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Journal Entry 9/25/17 6:10 am

What to expect the first 3 months: Expect every emotion x 100. Anger, extreme sadness, fear for your future. Breaking down in odd places - concerts - CVS, Home Depot. Crying spells lasting more than 5 hours and up to 36 hours. People pushing antidepressants, people avoiding you and/or the topic of your husband, coworkers complimenting your old outfits, trying to cheer you up. Expect crazy statements: “You’ll find someone else”, “You’re so blessed.” “I’m here for you,” “Call me.”

You can’t think straight, make minor decisions, care about appearance. You live like a boy who goes away to college--sometimes even bypassing the smell test when choosing an outfit from the bathroom floor. You can't remember if you brushed your teeth yesterday. You can't commit to any engagement. Filling out paperwork where you have to circle “widowed” or “Ms.” is brutal. You like solo car rides where you can cry out loud. Things you used to be obsessed with you could give a crap about--politics, TV, my kids’ sports, ABCs The Bachelor, washing the car, vacuuming, cooking. (In my grief I must have been way out of it. I have never cared two shits about the car or the floor being clean. Sorry mom. That part of you never rubbed off on me.)

In mid September I started going to a weekly Griefshare group. I felt my emotional state was getting worse instead of better. I craved escaping my life. Traveling with the kids and with my beautiful friends was so uplifting but then returning to reality and memories was unbearable. I remember climbing to the top of a Lake Michigan lighthouse with Grace and her boyfriend, Brandon. I looked over the rails and there for a very split second I thought I could just end this pain quickly. I would never do this. But now I do understand the deep black airless hole that causes people to contemplate taking their lives. Brandon took a picture up there of Grace and me with my fake smile. There was a white cloudy “rope” looking shadow around us-- Norm or my angels holding me tight? I never mentioned this to anyone but I knew it was a sign that I needed help.

I began going to meetings every Monday. I would sleep through most of the 45 minute video. I couldn’t sleep much at home but put me in a dark room seated in an uncomfortable plastic chair watching sad people tell their sad stories put me out cold. Breakout groups were beneficial. The facilitators were widows that gave me hope. One spunky Irish woman with a pixie haircut had only been a widow for three years and she was so bubbly. She was stylish, in her 60’s, dating, traveling and enjoying her grandchildren. Her husband also died suddenly leaving her in deep debt. Her positivity wasn’t fake. It was a choice. She wasn't afraid to cry in front of us and show us that life was devastating yet beautiful sometimes. She gave me invaluable hope and life saving tips.

Being in the widow/widower’s group I was always the youngest. The “sharing” portion of the evening was sometimes cathartic but often frustrating. Once in a while I had the opportunity to spew my sad story and be awarded first place of the most pity in the widow group. Husband and dad both dying on my birthday, four kids in college, two mortgages, I was supposed to retire, blah, blah, blah landed me the trophy. We were the second “saddest” group. The "parents of children who passed” circle was the “beyond sad” table. I could not begin to imagine their pain. Mothers who were steeped in guilt of their daughters’ fatal drug addiction. Parents of SIDS babies. Fathers of wild sons like mine who just happened to make one poor decision. Sweet Dana had to sit at that table twice. I just can’t go there.

Joy was depressing. She was a sweet 70 something woman who lost her husband nine years ago. Nine years of grief. Now, I know I will always cry for the loss of Norm. Always. I will miss his humor, sideways kisses, jerky dancing, companionship, and especially his faithful love. But I do not want to be attending grief groups nine years from now. I want joy in my life. Not Joy’s life.

I used to have a gratitude and vision journal. Every time I’d write a list of things to manifest in my life -- “joy” was my first or second. It’s still coming. I just know it. And once in a while (or sometimes every day) it rocks out its presence.

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