Monday, September 28, 2009

Secondary Grief Losses

Part of my hope and intention in creating this blog was to reach and interact with widows facing financial issues. And to deal with the longer-term consequences of widowhood which I refer to as secondary grief losses. The loss of social and economic status; the need to go back to work full-time; complications resulting from being an only parent; the lack of much support or understanding within our communities; dating and remarriage as a widow when there isn't another parent there to take the kids on alternating weekends giving you some greatly needed free time; being forced to have to move to more affordable housing; needing to provide health insurance for your family but living in a country that does not have suitable options for women in my situation.

If any readers out there know how I might be able to connect to a broader audience, I'd sure appreciate your input. Maybe my posts and situation are too depressing for some; maybe a widow past the first year or two of grieving does not compose posts that generate enough interest. I started to call myself Widow in the Middle shortly after my husband's death because it seemed where I fit. I was not an elderly widow, nor one with little children. Mine were school-aged and I was middle-aged. But it also seems as though this age group is just kind of overlooked and not considered as important as others.

We were also not blessed with kind, attentive family members reaching out to offer support; nor were we in a financial situation that enabled us to pay off the mortgage. Consequently we were pretty bombarded with these secondary grief losses. Maybe other widows with enough life insurance to make it don't have these issues and are not interested in mine. They are lucky to have the time and luxury to fully grieve their losses. When you are struggling with the other ones, being able to even grieve for your deceased husband takes a back seat to whatever crisis you are having to face.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Muffins & Continued Rage

Both boys are out tonight, each with their group of friends. So here I am in the same situation (alone & sad). Moving to a new place did not change this aspect of my life. I went to Walmart to buy a microwave as ours conked off right before the move. The cheapest one there was $50.00 so I headed over to Target to see if I could do better. They had one for $41.99 on clearance. It was originally a $65.00 model so the better deal. I spent a little time wandering the store and felt furious at all the intact families I saw shopping and the moms and daughters together. I started to think of mean things to say to some of these people (pretty out of character). For instance, to a woman with hair down to her bottom I wanted to say, "Cut your hair, it is too long." To smokers I saw, I wanted to say, "Your habit is disgusting and you need to quit!" Just that sort of thing. Of course I am jealous and envious of those who are not alone. I know my boys would not be out shopping with me at their ages but if I were married I'd be with my husband and not alone. I saw a number of middle-aged husband and wife duos out together. I didn't see any depressed woman or men on their own but maybe I didn't notice them because I was too focused on seeing the lucky people not by themselves.

I have been out shopping so infrequently except the grocery store for over a year. I went a little crazy in the Taget Superstore Bakery - bakery stuff is a weakness for me, especially muffins. I picked up pumpkin, apple, cinnamon, double chocolate chip and carrot. Then I got some cinnamon/pecan rolls, chocolate croissants and mini cupcakes. I'll pop them all into the freezer and the three of us can select one each evening and take it out to defrost overnight the next couple of weeks. It will be a fall treat for us.

So I'd rather spend a little bit of extra money on food than anything else right now although I do covet a Celine Dion CD. In the past year I have only purchased one clothing item for myself - a lime green linen top (dress up) that was on sale at Carson's for $11.00. When I bought it I felt guilty and am still considering returning it.

I have those awful feelings of just wanting the world to stop or slow down for me so I can finish unpacking and putting this new place in order. While it remains messy and disorganized I find myself plunging deeper and deeper into dismay. Exactly how I felt in the early months of grief after my husband's death and then when my second husband filed for divorce. But what I have certainly learned is that the world doesn't give us a break and tomorrow I'll have to go to work and put on my game face. When I am upset like this I become more anxious about the boys whom I can't supervise because I am at work. I have reached the point where the anxiety and worry is not worth the few hundred dollars I am making. I am about ready to quit because I have to have some control over my life, even if it is simply that I am nearby and available to my boys.

Writing all this has destressed me and I am no longer in a snippy, sniping mode thinking mean thoughts about people I know and don't know. I will eat a cupcake and that will make my life and world just a teensey bit better.

