Author Topic: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!  (Read 7949 times)

A Tout Jamais

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Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« on: April 02, 2015, 05:59:26 PM »
What is Your story?? -

Here is mine - Warning: Long!

Ah yes, the much touted "Rebuilding" - just a simple word, yet laden with so many variables, and resembling a kaleidoscope with ever changing patterns and colors. Where does it begin - Where and When does it end??

After the initial sense of utter devastation, which lasted for a long time, I eventually came to realize that somehow I had to find a way to do SOMETHING with the remainder of my earthly existence. Like others, I understood that whether we like it or not, we are still residents of this planet, we've still got a pulse and a heartbeat, even if at times we wished it weren't so. Then one day I looked with blinded eyes at a brightly flashing neon sign whose strobe lights kept emitting the message "Rebuild!" At first it hurt the eyes to even look at it, much less to understand its concept. But soon I kept seeing this sign over and over, and the message became amplified by loudspeakers. It seemed to follow me and became highly annoying, much like an obnoxious TV advertisement, which I instantly put on mute or turn off. But THIS message was undeterred and kept following me, refusing to budge.

In utter frustration I finally shouted back "ALRIGHT!" - "But, give me more than just a clever, one-word slogan, and instead provide a precise campaign strategy - OR, get the hell out of my sight!!" -  The word 'Rebuilding' is often quite casually and generically tossed around in all kinds of situations, but it takes on quite a different connotation as it relates to widowhood.  We are constantly being reminded, or even pushed to 'move on' and quickly 'rebuild' -  just follow the simple instructions, you dummy!! And there are so many "operating instructions" and "quick recipes" from just about every conceivable source. Some professional grief literature reads like an operating manual for an appliance. Other unsolicited guidelines come from well-meaning, but ignorant people, whose advice sounds more like a basic recipe for making a cake from a prepared mix - throw in a few extra ingredients, stir, pop into the oven, and bake for an hour, and out comes the perfect cake!! Now, isn't that easy?? We should have thought of that a long time ago, we laggards! - Hmm? Just about everybody seems to have a  'quick fix' answer for us with simple steps to follow. What was I missing here??? I must be completely retarded, I thought!

We all know that the eventual reconstruction of our lives is not an option, but imperative, unless we want to crawl into a deep, dark cave and hide, waiting for the end. Our options are few: Learn how to swim in the tumultuous ocean of life, or go under and perish. It's pretty much a "take it or leave it deal". - OK, I got it!! And so I began to roll up my sleeves. But despite enormous efforts, THIS turned out NOT to be the advertised quick fix task, instead more of a massive and intricate recovery project after a disaster.  - First there has to come an extended cleanup of the site to see what's left under the rubble. Then an evaluation of whether or not the original site is reusable and safe or if an entirely new one has to be found. It takes a lot of exploration, engineering, architectural drafts with multiple revisions, finding the right building material, skilled labor, and extended planning before the actual work can begin. It's not a quick doodle of a new outline and a hastily scribbled purchasing list for a quick trip to Home Depot, magically producing a brand new house.

In my experience it has rather resembled the monumental task of constructing a majestic cathedral in the days of yore - extremely labor intensive, finding rare elements, and hard, backbreaking work - a project extending over many years. Even the great master builders of that era couldn't hasten the process, it took its own time to construct the new edifice. There were no pre-fabricated concrete walls for shortcuts to quickly put this new structure together, but it was stone upon stone, brick upon brick, and carefully putting in place strong support pillars to prevent it from sudden collapse.

It took me quite a while to begin even contemplating this massive assignment as  I had barely emerged from the emotional ICU, still needing recovery and rehab in order to gather strength for the first step. I was not able to make that sudden quantum leap from my state of near annihilation to becoming a builder, despite my inherently determined nature! While I watched many others with a plan in hand and getting building material, all I could do was just to hold on, which became most tiresome and dispiriting. And although the 'baby steps' approach was necessary, it also left me weary and discouraged. I have always been a result oriented forward thinker who plans ahead and needs to see steady progress. In all situations of my life I had believed that input equals output, and that sheer determination and hard work would let me achieve my goals, as they usually did.

BUT, this widowhood experience put an entirely different spin on everything. My former defiant, "fix it spirit" got hit with a two-by-four, leaving me reeling and seeing stars like a cartoon character, only it wasn't as funny to me.  I knew that status quo was unsustainable, something HAD to change, and quite drastically!! I got ANGRY at myself, because the more determined I became, and the harder I tried, the worse I felt, and it ensued in even more confusion. My efforts and fierce determination had an inverse effect, which I did NOT understand! Finally I had to grudgingly admit that I could NOT change my situation at will. In utter frustration I was often tempted to just throw in the towel and say "BLEEP IT ALL!"

Coming from the corporate world, I wanted to see at least an acceptable ROI (return on investment). But THIS was like participating in a rigged game in a shady back room and had 'Loser' written all over it. I felt as if I had fallen off the 'turnip truck' and everyone was laughing. All of my strategies failed, and I learned that the mind and emotions can be diametrically opposed, and that my emotions ruled supreme, nullifying my mind's sound strategies. I further learned that with Grief and his evil cohort, Trauma, there is no "quid pro quo", no fair and reasonable deal to be struck, no matter what I brought to the negotiating table.

