Sunday, December 16, 2012

Grief doesn't end after a year

Just because it has been a year since Spencer passed away doesn't mean that the grieving stops. If anything I have had many, many widow friends tell me that if anything, it gets a little bit harder the second year... and as the second year is now in full swing, I can completely understand that. The fog of losing my husband has lifted. I am no longer just treading along, going through the motions. I'm fully aware and because of that things seem a lot harder than they were last year.

Some things do get easier, but I am in full belief that grieving is a life long process. It's something that you never, ever just "get over". You learn to work through things and cope in different ways. You begin to build a new normal. Life does go on, it just takes awhile.

I came across this post on a widows blog and I still feel like it applies to me, and probably will for a very long time. Yes, this is VERY helpful for a new widow to post so people can know how to help, but I think it's also important for those of you around us [by us I mean, us widowed people] to remember that around the holidays, anniversaries, angelversaries, and significant dates, no matter how far along we are in our grieving process, that we need your support more thane ever. I understand that most of the time you just don't know what to say. You don't know how to act.

Maybe this will help you understand a little bit better. Give you some insight. I know that this month has been really hard on me. I feel like I've hit a brick wall. But your support is huge in helping me get through each and every day and I'd really appreciate it if you could take the time to help me.

Hope this helps some of you! I've bolded/underlined and colored some of the things that really stick out to me and really apply to me, personally.

"How You Can Help Me"

Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed. I need to talk about him, and I need to do it over and over.

Be patient with my agitation. Nothing feels secure in my world. Get comfortable with my crying. Sadness hits me in waves, and I never know when my tears may flow. Just sit with me in silence and hold my hand.

Don't abandon me with the excuse that you don't want to upset me. You can't catch my grief. My world is painful, and when you are too afraid to call me or visit or say anything, you isolate me at a time when I most need to be cared about. If you don't know what to say, just come over, give me a hug or touch my arm, and gently say, "I'm sorry." You can even say, "I just don't know what to say, but I care, and want you to know that."

Just because I look good does not mean that I feel good. Ask me how I feel only if you really have time to find out.

I am not strong. I'm just numb. When you tell me I am strong, I feel that you don't see me. I will not recover. This is not a cold or the flu. I'm not sick. I'm grieving and that's different. My grieving may only begin 6 months after my loved one's death. Don't think that I will be over it in a year. For I am not only grieving his death, but also the person I was when I was with him, the life that we shared, the plans we had for our children, the places we will never get to go together, and the hopes and dreams that will never come true. My whole world has crumbled and I will never be the same.

I will not always be grieving as intensely, but I will never forget my loved one and rather than recover, I want to incorporate his life and love into the rest of my life. He is a part of me and always will be, and sometimes I will remember him with joy and other times with a tear. Both are okay.

I don't have to accept the death. Yes, I have to understand that it has happened and it is real, but there are some things in life that are just not acceptable. When you tell me what I should be doing, then I feel even more lost and alone. I feel badly enough that my loved one is dead, so please don't make it worse by telling me I'm not doing this right. And remember, I was a capable adult before his death and I still am.

Please don't tell me I can find someone else or that I need to start dating again. I may not be ready. And maybe I don't want to be. And besides, what makes you think people are replaceable? They aren't. Whoever comes after will always be someone different.

I don't even understand what you mean when you say, "You've got to get on with your life." My life is going on, I've been forced to take on many new responsibilities and roles. It may not look the way you think it should. This will take time and I will never be my old self again. So please, just love me as I am today, and know that with your love and support, the joy will slowly return to my life. But I will never forget and there will always be times that I cry.

I need to know that you care about me. I need to feel your touch, your hugs. I need you just to be with me, and I need to be with you. I need to know you believe in me and in my ability to get through my grief in my own way, and in my own time.

Please don't say, "Call me if you need anything." [Yes, I am thankful for your offer, but please don't actually expect a call, text, or message... And don't get offended if I don't take you up on your offer...] I'll never call you because I have no idea what I need. Trying to figure out what you could do for me takes more energy than I have. So, in advance, let me give you some ideas:

(a) Bring food or a movie over to watch together.

(b) Send me a card on special holidays, our wedding anniversary, his birthday, and the anniversary of his death, and be sure to mention his name. You can't make me cry. The tears are here and I will love you for giving me the opportunity to shed them because someone cared enough about me to reach out on this difficult day.

(c) Ask me more than once to join you at a movie or lunch or dinner. I may say no at first or even for a while, but please don't give up on me because somewhere down the line, I may be ready, and if you've given up then I really will be alone.

