Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review for Miriam Hurdle’s – The Winding Road: A Journey of Survival – surviving near fatal cancer. This book is both, a heartfelt and heart-wrenching journey, bravely told by Miriam, and miraculously she was gifted the opportunity to live. Not only is this book a tale of Miriam’s diagnosis and her physical fight for survival, but a testament to her diligence and being her own advocate to push through the medical system.
In the summer of 2008, Miriam Hurdle was diagnosed with melanoma-an aggressive and invasive cancer in her internal organs. The survival rate before 2008 was low. Besides risking harsh treatments for a slim chance of survival, Miriam had hoops to jump through. By the time she received treatment at the beginning of 2009, her cancer had progressed from stage II to stage IV. It was a rough and uphill winding road. But alongside her was support and encouragement. Accompanied by the love of her family and community, this is Miriam’s journey of faith and miracle. It is a heartwarming story of resilience, courage, and the will to live.
My Five Star Review:
A courageous journey defying all odds, Miriam Hurdle is a true warrior woman.
Hurdle takes us through her journey of discovering an almost always fatal cancer. She’d already soldiered through several operations to remove fibroids and ultimately, a hysterectomy, when she thought she was moving on, only to be told they found a rare melanoma growing within her internal organs. It wasn’t enough what she’d already endured and her frightening future, but this woman fought all the way through the medical system just to get the experimental and low odds of life saving treatment she would need to live.
This book is a raw accounting with pure honesty and love, of the author’s journey and her unrelenting spirit to get the help she needed for just a chance to live longer. She fought the red tape of the system as her cancer was quickly progressing and her request for treatments remained in a pile of other requests, and her faith and love for her family and determination to live no matter how small the chances were of the horrid experimental treatments and their proposed side effects alone that could have killed her, did not deter her from.
Her story is not only about the journey through hell, but her thoughts and feelings as she approached each hurdle and roadblock along the way, as well as the financial burdens involved and finding willing and compassionate people in her field of teaching who aided in helping to fund her journey. Written with extreme courage and offering anyone hope to know that persistence is always worth it, despite the odds.
This book is not only about Miriam’s journey through cancer, but also, the importance of faith, family and community who came to the her aid and cheered her along, and the miracle that she is still here with us today.
Welcome to a brand new year! I thought I’d kick off the year with a post to remind us all to take care of ourselves to maintain good health. No time like the present to keep ourselves in check for a healthy new year.
The most important relationship we have first and foremost should be with ourselves. If our health isn’t in great shape it can hinder much of what we do. Did you know that emotional health can affect our physical health? It’s a fact. In relation to that statement, I’m sure many of you have heard the term – ‘stress kills’. Well, it can potentially be very harmful. Just ask me, one who has gone the gamut of doctors and tests for much of the fall of 2022.
It’s easy to overlook ourselves, especially when times are tense. I’m a living testament to what self-neglect can do. So yes, self compassion and self care is essential to live and thrive, not just to survive.
When my husband took ill, my complete focus was everything for him. Out with the old routine and scheduled self-care. While I was living on auto-pilot, I didn’t take the same care of myself I always previously did. Starting with poor diet and often, not eating. Not eating much led me to not taking my vitamins and supplements as I’d been doing for decades. My mind was solely focused on taking care of my husband. And when I’m living in stress, I’m one of those people who cannot look at food when in this mode – quite contrary to many who eat for comfort when they are stressed. Not living on a set schedule led me to random bites here and there, and often, food is required to take vitamins along with for absorbtion. Nothing to absorb left me forgetting to, and eventually, not even caring to take my supplements. So my body was becoming mal-nutritioned. Oh sure, I know better. But fear and anticipatory grief left me otherwise not caring. And there was certainly a price to pay in the fallout. So I can tell you from this experience that there is also no quick fix, but once getting back to a routine, it took many months to bring back my healthful levels in my lab tests. And still, it didn’t end there.
After losing my husband in spring of 2021, I wasn’t only an emotional wreck, but I was in poor physical health. Yes, even this good health advocate was caught in the spiral. And by summer’s end in 2021 I finally booked my overdue physical with my doctor. After she read back my labs to me, I was mortified at the results and all the changes my being had gone through. I lost a lot of hair for one. Many of my levels were red flagged. I was severely deficient in vitamin levels, especially Vitamin D. That was the biggee for me, as Vitamin D is so essential to our bodily functions, and fighting off cancers, where deficiency leaves us as an open target for cancer cells to develop. I also began experiencing ‘weird’ sensations in my heart. I often had palpitations and moments where I felt I wasn’t getting enough oxygen and I’d spontaneously cough. So I was sent to a cardiologist in the fall of 2021. I was put through a battery of tests and scans, and thankfully, nothing was diagnosed except stress causing my symptoms. The cardiologist asked me to follow up this past fall, and I did.