A Little Dose of Therapy

I am back to seeing my grief therapist on a weekly basis to help me get through this latest secondary loss of having to sell/move from the home I shared with Husband #1 and downsize into a two-bedroom apartment with the boys. At one point during today's session, my therapist made the comment on how few people seem to understand how difficult it is being an only parent. I have struggled with this issue from the beginning of my widowhood. I asked my therapist if other widows deal with the same issue and she said, yes, that it is felt across the board to a certain extent by all widows raising kids. But to what degree frustration is felt is in direct correlation to how much outside support (emotional and physical) is received by the widow. In my case, since I have received virtually none from family, I am hit doubly hard. Trying to always explain to others how hard this is/was while at the same time feeling tremendously angry at the hand I have been dealt.

I am feeling a lot of rage right now. Pent up anger, grief and outrage from years past. Little help received from others and then the tedium of having to do everything by myself anyway. And the constant justifying my actions and trying to explain just how tough this role is/has been. My therapist pointed out that I will continue to be an only parent for the near future. But that I can start to try and choose more supportive people to interact with. We talked about how I may have been unconsciously bringing certain people into my life who end up not being supportive, including Husband #2. Interesting food for thought.

Rather than try and talk me out of my raging feelings, as so many in my life try to do, my therapist told me that I need to feel them and get them out. There is a backlog of them and if I don't deal with them now they can rear their ugly heads in less than positive ways in the future. I recalled asking Husband #1 for help with cleaning out the garage two years ago. His response to me was that I was weak for needing the help. When I recently told Guyfriend that I am feeling overwhelmed and dismayed with the unpacking process, he told me that he is sick of my negative attitude and that all things get better with time. My therapist stressed that we are entitled to our feelings and to be talked out of them or to be told they are not valid is very counterproductive.

The other good advice I gained from today's session was that when people start to give me their opinions on parenting (the boys should get jobs and play less sports for example) I can stop the barrage right then and there by holding up my hand and saying, "Whoa, hold the advice. Until you've walked in my shoes you don't have any conception of the decisions and choices I've had to make." We talked a little about how easy it is for others to throw in their two cents - especially those who have no idea what they are talking about!

I am just experiencing a great deal of difficulty getting through all the boxes stacked up in the apartment and trying to make a new start for the three of us. I am frustrated and feel alone and defeated. Add some anger and rage along with the usual grief to the mix and boy, I'm having a real party here!

Today I am grateful:

1. For my therapist. May I someday return to my field so I can impart my wisdom and comfort to others facing this same strife.
2. For grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.
3. That gas prices went down.
4. For the Korean place I go to for pedicures (my one beauty luxury I allow myself).
5. That I found my younger son's textbooks the packers had put into the box labeled "fine china!"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Guarantees

It was the third wedding anniversary with Husband #2 yesterday and I had a hard time of it throughout the day. Thinking about all that has been lost and what could have been, especially when contrasting it to where we have landed (now living in a lower income apartment complex - and I have to face admitting it - I am borderline poor - my income from cashiering at the big box store is minimal and my pension from my first husband puts us marginally above the poverty line. Until I gain full-time employment, we are poor).

Both husband #1 and #2 made very good incomes and had recession proof jobs. I married each of them with that partly in mind. But let me tell you - nothing guarantees protection from where we have fallen. I thought that after all of the grief and hardship following Husband #1's death that I was immune to more suffering. I remarried three years ago believing I'd been given a second chance at happiness and that it could never be snatched away from me. I was sorely mistaken because here we are.

It will take extreme strength and courage for me to pull myself up from the bottom of this new reality. I did sign up to take that Certified Nursing Assistant training 5-week program which starts 10/26. I am confident that once I complete that I will find full-time work during daytime hours which I need for the boys. Then, I will start honing in on getting back into my field as a mental health counselor. I am in survival mode. Three years ago this was not even a remote possibility in my mind. I was the new wife of a man making a salary of over $100,000. I didn't take this for granted - I was still caught up in all the chaos of caring for my parents and trying to deal with moving my boys. I never even got much of an opportunity to enjoy being a new, remarried wife. The contrast between that old life and this new one is so painful I can't write about it anymore.

Just another loss, another burden of grief to face and somehow tidy up so I can get on with my life and put these sorrowful memories behind me.

