Thursday, April 29, 2010


A few weeks back, I was at a volleyball game and approached by a woman I have often volunteered with at school events. I wouldn't call this woman and I friends but good and friendly acquaintances. She also has two boys and our kids have all played together and been on the same sports teams through the years. She approached me on the bleachers with her husband to ask me where I had moved.

I gave her the story that we had moved to an apartment complex within the district so I could keep the boys at the same school. She'd heard about my attempted move out-of-state with Sam and asked about that too. I related how difficult a transition that had been for the boys and so I had decided to return home so they could continue at their current high school. The husband replied that I had kept my priorities straight thinking out for my sons.

After the game and returning home, I thought back to this conversation and was very upset with myself because instead of being matter-of-fact about my situation, I related it in a very self-depreciating manner. I sounded and described myself as down-and-out and a failure. There was no reason for this. I owe this couple nothing. And it does no good to put myself down in any way.

I think there is an overall sense of shame in having been divorced (since I didn't want it) and then all the sense of failure for having lost my home - being unable to find suitable work and unable to keep up my finances.

But I need to hold my head up high and be proud of myself for what I have accomplished under trying and difficult circumstances. Everything I have done has been on my own and has been focused on what has been best for my sons. I should not feel ashamed of that. I don't want to apologize to anyone for the decisions I have had to make. No one else has been in my shoes facing significant grief and then having to forge on forward in a diminished state emotionally, physically and financially.

I think in the past that I would not have been so upset with myself like I am now. I wish I could redo that entire conversation on the bleachers with me holding up my head and feeling proud and strong for having made the decisions I did and taken the actions I have and survived all of this.

I do not want to disparage myself in the future.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Other Women

This topic has been on my mind for a long time. I want to relate it because I continue to believe that I should stop this blog or change its direction. And I want these feelings down for the record. May 1st is my goal for blog shut down.

My husband was married for 12 years when his wife had an affair with her boss for about 9 months - he never knew and when he found out was devastated. They had all been friends including the wife of the boss for many years and often socialized together. I was 10 years younger than my husband and the two wives and 20 years younger than the boss - the new kid on the block. I also had not had children yet.

To my husband, my being age 30 to his 40, made me somewhat of a trophy wife. When we went out together people often thought I was my husband's daughter. The two couples had kids - lets just say I didn't know then what I know now. But what I did and still know was how unacceptable having an affair was to my conscience. I witnessed what the long-term ramifications were over the years. They are far reaching and in the end even had an impact on my two children.

I have to say that I didn't and still don't hold much respect for an educated and professional woman who conducted herself in such a dishonest manner. If I were married and considering an affair I would be honest about it. It was the deception that really tormented my husband. But I relate all of this just for some background in terms of what I really want to discuss.

What bothered me was the fact that my husband's first wife made no effort to save her marriage. She wanted out and got out. And I'm not even sure there was ever a real reason she wanted out in the first place. My husband was a very hard working, decent, honorable man. He was the main caregiver for their son during the early infant years and then when the wife returned to school in pursuit of a doctorate. At the time of the divorce, their son was nine. There was never any emotional, physical or substance abuse involved.

My husband begged for counseling which the wife flatly refused to do. She left their home on Thanksgiving (really, could she have made it any worse?) and my husband started back dating in December. He and I met through the old way they used to conduct personals - by print ads published in the newspaper and where you first corresponded by mail. We had our first date in early February and married on October 20th. And the wife was furious! Her divorce had been finalized in July but it was still dragging out with her boss/lover. They ended up marrying in January.

I'll leave mention out of the early years of our marriage when the ex caused a great deal of strain with unfair visitation requests and the like. In fact, she was also furious when I got pregnant because she felt that the old agreement in place during her marriage (to only have one child) should still be upheld by my husband! She became very bitter when I had our second son.

Cut ahead to the recent past. I meet Sam whose wife left him under similar conditions, although he denies she had an affair. He also has a son, age nine. Again, similar circumstances - her desire for a divorce comes out of the blue, she refuses counseling. As I started to get to know Sam I was struck by the deja vu quality of the situation. And like my husband, Sam had been the main caregiver for his son through the years, taking six months off when his son was born to stay at home and then working jobs that allowed him to be off with his son in the afternoons after school.

I would characterize both wives as being strong, driven, independent and career-orientated women. I, on the other hand, am more dependent, less driven and not that interested in career goals. I am more focused on family and doing for others.

I could say that perhaps these women are more selfish than I, that they look out for their own interests more than I do. I just know that divorce is not always the answer and I would have made an attempt at counseling. Again, I don't feel Sam really ever got a specific reason as to why his wife wanted the divorce. Both women had never given the men any warning prior to their announcements that they were leaving their marriages ahead of time. To me, that is probably the worst aspect of all because it showed that good, open and honest communication was not in place - and that is necessary for any relationship to be successful.

Sam's ex-wife got remarried as soon as the divorce was final and relocated some months later out-of-state taking Sam's son who has since been diagnosed with Autism. In my case with my husband, the ex and her new husband ended up living down the block and there were problems related to the proximity of our lives/homes. We were always running into one another and sometimes that was uncomfortable because we had no space or distance between us. So I'm not sure living nearby is always the best option either - but I suppose for the children it is.

I ended up getting my Master's Degree in counseling because I wanted to work with families struggling with blended family adjustment. That was because of the horrors I witnessed as the result of this divorce and broken family. But again I regress. What truly gets me more than anything about these women is that they went from one husband to the next without missing a beat. In fact, my husband's first wife had been briefly married before and the ink on that divorce wasn't even dry before she was engaged to my husband.

I know comparisons are totally fruitless and I know I get too caught up in the unfairness of life. But it upsets me to no end to see women that I think have been less than honorable go on with their lives without much regard for the consequences, especially toward their children. This is all along the lines of the bad people getting the prize when they don't deserve it. Although my husband's wife was very attractive and had a high ranking/well paying job in administration, Sam's wife is just average in looks and even overweight - yet she managed to marry a man 10 years her junior!

AND THIS IS THE REAL KICKER - THESE WOMEN HAVE NEVER HAD TO SLEEP ALONE! That is what really upsets me here. They went from one man to another without ever having to experience the loneliness and discomfort of a big Queen or King bed when there is only one person sleeping in it.

Sleeping alone is what is slowly killing me, I think. I have reached the point where I can't stand it anymore. I don't feel I ever get a good night's of sleep - this has been going on for years and is taking a huge toll on my physical and emotional health. I just don't feel comfortable, safe or secure sleeping alone. Every night it is like I am only half sleeping because my brain and hearing doesn't completely shut off. I am never fully rested. What a sad realization to be making about my life as a widow because sleep is something we take so for granted. And yet it is also so necessary and vital for our well being.

I remember the distress I felt when I first learned that Sam's wife had gotten remarried. The first thought I had was of outrage that she had gotten the turn that should have gone to a still single widow out there who wanted to get remarried. The widows had paid their dues but not this woman. And that she gotten a man who loved her and was willing to marry her while I still struggle with men who don't want marriage or commitment - and that he was so much younger! It was a lot for me to swallow.