But my inherently determined nature wanted to fight back. I had never just quit. And so, in some "Churchillian moments", I proudly proclaimed "I shall Never surrender, Never give up!!"  Yeah right!  Moments later I lay curled up on my bed in the fetal position, sucking my thumb. I could already envision the men with the white straight jacket approaching and hauling me off!

However, despite the constant ups and downs, I KNEW that I could not stay where I was. So, the urgent question arose, HOW to get from 'Here' to 'There"? But upon further reflection, I did not even know where "THERE" was. A total blank! That was the real conundrum. All I could do was to trudge forward, while staring at an empty horizon - like an endless walk through the hot desert sand, feeling parched, thirsty and running out of water, and finally crawling toward some mirage. PFFT!! Whoever wrote that 'Rebuilding Manual' must have been either a relative of Superman/Woman or a total dimwit!

My feverish mind kept racing round and round until my hair hurt. And while I took small, incremental steps, others were zooming past me. - Then, one day, out of the blue, my former firebrand spirit emerged and gained enough momentum to make me spontaneously charge ahead in a full gallop, non-stop, until I could no longer breathe. I suppose, utter despair can inspire sudden boldness at some point. Wow, I really had run an impressive distance!! New landscape, new view, new people, but WHERE the heck was I??  I did some daring things which I would never have deemed suitable before, discovered latent talents, found new life approaches, and made some spontaneous, even slightly reckless, moves. WHO was this new person?? I no longer recognized myself or my surroundings.

Others applauded and said: "YAY!!" "Great Progress! - I could never have done this and admire you!" It all looked and sounded great on the outside, but meanwhile I felt as if I had landed on Mars, and wondered: "What the hell am I doing here??" I had proven to myself that I could be bold and daring and could still think outside the box. So this should be something to celebrate one would think. YET, after having made this quantum leap and completely transforming my life, I suddenly felt confused and scared, and the old anxiety and panic caught up with me, only dressed differently this time.

I had spontaneously stepped into the big 'dressing room of life' and tried on new experiences, new people and new approaches. But after I had made my purchases, and the initial rush of excitement about the novelty had abated, many of the acquired items felt "not right", and some felt like an "itchy sweater".  - Another major mind  game! For a long time my 'progress' felt like looking into a distortion mirror and left me confused and lost. - WHAT had I indeed accomplished? Was I any happier, or at least less Unhappy than before??? It was neither, only DIFFERENT!

To assuage this big letdown, I tried to count my blessings, even the tiniest ones. Gratitude often gave me a little boost, but the most desired and needed element was still missing. Then I looked at the less fortunate and tried to focus on THEIR plight and helped wherever I could. -  My new goal was to reach a state of inner peace and serenity, which is the foundation of all. Trying to free myself from the chokehold of anxiety and panic, I began to meditate, listened to guided meditation, did yoga, exercised, tried Reiki, took nature walks, traveled to beautiful shores - all in search of tranquility and peace.

I'm still not "THERE" yet. On particularly challenging days, when some enlightened people give me the "It's all about the Journey, NOT the destination" speech, I want to throw a pie in their face - well, a very delicious one! ;D - The 'Living in the Moment' philosophy makes eminent sense to me, because all we have is only moments in time. BUT, what if that particular moment stinks to high heaven?? Where's the "reset switch" or the "OM button"?? -  And so the quest for answers, peace and serenity continues for THIS traveler. It has been a very long journey, indeed!

But despite all of the above ups and downs, I still seem to be an incurable Hope addict, determined to keep moving forward - at bare minimum not to retreat! I am open and receptive to change and look for some surprises from the universe. Someone said: "You never know what's around the corner!" Hmm,.. let's see!

During one of my more placid moments I wrote the following:

Grieving is very hard
But so is rebuilding
To start a new life
Without having an inkling

Where will it all lead
No compass to guide
A daunting task indeed
That makes us want to hide

We take some steps forward
Breathe a big sigh of relief
And just when we rejoice
We're hit with new grief

We wonder what's wrong
When we thought we were done
But then progress slows down
And we're back to square one

Each milestone achieved
Oft' takes us back in turn
And reminds us of that
For which we still yearn

It's a seemingly endless
Drawn out tug of war
As back and forth we go
And wish upon a star

New hopes and new dreams
Take us up and then down
Will the rollercoaster ever end
We ask with a big frown

It's a wearisome process
And it tires, indeed
But Forward we must go
We must NOT retreat!

We've come this far
So let Hope be our guide
To give us courage and trust
As we take the next stride!!


Thank you for reading! What has been YOUR experience? - Fast, slow lane, or something in between??

Tell us your story, please!

ATJ :)

« Last Edit: May 17, 2016, 12:43:25 PM by A Tout Jamais »
"Tu n'es plus là où tu étais, mais tu es partout là où je suis."
~~ Victor Hugo

"Je me souviens de toi ... Je me souviens de nous  - Il était une fois -  Je me souviens de tout!"


