Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Six Weeks Report Card

When I was in middle and high school some thirty-five years ago (wow!) we received those dreaded report cards every six weeks. Mom had to sign them to prove sneaky little students weren't scamming the system.

It has now been six weeks since I lost my perfect-for-me wife. While I don't expect anyone to sign and return this report card, I wanted to let everyone know how I'm faring.

Overall, I think I warrant a B on my report card. I consider this to be phenomenal seeing as how I expected a D-.

Most expected my biggest challenge would be the quiet, empty house. It's not. It isn't easy, but in truth, the solitude gives me the privacy I need to grieve unrestrained. There are, however, two significant hurdles in my path.

Hurdle #1: I can't keep my mind from returning to the ICU and reliving the event (the whole day, really) that changed my life forever. This is something with which I will have to deal eventually. It's the only aspect of the grieving (or healing) process I've intentionally deferred. It sets me to borderline panic. I will get through this, but it will take a while.

Hurdle #2: Guilt. I feel guilty when I spend hours upon hours moping, mourning and weeping. I know she doesn't want that. She wants me living, loving, writing, experiencing joy and making the most of myself. However, I feel guilty when I do that too, as though I'm ignoring or forgetting or even betraying her somehow. I hope to come to terms with this one soon. It's unbelievably distracting. And guilt can quickly become an unhealthy emotion.

I give myself an A in the regrets category though. Of the few regrets I have, most are not major or significant. We were unbelievably happy and content together. We did well all the crucial things required for a joyous marriage. We also did well in avoiding (or quickly correcting) those things that can divide or even destroy an otherwise thriving marriage.

For Myra and me, love was not a state of being, but an action stemming from choice. I usually call that commitment. Commitment is something we had in abundance.

So there you have it, my report card. I'm still on hiatus (or summer break if I stick with my theme) and am unsure how long I will remain so. Prayers and well-wishes are still welcome and appreciated.

63 comments:

  1. I can't imagine what you must be going through right now. I hope the hurdles you're facing become less difficult with time so you can better grieve...

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  2. My condolences Jeff. I am glad that you're doing your best to get through this great loss.

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    1. I owe to my family, to myself and to Myra to do my best.

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  3. I've never lost a loved one, parent, child, or spouse. So I don't really know what you're going through. I feel, though, that the two items you mention are normal. The feeling guilty one is probably the worst. That one may take more time to heal. You're holding on, which is only natural. Letting go takes time. I think you're doing well.

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    1. They probably are normal. But they're so incredibly intense too. And letting go is next to impossible, it seems.

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  4. You're doing really well considering what you've been through. Just keep going - you'll figure out the guilt eventually. Nobody can just ignore their grief, so try not to feel guilty when you feel down. You're only human.

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    1. Thanks, Laura. I'd probably explode if I tried to ignore it. Grieving is more complicated than one might think.

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  5. You're doing better than I would be.
    Grief is a process. It can't be rushed and it shouldn't be prolonged. There's crap you'll need to face, and you won't want to, but God will get you through it.
    And I couldn't agree more that love is action.

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    1. You might be surprised, Alex. I always knew I'd simply implode if I lost Myra. While that tendency is definitely present, God's grace and the support of others has kept it at bay, if just barely.

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  6. I don't really know what to say that could possibly do this any justice...the fact that you've come this far and can write it out like this is nothing short of incredible. Praying for your continued recovery.

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    1. And your prayers are most appreciated, Avery. The thing that's incredible though is the amount of support I've received from this wonderful community.

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  7. You have to eventually tie the knot and move on.

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    1. The knowledge is there, but my willingness to do so still falls short. I'm still hoping this "with time" thing pans out.

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  8. Hang in there Jeff. I know a little bit about grieving for someone who was a part of who you are. The intensity of those feelings can be overwhelming but the passage of time will help by dulling out the edges so that it doesn't hurt so much. ((hugs))

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    1. Overwhelming is an accurate term in this case. Thanks for the hugs too. :)

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  9. Finding a balance between grieving the loss and doing what our loved one would want us to do is difficult. But at least knowing they would want us to get on with our life and be happy helps with the guilt.

    Maybe you should post a couple of 3x5 cards around the house with something funny or snarky she would say to you about it. At least they might be good for an occasional smile.

    I'm sorry you're going through this, Jeff. I think of you often and pray you'll find peace soon.

