Thursday, October 17, 2013

Three Months Separated

I decided a momentary break from my blogging hiatus was due. I'm surfacing for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is to convey gratitude to all who have been checking in on me from time to time. Your compassion and support have been incredibly welcome and helpful.

I also wanted to let you all know how I'm faring.

Three months ago, death separated me from my wife of twenty-nine years. For all twenty-nine of those years, I've loved her more than life itself. I've searched for reasons and meaning. I've clung to hopes and promises. I've remembered and I've cried. God, how I've cried.

Her wedding rings are never far from my heart
This tempest of emotions is neither brief nor tame. I'm but an island besieged by a hurricane, its fury unyielding. Moments of calm are only the storm's eye. I've wept in its wind and railed at its rain, but the tempest persists. It always will.

But I am weathering the storm!

It's grueling. It's painful. But I promised her I would live and love for us both. And I'm doing it. Thankfully, I'm not doing it alone. My mother, brother and children have given vital support. And those three precious grandsons of mine are three very important reasons to succeed.

I've chosen to share some very specific things that have helped me succeed so far:
  • The bereavement counseling at Hospice. (Thanks for persuading me to give it a shot, guys!) There, I'm free to talk about Myra and my loss without burdening family and friends. And I've received some excellent suggestions and comfort.
  • Wearing her rings around my neck. Having something of hers that's tangible somehow preserves the physical connection. I hold them, kiss them and tell her how much I love her.
  • I remind myself--frequently--that Myra was God's before she was mine. She was God's gift to me, but only for a time. I choose to be grateful for that time.
  • I write Myra a letter every single day just as if I were on a business trip. Captured within those letters are every significant thought, event and emotion I've experienced since her death. They express my anguish, my love, my despair, my hopes--everything. It's probably the single most therapeutic thing I do.


I've already filled up one 160-page journal, and am well into the last third of this 200-page journal. I have two more waiting.

I have no idea how long I'll continue writing her or how long I'll continue writing daily. I'm guessing that I'll never completely stop.


In the short term, I have a couple very difficult months ahead of me. We've always made big deals of Thanksgiving, Christmas and even the traditional New Year's Day dinner. However, December also holds her birthday, my birthday and a grandson's birthday. Those too were big deals in our family.

This week has been a good one. Last week was tumultuous and I wrestled with some serious anger. Bouts of depression arise--often without warning. Laughter can become tears in mere seconds and vice versa. It's all normal and part of the grieving process.

The important thing is that I am healing. It's an agonizingly slow process, but it is happening. In time, I'll return from my hiatus. I'll resume work on my writing, hop some blogs and again contribute what I can to this awesome community of writers and bloggers that I've come to call friends.

66 comments:

  1. Can't really respond because I'm bawling---but at least you know how much this is affecting others. So beautiful, Jeff. You sharing this piece of your life is truly a gift.

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    1. You're such a special soul, Morgan. And you're so appreciated.

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  2. It is in my belief that good writing (and many other arts) is the conveying of emotion, above all else. May this experience serve you well in your future efforts on this earth. Those who feel strongly and are adept with a pen (or computer keyboard) tend to write incredibly powerful prose. All the best, as always.

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    1. The depth of emotion is certainly not a problem. Perhaps we'll see how adept I am with words. You've been a source of strength for me, Mr. Stahl. I am most grateful.

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  3. There is much love for you and your family, Jeff.

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    1. Please know that there is much gratitude from my family and me as well, Donna.

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  4. I think you are doing amazingly well considering it's only been three months. For you it probably feels like a torturously long time already - but Jeff, three months is really not that long at all. You're doing so well, and all that you are doing is what you should be doing. I think those letters have got to be one of the most important things you're doing. You are, after all, a writer. We writers know that writing things out can be the best therapy, sometimes.

    I'm glad you're getting counselling. That will definitely be a help not only to you but to those around you who can benefit in a round-about way.

    Take care,

    Trisha

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    1. It feels like three years, Trisha. Both the counseling and the letter writing were suggestions from others. I find it odd that the two things that have helped me most were things I initially resisted. Your compassion and encouragement are things of beauty, Trisha. They've been a light in my darkest hour. You have my sincerest gratitude.

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  5. Your words are beautiful Jeff, grieve is a long road and whilst the next few months might be particularly painful the love and support of your loving family will help I'm sure. Sending thoughts and continued prayers to you all.

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    1. I thank you, Suzanne. It is a very long road. I'm bracing for the coming months. I like to prepare for things, but in this, I don't know that it's possible.

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  6. I think it's so touching how you wear her rings and write her letters. That is such a great way to keep her presence alive. Three months honestly isn't all that long after something as tragic as this, so I'm glad to see you're still hanging in there as best as you can. Wishing you all the best, especially during the holidays, since I can only imagine how tough they'll be for you...