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2015, 06:26:32 PM »
ATJ,'ve expressed  pretty much everything that's in my head. How do you do this?? Ok, here's mine. I've kept my/our business going for almost 7 years. A huge freaking learning curve, which actually mirrored my grieving process, now that I think on it. It's been for sale for 3 years. I love it, I've owned it and give it 100%, but there's a bittersweet emotion about the whole freaking thing. This year (year 7) has been extremely tough - I don't know why exactly. Because I think I'm ready for something else but it scares the shit out of me? Yet there's an undercurrent of maybe, maybe I can do...whatever, that's also there? I think I'm asking more than I'm answering - Marsha


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2015, 10:08:19 PM »
At 22 months out (I know, not very long) your post and your poem resonated be to the core. Ebb and flow, up and down.  I just want a calm peacefulness but I think it's going to take so much more time. My Stepkids have a happy Mom and I think by now they want me that way.  I don't show them my despair but I can't hide my grief. It's not like I emote around them but I'm just not the old me and they want the old me back.  How do I go forward? So many family and friends want the old me back but she died on May 30, 2013 too.
Oh God, I feel so broken. :(
I don't want it to be his legacy that his death destroyed me.
I need to honour his life by rebuilding my life.


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2015, 11:56:53 PM »
I'm just not the old me and they want the old me back

I know there are people who wish I was the "old me" but - in my case - it's not that she died, she just stopped working. I just couldn't make her work for me anymore. Everything about her and the life she lived felt wrong. Confining. Irritating. Frustrating. Rote.

Some people, who know only my widowhood story, applaud the sureness of purpose and the swift, decisive way I moved forward and onward. But if you know my caregiving story too, you know that I was married to a man who had dementia, who didn't know me or our child. I was caring for a stranger and then a shell for nearly 3 years before he died.

I had a very long time to think about what I wanted and didn't want widowhood to be.

I didn't quite hit the ground running, but close enough.

Rebuilding, as ATJ notes, is the holy grail of tragedy survivors. It's what we are aimed at by family and friends and the self-help industry.

If we hit the second year without X,Y or Z accomplished or in sight, still feeling out of sorts in ways that are obvious to those still paying attention (and most of them aren't), we feel like we've failed.

There is an excellent book on grief called The Other Side of Sadness. It's just about the only real research on grief that looks at it from the point of view of the grieving and discounts entirely the notion of steps and it's rather reassuring, pointing out that from a functioning perspective nearly everyone comes "back online" between 6ish months and two years.

It's not nirvana. Your life and happiness are still your personal responsibility, but the surreal feelings settle and fade. You can breath again. Feel again. Take interest and make plans. Get hopeful if you want.

But the problem isn't - never was - that you don't heal. The problem is that your world view has changed. Your sense of safety and fairness has been profoundly shaken. And on some very deep levels, you aren't not the same person anymore, so your life isn't the fit it was prior to your loss.

Is it a wonder that we feel like we are making no progress when we try to put our very different selves back into the pattern of our old lives, which is what everyone wants us to do - so, hey, no pressure - and why we feel life we are failing or flailing.

My personal story is a boring one. It was not easier or harder than anyone else's. I had changed and I had to make changes to my life to accommodate the new person I'd become.

I am just as human as anyone else and so I like change about as much as everyone else. Somethings were easier. Others quite difficult. And just when I think I am content and ready to put on the finishing touches, something "comes up". Life does not care about my plans anymore now than it did over a decade ago.

I get frustrated because I think I should have accomplished something tangible by now. Started a business. Written and published a book. Found enlightenment.

I live in a nice little town where - for the first time in my whole life - I am considered "one of us". I have a family I love and who loves me. I have a nice little house (that I've resigned myself to never being finished because it's been in a state of "renovation" since before I moved in). I dress as I please. I punch no clocks unless I set them for myself. I paint. I draw. I dabble in politics.

It's not a life I "built". It's the life that was created by the simply force of my living it.

We talk a lot about rebuilding but I don't know that I believe in that as an action or a thing that we purposefully plan and do. We create though for sure with every action and word and it's when we are not paying attention that we find we're living someplace that maybe we don't want to - if that makes sense.

I read posts here and I remember so many of the feelings and worries and I just want to reply "it's okay. you are going to be okay. really. it just feels overwhelming right now. take breath. take a nap. sit in the sunshine for a while and don't think so hard. it's going to be fine." But I don't because that's not what most need to hear. They need to scream and cry and vent and hear that someone knows this and gets it. Knowing that they will be okay is for another day. For someday.

People are creating lives right now as I am typing this and don't even know that. Just like I didn't know it.

Everything from the moment you enter this existence is all about one day being in a completely different place. It's all about the rebuild.

Well, I started one place and ended somewhere completely different - how very me of me.
This is not the droid you are looking for.