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    1. Melissa, those thoughts and prayers have been my lifeline. No one could convince me otherwise. That 3x5 idea merits consideration. :)

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  10. You always say things so perfectly. Love is an action stemming from choice. I'm glad you had that commitment, and that love.

    Guilt can be a destructive emotion, but it's also a completely normal one. And, honestly, if you didn't feel guilty about something you would feel guilty about not feeling guilty. That's just the way guilt works. And your wife may not want you to mourn and wallow in her loss, but she also understands that YOU need that time. I'm sure she would be doing the same thing if you had gone first. She understands, and she's watching and loving you still.

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    1. Dito to what Miss Bowers said, Jeff! And your love and devotion to Myra are getting you through this ordeal. Never feel guilty over not getting back into things as quickly as others might. Don't compare yourself to anyone else who has grieved over a loved one. You must handle this as only Jeff Hargett can handle it, and I give you an A+ becuase I think you're doing everything right for YOU in this grieving process. Bless your sweet heart!

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    2. Sara, you're absolutely right regarding your take on guilt. And you're also right about if I had gone first.

      Thanks, Elsie. I've discovered that the manner of one's grieving is as unique as their fingerprints.

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  11. Jeff, everything you've said sounds healthy and right. You're emotions, thoughts, feelings seem to be in perspective. Myra was a lucky woman and you were a lucky man - still are - because you had each other for as long as you did. You'll always have that. You'll be strong and weak and everything in between until you find the new normal. I'll be thinking of you and praying for you and your family <3

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    1. I appreciate those prayers, Gwen. And you're right; I was blessed to have Myra in my life for 29 years. That is a priceless blessing.

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  12. Oh Jeff, I love your honesty and ability to look at your grieving and allowing yourself to grieve. No grades needed. It just is. What a gift to live without regret in one's relationship. My guess is this puts you and your lovely wife in a rare and precious category. Hugs and many prayers as your heart continues to pulse and move through this process.

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    1. Thank you, Julie. Myra and I valued honesty and appreciated it most when delivered with tact. I'm just trying my best to keep the grieving process from crossing into unhealthy territory. That would do no one good.

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  13. You made the honor roll.

    In time almost everything fades away. (I commented gnomically.)

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    1. Let's hope I can make honor roll in the subsequent grading periods too. :)

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  14. Hurdle 1 - you'll go there when you're ready, and not a moment before, so no point gnashing your teeth over that one.

    Hurdle 2 - Throw that one out with the dishwater. You supposed to spend hours, days, weeping and grieving. It's in the handbook!

    Big hugs - you get an A+ from me.

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    1. Many thanks, Widder. Hugs *and* an A+ brings a smile to my face.

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  15. Jeff,
    There is on 'one right path' or 'one right pace' while enduring a loss and working to move forward.

    Hang in there and continue to remind yourself (as you have) of how your wife would both desire and expect you to move forward.

    If I might suggest, if you've not read it, consider reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom. I think the 4th person Eddie meets is one you might find speaks to you as the novel's theme is revealed.

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    1. I'll have to check out that book, Terry. Thanks for the recommendation--and exhortation.

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  16. Hey...in high school I'd do a backflip over an B. Just remember...this is not a linear process, so setbacks are normal and almost expected. Hang in there! :)

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    1. Definitely not linear, that much is definitely true. Sometimes I feel as though I'm atop a merry-go-round and going through all the stages of grief repeatedly, which I suppose I am.

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  17. Each "assignment" raises your grade. You're getting there.

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  18. Glad to read you're doing okay. Still praying for you as you go through this difficult time.

    I pray that you'll find solace, that God will hug you and keep you comforted while you cry. That you'll find peace and some sort of understanding one day.

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    1. That is a most beautiful and appropriate prayer, Misha. My heartfelt thanks.

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  19. I think that's a pretty decent grade, Jeff, all things considered. There are also memories that I can't go back to just yet (the hospital stay).

    There in prayer.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. My friend, you and I are traveling such similar paths lately. May God's grace light our way.

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  20. It's one day at a time Jeff. You're strong in your own way Man.

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    1. Thank you, Maurice. I haven't a clue as to my strength because my perception of it changes by the hour, it seems. But yes, one day at a time.

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    1. Amazing it is, how six little words can carry such a blessing. I sincerely thank you.

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  22. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Healing takes time, know many are thinking of you.

