdle is social security. I have been 2 months now trying to get my girls benefits straightened out and become payee. It is like a sit com. First they marked Jillian as deceased-- still not sure how they managed that. So in the midst of the worst time of my life, I find myself having to prove she is still alive. At one point they said I might have to actually bring her to their office-- can you imagine? Now that I have her living again :shock: I hoping their benefits will finally come through ok this month.

I also tackle a job a day. John paid all our bills and he was a computer whiz-- I am not. I am figuring much of his online stuff out (he left me a page of all passwords etc) and trying to switch things over here and there. I haven't even started with credit cards and am regretting having so many now.

My biggest thing right now is trying to make our home office my space now so I can work in here. I have been purging and switching things around so I make it my own.

I haven't touched anything of John's yet or done anything with his ashes. I think he would want to be in our lake so that will have to wait until spring. I think it helps the kids to see his hat on the hook, coat in the closet etc., at least for awhile. That stuff can wait.

I read where they say you shouldn't make any major changes for one year, so I am trying to not go too nutty. The one big change I did make in my life is I am taking a ceramics class in a month and going back to making art again.

So... that's things from here.


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Teri, you've said everything I've been feeling in a way that I never could have put down on paper. I am envious of your way with words.

I think my biggest challenges have been my struggles with "what would Joe think?" and "who IS that person I see in the mirror."

You and the other widows on this board have done so much to help me see that I am not crazy - I am grieving. As Nova said, my grieving began before Joe was gone. I never had that huge breakdown that I expected, because I had been doing it a little bit at a time for months.

Dealing with the 'old' issues while facing the 'new' is quite a balancing act. And you have been doing a fine job of that. You're an inspiration to us all.

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Teri and all,

I appreciate Teri opening up these topics for discussion on the board. It really helps to know others out there are facing and feeling the same things. Like Nyka said -- it makes us know we are not crazy, although my sanity is still open for debate. :shock:

Like most of you, I'm still tackling financial issues. Because Tony was so much older and retired, I'm settled financially, just need to shuffle things around. Lost Social Security, but FYI, as a widow, I'll be eligible at 60 for full benefits. I've always handled the finances in our family, so this isn't a biggie. The huge lesson I learned is to have everything you own in a trust to avoid thousands of dollars in probate costs. I'm sitting in probate now and it ain't fun.

Tony was ill for a long time with the cancer. (Relatively speaking, in the world of LC.) This is the biggest hurdle for me to jump. I've handled all the household "man" stuff under his tutelage for the past few years. It was good that he taught me so much. Between my son and nice neighbors, we figure out most things. The challenge is that I no longer have the caregiver routine. Don't get me wrong, Tony was a breeze to take care of most of his illness and fiercely independent. His cancer and care was my mission in life and now I'm floundering to find a purpose and a new routine at fifty years old! I figure God will let me know what I'm supposed to be doing when he knows the time is right. I also recently found that, much to my guilt and amazement, I'm glad to live without the constant cloud of lung cancer over my head. That's a mixed bag of emotions, because the reason why I don't is because Tony is gone. It sucks. Eating, drinking, waking, sleeping, lung cancer was our life for two and one half years, so this adjustment is weird. We tried to live as normally as possible, but the elephant was always in the room. I'm glad the elephant moved out, but sick over the reason it left.

So, as I approach the three month mark (how can that be already???), some days are a blur, some are profoundly sad, some get better, some get worse -- you get the idea. Sometimes I find myself withdrawing from those who love me. If I push myself out of the house, it usually works out okay. Lack of motivation is my biggest enemy now. Trying to handle things a little at a time helps me from becoming overwhelmed. Teri is right, the priorities get shifted around quite a bit too. So it goes...

I do have to say I feel sorry for one of my brothers who is the closest to me. He suddenly finds himself with two wifes! Whereas before, he and I bounced all kinds of philosophical and political issues off each other, he now finds that "wife" element is creeping into our relationship. (Not in a weird way.) I miss being a wife and need to watch out to not P.O. him completely! :lol::lol::lol:


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I'll keep it short this time. :wink:

I just want to say that I so appreciate reading where others are in this process too. After I posted this topic last night, I shut down the computer and thought, "wow, I bet that sounded really shallow -- all that practical stuff." But it's not shallow, it's one of the hard realities of losing your husband. The grief, sadness, and emptiness almost can go unspoken -- of course we feel that. It's the other stuff that our friends and family need to be educated on. And that we need to be educated about.

It's so easy to think no one understands what it's like to not know how your own house works! And I'm not stupid, but Bill did so much here and set everything up "just so." And, frankly, that's an easy issue. It's frustrating and can get expensive, but it's solvable. The really hard ones are what Nanci shared about, "who is that in the mirror?" And "am I going crazy?" And "Now what?"

And Ry -- I cannot even imagine that social security fiasco you're dealing with. I really hope that gets sorted out quickly. I'm so glad you know you're going to the art classes. I think doing something new that you enjoy is very healthy.

And Debi -- the courage to say out loud that you're relieved not to be living in the daily cancer existence takes bravery. I too feel that relief. Every time I drive by the medical center, I think how strange it was that those places became such a huge part of our lives. They feel so cold and distant now. I remember our wonderful radio-onc hugged me once and said, "you can always come back and visit." Why would I want to do that???

We'll all get through it, one step and a time...

