Surviving Emotional Chest Pain

Emotional chest pain is something I have had since the day Larry had his stroke.  I would sub-consciously find myself rubbing my breast bone and usually because my brain knew I was trying to alleviate the pain, it worked.

It never frightened me, it was just my heartbreak coming to the surface whenever I was triggered by a memory that shot me like an arrow down deeper into my grief wilderness.

The Accelerated Resolution Therapy I had helped greatly with this pain until yesterday when I started to go through old photos to make an album of us to share with my grief counselor and on social media with friends.

I found a photo I did not remember.  It was taken 15 years ago and when I saw it I know I stopped breathing for a moment.  Seeing that look in his eyes, that smile on his face broke my heart all over again.

Last night I allowed myself to be upset as I thought about my appointment with a new Cardiologist today.  I am all alone.  I have no one to go through the tougher things in my life with me including any devastating medical diagnosis.  When I got to the appointment my blood pressure was elevated because I was worried.  It all went well, I am fine.  I am healthy.  My heart is great and the doctor was awesome.

I also gained a few pounds and that is going to change starting next week.  Next week, why wait?  Yes, next week because I have some tough times to deal with this week, and I am spending the weekend with family members at Daytona and then Disneyworld.  I know I have to do better with my health because I am alone.  It is very scary to be alone.

I will be better for this man.

The love of my life.

 

Surviving an Over-Flowing Heart Filled with Love

Dammit references to love, lovers, hearts, flowers, chocolates, diamonds and more are everywhere right now.

We didn’t make a fuss on Valentine’s Day.  We loved each other every day and made sure that we both were very aware of that.  Our hearts were always full.

My heart was full watching Larry take care of the dogs.  He loved holding them, and they loved sitting on his lap.

My heart was full when we would make dinner together and he would smear some sauce on my cheeks and then kiss it off.

My heart was full when I saw him standing at every pit stop along the way in the Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk here in Tampa.

My heart was full when he would tape my feet with duck tape and change out my sox and shoes along the way to help me prevent blisters as I walked 60 miles for breast cancer awareness.

My heart was full when I crossed the finish line and he was standing there with a dozen beautiful pink roses.

My heart was full when I would walk out of the biopsy suite after having one more biopsy (again) and he would stand to hug me.

My heart was full in the grocery store where we would choose our favorite foods to create spectacular meals and he was always willing to go with me.

My heart was full when I saw our rental car approaching in Angers, France after he went missing for 45 minutes because he spoke no French and he was lost after dropping me off.

My heart was full when I walked into the Cardio/Thoracic ICU after his bypass surgery because he was in the OR so long.

My heart was always full, and it remains full to this day.  In fact, it is overflowing with love for a really great guy.

My dear readers, we are not promised tomorrow, please keep your hearts full of love for those you love, tell them, hold them, and do this as much and as often as you can.

Some say it was Tennyson, I could find no reference to that.

Surviving the Month, the Day, the Hour, and the Minute Life Changed Forever Part 1

 

I have read so much on the topic of surviving the time life changed forever.  It is fast approaching and I have been setting protective measures in place.

I have asked for phone calls and text messages and I am meeting with my bereavement counselor for about 90 minutes that day.  I will take my laptop and a thumb drive loaded with photos of our life, photos of Larry, and photos of us together and she and I will go through them as I talk about how many wonderful memories I have of my Cowboy, my Bear, my Larry.

I have been making changes already this month because it is a right of passage.

I sit here thinking about all I have done over the past year and so many things have prepared me for that date that hovers over my head, and I know I have done well.

I am a different person.  I am a widow and I detest that word. I couldn’t even type it when Larry first died.  I can type it now.  It’s an ugly word because society has made it an ugly word.  Even Garth Brooks sang about it “she was a lonely widow woman, hellbent to make it on her own.”  I do agree with the making it on my own part and being hellbent to do so.

So here I am almost a year later and in January I took my first step in joining a local woman’s business group because I need new friends.  I need to build a new reputation that matches where I live now.

