Out of the Depths … more on grief

This summer has been the absolute best and the absolute worst for me. As summer started I felt kind of cranky. As I told you in my post about getting a new job, I love my family. I love my adult kids. I love the grandkids but I was in a funk. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel like I had my own life. I felt like I had too big of a role in raising my grandkids. I didn’t feel like I was living the life I wanted.

I really didn’t know what to do about it. I really didn’t know why I was in the funk.

One day my daughter Kalissa and I got into a bit of a disagreement…Nothing terrible…nothing long-lasting. Definitely needed. I think we both just had a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation. We totally love each other and we are all good now. In the end, we both know that this disagreement is exactly what needed to happen are, and both so thankful it did.

In the disagreement, Kalissa told me she didn’t think I was happy. I was kind of defensive about that. Hmm. I kind of mulled that over for a long time. Then I started to question myself. Was I happy? Hmm. After some thinking, I didn’t know that I was. I was existing. I had happy moments. I smiled. I laughed. But, inside, was I happy and content with my life? The answer was no.

That’s about the time I started doing some things I didn’t normally do.

-I met up with Ray and the gang in Rochester. Typically, I would have avoided that.
-I started saying no to childcare for the grandkids sometimes
-I went to a cross stitch retreat and really didn’t go with a friend.
-I made plans to go to another retreat in September.
-I got a “town” job.

I didn’t know how to really explain it but I started to feel like I was coming out of my shell.

Then a few days ago, this showed up on one of the thyroid cancer groups that I follow. I was a chart listing the grief process steps. This can also be applied to people going through a crisis or adjustment.

I was reading through it and something under the depression section caught my eye and GLARED at me. It said, “isolate or overly involved with others”. OH, MY WORD!

…a little background if you’re new. I lost my husband in June of 2019 to lung cancer. It was 129 days from diagnosis to death. He was 57 years old and I was 53.

I have seen MANY Greif Cycle charts. Why had I never noticed “isolate or overly involved with others” before when seeing these charts? I think this one was just slightly different or worded just a bit differently…but this was me and I didn’t even know or realize it. I was “overly involved with others” and those others were my family.

I was waking up in the morning. I was looking at their schedules and totally adjusting my day to their day. I would anticipate that Craig would be having a fireman meeting and that Kalissa would be working and I’d need to watch the boys. No one would have asked me to…I would just assume on my own that it would be happening. I would plan my day accordingly. This was no one’s fault. It just happened. I didn’t speak up…I don’t think any of us knew that my “living for them” was actually a sign that I wasn’t doing well.

I seriously thought all along that I was doing great..and for the most part, it didn’t get bad until early June…then July is when Kalissa questioned me on whether I was happy or not.

Oh my word…a week or so later, I was a new person. It was the strangest thing ever. It was like a cool breeze of real happiness.

I was doing many of the things on the chart…

-I was letting go of the old ways
-Willing to see and try new directions
-Accepting new ways

I am making adjustments…

-in activities and routines
-in outlook
-in priorities
-in thoughts beliefs and attitudes

Who knew? Who knew a simple statement from Kalissa saying, “I don’t think you’re happy”, would be a catalyst to get me moving in a better direction?

I can’t begin to tell you how much better I feel.

I’ve been examining everything in my life…
Do I really want to save childcare things I’ve had for years? No
Will I ever go back to childcare…NO. No, I won’t.
Do I want to be the grandma that doesn’t go to the party and stays home to watch the grandkids? Nope. I’m open to some but not all the time.
Do I want to get up early in the mornings or stay up late at night? On workdays, I’m fine to get up early but otherwise, I want to be a night owl.
Do I want to eat steak for supper or would I rather have tuna? Seriously some of each but tuna more often.
Do I want this big of a garden? I think Nope.

The whole experience has been very enlightening. I don’t have to base my choices according to everyone else.

For example, I’ve had a bigger garden with the anticipation of other people wanting produce. Wait, What? I end up planting MUCH more than I need…more work for me. Then when I go to give it away, they don’t need any. For the last four years, since my husband passed, I’ve still planted a big garden. I don’t need to do this. I can free up some time. I can free up some space in my garden and in life.

WOW. That was revolutionary for me. I know it sounds crazy but I realized, I am not responsible for planting a garden to feed my adult children and their children too. I can plant a small garden all my own. I have always wanted to plant extra rows of flowers and have cut flowers in the house over the summer. I can do that now because I can put myself first and make choices for myself.

I know many of you are saying “Duh Jo” or “It’s about time, Jo”…but that’s what grief can do. It can cocoon you and make you think the actions are protecting you, and at the moment, they kind of are…but the truth is, that cocoon is grief and it was holding me back from being HAPPY!!

