What Losses Are Happening In Your World?

Things that shouldn’t happen happened multiple times this week.  Reading the paper you understand the tragedies occurring throughout the world, the unrest within our communities and the turmoil within people’s lives.

These are the life-changing stories that took place in my very small section of the world.

I attend the funeral of a 28-year-old woman who dies from complications of illness, leaving two young children.  Her parents and grandparents devastated by the random order of death that takes one of their youngest family members, first.

Meeting a woman at the funeral, she shares her story with me of losing her eight-year-old child, 30 years ago.  Her husband also died a year-and-a-half ago, so we immediately bond as members of the widow’s club.

Then there is the older woman who is not physically hurt in the car accident, but whose story elicits fears of having to find a new car on her own.  She is also a widow and without her partner’s guidance and with more financial worry, the task is daunting.

The phone call from the middle-aged woman after being fired without warning brings more shock waves.  Consistent income and medical insurance is mandatory for this divorcee.

In utero, I was genetically hard-wired for empathy which makes me a good listener and caregiver.  Realizing my limitations to fix everything; however, I can only listen to their stories and allow them to vent the rollercoaster of emotions that tumble out.

What I hear from each of them, what they all talk about is the emotional response to their loss. What they cannot find the name for is nothing other than GRIEF.

  • All of their losses are accompanied by shock and they need to keep re-telling their stories until the details become real.  Often the gravity of the situation can only be taken in small doses of reality, as it is overwhelming.
  • Each person is struggling with the fact that their “old reality” does not exist any longer and many emotions rise to the surface.
  • Sadness, anxiety, anger, depression, guilt, and fear of the unknown, can be a part of any journey through loss.
  • Whatever our loss, we need time to process our emotional response to it before we can move forward and find solutions.
  • Supportive people willing to listen and help in whatever way possible are the greatest gift.  Even when they can’t “fix it” for us, they remind us that we are NOT ALONE.

So, even after a week of accompanying others through their losses, I know one thing for sure…

YOU and I make a difference. We can offer our arms for hugs, our ears for listening and our prayers for healing.

 

 

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Posted in death, Friends, Grief, grieving, Life's Losses, Loss of a child, Loss of a job, Loss of a spouse, My story, support | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hang on to HOPE – The Sun is Shining Somewhere

I am grieving the lack of sun

and terribly depressed.

My fingers are numb and I can’t feel the rest,

even though my body is fully dressed.

 Those around me stay cheerful and recite the lines

that the sun is out somewhere, to them it is very benign.

They don heavy layers and rush out the door,

I look for the nearest heat register and lay down on the floor.

There is a glimmer of hope when I see a faint change

in the sliver of sun coming through the frosted pane.

I gasp when I see it and it passes as fast

as the bag of M&M’s I bought that didn’t last.

Looking back through the years this gloominess reminds me

of my early days as a widow when I couldn’t see,

that this too shall pass,

the darkness and gloom,

my grief was a nightmare that didn’t end soon.

But eventually, you notice the support of family and friends,

your faith and inner strength that never ends.

You will carry the scar for the rest of your life

but as the days grow longer and brighter,

it won’t cut like a knife.

So while in the trenches of grief and despair,

remember one thing:

The sun is out there somewhere!

Posted in Depression, Grief, Healing, Inspiration, My story, poems, Widowhood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reliving and Remembering 25 Years Ago Today

There are days in your life that replay over and over in your memory and this will be one I never forget. 

It is Tuesday, February 13th, 1990.  My husband Chris goes to his roofing job before sunrise, not waking me or our 2-year-old son Matt as he leaves.  Being a stay-at-home mom, our son’s schedule dictates the activities of the morning, and my doctor’s appointment is the only reason we leave the house after lunch.

Returning home with a tired toddler, I put him into his crib for a nap and lay down myself.  Elevating my foot on the back of the couch, I now feel the throbbing pain as the liquid nitrogen wears off from the site of my semi frozen planter’s wart.

The phone rings and I hobble out to the wall-mounted phone whose long cord still doesn’t reach the couch.  It is my husband’s co-worker Jerry; surprised to hear his voice I say,  “Hey Jerry, did you guys get off early today?”

“No Kath” I hear him say, as my heart sinks with the visceral understanding that something is terribly wrong.

“We are at the hospital, and Chris has been in an accident – you need to come.”

I instantaneously go into “nurse mode” trying to assess the situation and figure out what I need to do next.  I hear myself asking Jerry questions while at the same time, finding my socks and shoes and planning how to care for our son.  But his voice is ringing in my head…”Get here as soon as you can, Kath.”

My friend Karen usually works on Tuesdays, so I am surprised to find her home when I call.  I ask if she can come to our house so I can let Matt continue to nap and she arrives five minutes later.

I have told her there has been an accident and I feel her empathy as her husband works for the same company.  She gives me a hug, asking to call her with details and to not worry about Matt.  She promises to stay until I get home.