Today I am grateful:

1. For washing machines and dryers (even if they are not my own).
2. For fresh smelling laundry detergent.
3. For dryer sheets that reduce static.
4. For being able to wash in hot and cold water.
5. For having enough clothes to wash in the first place.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I am not strong or invincible!

Right now I do not want to hear those platitudes about being a strong woman and doing everything by myself. Guess what? I've been there and done that for six long years now (eight if you count the years my husband was really sick and mostly hospitalized) and I just am worn out. I can't do this anymore! The only reason I am is because I have to. I have been "only" parenting since the boys were just seven and eight - they are now 15 and 16. That is a long time to be bearing such a load on one's shoulders

Right now the apartment is still in chaos. It is physically making me sick. Today at work I had to leave 10 minutes early with a migraine - I also felt as though I would faint. Who is telling married women to hang in there and do it all on their own? I get the badge of being a widow as well as the tedium of having to parent, cook, clean, work and survive on my lonesome. This move has been the straw breaking the camel's back. I don't have the energy, stamina or strength to keep this up anymore. I've reached my limit - six years of widowhood.

There are assistants out there to help everyone else - nurses for doctors (even aides for the nurses); paralegals for attorneys; aides for teachers; secretaries for corporate people; asst. mgrs. for managers; prep cooks for the chefs; junior editors for editors - I could go on more with this list but you get the idea. Where the hell on this list is any assistant or helper for the distraught/overworked widowed mom - the widowed middle-aged mom in the middle of her widowhood?

Today I am grateful:

1. For firefighters.
2. For paramedics/EMTs.
3. For police officers.
4. For the U.S. flag.
5. For laundry baskets. (Life is pretty dim when this is the best you can come up with).

Monday, September 21, 2009


Am trying to set up our new place, which is proving more difficult on my own than I realized. Our move from the house took some extra days for which I had to pay a $200.00 penalty to the buyer. We moved on Monday but the movers could not even finish and we had to finish the move on Tuesday. The move ended up costing me $2,000.00! Then on Wednesday I went back to the house to clean it. Thursday I worked so the first I could start tackling the new place was Friday. Then I had to work long hours this weekend. Talk about exhaustion and weariness! During the move I was so fatigued and sore I would moan out loud as I continued to pack and move boxes!

Today, I was off from work and the first order of business was to find all the computer cords, which the boys had packed and "lost" in the confusion of all the boxes stacked up in the new place (I can't yet bring myself to say apartment). After unpacking numerous boxes by the end of the afternoon, I moved a bag of dishware from a box sitting in the middle of the kitchen to find the cords and the computer was finally set up! Yeah! I can blog again and check my email.

The first few days of living here there was no place to sit and we couldn't easily walk around. Now it is somewhat better but the kitchen and bedrooms are still in bad shape. I'll keep working tonight and then again tomorrow because I am off from work again.

It feels good to have some normalcy back with the computer connected at least. This is a lot of work (not very fun). Having to go to my job over the weekend tore me up inside - thinking about the state I was leaving our new home in. I was exhausted and short-tempered. The past week all of us have had our emotions stretched pretty thin (the stress level is still high). Guyfriend tells me that all things will come together in time but that is easy for him to say since he is out of town doing some gambling. Needless to say, I am feeling upset with him for being out of town as I struggle to put together our new life. But that is a topic for another post. He combined the gambling with a trip to see his son but I am feeling abandoned and pissy because as usual, here I am handling the crap on my own! I guess that aspect of my life hasn't changed with the move.

Today I am grateful:

1. For finding all kinds of neat unread books which were hidden on my shelves but have resurfaced in the move.
2. That all the physical labor I've been involved with has negated the extra calories from eating take-out since the kitchen is out of commission.
3. That the movers did a great job and were very kind.
4. For the help my sons' friends provided during the move.
5. For my girlfriend who fed my boys last night while I was at work and let my oldest type a five page paper since we still hadn't found the computer cords.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tough Transition

The house closing did get completed and I have the weekend to frantically move, pack, clear things up and clear things out! The movers have been rescheduled to arrive at 9:00 a.m. on Monday.

I used to tell myself that nothing will ever be more difficult than my husband's death (but this situation came pretty close).

We have a very small amount of money from the house sale to start out with - enough to get us on our feet. I am grateful that we received even something, as I know there are people in my situation who end up losing their homes with no proceeds.