The weight has been lifted off me…it’s funny. For the last few years, I didn’t know I was weighed down. I feel so much better. Much less worrying…many more spontaneous choices…many more choices that put me first. My brain feels so much better. I’m not trying to keep everyone’s work schedule in my brain. I’m not trying to figure out how I am going to fit myself into my own life because I am making some choices that put myself first…not every choice is me first but many are…and honestly, it feels so good.

One drawback is that I am cleaning and pitching stuff out like crazy and it’s taking up some of my crafting time but hey…I’m on a roll getting some stuff done that is LONG overdue. I threw out or donated three kitchen garbage bags of stuff from my bedroom. I took two carloads of stuff and donated it to a childcare provider here in town. It’s wonderful. Nothing around me is safe because I’m making choices right and left on what is staying and what is going!!

It’s so weird that this really all triggered when Kalissa said, “I don’t think you’re happy”.

…and that’s how I came out of the depths of four years of processing grief. Wow…what a long haul. It’s truly the hardest thing I’ve done…and will continue to do. There is more work to be done, and that’s the true story of how grief works….but I’ve never felt better about myself and my progress after losing my husband.

If you ask me if I am happy now, the answer is YES!!

38 thoughts on “Out of the Depths … more on grief”

  1. When I read thru the post, I could feel the weight and it being lifted in your words. Good lessons for your adult kids (and all of us.) Now you will refind Jo.

  2. Congratulations! I was one who isolated as much as possible even though I worked two jobs and took college classes in the evenings. I’ve always been somewhat of a loner but honestly I didn’t want anyone besides my immediate family in my life because I was tired of all the nosey questions and people telling me how I should act after my husband passed away 11 days after being diagnosed with cancer.

    I have remarried and have a daughter in elementary school. A few years ago I made the decision to follow my dreams, expand my garden and be a stay-at-home mom. As of this year I’m officially classified as a farm and am truly happy though my sewing time in the warmer months has diminished. I also volunteer at my daughter’s school and with two other organizations but have learned to put my priorities and needs first.

  3. Meredith in Cincinnati

    What a wonderful, thought-provoking post! Thank you for saying these things. I’m sharing this post with friends.

  4. Jo, you also survived Covid-19, and the two years of isolation we all went through. Congratulations on being able to let go of some feelings and lots of extra stuff!! It’s very true, you don’t have to provide everything for your children and grandchildren now. They are older and more capable too, and in better health. I really like that particular grief chart. Thank you for posting it. We all have to handle grief in our lives at some point. At church last Sunday, a speaker talked about losing her mother, a son and a grandson within a 2 year period. Her belief in Jesus Christ, and eternal life, helped her through it all.

  5. Jo, I am truly happy for you. Grief is weird – it’s different for everyone. Unless one has been through it, you don’t understand.
    Kudos to your dd for seeing it. It’s hard when someone else spots something and you’re like, “nope – not me” and then all of a sudden… ;-)
    Keep going!
    Love and prayers

  6. You’ve turned an amazing and difficult corner in your life. The emotional work you’re doing is beyond description. The relationship you have with Kalissa allowed the words and here you are. Yea Kalissa for insight and bravery to create the discussion leading to introspection.

    And clearing your home? Every bag will make you feel lighter and freer. Congrats on this work too!

  7. As the years go by, you will have more breakthroughs into what you need to do for yourself. My late husband passed away 26 years ago on September 9. Each year as September 1 rolls around, I would get a little anxious. However this year, I forgot completely until September 13. I still miss him and I remember him constantly but this year marked a freedom from pain over his death. You had a great thing happen when you explored your own happiness. Good for you that you are making changes.

  8. So many times you’ve shared your growing through grief. Such a help to many of us—you always strike a chord in my heart and mind. I’m so happy you’re finding your happy place!! I can’t wait to see your garden next year!

  9. What a thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing! Everyone deserves happy, but finding a way there after immense loss is a struggle.

  10. What an awesome post! My husband is going through grief from losing his dad recently, so I’m printing out that chart. Not only will it help him with his grief, but it will help me to understand his moods. My dad is also having health issues right now, so this may come in hand for my mom if things go south. What perfect timing. I’m so glad you have realized that you can live for “you”, not everyone else. I’ve always been that way, but I have always been very independent, even as a kid. My husband is the other way…always doing things in light of what others would want. I finally convinced him that certain things need to just be for us….like not having a living room full of furniture when we never invite company over. Or, not remodeling our kitchen for the person who might later buy the house…build it for how we want to use it now! He has finally come on board…yay! So glad to see you have put yourself first in your life and are finding your happiness again!

  11. Thank you so much for this post. This year has been a rough one (my daughter in law decided to take her own life just before Easter), and reading through this I can see some of myself. And understand some of my frustrations at having to do things I don’t want to do, yet do because I feel that I should be doing more for my widower son and three motherless grandchildren. I need to find the balance between helping them and taking care of myself (and dealing with my own grief).

  12. My mom never got past isolation. Then came drinking. Her last years were miserable. I’m so proud of you. Your kids are awesome and you are moving ahead on your own. You go Jo!!