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2015, 12:48:20 AM »
After Michael died the number one statement I hated was "you will never be the same"... Why won't I be the same Tracy?? What are you talking about. I tried so hard to hold onto the one thing I had control Tomorrow is 3 years for me.. I have now learned I am not the same. Empathy is much more an emotion I have now than ever. It's taken me a while to understand that the underlying Tracy is still here... I have changed in some very subtle and signifiant ways. So now I have embraced the changes..I want to change some things about me pre Michael.. I'm all in. Let's be different. With that I have my check list. I have been checking off the changes... What do you do??? I will embrace my new thought process and be the best Tracy I have ever been. Michael is proud of me. I know while he was here on earth he knew I could achieve these things.. now he get's to watch me be my best. It wouldn't have happened without the terrible jolt of his death. xoxo Love you all.  Tracy


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2015, 05:33:40 AM »
Thank you Anniesgirl, Tracy and Marsha. You have given me so much to think about on this Easter weekend. 
It's so odd that I have been one to be resistant to change and now it's so thrust upon me I feel there is no choice but to figure it out. Life is so unpredictable isn't it?

« Last Edit: April 03, 2015, 05:41:11 AM by BrokenHeart2 »
I don't want it to be his legacy that his death destroyed me.
I need to honour his life by rebuilding my life.


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2015, 10:00:56 AM »
"I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be." - Joan Didion

So much of the past of my life feels inaccessible to me, and it's like a story instead of something I've lived, though I know I have.  Where does time go when it's over and in the past?  Away, somewhere, I don't know. 

I don't know if what I'm writing here is what the question is meant to elicit, but I feel the need to write it, and didn't even realize I did - there's something about telling and retelling our stories that helps me.

So I stopped living for a long time.  Barely spoke or ate for a month (or three, or more - my memory of the first few months is not so good).  I had to move at five months.  The first year I spent in near total isolation.  I went to work.  I went to synagogue.  I studied Hebrew (his native language).  Everything I did revolved around his identity, thinking about him, living grief.  I ran and worked out a lot to remain sane, I focused on simple things like sunlight and cleaning and laundry.  I binge-watched innocent shows like Friday Night Lights and Gilmore Girls.  I read grief books.  At the year mark, I mourned my grief - Jews stop saying kaddish (the mourner's prayer) daily at about the year mark.  I felt kicked out of my grief.  I could now attend parties and gatherings, listen to music.  I wanted to stay in grief, stay close to him. 

At about 14 months, I met a nice man who was interested in me, was successful, intelligent, kind, handsome.  I had no interest in him but it seemed like a good idea to get a first out of the way and force myself to engage in the romantic sphere.  So we went out for a few months.  Because I was forcing myself to do this for practice, I often felt repulsed by the situation, and yet I knew it was a healthy option for me.  (It had an expiration date, as he was being re-deployed, and I think this is also why I decided on him.)  At our last dinner out, he was saying sentimental things to me and I told him, "I can't let myself feel anything - if I felt anything, I'd feel everything."  He thought I meant I'd feel things about him, but I meant that all the grief would come rushing in and take over my entire existence. 

My awesome family knew I wanted to go to Israel, to make a pilgrimage to where he was born.  They all together got me a ticket, and I planned my trip.  Before I went, my mom told me that the man renovating her apartment had just lost his pregnant fiancee in a terrible car accident.  I'd taken to reaching out when I heard about things like this, as I'm sure many of us have.  So when I was visiting my family, I left him a note.  We were in touch from then on, for months.  Right before my trip to Israel, we met up.  I'd been starting to feel life coursing back in me (it was spring, it was almost two years, etc.), but I was taken aback - I liked him, I was attracted to him.  I'd said many times in the recent past then that I hadn't been attracted to or interested in ANYONE in the nearly two years since he'd died, and I felt like I'd be alone forever, and didn't even mind - I learned that I was good at being alone, loved my solitude, and even though I was lonely and my life was empty of partnership and romantic love, I loved my life as much as someone post-loss could (I wandered the City, I had routines that were healthy and life-affirming - reading, synagogue, socializing, working out, eating healthy, good family relationships, strong friendships, I loved where I lived).  I was into this guy, and he acted into me. 

So I went to Israel and had a fling with one of DH's friends and I remembered that sex was a whole other dimension of life that could change everything inside a person.  I was in touch with the widower the whole time via text message and felt it was inevitable that we would come together when I returned.  And we did.  It was fun and passionate and we cared about each other and I was infatuated.  I'm not sure in retrospect if it was just lust or love with the friendship aspect or excitement that I could feel something again, or WHAT it was.  But it felt great.  He was much newer to grief and less into facing it, though, and he was not really emotionally available, he said, though he also said things that said otherwise ("given what we've been through, I'm not sure either of us will ever be whole again - maybe one day we will be one together," he told me he loved me after a couple weeks, declared he couldn't see past me, that though he hated the long distance (which he swore he wouldn't do) that I was worth it and we deserved this chance at "greatness," etc.).  I unexpectedly got pregnant.  We'd already been talking future anyway, and decided that I would move to be with him and we'd have the baby together.  That's when things got hard.  And so for me, rebuilding was "easy" at first - I took things as they came, and I knew myself.  I didn't mislead people when I couldn't feel, and once I could feel again, I loved completely again, though I loved and missed and love and miss DH and he'll always, I feel, be the most extraordinary man I've known and our love was something almost otherworldly, superior to any relationship I've ever witnessed. 

