Surviving the Climb

Survive the climb

Occasionally I get a comment on my blog from someone so fresh on this grief journey that they are lost. They don’t know where to turn or what to do next. They are obviously in a great deal of pain and my heart breaks for them because…I know. I’ve been there. Many of us have. I respond to every single comment on my blog. Most often it’s with a ❤️, just to let you know I have seen your comment. Occasionally, I write something back. On this particular occasion, I wrote a whole essay as my response. After giving it some thought, I decided it was time again to revisit “How do you survive this?”

My reader lost her husband unexpectedly in early November. He was minding his own business, driving to work, when he was struck head-on by an impaired driver and was killed. Her world was shattered. The future she had planned with her husband was gone. To add insult to injury, her husband’s death was followed in rapid succession by Thanksgiving, his birthday, an important graduation, Christmas, and New Years. All without him. Her question? How do you cope with this?

Here is my response:

First, let me tell you my heart is with you, dear one. You are SO fresh on this journey and it’s so difficult. Having all those firsts, one after another when the ink is hardly dry must be unbearable. I can’t tell you how to grieve because it’s such a personal thing. I can tell you how I dealt with things and hopefully it will help you as well. If you haven’t yet, do go to Marshmallow Ranch on Facebook and see if you can scroll back to the early days of my blog. You will find much more relatable material there. I started the blog in January 2013 as a way to promote jewelry I was making. Then Mr. Virgo died in March. That’s when the blog morphed into an online grief journal. I know that’s a lot of material to sort through, but it just might help.

At your stage of this journey, let me say this…there is no rule book. But here’s a list of ways to cope.

1. Don’t let anyone say you should do it this way or you shouldn’t do it that way. Do it your way.

2. You will make mistakes. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you do.

3. Be careful…extra careful with your money.

4. Get plenty of rest, eat right, and exercise as you can.

5. Avoid drugs and alcohol…they are nothing but bandaids that put off the hurt. That goes for new relationships. I know, I know. I thought that was crazy too till I got involved with someone just five months after my beloved died. I just wanted the pain to go away but when I pulled that bandage off, dear God…it was worse.

6. Feel your feelings. Cry when you need to. Laugh when you can.

7. There’s an actual condition called grief brain. You can’t remember squat and it may be scary as the dickens. Don’t worry…it does get better in time. You never go back to baseline, but you do get better.

8. You won’t be in this fog forever and eventually you will feel joy. Don’t feel guilty for that.

9. I found the services of a grief counselor to be extremely helpful. I had PTSD from watching the CPR for hours so I had EMDR treatments which helped immensely.

Remember…you don’t “get over” this…you get through it. But, you will never be the same. Let me repeat that…you will never be the same. Don’t even try to find the old you. She is gone. Once a pickle, always a pickle…you don’t get to go back to being a fresh little cucumber again. Whether you become a sour or sweet pickle is largely up to you. Do NOT give up hope of finding a good life, though. You can…and you will…with determination and perseverance.

I realized early on that he died, I did not. I owed it to his memory to live…actually LIVE the days my husband was not given. Since we were looking at campers when he died, I went out and bought one and joined Sisters on the Fly…a women’s adventure group. I also belong to Girl Campers. These are all empowering groups that helped me become brave and strong.

One last word of caution. It’s ok to mattress surf once in a while but don’t live there. Get up every day, splash water on your face, brush your teeth, and get dressed. Make your bed. You’re not as likely to climb back in it if it’s made. Scrub your kitchen sink. A clean sink sets the tone for the day in my book. Even if you just move from the bed to the couch…you’ve moved. Keep moving. One step, two steps. Eventually you will be able to take a deep breath again. (Oh, that’s also a thing. Physiologically, grief causes you to sigh a lot which makes you try to take deep breaths and it’s difficult. You almost feel like you can’t get a deep enough breath. Unless you are passing out or have chest pain or prolonged irregular heartbeat or cold, clammy sweat, its nothing to be worried about. Always ask your healthcare professional if you are concerned about your health. However…this sensation disappears after some time.)

Tincture of time. That’s how I dealt with the loss of my husband. Move forward…and pray, a lot. You may not feel Him there, but God is with your every step. He holds you in the palm of His hand and He weeps for your pain. Let Him wrap His feathers around you and take your rest there. Come back here anytime you need some support. You may send me private messages at any time and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Prayers for comfort and strength, dear one. This is a club we didn’t ask to join. You will learn how to perform magic like tap dancing around that husband-sized hole in your heart without falling in…every…damn…time.

Grief comes in waves. At first it knocks you down. Eventually you learn to expect the waves and you can lean in and keep your footing without drowning. It’s almost five years since my loss and I have built a new life. I have expanded my social circle and have learned many new skills. And…much to my amazement…I have found love again and it is so sweet and rich. Mostly because now I have a thorough understanding of just what I lost and how incredibly precious life and love are.