This time I was put through more and different tests, having me go back there and to the lab several times September until just weeks ago this past December. I was quite concerned, especially since a year had passed and my vitamin levels were brought back up by my good behavior, yet the heart symptoms were still lingering. And after the circuit of tests, I finally got a follow-up consult with the cardiologist. Thank goodness I was told there was nothing more serious going on, but I learned that there is indeed something called Broken Heart Syndrome. And though it is said that will eventually subside, it very much has the potential kill with a fatal heart attack.
There is a Japanese word for this syndrome – Takotsubo. This is a temporary form of cardiomyopathy. It can last weeks or months. Although this syndrome isn’t always fatal, it presents such symptoms of feeling tightness in the chest, palpitations, shortness of breath, and weakness in the heart muscle caused by sudden shock or acute anxiety. The body releases stress hormones which temporarily curb the heart’s ability to pump properly. Experts say that the coronary arteries that feed oxygen to the heart muscle, go into temporary spasms. Pyschological stress is a usual precursor to these symptoms. People in critical states are put on several heart medications for a temporary trial period of three months. I am grateful that I didn’t have to be prescribed such pills.
Stress kills, is a real thing. Stress comes in all shapes in forms and wreaks havoc in both our mental and physical health. We must never forget to take care of ourselves and our health, yet it’s so easy to do when life bombards us with unpleasant events, overwhelming things, and overly achieving schedules we put upon ourselves. Life is always throwing us curve balls in some aspect, so we must learn new ways to combat the overwhelming things in life. It isn’t always easy or preferred, or even thought about when we’re in the midst of a living crisis, because even when we forget about ourselves, our bodies do not forget the sins we’ve committed to them.
So what can you do to keep your healthy engines running? First and foremost, make it a point to have an annual check-up to get a scope of how well your bodies are functioning. When symptoms appear, don’t fluff them off until the “I’ll get to it eventually.” Pay attention to the signs that your bodies are sending you. Nothing happens because of nothing. There’s a reason for everything your body is telling you to pay attention to, not disregard until something escalates and potentially may become too late to repair.
In my case, it was (and is) ongoing ‘tragic’ grief that sent my body into a tailspin of symptoms. I was isolated in the depths of Covid and alone contending with my husband’s demise, and then, ultimately, the unraveling of living in that grief without him. We’ve often heard of someone losing a spouse and then not too long after, the other one dies. Grief is a stronghold that wraps around our hearts and suffocates. If it is not dealt with, it will cause a spiral of other symptoms, especially when self-neglect sets in. People who are left to wallow alone in their brokenness will ultimately pay a price somewhere with their own health. A good doctor will be so beneficial in this circumstance. The strong survive because they take action in searching for avenues that help them get through the difficult days. For me, my doctor gave me Valium for the short term to help numb the overwhelmingness I lived in. After my wake-up call with bad labs, it took about five months until my levels were back to normal again. I use meditations to take me out of myself when I feel the need. After a year, I joined a gym for both some physical goodness, and for social interaction. And of course, writing, writing is a great therapy for me, and it can be for many. You don’t need to be an author to be able to write in a journal to expel emotions, even if nobody else ever gets to read them. Words and thoughts that circle our brains sometimes need a push out of our heads onto paper. This can be quite gratifying and freeing to the soul.
It was a certainly a year of learning to get myself back into reasonable good health. The palpitations and shortness of breath moments have been lessening, but they aren’t gone yet. I take my vitamins religiously again. I also had an overdue colonoscopy a few weeks ago, and although nothing specific was found, the surgeon requested me to have more bloodwork done, and she informed me she took a few precautionary biopsies. Fingers crossed for that final result that should be back to me in a week or so. And so I shall continue on my journey of health, as I hope all of you will do the same for yourselves. 🧡
Did you know that writing can be so very therapeutic? It’s not a myth. Take it from me who began writing at seven years old. Growing up in a dysfunctional family life with a heart filled with compassion and worry, I took to writing poems, notes, and journaling. I didn’t always show them to anyone, but I took my pain out of my head and put it on paper. It was a release.
Growing up with a narcissistic mother who mashed my father over and over until he finally died of a broken heart (underlying health issues exacerbated by his grief), my young empathic heart could feel his pain. He came to me since I was seven and poured his heart out to this broken little girl who was powerless to help him, but I was all he had to pour his heart out too. That was a huge responsibility for a little girl – a daughter to witness her father’s ongoing grief and not be able to do anything about it except summon up the bravery to approach my mother to beg her to take my father back, yet again. I received no compassion from my mother in doing so, only a slap across my face as she reminded me to mind my own business. It was my business! But my voice and hands were tied. This is about the time I learned to write out my feelings. I needed to be heard and release, if only to the universe.