Widower wasn't ready.  Widower and I are extremely different.  I search for explanations and these are only two of the results of my brainstorming.  It's been a very hard and painful year.  We are still together, and things have improved, but I've often felt hated, disliked, unloved, neglected, emotionally abused.  His ideal relationship, I think, right now, would be for me to raise our child, take care of the house, cook, contribute lots of money, seek nothing from him - including a real connection.  It's impersonal.  His expectations are too much for a full-time attorney and new mother who is homesick and socially isolated and coming from a relationship that was extremely close (his fiancee was a very young, rural, uneducated part-time waitress with children - I'm the opposite (his age, urban, educated, professional, never thought I'd have children), and his nuclear family background is full of physical and emotional and verbal abuse, while my childhood was amazing - cultured, loving, communicative).  I believe he's struggled with depression his whole life and by struggled, I mean no struggle because he just avoids and denies things.  I used to think he's strong because of how hard his life has been and how relatively successful he's been as a person in light of that, but now I see him as scared to face things.  He thinks I'm needy, while I think I'm just wanting something healthy and happy.  He's silent or angry when I try to talk to him about things - his coping skills (anger management, stress management) and communication skills are zilch.  I am lonely.  I am torn between staying and leaving, and don't know which is the right thing to do - we have a family and things are very often good and sweet.  He's a good father and he's sweet to me when I accept him for who he is and am positive toward him. 

So rebuilding has been hard.  Not because of me, I feel, but because of my "choice" of partner.  His rebuilding has been very very difficult.  Our relationship is hard but improving.  Whenever I decide I should leave, I see so much good and how much hope there is.  I have a daughter who is so happy and sweet.  I have a job that is stable.  I live near family.  I think my difficulties right now lie in new motherhood, a difficult relationship, a move away from the city I love (and lived in for over a decade) and ALL of my friends.  I've had so many changes.  I may have to leave and rebuild all over again.  I don't want to lose my family.  I love that I have a family.  I love him and he loves me.  But I may have to rebuild.  I have started so many lives in my life so far.  I don't want to rebuild again.  I want that heady initial in love period to be right, to be sustainable.  I don't want to have been wrong about him.  I don't want him to have been wrong about me (he thought I was so great - he doesn't seem to think so anymore - my best self honestly hasn't been present much since this move - all my strength and capability and personality, it's all gone into hibernation as I've struggled with the move and the changes and the housework and the motherhood and the disappointment in his feelings for me).  I don't want him to have been wrong about me. 

I said to my mom the other day that I'm still in shock that someone as amazing as DH existed.  Still in shock that he died.  That he no longer exists.  That I left NYC and live in the country.  That I'm a mother.  So I'm really in the moment and the past feels a million miles away, and yet the shock is still completely present. 

This is so long.  It doesn't answer the question.  I should be doing work. 
widowed 2011 (DH 28)


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2015, 12:06:27 PM »
Thank you for starting this thread and my apology for the long post.  I would say my rebuilding is on the slow side.

I was so screwed up the first year that I can?t say I did any rebuilding at all.  Finding out quickly that I basically that no one gave a dam for my sons and I was a hard pill to swallow. That anger I had for that consumed me. The anger consumed me so much I most likely was totally blind to the people that were there for me.

  My husband had some issues and I think it all started when his own father died.  I think his mother most likely felt very much like me.  Her doctor put her on ?medication? and maybe she totally lost reality.  Her older children turned to drugs, sex and rock and roll and my husband being the youngest was forgotten.  I didn?t want to turn out to be her.  I tried therapy thinking that was the correct road to go. Unfortunately the first therapist really did a number on me.  At the time I was seeing her I still didn?t have the cause of death of my husband.  My husband hid in the basement away from his family and he drank.  He was never abusive but often he wasn?t there for us.  A behavior I found out he started after the death of his father.  The kids and I focused a lot on that behavior we wanted answers for his behavior but the answers sure didn?t come from this therapist.  This therapist who supposedly the best in the area told me, it was good that my husband died.  I never returned and couldn?t tell anyone what she did to me. I turned to books on grieving and some helped but I still felt so lost.  Finding YWBB really helped.  I could go to work and fake it well, but driving there and back my anxiety was huge. I would come home and basically stare at the walls for hours.    I finally found the courage and attended Al anon meetings.  Wow that was an eye opener. Recognizing that I am an enabler is something I still struggle with every day.   I then found another therapist.  She still wasn?t exactly what I needed but she kept talking about finding a passion and taking care of myself.  I still had no idea what she was talking about, most likely because I was still struggling with being an enabler. I made sure to do something for myself every day, even if it was reading a book but still felt in the twilight zone. I wasn?t suicidal but I didn?t want to live either. 

