Category Archives: Widowhood

There Is No Spoon…


I’ve had a recurring dream most of my life.

That there is plenty in the world until I arrive. Then something happens. But everyone around me is oblivious to my situation.

People see me a certain way and cannot see that my reality is quite different from their perception. I am assumed or judged by actions I have not taken and a reality I have not lived.

Last night I dreamt I got to attend a music performance at my daughter’s college. One of her friends was performing with a group, and the event would be followed by a banquet.

We arrived and everything was beautiful. We picked out seats, but I really needed to find a restroom. On my way back, I get completely lost. I ask for directions back to the performance hall, but no one knows what I’m talking about.

I finally find my way back, but I’ve not only missed the performance, I cannot find anyone I know. Still, I’m just in time to get a plate of food from the buffet before they tear it down. And I’m so hungry.

The buffet table is huge, taking up most of one side of the banquet room. As I go through, there’s very little left that I’m not allergic to, but I manage to find a little meat. Thankfully there’s still a little salad left on the salad bar at the end of the buffet.

I set my plate down to get the last of the salad, but as soon as I do, someone has taken my plate of food.

I’m in tears and I cry out, Not Again.

I can’t find my plate anywhere. My stomach pangs growl. And as I look back over the buffet, it’s been completely cleared.

All I have are a few leaves of spinach in a bowl. Even the water is gone.

And I feel despair.

This dream theme has recurred most of my life. And seems to play out in weird ways in my reality.

That everything somehow seems more complex for me. That normal sustenance, and needs fulfilled, is not readily available to me. That my trials are never typical. Like an alien trapped on a world I never quite click with. My timing is always off.

Everyone congratulates me on my cooking skills, yet no one is aware that I’m starving.

While it has improved some over time (i.e. my dreams rarely involve mortal danger now too), I’d like to conquer this dream. Master whatever it is that it represents. This dream had gotten better before. But it’s gotten much worse in the last 3 years since John’s glioblastoma diagnosis and death.

It’s understandable, but I need to figure out how to resolve it.

Or succumb.

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Filed under Grief, Random Thoughts, Widowhood, Writing

Understanding Doesn’t Erase It…


No matter what I understand about stress and grief and trauma, the understanding does not erase its reality.

Understanding alone does not give me freedom.

I still have to work through the muck. Albeit, it does help to understand.

Grief and trauma aren’t like injuries. They are injuries.

I never understood the physical reality of grief as an injury as well as I understand it now. I peel back the layers every day, and still there are more.

Grief is a uniquely human wound.

Even understanding the anticipatory grief packaged with John’s terminal illness did not prepare me for the eventual reality of his death. It did not prepare me for this side of the trauma. We soldiered on through the brutality of his fight for life, because John and I faced things together. No matter how gritty, our family faced everything together. And we had hope for a cure.

Now… that hope has exited stage left, as has John. And now he’s not here to stare down his son’s own cancer with us too.

Grief cripples, even when you understand. Even when you seek balance in all things. You are not “you” for awhile. Maybe you never will be.

“Faith” that I’ll see John again in spirit does not erase the physical reality I face every day. It does not erase the wounds of our trauma together. It does not remove the flood at my knees or the fight at my door.

While no one can take over my burden for me, my friends and family can cushion the pointy-ness, salve the pain, steady me when I falter and stumble. Hold my hair back as I vomit from this Life’s kick in the gut.

No one has ever thrived alone. Human history is proof of this, over and over again. The world’s sacred texts are filled with example after example. Nature also teaches us this. We can survive alone, but we do not thrive. And we don’t heal from mortal wounds without assistance, from God or otherwise.

Like any piercing physical ailment, grief and trauma require recovery and healing. Avoidance does not erase the reality of it nor the need for working through it, any more than a broken leg can be pretended away. But neither does justification or comprehension remove the reality either.

While many things are affected and even created by belief alone, some things cannot be simply unmade through knowledge and recognition. And while choices have consequences, not all “consequences” have choices.

Sometimes, the task set upon us is unfair and without cause.

Understanding alone doesn’t do the work or walk the path of Life. It merely assists in our perspective. We still must face and work with the actual reality.

Perspective and applied understanding help us transmute. And transmutation of the spirit is why we’re here. To be reborn with every conscious effort, ever seeking the Path, even when obscured by tragedy. Even when we feel alone and blind with pain.

We are not robots and we are not God. I may be a part of God, a part of the family of God, or even part of the Great Network as I understand it, but I am not the sum of Creator. And yet, even my Creator God feels. Even Jesus cried out on the cross.

Christ understood far more about the universe and spiritual reality than we can comprehend. And yet when Lazarus died, whom He was about to raise from the dead – “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) 

Knowing everything he knew, knowing that Lazarus would return to life, knowing God and the nature of the universe and our connection, Jesus was overcome with emotion and cried for the friend he loved.

How could I be expected to perform “better” than that?

Life is in the Overcoming.

And some tasks are more difficult than others.

#ThoughtsForTheDay

—–
June 25th, 2018
5:40pm
by Julia Meek Chambers
All rights reserved.

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Filed under Grief, Random Thoughts, Widowhood, Writing

Reaping Thorns: The Only Lifeline Is Love…


Yesterday, March 7th, marked the 2 year anniversary of rushing John to the ER. The day we first learned about glioblastoma. The day his 18 month, 8 day, 8 hour fight for life began.