I also joined a new group on Facebook that is an offshoot of a travel group I belong to there, and I am going to go to lunch with these ladies in March.

I am going to attend Widow’s Camp in Tampa for one day of the 3 days it is here at the end of March and I took a big step and told my bereavement counselor that I would like to try a group meeting again.

I tried group counseling before, it was too soon.  I still needed to have someone hold my hand one on one.  Now I realize I may be ready.

I look at the calendar trying to recall what we were doing a year ago every day and I find myself thinking that a year ago he only had so many more days to live and my eyes leak.

Yes, I am moving forward without Larry, however that doesn’t lessen the pain of missing him with every breath and everything that I do.

My heart will always be fractured.

Sadly it will never heal completely, how can it?

Surviving The Songs That Hurt Your Heart

I don’t know who posted this link on social media today, I am just grateful I found it because surviving the songs that hurt your heart get played.

My love of Carole King and James Taylor (ok throw in a little Carly Simon too) goes back years.

Tapestry, in my opinion, is one of the best albums ever produced and Larry and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Beautiful here in Tampa several years ago.

One night we sat in front of the TV to watch Live at the Troubador and we both had tears in our eyes from the memories of this great duo.

On May 15, 2018 we were at Amalie Arena in Tampa to spend time in concert with James Taylor in concert.  For the first time ever in my concert-going life, Larry bought me a souvenir t-shirt because he knew how much that night meant to me.  I will never wear it again.

It was September, 1992 when I received the news that my brother, Daniel William Hujber, had succumbed to his diagnosis of AIDS related Kaposi’s Sarcoma. I had sent my mother to be with him when I received word that he would die soon.

I was living in Richmond, VA and I quickly put together a Celebration of Life at the church we had attended for years in our hometown.

You can probably guess I chose Fire and Rain as a music selection to send our love for my brother up into the heavens.

And I cried.

I have several songs that bring me sadness when I hear them.

Simply the Best by Tina Turner because Larry watched me cross the finish line as that song was playing in a breast cancer relay when we had first met.

To Where You Are and You’re Still You by Josh Groban and written and sung in a TV episode about death.

You Are the Love of My Life by Sammy Kershaw, our wedding dance song and what I played over and over for Larry in hopes of bringing him back last year.

Last of all, of course, is Fire and Rain.

Music is tough at times, and then I will hear You Dropped a Bomb on Me by The Gap Band and I smile and laugh.  Larry said that was the top requested song at his nightclub and he would rock it out loudly when it played and we would get up and dance our booties off.

There you go and I hope you enjoy this Jane Pauley interview of James Taylor

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/james-taylor-looks-back-with-favorite-songs-and-old-stories/

 

 

 

Surviving Grief Exhaustion

Grief exhaustion is a very real thing.  I have learned to recognize it when it is attacking me.  I didn’t catch it over Christmas though because I didn’t know that what I felt or what was happening to me was grief exhaustion.

It’s very real.  It is debilitating.

Christmas was on a Wednesday and I barely remember Thursday, Friday or Saturday.  I was immobilized.  Shock waves had washed over me Christmas night and after a long crying session I just went to bed.  I couldn’t cope.  I couldn’t do it any longer, and I am a big believer in things looking better in the morning.

Except they didn’t really look better.  I would take care of Willie and go right back to bed and sleep.  This is not me.

I got up and tried to do life, I walked from room to room, I might have thrown a load of laundry in the washing machine and I might have remembered to put it in the dryer too.

There was no heart in me to propel me through the days after Christmas.

I faked it.  I was pissed off.  I yelled at inanimate objects.

I was numb, dazed, fatigued, exhausted because I thought erroneously that I could keep the “Carole Traditions of Christmas” happening.  That thinking was fucked up.

Now here I am again – I am grief exhausted.  I recognize the signs this time.

First of all, I had a long conversation with someone whose career I respect.  She told me to follow my nurse’s gut and I have been doing that for about 6 weeks now when I realized that the timeline of that night was skewed and I started to ask questions.

I know and I understand that nothing can change the outcome, Larry died, there is no bringing him back however, there are questions and I need answers.

