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Greif Memory Moving Forward Uncategorized

Holding onto the Memories

Chris Brandt

WSN: Day by Day by Chris Brandt

At first, I felt I wanted a small “shrine” of my late wife. It had only been a few days since she passed, and I wanted to have a visual element to view. I put a 5”x7” picture, her obituary, her last communion bottle, and her box of ashes on top of the fireplace mantle. These items were arranged well and looked nice in their prospective spots. For a few days, I felt comfort in looking at the items, and I found it memorialized her in a sense that made me feel a continued closeness.

As time passed, I started to feel less comfortable with the shrine. For reasons unknown, the shrine would make me feel sad. Not only would there be sadness, but at times, there would also be uneasiness. I never gave it much thought and assumed this was a part of a natural grief process. Later, I figured out that there was no such thing as a natural process. I learned that most of everyone’s approach to grief was unique to his or her situation. There was no schedule of grieving; there was no right way or wrong way. Lastly, I learned that it was okay to make changes and feel as comfortable as possible.

Once I came to terms with my feelings, I let myself grieve in the way that suited me. By doing this, I started to think of the memories when I looked at the items I had set up. I began to talk to the picture. To me, talking to my wife’s picture was okay to do, and it made things feel a little better. I started to feel more at ease and saw the items in a different light. Remembering the good and bad memories as part of a process that I needed then and still need to this day. The memories are there for the taking. Our wives were our loves and a big part of our lives. They will live on in our hearts through the memories we created together.

It wasn’t until recently that tears stayed at bay as I looked upon the fireplace mantle. Now I do it and often find myself smiling. I made a conscious effort to recall the good memories first, and at times, those fond memories are the only ones I remember for a while. It wasn’t uncommon to make her laugh as often as I could. Those are the memories that I think of first. We all have happy memories of our spouses in our minds; try keeping them at the forefront of our minds. Who knows, you may find yourself smiling a little more often. Be strong, my brothers.

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You can reach Chris at brandt5@hotmail.com

Categories
Memory Moving Forward

The Joy We Need

Chris Brandt

WSN: Day by Day, with Chris Brandt

We all are familiar with a house that is only a fallacy of what it once was. The house at one time was a place we went to after work or fishing that brought a smile to our faces. You know the smile for which I am talking. A house once filled with our spouse, our kids, and many times, the aroma of dinner being prepared. We looked forward to that and knew when we pulled in the driveway and saw the house; we knew what was waiting.

Admittedly, I felt grief for many months, knowing what was now waiting for me. The house felt like a hollow reminder of what was no more. It was not until recently that I got this scenario straight in my head. The memories of long ago were just the root cause of another meltdown. I decided there are too many of these scenarios. I needed to get one of these off my plate. These “triggers” can bury us, and I decided I am going to confront these triggers one by one.

One evening after I left work and started to head for home, I convinced myself that when I pull in the driveway, I am going to see a house of joy. I am going to see a place that sheltered my now-grown children, a home that sheltered my late wife, and a house that sheltered me. Our home was more than just empty wood; this is a monument of fond memories. This is a place were more memories can be made. That night, I pulled in the driveway, and I remembered the numerous times I got home and saw the wife and kids playing in the yard. I remembered seeing my wife watering the flowers in the circle drive. I also remembered the smile she made when she turned and saw me home from work.

I genuinely believe we have choices in some instances to either remember the joy or to think about what we lost. In no way, shape or form is this easy. It is an act that that requires a conscious effort and will not be a subconscious habit until we do it often. Joy, as we once knew it, has changed, but we all have a choice now of changing and finding joy in new ways.

Be strong, my brothers.

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You can reach Chris at brandt5@hotmail.com

Categories
Giving Support Grief/Dispair Healing Memory

Saying Thank You

LArry Ahrens

Quarantine allowed us to take some time off from worrying about our appearances. However, to some people, it was a daunting task. One of the good things to come out of this forced time-out is that many people started to understand the value of such workers as hairdressers, nail technicians, masseurs, waiters, and so many others.

Recently, a letter written by “a grateful customer” who thanked a hairdresser for the way she treated his wife during a haircut went viral. The man revealed that his wife was living with dementia, and the way Sara, her hairdresser, treated her was touching. I think it will touch you as well.

Here is the letter: ________________

June 27, 2020

Dear Sara,

I have waited a long time to pass this on to you.

My wife and I came in for haircuts shortly before Christmas of last year.

My wife was suffering from dementia, and you treated her as if you had been working with dementia patients all your life. You let us sit next to each other, and when it came time for her cut, you turned her chair towards me so I could watch her expression as you cut her hair.

It turned out even better than I thought it would. Sadly, she died in March. And that haircut was one of the last, best moments of her life. She felt so pretty. She visited the mirror in her bathroom several times during the day and would come out beaming.

To see her so happy was priceless.

Looking back, it was likely one of the dozens of haircuts you gave that day. But one which revitalized a woman’s sense of self and her singular beauty. I hope you always realize the power of your profession.

It’s so easy to take things like that for granted.

Sincerely,

A grateful customer

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To the world, we are just one person, but to that one person, we are the world.

It’s OK. I am crying too.

Larry

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Larry articles can be found every other Thursday here on WSN-MO. You can send private messages him on Facebook.

Categories
Grief/Dispair Memory

Memory and Memories

Nyle Kardatzke

Our memories, in many ways, are a storehouse of who we are. Remembering past events tells you something about who you are. We widow-men face practical issues of memory: our ability to remember names, appointments, and where we have left things. There are also memories that we want to keep: mental pictures of scenes we shared with our wives when they were here. Memory and memories make up much of who we are.