I call my mom who is working on the opposite side of town, and I leave a message with the receptionist that I need mom to meet me at the hospital as soon as possible.

Approaching the on-ramp of the freeway, I plan my strategy.  Assuming Chris will have broken bones as a result of a fall on the second-story construction site he was working on, I make my mental list of the medical team we will enlist.

“I’m Mrs. Lorch and I was called about my husband having been in an accident,” I tell the woman at the front desk.  “Please wait right here, it will be just a minute” she says as she speaks quietly into the phone.

Startled by their rapid exit from the back room, a man and woman wearing white coats come toward me and lead me to a room down the hall.  Much later that afternoon, I read the sign on the door – it says, “Quiet Room.”

The next question out of their mouths is, “Are you alone?  Is anyone coming to join you?  Is there anyone you would like to call?” 

It is then I KNOW because I am a nurse.

The unspoken rule is – avoid giving bad news to someone who is alone!

But, I am alone and the news is not good.  The doctor and nurse deliver it in the way they know how – telling me they did everything they could.  That the paramedics initiated CPR on the job site and resuscitation efforts failed.  Chris had died instantly from a head injury.  They are so very sorry

“Please call my pastor”  I hear myself say. 

I wait for Pastor Dave before seeing Chris and he becomes my support as we pray over my husband’s body.  I feel Chris’ spirit somewhere nearby and even with my medical background and having seen death before; I can’t believe that this is real.

Identifying the body is part of the medical procedure, this time I am on the opposite side of the gurney.  I am the next of kin, not the nurse.  It is my husband who is lying dead and I am the one they ask about decisions that need to be made.

Organ donation, funeral home preference, family notification, all of this is mine to do.

I don’t have time to cry, so I just tremble and feel sick to my stomach and wait for my mother. 

My nursing credentials don’t matter here; I have a new title and now I am attending a crash course entitled, “How to be a widow.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bereavement, death, Faith, family, Friends, Grief, grieving, My story, Organ Donation, Widowhood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Castle in the Sand – When the Life You Knew Crumbles and Another Gets Built

The Hotel del Coronado

My curiosity propels me forward.  A small group of people are congregating on the beach outside the Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, California.  They are taking pictures, but all I can see from a distance is a green beach umbrella shading plastic bins and a white-haired man standing in the middle of it all.  Getting closer, I see him pumping a fine mist of water onto his creation – a sandcastle unlike any I have seen.

Cinderella Sand Castle

Cinderella Sand Castle

This elaborate six-foot structure looks like Cinderella’s castle with two hearts at the base and trees lining the walkway.  It is amazing what you find on a windy, overcast day at the beach.

Picture albums of this middle-aged man’s creations sit on a portable table along with a “tip jar.”  The cardboard sign in the sand tells us that he is self-employed and this is his full-time business.

Fascinated I find myself asking his name and, “What is your story?  How did you come to do this work?”

Bill Pavlacka - The Sand Castle Man

Bill Pavlacka – The Sand Castle Man

Bill Pavlacka’s career as a plasterer began to decline as the economy changed, forcing him to look for other options.

As a husband and father of two young children, Bill has spent many hours with his family coming to the beach and making elaborate sand castles.  People on the beach encouraged him, applauding his work and even talking him into entering a few local contests, which he always won.

When his plastering jobs diminished, his wife was the first to suggest he market his talent and take his hobby to a new level…you can read about Bill and see more pictures here

What fascinates me about Bill’s story is his ability to take a loss and make it into a gain, and to say “yes” to whatever comes his way!

His future was not known when he left the plastering business; however, he took the risk and he saw the loss as an opportunity.

I think those of us who are grieving over a lost job, or a severed relationship or many of life’s losses could take a lesson from Bill.

  • He knew it was a risk but he was willing to try another way of being and of doing things.
  • He was willing to try even if it might fail (or be swept away by the wind or the waves)
  • He only listened to those family members and friends who were supportive and encouraged him.
  • He chose to use a talent he was given and be so passionate about it that opportunities would present themselves because of his willingness to say YES.

The next time you find yourself dealing with a loss of any kind, keep an open heart to change and embrace the opportunities that come your way.

Go to the beach and build a sandcastle. While you are there, watch the ever-changing waves, open your heart and mind, and listen to where LIFE is moving you…

Posted in Grief, growth, Hardships, Inspiration, Lessons from others, Life's Losses, Transitions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fully Alive While Waiting

There are a number of bracelets on her emaciated left wrist; some with crystal beads strung on elastic, another with tiny crosses and charms.  The purplish-pink one with the letters DNR is the one I notice first.

 

We are visiting my husband Jeff’s Aunt Sarah in the nursing home where she now resides, moving there with an injury from a fall at the age of 93.

Due to a number of reasons, we have been unable to keep up an ongoing relationship with her; however, we are here now.  Visiting her and Jeff’s mother Gloria, who happens to be at the same facility for rehabilitation.