A few days after the first sad anniversary I heard about a widow support group.  I remember sitting in my car and I was ready to leave when my car door opened and two elderly widows basically pulled me out of the door.  I then found out about another support group and it turned out to be one that really started me off to rebuilding.  I started to see my future and I sure didn?t want to turn into the crazy cat lady.  I joined a gym. Then I took some art lessons.  Just being around positive people that didn?t have a clue I was a widow was great.  My anxiety level was decreasing and my wall staring stopped as well.  I still really needed a friend.  I asked a lady at work if she wanted to do a mud run with me and she was up to it.  Slowly I opened up to her and finally I had a friend. 

Now I have to back up a bit.  The day my husband passed an old coworker came to the house, she helped me clean the house because I assumed family would be coming to the house.  I laugh at that now because no family member entered our house and two years later still no family member has come. 

Fourteen months after my husband?s passing her husband was killed at work.  I have been by her side  from the beginning.   We are each other?s best support.  Slowly we are rebuilding together.  Both of our grief stories are similar and dissimilar.   Both of us realize we need friends.  Our little pack of friends is slowly growing.  Each of us are fragile but we are ready to do this thing we call life. 
On Sunday three families that all have lost a love one are getting together to enjoy Easter together.  We are starting our new traditions.  This is the first time the kids have ever spent Easter with another family.  That is the way it is.  Our family unfortunately has never been there for us.  I can?t change that and I am not allowing myself to have hate over it.   I am focusing on my sons and our future.  We need to open our heart up to other people. 

I have a lot or rebuilding to do, I am so much more open to this now.  I had to go through the horrible grieving to get to this spot.  Find trust in people I still find is very hard and I think that is for the best.   I am not just allowing anyone in. 


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2015, 02:30:30 PM »
As always ATJ, your post is thought provoking and relative to what is going on in my life.  This constructing a "new me" has been a constant work in progress. Just a never ending project, with many phases of "new me's" being revised, thrown out, or reclaimed and saved for revisions at a later date. 

The current "new me" was shaken to the core for the past week.  Medical problems due to an injury required a revision of the "new me" 2 years ago.  Not much, I am living with my oldest son and raising my grand daughter who just turned 5, but it has been a rough road to recovering as much of "me" physically as possible and giving up things I have come to love like driving or meaningful employment.  But I have come to terms as much as I can with who I am now, right now, and having to use a walker or wheel chair, with the loving help of an energetic child, yelling "Come On Grammy!  We can do it!" And sometimes searching for the words that never seem to find their way in my speech or being able to make change from money. 

The past couple of weeks my son and I have been arguing about everything it seems.  I had become an imposition that needed to be taken to medical appointments, rides to go grocery shopping, didn't clean up the house after a party he had, the list goes on.  I decided that since Zoey was to leave Wednesday afternoon for a visit to her Mothers, I would run away and relax as well.  I had a well thought out plan, friend picking me up, weekend on the lake and bbq's.  Just what I needed. 

Then came the call.  My sister in law lost her husband and the Celebration of Life was on Wednesday evening at their home.  The home where my husbands service was held, only 8 years and 2 months later.  Now I have visited a few times over the years, but it is just hard to be there even though it is a few miles away.  So I dug through my closet and my soul to find a version of me that could find the strength to go.  The tears flowed freely during the service with my grand daughter wrapped in my arms on my lap like a shield.  I was suddenly back to raw intense hurt of the first years, but feeling so sorry for my sister in law.  Another widow on this long journey with us.

My life has been torn down and re-started keeping what works and throwing out what doesn't only to pick up something discarded when it is needed again.  Who knows what the final version of me will finally become?  Maybe it is because I have always been so independent and stubborn that I can seem to settle into one new life?  Maybe it is the more recent brain injury?  I am spending some time thinking about what comes next again. 

((((Hugs)))) and Love to all


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2015, 07:39:22 PM »

Thank you for this amazing and thought provoking post on rebuilding.

I wish rebuilding and reclaiming "self" were as easy as a house renovation. Tear it down, redesign it, build the new self and presto! For me, the process was very different.

The first step  in my rebuilding started well before my DH died. I was participating in a family therapy session with him in the second of his inpatient alcohol rehab programs. As part of a workshop exercise, each of the patients were asked to place their family and friends around the room in a circle using audience members as substitutes for the real people. My husband placed his parents and sibling across the other side of the room. He placed our son on his right, but a little away from him to protect him. And he placed me directly behind him, because I have his back. When asked why he placed everyone the way he did, he shared his thoughts. But when I was asked for my reaction I began crying. When the therapist asked why I was crying I said it was because I was not placed in the right place. I realized that instead of being beside him, or even having his back, I was taking complete responsibility for everything he did. I was him. I was so totally enmeshed in saving him from himself, I had become a pseudo DH. This realization brought me tremendous awareness about myself, and my lack of distinct identity - and it shook me to the core. I began to explore, in my thoughts and actions, stepping back from being DH and understanding me. What do I want, what do I like, what do I prefer?

