Monday, June 29, 2015

Eighteen Months

It's been a year and a half since Jeff died.  I've read a lot of grief literature in a year and a half.  I thought I would give a little snippet of some of the most memorable and meaningful literature I've read.  I meant to give a pretty extensive review of these books but that was a little more than I could handle so you're getting a "snippet."

I really found Theresa Caputo's book There's More to Life Than This helpful.  Some of my favorite messages and quotes are:
  • There is nothing you could have done to prevent their death.
  • Your loved one wants you to embrace life without the burden of fear or death. 
  • I love the idea of a "soul circle." Right after I finished reading this book, I met up with a friend of mine who had stage iv breast cancer. She was in remission for a couple years and it came back right around the time Jeff was diagnosed. We had the same oncologist. I told her about getting tickets to go see Theresa Caputo and she asked me if I believed in that kind of stuff. I didn't know much about Theresa Caputo before I went to her show but I believe in the idea of energy. My friend is a physics teacher and I asked her about energy and the idea that energy doesn't just disappear it takes on another form. That's what I believe in. She has since passed away.  I gave her this book about a month before she died.  I hope she got a chance to read it and was able to take comfort in it.
Theresa Caputo's sequel You Can't Make This Stuff Up also had some quotes that helped me:
  • When happy people can't change the event that makes them blue, they change the way they react to it. 
  • Spirit says you have to be happy with yourself, and if you let someone else make you feel bad, it's your own fault.
Widows Wear Stilettos by Carole Brody Fleet and Syd Harriet is mainly for young widows.  It gives ideas and opportunities for journaling and also provides exercises to help deal with grief and move forward. 
  • I loved the line "there is absolutely no such thing as 'being prepared' for the loss of your husband."
  • I also particularly loved the chapter on people who say the dumbest things. There were some real  doozies: "You're too young to be a widow."  No kidding like this was some kind of career choice I made! Another one: "You're young and pretty you'll find someone else."  I don't want anyone else! I want my dead husband to not be dead!
  • In one chapter she says that you should take the time to really feel. Make an appointment with yourself with no technology and some quiet time to feel the emotions of the day whether they are sad, grateful, happy, overwhelmed, whatever they may be.
  • Don't put on a "mask" and hide or force emotions away because they will still be there wreaking havoc.  I do this. Almost every night in the first year, I journal but in the form of "a letter to Jeff."  I tell him all about my day and my hopes and fears just like I would talk to him at night. This was super helpful, especially in the first year.  I haven't done it as often these last few months, but I still try and do it at least once a week.  But I'm not feeling guilty about not writing every night, I attribute it to the passage of time and moving forward.  I've noticed I tell other people about my hopes and fears and my day now... 
  • Another chapter is about dating. I like the idea of after the first date/dates you go on after your husband has died, the guilt that follows is called "cheating twinges."  I feel like I had cheating twinges when I first started dating 5 months ago.  Those have been dissipating but I also attribute that to the passage of time, "practice," and trying to move forward. 
  • The part where she said you might feel anger towards your departed husband after an especially bad date was hilarious.  She says more than likely your husband is probably laughing since he is watching closely.  I totally agree with this.  I feel like Jeff is definitely watching and I'm sure he's laughing a lot, not only at what I do on dates but what I do in general!  Also, he's laughing and shaking his head at what my friends and I get into!
The Death of a Husband: Reflections for a Grieving Wife by Helen Reichert Lambin is mainly poems about widows' grief. Some are very sad and it's painful to read them, especially if you are trying to be happy. There are a couple that made me smile and a couple that I related to but, overall, not many were my cup of tea.  Here are the titles of the few I liked:
  • "The Unset Clock and the Wound Up Dog"
  • "Party"
  • "Complaint Department"
  • "Ordinary Time"
Some quotes from Widow to Widow: Thoughtful, Practical Ideas for Rebuilding Your Life by Genevieve Davis Ginsburg were:
  • Saturday nights were worse than other nights.  I found that nights in general were painful though.
  • True  widows are impossible to please; they are offended when not invited and decline when they are.  Every widow understands that conflict.  Why can't their friends and family?
  • With families, each relationship has individually changed and has had a rippling affect with no beginning and no set ending.  What has happened, first of all, is that you have changed.  You are more vulnerable, more sensitive, more confused, more angry, and more afraid to name a few of your new unwanted acquisitions.
  • The days prior to an actual date, like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, or any other special date, were more difficult than the actual date itself.  I definitely experienced this.  I would worry and fret the days up to the actual special day the first year, but then when the day itself got there, I was fine.  I'm noticing that in the second year, since the "firsts" are all over, I'm not planning so sometimes those days sneak up on me so the day itself can sometimes be really hard now.  I know with time and "practice," it will get better.
What Remains by Carole Radziwell was a really good read.  This is her memoir so it's got a lot about her life in general but the quotes I really liked that I could relate to regarding grief and cancer were:
  • "We have cancer. We need a biopsy. We are researching treatment options."  The idea that it wasn't his cancer but our cancer is something I definitely related to.  I never said Jeff's oncologist, I said our oncologist.
  • "I will have to take control, because I am his wife now. It's my job"
  • "I had been hoping that someone would step in at some point and grab the wheel. I was waiting for someone to recognize how unsuited I was and take it away.  It was a desperate and lonely feeling to realize that it was more or less up to me."
Some books I read that were also helpful were:
  • A New Normal: Learning to Live with Grief and Loss by Darlene F. Cross
  • Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman
  • Finding Your Way After Your Spouse Dies by Marta Felber
  • Let Me Grieve But Not Forever: A Journey Out of the Darkness of Loss by Verdell Davis
Some books that were super helpful when Jeff got sick and helped me cope and prepare while he was still here were:
  • help me live: 20 things people with cancer want you to know by Lori Hope.  This book is phenomenal!  I recommend it for everyone who is dealing in any way with cancer or chronic illness in general.  Helpful is not a good enough word to describe this book.
  • When the Man You Love Is Ill: Doing Your Best for Your Partner Without Losing Yourself by Dr. Dorree Lynn and Florence Isaacs
  • How to Cope Better When Someone You Love Has Cancer by William Penzer
Hospice was so fantastic.  Even though Jeff was in hospice for such a short amount of time, because he was in hospice, after he died, I would get a quarterly magazine/pamphlet in the mail that would go through the stages of grief and what a person could potentially be going through three, six, and nine months into their grief and then the year mark as well.  I just wish they would continue it into the second year.  I found these quarterly pieces of literature so comforting and helpful.

My bereavement group meetings would give out pamphlets and handouts as well.  Not all of them related to me, but most of them did so that was also very helpful.

I also read quite a few widow blogs: 
  • My absolute favorite is "Young, Widowed & Rebuilding."  I just related to Wendy so much and I've noticed that our journey has been similar, she's just years ahead of me. 
  • Another one that really helped me is "Good Grief: A Young Widow's Journey."  I just loved Noel's voice and her personality in general.

Hopefully this grief literature review helped.  I know all this literature helped me!

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