Sunday Book Review – Widowish” A #Memoir by Melissa Gould

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing a book I came across that immediately grabbed my attention – Widowish: A Memoir by Melissa Gould. I thought the title was attention grabbing, and as a new widow myself, I felt compelled to read to see why the title had an ‘ish’ attached, it had me curious as to the meaning – did ‘ish’ mean kind of a widow? Sometimes a widow? So I dug in to discover and you will discover my findings in my review below.

With over 5000, 4 1/2 star ratings, I can certainly appreciate this woman’s journey of grief, confusion, guilt, and ultimately, finding happiness on her journey.

Blurb:

Melissa Gould’s hopeful memoir of grieving outside the box and the surprising nature of love.

When Melissa Gould’s husband, Joel, was unexpectedly hospitalized, she could not imagine how her life was about to change. Overwhelmed with uncertainty as Joel’s condition tragically worsened, she offered him the only thing she could: her love and devotion. Her dedication didn’t end with his death.

Left to resume life without her beloved husband and raise their young daughter on her own, Melissa soon realized that her and Joel’s love lived on. Melissa found she didn’t fit the typical mold of widowhood or meet the expectations of mourning. She didn’t look like a widow or act like a widow, but she felt like one. Melissa was widowish.

Melissa’s personal journey through grief and beyond includes unlikely inspiration from an evangelical preacher, the calming presence of some Real Housewives, and the unexpected attention of a charming musician.

A modern take on loss, Widowish illuminates the twists of fate that break our world, the determination that keeps us moving forward, and the surprises in life we never see coming.

My Four Star Review:

Amazon alerted me to this book on sale and as a new younger widow myself, I felt drawn to it. I could identify with so much of what Melissa had lived through. We read many books and stories about love and loss, but their meanings somehow give us a heftier impact when we have walked in the shoes.

Melissa’s world comes to a shocking stumble when her husband’s health takes a turn for the worse and has to come to terms with the loss of her loving husband Joel. She often finds herself not believing her husband is dead and it’s her friends that help her through the transition through widowhood. While her love is undying for her husband and some months have passed, Melissa finds herself conflicted as she discovers she’s having feelings for a family friend, a fellow musician, Marcos, from her husband’s circles. Joel was a musician and Marcos also performs guitar, along with all his other do good ventures – helping homeless, teaching guitar, and more. The friendship between Melissa and Marcos strengthens after Melissa asked Marcos to help sell Joel’s guitar collection.

Through Melissa’s journey of grief, she takes comfort in the signs she believes she receives from Joel – signs that come from odd places – songs, a preacher named Joel, and television Housewives. These signs give her comfort in knowing Joel is around and wants her to be happy.

Upon one of her meet ups with Marcos, Melissa begins to feel an attraction for him, and the feeling is mutual. Melissa goes through the conflicting part about still feeling married to someone who is no longer on earth and a struggle to move forward with her life, even though she feels terrified of her guilt for doing so. Her paranoia ensues between her feelings for Marco and her guilt for having those feelings, feeling as though she is betraying Joel. She elaborates on all the new ‘firsts’ in her life without her husband, the chores she inherited, the important dates that passed – holidays, birthdays, her daughter’s graduation and more. Melissa carries all her feelings while journeying through her new life alone, worrying about how her daughter and others would eventually accept her endeavoring into a new relationship. Her person craved the company and conversation while in doing so, the guilt within her for doing so plagued her. Her dilemma was her own guilt and worrying about what others would say about her in a new relationship. She didn’t want people to think just because she was trying to move forward that she didn’t miss or love her husband anymore. There are no rules about when someone is ready to move on after loss and Melissa worried that she was disappointing people by dating someone nine months after burying her husband, especially her daughter. She felt as though people were judging her for not showing her sadness and going on with her life despite her grief and the unvarnished love she would always hold for Joel.

I felt I got to know Melissa and Marcos better than any description paid to Joel and their daughter Sophie, but in all fairness, although the story was built upon Joel’s passing it’s really about Melissa’s journey through the event and her transition through grief. A relatable read for those of us who have loved and lost and an inside look at the struggles of grief and how it affects us, for those who’ve never walked in the shoes.

Favorite Quotes:

“Grief was my constant companion who occasionally took naps.”

“I wanted to get to the other side of my grief, not stay in it forever.”

“There’s no rhyme or reason to grief, when it hits you, it hits you.”

Most powerful statement that vibrated within me was when Melissa said that she could finally stop envisioning her husband sick and dying, she could envision him how he truly was at his best. I still await that day.

©DGKaye2022

Sunday Book Review Plus – Bonus Documentary Recap on Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review with an added bonus. Today I’m going to review Joan Didion’s book – The Year of Magical Thinking. But before I share my book review, I’m going to share an overview of the 2017 Documentary currently on Netflix – Joan Didion – The Center Will Not Hold, where 86 year old, literary icon, Joan, reflects on her intimate stories from her writing career and struggles, and her forty year marriage to author John Gregory Dunne, brother to author Dominick Dunne. The documentary was directed by her nephew, Griffin Dunne.

 

My 5 Star Review Documentary Review:

 

Joan Didion was born December 5, 1934 in Sacremento, California. She’s an American novelist and essayist and screenwriter. Joan is known for her incisive depictions of social unrest. Joan says she began writing at the age of five and was a shy ‘bookish’ girl. She never considered herself a real writer until her first published book. Joan struggled with social anxiety and took up acting and public speaking to help ease her anxieties. As a young teen, she spent much of her time typing out books by Ernest Hemingway so she could learn how sentence structure worked. Joan had a sordid childhood as her dad was in the army during WWII, with moving a lot she didn’t attend school regularly until returning back to Sacremento in 1944.