The next few weeks will be challenging trying to settle into a new location. It is hard now going through all of this alone while trying to parent and work. I am promising myself a short getaway later this fall (just on my own). I need some time to heal myself and grieve the loss of our home and the life that used to be.

I thank everyone who thought about me during this though transition.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fate Awaits

There is not much to do until a decision comes in about the house, as to whether the deal is still on and we complete the closing transaction. So much of my life has been on hold like this the past few years. The endless waiting for medical test results with my husband, youngest son and parents. Waiting for decisions regarding the divorce and mediation process. And now this. The fate about what will happen with this house and where/how we will next end up living.

I am trying to keep the fear at bay.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Closing Update

The house sale and closing was not completed this morning because a problem came up with the title commitment and land survey. Apparently, 35 years ago, the garage was possibly built illegally. The title company ended up giving the buyer an endorsement (at risk to them and an additional cost of $250.00 to me) but now the county dept. is looking for evidence of the building permit. The buyer is concerned that if something happens to the garage, it will not be covered by replacement insurance. Please say a prayer for me that evidence of a building permit turns up. I am trying to remain positive and optimistic and not think of the what ifs but it is hard. I had to cancel the movers for tomorrow. I need to try and distract myself. It is easy for my guyfriend to just say to go on as if everything will work out but I suppose that is a better alternative to thinking of the gloom and doom. I have never been an optimistic person (the glass is always half empty). Not an easy task for me to keep my spirits and hope up in situations like this.

Today I am grateful:

1. For Twizzlers.
2. For computer Solitaire, which is a great distraction.
3. For the support of my guyfriend who attended the closing with me.
4. For the support of my girlfriend - she has been a lifesaver.
5. For the support of my therapist who is kind enough to provide support over the phone and has worked out payment arrangements because money has been so tight.


This weekend I fell terribly short of packing/cleaning/clearing out. It just didn't get completed. Way too much for me to handle on my own and I miscalculated the amount of time needed to do it all. I have never moved like this before. I didn't grasp the sheer magnitude of it. Not to mention the exhaustion (physical and mental). Right now I am so tired and sore I am beyond feeling tired.

All kinds of feelings are churning up inside me. I see myself as a failure to some extent, although I know that isn't good for me right now - it is not serving any purpose except to make me feel worse. I am disappointed over the lack of "physical" help or muscle I received from my guyfriend. He had his son this weekend but I won't go there right now. I am feeling those triggers for me that relate to not having someone there for me. Guyfriend believes he has provided moral support but for this I needed someone actually by my side (not over the phone).

I have always been someone who has dropped what I was doing and put my needs aside to assist others. So I guess I am feeling some resentment that it doesn't get paid back to me.

Lastly, I guess is just all the widowhood stuff. Trying to do the job of two and always falling so short. Having to make all the decisions and organize everything. Running on empty but still expected to stand tall and strong... Parenting on my own. The boys helped with the packing but if I wasn't on them supervising they did some wacky things like putting all their clothing in sealed boxes. I asked what they planned to wear today and they had to reopen the boxes! Also, just putting breakables into boxes without packing paper. When I indicated my dismay they told me we could drive those boxes over in the car - just things like that. I know they were trying to help and doing the best they could. Everyone was on a short fuse by the end of the weekend!

The closing is still set for 11:00 a.m. but there is still so much left up in the air and I don't do well with that - I crave safety, security and knowing what is what. I rescheduled the movers for tomorrow a.m. to buy myself a little more time although there is still so much to do inside. I need another dumpster or Junk King or both! We're not sure if my mortgage lender's payoff letter arrived because of the holiday weekend so I may not get the funds today. We are supposedly going to sign a post possession agreement for 1-2 more days but until that is done I am worried about the buyer not agreeing to it. The holiday weekend jazzed things up and I wish I had known about it so I could have insisted on a closing date mid-week.

And wouldn't you know it - my period came yesterday. I do suffer from PMS (mood swings/upset) so surprisingly, I've been able to keep it together and not freak out. Some of my feelings of being overwhelmed, etc. may be attributed to my period. And if that were not bad enough, both commodes in the house are acting up and won't flush. Oh, joy! What a send off!