(d) Understand how difficult it is for me to be surrounded by couples, to walk into events alone, to feel out of place in the same situations where I used to feel so comfortable.

Please don't judge me now - or think that I'm behaving strangely. Remember I'm grieving. I may even be in shock. I am afraid. I may feel deep rage. I may even feel guilty. But above all, I hurt. I'm experiencing a pain unlike any I've ever felt before and one that can't be imagined by anyone who has not walked in my shoes.

Don't worry if you think I'm getting better and then suddenly I seem to slip backward. Grief makes me behave this way at times. And please don't tell me you know how I feel, or that it's time for me to get on with my life. What I need now is time to grieve. Most of all thank you for being my friend. Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for caring. Thank you for helping, for understanding.

And remember in the days or years ahead, after your loss - when you need me as I have needed you - I will understand. And then I will come and be with you.

--Author Unknown

Monday, December 10, 2012

A challenge for you...

December has really crept up on me. For some reason I thought it was still weeks away. The other night I was talking with my mom and she reminded me that there were about 5 different things to look forward to this December. 1. Me coming back home 2. Shayna's birthday 3. My parents anniversary 4. Christmas. And 5. My birthday. MY BIRTHDAY. What?! I cannot believe that I forgot about my own birthday.

I guess that's been quite low on the priority list.

But something that I find even harder to believe? Spencer has been gone 1 day shy of a whole year.

365 Days.

52 Weeks.

1 Year.

At this point last year I was sitting at his bedside waiting for my parents to arrive. Just holding his hand and looking at his beautiful face. I can't believe it was 1 year ago. How did I get here?

Where did the time go? I've been asking myself a lot recently something to the effect of, "How did I make it this far?" I think of everything that has happened within the last year. There have been so many moments that I so desperately wish my husband could have shared with me.

Turing 21 years old. Holidays. Moving back out to Utah and finding a place to live. Going through the interview process for the very first time and ROCKING it. Landing my first "real" job that I actually really, really love. Joining a new ward. Being involved in things he would have loved to do with me. The list really does go on.

I have changed a significant amount from knowing Spencer and being his wife. Some has been for the better. And some has been a digression in things that I gained while we were married that I'm working on getting back. (were married, it still is awful to say) I learned so, so much that I have put into practice this year that he taught me. Valuable lessons I keep very close to my heart.

I'm going to take you back a year ago. When we first learned Spencer wasn't going to make it. The outpouring of love and support was extremely humbling and overwhelming for me. But something else that overwhelmed me? The number of messages that I got from all of you telling me how Spencer changed your life. How you learned so many things from him that you would remember forever.

I was told many times by friends, and even strangers, how you were going to live your life differently in some way to honor him and in memory of him. All for Spencer. Sometimes it's easy to say these things and then forget about them. It doesn't mean that they weren't true, but it's easy for life to get in the way of promises we make and things that we say.

So I just wonder... how many of you remember what Spencer taught you? How many of you remember how he inspired you and touched you? How many of you remember the promises you made to him before he died to live your life in a different way because of him?

Now... how many of you followed through??

If you want to, I would be delighted to hear the answers to my questions above. Just post a comment to this blog. If you'd rather keep it to yourself, that's just fine too.

But I want to pose a challenge to you for the remainder of this month...

If you made a promise or commitment to Spencer, or in honor of Spencer, before he died, try to fulfill that promise by the end of this year. Maybe you said that you'd be more kind and loving. You'd take more time to appreciate the things around you. You'd give more to others. Anything.

I want you to reflect on the lessons that you tell me that my husband taught you, no matter how small; and instead of verbally saying these things, I hope that you will act upon them. Change something. Do something. Make a difference in your life, for the better, because of the way you were touched by a young, selfless man.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Grieving and Faith

Jeeze it's been awhile since I've posted. I really have had a lot to say, and I've started writing a couple of blog posts, but I never finished them, never posted them. Hopefully I can get back on the bandwagon and start posting a lot more frequently. I love looking back on old posts and remembering where I was physically, emotionally, mentally, at a specific time in my life. So here it goes.. jumping back on the blogging train..

I follow this blog called Widows Voice and more often than not when I read a post it tends to define me. The words that these widows and widowers convey often times put into words what I've been unable to for a long period of time. There was a blog that I read today talking about how she lost her Faith when her husband got sick with cancer. It hit pretty close to home..