Today our son walks into MD Anderson for surgery to remove the tumor inside his kidney.

We’re a whirl of emotions that should not exist all at once. But this Oprah article about failing friends in grief was appreciated.

Nothing teaches you harder about the impact of well-meant but misplaced words than the death of a spouse (or child), and worse when it is prefaced by a long, traumatic and even horrific journey to get there. A patient/caregiver/lovers’ journey that appears quieter than its reality, because you cannot talk about most of the grit. Because it’s too raw for anyone to experience. And you cannot go there without knowing you’re safe to open that door. No matter how desperately you need it.

The yearning for meaningful witness reaps thorns with it too. The callousness of the world levies its attention. And as the thorns collect, you cannot help but fear, dear God, did I ever do this to someone myself?

At least with the anticipatory grief that comes with a terminal illness, John and I could hold each other and witness each our tears.

With widowhood, any coping equipment you had for dealing with trauma is taken from you. The one person in your world who you always counted on and shared with is no longer there. Not to mention your every reality is permanently changed by no choice of your own. You not only lose your spouse, but everything you know and have is either taken or threatened too. Your time is stolen and effectiveness reduced; responsibilities change and magnify.

Unless a safety net can be successfully cast, your fall will be permanently disabling. Perhaps this is in part why the ministry to widows and orphans is so compelled in the Bible and in other religious texts. The alteration of reality can be crippling.

You will never ever see your husband again. You will never again feel their touch. They will never earn an income or owe taxes again. They will never put their things away ever again. They will never share the rest of your memories in any way. My John will never physically see his grandchildren and they will never get to meet him, even in passing. My heart will never recover its missing pieces. The bonding that marriage is, when you succeed – is excruciating when it is severed in trauma. Love is valuable, but it comes at a cost in the face of trauma. And the possibilities of never are endless.

Widowhood is torturous on multiple levels. The loss alone is more than enough. Grief will have its way with you, regardless of how much you understand. Regardless of your power of will. Like cancer, it is no respecter of persons. That carnivore will alter your capability in life, augmented by the quality of your relationship. The deeper the bond, the deeper the fractures. Yet the world steals more than just its lump of flesh. The startling negative things people will say. The vulnerability in a society that is still male dominant. The opportunists who come out of the wood work. But we don’t have the protection of neighbors and communities today like we once did in our history.

Even our friends get weird. They expect us to be normal, to react normal, to think normal, to remember like a normal remembers. They cannot see we lost an entire soul that once was inside. We simply cannot perform the way we did, until we recover. And maybe not even then. Maybe we’re different forever.

And then there’s the impact of silence, and the secondary vacuums that friends disappear into, which augments the feeling of losing every thing you value, trusted and recognize about the way you live, move and operate in the world.

In grief you are often forced to alter your perspective on relationships – that you did not expect to have to – along with your sense of trust and safety with others. Imagine suddenly having to reevaluate the safety of every relationship you’ve ever had. As death brings out the strange in people.

Some say cancer/illness/death shows you who your friends really are. Because friends wouldn’t hurt or abandon you if they cared, right? Especially when the demands upon you have multiplied beyond what a normal human being can expect.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily quite accurate, or even completely fair. That blanket seems a bit big.

Even now, in the well I’ve fallen into, I think that perspective is largely thanks to the filter of trauma we cannot help but be altered by. The tunnel vision we rely on in trauma, as all that we are often able to see is just the step we’re executing just right now. Blindingly looking for something to lean on, but faltering to find, because life knocked us silly and it’s not always easy for others to recognize.

No one is trained for this.

Not me. Not my friends.

I do not even now entirely understand what I need.

Just that I do. Need.

I know I’m far too vulnerable when a furniture salesman almost gets an earful from me, because my voice has been dumb for too long.

Neither I nor my friends will learn this without going through it together. And they cannot learn it if I am silent too.

I’m being forced into a rebirth I desperately did not want.

Every aspect of life as I’ve known it, in every way possible has been forcefully altered. It is unlike anything imaginable. Anguish that cannot be fathomed without experience. Something I could never wish on another. And yet desperately need witness for if I’m to heal.

We are all afraid of being overwhelmed, especially by what we do not understand. Trusting in God is helpful, but it doesn’t erase the way we’re designed. Without regular compassion to offset the regular negative, it’s no wonder that the loss of social support leads to “excess mortality rates” after the death of a spouse in our society.

Loss is part of the way of Life in this world. We cannot escape loss as part of our molding. Our losses are matched by our ability to Love. Our overcoming matched by the growth we already have achieved.

Well-meant but misplaced words injure. Silence injures less, but still injures. Silence robs friends of the opportunity to offset injuries caused by others. Because the callousness of the world will be on the doorstep. Not to mention judgement, gossip and malice. These too exist.

Am I what you expected after all.

How do we surmount both the precipice and the mountain falling down around us, as the tornadoes roar and floods gather at our knees?

There is only one answer. Face what you fear. The physical is transient. And the only lifeline is Love.

“Embrace the suck.” It was John’s message when he trained his men.

John’s words, his love, the Love of my Creator, and the love of my children and friends prop me as I face our son’s surgery today.

—–
March 8th, 2018
8:15am
by Julia Meek Chambers
All rights reserved.

Trapped In The Well - by AberrantCrochet

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Filed under Glioblastoma, Widowhood, Writing