Know that whatever you write is to release and doesn’t always have to be given to the person our words are directed at. It’s to get those jumbled thoughts and worries out of our heads and on to paper. Perhaps there will come a day you may want to give it to the person the words are directed to, maybe you might just burn it and vanish the thoughts away into the universe. Or just maybe, like me, you’ll journal enough through your life and end up writing books about all the things you once could never say out loud. Either way, it’s cathartic. My small beginnings of writing on scraps of paper, eventually, made me a memoir writer. Whodathunk?
Speaking about grief, my latest podcast is live now. In this third episode, I’m talking about how when we lose a spouse, our identities change – along with everything else. I hope you will visit me on Youtube.
I don’t wish to sound like a broken record sharing my moments of grief here, but besides the fact that writing about it somehow eases the weight of my grief, I know that there are plenty of us out there who are living it and may feel an ounce of comfort or kinship with these posts. And also, undoubtedly, everyone has lost a loved one, or ultimately, will, so my thoughts here may become beneficial to others somewhere down the road. This is why I’ll soon be starting my podcast on Grief – The Real Talk, for exactly these reasons.
But know this God honest truth – not five minutes of any day since the day my husband left me here, goes by that I’m not thinking of him or speaking to him. That man was woven into my soul, and not thinking of him would be like forgetting half of my body or forgetting to put on clothes. But today, I figured it was time to share more of my thoughts here in what I like to call my Grief Diaries series. In this series I’ve been discussing thoughts and/or moments that strike hard, baring my soul so to speak, but sharing not just because I need a place to vent, but sharing my realizations in hopes of spreading awareness.
Let me start by saying that this post might seem a little dark, but grief isn’t a sunny topic. And let me also state that this post isn’t me crying out for help, but more for recognition for the so many in this sometimes dark world who can’t summon their voice. Yes, I am one of grief’s victims, and I have been working diligently with books, videos, spirit and meditations since I lost my husband so that I can try and learn how to dig my own self out of the darkness that reigns because if I want to survive and find life again I must find the life boat back to the light. It’s a difficult thing to do one’s self, but I have spent my whole life since childhood ‘finding a way’ to get through adversity. I share my struggle on this journey, and I am not ashamed to admit it. But there are the so many out there who may not be able to search for or find their strength to want to go on, no matter what their traumatic issue is.
I’m a strong woman. I built myself up that way throughout my life. I’m strong-willed and minded, but I will tell you honestly, this grieving business is a Goliath of a beast. I know what it has taken from me and can tell you, it’s not difficult to see how the weaker sometimes can’t pull through. So I felt that besides letting off a little personal steam in this post, that once again, I wanted to spread the awareness to others and want to speak up for those who may have family going through some tough times who choose not to speak about their pain, so that family may clue in.
What sparked my wanting to share this post came from my scanning through a book of material I’ve written in draft to put into a book on my grief. I am suddenly getting inspired to read through just some of the material I’ve written as I witnessed my husband’s health decline to after his passing. For now they are in a Word doc temporarily titled – Conversations and Observations, and, Obituary. I currently have oodles of permanent titles on a page listed that I will have to work with once the book is put together and I find the most fitting title.
From this side of Grief:
I am a strong woman who has lived through some terrible shit in my life but nothing, I mean NOTHING is as painful as the grief I carry with me daily from the loss of my beloved husband.
It doesn’t matter that I could almost lift park benches from the strength I’ve acquired through difficulties in life, this enormous strangle hold that suffocates daily is an opponent bigger than life. And many days it can be emotionally crippling.
I often go to the dark side since losing my other half. And no, time doesn’t ease. When the grief monster and the bubble of sadness that comes along for the ride appear, I find myself in yet another duel. These duels become more and more trying and they don’t dissipate with time, despite everyone else in our circles forgetting we are in this grief for life and it can take a long time – or forever, to climb back into joyful living. Our grief never leaves. Even with however much time it may take for it to come to a slow simmer that resides within without constant bubbling over, mine never seems to leave, I am only still learning how to temporarily suppress it. So we are forced to find a way to continue on with our lives or merely just exist. I am choosing life, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy and that it some days doesn’t knock the actual wind out of my breathing sails.