As much as I dislike what these women did to my husband and Sam and their sons (and even me and my sons too) I do now look at their actions and decisions in a new way. Yes, they were selfish and perhaps unthinking of others. But they went after what they wanted and got it. They had an advantage of still being married and not having to move from their homes or deal with financial crisis because of that. Add those hardships to the mix along with some exhaustion and depression from having to deal with solo parenting and grief/loss and you have some pretty depleted women like me - barely able to have the energy to go out on dates, yet not wanting to sleep alone anymore. Looking back, I wish I had thrown myself into the dating arena sooner then I did while I still had money to afford haircuts, clothes and manicures - and still some hope, energy and optimism besides - plus fewer gray hairs. But beating myself up over that is wasted energy that needs to be focused elsewhere.

I've been struggling the past weeks with the awareness of how damaging my negativity is and not knowing how to redirect it. Do I just let myself slide into a deep depression and stay there awhile? Do I make myself think and act as positively as possible, even though in the beginning it will be forced? Do I just forget about grieving, period? Give myself a break from self-reflection, healing and growth? Looking back and observing the actions of these two women, so similar to one another has provided me with some insight into my quest for these answers. Throughout my life I have always taken care of others and put my needs and desires aside. Maybe it is time to be a bit selfish - not in destructive and damaging ways but to make a point of really caring for myself, my needs and desires. To not do anything I really don't want to do. To focus on healing myself mentally and physically as best I can with the limitations of our finances and being an only parent.

One of my other close girlfriends and I chatted and caught up on the phone the other day. I have always been amazed by her energy and she is older than I am. She works full time, has three kids (one away in college). She too divorced last year. But throughout her life as a married woman and now newly single woman, she has always made time for herself. In fact, she goes out every Friday night with girlfriends and Saturday nights are reserved for her guy friend, whom she has been seeing almost a year now. When we last talked, I brought up how even years ago I was amazed that she made herself such a priority since I struggle to do that for myself. She replied that she knew early on that to be a good parent, she'd have to devote time for herself and as long as her kids are safe and taken care of she feels as though she has done her job.

I know that even years ago I questioned that she wasn't spending as much quality time with her kids that I thought she should. But she is a different person than I am and we have unique personalities and life histories. I have always been a more involved parent. I would never have sought a divorce without undergoing some pretty heavy duty therapy/marriage counseling. And she, like the two woman I've depicted here, refused any counseling with her husband. Even though I would never have acted in the ways these woman did, nor will I ever agree with their decisions, I can take something worthwhile from them. They did think of themselves and even put themselves first. For me to do that even some of the time would be a huge risk and change in my life!

So, I have come to the realization that for me, my future path will not involve dissolving into deep despair or depression - nor will it involve faking my way into optimism and hope. Rather, I'm going to take the next few weeks/months and devote them to healing my mind, body and soul. And that will center on thinking of my needs and trying to devote as much as attention as I can to them. I don't want to ponder so much about grief and loss anymore. I want a break from it. I need a break from it. I have started some self-study in the area of happiness, positive thinking and overcoming negativity. And I have found some points that have struck home for me that will be helpful. So in a way, the next step for me on this journey is to continue that study and see where it leads me. Not to forget about the great amount of grief and loss that has occurred in my life the past few years, but to transcend that and focus on a different level - if that makes any sense.

I might continue to blog with that as my goal - it would be a good way to keep track of my progress - but I think it would need to be a different and new blog and not part of this one. It would almost be breaking free of the issues and feelings that have been a part of this blog.

Anyway, I have always wanted to post about this topic and the two ex-wives of the men I was involved with - how similar the situations were, even down to the ages of the two sons. But a prior post would have just centered on the selfishness of these women and the unfairness of life in general. Now, I see it all in a new light. Not that I will ever agree with the divorces that resulted. But I can see that I can make some choices that involve what is good for me. Life shouldn't be all about what makes us happy, nor should it be about just making other people happy. These women have shown me that I need to spend some time and attention on me for awhile - I've never really done that EVER. And it is time. And I think it is what will end up being a very healing component in my life right now. And hopefully that will lead to other big changes in my life involving renewed hope and optimism AND not having to sleep alone!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


It was prom weekend for my oldest. A tough one for me because along with having to pay H & R Block, there were the expenses for tux rental, flowers, hair cut, gas, after prom party, etc. I was stressing a bit about that because the finances were really strained this month. But at the same time I wanted this to be special for my son so I couldn't freak out too much.

The girls for prom carry nosegays. I went to order the bouquet and selected the lowest price option for $40.00. When I went to pick the flowers up I started to cry they were so lovely and beautiful - shades of pink with the accent of white since my son's tux was white. There was a sweet pink butterfly ornament attached to the bouquet.

I teared up in part because the flowers really were so pretty. But also, that despite my having to go with the least expensive option, I'd received such gorgeous results. I told the florist how much I appreciated that. It was like getting an unexpected gift.

It is hard for me to go to this florist and I really think that I need to consider going elsewhere. This is because she did the flowers for my remarriage and they were incredible. Since then, I've gone there whenever the boys have a dance. But lately, I am noticing how sad I get when I go there because I see all the photos of weddings she has done on the wall and I am brought back to that happy and hopeful event in my life that ended up so tragically. It brings me down and it is not like it is the only flower shop in town.

Anyway, I was just reminded of how much flowers bring happiness and joy. I just read that in a survey done of 100 people, 100% responded with smiles when given a bunch of flowers. As I went about my day I stopped in the grocery store and noticed how beautiful the first batch of outdoor patio plants and hangers are! I smiled as I looked at the overflowing pots and wished for some flowers of my own. And for someone caring to send/give them to me. Yes I can get some for myself but there is a whole other meaning when received from a loved one.

Despite the small surge of beauty that I received from the flowers, my mood darkened during the prom photo shoot. It was held at a local country club instead of one of the kid's homes. This was good in a way because when I go into these lovely mini-mansions I am consumed by jealousy. But I ended up feeling jealous anyway because I'm the lone single person there and there were also many couples dining in the restaurant too. Always being surrounded by couples hits me in the gut. I struggled to try and keep my mood balanced but I could feel myself losing it and I was afraid of saying anything because it probably wasn't going to be anything good. I became annoyed at my son's girlfriend who was only posing for her father even though I was taking photos too. And then I felt some annoyance at the dad as it seemed he was taking hundreds of shots.

I ended up getting it together, avoiding any uncomfortable situations and driving home. On the way, my close girlfriend called me and invited me out to dinner. She'd just been at her daughter's photo session held in one of the mini mansions. She admitted feeling out of sorts and down - in need of two glasses of wine and company. It was wonderful to share how we feel so out of place and uncomfortable at these things. Although we consoled ourselves that we have a few months to recover before homecoming in the fall.

I told my friend about the nosegay flowers and she shared that her daughter had received a corsage from the date who could not afford the price of a nosegay. I was so heartened and cheered by this. Her daughter had been the only girl with a corsage but had handled it with grace. I had never even considered that option not wanting to embarrass my son or his date. But to know that someone else made do with their situation and the best of it. It was inspiring to hear that. And I looked back on the entire day that had started so nicely with the flowers, gone on to be a bit depressing but then ended on a positive and happy note, all because of some flowers!

