Search

The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief

Category

Coping

Going With the Flow

A Wondering Widow Post

On my recent adventure down the Snake River in a kayak, I spent a lot of hours fighting the wind and the current. I’d lost my momentum and kept getting spun around and around. I started to panic when I realized I was the last of our group and falling even further behind. So naturally, I fought even harder, which didn’t do anything but tire me out faster.

Like my lame ass kayaking skills, I couldn’t control any of the events that occurred after we heard the words Stage Four Terminal. All my fighting to “control” his cancer, my grief, and this life without him did nothing to help me. Surrender and acceptance were what brought peace.

 

I stopped fighting to control where I was going and started laughing when I realized I was stuck in my favorite grief recovery metaphor.  For the better part of the last six months, I’ve reminded myself that I need to go with the flow. That if I untie myself from the pier and stop fighting the current, the river will carry me where I need to go.  It’s something I work on daily. (Recovering control freak, remember)?

Just as it is in our grief journeys, we can’t control how long it takes or how we get through it. So I quit paddling and reminded myself to breathe through the fear. I spun around some more as I let the river carry me where it wanted to, but managed to enjoy the view along the way as I eventually made it to where I needed to be.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

20170805_112856

The Wandering Widow’s WTF Guide to Planning for the Inevitable

A Grief Recovery Project Post

 

This week I had the privilege of being a guest on a podcast about life insurance, something we don’t like to discuss. Something I didn’t want to discuss. But it got me to thinking about the other important icky things that W’s (and all adults, really) should consider taking care of as soon as possible.

 

As if going through their clothes and personal belongings weren’t already miserable enough, there are a few more things we need to do after losing a spouse, even in the midst of our worst grief.  

A few months after losing Dan, I found myself sitting at the conference table in my attorney’s office. I didn’t want to be there but knew that I had some responsibilities to address. Without a living spouse or offspring, I had to designate what my final wishes were in the event of my untimely demise. Morbid? Not really. Unpleasant? Yes, definitely. Necessary? HELL YES.  And now as I get ready to depart on my big adventure, it’s time to review and make sure all those documents are up to date.

I still have non-W friends and family that refuse to designate legal guardians for their children or prepare their wills or trusts. I think it’s mostly because they don’t want to think about the inevitable end we will all face.  To them, I ask, “could you be more selfish?” Yeah, that’s right. Selfish. Using your discomfort at thinking of your death (or hurting someone’s feelings) as an excuse not to take care of this leaves those you love with heart-wrenching decisions to make, or legal battles to fight, while they are at their most vulnerable.  File this post under reckless truth telling and get over yourself.

Even if I weren’t a childless widow (aka single person), I’d still want to minimize my family’s burden any way I could. Here’s my list of icky things (besides life insurance) to think about:

1. WILL OR TRUST.  You need to be able to speak for yourself, and this is how you do that. Make sure your designated executor or trustee has the original because they will need it. Digital copies are fine for your files. Putting it in a safety deposit box will only work if your executor has a key and is listed on the account, so think long and hard before stashing it there. And be specific about your real estate holdings as some states will require that. A good estate planning attorney can help you determine whether a will or trust is more appropriate for you.

2. LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP OF YOUR CHILDREN (or pets in my case). This is a $hitty conversation but imagine the person you want LEAST to raise your kids, and know that it will be THAT person who will fight the hardest to get custody of them. For the love of God, please make this decision in writing. You can always change it later. Most of you say you would die to protect your children. If you’re willing to do that, why wouldn’t you take care of this?

3. BENEFICIARIES. Your spouse was likely your automatic beneficiary on life insurance, retirement accounts, etc. Time to get that updated.

4. ADVANCED MEDICAL DIRECTIVE and POST INSTRUCTIONS.  This is probably the worst. And in my case, the one I received the most pushback on, most notably by my doctor who had to sign it, which should be all the evidence you should need as to why this document is necessary. (FYI, never question a person’s decision here, especially not a W).  I learned that paramedics and emergency room staff would not honor your wishes UNLESS you have your POST instructions on you, as an Advanced Medical Directive isn’t good enough for them, at least not in my state. I posted mine on the fridge (where paramedics are trained to look), registered with the state, and I carry my POST instructions in my wallet.  When I travel, they are with my passport, on the off chance someone in another country might think to look there or care. Think about what you want, and make sure those closest to you know your wishes as well.  Friends and family don’t have to agree with you, and this document ensures your wishes are met.