The loneliness is overwhelming. I am naturally a tactile, social being, often dubbed a social butterfly. Nobody is physically here for me, and I’m not one to cry for help to burden others. But I can’t help but wonder, where are the people who used to be in my life? Why did family forget me after such a traumatic event that goes on daily? There I said it, and I’m going to leave that one alone – for now, because, honestly, the people I’m related to by blood give me enough fodder to write a book, erm, make that a tome.
Some days I’m living on the precipice between living and existing. I am, me, myself and I. I was never that person who got depressed, but I can surely say I know what so many in this world struggle with as this visiting sadness that looms large over me has given me new understanding. I don’t want to call my sadness depression, more like PTSD. My mind too often drifts in a continuous cycle of visionary reminders of watching my husband die daily before my eyes. This is some tough shit to erase from the play list of home videos. It’s a repetitive cycle that is easily triggered by a memory, a random object in my home, or just plain looking at photos of my husband (which surround my home like a mausoleum because I need them to be all around me). I’ve thankfully, never been a depressed person despite some of the awful things that have happened in my life, and knowing depression does exist on my maternal side, I am grateful I didn’t inherit that dis-ease. I may get temporarily depressed, knowing that’s the wrong word I sometimes substitute for sadness, but I don’t allow myself to live in darkness and I fight back with all my might not to allow myself to let a sad day turn into many in a row. Perhaps I’m lucky that way? But there are plenty of people who live in deep depression and can manage to keep that under a cloak when around others. This can lead to dangerous outcomes.
I’m not that person who calls people to wa wa my troubles and moan. Instead, I am silent and solitary. My cries for help will come in subtle ways, maybe talking to a friend and almost begging them to come visit, invading that fine line with my silent cry for help so as not to sound desperate, when in fact there are days when I am.
People are busy. We don’t wish to act sucky so we stuff down our silent hell when all we are craving is some human connection, a hug, an ear for us to cast off our fears, fears that sometimes keep us in the dark and have us questioning ourselves on why are we still here. Why am I here where nobody has time when I could be with one who my heart aches for?
Often it’s the crushing, suffocating pain of having to tolerate our own existence that leads to the many suicides labeled as mental health issues. Funny how I see in my own life how nobody has the time for a cry for help, even when it is deafeningly silent. But they make time for the damned funerals.
Depression, like grief, is a silent thief that traps us at its will. It comes like a tornado sweeping over us, leaving us nothing to grab hold of in its wake, it can often be called a silent killer.
Us grievers, the sad, lonely, or depressed, don’t typically cry for help. And for the some that do, they aren’t always heard. This is why so often these people commit suicide. They don’t feel they are being heard, loved or cared about. They’re misunderstood for craving attention when in fact, they are, and sometimes that attention they didn’t receive could have been the very lifeline that saved them. Connection and companionship are a crucial need for a griever, especially one who lives alone. Those who don’t understand how depression can take hold of someone in their darkest moments should pay more attention to the signs, without judgement. We watch movies and news reels about people who feel there’s no help for them and choose to end their pain, all too often. And their loved ones sit in question. Asking themselves, why didn’t I see the signs? Because you don’t always see signs as many depressed are clever at masquerading their pain with smiles and jokes with their pretended happiness. But if you listen and learn not just to the words, but the silences in between, you can learn how to read between the lines and you just may hear.
I remind you all that if you have a person in your life suffering from a situation, to give them a thought once in awhile. If you noticed their silences, patterns, or dispositions have changed, check up on them. If you noticed they don’t show up like they used to or don’t call you, take that as a sign they are in retreat mode and could use a little company, even if they say they are fine – because they are not. If they are going through an ordeal in their life, pick up a phone and make a point to get together with them or just go visit them. Take it from me. I will never beg, and neither will many others. Please have compassion for someone in your life going through a difficult time. Most of the time, their silence is not a good thing. Take it from one who knows.
I wrote a post awhile ago about the symbolism of the semi-colon not just being a punctuation mark, but a survivor symbol – we are making it through, or have made it through, after a life-altering pause. Our story is not over because we choose to fight on.
I’ve been seeing the semicolon symbol a lot on social media, and I’m identifying with it and sharing its other story here today. It’s also a symbol of courage that simply uses the punctuation mark to tell the world, our story isn’t over. It could have ended with a period, but the semicolon allows the story to continue.
Grammarly shared a post about this stating:
“A semicolon is used when an author could have chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life.”
It was posted in 2015 by Grammarly, but has subsequently been recirculating and being used for suicide prevention advocating – the new significance of survival. – Project Semicolon
This punctuation mark has become a symbol for hope for anyone suffering depression, addiction, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and more of the same. You may have come across some of these posts on social media. Marketing has joined in with creating everything from jewelry, Tshirts, and more with the semicolon design. Many sufferers of depression have also tattooed this symbol somewhere on their person. The symbol was created to change the stigma and to help inspire others who walk the fine line of suicidal thoughts, and for showing solidarity against suicide, depression, addictions and other mental health struggles, inspiring strength for the suffering.