This is exhausting me.

Then I went for my annual Chest CT because I am in a study, and this was the first time in 8 years that I went all by myself.  There was no lunch afterwards at our favorite Vietnamese Restaurant.  I also get to wait for my results to come in the mail.  We always opened that envelope together.

More exhaustion.

This afternoon I couldn’t work on my story.  My brain is just not cooperating.

Grief exhaustion.

I know when it is happening because I cry more often and I just go through the motions of my day.

I lost my phone today.  I almost had a nervous breakdown.  I dropped everything and went back to Publix and as I ran in the customer service person asked “Did you lose an iPhone?”  I almost fell to my knees.  I unlocked it to prove it was mine using facial ID and left the store sobbing.

Grief exhaustion.

I will survive grief exhaustion but it certainly kicks me square in the ass when it happens, and it leaves me feeling like this faded rose.

Surviving Grief in Gratitude

I was clueless when I first started to write how my story would unfold and eventually help others.  It truly amazes me that I receive messages of gratitude from so many people for putting my feelings out there.

This morning I read what I wrote at the very beginning and I had to stop reading and put the papers away.  It is still that raw.  It makes my heart hurt. I was in shock.  On the day we admitted him to hospice I was unable to wrap my head around the fact that Larry would never walk out of the hospital and into our home ever again.

Then I found this memory from Facebook that Larry had written on March 2, 2011:

I am sitting out on the lanai digesting a wonderful dinner with Carole.  3 dogs, 3 birds, great music, good wine, and good conversation about our future – thank goodness we have one – and thank goodness for being head over heels in love and being loved head over heels back. – Lawrence F. Sanek

And I cry.

This morning when I wrote my morning thoughts on Facebook as I do every day, I wrote about finding blessings in our lives.  Many times, are hearts are closed to the blessings staring us in the face.

One of the biggest blessings I have in my world, in my current wilderness is that my heart is not closed, and I have had amazing people walk with me.  Some of these people I did not even know a year ago yet here they are and they carry blessings with them.

I am certain people wonder about me.  They call me brave; they call me strong; they call me resilient, and they call me a friend.  I am a friend; I agree with that assessment.  Brave?  I am not always brave but I am determined.  Strong?  I cave and when I do my strength is replaced by tears that I have cried for hours.  Resilient?  Yes, I am, I bounce back, I fight back, I get it done.

You see I have always been this way, and it has helped me walk my new path.  I have always bounced back, I have always looked for the good, I have always seen the glass as half full and when it is not, I refill it.

We all have faced grief in our lives.  We have all had many things to grieve in our lives.  We cannot avoid grief.  Truth happens, and I have written about this before, the truth is that the grief we have from a loved one dying will impact every one of us.  I just choose to pull the love, the positive, the beauty, the laughter, the joy and every other wonderful thing out of 20+ years out of my memory bank and I allow all of this to wrap around me and hold my heart gently.

Yesterday I read an article about how the sudden death of a partner in life can throw us into PTSD.  I was diagnosed with this and with great therapy and ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) I have exited out the other side and walked into more sunshine in my wilderness.  In fact, the craggy sharp rocks that have bruised my heart have been replaced by sunny fields and I always see Larry there ahead of me letting me know how well I am truly doing.  I banish the rocks.

I thrive.  I refuse to only survive.  THIS is what Larry would want for me.

Surviving the Memories of the Best Vacation Ever

It was a hot August day when Larry came out into our Great Room to talk to me about his idea to take me on a trip that would give me the feeling of being in a Hallmark Channel movie.

Larry had never, in 20+ years of being together, planned a trip.  I was the planner, the organizer, the purchaser of the tickets and more.  When he shared his idea with me, I was truly touched because he had found the place on his own.  He even chose the hotel.  The rest was pretty much up to me to research; however, I didn’t mind.  I dug right in and planned every day as perfectly as I could.

I did discuss things with him, come on, I am not that controlling, and I left some days open for winery visits because we were going to the North Georgia mountains where Larry was sure that visiting Helen, Georgia would give me that romantic Hallmark Channel movie feeling.