Keeping A Roof Over My Sons' Heads

Some weeks ago I went back to the community job center where they provide assistance for those out of work. The previous time I had gone, I'd experienced a rather distressing encounter with a male job counselor. He had kept pushing me to examine my overall employment goals and I was centered on just finding a job to start working and feel less financial pressure. The next time I met with a woman about 10 years my senior. She shared her very interesting situation and we certainly connected on an emotional level.

She related that at only age 40 had she gone back to finish her college degree. Then came the period where her husband left her out of the blue and sought a divorce. Just after this her mother became ill and she went to Florida to provide care. Her mother died and she then helped her father deal with the loss. She returned home to take care of her children but then her dad's health rapidly deteriorated. So she returned to Florida to sell the house and move him into an apartment. He was unable to manage on his own so she went back yet again to get him into an assisted living facility. He didn't like the place and she had to move him to another. But then just six months after his wife's death and all the turmoil of moving around, he died himself. This was a huge blow to the daughter as an only child.

I was very interested in the story this woman was weaving. She told me she did not know of the kind of loss I had experienced but that she did know what it was like to feel totally alone in the world. She was able to work at a job in the business field after finishing her degree. Although her husband ended up living with another woman, she did not remarry. Her children grew up, went to college and married. Just recently, more life changes occurred for her. She lost her job and ended up selling her home and moving to an apartment.

Hearing this really impacted me. I was sitting across a very attractive, articulate and intelligent woman - someone who'd also experienced the necessity of having to move from a home. This gave me some courage and more confidence. Also, it allowed me to view myself less negatively and as a failure - stuff happens.

She went on to talk a little about dating. I guess there were some pretty dry years in there. But at some point when her kids were less demanding of her time and attention she came to the realization that she needed to carve out a life for herself and began dating. She told me about a singles group in the area I have heard of. She said she joined it not so much to date, but to have fun activities to particpate in. She said that she had formed some good female friendships.

About nine months ago she was on a dating site like eHarmony when she was reconnected with a widower she'd been matched with three years ago. Back then he was newly widowed and not really ready to get out there again. Things didn't work out for them but even after all these years she had never forgotten about him. Turns out they have been dating and although she said he is somewhat older than she, she is happy with their relationship. In fact, the next day they were going to take one of his grandsons to an antique auto show.

I asked her about dating in the here and now because so many people are out of work or facing financial changes. She replied that half of the women her male friend had met through dating sites were unemployed - it is the nature of the times. So again, hearing this made me feel less alone and stigmatized. I'm not the only woman who has faced some transitions relating to the loss of a partner and financial issues.

I greatly enjoyed the time I shared with this woman because it opened my eyes to the larger world and provided some much needed perspective. In a way it was like filling up my empty tank with fuel. Sharing our situations and life experiences was revitalizing and gave me courage, strength and even some hope to continue to trudge on.

During our time together the woman made the kind comment to me that after all that I've been through, I have at least kept a roof over my sons' heads. And that is something.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Unbound Ties

I used to have friends. There were my friends from work, grad school, my work with the PTA and a volunteer at the boys' school, the school where my husband taught, fellow parents on the teams my husband and I coached and from the other groups my husband and I participated in - he sang semi-professionally and I was a CASA (court appointed special advocate for abused and neglected kids). So I'd often go out to meetings, dinners or lunches with these various groups of people. And I very much enjoyed seeing my husband perform. There was plenty of healthy interaction among adults including the exchange of knowledge and ideas. I felt respected and valued in the world and that I was a contributor for the overall good of man.

After my husband's death it didn't take very long for these ties to sever. Immediately the connections I had with my husband's school and performing groups ended. Then as it became more and more time consuming to volunteer, I stopped doing so and lost those connections as well. My shortened free time was spent between parenting on my own, working part time and doing what I could for my parents (mainly my mom prior to her death).

I'm relating all this now in a way to prove to myself that I used to be a stimulating member of society - I had it once. But that circumstances ended up making it very difficult to maintain social interactions. And now I feel as though I really have so little in common with those I used to socialize with.

Sitting on the bleachers during games I overhear snippets of conversations. One that grabbed my attention was that of the volleyball team mom talking about her various trips/vacations the past few months. There was skiing in Colorado, Wisconsin and Michigan and then some place else too. Now I have only been to Michigan for a week's vacation in the past seven years. Hearing this woman talk made me feel sad as well as jealous.

Then there was the mom talking about the major stress she was feeling because of the remodeling going on with her home. "Let me tell you about stress," I wanted to say but I know it is all relative and relates to the experiences you are facing. Still...

After all this time I no longer look, see or perceive the world in the ways I did before widowhood. I am certainly not the same person by a long shot. A woman I had lunch with (chicken salad on croissants) at her home only a few years ago looked right through me when we passed one another at a recent band concert. Another "former" PTA and sports friend recently asked me where I had moved and since then hasn't spoken a word to me.

It is weird to participate in a world you used to be a full part of but now are there only on the fringes - almost like an observer looking in. I no longer feel that comfortable speaking up in conversations - what could I say to the woman whose family has been fortunate enough to get away four times since January? I no longer own a home so the woman stressed out with the workmen doing the remodeling wasn't much of a conversational draw for me. What could I contribute?

My oldest son was in a remedial math class with about 18 kids. He told me that all of his classmates were lower income kids. When I attended the school's open house I was the only parent visiting that classroom! When I first moved into this apartment complex I looked in the high school phone directory to see who lived here. With only one exception, all the families attending my sons' school are headed by single moms, myself included. I bring this up because I believe it is so hard to be an only or a single parent. There just isn't time to volunteer or sadly, to attend a school open house. And then those friendships become too challenging to maintain and you stop getting included anyway.

Friendships by the wayside - another casualty of widowhood.

Life Lessons

I was recently asked the question of what I had learned from my parents as a life lesson or lessons and was upset that I could not really come up with anything specific. So I decided to ask my sons what they had learned from me and this is how they responded.

My youngest first said that he had learned from me by example, not so much by anything I told him. He related that I had taught him about perseverance and to never give up.

My oldest first replied that I had taught him to never talk to strangers. But when I asked him to go a little deeper his response was that I had taught him to never put down or judge others.

I felt some peace of mind with these answers because they are lessons I am proud to have given my boys, despite the life circumstances that resulted in them being taught.

No One To Talk To

A major albatross for me are the bleachers at the high school. Not exactly the bleachers but the people filling the stands and the representation of intact families and couples. I know this is a trigger for me and should come up with some method of reducing my anxiety when I attend school functions. But usually I am in such a hurry to get to and fro that it sneaks up on me - the onslaught of feelings and emotions that overcome me like they did when I went to my oldest's volleyball game on Thursday.

His team was playing my old high school so that was part of the problem. Now nostalgia from the past got added to the mix along with other memories from my childhood, not so good. Probably a loaded and charged situation.