Grammarly shares a post about this symbol and talks about Amy Bleuel who began the nonprofit ‘project suicide’ back in 2013. She created the symbol to be used for more than just a punctuation mark after her own father committed suicide. Sadly, she took her own life in 2017.
Our world is getting infinitely harder for many of us to cope in. The statistics on suicide are growing enormously, and these don’t even apply to the same category with those who suffer actual mental illness. One does not have to suffer mental illness to take themselves to the dark side. I can attest to how devastating events in life can push our minds to some places we’d never thought we’d ever go to when provoked by emotional distress, loneliness or grieving.
The significance related to the punctuation mark is, a story of horrific pain is a mere pause in life, but life can continue. Problems, events, situations are temporary, but suicide is permanent. A reminder that life will go on and not be ended, symbolizing a continuation of life even when life throws us unbearable times.
Please, if you are someone contemplating self harm, or know someone who has reached this dark place, share this post and call your country’s national suicide prevention hotline:
There is always hope. Most of the suicides can be prevented if the distressed person could just have someone to talk to. If you know someone who has experienced, or living a tragedy, life altering situation, or severely depressed, and they aren’t acting like their usual selves, closing themselves off to friends and loved ones, or just disappears from their social circles, please check up on them.
These numbers can be called when desperation reigns, be it thoughts about suicide, surviving a suicide attempt, or deep distorting thoughts for the grieving.
Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a poignant book, written from her own experience with grief and loss, as well as shared interviews with some of her bereavement clients, by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore.
As many of you know, I’ve read a number of books on grief – from the clinical to the afterlife, and one thing I can say about this book is that it stands out from others because it talks about all aspects and changes of life we go through when grief strikes – not just the expected things. Dr. Cacciatore has ‘worn the shoes’. One other thing I’d like to note about this book is that I would highly recommend everyone to read this book. Why? Because everyone in the world will have to experience it in their lifetimes, and for those who haven’t yet, this book gives amazing insights. It’s also a good book for those who know or love a griever and don’t know how to act around them or what to say. It distinctly states what us grievers need in our new life path from those in our lives.
If you love, you will grieve—and nothing is more mysteriously central to becoming fully human.
Dr. Cacciatore is featured in the 2021 documentary series The Me You Can’t See, from Oprah, Prince Harry, and Apple TV.
Bearing the Unbearable is a Foreword INDIES Award-Winner — Gold Medal for Self-Help. __ When a loved one dies, the pain of loss can feel unbearable—especially in the case of a traumatizing death that leaves us shouting, “NO!” with every fiber of our body. The process of grieving can feel wild and nonlinear—and often lasts for much longer than other people, the nonbereaved, tell us it should.
Organized into fifty-two short chapters, Bearing the Unbearable is a companion for life’s most difficult times, revealing how grief can open our hearts to connection, compassion, and the very essence of our shared humanity. Dr. Joanne Cacciatore—bereavement educator, researcher, Zen priest, and leading counselor in the field—accompanies us along the heartbreaking path of love, loss, and grief. Through moving stories of her encounters with grief over decades of supporting individuals, families, and communities—as well as her own experience with loss—Cacciatore opens a space to process, integrate, and deeply honor our grief.
Not just for the bereaved, Bearing the Unbearable will be required reading for grief counselors, therapists and social workers, clergy of all varieties, educators, academics, and medical professionals. Organized into fifty-two accessible and stand-alone chapters, this book is also perfect for being read aloud in support groups.
My 5 Star Review:
Before I go into my review of this book, I will simply state, as a griever myself, that this book is one of the best books I’ve read on grief because it isn’t a clinical diagnosis book, it isn’t a guide on how to get through grief, but a tender telling of all the emotions a griever will experience throughout the rest of their lives, the triggers, and most of all, also beneficial to anyone who has ever known a griever and is lost for words or knowing how to act around someone who is grieving.
The book begins with a prologue of the author giving us a snapshot of her own grief story. She shares some of the questions all grievers ask and wonders how the world can continue on when her world was left empty – a common thread between all grievers. The author tells us she hopes for other grievers to feel they are in a safe place for us to be with our broken hearts. She warns that this book isn’t instruction on how to get over grief, but how to learn to live with the undeniable ebbs and flows and triggers of grief that will remain a part of our lives, for the rest of our lives. She talks about grievers needing others to reach out to us, and just how to do it by telling of her own experiences, and that of others she has consoled.