  13. This post made me happy! Good for you, Jo, and good for Kalissa. My daughter recently said to me, “You’ve been taking care of others your whole life. It’s time to take care of yourself.”

  14. One great BIG HUG all the way from Florida!! I have always been told that you have to love yourself and have to take care of yourself before you can do that for others. I want to help others and try every day to make sure I take care of me. Thanks to you and longarming I get to take care of me through the contacts and creativity and help others with quilts. A real WIN/WIN. Keep at it. Every day is a new day that YOU get to decide what works best for YOU!

  15. All I can say is wow Jo. And all the comments were so supportive. Sometimes the content you put out there not only show how you help yourself but help so many others. It’s a breath of fresh air.

  16. I am so glad Kalissa made that statement. From all the blogs you wrote, you seemed happy, but as a reader I couldn’t tell otherwise. There certainly is a happy medium from always caring for your family (kids) to just having them come for a visit to enjoy the time with you. Enjoy your new found life!!

  17. This is such good news, Jo! And, exactly what I and a few others needed to hear. I will forward the link along with a note. I haven’t seen that grief chart before. Thank you for sharing that too.

  18. Jo…I lost my boyfriend of 20 years and, like you, I kept busy….never even started the grieving process for 2 years. Finding a life purpose was key to my recovery. I am so pleased you to have done the internal work necessary to reclaim yourself. Good for you! Julie H.

  19. Bless you for all you do and now you can also enjoy your life! Grief is different for everyone, the chart you posted
    is excellent.

  20. So glad you shared this thing called grief. It’s difficult and different for each of us. So glad your healing and happier.

  21. Shirley from Calmar

    I am so happy for you. Been there done that. No need to be super human. It’s ok if you revert back once in awhile, because at that moment it might be what YOU need. Some times it’s ok to accomplish nothing. I some times have a hard to accept that, but that was ok, because that is what is needed at that time. I love this grief chart and plan to share it.

  22. Jo, I lost my husband about 4 months after you. I could see Jim declining and knew that his time was short. He went fishing one afternoon with a friend and didn’t come home. He suffered a heart attack at some point fell into the lake, his pacemaker/defibrillator went off rendering him unconscious and thus drowning. This year has been the most challenging of the past four years. I have been on that u-curve coming up out of depression not really knowing what it was until reading your post yesterday. I had pulled back from a lot of activities and was beginning to look for new avenues of adventures and making adjustments in my live. Thank you, Jo, for sharing your ups and downs in this life of widowhood…sometimes it’s not easy to navigate. Blessings to you and your family.

  23. Hi Jo,
    I would read your blog and always wonder how you fit all of the childcare, fostering animals, quilting, sewing, baking, gardening, charity work, and then at the end of the day you would say, “I only stitch at night for a few hours” Well, you were probably exhausted from all of the other activities. Now you can wake up and plan a WHOLE day of stitching or doing whatever YOU feel. Yes, isolation serves it’s purpose for a little while, but I’m so glad to read you broke free of it, and sounds like you’re going to enjoy YOUR time now. I’m happy for you. :) Blessings to you and your family.

  24. Margaret Van der Ree

    Hi Jo
    let ur daughter find her own babysitter they live longer then u that
    is my advise grow up girl (daughter) be happy u still have a mom.
    Edmonton A.B Canada.

  25. Jo, I’m so glad you gave yourself permission to put yourself first a lot more often. Doing things that make ourselves happy are so important to our mental health. I’m trying to do that, too. You wrote about so many things I hadn’t even thought about before. What a great post. Thanks for sharing!!

  26. Dear Jo, I am so happy to hear that you are doing some things for you. I have been married for 58 years and still have my husband but lost my daughter a year ago and all of a sudden I have started grieving .I think I have been so busy helping my family and her family through it I haven’t thought of me. But I also noticed I am sleeping all the time . I am praying for you .

  27. Grief is difficult and takes us down different paths. I’m so pleased that Kalissa said what she was seeing and that you were open to hearing it. Enjoy doing and being you and whatever path that takes you.

  28. It’s easy to get so caught up in people pleasing you forget your own happiness. I’m glad you took time to allow your self to rationalize what’s important for the life you’re living. I’m sure your family was just thinking that mom is just being her generous self. (Kids don’t really think about the happiness aspect of their parents.) But your daughter saw the right switch to flip and help you through was has been a hard couple of years. Praying for you Jo – as you do so much for your family, friends and community.

  29. thank you for your thoughtful message about grief and depression. I appreciate your wisdom and wish you the best as a Happy Jo.

  30. Just found a utube that is great, I have lost a grandson to cancer. This site is help full lots of different topics on grief.
    One Happy Widow

  31. OMG I have been wanting to say that you do to much for others, but hey to Each Her Own!!!! Good to hear that you are taking care of you!

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