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    1. The holidays have been weighing on my mind, but I keep telling myself that that's tomorrow's battle. I was at first unsure about the rings. Part of me wanted them on her finger, but the bigger part of me believes that they're closer to her where they are.

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  7. It is a process and all you can do is tackle one day at a time. She was God's first, but even knowing that probably doesn't help much sometimes. I know I'd be angry over that arrangement.
    Keep up the journals and counseling as long as you need to. And we are here when you need us.

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    1. Thank you, Alex. I will not deny that I've given God a piece of my mind more than once. She was my love, but she was God's creation. He put her in my care and me in hers. He's heard my angry cries of "too soon!" and "it hurts!" But when it comes to those we love, it's always too soon. And it always hurts.

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  8. How wonderful to write letters to her. I love that you wear her rings, too. Your devotion to your wife is both touching and inspiring. I know it's a process, but I hope you heal soon. Hugs, Jeff.

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    1. Melissa, I do love all these hugs. It's amazing how good even the cyber hugs feel. I truly tried to rush the process. My Hospice counselor told me right off, "Jeff, grief is not something that can be fixed. It's a process of accepting and adapting. And it can take a long time." She was right.

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  9. It sounds like you're doing really well, and you've chosen some really good outlets for your grief. We're all here for you, if you need us.

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    1. I so appreciate that, Laura. Many of my non-blogger friends have mentioned their (literal) surprise at the abundance of genuine compassion from all of you. They more often see the corners of cyberspace where anger, hate and intolerance are the norm. I wish the camaraderie that exists in our community were the norm everywhere. The internet would be a much nicer place to visit.

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  10. I am so thankful that you are healing, Jeff. Praying for you!

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    1. I am so thankful for your prayers, Tyrean.

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  11. Hey, Jeff.

    You're doing everything you need to do... You wife WILL always be with you in your heart and spirit. And especially in the grandkids smiles..... Thankfully you have a beautiful family to continue on with her heart, soul, and spirit. Children are such a blessing and you are fortunate to have grand children too!

    Life is often tragic. We all lose people we love, but a single laugh from a child can wipe away a day's tragedy.

    Take Care. Keep writing to Myra...

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    1. You're so right! Those three grandsons (ages 5-7) are better than any prescription pill or magic elixir for banishing grief--even if temporarily. Those boys are not only reasons to go on living, but to enjoy living. Yes, despite my pain and loss, I am *still* a very fortunate man.

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  12. Hugs and prayers, Jeff. Continue to lift you up daily.

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    1. Julie, I do so appreciate you. Thanks for everything.

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  13. Keep writing Jeff!! May God's amazing peace and grace surround you as you forge ahead in your grief. I will continue to pray for you!

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    1. Keep writing, I shall! :-) And I thank you for every single prayer.

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  14. The depth of your love for her is obvious and special.

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    1. Steadfast and stalwart Richard, you were one of my very first blogging buddies. You seem to comment or leave a note just when (and where) I need it most. Thanks for sticking with me through all this. It means a lot knowing I'm not standing alone.

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  15. One day at a time, Jeff.
    Sending hugs and healing and strength.

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    1. I think I've almost got to that point, Elise... a day at a time. I started with a minute at a time and gradually progressed to an hour. Three months in and I'm almost taking it in whole day chunks. Thank you.

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  16. I am here for you, Jeff. Sending hugs and strength.

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    1. Thank you, Livia. I still need all the hugs and strength I can get.

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  17. Big hugs, and a candle lit for you every day ... take care.

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    1. Thank you, Widder. I very much appreciate that.

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  18. You have such tremendous support from your cyber buddies, it is one of the best things about modern life. Such outpourings of love and sympathy. The more it helps your long journey the better it is: and it is a long journey, make no mistake. Everything you are doing helps and I am glad it gives you some comfort. I'd send dragon hugs if I could but hugs anyway.

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    1. That I do, Jo. So much cyber support is a testament to this wonderful community of ours. It's the heart behind the hug that makes it work. I think our dragon would find yours more than sufficient. I do thank you and hope you and Matt are well.

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  19. Greetings Jeff,

    My human, Gary and myself, can see from your verbalisation, the embracing of positive resources, the support from your friends in the 3D world and beyond your computer screen, make for a profound ongoing journey.

    In peace and goodwill,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog.

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    1. Those friends in the 3D world have been a God-send, but so have those in my 2D world, humans and Jack Russells alike.

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  20. Thats so beautiful. I'm so sorry that you've lost her. Now that I've found the love of my life, I can't imagine what it would be like to lose him. You are so brave to walk through life every day with that sorrow. I hope it becomes a little easier each day. I'm sure she's reading your letters from Heaven.