Hesitantly we move into Sarah’s room.  She is bedridden, receives her nutrition through a tube feeding and appears to be a scant 80 pounds, maybe less.  She wears a wig to cover her hairless scalp and when she sees us, her tired eyes widen and she calls us by name.

The years between visits and the distance created fade away as she reaches for our hands and states, “This is the best day that I have had in this place so far.  What a surprise and delight!”

Mental faculties still intact, she recalls details about us, wants an update on our children and tells us the story of her transition to this place.

Despite her reluctance over the years to seek help or move from her house, she seems resided to being here.  She talks about the staff taking good care of her and what a blessing it is to be in the same place as her sister-in-law, Gloria. 

She is animated as she tells her story, is very positive despite her circumstances and declares, “I am ready to die, and I just don’t know when God is going to take me!”

I see her staring at Jeff and watch her eyes tear up when she says, “You look so much like your father.  I really miss that brother of mine; he’s been gone for so many years now.” 

I reach for a Kleenex to give to her and say, “Won’t that be a wonderful reunion with your entire family when it is your turn?”  She dabs at her eyes and says, “Oh yes, it will!”

When it is time to leave, we cradle her brittle boned body in our arms giving her hugs and tell her that we love her.  She thanks us again for coming and states that we are in her prayers every night and that she loves us too.

Death comes like a thief in the night whether we are ready or not.  Like Sarah, we may have to endure pain and see ourselves become skin and bone before it arrives.  It may come so unexpectedly that we don’t see it at all and have no time to prepare.

But either way, it comes.  I believe making peace with that changes the way we live our lives and Sarah is a great example for us.  She is positive, faithful, and chooses to be engaged with life up to the end.

Have you come to terms with death?  Do you have people in your life who are showing you the way?  I’d love to hear your stories! 

 

 

Posted in Aging, Caregivers, death, Faith, family, Grief, Hardships, Lessons from others, Relationships, Transitions, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What are the words to your grief song?

I turn up the volume of the TV when Ellen DeGeneres announces that one of her favorite singers is going to perform on her show.  It is Joshua Radin and the song is, “Beautiful Day.”

I focus all my attention on the words and a few of the lines jump out at me and enter my memory in a random fashion.

“What gets broken gets stronger when it mends.”

“Let’s not forget we are alive.”

“Oh my – my.”

These stanzas resonate with me for so many reasons.

First, I think of my story of multiple losses and about my ability to recover and to thrive.  I think about the remarkable ability that human beings have to mend and to actually get stronger because of their losses.  I know now, years after the trauma that without having been broken, I would not be the person I am today.

I think about how long it takes many of us to travel down the arduous path of grief and mourning and the choice we need to make to re-enter life.  Our challenge despite our loss is to acknowledge that life is a gift.

When I recall my life journey and think about all I have lived through, along with all the gifts I continue to receive with gratitude, all I can say is – OH, MY MY!

Posted in Bereavement, death, Grief, grieving, growth, Healing, Inspiration, My story, Reflection, The Gifts of Grief | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Grown-Up Grief List

One of my favorite Christmas songs is on the CD Home for Christmas by Amy Grant.  The song is, “Grown-Up Christmas List.”  The words of the chorus sum up so many of my own personal sentiments that I often sing along and turn up the volume.

“No more lives torn apart that wars would never start and time would heal all hearts.  Everyone would have a friend and right would always win and love would never end.  This is my grown-up Christmas list.”

Many of us find these words especially difficult if we have just lost someone we love, and  our hearts feel like they will never heal.  So, my friends here is my grown-up Christmas and New Year’s list for any of you who have just had your heart ripped apart by a loss…

  • I pray that you will put your “game-face” on if you feel like you must, but if you don’t feel like you want to, please honor that.
  • Let self-care be your gift to yourself and don’t feel guilty – you have no energy for that!
  • Know that you will learn a lot of things as you journey through your grief and that they are not all bad.
  • Accept that this journey is longer than you might want it to be but it will show all that you NEED to know.
  • Try not to dread the New Year – the worst that can happen already has – why not just accept that there will be good and bad but stay alert to the good?
  • Be bold in your response to people who are inappropriate or hurt you in any way – the people who will stay on your contact list will survive it, and those who don’t will probably grow distant anyway.
  • Surround yourself with loving, supportive friends and family who aren’t afraid of your tears, your stories and saying your loved ones name.
  • Know that grief changes everything.  If this years Christmas or New Year celebrations are a bust, you will probably have more.  So spend them the way YOU want to – you have just lived through a horrendous, stressful time.  Your body, mind and spirit need your tender care.

This is my Grown-Up Christmas List for you the bereaved.  My prayer for you is that small threads of peace and joy begin to weave themselves through the holes in your heart in the days and months to come.

 

Posted in Bereavement, death, Education, Faith, Friends, Grief, grieving, growth, Healing, Inspiration, Lessons from others, Life's Losses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments