Healing

Time Doesn’t Heal Wounds

They say time heals all wounds, but what if it doesn’t.

What if time allows for the wounds to fester and spread?

If a wound doesn’t heal what happens? Savage wounds kill, some kill quickly because of the lack of blood, other more minor wounds can fester. Medically speaking when a wound festers it can spread to other parts of the body, like a broken? bone leading to an amputation or eventually death. This innate knowledge leads most of us to treat our physical wounds with tender care. However, even with tender care some wounds rip savagely through the body leaving unrepairable damage.

Fortunately we have medication, treatments, and educated doctors who can help heal these wounds- in most cases. But my wounds aren’t medical. They are emotional and mental.

I often tell myself I am fine, happy and healthy. In most schemes, I am. Yet I am highly dysfunctional when it comes to relationships. Relationships… Yuck. Even the word repels me. People announce their happily-ever-afters and I look at them with pity. I think in my mind, you poor souls, you have no idea what you are about to do. Is this out of bitterness? I don’t think so. I don’t feel bitter. I don’t feel angry, just weary.

As a widow, the trauma of “loved and lost” comes into effect. I have opened up my heart to have it ripped from my own chest. My mind shattered, every belief and thought down to my identity destroyed. How do you heal a gaping wound that doesn’t present itself like a cut to be bandaged? Because like a physical wound, mental and emotional wounds will fester and spread if they aren’t addressed.  

I suppose like physical wounds, the first step is to find the cut and acknowledge it. Then slowly start to sew it together.  Ironically each person is different which makes grief hard. There is no one fix fits all. We are unique in that we are human, and each human is different. Each hurt and emotion is exclusive to its owner. To carry on and find our own wounds is a challenge and some we don’t even know we have. The first trick is to know it is there. Then allow ourselves the vulnerability to accept it as a part of us to be attended to. As we attend the emotion and mental wounds by whatever means we can, therapy, counseling, working out, education, art we address the burden of what has happened. As we continue to work on our wound it the bleeding slows and eventually stops.

Sometimes we think we have sealed the wound shut and venture back into the world to find out we were wrong and weren’t really healed. This happens a lot. I think I’m over my husband and am prepared to date. Then my first date goes horrible and I come home and cry. The wound is reopened with memories, shame, hurt, guilt  and every vulnerable insecurity I have comes to the surface. This is part of healing. Just like physical wounds don’t always fully heal immediately, neither do emotional and mental ones. Just as it takes painstaking physical therapy to get the injured limbs back to full movement, it also takes exposure to vulnerable emotional and mental states to get ourselves back. We make mistakes and we keep trying.
Dressing our wounds overtime allows us to heal. Maybe not completely, but slowly and surely the bleeding with stop and leave us with scars. The mistake of our first night back won’t be the same as the second night back. Each night we come back stronger after readdressing the vulnerable state we were in and what made us feel the way we did. Dressing our wounds overtime heals.

Happiness 

  
There are times in life when I look around and feel nothing but peace and joy. The storm that rages inside me quiets momentarily. I have discovered these moments in nature. Away from the woes of the world. To sit still and observe. To become one with myself. At these moments I ponder what I am doing with my life and why I am not here all the time. Why I follow the path of society to work and settle, to have a family and stay in one spot of routine, to miss these quiet moments. 

The beauty flowing from nature sings a song to our souls. Its says come, sit, stay a while and breathe. Enjoy the moments and see what I have to offer you. Feel the sand on your feet, the breeze in your hair, the fresh air in your lungs, the heat of the sun on your skin, feel me and I will nourish you. I will fill you with vibrant colors and warmth. I will show you true love and beauty like nothing else can.

Nature allows the mind to ponder and reflect. To ask oneself questions it’s been holding onto and/or hiding. It frees us from our fears and gives us courage to live. Embracing the life cycle presented to us. To live. To see what we already have and what we are missing, but still be content with who we are. The memories of pain and sorrow can flood to the surface to remind us how deep our joy is. Realizing ignorance isn’t bliss- without the knowledge of sorrow this moment of pure joy would mean nothing to us. Contrast is needed.

Just as the city is to nature, sorrow is to joy. Regardless of where we are we can find the nature in the city and the joy in sorrow. We can feel our heart burst with happiness. We are a combination of intricate details. We feel to know true happiness. 

Betrayed by the In-Laws

Edgar Allan Poe

One of most hurtful moments in my spouse’s passing, was the betrayal by his family that followed. My spouse died by suicide. This changed me. I was 23, young, and shocked. I didn’t know how to respond. My natural instinct was to be as transparent, honest and kind as I could about everything that happened. Part of being transparent was telling his family I had wanted to get divorced. The only thing I remember lying about was positive things my husband had said about his family members. I wanted them to hurt less.

I didn’t see it then, but during the funeral his family didn’t acknowledge me as his wife. Instead, I was the cause of death. I became the scapegoat. In their eyes I must have known he was going to do it and even pushed him to it. I look back know and realized they wouldn’t have let me talk at my own husband’s funeral if I hadn’t pushed and my parents hadn’t been present. It wasn’t until I saw the police report openingly saying his mother blamed me and receiving a letter from his mother’s lawyer demanding I give them everything of his, that I understood how I wasn’t a part of his family. I should have known this when they didn’t even come to our wedding. Instead they slandered my name and drug me through the mud while accusing me of trying to steal his life insurance money from them- none of which I received (also if any of you know anything about SGLI this is ludicrous and completely impossible). They left me with all the primary next of kin responsibilities of closing out a life. I was left with shutting down his accounts, from social media to financial. I was left to pay off all his debt (I never fail to see the irony of this since his family received his life insurance). I paid for his funeral and fought for his legal rights after death. I informed his employers, his friends, everyone. I was left with the painful process of closing the remnants of his life while his family took all the moments of closure. They talked at his funeral and took the flag from his casket. They did his temple work (religion) without even acknowledging me or receiving my permission. They put a tombstone on his grave without my input, permission or providing the option to be next to him, to be together when I die. The hurt and deliberate infliction of it were endless. Never in my life did I realize or understand how death brings out the worst in people.

I am sure I made mistakes and wasn’t always the kindest person, but I didn’t expect the unadulterated hatred and animosity pouring from his family. I had never experienced being blamed for someone else’s actions as much as his family held me accountable for his. It made me physically ill- it still does. The accusations and slander were heartbreaking. Even to this day I won’t go to his grave because his family was so hostile and going to visit him would be going to a plot they own. I’ve considered moving his body, I have the rights to his body, but the reality is it’s not worth the hurt it would cause to me or them. Instead I’ve settled for laying flowers where he shot himself.

His family is dysfunctional. To survive they need someone to blame. They would be destroyed if they had to take responsibility for any part of his action. To acknowledge that they had some part in it- we all did, but in the end it was his choice and his alone. Understanding his family’s dysfunction helps me understand my husband’s pain and in part his decisions. It doesn’t make it hurt any less or justify any of it, it just makes it more sad. In the end blaming someone simply causes more hurt. Being angry with someone only causes more hurt. Yet, we can’t control how someone else feels and reacts. We can only control ourselves. Holding others accountable for someone’s actions doesn’t make anything or anyone better. All we truly have in this life is relationships. Spending time making them miserable isn’t worth it. Love, forgive and move on.

“You should be over it”

Brandon

“You should be over it” I can’t count the number of times someone has said this to a grieving person. There is nothing more frustrating than this comment. Whether the intent behind it is kind or not- this comment is absurd.

Grief is complex. What makes it so fascinating to me is how everyone grieves differently. There are those who cry instantly for months and others who can’t force themselves to shed a tear. Others who talk nonstop for months about the pain of their loss and others who don’t say a word. Some become manic and others stop functioning. The reactions are so spread and diverse that there is no set “this is how to grieve” or this is “normal”. Everything is normal. Grief can take years to recover from. There is no “set” time.

Another comment that seems to be commonly repeated is, don’t do anything rash, you aren’t in the right frame of mind. I have found I have never been more sound of mind than when my world came crashing in. Dealing with death provides value in life. A friend recently had a brother die and her response was she wanted to go do something with her life. She felt she needed to do more, but everyone kept telling her to stay at her job and don’t do anything rash. When I talked to her my advice was this, “If you feel the motivation to do more do more, if you want to quit your job, quit. Searching and pushing forward, helps provide closure. I am not saying quit without a back-up plan and no way to pay your bills, but listen to yourself. If your mind needs more, go out and find it. What’s the worst that will happen if you quit your job and put your focus to something new. If in a year you are still lost- the opportunity to go back and do what you were doing before will still be there. Allow death to let you live.”
I am positive  I could make a list a mile long of absurd comments people have made, but instead I’ll stick to these two. If you have any comments people have made or advice you’d like to share please put them in the comments.