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    1. Thank you. Losing the love of your life is like no other loss. (And I've lost close relatives and friends.) When this first happened, I truly did not believe healing was possible. I still doubt that the healing will ever be complete, but I have managed to become largely functional again and that, as I see it, is quite an accomplishment. :)

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  21. Such a touching post, Jeff. And good for you for keeping up your writing in some form. Because we are all writers, it's our outlet, and I'm willing to bet things would be much harder if you weren't pouring your feelings onto the page. I know everyone's saying it, but if there's anything I can do, don't hesitate. Remember, we are not human beings who have spiritual experiences. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. God bless.

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    1. Thanks, Liesel. I've been wondering when I might sit down and actually write some fiction. Strange as it sounds, I've got this weird non-fiction idea, weird only because it's non-fiction. I've already got a working title for it too. Very unusual. But writing the letters have been very helpful.

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  22. Gary sent me. I don't have adequate words to express what I am feeling so can only say - I am so sorry. My heart hurts for and with you. Be as kind to yourself as you can.

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    1. Gotta love that Gary. I do appreciate the note and the sympathy. I'll do my best to apply your advice. It's actually advice I need to be reminded of from time to time. Thanks again.

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  23. Grief comes calling like an ocean's tide. I found that to be true after losing my brothers. Let the moments wash over, write, and then keep walking.
    Gary sent me your way. I thank him for the gift.

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    1. Thanks, Susan. Gary's a great one for calling attention to others. I find it interesting that you referenced the ocean's tide. A recurring dream I have is of a tsunami. I've had it once since I lost Myra. It's the only time the ocean swelled in my dream and didn't frighten me. Still piecing together what (if anything) that means. In any event, I'll keep writing and walking and trying to discover my identity and purpose in this new chapter of my life. Like most everything else, it'll just take some time. Thanks again.

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  24. I am new here from Gary's blog.
    How can we ever say the right thing with a pain as deep as this? Grief is the one thing that should take us down to death itself but it doesn't.
    I work in palliative care and it sounds like you are doing all the "right" things. Hospice. We don't really know who they are or what they do until you need them. I am glad you have found them. As you have figured out letter writing and journaling can be one of the most healing things we can do. I found Reiki to be the highlight of my week after my mom died.
    At the end of the day grief is a process. There are no 'stages of grief'. Grief is a continuum and infinite. We never, ever get over and accept losing someone to death. Since you like to read anything by Alan Wolfelt is good. A Time to Grieve by Carol Staudacher is nice for short reads when you are struggling to get past the first line.
    Anyway...no more advice.
    I am sorry for your loss. My mom died two years ago and my dad still walks around like someone lost. He has not even cleaned the house of her things. He only had eyes and a heart for my mom. What I am trying to say is grief takes a very long time. I like to think of it as the ‘infinity’ symbol. You know the eight on its side? You just go around and around forever. Some days are really awful and that is when you are in the middle of the ‘eight’. Other days are a little easier and you move away from that centre point of raw pain and grief. In 20 years from now you could just be going about your day and hit that centre and wonder “how did that happen?” Right now though you are in the centre so please be very good to yourself. I am so glad you have family around you.
    And you also have the blogging world. There are so many people out here that care.
    Just for a moment today I wish you a cleansing breath and a smile.

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment. I received the notification during lunch and have read it several times today. My mind has been with your father ever since. I can relate to that so readily. The deeper the love, the deeper the ache when it's lost. There really is no way to convey the depth and scope of it all through words--even for writers and poets. I will check out the writers you mentioned.

      The counseling at Hospice has been surprisingly beneficial. I had no idea what to expect and almost canceled. I'm so glad I didn't. Even if there were no other benefit, simply having someone listen--genuinely listen--does wonders. I can laugh and cry and convey all these thoughts and emotions without heaping my pain on top of the pain of others who are also grieving her. The counselor is phenomenal.

      Again, a most hearty thanks for your sympathy, suggestions and wish.

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  25. Hi Jeff. Like Birdie, above, I am here on Gary's recommendation at Klahanie.
    When my five-year-old grandson developed cancer three years ago my Blogging friends were amazingly supportive, Thankfully he has now recovered. I am delighted to see that you have similar wonderful support here. I think your intelligent understanding will stand you in good stead.
    Good luck and best wishes form Bazza.
    CLICK HERE for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

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    1. I am definitely in Gary's debt. I can't (and won't even try to) imagine a diagnosis like that on my five-year-old grandson. Losing Myra at 53 was bad enough. The possibility of losing a child so young is terrifying. I have truly been blessed with an abundant amount of support from family and friends, but I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of sympathy from those I know only through blogging and Facebook. I thank you, Bazza.