 

After watching the documentary and learning about the demises of both her husband and her daughter Quintana, my heart went out to Joan and I was compelled to read her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, because she wrote it after John’s death. It was first published in 2005. In the documentary, Joan’s publicist talks about how he urged Joan to write her novel published in 2012 – Blue Nights, for both, John and Quintana.

 

John and Joan met in New York City when Joan won a poetry contest at her senior year in Berkeley for her essay, Prix de Paris, and the prize landed her a job as research assistant at Vogue. John wrote for Time Magazine at the time.

 

They bounced ideas off one another, each wrote their own books and essays, but they collaborated on screenplays together – Needle Park (1971 with Al Pacino) and A Star is Born (1976 Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Joan’s logline for Needle Park – “Romeo and Juliette as junkies.

 

In this documentary, we get a deep inside look at this author from her beginnings as a journalist writing hard stories, Joan would say that she writes about disorder because she’d then find the situation”less scary”. She wasn’t happy with the way some of her books were portrayed for movies, such as, Book of Common Prayer, complaining her characters were totally different than what she’d written.

 

Joan admits that much of what she writes contained pieces of her. Her interests in writing were mostly about stories of humanity and the bad things going on in the world. Her visit to El Salvador prompted her to write political stories and essays, and an eventual book called El Salvador. She talks about the lie of the Central Park 7 – propaganda spurred falsely in the accusation of the rape of a jogger in Central Park, N.Y. and on VP Dick Cheney, “Bully of the Bush war,” “He took the lemons, made lemonade, spilled, and made someone else cleanup.”

 

John and Joan kept a low profile in the celeb world. They adopted their daughter Quintana at birth. When Quintana was asked what kind of mom Joan was, she replied, “Okay, mostly remote.” Joan began questioning how parents are sometimes on auto-pilot and don’t realize child neglect.

 

In 2003, Quintana took ill and was rushed to hospital when she went into septic shock resulting from pneumonia, which turned worse and ultimately left her in a coma at the time of John’s death. John and Joan had just come home from visiting Quintana in hospital on December 30, 2003, and they were sick with worry about their daughter. Joan made dinner, the two sat down to eat when John had a massive, fatal heart attack. Later, looking in her husband’s closet with a friend to pack up his clothes, Joan said, “What if he comes back?” That was clearly a grief statement because I could so identify with not wanting to let go. After she wrote The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan said it was the hardest book to write, but had to write it to get through. I totally get that. She told herself that after writing the book she would learn to let go. This woman lost the love of her life while their daughter lay in a coma.

 

Months after Quintana’s recovery, she fell and hit her head, suffering a massive hematoma and resulting in six hours of brain surgery. As Quintana was recovering her major illnesses in 2004, she came down with Pancreatitis in 2005, and ultimately died from it in August 2005 at age 39. Didion wrote Blue Nights in 2011 for Quintana. That woman was broken.

 

Joan was/is a tiny woman, and after losing her family, her wonderful friends stepped up to take care of her and made sure she ate at her already weight of 75 pounds. Joan then wrote the play for the book The Year of Magical Thinking, which starred Vanessa Redgrave, in the nonfictional soliloquy.

 

Joan wrote Blue Nights after the play, about Quintana – a book she said she didn’t want to write. On her life when asked if she had regrets about things, she said, “The failure to plan for misfortune,” her guilt of failing as a mother.

 

In 2005 Didion won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and became a finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award.  She won a Pulitzer Prize for her book, The Magical Year of Thinking. In 2015, President Obama awarded Joan with the Mastery of Style in Writing Award for exploring the culture around us and exposing the depths of sorrow and for her ‘startling honesty’.

 

 

Poignant Quotes:

 

“Everyone has moved on except the one left grieving.”

 

“See enough and write it down.”

 

“A journal – a forgotten account paid with interest.”

 

“Remember what it is to be me, that’s always the point.”

 

 

 

 

I recently finished reading Joan’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking. After seeing the documentary and having only read one other of Joan’s books, I felt compelled to read.

 

 

 

 

Blurb:

 

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion that explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage—and a life, in good times and bad—that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

 

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill with what seemed at first flu, then pneumonia, then complete septic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later—the night before New Year’s Eve—the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John Gregory Dunne suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of forty years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LAX, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Center to relieve a massive hematoma.

 

This powerful book is Didion’ s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness … about marriage and children and memory … about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.”

 

 

My 5 Star Review:

 

An accounting of love and loss. In this often, heartwrenching book, Joan Didion champions her once simple writing life alone, without her husband, best friend and consultant on all her writing. Joan reminisces on her life and writing with her husband John, always with her – writing, walking, traveling, filming – they did everything together, despite them both being individual writers, with the exception of a few collaborations.