My youngest was demonstrating some brotherly support by going with me to see his brother play since he was starting and doesn't always play. But after the teams were introduced and we stood for the flag, he told me that he wanted to leave to sit with friends. I pointed out to him that if he left me I would be the only person sitting alone in the bleachers. He scoffed at my comment, then looked around the gym. His eyes widened as he realized I was right. Yes, I would have been the only one by myself in a crowd of many if he hadn't ended up sitting with me for the game.

Now I suppose this is a minor hardship to deal with in the grand scheme of things. In fact, my youngest told me there was a way to deal with my discomfort by not going to these events. Although that of course is not a solution because I want to see my sons whenever they are participating in an event of any kind.

I think a major factor in all of this is the length of time that this has been going on. Six and a half long years of this! I'm tired and drained and the constant strain of this is taking its toll. The widowed have to deal with the actual death of their loved ones but then come the days, months and now years of continuing a life that becomes more stressful.

Every time I go to a game or concert my heart and soul are pulled on when I see numerous couples greet each other and show their support for their children or relatives. There is almost an indescribable wave of pain and longing that hits me at these things. I look around me with such jealousy that those sitting in that gym don't have to be assaulted with these invisible feelings that overtake me.

On Thursday night I am sad to say that I actually started shouting in my head, "I HATE YOU!" to the women and men I saw on the bleachers next to me. The better thing to say would have been "I hate the lives you seem to have that I don't right now" because of course I don't personally know any of them. Or maybe, "I hate what you represent and I hate the feelings that get stirred up when I see you."

Again as always, I am struck by how much it seems married folks take one another for granted. I wanted to get up and make a little speech along the lines of "How would you like to be forced back into the dating world where you're rejected on a constant basis for being and looking age 50?" Dating, now there is another fun topic for another post. Talk about being burdened and then on top of it all, rising to the occasion to take a chance on a relationship and having the courage and strength to face the potential of rejection. God it is hard and it just doesn't seem to have an end in sight.

My spirit is depleted. I am sure I look like a drained, harried, lonely, unhappy 50-year-old woman when I'm at these events.

Something that I kept thinking about was how you can really be extremely lonely even surrounded by a large group of people. If a picture was taken I wouldn't look alone in that crush of people. Seeing the couples talk to one another is what really got to me on Thursday. Seeing them greet each other. I have a huge need right now to talk to someone about my job and career future and that just doesn't happen in my life. These parents can chat on the drive home or over dinner. The ability to discuss current events, receive feedback and advice, to have someone observe that you look nice or even look tired. When none of that is happening in your life, it gets harder to keep up the game. At least for me. And maybe that is why I am letting some of the anger and frustration out as I did when I yelled inwardly at the opposing team's parents.

I'm not pleased with myself that I am releasing tension in this way. It is not the way I want to relate to the world. Shouting negatively (even within my head) will only result in negativity coming back to me in some way.

I am becoming increasingly aware of the importance of having someone close to me, in which to share my life. Maybe if I had a family member to relate with this need would not be so apparent and necessary right now. But there is such a huge void that comes with sitting in the bleachers with no one to turn to to share the small moment of pleasure that comes with your son scoring a goal. On its own the event itself is not the issue - it is the build-up of many of these events and the lack of someone in my life who is interested and cares about them. And I could say that yes, I have a few friends who do care about me. But there is a need to share day-to-day life and occurrences. Well again, maybe not a necessary need but it sure is nice and makes life a lot more valuable and worth living.

After the game, back at home, my son told me his coach has informed him that he will be one of the two captains on next year's team. My heart swells with pride, yet at the same time I feel the tears because I'd like to be able to share that with someone who would take it seriously. One way of describing how I feel is that it is like that saying, "All dressed up with no where to go." I feel all this stuff both good and bad and it just sits inside me or churns around endlessly. Until finally there isn't any release but the toxic one of me blowing off steam in the form of glaring at people I don't even know and then thinking mean thoughts about them. I am also beginning to fear that I have lost some of my verbal communication skills - I have become a less effective communicator since I've been widowed. How's that for another price to pay for this shitty situation?

This is why I continue to feel I am becoming that dreaded bitter and angry widow I hoped I wouldn't become. But I see myself headed that way and despite my awareness of it I just don't seem to care much right now or have the strength/energy to fight it off.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Snapped Rubber Band

I have come to believe that people have a breaking point in regard to how much grief, loss and pain they can take. At some point, the rubber band has stretched too far, too thin, too many times and it snaps. I guess the next question is, what happens after that? The rubber band is usually tossed in the trash, no longer salvageable. And what if there isn't a replacement at the ready?

I've been catching the new ancestry show on NBC, "Who Do You Think You Are?" that airs on Friday nights. A few weeks back, the show was about Brooke Shields. Many years ago, I remember reading that the familial relationship between Brooke's mother and grandmother was strained. So in this episode, Brooke wanted to see if she could uncover some information about her grandmother to help explain this.

She found that her grandmother had lost her mother at age 10 and then lived a life involving hardship and poverty in New Jersey. Her grandmother was forced to become sister and mother to her siblings. Some years later, another tragedy occurred when one of the brothers died in a drowning accident - I think he was about 13.

With the cameras rolling on Brooke, she processed this information with amazing clarity and insight. She related that she now had some compassion and understanding for her grandmother's situation, which until that point she had been totally unaware. Basically, she said that she could now comprehend her grandmother's ongoing negativity and bitterness. She said something to the effect that people can only take so much and perhaps her grandmother's early losses had been too much to bear.

Recently at the bookstore I paged through a new book on grief that has come out. The significance in it is that there haven't been many recent studies on grief and loss so this one is getting some attention. It is titled, "The Other Side of Sadness." I would like to read it someday just for general knowledge but from what I can tell, I think the main premise by the author is that people are much more resilient than been given credit for in the past - I guess along the gist of people bouncing back and recovering and becoming happy again.

EXCEPT the author did concede that some of us do struggle harder and longer than others. Especially those who are dealing with loss along with financial issues. Another point raised was that people lacking strong support systems of family and friends are at a disadvantage because a great deal of emotional support is necessary, AS WELL as ongoing support to tackle ordinary household and everyday situations. The author additionally brought up the fact that some people are more naturally resilient and optimistic than others too, so personal makeup and genes do factor in also.

This was part of the point I was trying to make in my "Crazy Widow" post. That I can comprehend why and how some widows do seem to go off the deep end, withdraw or give up hope. It is a combination of so many factors.

I look back at my journey and am just now beginning to realize how disadvantaged I was even at the beginning of widowhood. My husband had been sick for three years so there was fatigue, sorrow, grief and loss that had existed for a number of years even before the actual death! That is another fact that I don't think people ever stop to realize or consider. For those long-term caregivers, the entire period leading up to the loss is almost its own period of transition, stress and strain. And you go from that to big time grief!

I won't belabor the point here. I've said what I want to say. The question and possibly the key I need to lock next is, so now what? The rubber band is in the garbage. Or put another way, what do you do when you desperately need a vacation but can't take one? How can a broken, drained, depleted and hopeless spirit be revived after it has snapped?