5. The miscellaneous crap. You know, family heirlooms and all that. You can add a descriptions page to your will, or just have a typed document that your executor can access.  If there are stories that go with them, write them down or record them. Having gone through it TWICE in a year, I can assure you that being the one left behind to guess who you wanted to have your guns, jewelry or record collection is an awful burden. And you may want to ask if they even want it…one man’s treasure is often another man’s trash.

All of this stuff is in my hard copy (and electronic) “Lisa’s Dead File.” Yes, that’s really what it’s labeled.  I hope someday my family can appreciate this as my final gift to them.  I have every intention of living a long and adventure filled life, but we could have never imagined we’d lose Dan so young and so quickly.  After what I endured in the aftermath of his loss, there is no way in hell I will allow anyone I care about to have to go through it on my behalf, especially without the leeway community property laws would give them.

And as icky as this topic is, it’s not as bad as leaving your loved ones to deal with it after you’re gone.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow

Ommmmmmm

A Grief Recovery Project Post

Of all the things I tried for The Grief Recovery Project, meditation was the hardest. I tried a bunch of different things…Buddhify and Calm (both apps), YouTube videos, pretty much anything that wasn’t a class. I quickly learned meditation worked really great at one thing…making me fall asleep. Meditation became synonymous with napping. Clearly, I was doing something wrong.

Ben, my hypnotherapist, told me about a study that showed how meditation helped those with PTSD and depression. In this study brain scans were done on the participants at the start and end of an eight-week meditation challenge. The scans revealed that the hippocampus was undersized at the start of the eight weeks. After eight weeks of daily meditation, scans were done again which revealed a normal sized hippocampus. Cool. You know me and science, so of course, I wanted some pretty pictures of my hippocampus. Since you can’t just walk into a lab and get some taken, I had to go on faith and my meditation journal.

Since I kept falling asleep, Ben encouraged me to be sitting up during meditation. That made my back hurt and I couldn’t find my zen. A friend gave me a tip about sitting upright on a cushion with my tailbone against the wall to cut down on the back pain. That helped a lot, but I was still easily distracted…breathe in, breathe out, grocery list, bills to pay, what flowers to plant, shiny thing, shiny thing, shiny thing. I took a tip from Pema Chodron in her book When Things Fall Apart and would recognize that I was distracted and let whatever that thought was float away with the exhale. Everything was about focusing on the breath, being mindful of my breathing.

Photo credit to CNSforum.com

So did it work? Om, yeah it did. I still get the fidgets. I still get distracted by random thoughts. But after eight weeks of daily meditation, I found it is easier to step out of emotionally charged moments and just breathe. If I skip a day I feel it. The days I meditate I fall asleep faster and sleep better. I also deal with the grief related social anxiety better, which is the whole reason I went to see my hypnotherapist in the first place.

Oh, and if you know where I can get a hippocampus scan let me know.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

Muscle Memory

A Grief Recovery Project Post 

I promised you the good, the bad and the ugly in the interest of shining a light on the ugly underbelly of the grief no one wants to talk about.  And this is ugly. Most of my posts show up months after the fact, giving me time to process through things. This one is in real time, and it’s messy. Sometimes you can see a grief storm headed your way and you can hunker down and wait it out.  Other times, it’s a Category 10 Hurricane, and you have to take steps to keep from being destroyed.  Brace yourself, the mother of all storms is coming.

I can feel the winds changing. I’ve been in a really good place. Really freaking good.  And happy, with my eyes on the future. There are still sad days, but those days don’t steal the light from the sky. I can be both happy and sad at the same time and still feel okay. At least I could until about a week ago.  Something was different.  Off.  Like a storm that blows in from multiple directions, I was being buffeted by multiple emotions at the same time. After a week of wondering where this PMS on steroids was coming from I looked at the calendar and realized what it was, and that it was only going to get worse. In less than a month we’ll hit the one-year deathiversary milestone.