 

Joan takes us through her life in vignettes as she shares memories of incidence on vacations the family took together, the circles of people they traveled with, their routines, when they adopted Quintana, motherhood, and mistakes. But most poignantly, Joan focuses on the time of John’s death, the surreal moments, the most insignificant things becoming big things, the most minutest details overlooked while she was living numb are being realized in this story. She begins her story with the the eve her and John went to visit Quintana in hospital, while she was in an induced coma. They were both worried sick about their daughter. Joan makes dinner, they sit down to eat and John has a fatal heart attack right in front of her on December 30, 2003. Her details are precise. She talks about her different kinds of grief, comparing the variation in grief between losing her parents, to how different her grief felt when John died. Joan shares what it was like waking up the next morning alone. She’ll take you right into her realizations. So identifiable for anyone who has ever deeply loved and lost. I know much of what Joan speaks, like not even remembering if we ate or not, mostly not. It’s a numbness that takes over to break the impact of the shock.

 

Joan bares herself with raw honesty on what grief leaves on someone, the stages of steps involved until reaching acceptance, but I wonder how many ever get there. Joan shares how she came to decisions about giving her loved one’s clothes away, as Joan in her denial stage held hope he may come back. Joan discusses her concern of having to break the news to Quintana about her father’s death, after she awakes from a long coma. Joan shares her fears about her daughter getting sick again overshadowing her grief – “Until now, I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened, Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.”

 

Imagine trying to stay sane!

 

Joan Didion is an iconic writer. As a journalist, she followed stories of humanity, out in the field. She said it was easier to deal with war if she could see it. She’s a tiny frail woman who can barely move her hands now at age 86, but that doesn’t stop her from still using them to articulate what she speaks. She’s lived through hell and back TWICE, first losing the love of her life, then her daughter. I can only imagine the amount of courage it took to write about such pain. It’s not surprising this Warrior Woman has won so many awards. I was drawn to this book after watching a documentary about her, The Center Will Not Hold on Netflix after my own husband’s passing, and I would recommend this book to anyone, especially those who have loved and lost.

 

 

Poignant Quotes that resonate:

 

“Life changes fast.

 

Life changes in the instant.

 

You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.

 

The question of self-pity.”

 

“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it.”

 

“I could not count the times during the average day when something would come up that I needed to tell him. This impulse did not end with his death.”

 

“Marriage is memory, marriage is time.”

 

“For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age. This year for the first time since I was twenty-nine I saw myself through the eyes of others.”

 

“I have trouble thinking of myself as a widow. I remember hesitating the first time I had to check that box on the ‘marital status’ part of a form.”

 

“I realized that for the time being I could not trust myself to present a coherent face to the world.”

 

“I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us.”

 

“I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account.”

 

 

©DGKaye2021

 

Sunday Book Review – Healing A Spouse’s Grieving Heart by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt

The Sunday Book Review highlights Healing a Spouse’s Grieving Heart by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, who is a noted author, educator, and grief counselor. This book is a great companion guide for those of us who’ve loved and lost someone. It offers 100 practical ideas to help cope with grief.

 

Healing a Spouse's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Husband or Wife Dies (Healing Your Grieving Heart series) by [Alan Wolfelt]

Available on Amazon

 

Blurb:

Helping widows and widowers learn how to cope with the grief of losing their helpmate, their lover, and perhaps their financial provider, this guide shows them how to find continued meaning in life when doing so seems difficult. Bereaved spouses will find advice on when and how to dispose of their mate’s belongings, dealing with their children, and redefining their role with friends and family. Suggestions are provided for elderly mourners, young widows and widowers, unmarried lovers, and same-sex partners. The information and comfort offered apply to individuals whose spouse died recently or long ago.

 

My 5 Star Review:

Comfort for the grieving spouse’s heart told in bite-sized, often one page chapters. Easy to digest as a complete read through, or as a night table book where you could keep it handy to open a page for a bit of inspiration.

The book offers short and comforting words and suggestions and short to-the- point topics and advice to live by. An easy read that had my head nodding in acknowledgement to much of it. This book offers good tools to help wade through the grief journey.

Dr. Wolfelt offers us 100 Practical Ideas in one page chunks as he shares a common issue mourners face with uplifting advice on how to deal with those moments. I will share quotes I felt poignant, and I’ll add my own thoughts from my own experience in response:

“The death of a spouse tears through every layer of your existence.” – Fact.

“You will grow to learn that you can mourn and live at the same time.”–  I’m beginning to learn this.

“The loss of a partner is among life’s most wrenching and challenging experiences.” – 1000000%

The doctor tells us “The journey of grief is a long and difficult one. It is also a journey for which there is no preparation.” – Fact!

We’ll learn that feelings of shock, numbness, and disbelief are nature’s way of protecting us from the full reality of the death of a loved one. Yes! Thank God for the numbness and denial! We’re advised to reach out to someone when we need to share our pain. Good advice for sure, but for some like myself, I don’t like to reach out and burden others. I wish some would pick up a phone and check up on me – if nothing other than common courtesy.

Reminders about who we are now after we are left as half from one. The arduous and painful work will begin when we assume our own new single identity.

Here’s a bigee for me: “Widows often tell me how surprised and hurt they feel when friends fall away after the death of a spouse. I found out who my friends really are,” they say. – This is my number one glaring headlight into my new life – the very, very few who are now in my life. Death surely tells a whole story.

“Caring for someone who is sick is physically as well as emotionally draining.” – Understatement! There is no pain like watching your beloved die before you daily.

I’m pretty sure I’m here: “You may not know what to do with yourself now that your days are no longer consumed by caring for your spouse.” – Yes, not only our world has been shaken, stirred and turned upside down, but now we’re also out of routine, another sense of loss – that we are no longer needed.

