Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There is a Time ....

.... for mostly .... everything.
Even time for things that at other times .... look very negative.

Like Selfishness.

There is a time for selfishness .... and I had that time.  I needed that time.  I needed it in order to survive. 

Grieving demands selfishness.  
At no other time in one's life must a person think ONLY of her/him self, sometimes at the cost of losing friends, upsetting many people, or even not parenting in the best possible way.
But when one is drowning in grief, the only thing they are able to do .... is breathe.  
And sometimes .... even that is almost too painful.

So yes, I've been selfish.
And yes, I've upset people and even lost a friend over it.  
Some people do not, can not, or will not understand the very thin rope that grievers are trying to grasp.  
For whatever reason, they don't see that we are barely clinging to sanity. 
And so they leave.  
Which probably turns out to be a very good thing.

There's nothing like a huge tragedy to open your eyes to who your friends really are. 
Friends who know what love means.  
And what sacrifice means.  And what "hanging in there" means.

Not only was I barely clinging to that very frayed life rope, I was being knocked around by the probability that my 6 children might die from what killed Jim, the death of my sweet and loving mother in law 5 months after Jim died, and then by a cancerous tumor found in my body.  
I couldn't even grieve Jim's death as fully as I needed to.  
When I permit myself to look back at that time, which I don't do often, I am amazed that I am still here.
Totally amazed.

And very thankful to my family and friends who loved me through every moment of it .... who didn't expect me to "be there" for them, knowing that I couldn't even "be there" for myself.

I have been blessed abundantly.  
Many widows lose more than one friend.  Lots more.
That shows the caliber of friends that I do have.
I owe so very much to them.  
Yet all I can do, and all they care that I do, is to love them.
And I do.


  1. What a wonderful post. It is truly sad that we can't tell all our friends and family that we just can't be there for them because we are barely hanging on. Unfortunately, distance has grown between family members who expect too much from me and my children. We are just coming up on one year.

    Thank you!

  2. I lost a few friends...first the ones who could not deal with TJ's illness and then those who could not deal with my grief. I think I am better off without them because the ones that have stuck by me are my true friends. Yes, I too have been very selfish and frankly I am not ashamed of it at all, it is what I need & needed.

  3. I think it is wonderful that you wrote this post, because so many of us widows have not understood that it is ok to be selfish. It is interesting that some people I did not expect to be as good of friends as they turned out to be, some stayed the same, but others completely let me down, because they were selfish in not understanding how deep our pain could be.

  4. Our story in a nutshell...I generally don't speak about it because I can't afford the luxury of feeling sorry for myself, or I will drown. From 2003 until 2009 (when husband passed) he suffered two different cancers (horrible surgery and chemo, but he beat them, we had hope). And then during the second one, while under treatment, he started exhibiting odd behavior. After many Dr. visits, much confusion and frustration, he was diagnosed with dementia, nobody really knew which one (alzheimers, lewy body, vascular) which followed with about four years of him being housebound (me too, except to go to work, at which time I had to hire companions, then nurses aides to be with him). Behaviors were progressively difficult and heartbreaking, and the grand slam was that he fell while wandering one night and broke his leg. Next several months were hospitals, surgery, rehabs, he never walked again. The very worst time was a six week stay in a private assisted living facility which I visited daily and in the beginning was told they had the experience to care for him, and then realized they were way over their head and they should not have admitted him in his condition (which in my shock, horror and fear, I probably missed a few signals). Then Hospice, he was unable to recover at that point. Three weeks later, I lost him. Twenty eight years of marraige, a child, and no regrets until the assisted living, which I will never forgive myself for. Don't get me going on how dementia patients are treated in facilites, it is a constant battle just to get decent care, you have to be in absolute warrior mode every minute at a time when you are terrified and sad beyond belief. It is a year and a half later, and I still wonder where the hell my brain was. All I knew was he could not walk, was confined to a wheelchair from which, in his dementia, he did not understand he could not get up from and walk, so I wanted him home with all of my heart but knew I could not lift him or keep him from getting hurt. I felt like I had no options. Talk about friends running? All but one of ours took to the hills, and I handled everything by myself. Nobody coming to offer respite or help for us. And both of us helped many of them over the years. I juggled a hundred balls every day for a long time, fighting so hard for his life, and in the end lost the war. It is a sad truth that those we hope will be there for us are cowards. I am now taking it one day at a time, with alot of sad and horrific memories of the last few years of the man who was my brightest light. God bless all of our loved ones who became so vulnerable and sweet as their light left them. Thanks for listening to all of you out there.