Dr. Cacciatore speaks of how death will affect every single person one day in their own individual way. The more we love, the more we will grieve. She also delves into how grief is manifested and what the shock of a traumatic death can leave on us – sometimes and often, leading to depression and/or PTSD, the repercussions of the shocking experience of losing a loved one, and how that often leads to running to substances to numb our pain. The good doctor touches on all the various types of trauma and grief from losing a loved one, a child, a parent, a spouse, etc., covering the gamut of what each of these relationships lost leave the living loved one to endure and the various habits and personality characteristics that are altered in the wake of, including the physical ailments many of us experience in light of grief, of which, many can become life threatening – especially when self-care desire disappears.
Most importantly to me, the author speaks of those in our circles who tend to abandon us in our hours of need because they don’t know what we need, and fears of talking about our lost loved ones causing more pain, explaining quite the opposite, how us grievers aren’t looking for solutions, only an ear to hear us speak of our great loss with a compassionate heart. “…But please just sit beside me. Say nothing. Do not offer a cure, or a pill, or a word, or a potion. Witness my suffering and don’t turn away from me. Please be gentle with me. Please self, be gentle with me too. I will not ever ‘get over it’ so please don’t urge me down that path.”
“Traumatic death provokes traumatic grief.” Truest words. The author gets into the body’s reactions to grief, comparing a diagnosis or a death edict having that ‘fight or flight’ feeling within us setting off in perceived physchological threat within. Only, the fight or flight feeling never really leaves. She goes into the despair the griever learns to live within. “This is grief’s most piercing message: there is no way around-the only way is through”. As she states, those who don’t deal with their grief and won’t allow themselves to feel, are only suppressing their grief, tells us it will eventually manifest in unexpected ways. The doctor warns that suppressing grief is responsible for so many addictions, abuse and social disconnection.
We learn about how some people’s cry for help – or, the lack of those cries, can often lead to that griever taking their own life. She warns that grief always has a place at the table. Talking about grief is necessary and should never be stifled. The distractions we use for ourselves as grievers is also discussed as our everlasting unquenchable yearning for our lost loved ones never goes away.
Another poignant discussion in this book delves into the loss of a child and how that sometimes leads parents to unintentionally neglect their living children while focusing on the loss of another. We also learn how crying is a natural valve to relieve stress and explains the biochemical essense of grief tears and their differentiation to other tears.
In this book there is a dedicated chapter to grievers on how to tell our friends and family what we need from them in our hours of grief. Letting them know our triggers, asking for our acceptance when we aren’t up to a family gathering, a cry for help, and more. She offers up solutions like, writing a note to family letting them know our needs and reassuring them to not hold back conversations of our lost loved one because that is one of the most needed conversation many grievers crave, is talking about our lost loved one.
Time is linear with grief, sometimes minutes feel like years, years feel like minutes. The author tells us how easily a grief moment will steal our breath. “It is both feared enemy and beloved companion who never leaves.” Reminding, we won’t stop grieving until we stop loving. “Those we love deeply who have died are part of our identity; they are a part of our biography. We feel that love in the marrow of our bones.”
The author offers writing to a lost loved one as a great therapy. Read it and weep as she explains these tears of release are good for the soul. She also talks about making a memory box we can revisit to soothe our souls in memory.
All different types of grief are covered in this book, from the ones we carry for our lost one to the kind where we blame ourselves for. You will find stories here that demonstrate things that can happen for those who withhold their grief.
I loved her analogy of grief ‘ it’s a big bowl of grief broth’, describing how just one more ingredient can overpower us with overwhelming grief.
“No intervention and no interventionist can ‘cure’ our grief. And we are not broken-we are brokenhearted.”
“Grief is not a medical disorder to be cured.
Grief is not spiritual crisis to be resolved.
Grief is not a social woe to be addressed.
Grief is, simply, a matter of the heart-to be felt.”
“When we cannot hold in our arms our loved ones who’ve died, we hold them in our hearts. This is being with grief.”
“When you’re feeling tired of our sadness, just remember that we are supremely more tired of their dead-ness.”
“Losing our beloved brings a pain unlike any other-and this pain is- legitimately ours. Being with grief is terrifyingly painful, yet when we live our grief honestly, it has the mysterious power to deepen the meaning of our lives. This is the gift-curse of grief.”