“Many people have lost touch with the gift of family. Your friends may come and go, but family, as they say, is forever.” – I’m sorry, but this part actually made me laugh. Let me rephrase that: Your family may come and go, but friends are forever. I’m a living testament to this.

“If you harbor bad feelings about your partner’s medical care, find a way to express those feelings.” – Oh I’ve expressed my feelings loud and clear. Covid killed my husband and he didn’t even have it. He couldn’t be assessed in hospital during Covid, so like the many more who died because of Covid, without having Covid will be numbers we will be receiving in time. My husband was a victim of not being able to get assessed early enough in hospital. That is Fact.

“Being without someone to hug and hold is often a big part of their grief. You may have kissed and hugged your spouse every day. You probably slept side by side. Losing this kind of physical intimacy can feel devastating.” – No kidding! The good doctor hit the motherlode here. We hugged and kissed many times a day. Of course we slept not always side by side, but spooned and tucking my always cold feet under his legs. There is no replacement. It’s loss upon loss us grievers will continue to endure.

“It’s not unusual for mourners to save clothing, jewelry, books, locks of hair, and other personal items. You may even want to wear your husband’s old sweatshirt or sleep with your wife’s robe.” -Some of the small comforts in my own grief. I gave away most of hubby’s things and kept what was most sacred to me: Special photos, his gold chain, now worn with his wedding ring hanging from it. His slippers by the bed. His favorite sweatshirts. And his love that is always around.

“Should you still wear a wedding ring when you’re a widow, or shouldn’t you?” – Naturally, there is no one answer. But if you’re asking me, I will be wearing my wedding ring til the day I die – no matter what may come.

“Griefbursts” – This is a perfect word for the unprepared for moments where merely a kind word, hug or song can set off the waterworks.

Throughout this book, the good doctor shares some good advice on things to do to get back into community, suggests when it may be time to talk to a counselor, join a support group, among many other suggestions.

Another quote I found resonated big-time with me was: “You may lack the energy as well as the desire to participate in activities you used to find pleasurable. The fancy term for this is ‘anhedonia,’ which is the lack of ability to experience pleasure in things you previously found pleasurable.” – I’m so there. I don’t like to be out long, and like to dash right back home when out for a time. What I need is a holiday away from my environment.

“If you choose to marry, know that you will never get over your grief for the spouse who died. You will always love your previous spouse and, even years and decades later, you will always feel some grief over his or her death. This is normal and necessary.” – I absolutely couldn’t agree more. Real love never goes away. Why would I even consider remarrying? My husband filled my heart and soul. That doesn’t go away. Marrying anyone else could only make them second best, and who would want to be that?

If you are grieving, read this book.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

 

Sunday Book Review – Ghosts Among Us – James Van Praagh

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. Today I’m reviewing international Medium, James Van Praagh’s, Ghosts Among Us. If you are at all curious about the ‘afterlife’ and what is entailed on the other side, Praagh’s book is helpful to help understand how life works ‘on the other side’.

 

Ghosts Among Us: Uncovering the Truth About the Other Side by [James Van Praagh]

Available on Amazon!

 

Blurb:

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ghosts, but Were Too Afraid to Ask

From a very young age James Van Praagh was aware of a dimension that most of us cannot see, and he has dedicated his life to explaining it to the rest of us. The New York Times bestseller Ghosts Among Us takes us on an incredible journey into the spirit world that brings to light one of our greatest mysteries—what happens to us after we die?

 

My 5 Star Review:

Medium James Van Praagh first invites us into glimpses of his life by sharing his young life and his first encounters with other worldly spirits; he thought his calling was to the priesthood, his later realization was that’s not where he belonged, and his journey through writing, moving to Los Angeles, connections and seances, were the beginnings of Praagh’s becoming a famous medium.

After the introduction to Praagh’s spiritual life, and sharing his first sightings of ghosts, he shares stories of people who’ve experienced NDE (near death experience) and wishes to enlighten us about both, the complexities and simplicity of the ghostly side of life.

Praagh informs us that there is no such thing as death, but only transition, it is only the end of the physical body. He tells us there is no pain when someone dies, nobody ever dies alone, for as we pass out of our bodies, our deceased loved ones are their to greet us. Praagh tells us that those who experienced near death situations all concur with similar experiences told by those who’ve ‘come back’.

Most observed themselves floating out of their bodies and watching from above what was going on, feelings of overwhelming peace, moving toward a tunnel with a light ahead, being greeted by deceased loved ones, an encounter with an angel or being of light, began experiencing their life review. Some went reaching the borderline where you can’t cross over, only to be sent back into their body with great reluctance, and regrets of not realizing the truth about life while they were alive, realizing the lessons failed to learn on earth. When a person sheds its physical form, the silver cord that keeps the etheric body attached to the soul is severed. That is the end of life on earth, but not necessarily end of life in a new realm.

In this book we will learn about the different realms we venture through once we are on the other side. We’ll learn about lowly ghosts too who never evolve and remain on the lower realm without graduating to higher realms. We learn that it takes a lot of energy for a ghost to make anything manifest on a physical level. The more willing we are to open ourselves up to spirit, the more spirits will reveal themselves to us. And the biggest reason ghosts have for wanting to reveal themselves is to help console grieiving family. Apparently, after death, our lost loved ones ‘stay around’, wanting to let family know they are still ‘very much alive’, just on another realm.

