Thursday, January 24, 2013

Moving Forward - slowly

I haven't written here since December - because it was just too difficult. The "firsts" without Jim piled up on me:
i.e. Christmas, return to California and visit to Jim's home town, our anniversary (57). These were plain hard! Lots of crying as well as bittersweet pleasure in the memories.

Since then I have begun thinking about these same days this time last year as Jim's status began to deteriorate - - - memories I hope some day to forget. I had softened some of the tougher ones by talking individually with a counselor - - until I attended my first Bereavement Group Meeting this past Tuesday afternoon.

Ten women gathered in a very comfortable and pleasant parlor at a local church education building. During the introductions all of us mentioned that we don't know where to start in re-creating our life - our new life. Even so, the first exercise the leader asked us to do was "to tell the story of your loved one's death from the onset of the last illness to the death." What the hell?

However - being an obedient group member, I dove in first and told our story -  Jim's and mine. All the way to holding Jim in my arms as he died and then dressing him in his familiar beige cashmere sweater before our family arrived to see their father/grandfather in the bed at home.

All the way through my rapid fire telling I was uncomfortable, feeling this was too personal to share with a group of strangers. 

The organizers who are the "bereavement counselors" must have information informing them this is the way to go. So far as I am concerned - it's not! It's painful. It stirred the pot of memories and sent me reeling. Upshot? I doubt I will go back. Even though I will feel sorry not to do my share of listening to everyone else's story.

But, I have learned that I need to look out for myself - and in this case I am.

The experience left me wondering - was their pre-planned agenda more important than hearing what we all said? I wish they had listened.

I would have welcomed help with moving forward - and I think that would be a wonderful help to each of the others as well.  Asking to hear the stories strikes me as seeking to satisfy the curiosity of
the organizers
- unless some of the women are just bursting to tell that story again - and again - and again.
Let me tell you something - I have struggled since March 6 to work through each day and to put up a "brave" front so people would think I was OK.  Most of those days I have been anything but OK. However the play-acting did and does help. I have journaled through a dozen notebooks, talked privately to positively helpful bereavement folks, trusted friends, my sisters and our children,  read books about "making it through", worked on the business of closing up Jim's life and our life together - - and been grateful for my storytelling work.

Although I have "sinking spells" and crying many days, after 10 and a half months I am stronger and moving ahead -- one baby step at a time.

I guess that really is progress.


  1. Dear Ellouise. I have no words that will do any good at all. But sometimes there's comfort in knowing you have witnesses. For what it's worth -- today I am one of your witnesses.

  2. Megan, thank you - that's a very treasured gift. Love, Ellouise

  3. I think at some point your feedback might help them improve what they do there . . . not until you are ready, but it might help others.