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    1. I've been overwhelmed by the kindness and sympathy from this community. It's priceless and very much appreciated.

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  23. I'm still praying for you Jeff, and my heart goes out to you.

    I know my situation was very different, but I want to share something with you. I literally prayed that God would remove the horrific image of my sister dying, from my mind. I kept reliving the moment over and over and over. Every time I closed my eyes, that's all I would see. I can tell you with all honesty, I don't see that image, anymore. Now, when I picture her face, it's radiant, healthy and beautiful. I don't dwell on anything but that. If I kept dwelling on the other image of her I had stuck in my mind, I think it would have eventually broke me.

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    1. I thank you so very much. It is true that the memory of her just moments after her passing are seared into my mind. It rends my heart asunder, to be truthful about it. However, it's the minutes before that moment that gives birth to a marginally controlled naked panic every time I relive it, which is why I keep trying to defer that aspect of my grieving until later. I'll have to deal with it, but am not ready to do so yet.

      I am glad and relieved that your prayer was answered in that regard. When we've had years with those we love, it's those years on which we should focus, I think. But as with most everything, easier said than done.

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  24. I'm so sorry about your wife. It sounds so flat saying that on someone's blog, but I really am so terribly sorry. I lost someone a few months ago myself and it's been more of a struggle than I can really say trying to cope with it. I hope each day gets a little easier. I don't pray often, but I'll keep her in my prayers every chance I get.

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    1. I appreciate that. I really do. Merely knowing that others are thinking of and praying for my family is in itself a comfort. I shall return the favor and keep you and yours in mine. Genuine compassion and sympathy are never flat, even though we can rarely find words to express the depth of how we feel.

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  25. Progress will be slow, but it will happen. Just remember that things will never get back to "normal," no matter how long you wait. But with time, you'll arrive at a new normal. Keeping you in my thoughts.

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    1. I just hope that I can find some things to like about the new normal. So far, everything feels empty. I should probably have waited to reply to this tomorrow. She died seven weeks ago today. Posting anything about Myra on Wednesdays reveals too much of my grieving. I still can't get my memory out of the ICU and subsequent events. It's like a sick Groundhog Day remake. But I do appreciate your comments and encouragement. It really does help to know others care.

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  26. Prayers and hugs Jeff. When my brother and my father died, there were harsh "life" moments- a look of pain; that gut punch of reality setting in- that stick with us, but I have found, over time, these memories are dulling as the happy memories shove them out of the way. And those good days? I felt like God was giving me a hug, a reprieve of sorts so my mind could heal. And those days I felt like moping and crying? I did so without guilt. I figured the people I lost were worthy of my tears. And if a memory made me laugh, well they deserved to have me think well of them too. And when I go to bed at night, I remind God to give them a hug and tell them I love them and will see them again one day.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that your were able to lament and laugh without guilt. That's one of my big issues right now. I love your reasoning behind that too. It helps. And you taking the time to share this with me and encourage me also helps--more than you know. Thank you--sincerely.

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  27. Jeff, I know how much your loss for Myra feels. In the past two years I've lost seven relatives, and a kindred spirit due to much too many tragedies. It's draining, I know. It hurts bad, I know. You're doing much better than I did, when I chose to disappear for a year from all social networks due to my losses. I can't imagine losing my wife, though. To this, I again offer my deepest condolences. Hang in there. Really, it does get better. Don't feel there's something wrong for bawling your eyes out. It's part of the grieving process and you need that. It's okay. One day you will know when to pick up the pieces and move forward. For now, cry, it's good for you. And, well, remember everything you can possibly remember about Myra. Those memories will give you strength in the future. Know I'm truly praying for you.

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    1. Shoulders, both physical and virtual, upon which I can rest and cry have been a tremendous help as have the numerous--and frequently wise--words of sincere encouragement from folks such as yourself. Such support has come in the form of flesh and blood, phone calls, cards and letters, blog and Facebook comments, even via Twitter. They've come from next door and across the globe. They've come from family, friend, neighbor and stranger alike. They have all come when I needed them most, because I've needed them most every moment of every day. Many, if not most, of these comments and encouragements have helped in one way or another. I am so very thankful for them all.

      I cannot imagine losing seven members of my family in so short a span, Jack. My wife and I lost our fathers three weeks apart and my uncle a few months afterwards and we felt the ramifications from that incredibly difficult period for years. I am heartened to see that you have not only survived it, but came through sufficiently strong to offer aid to others dealing with those same emotions. In my book, that's considered honorable and heroic.