Later in the book, the author talks about how ghosts like to make contact, as Praagh offers various methods of how we can protect ourselves to avoid attracting lowly spirits.

Praagh gives us some wonderful insights and stories to elaborate on his discoveries. If you’re curious about what happens in the ‘afterlife’, read this book.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

Grief Diaries – Dimes from Heaven. So, Where are You? – Grave Decorating

Dimes from Heaven, So where are you already?

 

I heard when you find dimes, your lost loved one is around. I came across three while cleaning out our large rented condo to move to a smaller one. And then, nothing.

 

Moving sucked whatever life I had left in me – to the bone. It wasn’t enough I lost you and my heart and soul were broken, but I’m physically broken from the new record breaking most horrendous move I’ve ever endured; and you know we had plenty of horrors with our many moves together – not to mention, I had you, my strong, handsome handyman to do the grueling things and heavy lifting, and to hang a million things I asked of you. You never denied me. We were so good together.

I’m reading many books about how people get through this most painful heart-wrenching time in life and survive from not dying from a broken heart. It always makes me think of my dad when I’m in my deepest moments of a new wave of grief; I always said he died of a broken heart because my mother crushed him so many times. I can feel how this could happen.

I just need to start feeling your presence, like I can sometimes when I feel my dad and aunt around. I know their signals when they are around. I need to sense your presence and have a visit to help calm my fears. I need to know you’re okay, you know, like the story I told you many times, about the one and only time I went to visit my dad in heaven and saw his light and spoke with him? I’m waiting for that time again with you.

In the meantime, after visiting your grave two weeks ago, I Couldn’t Find You?

I promised myself when I got this place sorted after the big bad move, I was going to come visit our grave. I hesitated a few times because I felt the need to be close to you here. Even though I ‘think’ you are around me, but no concrete evidence to appease me yet, I felt I needed to visit your grave to see if I felt closer to you there. It was a beautiful sunny day and I hadn’t been out in many, and my (our) new apartment is a bit too dreary for me, which adds to the grief I live daily. But I digress, so I was feeling like I had to test my feelings I get when ‘I think’ you are around at home, to see how I will feel at the cemetery being physically closer to you – Only I Couldn’t Find You.

Omg, I took in some beautiful warm sunshine as I walked around the graves and looked for that beautiful big tree that was kind of a landmark, but everything looked so different without snow. And many more graves and headstones have been added.

I walked around and called out to you loud and clear, “Puppy, where are you?” And I didn’t feel a thing, and just wasn’t sure exactly where you were since they laid the grass and there’s no marker. I was sure then that your presence is felt more in our home than at the cemetery.

I got back in the car and drove around to the office. The woman seemed warm when she asked if she could help me, and I told her I can’t find my husband – our grave. I waited while she went to check out ‘our’ neighbors on file so I could find you and handed me a paper with a few names in our row. And I found you!

The grass hasn’t fully mended yet. All the things left there from last time were gone. Before grass was laid, the grave was a pile of dirt with all the flowers and ribbons from your coffin piled on top. It’s a barren looking grave at the moment. I assessed and made a list of what to buy to ‘spruce’ up the area and remind others that there is someone under the grass.

I wanted something symbolic to leave there as a marker until the headstone is made, which apparently takes 4 months to make and that will be perfect. I want to make you a big unveiling when this damn Covid thing is over and done with – or, at least, under control because I want the many people who would have been at your funeral to be there this time. So no rush. If things are calmed down by end of year I’ll arrange it then. If not, it can wait til April, your one year. And I will be arranging it all on my own, for that is how I live now, on my own.

I got back in the car to drive home and turned back on the radio when I started the car. I hadn’t listened to it on the way down because I was on speaker phone with my friend Alison during the drive. Well, on came Johnny Cash – one of your all-time favorites. Mysteriously, the station was tuned into the 50s channel, which you know I alwayssssssss made you change because I don’t like that era of music. We’d compromise, I’d give up my 70s channel and you’d give up the 50s and we’d listen to the 60s together in the car. So what was up with that? I never turn the 50s on in my car! That was you, I know. 🌺

Update: I gathered some beautiful rocks, ordered paint markers and sealant and made my own decorations for you. I placed a small planter of baby roses, a plaque, several loving rocks and butterfly stakes around the grave. I couldn’t have you lying there incognito with no name and no recognition, so as usual, I fixed up your spot.

Graveside design

 

©DGKaye2021

 

Sunday Book Review – On Grief & Grieving – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler

My Sunday Book Review is for Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler’s, On Grief & Grieving – Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five stages of Loss.

As many of you know, after losing my husband three months ago and moving very recently, I haven’t had a lot of time to read, and when I do read it’s comfort and information I crave to learn in this new journey of onehalfness I’m wading through. I know these books I’m trying to read right now may not be everyone’s genre, but it’s a bridge that we’ll all have to cross at some points of our lives, if we haven’t already, and it’s good for people to learn what to expect, find that you are not crazy, and even if you aren’t a griever, will learn what goes on with a loved one when they grieve.