I don't think you can tell someone in this place to wait it out and give it time. Maybe time has run out. I think hope has to be built on hope. And when there is none there it may be a futile effort. So where does that spark come from when it can no longer be ignited from within?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Closing For Business

I have been doing a lot of contemplation and reflection on stopping this blog. This is due in part to my self-study about The Law of Attraction. I just can't seem to climb out of the pit of my negativity these days. And being positive and optimistic is key to the theory. I am worried that this blog transmits too much negativity out into the world and that is not something I want to be doing.

Basically, after a great deal of introspection, from a combination of grief therapy, self-work, reading and blogging, I have come to the earth-shattering conclusion that widowhood sucks. Which I actually find rather amusing in a way, because when I first started this blog, I wanted the title to be "Widowhood Sucks!" But I decided on the current one because I thought it was too negative and I wanted one more descriptive. So in the end, coming around full circle, all I've gotten from all of this work is the knowledge that I had when I started - that widowhood sucks big time!

My continuing to post about the issues in my life will just be variations on what I've already posted - the loneliness, heartache, physical, mental and emotional fatigue of this experience. I'm not sure that is amounting to good anymore, either for myself or others.

I am thinking about some ideas of where to go from here. Maybe I'll focus more on my experience of having to make a financial comeback in my life. Or the search for love. I am also trying to decide if I should give myself a month to be as miserable as I want to be - totally down and out. Or if I have to force myself to get on the bandwagon of positive thinking and hope. Or maybe I allow myself the misery followed by the hope.

Anyway, closing this down won't happen today or tomorrow because I still have some posts I want to relate about widowhood.

I'm letting the Universe help guide and direct me on this. The other day after I got my taxes filed I went into a local book store down the street from H & R Block. I wanted to check out a book that had been recommended to me. On the way in, one of the sale/last chance books caught my eye. It was a birthday/horoscope book and I flipped to the page with my birth date.

The description informed me that my life's challenge is to overcome my negativity. That my goal in life is to bring good to the world but that I can't do that by focusing on negativity. Now I know that I am a naturally pessimistic person - I've been so even as a little girl. But I found these words a personal message to me. They did serve as a sign since they were so in line what I have been thinking and worrying about.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust

My close girlfriend's ex-husband just lost his job. He was the Art/Advertising Director for a family owned mid-sized Chicago area company. Been there about 8 years. Here is the deal - two, young people have been hired to replace him, each at half his salary. So the company is getting two employee's basically for the price of one. This concept blows me away! Now we've got another talented, experienced 50-year-old dad with kids in college out of work. Way to go world, economy and recession! He is getting paid his salary until August so has some income for the next three and a half months. But still.

I went to a job fair today at a nursing home. The experience sobered me. It had a meat market feeling to it - they interviewed three of us in the same room, at the same time. I was told that this was a screening interview and they'd get back if interested within the next day or two. There weren't tons of applicants there, and I was glad I made the effort to go and get out there. I don't think I impressed the young woman interviewing me. What I felt afterward was gratefulness that I even have the crappy job I have now. It is brutal out there.

I am trying to pump myself up with kudos that only weeks after moving, I went back to school for a short-term program that I knew would get me work. And I did find a job within a month of my starting to look. Granted, this is not the be all, end all job of my life. But it is respectful and honorable work. What I am beginning to realize is how hard it will be to procure a job in my professional field. What you need in this job market is lots of time and energy - both of which I have little of right now. I think too, that emotional support from family, friends or a partner is also key. It is so easy to get discouraged and depleted looking for work in this environment. And that is another strike against my situation.

I need to build up my base of contacts again and want to take a class at the community college this summer because that has been a way that has always done this for me in the past. But again, the lack of time is the monkey wrench. Today's excursion took a big chunk of my day off from work and all that needs to be done at home is still waiting to get done. BIG SIGH.

Another recent goal that has to be attained is my getting my counseling credentials updated. I have no clue how to go about this and taking a class would expose me to other people in the same boat. Plus, I could get assistance/guidance from the class instructors.

Well, those are the current goals that are being formulated for now. Just another hurdle in the life of a middle-aged widowed mom with two active teen boys. I do get so frustrated with the busyness of life and the reality that there just isn't enough time in which to get it all done. There is calling the school for various issues related to attendance and class registration, dealing with doctors and the pharmacy, making sure kids have clean clothes and sports uniforms.

So many people out there are struggling with the recession and job loss. I have read that every adult in our country knows someone out of work. Tough, challenging times are best faced with support and strength in numbers. I am feeling so depleted and drained working and trying to find a better, more suitable position. While the prospect of moving forward with taking a class and getting my license in order is stimulating and positive, the reality of it also overwhelms and frustrates me.

This widowhood gig is already a job. I feel as though all I ever do is work and worry. It is tough to juggle so many responsibilities single handed and then have so little free time or a chance to recoup/relax. Working outside the home is a job on top of another job already in place. Living with a partner would undoubtedly make the everydayness of life much more manageable. I will kiss the ground my future husband walks on if I am fortunate enough to someday remarry (I'm totally serious). For those with partners, please be grateful for the fact that household jobs and tasks are divided to some degree. And to have someone to talk to at day's end about the job fair and job hunting plans is immeasurable. Don't take your marriages and the perks that go along with them for granted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Widows Gone Crazy

My youngest son's best friend's dad died of cancer a year before my husband. The friend's situation is a little different. He had an older brother and sister high school age - now they are out of college. And his family owned a restaurant in Chicago. Just different family dynamics and circumstances.

My oldest son's girlfriend lost her mom a year ago, also to cancer. Her dad has started to date and she is upset that the new girlfriend who used to be their babysitter is only 35. In a perfect world wouldn't it have been nice and easier if her dad and I had felt some attraction and fallen in love!

Somehow, I don't think these friendships and connections with my sons are arbitrary or coincidental.

This recent spring break my youngest spent a lot of time with his friend and mentioned concerns about his friend's mom. She apparently lost her cool and yelled at a group of the kids when they stopped in the house, demanding that they get out. I replied that I could understand a mom getting frustrated with a bunch of teen boys barging into the house. My son's reply was that I never would have made a scene and yelled like this woman did even if I had been upset.

He also related that his friend thinks his mom has "gone crazy." She no longer works in the restaurant and has leased it out to another family running it. But she is apparently working doing some kind of rehab on houses. My son further revealed that his friend is very worried about his mother - her actions are erratic and she has thrown the friend out of the house on a number of occasions - overnight! I'm not sure how to reply to that because that is endangering a poor 15 year old kid who had to go to a friend's house to spend the night. But I also don't know all the details except that this kid is very nice and mild mannered - not a trouble maker at all.

My son further observed that his friend's mom does appear crazy and out of control when he is over at his friend's house. He added that she looks haggard and much older than her age. I think I said something like, "Well, widowhood will do that to you" and he came back with the fact that I don't look as bad as she.

Poor woman. Over the years I've had fleeting thoughts of wanting to get in touch with her but of course time has always been at such a premium. I didn't really know her - she wasn't in my circle of super-involved PTA moms that I hung with. But as it turns out, all those "friends" fell by the wayside in my life as I became less and less able to volunteer and be active outside my own home.