It didn’t.

It was a huge tourist trap.  Thankfully it was the only day out of an entire week that was like that and I captured the feeling he wanted me to have when we went to other small towns.  Helen, Georgia is gift shop after gift shop, and restaurants that were not that good, and if you disagree with me that’s fine.  Disagree away, but we looked at each other and laughed about it all as we sat down with an alcoholic beverage outside Betty’s Country Store in rocking chairs. That store was cool, and that is where we bought B.E.A.R. jam and that jar will never be opened, it sits in my pantry, a souvenir of the town that we were not too excited about but that didn’t really matter because we were together.

I have been back to the North Georgia mountains twice since that trip.  I am blessed to have a friend with a cabin there and she always welcomes the company.

The first time I went back I also took some of Larry with me.  He loved the mountains.  He was so proud of himself for taking me there and finding it on his own.  I left some of Larry’s ashes in the wineries we visited, and I left some in the beautiful woods that we looked at while we were there.

I just returned again and this time I was in downtown Blue Ridge on my own, and I admit it was tough on my heart.  I could see Larry at the train station where they still have a working train.  I could see him sitting on a chair outside the ice cream store.  I could see him in the Blue Ridge Olive Oil Store where he tasted so many olive oils and vinegars and whipped out his credit card because he knew I would like to cook with these treasures.

I saw him in my favorite store there. He was picking things up, setting them down and then buying me a gift to remember the trip.

I met some fascinating women (and all of them tried to convince me to move there).  That’s not a possibility, I can’t handle cold weather any longer.  When my feet get cold, I am miserable, however I do plan to go back for a lengthy visit in warmer weather.  I can work there.  I can certainly write there.  And I want to interview someone who lives there who is also grieving for another book idea I have.

Truth be told, it was the best trip we ever took together.  We were in Paris twice, we had 10 days in Hawaii, we traveled all over the US, and all over the Caribbean, and we were in Mexico several times too.  These trips pale in comparison to our last trip, my Hallmark Channel love story trip, and that is why I go back.  I feel us there, I see Larry there, I see his beautiful smile, I feel my hand in his hand.

We went up to the top of Brasstown Bald and we made a video of ourselves being silly.  I have his voice on my phone and ye, it makes me cry.  This is part of what he said: “yes I am known as the Bear and yes the Bear is running loose on the mountain.”

Goodness I miss that man so much.

He loved the mountains so much, it surprised me because he was a water baby all his life.

Surviving Just Another New Year’s Eve

Surviving Just Another New Year’s Eve – Barry Manilow sang about it, another year of auld lang syne…

I am not being maudlin (isn’t that a cool word?) because actually the definition says that often tearful sadness is accompanied by booze.

I am drinking coffee.

It is just another night for me.  It was usually just another night for us.  We stayed up now and then but not that often.  I did find pictures from several different years that we went out and partied with friends, but most of the time we were sleeping when the ball drops.

I do have plans to drink a Chocolate Martini for dessert tonight with whipped cream – yes, I will do something decadent this evening and even allow Willie to have some whipped cream too.  Oh, the excitement is contagious, right?

To be completely honest I am relieved to rid my life of 2019.  I am truly looking forward to 2020 because I like even numbered years.  I was born in one.  I met Larry in one, we married in another.  We sold our house in Indiana in one and moved to Florida.

Bring on 2020.

To celebrate starting new I cleaned out my pantry and my kitchen cabinets of anything outdated, anything I will never use again, and I made room for new things that will come into my life as I expand my cooking horizons.  I get the itch now and then, and I know I will return to making new recipes.  I have saved quite a few and it is time to review them to see if they still ring my chimes in stimulate my appetite.

I admit I had cocoa from 2010.

Yesterday I spent time on a video call with friends who have started recording shows for a new podcast they will launch in 2020.  We have been communicating back and forth and several great books had been recommended to me that I have devoured, digested and am ready to spit out into my life, my purpose.