Another element of my rebuilding was the development of my spiritual self. When I understood that I had become enmeshed with my DH's life beyond normal relationship boundaries, I found myself walking into the rooms of Alanon. I was taught there how to focus on my personal development, not on the lives of others. The process of self discovery led me to a deeply held belief in a power greater than myself. My belief is not in a traditional definition of God, but rather in a belief in Good. It is this belief that has helped me weather the storms of grief, has helped me wake up each morning with the confidence of a new day and to trust in the way of the universe. It has not protected me or my friends from bad things happening to them, but it has given me a way to get beyond suffering, to coping to moving forward optimistically, at least so far. I'm not in the zen zone by any stretch of the imagination...I still feel anger at injustice and despair with difficulties, but my belief in a higher power is a lifeline.

When my DH died, another great milestone was reached about 5-6 months later. One day I was walking with a friend and I was struck by the sudden realization that it was possible I could love another again. I was thinking a lot at that time about my future. Could I be satisfied as a professional woman who is a mother and grandmother? I thought so for a while. But one day, I realized I wanted love in my life again. I had no clue how that would happen, and I certainly felt that if it was to happen it would be a miracle since I was not going to hunt for it, but I accepted this about myself within the first year of DH's loss.

I am certain I am not done rebuilding. I doubt I ever will be. For me, the steps above were less about "doing" and more about insights that came to me and then "allowing". I'm generally a person who likes to keep everything in order and be master of my destiny, but in the cases where massive transformation have occurred, I have instead Let Go and Let Good.

Sorry for my long lost ATJ....your post and others responses really unlocked something for me. Thank you!

My First Love, Peace Be Thine


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2015, 06:02:12 PM »

I thank you and all who posted here for your thoughtful contributions. There is not much I could add to this discussion, except to say that after my wife's death I too recognized the need to rebuild. I think the most succinct wording I could come up with to describe what was lost, as well as some of the difficulties associated with rebuilding, appears in "Unique and Devastating Loss". Recently, Bluebird invited me to repost that document on the website of a small nonprofit that she is associated with, which was started by a widow and provides services to widows and widowers. The following is an excerpt from my preface to it on that site:

"We widows and widowers know all too well how destructive the death of our spouse is to virtually every aspect of our life. As excruciatingly painful as it is to lose that one unique person in the world we were closest to, our devastating loss actually extends well beyond that, and often includes even our own selves . . . "

For those who may wish to read more that post, here is a link to it:

--- WifeLess

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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2015, 08:19:57 PM »
Thank you, everyone, for telling Your story. I truly appreciate it, because it takes courage to talk about the ups and downs, the bumps in the road, with honesty and integrity, especially at a later stage when most think that we are 'so together' and have all the answers now. We have the dubious honor of being considered 'veterans' at this endeavor. Perhaps it is somewhat unsettling for those newer to this journey to hear about the messy 'sausage making process' of rebuilding, and therefore I was hesitant to start this thread. However, in my personal life I ALWAYS wanted to know the full truth in any situation, no matter how difficult it was to digest.

When reading all of these accounts, it becomes clear that there are many common and intertwined threads that connect us, like in a large tapestry, but it also shows vast differences in how our widowed path has evolved and wrought personal changes in us.

What we all have commonly experienced is: Pain, fear, frustration, fatigue, uncertainty and hard work in an effort to survive and change our lives for the better. But there are equally disparate elements that make our stories unique, much like a person's fingerprints form a distinctive identifier. There are different backgrounds, as well as prior and current life circumstances, diverse residual and/or new support levels, family units of all types, or none, distinctive personality characteristics with inherent or learned coping mechanisms, and variant belief systems.

Grief was the catalyst that created tributaries which brought us together in the mighty and turbulent river of pain and sorrow. For a while we took this wild ride together, clinging tightly to each other for sheer survival, until the river finally reached its estuary that led us back out into the ocean of life.  Just as we came from different origins, our individual compass now points us again into different directions, as life either beckons or forcefully pulls us along. But even after we have been released back into the vast ocean of life, we keep sending periodic signal flares from the distance to let each other know that we are still together in spirit, still remembering our common journey, and it brings comfort.

How we coped along the way varied widely in method and speed:

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

 ~~ Henry David Thoreau

As we tried to build new lives again, we all experienced different challenges, but none of us totally escaped from the arduous reshaping process.

"Man cannot remake himself without suffering,
for he is both the marble and the sculptor."

 ~~ Alexis Carrel

We also have our own understanding of what new happiness and contentment entail, and life takes us through its winding, labyrinthine paths to get there.

"Happiness, that grand mistress of the ceremonies in the dance of life,
impels us through all its mazes and meanderings,
but leads none of us by the same route."

~~ Charles Caleb Colton

May we all find restoration, peace and contentment!.

Light and Blessings to all!

« Last Edit: May 17, 2016, 02:51:34 PM by A Tout Jamais »
"Tu n'es plus là où tu étais, mais tu es partout là où je suis."
~~ Victor Hugo

"Je me souviens de toi ... Je me souviens de nous  - Il était une fois -  Je me souviens de tout!"


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2015, 01:11:52 PM »
okay I'm going to join in here and reflect.

I view my journey as not so much rebuilding as keeping the structure that was in place from falling.

In the beginning there was shock. My husband passed suddenly due to a heart attack and he was fit and had  healthy habits so totally unexpected. But I took command right away. My boys( age 15 and 17 at the time) needed looked after. They needed to know we were going to be alright and I was going to be the one to show them that.That was my prime concern.