I don't know all the details of this woman's life in the past seven years. From what my son has said every once in awhile, I knew she had a boyfriend living in her home for a couple years, although they are no longer together. I've heard talk of her wanting to sell the home because the oldest were in college. Just bits and pieces of another widowed mom's life while I was desperately trying to keep my own together.

But I do get the craziness - I do get that this curse of widowhood can lead to it. I am beginning to think that I may be going crazy too! There is only so much stress, pain, disappointment and hardship that some people can take. Maybe she has reached her limit. Maybe I am close to reaching mine.

Hearing about this woman had a profound impact on me - it was like a shot of reality hitting me. Sobering and scary. Real and honest. I am getting sick of making such an effort to be hopeful and optimistic. For some of us, widowhood just plain and simply sucks and I don't want to sugarcoat this anymore. My life has certainly remained pretty difficult and it is a draining challenge to continue to face the days, let alone the future.

I have come to believe that widowhood can make you crazy.

I dropped my oldest off at school and went by a house in our old neighborhood where a widowed woman lived before she moved a couple years ago. She was a fanatical gardener and when I took walks I used to stop to chat with her as I went by. She revealed that widowhood had made her terribly lonely and she gardened to fill the gap. She laughed as she showed me the little pond she'd added, admitting that she might be getting a bit "crazy" with her obsession. Now, as I look back to what I know about her I feel sad and somewhat frightened about my future too.

All those negative portrayals that exist about widows - you know, the women who own too many cats or the ones always threatening the kids who run across their grass. It makes sense to me - how the loneliness and heartache can make someone bitter and cross. I have even found that my social skills have gone down because I have lost opportunities to converse on a daily basis with an adult. No wonder an older widow might become scared and reclusive.

For whatever reasons I think it is easier for men to pick themselves back up, dust themselves off and start dating women 15-20 years younger as seen by my son's girlfriend's own father ! I have read that men can more readily distract themselves from hardship and difficulties. Be that as it may. I saw a woman about age 60 go into Pizza Hut with a book in her hand when I was there picking up a $10.00 pizza for the boys. I had to give her credit for dining in, at a Pizza Hut no less. If I were on my own I would have taken it home and eaten in front of the t.v. This also bothered me a little. I told my close girlfriend about it and joked that if we are still single in 10 years we'll move into a luxury townhouse or condo together.

But I don't want to be alone. Yet at the same time, right now I don't possess the energy or optimism to date or get out there. There has been too much pain and it is still there, too close to my heart and spirit.

I think about the woman gardening. If I had been in her shoes with two grown-up sons, which she had, what would I have done? Probably done some volunteering in the community in lieu of the solitary gardening. I suppose I would have eventually made efforts to meet a gentleman - maybe taken some cruises or trips. But I shouldn't be talking because right now I can't even muster the energy to try and create more social options in my life be they with men or women! This widowhood has the strength to rob us of opportunities and desires - to leave us heartbroken and broken in spirit. And the supreme power to make us crazy, hopefully only temporarily.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I attended a home volleyball game last night. When the varsity team comes out, they do so to the beat and noise of a current hit song and take a lap around the gym. Seeing my tall, handsome son jog around the gym resulted in my crying openly in the stands where I was as usual, sitting by myself. In the past, I've cried during athletic events because of the sadness I felt that the boys' Dad wasn't there to proudly see them. Last night, the tears were of honor and pride for myself and my son.

The numerous hardship and pain over the past years hasn't totally ruined us. Despite it all my sons have had their moments of success and I hope some happiness in there too. If I hadn't moved back for second semester, my son wouldn't have been playing volleyball at all since it is not a male sport in the state where Sam moved. Nor would he have won "The Mr. (High School)" contest and been crowned king of the school in February.

There has been no dad or even remotely consistent male figure in my sons' lives to guide and encourage them so the credit for what they have accomplished very much rests on their shoulders. I must admit that some of the time over the past years I have been preoccupied and not 100% available to them because of the fires I've been putting out - either caring for my parents, getting remarried or divorced, been in a depressed stupor because of the divorce (thankfully that only lasted a few weeks) or selling the house and moving.

These days I don't often think of my deceased husband. Too much has happened between his death and the present. He is no longer much on my mind, hence the tears for my son and I last night - our sacrifices, our strength, our pride. The credit is all ours. My husband's influence on us all and our current lives is waning and diminished.

Last week, I cried when my son jogged out for his opening game. Then there were tears when his name was announced for the starting lineup. The team members not playing form a huddle and line around the starters, then whop and cheer as they run out onto the court. Because I was aware of the setup, I was a bit surprised that I cried again last night - I was aware what was coming.

Last week, too, I had a couple more incidents of crying. I went to another game and while reading before it began, started tearing up when my book went into a description of a couple reconciling after a breakup. I started thinking about how the people in my life seem incapable of working out "glitches," wanting to end or damage relationships because of their inability to face conflict. Part of me said, "Why can't I be involved with a man willing to hang in there until the rough patch has passed?" "Or have a family willing to talk about issues instead of pretending they don't exist which ends up being very harmful to many degrees?" This has been one of the most profound lessons I've learned from my husband's death - to not give up, to be willing to work on relationships because they are worth it, and to concentrate on what is truly meaningful and worthy and forget about the trivial stuff.

Then, one day driving home from work, I just burst into tears and had a good cry the 30-minute drive home, although I'm not sure if there was any specific reason to prompt my tears. Just the stress of everything both past and present. I let the tears flow.

Tonight is another home game and I want to attend. I'm not sure my son will be playing but it is worth my going just to see his jog around the gym and his warm-up practice. My son is one of the few Juniors with actual playing time. There are some parents who've only seen their boys practice - another pat on the back for my son. And when he has asked me later at home, "Mom, did you see that play I made...?" I am grateful that I can honestly tell him, "Yes." And that I can tell him how proud I am at how well he has played and conducted himself, which I did yesterday when he came over to me after the game.

His Dad would be very proud of the fine, young talented man he has become and is continuing to mature into.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Overnight!

Over the past two weeks we have gone from winter to spring. In fact, this really happened in one day on April 1st. Although I love the flowers, new light green leaves and fragrant breezes, having to figure out what to wear has been a challenge. I am never prepared for the changes in seasons. My life these past few years has been so chaotic and disorganized, I limp through the seasons doing my best to throw together suitable outfits. There have been summers where I never got my clothes unpacked out of the storage bags. And so it goes, another new season where I feel unprepared and flying by the seat of my pants.

With moving in fall, I've apparently "lost" some of my warmer weather clothing. I suppose they're buried in one of the storage sheds. By the time I locate them it will be fall again so I'm not even going to make much of a search effort. I could also use some new items but that is another story since I won't be buying any again this summer. I continue to make do with whatever I have and while it does make me feel thrifty, it would be nice to have something new.