Whoever survives the test must tell his story. ~ Elie Wiesel
Well, week one has passed and as I write this, I am sore! Oye! Last Monday was my first day at the gym. I used the treadmill and then did half an hour with weight machines. This should not have been a problem had I been going to my own building’s gym three times a week like I had done -B.C. – before Covid. Last year, I’d have so say the most exercise I had was packing and moving. I walked miles while in Mexico, but let’s face it, besides carrying my heavy carryon bag through airports, I hadn’t done anything with weights. My body reminded how much I was out of shape. The next day was painful, so I took off two days and went back for more on Thursday. Friday I wasn’t nearly as sore, until I went to my first Yoga class on Saturday. Ouch!
I took Yoga classes years ago, and for many years I did Pilates at home, again, until the Covid hit and my husband became unwell. That’s when I threw self-care out the window. Time passing without proper exerise and a couple of years more of aging had me struggling in that class, but I did it! Did I hold all the poses for the whole time? Of course not. Did I shake and have to restart several poses while on one foot? Of course I did. I also found myself having to modify some poses using ‘beginner’ mode, even though I thought I was an old pro. Did my whole body ache the next day? Of course it did! But I am glad I did it and have every intention of going back to next Saturday’s class. I also intend to give a Zumba class a try later this week, ambitious I know! But socially, I haven’t met anyone yet, other than the sweet young girls who work at the club. I seem to have developed a rapport with a few of those girls, and they make me feel welcome every time I come in to the gym. It’s a start.
Back on the Marsha front. I hadn’t seen her all week until we went out for a coffee for a few hours this past Sunday. We had also spoken on the phone a few times this past week. She keeps herself very busy going to her gym/club where she is involved in activities daily. She goes five days a week in the morning and doesn’t return till 5pm. Disciplined girl, but as she told me, she has to get out and keep busy or she’ll go mad with boredom. She doesn’t use a computer, so naturally, she couldn’t fill her days online, which reminds how grateful I am for having a whole other world of online life that keeps my sanity – most days.
I feel like Marsha is one of those people I’ve written about before – people we meet for seasons and reasons. Marsha is a pretty, stylish woman with barely a wrinkle. She has a fun personality, and during our long conversations – talking about our younger days, and our ‘crazy’ mothers, just another thing in common, and we discovered that we are related through marriage. Her father divorced her mother and married my mother’s first cousin. What are the odds? But I had never heard of Marsha before. Perhaps because she is quite a bit older than me. That was the shocker. As I stated in my earlier post upon meeting Marsha, I took her for her early 70s, a good decade older than me, but when I asked her point blank how old she was, she was hesitant on admitting her true age of 81. What??? No way, I said. I always considered myself a great age guesser, this wild woman threw me right off kilter. I knew I had a lot to learn from Marsha.
We talked a lot about love and marriage and our husbands. Her first husband was the love of her life and like me, Marsha had a shocking diagnosis of her husband while in her mid-sixties, her husband developed severe headaches and was given the death edict with a brain tumor. Her life as she knew it took a 180 just as mine did. The caretaking, the love, the anticipatory grief and then the lifelong grief is a bond we have in common. I couldn’t help but ask her how she went on after that, and how did she manage to wed a second time?
Marsha clarified, she never married the second one. She met him, he persisted on going out together, she caved a few months later and started dating him. Circumstances and loneliness combined had her moving in with him, and admitting, that they had a good life for nine years until he too passed away, but she never stopped loving her first husband.
How do you do that? I asked Marsha. ‘It just kind of fell into place organically,’ she responded. He wanted to marry her but she declined. She told me when her time is up, she will be buried with her first husband. No doubt, as whatever happens in my future, anyone else who may enter my life could only ever hold second place.
I enjoy talking with Marsha because she’s funny, she’s down to earth, and I believe I have something to learn from her. My inquisitive mind is always willing to learn, and Marsha has definitely worn the shoes of life – and death. With aging comes wisdom. I know I can look back on my own life and see the errors of my ways and also recognize how far I’ve come mentally and emotionally since my younger days. Surely, someone who has twenty years on me has something more to teach me from her own years of experience.
Connections open doors for us to new paths. We may not always know where those doors will lead, but one thing I know for sure, opportunities and meeting people only happen when we open a path – they don’t come banging on our doors. We first have to open the door and take a step out of our usual routines to allow the universe to let us see what and who are out there to enrich our lives.
So, I often write about some of the goings on in my life and in my head/heart. Last Thursday was probably the best day I’ve had since I was in Mexico with my new wonderful friends.
Today, (the post goes live) is my ‘something’th’ birthday, and I probably won’t be answering your comments till much later tonight, because it will be my new best day because I’ll be spending it with my bestie, Banan, known as Bri in my books.
But getting back to Thursday – weeks previous to Thursday, I’d come up with the decision that I have to start expanding my horizons and decide what kind of group activity I’d like to join. The time is long overdue.