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As usual, you who became widows before me have really helped me know what I'm going through is the norm and what to expect. My worst "symptom" is the lack of memory. I struggle for words, forget how to do some things at work on the computer, forget my list EVERY time I go to town. I bought a new range hood, didn't check the box when the goofy man pulled it out for me, and had the wrong color. I took it back to exchange today, put it in front of the door so I couldn't leave without it.

We do start grieving the minute we get the dx. Looking back it feels weird, I think I suspected he had cancer but still stayed at the Denial Inn. It is a relief to be past the "raw" stage, and the frantic stage. That was a horror in itself.

It still is not comfortable sleeping in the bedroom even with the new furniture, it just isn't mine yet. Anyone have ideas on decorating magazines just for the master bedroom?

I am fortunate in that I really like my part-time job. Please pray they will agree to a third day a week for me when I decide to request it. There is enough work for me to do.

Hoping everyone has a nice week.


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Thanks Teri for your 2nd post to summarize a few replies. I think my eyes are tiring from reading off the computer monitor; or maybe I need new glasses. I've been neglecting that.

Your posts are always most interesting and parallel to my own quite feelings that I keep to myself. I will always try to be brief, cheerful, positive, and informative in my replies.

The brave and courageous spirit Lisa had fighting for her life gives me no alternative but to honor her memory with Right Spirit.

Teri, your quality of awareness is very rare these days. Being aware of things like the medical center of treatment is one thing we have in common. I briefly peer at the sun blocked windows as I drive by and say a silent prayer for the new patients in the Room of Hope.

I think it was on a questionaire for my own medical treatment lately that I checked the box Widowed (not remarried surviving spouse) just to be honest. When the data was entered the printed computer form came back 'Single'. My awareness of this has now given me permission to just say I'm Single from now on.

So you have worries about the house maintenance. I guess that's one of the reasons to have a partner. My worry is I don't know how to cook and by that I mean Thai cooking which is all I knew how to eat. (Lisa was Thai).

So it really is One Step at a Time.

When I travel to Thailand in March I plan to hook up with some Thai Cooking schools for foreigners. So now I am on a fast pace to complete a Thai language course. I started it many times but things get in the way.

I will carry Lisa's ashes back so her family can have some closure and ceremony but I want to bring some of her back. I have heard that some monks there can create Amulets from ashes and herbs and that may be one solution.

It's all about taking One Step at a Time and some people call this Baby Steps; so consider yourself a New Baby.


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Chanwit- I am so sorry about Lisa. I missed that she had passed away and when I saw your post here I was so sad. I had wondered how she was doing. My condolences on your loss.

Barb- I get lots of decorating magazines but I find when I want to do one specific room it's best to hit the store for the magazines that are out only for that room -- you will find some for Bedrooms only-- or buy a book on bedroom decorating (I think Pottery Barn has a good one). That way you're not sifting through all the other stuff.

As far as your memory, I have that too. I just tell everyone I have developed adult onset ADD. I bounce around from one thing to another and can't keep my attention focused. I use lists like crazy. Someone said it is from the stress-- makes sense.


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I have the attention problem too. It's getting a little bit better. For months, I literally couldn't read a page of anything and retain it. I also couldn't learn anything new. I hope that's changed, but I haven't really tried to learn anything new lately.

Chanwit -- please keep us updated on your travels. I know how difficult that trip will be for you. Will someone go with you?

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Ha! I've turned into a post-it freak with my memory problems. My kids are so worried that I had to ask my doctor about it for their sake. He said it's because of stress. Works for me. I like what Nyka calls it -- Widow Brain. Says it all.

Chuck --

Glad to see you posting. I know how hard you are working at honoring Lisa's memory in a meaningful way. I admire your tenacity and know how much you've done already. I know you are a very centered type of person, but a little support and understanding from others going through the same mess does help. I did include Lisa on the All Saint's list here last Oct/Nov. Bless you in your travels, but I know you will find a lot of peace in Thailand too. I like the idea of something tangible created out of her ashes for you to keep. They also can make diamonds or you can get a very small memory container to put some ashes into for others. My girlfriend did that with her Mother so her kids could each have a little keepsake. Good luck!


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Teri, glad you asked.

One thing about being aware and taking 1 step at a time is that the Universe will speak to you and make things happen 1 at a time.

For instance, my brother paid a rare visit from CA to TX a year before Lisa was sick. She taught him meditation and how to calm the mind.

He returned to CA (Sacramento) and married a Thai girl.

Now they are going with me to Thailand.

His wife Choosri was born in the next village to where Lisa was born and about 10 minutes drive.

She is very friendly and will be my interpreter. That's a good and a bad thing. I have to make sure I convey my wishes and thoughts so there is no mis-interpretations. I've never met Lisa's brother and her mother only once and they don't speak English.

There are some other internet friends that I met on these cancer support sites that have lost a loved one and they will be in Thailand during my stay.

I have friends from Switzerland and Holland that have retired to Thailand in Hua Hin I will want to meet.

There are many monks in the 4 corners of Thailand that I want to visit.

And then there is the cooking school in northern Thailand.

Not sure if my 30 day stay will be enough. I can work my Internet Marketing business as long as I can get to an Internet cafe.

I will stop for a few days on the way back to visit my business partners in Taiwan.

Just listen to the Universe - It walks and talks.


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