Forgetfulness comes with the confusion we widow-men feel. It’s hard to remember what we said to each person recently, and we might forget appointments. We may forget where we put something in the living room or kitchen. I often spend time looking for things that I have lost due to forgetfulness.

In the first few months of my widowhood, I sometimes wondered if I was becoming senile. Was it the onset of Alzheimer’s, I wondered? But then I realized I was experiencing shock due to my wife’s death, not dementia or Alzheimer’s.

If you are an “older man,” maybe over sixty, memory losses may worry you a lot. When you forget something, remember that your mind is working hard behind the scenes, and it may neglect to remind you to do even some basic things. Remembering to do simple tasks may require conscious thought for a while.

When your wife died, you did lose part of your memory: the role that she always took care of. She reminded you of names, meetings, birthdays, and how to tuck in your shirt. You lost a large part of your sentimental memory bank as well. I often wish I could share a memory with my wife; she is the only other person who might remember and care about specific events.

You can enjoy some of those sentimental memories just by thinking about them, and you can store them to remember again by writing them down. Thoughts and memories, even valuable ones, are transient and disappear quickly if not written down.

I take lots of notes and make lists to make up for losing my wife’s reminders. These lists help keep me on track as I go through the day, and they remind me of what I have accomplished when I feel I have done nothing. Because I like lists, sometimes I even add something to a list after I have done it, just for the satisfaction of crossing it off the list. You have some new tasks now, without your wife. Written lists may make up for some of that loss.

I not only forget some essential things, but I also tend to avoid some of them. I tend to avoid financial matters, home maintenance, lawn upkeep, and car repairs. I sometimes avoid or delay unpleasant meetings or phone calls. Some things may seem more emotional now without her. Avoidance can be as risky as forgetting.

We won’t always remember everything we want to remember. We may not remember to write down all the things we should. But most of our forgetting is forgivable. Be honest with yourself about the systems that can assist your memory. Your mind is working hard in your new life. Give it all the help you can.

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Look for Dr. Kardatzke’s insights to appear in his column named after his book, “WIDOW-MAN,” every other Wednesday. You can write Dr. Kardatzke at thewidowman@gmail.com

Categories
Grief/Dispair Healing Loneliness Manful Emotions Memory Moving Forward

Why I Still Love My Life

Terrell Whitener

Recently I received the gift of a significant breakthrough in my life. But first, a little background. Fifty-two months ago, on a cold February morning, I was driving to the hospital, suitcase in tow to bring my wife home from another incident avoided. You see, I was very used to adjusting our routine with a possibly new or differing dose of medication and the signing of discharge papers. But this day would turn out different than the rest. The phone would ring in the car, and five hours later, I would leave the hospital with everything except my wife. It was over! Or was it really? In my book The First 365, I say that it was the end of one thing, but the beginning of everything else. Over the fifty-two months since that day, I have navigated many of the stages outlined by the legendary psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and enhanced by David Kessler. I have gone through, three of the five stages of grief that have become the cornerstone of the understanding of grief over the years.

Let me start out by saying that I was never in denial. From the time I walked in the room and did not see my wife turn toward me and the corner of her mouth turn up in the smile that always shone through the most difficult days, I knew she was gone.

I never bargained with God, as we were far too busy fighting to bargain. I was far too determined to win to tap out and bargain. No, I never cheapened the adversary of illness to bargain for a compromise.

I must admit that I was angry. Not at God for taking my wife, but at the blur of time, that I didn’t respect enough to demand that we take more vacations or the two hundred and fifty thousand more times that I failed to tell her how much I loved her. That is what I was angry about.

I even admit to depression. I often look back at the malaise that I operated in, a hollowed-out shell of my former self, searching to find a reason to give a damn again. I remember wondering if life would just be a series of stolen moments of happiness and never a constant in my life anymore.

But recently, I received the gift of moving into the realm of acceptance. Acceptance has long been a long time coming. I had some mourning to do, some growing up to do as well. Let me be very clear, I still miss my wife tremendously. I still haven’t completely closed the door on sharing my life with another person. But that relationship will not heal me, it will enhance me if it occurs. I will mourn the loss of my wife as long as I live. However, the space it takes up in my existence has settled into a healthy resting place. It has become vital to me that I emotionally allow my wife to rest in peace truly. Not that I determine that in any way but honor her by really being dedicated to living the quality life we came to know together.

This newly discovered maturity has a much more forward focused point of view than I have experienced in years. My life now consists of sharing my thoughts with my fellow widowed brothers. Starting to formulate thoughts for another book, looking forward to my son’s wedding next year, giving speeches, planning conferences, meeting new people, and discovering new ventures. I really feel relevant in a whole new way. Also, in my book, I encourage my readers to ‘do the work, it’s worth it.’ I really feel that I may be at the beginning stages of reaping the benefits of doing the work.

The wonderful thing about the Widowers Support Network * is that we are at many different stages of this journey. As I read the many posts and heartfelt welcomes and advice we extend to our brothers, I am often inspired by the sense of caring and concern shown. I am as well grieved by the pain I feel in the despair of others. For many, these words are premature, but I encourage you to believe. We will be here for you in any way we reasonably and responsibly can be. We care! If we could expedite the process, we would! Because we care that much. It is always my pleasure to share my thoughts with you all. I hope this gives hope to some and inspires others. I genuinely have rediscovered that I still love my life. It has been a life of many twists and turns, but as I said during a recent speaking engagement, ‘It’s just life.’

(* WSN also offers a FBook page just for men at Widowers Support Network – Members Only.)

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Terrell Whitener is an author, motivational speaker, and coach. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Terrell is the author of  The First 365, Learning to Live After Loss.  Terrell can be reached at twhitener@thedebriefgroup.net, LinkedIn @terrellwhitener or through the Widow Support Network.