I spent the better part of the afternoon yesterday honing into the work I really want to do in 2020.  Long story short, I made a list of all the projects I wanted to do and with the help of one of the best books I have ever read on the topic of getting your ideas from start to finish I was able to take 20 projects down to 5 and the 15 that left the list are not coming back.  I said goodbye to them.  I am not sad about it, I am relieved.

One such project was finding more clients.  If they come on their own that is awesome but I am not actively going to look for them.  Another one I let go of was the thought of having a new podcast.  I don’t want one.  I realized that yesterday.  Big relief.

What did end up on my list of course is writing.  Writing all 3 books I have running around in my head, yes to writing as often as I can.  This is the #1 project on my list.

The second one is #ThriveLive it is still a big important project in my life because this week I had people I do not know tell me they watch, and that I inspire them.

A big number 3 is travel and it is a big project because I want to expand my horizons.  I want to meet new people.  I crave new adventures.  I think I have found where I will spend Christmas day too.

Helping others

is the 4th item and that isn’t hard to do.  I do it by writing.  I do it on Facebook Live, and I do it by being a guest on a podcast.

Speaking of being a guest on a podcast, that is my 5th project combined with being a guest on a TV show.  Go big or go home and I am going big.  In 2020 I will guest on many podcasts as well as I will be on TV.  Yesterday when I wrote my morning thoughts I wrote “I have fans!”  I do, and I am going to have more.

BAM I am off to a good start.  5 doable projects that will keep me busy.

I will see you all here next month, next year, and in the next decade.

Happy 2020!

 

I welcome 2020 with joy.

 

Surviving the Shock of the Change that Comes with Grief

One minute we were finishing dinner and enjoying a glass of wine and in the blink of an eye Larry had a massive stroke and died in my arms.  Talk about the shock that comes with change, this was classic PTSD.

Suddenly things that mattered to me every damn day of the week were ripped to shreds and thrown into the wind.  Grief changed my priorities and the things that mattered to me.

The world opened up and swallowed me whole.  When it spit me back out, I did things because they were habit.  I fed and watered the dogs, fed and watered the birds, I drank coffee and I lost 25 pounds.  Eating wasn’t a priority.  Cleaning the house wasn’t a priority.

I didn’t give a f*ck about much, certainly not what was going on around me.

I did read like a fiend though.  I read everything I could get my hands on about how I was supposed to feel in grieving.  Fortunately, I did not take to my bed and weep uncontrollably.  No, I did all this research and doing it brought me value as to my new priorities and the things that truly matter to me.

I had set backs along the way.  I have come to the conclusion that the most roller coaster set of emotions we will ever have to roll with are the ones that come when someone we love dies.

On top of all this emotional baggage comes those who say “you should” and “you need” and I call bullshit on any sentences that begin with either of those words.  What I should have had happen and what I really needed to have happen was for Larry to walk back in the door, sit down and have another glass of wine with me.  Anyone who even tries to put those words in front of me gets a look that freezes them to the core.

I made the decision to sell our house and move.  You would have thought I had announced I was joining a commune in Tibet from the responses that were thrown at me.

I understand that rash decisions can be made in emotional times, my decision was not rash at all.  The house was becoming a money pit.  It was too big for me to care for and the yardwork was too much also.  I put $10,000 into the house just to get it sold.  It was paid off, the money was mine to use to purchase a home where I would have things taken care of for me, and it all turned out just fine.

I am not living where I dreamed, however I live where I am safe.  I am living maintenance-free. I live with the freedom of not having to pay to have a new roof put on or pay to have the exterior of my home painted.  I made it my castle, my domain.

Along the way ideas started to occur to me.  Once my brain dialed back on the overwhelm it felt daily, I started to see possibilities for new priorities and new things that matter to me.  I realized that I can travel, and in realizing that it came to me I could stay somewhere of my choosing for several months if I wanted to do that.

I am finally working on my book, Fractured.  As I began to write it two more books that I want to write jumped out of my healing brain and have made it to sticky notes on a poster board that I keep hidden from my view to avoid distractions.

