Saturday, May 19, 2012

How I Celebrated My Steps in Closure

As I proceeded through grief, after my spouse died, the ultimate goal was acceptance and closure. Closure began when I started putting away the sympathy cards and cleaning out the closets. As one door closed behind me, another would open in front of me. After 15 months, I finally changed my wedding rings from my left hand to my right hand (a big step in closure). And then I went out on my first date.

It felt like walking up a staircase. I had never been at the top of that particular staircase, so the closer I got to the top, the more exciting it became. I really didn't know what to expect but I did know it was a place that God had been leading me to. And at the top, I knew there would be more celebrations!

I had to climb 2 huge staircases. One was the grief journey from losing a husband, and the other one was raising my daughters. In both situations God was leading me and I was trusting in Him to get me to the end. I'm not sure I would have finished if I didn't have His help. Or both situations wouldn't have finished so wonderful without God's help. I have experienced many closures in both situations.

When it came to a year's anniversary that my husband had died, I made it a point to celebrate his life. A group of our friends went out for the evening to reminisce his life. It was a milestone in my grief journey. We did the same thing at the two year marker.Two years were just the first few steps in my staircase.

It wasn't until 5 years that we made a permanent move to a different state. This was a significant life change in my grief closure. I went back to school and earned a master's degree. It wasn't until I was widowed for seven years that I met my second husband. He waited for me until my children were on their own and then married me. What a celebration and reward after truly completing my grief journey!

Raising children as a single parent was just as hard. That staircase felt never ending at times. We had celebrations as they reached their milestones with dance recitals, gymnastic meets, and high school graduations. As my oldest daughter recently started her own family, and my youngest just graduated from college, I have finally reached parental freedom. And what will be my celebration to this closure? I'll be skydiving tomorrow with my daughter!! (Hope to be back for next week's blog!)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Writing the Memories

During my first year of widowhood, memories of my husband flooded in from happier days. They were crystal our family vacations. We frequently flew to Puerto Rico to visit his parents. They would occasionally babysit and we'd run off to the beach for some time alone. I'd lie on the beach and listen to the Salsa music playing from the close-by, beachfront establishments. Nelson would play a few games of pool and then bring me back some yummy food.

Then there were the memories that came before the holidays. I'd remember Nelson just loved Thanksgiving! The more family and friends around him, the merrier he was. I reflected on one particular Thanksgiving with our friends, Lisa and Sal. We laughed so much that day that probably our sides hurt. Maybe you won't think it was as funny. But there are those times that you just had to be there.

Nelson and I arrived for Thanksgiving dinner just as Lisa ran out of milk for mashed potatoes. An hour later, when Lisa poured more milk in the cold potatoes to mash them, all she managed to get were lumps. Giggles in the kitchen became contagious. When the turkey was done, Sal lifted up the gizzard bag that he forgot to remove. Once we composed ourselves from laughing, we sat down to eat. For Lisa's next birthday, I included a box of instant mashed potatoes!

I could tell more stories. It's been 17 years since my late husband passed. I can remember the details because I wrote them down. In the first year of painful grief, every day I wrote the memories while I cried many tears. This helped me to progress through grief and now I have these memories forever with me. From the happy times to what I remembered when Nelson was dying in the hospital.

I believe that writing your memories is one way to become unstuck in your grief. I think sometimes we don't want to forget special moments we've had with our loved one and we keep our thoughts constantly on them, clinging to every detail. If we can get in a habit to write them down, it would be easier to move on. We would know that if the memories are written down, whether in a private journal or public blog, we could go to them whenever we felt the need.

Writing down memories takes time and courage. It's making a conscious effort to make it a priority. It takes guts, too. The tears will come and this helps you grieve. As you write the past this makes it easier to let go and move forward. These treasured memories will always be with you. And one day, as you read them, instead of crying tears, a smile will spread across your face!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's OK to be Depressed:( Sometimes

During the first few years of my widowhood, when I was working through my grief, I'd occasionally have to tackle the monster of "DEPRESSION". Of course the most obvious times were around holidays, special days of birthdays and anniversaries, and lifetime milestones of dance recitals, proms, and graduations. Then there were the longer episodes of depression when I was tired of doing it all alone. Times when everything seemed dark and I didn't want to be happy.

If the depression was caused by the anticipation of a special "day" or holiday, I could usually pull myself out of my slump once the occasion was over. Or, I'd be depressed to a certain degree when Friday and the weekend came but then relieved on Monday morning. My problem with depression was when the circumstances were constant. When every day I had to be mother, father, nurturer, and disciplinarian, etc. It was usually when I couldn't find relief that I'd slip into a depressed state.

I don't think depression is all that bad. I believe it's a healthy part of grieving. I'm not talking about clinical depression that requires medication. I'm talking about depression that you can shake off in a couple weeks. There were a few times I felt myself going down. I'd get stuck in a rut of some sort and just want to wallow in my sadness. I didn't want to be happy and I didn't want to be around happy people!

As I sank into my depression, I had enough sense to know what was happening. I knew it wasn't a good thing to become stuck in this stage. I knew somehow I'd have to pull myself out. Common sense told me, "get enough sleep", "eat well", "exercise" and "pray". This wasn't all, but it was a start. The key is finding out what works for each of us to break the force. For me, I had to change my routine. I would usually take a trip to visit friends or family that would make me feel happy again.

There are different degrees of depression. I've always been fortunate to pull myself out before it reached a danger zone. I believe a certain amount of depression is healthy now and then. It's part of a range of emotions that God created within us. Perhaps there are good reasons we are meant to temporarily go through the valleys. During these times we feel alone and have no one but God to call upon. 

So do we call upon God to help us through our depression? Or do we call upon a drug, a drink, or a person? From my experience, I'd call upon God to guide me out of my despair. I leaned on him and trusted him that he'd pull me through. He may have nudged me to take a trip or visit a friend. Of course He knew better than I did what it would take to pull me out of my darkness and back into the light.