All in all just feeling drained beyond belief and at the point of throwing in the towel.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Doing Nothing

There is a woman in my neighborhood I pass by everyday and oftentimes she is sitting out on her porch doing nothing! I have seen this for many years and it has always stuck me. How can she do nothing? No book in hand, no craft project. She does smoke though.

This astounds me! I am always doing something. For instance, watching t.v. while knitting and during the commercials reading. When my husband was still alive I worked 20 hours outside the home and volunteered at least 10 hours weekly at the boys' school. Then I also volunteered with abused and neglected kids in my community. Since my husband's death my free time has dwindled even more. There just isn't any. A lot of my knitting only gets done while watching one of the boys play sports.

I am in the last push of the moving process and it seems as though it won't get done. I am so tired and ache all over. My bones and muscles hurt. The garage is almost finished but I still have to pack and somewhat clean the house. I think I will have to have the movers do some of the packing because it looks as though I will fall short. The buyers are coming for the inspection tomorrow and it'll be what it will be. I can only accomplish so much of this on my own (the story of my life as a widow). I have somewhat reached the point of not caring anymore and feeling numb.

I want to be like the woman I see on the porch - doing absolutely nothing except watch the cars and people go by. Is her housework actually completed? Doesn't she have bills to pay or some photos to put away in her album? I am envious of her ability to sit and only sit. I have done so much in the past years and am still doing too much. I just want to sit and sit doing absolutely nothing! Well, maybe sit and work on a jigsaw puzzle. That would kind of be like doing nothing.

Today I am thankful:

1. For the sounds of the insects that come out at night.
2. For being able to give some more scrap metal to another scavenger passing by today.
3. For the unbelievable customer service I received at Home Depot buying packing supplies - I was treated like a queen and considering I looked like hell that was a nice thing.
4. For the browning Lazy Susan flowers I saw that just a few days ago were vibrant and bright. The season is changing.
5. Applesauce and all things apple.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Buried Alive!

Junk King hauled away the four large furniture pieces at 10 a.m. Shortly later, the two scrap scavenger guys came to haul away the metal, a large file cabinet and the extra refrigerator in the garage. Just now the first dumpster was picked up and the second dropped off. As the overflowing dumpster was put onto the truck, I thought about all the useless junk that was in it. A whole garage full of broken toys and bits and pieces of old toy parts. Old sports equipment, holiday decorations, outdated baby items. I was certainly expecting more treasures as I cleared out the garage but so far nothing has turned up.

I wonder if part of my being buried in so much stuff was the result of me wanting to bury myself. If I was buried, I wouldn't be able to move on to a new life without my deceased husband. This thought has crossed my mind the past few days as I've cleaned out the garage. I suppose the garage would still be in the state it was in if I hadn't been forced to clean it because of the move. Maybe it is a good thing that I am being forced to move and to move on.

Today I am grateful:

1. For all the very nice service workers who have helped me with this move.
2. For the assistance my close girlfriend and guyfriend have given me with moving.
3. For having sold the house (knock on wood until the closing is completed!).
4. For the bright moonlight through my bedroom window. I will miss that when I move.
5. For the church chimes and train whistles I hear from my home. I'll miss those comforting sounds too.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Today, I had to order another of the largest size dumpsters because the one we already got is now totally full! The garage is about 3/4 of the way emptied. There is still quite a bit to go. Tomorrow some guys are coming to take out a large metal file cabinet and the other scrap metal. Then Junk King is coming to haul away the sofa and three large primitive vintage cabinets. After working in the garage all day, hauling stuff to the storage shed and then cleaning out the three cabinets I am ready to go to bed since there will be so much to face tomorrow.

But in honor of the move, I will take another moment to put down a poem I came across in my clearing out. It is from 1976. I was a Junior in High School and it was published in our school's literary journal. Although untitled, I think I will now title it "Moving." I should mention that I was a prolific poet in high school. But that craze pretty much ended when I got to college. It was fun to discover this poem and the others that got published. A few neat things discovered in the garage - but not much since time has dirtied things and the mice gotten to others. My oldest did come across a bag which he was about to toss into the dumpster after he said, "A bag of old t-shirts." I quickly rescued a very large bag of colorful new t-shirts which I'd been collecting to cut up and knit into a rug. That would be a fun fall project when I have some time. I will make a point of doing that project as a tribute to all that has happened over the years, the moving from one home, the start of a new chapter... A cool, colorful rug rescued from the fate of the dumpster. Somehow I think that ties in with a new beginning but I'll have to tweak that idea more.