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  26. It's so good to hear from you again. I'm glad you're surviving, no matter how hard or unpredictable, you're hanging in, even those days you don't want to. We are heading into a difficult time of year and I'm glad you've got people besides you and someone to talk to. She'll be with you, and someday, you'll see her again, then, you will never have to be separated again. Sending you love and prayers.

    P.S. You have really nice handwriting!

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    1. Sara, thank you so much. There will be a number of difficult days after the New Year, but December will be grueling and there's no way around it. I'll be leaning heavily on supportive shoulders, physical and virtual alike.

      I'm grinning at your handwriting comment. I get teased about it frequently. Many people thought my daughter wrote all the Thank-You cards. A former boss man told my brother that my handwriting needed "a serious dose of testosterone." Thank you for the compliment though. I'm glad someone likes it. ;-)

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  27. Still praying for you as you work your way through this difficult time!

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    1. Thank you, Misha. It is a lot of work. I often feel as though I'm in the same place as when I started, but a good look around lets me know that I'm not. Even a few baby steps forward is moving forward, right?

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  28. 160-pages of love Jeff. Let the healing continue.

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    1. Maurice, back on August 4, you left a comment encouraging me not to allow others to tell me to rush through my grieving process. That did me a lot of good. I have since given myself permission to take as long as it takes to get through this. I need to heal, but I won't rush it and I won't prolong it. I'm letting it happen as it should happen, naturally and completely. And I owe you a big thanks for helping me come to that decision.

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  29. Hello Jeff;
    I saw your site on Gary's (Klahanie's) post. I absolutely resonate with you. I completely understand the roller coaster ride you are on and i applaud you for taking some very precious time to write and catch up your friends in the community. I do have one suggestion for you if I may. When I was at my lowest point, I took myself out to do some shopping. I wanted to get out of the house and for once, I had remembered to comb my hair so I thought I would take advantage. I ended up in a book store and thought to myself, "Surely to God, there must be something in a book that can help me digest some of this?!" Well, there is. I picked up Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul ( light and somewhat helpful), but then I found the diamond. It is called "I wasn't ready to say Goodbye." by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair, PHD. Read the second chapter first. This book is for everyone but particularly for those who have lost someone suddenly.
    And Jeff, I cried my ass off!! In fact I cried so much, I burned my eyes. The tears started to crystalize. I had to see my doctor about it. I am two and a half years in now, and still every once in a while I will cry and let go but I promise you, the seas will calm and you will carry on. Thank God for your grandchildren. If you ever would like to reach out, please feel free to email me at letschat1to1@gmail.com Take care of yourself. I will pray for you.

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    1. Heather, I am so grateful for your encouragement, prayers and recommendations. I've got Amazon open in another tab and am already reading the blurb of "I wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye." I do yearn for those calmer seas. Staying afloat has been a challenge even with the selfless help of so many. But yes, I do most earnestly thank God for my grandchildren. (And their parents too )

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  30. Keeping a journal is such a wonderful way to get all of your emotions out. I agree with Sara that you have fantastic handwriting! I'm glad that the support group is helping too. Though the holidays will be incredibly difficult, it seems that your loving family will help guide you through it,

    Julie

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    1. I don't know what I'd do without that loving family of mine, Julie, or all my blogging buddies too! And thanks for the compliment.

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  31. Hugs Jeff. You're right, we are your friends and we love you. You're in my prayers.

    After my brother died, I couldn't understand "the plan". I almost felt like God was mad at me. I took it personally. But then I had a thought. God loved Jesus. Unquestionably. And Jesus didn't get to walk an easy path. Didn't get a palace and His end was as ugly as it gets. But there was a purpose to every minute of His life. Even the moments that had to break his heart and undeniably broke his body. So, maybe when I come to my own end, all of the hurt and pain will make sense. Until it does, I will just keep the faith.

    Keep writing Jeff. It truly is the best therapy.

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    1. Living a life without purpose and meaning really isn't living, is it?

      I have to keep remembering that death visits us all eventually. It's inevitable. It's natural. And it's always too soon. Even knowing this, I've struggled with the feeling that I should have been able to prevent it from happening. Somehow. Perhaps that's natural too.

      I shall certainly keep writing, Elizabeth, to her, because of her, and for her.

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  32. Got here late (very late) Jeff, but it's so good to see you doing what you need to do to work through the pain. It does come in wave. I liked how you said you'd be laughing one minute and crying the next. Yep. It comes just like that.

    Godspeed the healing process.

    M.L. Swift, Writer

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    1. One can never be late where one is welcome. And you're always welcome here, Mike.

      My choices were to work through the pain or surrender. Surrendering would be doing the exact opposite of what Myra would want me to do. It's by far the toughest challenge I've ever undertaken, but my promise to her forbids surrender.

      We'll make it, Mike. We both will.

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