 

 

Blurb:

Shortly before her death in 2004, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, her collaborator, completed the manuscript for this, her final book. On Grief and Grieving is a fitting completion to her work. Thirty-six years and sixteen books ago, Kübler-Ross’s groundbreaking On Death and Dying changed the way we talk about the end of life. Now On Grief and Grieving will profoundly influence the way we experience the process of grief.
On Death and Dying began as a theoretical book, an interdisciplinary study of our fear of death and our inevitable acceptance of it. It introduced the world to the now-famous five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. On Grief and Grieving applies these stages to the process of grieving and weaves together theory, inspiration, and practical advice, all based on Kübler-Ross’s and Kessler’s professional and personal experiences, and is filled with brief, topic-driven stories. It includes sections on sadness, hauntings, dreams, coping, children, healing, isolation, and even the subject of sex during grief.
“I know death is close,” Kübler-Ross says at the end of the book, “but not quite yet. I lie here like so many people over the years, in a bed surrounded by flowers and looking out a big window….I now know that the purpose of my life is more than these stages….It is not just about the life lost but also the life lived.”
In one of their final writing sessions, Kübler-Ross told Kessler, “The last nine years have taught me patience, and the weaker and more bed-bound I become, the more I’m learning about receiving love.”
On Grief and Grieving is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s final legacy, one that brings her life’s work profoundly full circle.

 

My 5 Star Review:

Anticipatory grief – knowing your loved one is going to die, and fearing in silence without wanting to talk to anyone in this mode.

I learned this ‘pre-grief’ grieving before I learned about the mourning grief aftermath. Kubler-Ross calls it anticipatory grief – “When a loved one has to go through anticipatory grief in order to prepare for the final separation from this world, we have to go through it too.” Only, we, the ones left behind have to live it twice. There is no one response to loss and grief that two people will share. Every grief is unique as the relationship the griever shared with their lost loved one.

This book was confirming as it goes through the stages of grieving, and more about grief, and how it forever changes us.

Maria Shriver wrote a most beautiful Foreword for the anniversary edition of this book. She states that in her lifetime she has come to know grief only too well coming from the Kennedy family, and says, “We are a grief-illiterate nation.” She continues by saying that Dr. Ross and Kessler teach us how to grieve in this book and goes on to tell us that where she came from, nobody outwardly showed or talked about their grief. She attests to Dr. Ross’s book helping her through, stating, “When you’re grieving, sometimes your only constant companion is a book.” Shriver continues to say, “We live in a society where everyone wants us to get back to normal as soon as possible. . . but it doesn’t work that way.” “We find hope in other people’s journeys.”

This book is a great companion to grief. In it, Dr. Ross shares her stories and stages of grief and goes into them with her own experiences and sharing stories of others she witnessed as she studied many people on their last journey before death. She takes us into specific losses and incidence and how the left loved ones endured the stages of grief. In working with the dying, Ross gave voice to all who couldn’t speak for themselves. But from this book, I choose to share a list of poignant sentences that rang true and comforting to me as I proceed through my own grief for the recent loss of my husband.

“There is a saying that if your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it will never keep anyone else up at night either. In creating this book I often felt that if it didn’t make us cry, if it didn’t help us heal our own grief, it would never help anyone else.” ~ Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Elisabeth always said, “Listen to the dying. They will tell you everything you need to know about when they are dying.”

“Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. . . it’s nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.” “These feelings are important; they are the psyche’s protective mechanisms.”

“The will to save a life is not the power to stop a death.”

Dr. Ross takes us through the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Loss: “An unimaginable, indescribable loss has taken place. It has inficted a wound so deep that numbness and excruciating pain are the material of which it is made.”

She goes on to talk about how grief overtakes us at a moment’s notice – and will continue to. And tells us that after our loss, the need to feel our loved one around is important. And the need to be able to talk about the lost loved one becomes dire for the one(s) left behind. Our stories of grief contain an enormous amount of pain, often too much for one person to carry. By sharing our stories, we ease the pain – just a little. Survivor’s guilt kicks in for many, (I can attest to this). Elisabeth tells us, once you have loved and lost, you will never be the same. I’m already there.

On Isolation: “You were with someone, now you’re not.”

“The only way out is through it.”

“The trouble is that in grief, a moment feels like a year, and a year feels like an eternity.”

“Why do we find nothing unusual about talking to an unborn child in utero, but if we talk to the deceased, people might think we’re crazy?”

The most difficult job of all was packing up my beloved’s belongings.

Dr. Ross goes into how difficult holidays become for mourners. Birthdays, anniversaries, death anniversaries, Christmas, and the like will never be the same and are often marked with sorrow instead.

She offers ideas to comfort, such as writing our feelings, writing to our loved one to express what’s left inside us. Writing is a therapy for many.

“You don’t ever bring the grief over a loved one to a close.”

“There is no better or worse death. Loss is loss and the grief that follows is a subjective pain that only we will know.”

“To avoid the pain and the loss would be to avoid the love and life we shared.”

“Death is a line, a heartbreaking dividing line between the world we and our loved one lived in and the world where they now are.”

“Grief is the intense emotional response to the pain of a loss. It is the reflection of a connection that has been broken. Most important, grief is an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey to healing.”

“The reality is you will grieve forever.You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you you have suffered.”

This book has been a comfort to many, as the almost 2000 reviews will state. Dr. Ross breaks down the process in bite-sized and life altering moments and helps us grasp all that’s involved in this grueling journey of grief in efforts to lay out what we can expect to endure, why, and how going through the stages take us into an eventual path to ‘healing’, which will never be a complete healing journey, but more about how to learn to live through and navigate the waves of grief that will continue to swell as long as we remain on this earth.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

 

 

 

Moving – Closure and Erasure, and #Grieving

I recently did the big move two Saturdays ago. It was a horrendous journey from the getgo. Barely two weeks had passed after my husband’s death when I was informed there was a one bedroom coming available in July. I probably wasn’t in my rightest mind, but I did know I didn’t want to pay exuberant rent living alone in the big place, so I agreed to take the early departure.

