We have just marked the one-year anniversary for When Life Gives You Curves, and I have to say, the journey has been amazing thus far.
The blog has really taken on a life all its own.
I have met so many wonderful people through comments on the blog, emails, letters and cards, sharing of books, phone calls and everyday encounters on the street, in stores, at restaurants, events or other places I frequent.
People in my own circles who I never thought would read such a column have reached out to me because of it. Some knew my late husband Jim, so it’s been both heartwrenching and comforting to hear from them.
Each person has shared a little of themselves with me, including how a particular blog struck a chord in their own life, or how something I wrote triggered a special feeling or memory. And each person’s words have helped me grow just a little, or helped to make me just a little stronger.
And I hope my words have helped all of them too.
I had expected to hear from middle-aged widows and widowers like myself, but the scope of who reads this blog is way wider than that. Widows and widowers of all ages. People in long-term relationships who seek to make their bond legal and more permanent because life really is short.
People who have been together a long time and are so comfortable with each other they feel they take each other for granted and tell me they now have changed the way they treat each other. People who are close to retirement who have changed their plans so they can do the things they “always wanted” sooner.
People who forgot how fragile life can be, but have thanked me for the reminder.
And a tiny handful of people who thought I should just get over it and move on.
I have had several suggestions that I get counseling, which I was in from a month after Jim died until about 10 months ago. One person even recommended the particular grief counselor I had been seeing. Another wrote a note to my boss, suggesting that it was unthinkable that the newspaper would allow me to go on in such a state, that my column should be terminated, and that someone should get help for me.
I also had a reader take issue with one of the photos I used with the blog “The Smallest Actions Can Have the Largest Impacts” in which the lead photo showed my youngest dog Quincy as a puppy when he climbed into the dryer to “help” me fold the laundry. The reader pointed out that it could have given already devious people new ideas for cruelty.
I also received advice to get my head out of its funk and get moving with my life — from people who had not experienced loss of anyone really close to them.
But most responses were positive, encouraging, supportive, understanding or appreciative. Here are some responses, which are corrected for spelling and punctuation:
Debra Simpson Blodgett on “Am I alone? The reality of sickness in life after a spouse’s death” : “Love your article. It sure is something to consider when I still have [my] spouse of 40 years. He is retired and 68 years old. He too putters and helps the neighbors a lot and is in and out of the house this time of year many times. Take care.”
On the same blog, Brianna LaPoint wrote: “Church isn’t my thing; aside from that, we all deal with things differently. My husband had a heart attack a few years ago and I know the day may come when goodbye is in order. As far as being cautious, life is about taking some risks. Otherwise you’ll be full of regret when the ride is over.”
Sharma Wood on “The art of coming home to an empty house“: “Julie I’m sure you’ve gotten all kinds of advice but here it is anyway. I told my dad let’s put mom’s pic on the table while you eat and it won’t feel so alone; he liked that so we left mom on the table to greet us when we would come back from a ride or an outing. They were married for 68 years and he said it left a black hole. I just tried to keep him from recessing into a can’t-get-out hole. He did well for most [of] 6 years and after prayers I would say I’m going to be alright whenever you’re ready I will be ok. He died at 96. Such memories we have.”
Mark Liebenow on “A lesson on living from a good friend and snowman snow”: “This is what people who grieve need to hear — that it’s okay to keep living and experience joy when you’re grieving, because grief is going to go on for a long time. It’s a tough nut to crack. Even when we know that our spouses would want us to be happy again, we still feel guilty for enjoying life when they no longer can. In a very short space, you speak of this tension.”
Donna J Prout on “How Quincy Time led me on a path of healing”: “I love your stories — they make me think about what is going on in my life and how I can better reorganize, prioritize, and just plain think.”
Maureen Walsh on “Trading an empty chair at home for a place at the counter”: “Julie, thanks for the beautiful article. You really got to the heart of it. I lost my husband last January to frontotemporal degeneration. He was ill for almost 4 years. We used to go to Chase’s [restaurant] until the last year of his life. I recently have been going back. It is a wonderful place. I, too, hate eating alone and have been eating out. My co worker and I are using your article tomorrow in a group we run. Feel so many can relate.”
On the same blog, Jennifer Libby Mitchell: “We lost my Dad to pancreatic cancer a year and a half ago. Your blog showed exactly what my Mom must feel. Hugs to you.”
Hugs to you too Jennifer, and to all of you who are dealing with grief.
The breadth of grief in our society is staggering. It’s something neither money, nor training, nor social status, nor origin can influence, and people from all cultures and all walks of life can share.
The message is obvious. Life can change in an instant. The pathway may seem clear and defined and straight and we are pushing full steam ahead, and suddenly, there is a curve, and we are forced to slow down, take stock, shift our load, maybe even change paths.
Some curves are more drastic than others. Some merely change where our footsteps fall on our way toward our destination, while others change our courses and destinations entirely.
Death tends to cause drastic kinds of changes. We have dealt with some of those from my perspective in this blog. But even some of the initial changes in my life already have changed again.