Then a relapse happened, and they will happen.  Christmas brought a big one into my world.  I wrote about it earlier this week.  I am finally feeling like my new self again however the grief was exhausting.  I was so exhausted I actually would go back to bed in the morning and sleep for several hours.

That was when I realized that I will not ever be alone during the holidays again.  Strong words, I know, however I don’t have to be alone and I don’t want to be alone. It is easy to be alone, we all do it in our lives.  In fact, it is sometimes really easy to be alone when the energy that we need to pretend to be alright is debilitating as mine was.

Over this past weekend I spent a lot of time researching places I can go next Christmas where I can be with people and raise a glass in kindness to mankind.  I can do this because I know Larry will be right there with me smiling from ear to ear because he will be so proud of me.

I am not there yet but I am closer than I was a week ago and my priorities now are to make me happy.  What matters to me is that I do what makes me feel good, not what other people tell me I should (there is that word again) do to make myself feel good.

2020 will bring new adventures, there will be relapses I am sure, I will wield my shield and deflect them as best I can, because I can answer that question I often ask on my #ThriveLive talks on Facebook Live.  What matters to you(?) is the question.  You see people don’t often ask me what matters to me.  I usually write about it on social media, in this blog and in writing my book.

I matter to me, my happiness matters to me.  Simple and direct answer, right?  Tell me, what matters to you?

 

I often use this design i created on my Thrive Live page as a timeline cover

Surviving the Realization That Holiday Traditions Died Too

There are times when my grief brain keeps me from making a connection possibly it is protecting me from sadness and overwhelm and I am grateful for that.
 
Take yesterday for example when it hit me that when Larry died so did every tradition we created together. I had not thought about that until Christmas Day was over and I was relieved to take the tree down.
 
Losing the traditions adds to my grief, your grief, our grief. They are all gone. People kept telling me it would be different, and I must have had cotton in my ears because I plodded along decorating, listening to music, eating cookies, opening cards and making the traditional dinner.
 
The dinner is what broke me. That was when I realized it was all gone and never coming back and for a short time I wished I was gone too. Don’t get alarmed, please, these were manifestations in my mind of everything that I have lost and coping with it at times makes me wish we were together. Until you are unfortunately in the same place you won’t completely understand the pain of the reminders.  At times it all becomes so overwhelming I just go to bed.
 
That leaves me with decisions about 2020 and while I have tabled them for now I know that soon I will decide what to do with everything. We have a huge collection of special ornaments I will offer to the kids. There are many things that I can sell and/or donate.
 
That annoying tree is being boxed up today and will leave the building much like Elvis always did after his concerts.
Death does not give us lemons.  There is no lemonade to be made out of it.
While my grief brain protected me for as long as it possibly could when the realization hit me I became that person that couldn’t move.  I couldn’t function.  I didn’t want to do a damn thing.
I keep writing about how I am responsible for my own happiness but I couldn’t find any.  I did find so many tears my eyes were still swollen yesterday when I woke up.  Ugly crying lead to ugly eyes for sure.
I had presents, I had phone calls, I had Willie but I was still alone like I have been many times over the past 10 months.   I will not allow that to happen in 2020.  Without a doubt being alone in grief is the worst feeling, the worst pain I have ever felt.  I ask myself was it because I was alone or was it because I miss Larry so damn much.
I am not feeling sorry for myself, I am making myself promises that I will not allow this to be a habit.  Being alone will not be my new tradition.  This means finding new people in my life, building new friendships, finding like-minded people to set new traditions.
It might mean being in a different city, or a different country.  There is absolutely no reason for me to stay here.  I have used Willie as an excuse to not travel.  This morning I said to myself that Willie has no concept that 12/25 is Christmas, she is a dog, every day is Christmas in her life.
Yesterday a friend asked me to not use the word “never” in a thought I had shared.  I realized she is hoping I will change and embrace the season here.  I can’t do this again, not ever, so never had propelled me to find my new traditions and throw myself into them with joy because that is what Larry would want for me.  Larry will be the force behind helping me next Christmas.
He will be with me wherever I am.