 

But before any packing could be done, I had to go through a lifetime of everything we owned. I had to downsize to at least half of everything – furniture, clothes, shoes, and other assorted big things taking up space. I barely had time to mourn over the seperation of the so many things that have been a part of my life, our life, for decades. But there was no choice. And there was barely a helping hand to help me sort out our life and condense it into boxes and smaller spaces. Trauma teaches us just how many are really in our life, and how many actually give a shit. I found out – not many.

I was referred to the clown movers by ‘a friend’ in my building. My good friend Vinnie had brought me over a large moving trolley a month before the move, telling me to use it to transport stuff downstairs as soon as I got the keys early. I did many loads and unloads, alone, and by the time moving day came, it should have been a four hour deal. Only, the mover guys came with no moving tools, didn’t bother taking a shower before coming to our air-conditioned building that was working overtime with some of the worst humidity from a temporary heatwave that hit on moving day, making the breathing more unbearable – even through a mask. These clowns needed me to guide and babysit them, so there was no way I could be down in the new place doing anything constructive. You may be wondering, so no, NOBODY came to help me on moving day.

After over ten hours of moving, scraping, dragging my furniture up and down hallways, I fired them at almost 9pm. My bones all felt broken, and I fell into a very dark place. It wouldn’t be until the Monday, two days later that the cavalry – my good friends Vinnie, Tonie and Alison showed up to help turn my place into a home. There were a few more visits over the last two weeks from my lovely friends, as everyone is busy and has their own life issues to deal with, but I learned a lot. And I couldn’t help thinking about a famous quote from Maya Angelou – “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Through my journey of grief, I haven’t been working on a book, heck, I haven’t been writing regularly, but I have been writing. I found myself writing snippets of life and what I learned and felt through the days of my husband’s illness, through his dying days, and the emotional fallout afterwards that I continue to live daily. Late at night is when my inspirational moments of recall become crystal clear, and I write these thoughts down in one Word doc that will surely become elaborated on and condensed into a book – eventually – when I regain my balance and begin to stomach rereading the enormity of my life this past year. But in the interim, I will share snippets of my thoughts, here on my blog:

 

Closure Erasure

I scream at the top of my lungs when the pain gets too much. I have to release it or I may just spontaneously combust. Since the day you went away I have been running on auto pilot. From the shock of your death to making funeral arrangements, to burying you, to trying to swallow the five lonely weeks you lived from your death edict diagnosis.

The paper work, the banks, investments, will, and income tax to be done too, kept me in a tailspin between tears. Then, the last thing in the world on my mind was moving, yet, I knew I had to. We had planned to move in the early fall before we even knew how very sick you were. What I really wanted to do when you died was lay in bed with covers over my head, for however long I wanted to – days? Weeks? Who knows how long I’d allow myself. But it was as if you intervened when I surprisingly found out in gest there was a smaller unit in the same building. I truly believe you made that happen. But in the midst of the madness of preparing for this 180 degree move for me, it felt more like a total 360.

Life was a merry-go-round of fun, spontaneity, and love. We traveled, we laughed, and we loved, and we had a great life. Once again, I’m suddenly on my own and moving back to a one bedroom apartment, like I did when I left home at eighteen. Only then, it was exciting and freeing. This time it’s painful and lonely.

I’ve given all your belongings to your family, as I was forced to take on the ‘cleaning out’ process as half our stuff would not fit the new place. In the span of my life taking a 180, losing you, and clearing out our life, every picture, sock, piece of furniture, had me and you all over it. A monumental task that I still to this day, do not know how I had the strength to keep moving through while my heart is shattered. But I did. And often I felt I wasn’t even in my own body. Like some invisible force was keeping me going – like a friend calling to offer a hand just at the right moment -like my bestie Zan who still calls me twice a day from the other side of the world, because other than you, my love, there is nobody left living on this planet earth who loves me to nth degree and unconditionally, but Zan.

Erasure and closure everywhere I look. Bare walls embedded with leftover nails sticking out the walls from photos and mirrors now sold or packed away are what reflect back to me now. I think about how many homes we’ve built and sold and downsized each time, yet, we kept so much, like the huge two shopping bags full of every card for every occasion we’d ever given each other in our almost twenty-five years together. When I was getting rid of a lot of things, someone remarked to me that I should toss those bags too. I told her what they were and she remarked they’re no good to me now. Did you hear that? They are ever more important to me now. And one day, when my heart is ready to smile about our good times, I’d like to look back at those cards and smile in my heart again.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

“You’re allowed to change your mind about the people and things you want in your life. You’re allowed to adjust your values and preferences as you get older and wiser. You’re allowed to evolve and be a different person today than you were yesterday. This is your life.” ~ Unknown wordables.

 

 

The Clearing – Updates – Moving, Grief and Loss

It’s been awhile since I popped into my own blog to chat. But, holy crap, it’s the middle of June and I feel like I’ve been living within a cyclone since last Christmas, without stopping to take a breath. First, late last fall my worries about my husband’s health, in and out of hospitals for various things, yet nobody realizing the real culprit – cancer. Then the diagnosis, then my husband lives, barely, another 5 weeks. Heck, I didn’t even have the official diagnosis back before a doctor introduced herself during one of my hospital visits, alerting me she’s a ‘palliative’ doctor. Palliative??? Right in that moment was when the numbness struck me. I’m still numb in many ways.