Bitterness

AfghanistanI don’t typically consider myself a bitter person. However, I got a massage the other day and as the masseuse was moving over my body we talked about the knots, tight and swollen parts of my body.  I enjoy the process of learning about myself through my body and others’ eyes. The masseuse explained what each painful body part was associated with for emotions. Muscles hold emotions hence physical healing can equate to emotional healing and vice versa. A lot of what she told me were things I already considered and thought about, but bitterness caught me off guard.

My masseuse suggested I start writing down when I can remember being bitter possibly starting with the first time I can remember. My first instinct was to say I’m not bitter. I have made peace with my life and forgiven, but then I started to think. And here I am.

The first times I really remember being bitter is 5th grade. I was probably bitter before then, but can’t recall. I wanted to play on a competition basketball team and the coach had put a team together without me. I don’t know if it was so much bitterness or simply questioning why they wouldn’t pick me to be on the team. I wanted to play. Eventually I did. Eventually I became really good. Eventually I got over it.

The next time I can recall being bitter is in 7th grade when teenage girls were teenage girls. The typical ‘one day we will speak to you, the next we won’t’ or ‘ we are all friends except with her today’ drama. Again I feel like this exclusion caused more hurt than pain. Pain potentially turned to bitterness. I am friends with many of those same girls and I don’t think this really caused any bitterness or animosity.

Maybe the first time I felt turn bitterness is 8th grade when I kissed a boy for a dollar on the bus. He was pronounced amazing and a stud. I got called a dollar-whore. The double standard of men and women’s roles in society had never been so real or prevalent until that kiss. This is when I learned there is no such thing as equality. I am bitter over this.

The next thing I remember being bitter about is when my best friend convinced me to dump the boy I had been in love with for years. Because she didn’t like him. The next week they were dating. I’m also bitter my first true sexual experience. I was used and discarded by the group of guys I had been really good friends with for years. I was the girl in the group and not one of the guys like I thought.

I remember walking with Amber to meet a guy and some friends during the summer. I looked at her and said please don’t leave me alone with this guy. We had met him the day prior and he scared me. She left me with him within minutes of meeting up with everyone. He took advantage of the situation and raped me. I’m not bitter over the rape. I am bitter over the fact  I asked my friend to stay with me and she abandoned me without any thought or hesitation.

I was bitter as a freshman basketball player when I rarely got to play Varsity. I thought I was better than some of the Varsity girls and I wanted to play.

I remember being bitter that I never fit in with the girls I played ball with. I was never pretty enough, feminine enough, I was never the “it” girl. I wasn’t the girl the boys were interested in.

Being bitter over never getting the recognition I deserved for sports. Always being the person in the background.

I was bitter over how the guys in college treated me. I was never their equal and they would create drama for fun between the girls. I remember putting in hard work and being shit on for it. Come to find out later the guys got away with things by doing the professor’s papers for graduate school.

I am bitter my husband used me. He manipulated the situation and treated me like a bank roll rather than someone important. I always worked harder and did more to help us. I am bitter he died by suicide.

I am bitter that my in-laws got his life insurance and left me with all his/our debt and the cost of his funeral. I am bitter his family treated me like shit and then his grandparents went on a mission. They had the audacity to do his temple work without informing me or getting my permission. I am bitter I am held accountable for his actions. I am bitter I am damaged because of him, I am hurt and cautious.

I am bitter I never meet guys who are interested in me that are what I want. I am tired of being treated like I’m unvalued and unimportant. I am tired of being a peice of ass that hasn’t been loved. I am bitter I have loved endlessly while not being loved back. I am bitter I can give so much of myself to others and receive nothing in return.

I am bitter I have to fight for common sense. That stupid people are allowed to take command and make poor decision without repercussion. I am bitter I am punished for having values and morals.

I am bitter I have to wait patiently and feel incomplete, unwhole.

I am bitter.

Words Left Unsaid

  
Premature death causes a roller coaster of emotions; pain, hurt, frustration, guilt, things left unsaid and undone. Survivors find themselves reminiscing about moments and promises no longer possible. Combined ideas and dreams, now empty. Survivors often wish they could communicate every thought and take back each cruel comment. However, normal text messages sent come back with no reply. Conversations and behaviors become one-sided. Option one is now gone, what is option two?Communication with the dead varies from seances, psychics, prayers, dreams and other rituals. I am not going to discourage any of these as I am not familiar with all of them, I only want to caution you. Not everyone is good and some will take advantage of you. Please research and know who you are engaging with. While seances and psychics might ease the pain, they are not always available or reliable. Expressing words unsaid can be therapeutic and necessary for healing. Thus, my goal is to give you suggestions available to you, without the need for others to be around. 

