I wrote a book for widows: No Simple Highway

Last summer I saw a post that read “write a book in 30 days”. The idea of writing a book has appealed to me, but getting started seemed to be the issue. I enjoy writing stories in my blog. Wouldn’t that be enough, I wondered.

But I signed up for the 30 day on-line writing program last July before I moved to Florida. Each day I spent 1-2 hours writing. It was cathartic since the book is a memoir and tells the story about the night Mike died and the few years afterwards.

My initial idea was to write a self-help book to help other widows deal with the sudden loss of a spouse. I had been through it and maybe my words could help someone. That is what I have tried to do over the years writing this blog and people read posts daily from my Pinterest page so I know others are looking for guidance. I know I was looking for advice and even a “how to” book as a new widow. I threw the literal kitchen sink at my grief journey trying everything and anything to keep moving forward every day.

But once I started writing my story, it took on a life of its own. Sure, I had to deal with all the issues that an unexpected death entail. I planned a funeral service and met with lots of people. I figured out ways to handle the finances despite a delay in obtaining the death certificate and thus any life insurance money. I processed my grief with the support of professionals when necessary as well as my own precarious health circumstances at the time.

But I had one more issue to deal with that not all widows do, though many believe it to be true:

My husband wasn’t supposed to die that night.

When Mike left the beach to use the restroom at the beach clubhouse, he should have been able to walk out of that building without being assaulted and killed. It took two years for us to see the surveillance video of what happened that night.

Pursuing legal action isn’t easy but sometimes it has to be done. With the help of friends and family and a good legal team, I took the road less traveled. We pursued the truth and sought justice for Mike. My book will tell that story.

Stay tuned for chapter one and an opportunity to get “No Simple Highway” on Amazon!

Unexpected Grief Triggers bring back PTSD 5 years later

Unexpected grief triggers with police brutality and unrest bring back PTSD in 2020, 5 years after my husband’s murder.

On Reuters news this morning and there was no mention of Coronavirus. It hasn’t disappeared but more pressing news across the country is broadcasting this morning.

Cities across the United States have erupted into violent scenes of protests. While some protesters peacefully object to police brutality, others have turned into rioters. Angry crowds looting stores, setting fires to police cars and barricading streets were filmed last night.

This all began last week with the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota, who spent his last moments pinned under a police officer’s knee, begging for his life.

The officers filed a report regarding Floyd’s death as a “medical incident during a police interaction”. Reports from the ambulance that transported Floyd to a nearby hospital stated the male was pulseless and unresponsive .

What infuriates me is that if bystanders had not videotaped the scene, these bad cops would get away with it. The vague ‘medical incident’ would be enough to avoid blame to any of the cops involved.

The former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who refused to move his knee from Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes despite cries “I cannot breath” has a history on the police force. He shot one suspect, was involved in the fatal shooting of another, and received at least 17 complaints during his nearly two decades with the department, according to police records and archived news reports.

Why was this man still allowed to serve as a police officer?

What good old boys club did he belong to?

The news has set off triggers for me and emotions I haven’t let surface for a while. The night my husband died I was initially told he had had a heart attack. Then more specifically that he died of cardiac arrest.

I saw his body at the hospital and was surprised to see cuts and bruises covering his barefoot, bathing suit and t-shirt attire. I had been sitting with him earlier that evening on the beach with friends and he had been fine.

Continue reading “Unexpected Grief Triggers bring back PTSD 5 years later”

Time doesn’t heal – it conceals

Time doesn’t heal – it conceals. How to find resilience and courage in the face of trauma and loss of a spouse.

I read that this morning and thought to myself – Truth!

This week marked the 3rd year anniversary that my husband died unexpectedly the Friday night of Labor Day weekend.

I have been doing well overall; I work full time, I still live in my house, I travel and I even have a boyfriend.

But this week it all came back to me again.

A lot of the discomfort comes from anticipating that date.  I have been proactive in the past with planning trips for a purposeful diversion.  My close friends and family reach out with virtual hugs and comforting words which help me feel not so alone.  That was so appreciated.

So, even though life is good, I was surprised to find myself sobbing in the car last week and using the bottom of my skirt to wipe my face.  Maybe time doesn’t heal all wounds.

Continue reading “Time doesn’t heal – it conceals”

How I trained my brain after the death of my husband.

How I trained my brain after the death of my husband using an attitude of gratitude.

It’s been 18 months since my husband died.  The first month I was in denial.  This could not possibly have happened.  It was all a bad joke.  I had been with him sitting on the beach with friends, watching the sunset, an hour earlier.  Any minute, his car would drive down the street or he would walk into the T.V. room and give me that charming smile of his.  This whole thing was simply ridiculous.

My obsession over the night he passed (The night my husband died )took over my mind.  I kept replaying his last day.  I didn’t see him die.  I imagined it all the time.  I woke up at night and imagined what had happened to him.  It was always terrible.  I tried to reason that the result of the events should have been different.  Why did he have to die? He was a great person.  A loving husband, a supportive dad, a good neighbor and a hard working attorney.  I would think and think about this and each time try to change the ending.