 

I knew my husband had something bad happening to him before the edict was read, but I wouldn’t even let my mind visit the thought that he was going to die. I couldn’t. The minute I’d allow myself to go ‘there’, I knew I could never pull myself out of that black hole of fear. I had to stay strong for him, give him hope – even when he knew there wasn’t any, I thought I would keep the positive thoughts and chat going. I never shed a tear because I knew if I did I may never stop. And I certainly wasn’t showing any fear to my husband. I ate it up. I didn’t even feel, and still don’t, that I was living in my own body. Like some invisible hydraulic system is towing me along to keep going and keep doing. Don’t stop.

I haven’t stopped all year. In his final week, bedridden, my beloved husband could no longer walk or talk. The reality of what was to come was top of my mind, yet, I kept pushing it away and kept doing. I knew I was on limited time and I didn’t want to spend one minute away from my husband, but I had to go buy a plot for him. For us. I also didn’t want him to know where I was going, even though he knew I never left his side unless he was asleep. He knew where I was going.

I witnessed my husband living between two worlds in his last days. Before he lost his voice, he’d wake at night several times to tell me he loved me. Other nights I’d wake to him calling out, raising his arms, eyes closed, to his dead sister Grace and his dead daughter Sue.

Unfortunately, I’ve had enough experience with being around death to know all the steps that lead to the finality. The on call palliative doc had come around the day before George died and told me ‘the most he had left was a week’, I looked him in the eye and told him my husband won’t live another 24 hours. There’s no glory in being right.

I lay beside him when his eyes opened that next morning and held his hand for dear life as I listened to his own life fade within. From silence to gurgling. I just lay there telling him I loved him as I do 100 times a day, still. And then I cried. And quite honestly, I haven’t really stopped.

In the deepest moments of unbearable grief, I had to make funeral arrangements. A funeral in Covid where we were restricted to 15 in the funeral home service, where there would have been hundreds.

All I wanted and still want to do is bury my head in my pillow and stay in bed for an undetermined amount of time. There is where I feel closest to him. The banner from over his coffin ‘Beloved Puppy’, rests now upon his pillow, as does the stuffed puppy he bought me one Valentine’s Day, who holds a stuffed heart from its mouth saying, ‘Puppy Love’. There is my solace. His slippers remain at his side of the bed.

But solace is in short supply as my marathon of life and death continues. There were weeks of paperwork, lawyers, banks, investment advisor, insurance, and the government papers I had to contend with to close off a life. And just for something else to add to the mix, I had to do the income taxes. Yes, who in the world with a broken heart continues to go, go, go, carrying overwhelming grief, while having to use their brain, then adds a move into the mix?

The move. Last fall before we knew of my husband’s demise, we were talking about moving, downsizing, somewhere else, getting ready for us to purchase a place in Mexico next winter (so was the plan). But God had other plans and moving was put on the back burner. And in my sane brain, I knew someday I’d have to move on my own because I don’t need a huge condo, nor do I want to pay that huge rent. But I also knew with my grieving and adjusting to a different life, that moving was not prime on my mind at this stage. All I want to do is exhale from what I’ve been living all year. So, I went down to the management office to ask the girls if my husband’s name needs to be taken off the lease. Before I could stop myself, the words seemed to pop out of my mouth – because they weren’t in my head, “Do you have any one bedrooms available?”

That was in April, one week after my husband passed. The agent told me that as a matter of fact, she had one coming up in July. A few days later, she took me for a looksee and told me all they’re going to do to it. I made a great bargain with her regarding me keeping my SS appliances and them having to move them, among a few other goodies, and suddenly, I was signing a new lease. That’s how the moving thing happened. I wasn’t looking, but I’m pretty sure my husband had some divine intervention in it. It’s safe here, lovely grounds, nice people and tons of amenities and close to every highway. I’m pretty sure my husband wanted me to stay in familiar territory. And July seemed ideal, enough time to get ready. NOT!

We have moved several times in our wonderful life together, yet, somehow, we still had too much stuff. If I had had time, I would have taken proper time to sell things for the value they’re worth, I would have set up an Ebay page, along with some others. But let’s be real, that left me two months to first clear the clutter that isn’t going to fit, before packing can begin. It’s insane here. I have some good friends and only one family member who pop by a few times a week to lend a hand. I have access to my new place so I had a bit of work done in there (besides what the management has done). I have many things on ads, and I get pinged lots, which of course is distracting when I’m in the packing zone. I’m moving a week earlier than planned, and my BFF who lives in England has been waiting to get here before I move so she can at least help with the transition. But that’s looking like she won’t get here til first week July, as we’re crossing fingers my province drops the 14 day quarantine in a hotel rule if one has been double vaxed on July 5th. Oye! So much going on!

So now you are updated. I know my posts have been far and few between since my husband became terminal, but I’m doing my best. This Friday I will have my monthly contribution for WATWB, and if I squeeze out any spare time, I may have a Sunday Book Review. As moving begins Thursday, with official movers on Saturday, and the fallout of unpacking to deal with after, don’t expect much from me next week. But hopefullly, once I move and catch my breath then exhale, I hope to be back in blogland more regularly.

 

grief quote

 

©DGKaye2021