I’d thought about joining a grief group where I could be among ‘my people’, or joining a gym, women’s fitness – no men as I’m not interested in getting hit on. I couldn’t find anywhere close that had an actual, non online grief group. I’m at the point where I need to be around way more people, to find new friends that don’t live far away and whom I have things in common with – not necessarily grief – but a human or two I can connect with, someone who I can look into their eyes when speaking as opposed to chatting on a computer screen.
I talk to my friends online often in chat boxes, but there’s nothing better than real talk with humans face to face. I’m a people person and feel myself shrinking by spending too much time left to my own devices. I promised my two besties I was seriously going to join something when I decided where I’d feel most comfortable, and I decided to email a contact form for a Goodlife Fitness Women’s Gym, only ten minutes away, and went for the tour last Thursday.
Asal showed me around with a guided tour for over an hour. She was a sweet young girl. It felt great just to get out and talk to Asal (whose name that took me three tries to pronounce, and we laughed together). She asked me a short questionnaire – my goals, what I was wanting out of joining, any classes I’d be interested in. I told her my husband died a year ago and I’m taking my first steps in trying to rejoin civilization, mainly joining to take part in some classes for social interaction – Zumba and Yoga.
I’ve pushed myself to commitment and went back yesterday, to use the free pass to try out whatever equipment I wanted in the gym for however long I wanted, and they had great special plans to choose from at reasonable prices, and Asal was dropping the ‘joinup’ fee of $100, if I signed up then. I figured I’d try the two classes a week and use the treadmill and some of the weights, before I dived into machines. So I told Asal I’d like to use my free pass day Monday, (yesterday), and that I’d come while she’s on shift so I could sign up with her. So now I’m a member. For approximately $20 a week I can go whenever I want and to however many classes I want. I liked midday because there were people but not so many. I figured I’d eventually strike up a friendship with someone, it’s close to home, it’s only women, so what do I have to lose. And who knows, in the process, I could get in good shape. Sounds like a win/win. So this is my progress.
So, getting back to Thursday, before I got to the gym. I was on my way to the gym waiting for the elevator on my floor, where this attractive older woman was standing. I’d never seen her before, but then again, I’m picky who I want in my close circles in the building where I live, lol. I have a few friends from upstairs on my old condo floor, neighborly friends, but not real close. And there were many lovely greetings from what seemed the, ‘widow’s floor’ I’d moved on to, but nobody I felt a connection with. But today, there was ‘Marsha’.
My condo is, unfortunately, close to the elevator. I came out, locked my door, turned around and walked ten steps to the elevator. I saw the back of her and her pretty blonde bob before she turned around and asked, ‘Does it bother you living close to the elevators?’ I replied, not really. There’s no noise. I just feel like my door is vulnerable for quick break-in getaways if there were any, and have to remember not to talk on the phone near the door for fearing of being overheard.
We laughed while waiting for the usual long elevator wait. She told me she just moved in last month and gave me a short synopsis of her being twice a widow. She’s very attractive, and we shared a similar humor. I took her for her early 70s. I gave her my short synopsis, and after we got off on the lower level together, while I was going to the parking lot and she, to vote in our library, we both finally took a breath and were about to go our parting ways, when she told me her apartment number and added, ‘knock on my door around 645, I’ll show you my place then we’ll go sit outside in our park.
After I got back from the gym, my new good friend from Mexico, Shelley, Whatsapp video called, and we had a two hour catch-up and planning when I’m going to visit her and stay at her place for a few days. She lives in Brighton, Ontario, about a two-hour highway drive east of me. Me, anxiety highway driving woman. But, I made up my mind. I am driving to Shel’s. I’m not taking the train. That, my friends, will be an adventure.
We laughed about all our antics this past winter, and the things we’re going to do together next winter in Puerto Vallarta- definitely heading up to the best market in Bucerias. And we’re looking at late June for my first summer visit, as soon as it warms up to swimming weather again, as typically, our hot summer is now feeling like the cool of spring, and it looks that way on the weathermap for the next few.
My Bestie, Banan called while I was talking to Shel. I declined her call, texted her that I was on the phone with Shelley. I did call her back much later, almost dinnertime, of course no answer. I left her a text to listen to my long message about my surprising day. I told her to call me tomorrow because I had to make some dinner and I was rushing to meet Marsha. Banan was thrilled.
We caught up the next day. And I will end this here, and then I will reveal more about my outdoor meeting with Marsha and our walk to the coffee shop on Sunday, in next week’s episode.
I’m being bold and stepping back into civilization – baby steps, but it’s happening!