Initially I ran away from these thoughts.  I was thankfully distracted by loyal friends and neighbors who kept me busy.  They stopped by.  They brought food over.  We went boating.  They invited me to do stuff with them – play bridge, join book clubs, go to the movies, do yoga just to name a few.

I took a road trip to visit my son in his first semester at college in Mississippi.  My older son joined me and we traveled for 2 weeks to Nashville, TN., Oxford, MS, Destin, FL. and then to Bradenton, FL. to visit my sister.  Being away was good.  My thoughts were less obsessive and sometimes I was actually enjoying myself.  I had often gone away without my husband so I didn’t miss him that much on the road. One time when I felt inappropriately dressed…in Mississippi.

When I got back to New York, I was full of positive affirmations about life and living and thought I was ready to go back to work.  That lasted about one month.

I think the holidays triggered my emotional downward spiral.  I started to obsess about the night Mike died again.  It wasn’t fair. I got angry.  It was time to seek professional help.

Finding a good grief therapist was important in my journey after loss.  She diagnosed me with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and I engaged in EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) therapy.  The goal of EMDR is to reduce the long-lasting effects of upsetting memories. Using a special light machine that moves the eyes from side to side, the patient initially is asked to recall distressing images. It was pretty intense.

Well, there was no running away from that type of therapy.  I did have an opportunity to experience all the feelings that I had been avoiding.  Fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and guilt just to name a few.  Once I understood what I was upset about, I could then learn how to refocus my thinking.

I read a few books which helped me understand other people who had lost a spouse.  I went to the local library and checked out books (only a couple out there) written by people who had actually lost a husband unexpectedly and how they functioned in the year following their loss. I purchased books on Amazon.com written by widows and some healing and inspirational books. Reading Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief was a good way to read something short every day as my attention span was limited. I began to write down quotes that resonated with me and read them over and over.

I also read quite a few books written by psychic mediums.  It was comforting to hear accounts of people who had connections with loved ones on the other side. Reading the book “The Light Between Us” written by Laura Lynne Jackson encouraged me to seek out a personal reading. I met with a psychic medium who surprised me by knowing so much and I found that comforting. During those first few months it helped me look for signs that even though Mike was not physically here, he is with me in spirit.

Finally, I trained my brain to not let it go toward the memories of the night Mike died. First, I tried to STOP thinking those negative thoughts.  Once I realized that I could not change the events of that day, I needed to cease obsessing about it.  The way I stopped those thoughts was to recite the alphabet backwards.  If you have never done it, it works! It got easier when I said them in groups of 3.  If you do that you can’t think of anything else: zyx wvu tsr qpo nml kji hgf edc ba.

I replaced that thinking with positive memories.  I needed a good handful of our best times together to refocus on.  I remembered the night we took turns playing our favorite songs on you tube and danced on our front deck to UB40’s version of “I got you babe” – from our first date together at a Jones Beach concert back in the 80’s. I remembered the sunset in Croatia when we sat on the rocks by the water and took about 40 selfies of ourselves giggling like teenagers. I remembered the first night we bought our house by the beach and we brought blow up mattresses over to sleep here with the kids because we were so excited and how the next morning our mattress had no more air in it.

How could I be sad when I had been so blessed?  We had a good run.  We still loved each other very much on his last day here and I wish he could have stayed to enjoy our golden years together.  He had wanted to move to Costa Rica.  We were going to have some fun traveling times. Our kids are awesome and he would have been a great advisor to them as they make their ways through their 20’s.  I hope I will be able to give them advice their dad would have thought worthy.

Some days are trickier than others to go on living positively.  We all have the choice to call the glass half empty or half full.  We have a choice on how we think.

I find starting the morning with a gratitude session has been helpful.  Once I am out of bed, which is getting easier, I have a set routine with my puppy.  I am allowed a few sips of coffee before he starts to eagerly jump on me.  We don our winter coats and walk to the nearby beach. That is when the gratitude statements begin.

Where do I begin? I usually start by saying, I am thankful for my puppy. He likes that part. I’m thankful for my home.  I’m thankful I can still live in my home.  I’m thankful for my 2 fabulous sons. I’m thankful for my mom and sister and brother and all my relatives. I’m thankful for my dad and my husband who have passed.  I’m thankful for my friends (sometimes I name as many as I can). I’m thankful for my job.  I’m thankful for the kids I teach and people I work with (sometimes I name a bunch of them too). I’m thankful for the beautiful beach, clean sky and singing birds.  Once you get started, it is hard to stop.

I listen to my 5 affirmations on my ThinkUp app.  This app records your own voice telling you the affirmations you want to hear with music playing in the background.  Here are the ones that get me focused for the day:  I trust I am being led to where I need to be, everything comes to me at the right time and place.  The more I focus my mind upon the good things in life, the more good comes to me. I look forward to this day with love and joy and peace and the anticipation of abundant good.  Whatever you are thinking in your mind you are letting into your spirit.  Guard your spirit.  Being calm and centered are the top priorities in my life, I practice this feeling every day.

My brain sometimes wants to do it’s own thing and there are ongoing situations that force me to go back to that night and deal with his death.  However, I am in a better place now and I have learned to focus more on being grateful for what I have.  Do you have any suggestions on keeping a positive outlook? I’d love to hear them! Thanks for reading.

How to train your brain after the loss of a spouse

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