      My best to you, along with my sincere gratitude.

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  28. Jeff, thanks so much for sharing this update. You have been in my prayers each night, and I'm glad to see you getting back to your caring, eloquent self. It will be a journey to be sure. A thought for hurdle #2: instead of feeling guilty, try channeling those emotions into the scenes, characters and writing that Mira would want you to be doing. One of my friends took this approach a few years ago after her mother (for whom she'd acted as a long-time caregiver) passed. She said "writing through it" was the best thing that helped her.

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    1. Thank you, Nicole, for the faithful prayers. They have no doubt been a help. (The fact I'm still here and still sane is proof of that.) I recently left Morgan a comment on her blog post where she mentioned her grandfather's passing. Part of the comment was to "banish all guilt" because it can become such a dangerous and negative emotion. I dislike the fact that I'm still struggling with it myself. My employer offers several free counseling sessions for things like this and I'm considering taking them up on it. (It's nice and considerate benefit.)

      Oddly enough, the only thing I've written these past two months has been letters to Myra--and one song to her. I've already filled up one journal with them and have started into a second journal. Someone mentioned writing her a letter. The first one felt so therapeutic I wrote her another the next day and the day after that. I haven't missed a day writing her a letter yet.

      I can feel stories bubbling inside me, but they're deep down inside, just beyond my reach. The couple that have reached the surface still went unwritten because the whole guilt thing sapped all drive and desire to focus on something other than her. I do, however, believe that when my words of fiction do begin to appear on the page (screen) again, they will have been flavored by this experience. I'll be interested to see how the new flavoring works out.

      Again, my sincere gratitude to you for your prayers and support.

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  29. I'm so sorry to hear about your wife Jeff. I've been on holiday for what seems like forever and haven't been checking emails or reading blogs. I truly can't imagine what you must've been through these past weeks. At least you have the rest of your family there to shine a light when you need it most. You're in my thoughts. xx

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    1. I thank you, Morgan. That means a lot. This is by far the toughest trial I've ever endured. Family and friends have been crucial.

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  30. Jeff, I've never visited you blog before but to find this as your most recent post broke my heart and I am very sorry for your loss. I can only liken it to the loss of my 14 yo cat this year in which I relived the moment in the vet when he went to sleep over and over. It was a horrible thing and I carry too much guilt over it still and he was only my cat! I can't even begin to liken that to losing my husband/wife.
    The one thing that got me through was my ability to write. I was able to put my grief to constructive use and write about it. It helped me understand what I was feeling and I believe it really sped up the whole process.
    Just like your tag line: "When this world doesn't suit you, write a world that does." You can use your writing as a sort of therapy. You needn't show anyone either if you don't want to. Just remember that you will get there and her love for you and your love for her will always live on inside your heart and mind.
    I wish you all the best.
    Alison

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    1. Alison, thank you so much for this. Myra was my world and now my world has been forever changed. My writing these past ten weeks has mostly been in the form of letters to her that I keep in journals. I'm well into filling up the second journal now. I intend to resume writing fiction (hopefully soon) as I know she'd want. She was always my biggest fan and supporter. The letters help me feel connected despite the separation and are helping me to slowly heal. I will never again be the same, but I will always be hers.

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  31. I'm impressed by your B as well. And glad for you that you are doing so well. I think you're an amazing, strong person and Myra was lucky to have you - and of course you were so lucky to have her. It seems like you guys had the sort of marriage that everyone hopes for.

    I have no doubt Myra would want you to love your life and be happy, but you know it has only been 10 weeks since you lost her. You have every right to take all the time you need to come to terms with everything and to mourn her.

    I also agree that writing is a wonderful outlet. And living in a fantasy world that you create in your stories might be just what you need. At least you know that Myra will be cheering you on and she will be there with you as you get back into writing.

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    1. Thanks, Trisha. At times, that 10 weeks feels like 10 years, other times just 10 minutes. I've learned that we men often try to rush the grieving process because we think we're supposed to be strong as stone. I've found myself doing that at times, but because the ache is so intense. One minute I think I'm going to be okay and the next minute I'm drowning in despair. This grief business is an exhausting roller coaster that doesn't stop. It truly is amazing what the human heart and spirit can endure when it has no other choice. I'm so grateful for the support of friends and family.

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