Suggestion number one: Write them a handwritten letter. Handwritten letters are intimate and have a level of irreplicable sincerity. Holding a pencil to a clean piece of paper allows for words, drawings, diagrams. When words can’t express a feeling, a drawing might. Paper filled with emotions becomes beautiful art. Art gives you power. If you have a friend you can trust, I would also encourage you to put it in an envelope and send it. Physically sending the letter can give a feeling of fulfillment. If you don’t have someone to send it to, you may always send it to me. Private message me for my address.

Suggestion number two: Write them an email. Today is full of technology. Emails, text messages, phone calls, skype, the list continues to grow. Writing an email and sending it can be satisfying. Rarely are we anywhere without a smartphone, allowing us a place to collect our thoughts at any moment. Whenever you have something you want to say put it in your phone. Later write an email and send it to their email account if it is still active. If it isn’t and you have a friend you trust, send it to them. If you don’t you are always welcome to send it to me.

Suggestion number three: Keep a Journal. Writing down expressions and feelings can help you process your own thoughts. Journals allow organization and creativity. Journals allow us to be honest with ourselves. Secrets we might not want to even admit to ourselves are safe to ponder and explore within a journal.

Suggestion number four: Find a creative outlet. If you are an artist, create a painting expressing what you wish you could tell them. If you are a dancer, create a dance expressing your words unsaid. If you write, create a poem or essay, photographer, make a photo series. Whatever you do find a way to express yourself through it. If you don’t “do creative,” now is the time to try.

Find a way to communicate what you didn’t, couldn’t, forgot to say. Try multiple avenues. If option two doesn’t work, try option three, then four and five. Express yourself and your feelings. 

Widow vs. Divorced

onewayDSCF4475Alot of people try to empathize and show their support when you are a widow. One of the easiest ways for others to relate is through divorce. While this seems harmless, the feeling of someone trying to compare the death of your loved one to their divorce can feel insulting. People will do this, try to think of it as their best intentions: people are trying their best to relate to you the best they know how. Unless someone has lost their significant other they just can’t.

An analogy that a friend told me was divorce is similar to breaking your arm while being a widow(er) is having an arm amputated. Loss and emotional trauma happen in both situations. While the break might seem minor compared to the amputation, they both have a major impact on life. I’d like to break down differences and things you can expect to have people compare and potentially give you a chance to think about how you could respond to these incidents. Keep in mind that each divorcees and widow(er)s experience is different.

Psychological

Many divorces end in conflict. Many deaths happen unexpectedly. This difference leaves a different psychological effect. I’m not saying every widow had a happy marriage, but it was ended by death not by a contract. Widows had no negotiations regarding possessions and children. They were left to take care of everything. Regardless, both end up hurt, in pain, and have a feeling of loss. While divorcees might relate to a feeling of loss, it is different because there is still the potential for a rekindling of a relationship with someone who is alive. It is not a contest for who feels pain the most, but there is loss and pain for everyone involved in both situations. Be kind; you know what loss feels like to an extreme level, but that doesn’t give you the right to discount others loss.

Children

Children are affected by both divorce and death. Differences may seem obvious, but some are not. In both situations the child went from dual partnership to single parenthood. While divorced parents may have to pay alimony, split the time with their ex, and live in a specific state due to court decree, widows often feel they have to be both parents. They might feel responsible for finding a suitable “new parent” to help take care of the kids and have a role model. They are now the sole parent and have all child raising decisions. This can be overwhelming and difficult. Also the child might remind the parent of the deceased; thus the relationship can end up more connected to fear of losing the child as well.

Physiological

There is no chance of touching the deceased again. They are gone. Their physical presence in the world no longer exists. Both Widows and divorcees go through a sense of grief. Everyone responds differently. Some lose weight, others gain weight, some physically stop functioning. Both can suffer from depression and stress. Both take a significant toll on the body.

Getting back out there

Divorcees might be excited to get back out there and start dating, though that is not always the case. Widows usually are a little more cautious. Feelings of guilt and cheating on the deceased are not uncommon. Dating can be very uncomfortable and awkward. However, both haven’t dated in a long time, will struggle, and be awkward for the first little bit. Validate and support each other.

The main point is yes, they are different, but it is unnecessary to need to one up the other. Support and validate each other. Everyone has gone through pain it is not a contest. Just be aware that people will try to compare. When this happens try to understand where they are coming from and have an open minded conversation about each others experience.