I am not sure if I've posted about my struggle with Faith since Spencer's death. I am not going to lie - it has been the single hardest thing for me to deal with since I lost my husband. There have been times where I've felt close to the Lord. I read my scriptures and I prayed every night. But the majority of the time I feel I have been so incredibly distanced from my Heavenly Father. I have been unable to put forth an effort to continue uphold my end of the relationship and rely on Him for answers and guidance.

There has definitely been a void in this area of my life. I get angry and feel quite guilty because I am not at all where I should be in regards to my faith. I mean, I have every reason that I SHOULD become more Christ-like and closer to Heavenly Father. My husband is now in Heaven, and if I want to be with him again, I need to put forth an effort to earn it. If I want to enter the Temple and get my endowments, I need to work to earn it. I've heard that the vail is a lot thinner than we think and I'd love to experience not only the blessings of the Temple, but the communication that sometimes comes from being a worthy member of the church and being able to go through the Temple. I don't know that I will ever get sealed to Spencer (complicated issue, one that tugs me in both ways always...), but if I would ever want that to be a possibility... again, I need to earn that.

But for some reason (multiple reasons) I've been so far away that it's hard to get back..

It's also been really hard for me, because even when people say things with the very, very best of intentions, it often times stings me and makes me feel guilty. Sometimes (okay honestly, really every single time) I try to bring up how I feel, I get the same type of reply over, and over, and over again. When I try to talk about how I don't feel worthy, how I am angry and hurt at God, and etc I get a response like this, "Oh, Nikki! You really shouldn't feel that way." I understand what's going through their mind when they say it. But what goes through my mind after hearing it constantly is something completely different. I KNOW that I shouldn't feel that way.... But talking about this topic to people is hard for me, it takes a lot for me to bring it up and it's frustrating when I always get shrugged off and the response I get is "You shouldn't feel that way". I want people to look me in the eye and tell me that it's okay. That it's normal to feel how I'm feeling. That it's understandable and I have every right on Earth to feel this way. And then I want them to help me go about working through things. Getting back on track.

But I rarely get that. And it gets to me. Very few people seem to take enough time to really listen to me and help me through it. And honestly, it could be because I play it off to be not such a big deal because everyone else seems to think it's not such a big deal. That these feelings will pass. Will it's been over a year now and they are still hanging around. But truth is... it IS a big deal to me. It's an internal conflict that I deal with EVERY DAY. There is not one day that goes by that I am not disappointed in myself for my terrible lack of faith. I want to have unshakable Faith. I want Spencer to be proud of me in how much I've grown in my faith. But the sad thing is... I haven't, at least I don't feel like I have. And any other time that I struggled, I had him there to help pick me back up. He helped get me back on the right path. He knew exactly who I needed to talk to, or what I needed to do... I'm so new at all of this. 1.5 years a member of the church... I don't know the ins and outs and the ways to make appointments with people who I should talk to to help me out... And I think people forget this. So I just often times feel completely alone. And anymore it's getting to the point where I just ignore it because I'm not sure how to deal with it. -deep breath- I'm getting all worked up... It's hard on me...

But as I mentioned, the words in the blog, Widow's Voice, really defined my year off and on. I want to post some of them...

"As I watched Daniel deal with cancer and all the joy it entails, I lost faith." -- I can't even explain how true this seems for me. I can't say that I completely lost my faith, but it seemed so shattered. When I should have been drawing closer, I pulled away... 

"I tried to go to church after he died, but I was so angry that I would just cry in church and hate all of the happy families sitting around me.  I was bitter and resentful.  I didn't want to be there."

 Oh man... That last statement is very much me. It is to the point where I don't want to go to church because it is the one time that I truly hurt to the core. It makes me miss my husband on a level that is indescribable  I feel an intense longing, a deep ache, and a void that can't be filled. Often times I would sit there with tears in my eyes... Something they would say would make me remember, a hymn that we sang made me remember how much Spencer loved them... And I would get angry. I don't know what or who I was angry with, but I would definitely feel bitter which made being there miserable.   I mean, who WANTS to put themselves in a situation that is going to cause so much pain? That's where I'm coming from. And it's also not JUST going to church, it's praying at home, reading the scriptures, FHE, visiting teaching discussions. It's everything. I have been so deeply hurt and shattered it's so hard for me to get back on the right path...

All of it this so, so, hard to describe to someone who hasn't lived it. If you don't understand, it's okay -- I don't at all expect you to. But I needed to write about it. I needed to start blogging again somewhere, and this is what ended up...