They slip away


And are gone forever

from our minds,

Or are just a memory

now, of faces

Growing more blurry

and blurry

Until the name is


And someone answers --

"Oh, they moved away

ages ago."

Today I am thankful:

1. For heavy duty garbage bags.
2. For zip lock storage bags.
3. For canvas totes replacing plastic grocery bags.
4. For those nice big shopping bags with handles. Since I haven't been shopping in the past year it is good I had an old stash. See, never throwing anything away can have some advantages!
5. For air freshener in nice, unusual scents like vanilla nutmeg and candy apple.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Waning Summer

I just got back from taking a load of stuff from the garage to the storage shed. The moon is very bright and now at only 8:00 p.m. it is already dark (and cool). The day was sunny and warm. Truly gorgeous weather! As I drove home from my run I thought about how lucky we have been to have gotten through two summers now without air conditioning in either the house or the van. And last winter we were very fortunate to make it through without heat upstairs. Looking back, if we could survive those difficulties, we really possess some fortitude! I am proud of the three of us for what we have lived through. My youngest did ask me the other day if we would have heat in our apartment! Poor thing!

One of our area businesses has a very cute and elaborate Halloween display out ALREADY! A kind of haunted house theme - not scarecrows, apples, mums, Indian corn, hay bales which I would welcome about now. I was a little put off by the display, cute as it was. Just kind of early for that kind of thing before Labor Day. Halloween is my favorite holiday and I used to go all out with decorating the front yard - elaborate graveyard scenes, spider webs, huge spiders, ghosts flying about. I scaled a little back when my husband was ill and then stopped for the most part when he died. I became very turned off by skulls, skeletons, graves, ghosts - anything representing death. But I still love the scarecrows and pumpkins.

The last two years I haven't celebrated the fall season at all. Last year I was trying to come to terms with the divorce and the year before that, my Mom had just died, we were cleaning up the yard after a tornado and then clearing out my parent's home. I hope this year I can finally get back into the spirit of the season. I have missed it. I won't have a yard of my own but I can decorate my wee balcony. And I suppose I can give some of my lawn decorations to my guyfriend - he loves Halloween and his son would probably get a kick out of some of the things I have.

Another Story

I have been working on cleaning out the garage the past few days. My son asked me, "How did it get so bad like this? Did you open the garage and just toss things in?" I simply replied, "Yes" and left it at that. That was the honest answer - it is what I did. But anyway, on Sunday night, a woman from the neighborhood approached me and asked if she could take some of the plastic storage totes I'd put out at the curb for recycling. She said she would use them to start organizing and cleaning her garage, which she admitted was a mess. I told her to take whatever she wanted and we started to talk.

She has lived down the street for three years and is 52. After I gave her a shortened version of my story (husband died six years ago, remarried but new husband dumped us) she shared hers. She related that at age 30 she was engaged to a man studying to be a minister. They had just bought a home together and she was eagerly looking forward to starting a family after marriage. But she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her fiance ended the relationship saying he could not handle the unknown of whether the cancer would come back again. She ended up having to sell the house. And to battle her illness. And to keep living. And to move on.

Nine years later she ended up marrying a man with a six-year-old daughter. She said that she did feel as though she had a role in being a parent. The stepdaughter is now 20, married, living in Texas and going to college. She and her husband moved to our neighborhood when the stepdaughter graduated from high school. The woman told me that I am a very nice person and she wished we had met sooner. She wistfully told me that despite all that has happened, I still have my family (the boys). She also said that everyone has problems. I replied that in our community it seems as though some of us have more burdens than others.

It was a nice conversation and it made me aware that others do have trials and tribulations to face, just as I.

Today I am grateful:

1. For the start of the fall season.
2. For the smell of fallen leaves after they have been "toasted" by the sun.
3. For the red that is coming out in some of the bushes.
4. For the lovely moon I saw last night.
5. For shared stories and new perspectives.