We all know someone who suffers a loss. We don’t always know how to help or what to say. May I suggest bookmarking this page and share it when appropriate? Share it with everyone you know because someone knows someone who is hurting. Let’s make this the year we reach out to widows and widowers and offer them whatever comfort and support we can. ❤️

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:16‬ ‭ESV

12 thoughts on “Surviving the Climb

  1. Thank you for this list Ginny! I’m almost 5 years out too (may, 2013) and I relate to your words of much of your journey, including finding new love again because my heart is bigger now and I appreciate life and love on a deeper level now.
    I keep dreaming of a camper trailer but I have no idea where to go with just myself. But I crave a road-trip-with-camper adventure(s).
    Thank you for your inspiration.
    💙💙
    Renee

    1. Linda, EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is an approved treatment for PTSD. I found this on Wiki… “In 2013 the World Health Organization practice guidelines stated that trauma-focused CBT and EMDR therapy are the only psychotherapies recommended for children, adolescents, and adults with PTSD: “referral for advanced treatments such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) or a new technique called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) should be considered for people suffering from PTSD. These techniques help people reduce vivid, unwanted, repeated recollections of traumatic events. More training and supervision is recommended to make these techniques more widely available.”[23]”

      It is a technique that utilizes guided rapid eye movement to reprogram the brain of those who have traumatic events “stuck” in a replay cycle. For me, it was seeing my husband in the camper when I returned. I knew when I saw him that he was in grave danger of dying. I watched the CPR for what seemed like hours. The PTSD affected me with a “movie” of the CPR when I got in stressful situations. I started having panic attacks and spent SO many nights up all night throwing up. It was really horrible. I had three EMDR sessions and the “movie” was gone after the first session. It dimmed some of the other memories surround his death. I was given a gift in the ER. As he was dying, I saw his spirit leave his body. I could have had more EMDR to take away the trauma of seeing the CPR, but I was afraid I would lose that memory as well so I elected to stop there. When I say “lose that memory”, it’s not that the memory is no long there. It has been filed away like all normal memories. I can still conjure up the images in my mind, but I generally do not go there anymore. You can check out https://emdria.site-ym.com to find a therapist who is a certified EMDR practitioner. Hope this helps! ❤️

  2. I’ve gone back and read all your blog posts from this page-you are inspiring for many reasons. Are the posts from July 2013 to November 2016 located somewhere other than this page? Thank you for your daily posts; I read them before anything else in the morning.

  3. Your post is right on spot! Even after 13 yrs I can have an “OMG I miss him so much” time. But I have learned how to deal better with the pain and actually smile at the wonderful memories. I never thought I’d smile remembering our life. Grief doesn’t go away you just learn to deal.

  4. Hi, my husband died almost a year ago. It will be a year on January 24,2017. I performed CPR on him hoping he would make it through. But, he didn’t and if he did, he would have been so ticked at me for saving him again. You see he died on the surgery table after a botched quadruple bypass surgery. He miraculously recovered enough to live another 19 months. But, life was hard for him and he struggled with not being able to be himself. I miss him. I struggle with wondering if I could have done something to help him live longer. There are other legal issues I am dealing with as well. But, missing him is at the forefront of my thoughts and life. It’s hard to want to move forward without him. What is also hard is that people/friends and family want me to move on. It’s so hard…. there is no end in sight.

    1. Oh, Janelle…I thought it was hard to watch them do CPR. Somehow, I thought watching that wouldn’t have been so hard if it would have been successful. I know others who did CPR and it didn’t work. They feel guilty…as if they somehow failed. The cardiologist that worked on Mr. Virgo told me if he had been laying on the table in the cath lab when he had his heart attack, they still couldn’t have saved him. That made me feel a little less guilty. Mr. Virgo hadn’t been sick at all, but he would have been ticked too if he came out of that a cardiac cripple.

      I saw an illustration once of a woman with a rope tied between her and a headstone. She had scissors but was agonizing over cutting the cord. What would it mean? What would that say about her love for her husband? What would people think if she let go? It’s a dilemma we all go through at some point. Grief doesn’t have a playbook. There IS no timeline. There is NOTHING normal about grief. People who want you to move on want you to do it for THEM so they feel better. Don’t be confrontational, but kindly tell them this is your journey and you’ll move forward…you won’t move on. There is no such thing as moving on. Did you get up this morning? Good! Did you brush your teeth and shower and get dressed? Great! Don’t look for an “end”…look for an improvement. A moment when you smile at a memory. An hour when you can breathe. A day when you don’t cry. A week when you look forward to something fun. One step at a time, dear one. You can do this. ❤️

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