I see women in my community out and about in their shorts, sandals and tank tops and wonder how on earth they have it together to be wearing these things so early in the season! I still have sweaters with snowflakes hanging in my closet now. I would so much like and I long for a more organized life where I can go straight to whatever location houses my seasonal clothes to pull out when needed. This all started when my husband became ill and three years of chaos resulted with his hospitalizations, chemo and home care. Then his death and widowhood prompted more chaos, then getting remarried/divorced and having to move resulted in still more!

Part of the shift in seasons upsets me because I now have a hard time adjusting to change. I do better when I can ease into changes. When we go from winter to spring/summer in just a day I kind of freak out. I wonder if it has to do with how I have felt since widowhood. One day I'm married with a husband and the next I am a widow. That kind of abruptness brings on a great deal of personal upset to me. I'm just not quick on the draw anymore where I am able to deal with such opposites gracefully. There is a part of me that tries to hold on to what I know and am comfortable with even if it is colder weather.

Come fall, I'll be hanging on to summer by wearing my flip flops and shorts until Thanksgiving!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sink Full of Dirty Dishes

Humor me, or better said, I am humoring myself. These past few weeks my senses seem heightened in regard to widowhood. I've been having a tough time, perhaps because my new job involves so much physical strain. And I was pretty sick. Not a good combination when you're living and parenting on your own and you're the kind of person who needs a shot of support from a partner on a regular basis. Or at least a partner with whom you're snuggling next to at day's end.

The dirty dishes sat in my sink over the Easter weekend, which also included Monday. Tuesday was my day off. But now my youngest was sick. He'd been ill with similar symptoms to mine and my older son all Spring Break. But he seemed harder hit with throat ailments. My day off on Tue. was spent taking my oldest to the dermatologist and then the youngest to check out his condition. Turns out he has Mono. At 6:00 p.m. I was 12th in line at the pharmacy at Walmart and by 7:00 home and exhausted, AGAIN. The dishes were still sitting in the sink and by now I had no clean pans in which to cook dinner. Anyway, I was too tired to cook and I knew that I'd be up at 4:00 a.m. the next morning to go back to work. So it was a cheap Taco Bell dinner for us all.

Widowhood reminds me of a sink full of dirty dishes. It is ugly, gross and even starts to smell with the passage of time. It is hard to ignore because it is such a vivid reminder of what is and it sure makes its presence known, like when some fruit flies appeared.

I tried cutting myself some slack. As an only parent sometimes there is only so much that can be done. It was a Taco Bell dinner night, so be it. My oldest is not home due to his volleyball commitments and the youngest far too sick to stand at the sink doing dishes to help out. Anyway, with everyone so ill the past three weeks, I felt better doing them myself since I knew I'd do a better job.

But still, I was increasingly upset with the dishes teasing and taunting me. On Easter, I was so physically tired I couldn't stand after my shift. That has been a problem - getting off work and not even being able to tackle the chores at home - the laundry has also been piling up.

I figure in time my body will adjust to the physical work load but I'm 50, not 25 and not as chipper as I once was. The dishes sat until my next day off on Thur. and got done and the laundry was started (I started tackling them Wed. afternoon). My youngest only went back to school on Friday - he was out four days. Now I wonder if it was really Mono that I had when I was sick. I remained ill for three weeks and am still not feeling entirely up to snuff!

Some of this relates to the adjustment of going back to work and I believe only parents face their own set of issues related to balancing work and parenting on their own. There is a tremendous amount of energy spent figuring out the logistics of getting kids to and fro.

There is nothing I wouldn't do for my boys and I have always put their needs ahead of mine. But still, it felt hard and tedious being at doctor offices all day. I didn't get a chance to recover from working so hard the previous three days and the next day I was back at it. Nothing got done in terms of chores or housework.

I hate that widowhood robs me of choices - there wasn't another option for me - unless I wanted to collapse at the sink those dishes weren't going to get done. And so they continued to sit there and mock me. Now really, what positives exist in a sink full of dirty dishes? Absolutely nothing as far as I can determine. Likewise, with widowhood. What good has come out of this for my sons and I? Maybe our characters have become stronger and we are more compassionate individuals but that is it. And anyway, we were probably strong and compassionate to begin with to some extent. And there are still plenty of other ways to build up character besides tragedy.

It is becoming impossible for me to accept the limitations and realities of this life of widowhood. I am aware that until I am not widowed and living alone, I will not be content and I will continue to feel this vast void. Trouble is, I'm just too tired/lethargic to get back out there to start rebuilding social connections and there doesn't seem to be enough time either. So for now, I'll try to keep more on top of the dishes so they don't pile up in the future and become overwhelming and ready to topple over.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Easter Widowhood Parody

I was struck by how much Easter Sunday seemed to resemble/represent widowhood.

I worked the weekend (Sat., Sun. & Mon.) and left for work on Sunday at 5:30. Driving to work at that hour on Easter I was pretty much the only car out on the road except for the odd police cruiser. It reminded me of how lonely and dark widowhood can be. Really out on your own, all alone amid such a big world. No one can tell us how to navigate the widowhood path. We have to forge our own way. I visioned myself in this way as my car lights cut a path into the darkness ahead of me.

I was also reminded, driving in the dark morning hour, of all those sleepless nights where I'd toss and turn until 3:00 a.m. or when I'd wake up at the hour and just end up staying awake the rest of the night.

I didn't really mind working on Easter since I was off at 2:00. But I did feel that it was a reminder of how once we are widowed, our lives are not the same. Holidays no longer resemble what they were. This was an odd ball holiday for me - but really, since widowhood I'm not sure there has been one that has been "normal" or that felt right/comfortable. There was that sense I often have of feeling like I have to fit into another world.

After work, we were supposed to go to my brother's for dinner. But my oldest wanted to be with his girlfriend and my youngest didn't really want to go. I would have gone and had my youngest join me but I was so exhausted I couldn't muster up the strength to drive home, freshen up and then make the half-hour drive to his house. I did not believe I had the stamina to make small talk and act pleasant - yes, I was that drained.

In the past, I would have forced myself to attend but no more. I can't pretend to be superwoman anymore. I can no longer try to please others at my own expense.

As it was, I picked up a takeout Mexican dinner for my youngest and I - I had a two-for-one coupon. They served ham, yams, fresh green beans, egg/potato salad and coconut cream pie at the nursing home and that sure looked traditional and yummy! Again, I thought about how widowhood robs us of small, simple pleasures like this. I was too tired to prepare a real meal and too tired to go to family. What a sad reality. Hopefully, my youngest will have a girlfriend next year to bail him out of a pathetic Easter dinner with his sad, tired mom! Then both boys can eat their holiday meals with their girlfriends!

It was a hard day for me. Work is tough, I'm on my feet eight hours straight and doing a lot of lifting, pushing, running and so on. Again, an apt description of widowhood. The exhaustion along with the challenge of having to do everything by oneself. And interesting enough, I'm working at a job that is a totally one of being a care giver. But at the same time, there is the reality that I'm not on the receiving end of that chain. I'm only being observant and real here - not going the pity party route. But I've had to parent and raise my sons on my own with very little support of any kind. And doing so has been very difficult for me - talk about running on empty all the time and feeling like you're constantly running in place.