My husband had lived life fully, always 100% involved in everything he did. He would not have had any regrets. He died doing what he loved doing. We were happy, he loved his kids and me. My boys were old enough that their dad had left his stamp on them and  all I had to do was make sure that this blow did not bring us down.

I think I have succeeded. I have done it  mostly on my own and again I don't know why that is important but to me it is.. In the beginning my mom offered emotional support but she was an 80 yr old in failing health so often I was worrying about her instead while she was worrying about me. I work full time and manage 3 rental properties. All of this is because it has allowed us to continue on as before. I have searched out a new set of friends because as a couple we were so close we didn't need outside friends. I keep in touch with his brothers and sisters( he had 9 of them) because they're cool people and he loved them and they love me.
I've kept the idea that it's important to live life fully...putting words into practice by planning adventures and sharing them with my sons or not( they're teenager and doing things with mom is not always cool)
So I have kept the structure not rebuilt it...brought in a few new friends to to prop up the main beam (me) but have not  really changed the  way we live. 


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2015, 02:34:26 PM »
Rebuilding...what a topic.  I've pondered this since the thread started.  I knew for 18+ years that, barring anything unforeseen, my first husband would die before me and I would have to figure out what came next.  Although I'd thought about this second life of sorts over the years, I didn't know what it would look like and I never could have known, really.  But I started a new life after my Barry died.  I never expected to leave my career and move from New England to the middle of Kansas, but that is where life took me...or where I took life.  I'm not sure which it was...but there I went. 

My new life had some solid parts and some wobbly parts.  The most solid aspect was the man who became my second husband.  The wobbly parts were the challenges I faced with trying to construct a new direction for my career.  I had no idea what I wanted to become in terms of growing my intellect and finding a new career.  Fortunately, the stable part of my life, my new husband John, supported me and gave me space to relax a bit, reflect on my life, start to explore possibilities, travel, do some volunteer work and go back to school.  Life was good.  I was working toward a second bachelor's degree, having fun, learning, considering grad school.  The wobbly parts were starting to stabilize.  I was actually comfortable being a little bit wobbly.

Then, the stable part of my life was pulled out from underneath me.  John died suddenly.  Other things started collapsing around me as well.  I started having anxiety and panic attacks.  I developed health problems, had surgery and was diagnosed with cancer.  Here I was, without John or family nearby, feeling as wobbly as I had ever felt in my life.  I had to find something to hold give me stability.

What became my stability?  School, or university - as some of our friends from the UK prefer to call it.  That wobbly part of my life that had been growing a bit more solid over became the greatest stabilizing force in my life.  I was sitting in the classroom 11 days after my second husband died.  I had one class each day, a place to be accountable.  I missed just one week when I had major surgery.  Deadlines and assignments became objects of my focus that forced me to think and produce something constructive, even in the midst of the chaos that my life and emotions had become.  I took a summer to travel and see friends and family and I returned to the classroom again the next semester and finished that bachelor's degree.  I applied to grad school, knowing I wasn't ready for the work world, and I started a program that is finally giving me some vision of a new career.

My wobbly has become my stability.  My dog has also added some stability.  I'm less anxious, I'm more focused, but I'm still wobbly.  My heart craves connection.  I don't think it is yet ready, but it has me more forward focused.  School will keep me where I am for now, but in a year and a half, there will be another transition.  I can't stay in school forever.  For now, school keeps me in the present.  Some days, my heart is in the past as I lament that I did not have John to grow old with me.  But at 14 1/2 months out from the loss of my beloved polarbear, I am starting to think about another future, a third life.  Where will it take me?  I don't know.  I don't think I can know yet.  I just have to hope that I will some day find happiness and fulfillment again.


Life is short.  Love with all you've got. 

Barry 11/29/55-9/22/09       John  1/16/57-1/11/14

Empathy  Developer  Responsibility  Adaptability Connectedness


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Re: Rebuilding- Hard, Easy, Between? Tell Us!
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2015, 03:34:53 PM »
Hmmm, I guess I never really thought about whether it was easy or hard?.it just was. After helping my wife battle cancer for 4.5 years I was left with three kids to finish raising. For 6 years I did what I had to do to keep the household running. At times I was lonely and if someone had come along I would have made an effort to start a relationship, but I just didn?t have the time or energy to actively seek someone out.

When my youngest was 17 I decided I would put some effort into preparing for MY future. I didn?t like the idea of online dating but decided I?d give it a shot. It was kind of fun looking at profiles and sending a few smiles and emails. The amazing thing is that I found a wonderful woman on the very first date that I went on. She too was a cancer widow and had been a care giver, so we had a lot in common there. We also shared common interest and values. Eleven months after our first date we were married and a 1.5 years later I couldn?t be happier.

As I worked on rebuilding I just did what worked for me. I?m sure that it was much easier than some have to face and harder than others. One thing that I do know now (at 8 years out) is that, even though I?m happy and content, I still remember every single day that I am widowed and my life is forever changed.