  5. Thank you for this post. I've lost a couple of friends, who actually came right out and accused me of selfishness as if it was an unforgivable sin... and I've had a few others just drift away. Sometimes I second guess myself, start to wonder if I really am to blame. I guess I needed someeone who has walked this same dark path to tell me that it's OK. Thank you.

  6. ((((hugs)))) to you all. Your bravery in facing your grief and your courage to say, "right now, I need to be selfish" is powerful and beautiful.

  7. anon above - you did the very very best you could at the time. Don't let anyone (even yourself) tell you any different. The decisions that have to be made are horrific and we've all had one or two that can be second-guessed or "monday morning quarterbacked". It does no good to beat yourself up over it. Realize that you are a good, strong person who did not deserve any of this and neither did he. Life just really sucks sometimes.

  8. I have a friend who is driving me away. She of all people should understand how hard things were when my husband was sick and dying, she should understand first hand how hard things are for me now. Yet she is the one who is consistantly asking me to babysit her two girls, she is the one who calls me at ten at night to complain about little things that are bothering her. And now seven months after losing my husband, being on my own with four young children, a home to take care of and lots of responsibilities...she is the one being selfish. Tonight at my son's school concert she stood next to me while I held my sleepy, crying three year old and talked about how difficult this month must be for me being that it is my husband's birthday, the one year anniversary of his diagnosis and valentine's day.(As if I needed reminding!) She went on to talk about his diagnosis and illness and the hell we went through with surgeries and chemo and radiation and all the things that happened to him. I didn't get to focus on my son on the stage, singing with his classmates. And to top it all off, she asked me to babysit her two girls tomorrow. If I could be half as selfish as she is I would be better off I think. And some wonder why we isolate ourselves? This is why.

  9. Great reflection on how complicated life becomes for us, and others, when we are grieving. I had a great amount of support, for a short while, then it seemed to disappear. I felt like my friends should have made more of an effort, but I just kept making excuses for them. In the end I decided to leave, just up and move, as I had changed too much to remain where I was.

    In hindsight, I'm glad I moved, but not much has changed. I still find myself alone most of the time.

  10. Michelle, I deeply, truly hope that you told this "friend" that you would NOT babysit for her! Please forgive me for giving you advice that you didn't ask for, but PLEASE do not take her calls, or let her get close enough to you to keep sucking the life out of you! She is horrible for your health, mental as well as physical. If you want .... you can email me her phone number and I'll call her!!
    Heaven help the person who is confronted by a pissed-off widow!!! Or a lot of us! :)

  11. Janine, thank you. I was so angry with myself that night for letting her do that to me. I didn't babysit for her because my oldest has been sick anyway and I had made her a doc appt. I have decided to distance myself from this person. She is just too much for me. I used to be able to do all of these things she asked before my husband got sick. But things are so different now and she just doesn't see that. I am still able to be home with my kids and I am so grateful for that, but because I am home it doesn't mean I am available the way I used to be. I was so angry that night I was actually online looking at homes for sale in other towns. I felt like a crazy person, letting my emotions take me to such a place that I just felt like running away. This is why I love connecting on this website, I can relate to so much of what is on here, and to have you validate my feelings of frustration with my friend feels so good and made me smile. Thank you!!!!!!

  12. Thanks, Michelle.
    Believe it or not (and I'm sure you do) .... I was at that place tonight .... "letting my emotions take me to such a place that I just felt like running away". So seeing your post was great. Yes, sad to say, I still find myself in the middle of those moments, but the good new is ..... I don't stay in those moments very long anymore. My "saner" side has started taking more control and she slaps the emotional side into reality .... after a few minutes.
    But man .... those few minutes can be pretty crazy!
    You made me feel better, too. And smile.
    Thank you.

  13. There comes a point in your life when you realize:

    Who matters,
    Who never did,
    Who won't anymore...
    And who always will.
    So, don't worry about people from your past,
    there's a reason why they didn't make it to your future.