My grief counselor describes it as muscle memory. The closer we get to THAT DATE, the more my body and emotions revert back to a year ago. Great.  I can’t  have muscle memory on leg day at the gym, but my brain sends me back in time to the worst period of my life?!?! Fanfreakingtastic. My blood pressure skyrockets and adrenaline floods my system. The nightmares have returned. I’m losing sleep because I’m back to waking up every day around 4 am to give him meds. WTF?!  I don’t have time for this. I’m back to work full time. I’m back to life full time. I’m putting on a memorial golf tournament in a week! I don’t have time for the grief monsters to come back.

Although it’s not like they ask for permission or anything. The crying never really stopped, although it did slow down. But now I’m angry, which is new. Marshawn Lynch can keep Beast Mode, right now I own Bitch Mode (or it owns me), and that’s way scarier.  And it’s more than anger, it’s rage. It feels like my skin doesn’t fit right and I’m looking for a fight in every corner. And not just a verbal smackdown, I’m ready to gorilla stomp anyone who pushes the right buttons.  Kinda scary for someone who abhors violence. (Hmm it might be a good time to get back to my kickboxing class and work some of this out safely).

So how do I control the uncontrollable?  I can’t, which appears to be the lesson the universe really wants me to get through my thick skull. How do I get through the hurricane without taking everyone with me? I have no idea. I’m doing the best I can to batten down the hatches and face the storm head on.

First, I gave myself permission to be a mess for awhile. Kinda required when you are sobbing on the floor to the point you scare the dog.  Second, I acknowledged that it was okay to feel the feelings and get through them, even when that means something as yucky and distasteful as rage. I rallied my GRP support team and stacked my calendar with massage, acupuncture, grief counseling, hypnotherapy and Reiki appointments to help me get me through it. And with my friends and family holding on to me for dear life, I’m turning to face the storm head on.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

BTW if you see me coming and I look like I’m in Hulk Smash mode, you may want to retreat. I promise I’m doing the best I can, and hoping July 11th dawns with sunny blue skies and this storm rapidly fading in the distance.

Table For One-The Euro Edition

In my earlier Table For One post, I discussed not waiting around for someone to invite us out.  Widowhood doesn’t mean having to hide out until you have someone to go out with. That has hangry written all over it.  I just completed our big bucket list trip in Europe and encountered a whole new table for one scenario that I couldn’t wait to share with you. Mostly because it’s so bad it’s comical. 

There are many things Europe does better than we do, but taking care of solo diners isn’t one of them. Or at least not solo female travelers who like to venture off the beaten path.  I don’t mind dining at the bar, but sometimes a W just wants to enjoy a lovely meal at an actual table. After spending three weeks across the pond, I was horrified and then amused at what would be offered. It almost became a game to see how bad it could get. My favorites include:

  • The hideous corner table where I was made to face the freaking corner like a naughty five year old.
  • The “it’s just you?” when asking for a table, followed by the big sigh.
  • The quick dragging away of the offensive “extra” chair.
  • Being ignored as soon as my food was delivered.  DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT must be part of the training manual.

Sadly, one downside of traveling solo means there was no one to capture the many WTF faces I tried very hard to control.  

As if this weren’t appetizing enough, this is where a table for one is a punishment. As a courtesy to the restaurant I won’t name them here.

There were some notable exceptions to the rule, my favorite being Hams Hame Pub and Grill just outside of St. Andrews Old Course. This lovely pub was clean and spacious and the staff was lovely.  It was all “Madam” this and “Madam” that.  Madam could sit anywhere she damn well wanted and received lots of smiles and attention by the staff.  Madam left feeling like a princess and not an outcast to be hidden away.  Madam likey. Check out Hams Hame if you are ever in St. Andrews.  Excellent food, great whisky options and a beautiful staff with amazing service.

So, my Dear W’s, keep trying until you find a place you like that makes you feel like Madam and not an embarrassment.  And remember-nobody puts baby in the corner.  Not even in Europe.

Cheers!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