Is it possible to view this day with a positive spin on it? Might be worth an attempt to see if I can swing that but I worked today and am so tired I can no longer think to give it a try. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter 2010

I had a bit of a downer this Easter. It seems with every "holiday" or special occasion that I feel in a funk. Maybe it was prompted by all the t.v. ads showing intact families frolicking around on hillsides covered with blooming spring flowers. Or the ones showing families out on shopping excursions buying their Easter outfits or racing around searching for hidden eggs. Anyway, I experienced those feelings of loss that come upon me during these times. Feeling incomplete and lonely. Feeling that our little family of three is lacking because of the huge hole that exists with our husband/dad no longer here to fill it and make us the family we once were.

These family portrayals on t.v. and in print advertisements depict the ideal or image of what a family unit is. With 50% of marriages ending in divorce there are many other versions of families out there - it would be nice to sometimes see these real families in ads. And part of me is angry for buying into this fantasy. For feeling bad because my family isn't the "ideal," whatever that is anyway. But I guess that is the whole point of advertising. It makes us want that ideal we don't have. But in my case, I could care less about the pretty shoes or clothes - I want the man and life we all once had - when we could have been that cute family holding hands and skipping down the street in our new spring outfits.

I used to go all out for the boys BW (Before Widowhood). They always received huge baskets filled with toys in addition to candy. This year I picked up a token acknowledgment of the day - they each got a package of Reese's Eggs, a crispy rice chocolate bunny and a cookies & cream bunny - grand total of about $3.50!

Again as with Valentine's Day, when I was out and about, all my eyes seemed to pick up on was families with both parents and kids together or couples. Funny how that seems to happen.

I surely did not expect to get hit with this on Easter. This is a celebration that has other meanings both religious and then spring renewal and all. But I guess underneath those major themes is that of getting together and celebrating as family be it with an egg hunt, church service or brunch out.

As with Valentine's Day, I am finding that once the day passed, my mood improved and I felt less pressure surrounding my heart and soul. We survived it for another year at least.

I do wish these days were not so painful. Everyday has its challenges for us. Everyday a sense of loss is present. But on major holidays/celebrations the ghosts that haunt us seem to be more intense. Which is really kind of a slap in the face because to some extent these events exist in our culture to serve as days to lift our spirits and give us breaks from the tedium of our lives.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hell's Nursing Home

I scoffed at the people training me at my job when they said they do not take any breaks or the 30-minute lunch period. They all work straight through 8-hours and do not get paid for the half-hour lunch they didn't take. I, flatly refused to be one of them. If I'm not going to get paid for working through my lunch you better believe I'm going to take it. I need the break anyway to refuel, recharge and refresh.

Well, that was while I was still in training. Now that I am working alone with an assigned group of residents of my own to care for, I've also become one of the CNAs working through without any break or even an opportunity to sit down. Yes, I am standing the entire 8-hours I am at work!

There is simply too much to do and not enough time to do it in - boy, does that sound like my life in general!

Today, I was assigned to 12 residents of whom 8 are unable to move by themselves and various equipment and lifts are needed. Two CNAs are required to operate the equipment so a lot of time is spent trying to track down someone to assist. But of course, everyone else is busy with their own residents so good luck!

I had the pleasure of caring for a 71-year-old woman retired from working as a CNA for 28 years. She scolded the staff member who assigned me to her group of residents saying because of the lifts needed, it was too hard a group for a new CNA to handle. But somehow I made it without getting a headache and every day it gets a little easier!

This is the work load:

Wake residents, change them, dress them, wash faces, comb hair, put in wheel chairs, assemble wheel chair leg lifts, make and/or completely change beds, find clean linen if available, tidy resident rooms, including emptying garbage.

Then, get the residents into the dining hall, help serve breakfast trays, help feed residents who need assistance eating, take trays to residents eating in their rooms, clean up dining hall after breakfast.

Give 2-3 residents a shower, answer call lights, do various tasks requested by nurses, assist residents w/toileting or going back to bed, rotate any resident on bed rest, etc.

Lunch requires getting the residents back in the dining room, passing trays, cleaning up, etc.

And on top of all this, assisting the other CNAs when they need help with their residents and completing paperwork at the end of the shift. It is a joke, that in addition to all of these duties, the nurses require the CNAs to walk/exercise some of the residents. So far, I haven't seen any CNA able to tackle that task. I know I am unable to fit it in!

Today, by 11:00, when I was supposed to go to lunch, I still had three residents I had not gotten to and dressed. They prefer to eat breakfast in their rooms. I just said forget it to lunch. I lucked out not having to give any showers - one resident refused and I gave her a partial bedbath, and the other requested hers at bedtime. I'm not sure how I would have fit in the showers otherwise. I was unable to finish the paperwork until 2:10 - a huge improvement over the 45 minutes I worked overtime without pay my last shift.

If I were not a widowed mom in my current position, I would say forget it to this job. It is physically impossible to handle successfully and I am angered that employees are being treated this way. Being a CNA is literally a backbreaking job and you would think an employer would want its employees to take care of themselves because they are so responsible for the residents.

It would be a blessing to have a husband to lean on at this point. To know the mortgage/rent was being paid and my job not so direly essential. But I am not in that position and my sons desperately need summer clothing - I don't have a choice or many options at this point and that is what sometimes makes my life disheartening. I'm currently only working three days a week. Is working three backbreaking days without a break worth it? Will I eventually crumble? What do you do when you're in a position where you feel your NEW employer is unethical and harming the very people it is being paid to care for? Again, so many questions and decisions to make on my own without a lot of support or feedback from others. If my husband were around, you can bet that we'd be discussing all of this. But if he were alive I'd still be employed as a mental health counselor...

It's funny, while I was dressing a resident, a news program was airing that talked about unemployment and the recession. It was stated that people my age are having a tough time and many have had to go back to school for retraining. Then, the rise in health care jobs was reported but the $20,000 low pay of CNAs was also mentioned. I will get out of this job eventually. I became a CNA to get my foot in the door to obtain some type of social services job in a nursing home. And eventually, that will happen for me. I have a Master's Degree and I am an intelligent woman. But I feel for my co-workers without college degrees who will retire as CNAs. It is a very sad situation. I am suspecting that I work at one of the "bad" nursing homes but I fear that the current trend for any job is to cut corners as much as possible. There needs to be at least two additional CNAs or one and a floater per shift from what I can see. This nursing home has downsized to the point of being hazardous to its residents.

There was a mandatory CNA meeting last week to deal with the poor helping attitudes of the CNAs. I kept comparing myself to the Asst. Administrator conducting the meeting and thinking I would have done a better job. When a social worker or therapist comes into one of my resident's room, all I can think of is how I should be doing that job!

I had hoped there would be time to interact more with the residents because personal, one-on-one interaction with people is one of my strongest skills. But the time is so rushed and limited. That makes me sad too. I make a point of trying to compliment the residents I work with. One is known as a curmudgeon. The staff couldn't believe this woman and I were getting along. The resident told me she doesn't get many compliments from the staff. She confided that they do not like to work with her. I was grateful for the detailed instructions she gave me for her care and told her so. She ended up helping me and in the end that is what it is all about.