Monday, October 22, 2012

The Big 300


Today marks my 300th post.

It's a personal milestone and truly a huge deal for me.  Big thanks go out to all of my family (especially my son, Ryan, who is my biggest blog cheerleader), friends and readers out there in the internet world who read Cry, Laugh, Heal.   You give me more than you know and I read and respond to all of the great feedback I receive!  And I hope to receive lots more feedback as I continue to write about the incredibly silly, sometimes sad and mostly spontaneous events that happen to me on my new journey as a widow and single mother.

I thought it would be appropriate to go back to the beginning, to the very first post I wrote launching Cry, Laugh Heal in December 2010.  This post is special to me because I had no idea what I was doing -- not that I really know now what I am doing -- but back then I really had no idea where Cry, Laugh Heal was going and what the reaction to it would be.  I just decided to jump in and try it and see what would happen.
When I read that first post today, I see a different person, a person still yearning to go backwards to the time when my husband was alive and well.  I still feel that way sometimes but now the feeling comes less frequently and not as strong as it did then. 

I definitely still feel passionately about changing the way people think about grief and trying to help people as they try to rebuild their lives after the loss of a loved one.  That's the reason I started Cry, Laugh, Heal: to open up the subject of grief and it's resulting resilience.  Grief is a natural reaction to a loved one's death and eventually it will happen to you whether you like it or not.  It doesn't help anyone when we make grief a taboo topic.

Everyone's grief journey is unique and certainly full of ups and downs.  I have found that for most people, the passage of time tends to lessen the waves of pain and eventually, the loss becomes less raw and more manageable.  One day, after many years, I had what is called a light bulb moment and finally realized that my husband would never want me or our son to be miserable.  I can't tell you how or why it happened, but it finally clicked in my brain that he would have wanted us to heal and find happiness.

To my great surprise, I have discovered that an inner strength does slowly build with the taking of each day as it comes to me.

I hope you enjoy reading my first post:

Clothes To You

December 23, 2010 

With the today's launch of Cry, Laugh, Heal, I’ll start by sharing an unexpected moment that helped me cope with my husband’s death.

Grieving can take you down some unpredictable paths -- sometimes revealing humor where you least expect it.

I learned the importance of having a sense of humor early in life while growing up in a large Irish Catholic family. If you couldn’t laugh at yourself, then someone else would imitate you until you did. So laughing and making jokes about life’s bumps in the road was part of my DNA, an integral part of my spirit, and it served me well until my husband died.

Suddenly, I found myself in this new role of being a middle-aged widow and single mother and I felt as though I was outside of myself performing some sort of high-wire act. On the one hand I was trying to move forward and support my young son, while on the other hand I was completely numb. As much as my family and friends supported me, I felt as if no one really got my “spin cycle” of emotions and what I was trying to handle.

I decided I needed to find others who had also lost loved ones and talk to them about how they managed to put the pieces back together and go on with their lives. I started going to group support sessions at Sibley Hospital’s bereavement group called Widowed Persons Outreach (WPO) and it was there that I found the emotional resources and freedom to talk about ALL the issues surrounding my husband’s death -- even the things that sound really irreverent and crazy to other people.

Talking about the emptiness, the surreal feelings, the memories and the loss of future memories was exhausting but therapeutic. But the best thing that came out of these emotional dialogues was that I unexpectedly rediscovered my sense of humor.

We were talking about what happens when you have buried your loved one yet their belongings – their clothes, their food, their books, most of what they owned – is still all around you. I jumped into the discussion and began talking about what happened to me one day when I was in the house all by myself. That particular day, I really felt like I was falling apart and all I wanted was some kind of contact with my husband.

I opened my cell phone, walked around the room and stared at it, thinking there actually was the possibility that something might happen -- a ring, a text, a signal of some sort from my husband. I know it sounds strange but when you are in the throes of deep grief and your loss is so raw, you are just hurting and not being logical.

I closed my eyes and imagined that he was hugging me. Then I opened the hall closet and took one of his tweed jackets off the hanger. I put it on and of course I immediately felt better. I smelled him in that precious jacket and I imagined his arms around me. I was comforted and torn up at the same time.

As I talked about this experience to my group, I said to the husky man sitting across from me, “Trying on his clothes really made me feel a lot better. Haven’t you ever done the same thing?”

Without missing a beat, he said with a completely straight face, “I gotta tell you. I have never, ever once thought about wearing my wife’s clothes.”

I totally burst out laughing. Something about the serious expression on his face, his delivery and the mental picture of this big guy in a small pastel sweater made me laugh so hard I couldn’t get my breath. And everyone else started laughing too so I knew that we had hit on something close to people’s hearts.

It was then that I knew life was going to be a little softer. Nothing was going to be great or wonderful; just slightly more bearable. For a long time, I didn’t think it was okay to laugh. I wasn’t supposed to be enjoying myself and besides, nothing was funny to me anyway.

There is a very thin line between crying and laughing. Many times you find yourself doing one of them and all of a sudden you are doing the other. But a good cry or a good laugh can make you feel as if a huge weight has been lifted and that’s what this blog is here to do.

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