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is there a "happy ever after"?



Sometimes when I am down in the dumps I examine my hurt and pain and say:"no-one truly understands" which makes me shudder when I realise how many platitudes I have used on others during their time of grief. Honestly I had lost close friends and older relatives but I never realised how different it was to lose a spouse. In my role as a Chaplain or counsellor others had come to me looking for some comfort and I hope that is what they went away with. I doubt that my "expertise" was sufficient to even glimpse the depth what they were going through though.


I have been a telephone counsellor, a volunteer Chaplain and though my work in the church someone people turn to in times of trouble. I have done my best to help people see the way ahead more clearly and reassure them of their worth, and in some cases help them find a new purpose. I don't think any of that is special, all you need is an ability to relate to others, to put youself in the same position. What I do think is special is making yourself available to people in their times of trouble and for that I am thankful for this site and others like it that provide us with an opportunity to have others share in our journey. Even now in my grief I am glad for the Strokenet extended family that gives me such support..


I do understand that some of the comments I leave on the forums or blogs may be unhelpful, not because I don't want to help but simply because I am not in a position to do so. I lived for many years with a stroke survivor, my dear husband Ray, but that does not mean I am able to even imagine what it is like to day after day live in a body with limited capabilities. We all look for help when we are vulnerable and in need and in some hurtful cases yes,we fail people. People have told me I'll never know what they are going through etc and I know they are right. Of course I do not know what they are going through. But I do want to reach out and comfort them in some way, as much as I know how.


I can't say that having been a counsellor helps my own pain. I know all the theory but how do you apply that to your own hurt? Of course I still mourn the loss of my husband Ray in September and my Mum in November, it is hard to lose those you have loved deeply and for a lifetime, and I guess that the pain of that loss will remain for however long it takes me to work through it. I can't do anything else but go through the pain and hopefully I'll come out into the sunshine again.In the meantime it is one day at a time.


I have been reading a book by Henri Nouwen on Christian Leadership and he points out how helpless we are in the face of another's trouble. We try to get along side them, to give gentle advice and to show understanding but in the end all the one in trouble needs may be a hand on the shoulder or a reassuring presence. Words are never enough.Our greatest need is a sense of belonging, all other needs pale into insignificance beside that.To join a community like the one we find here can have a restorative effect as we once more regain a sense of belonging.


I guess that is why support groups are so vital and that unconditional love we feel when people really listen to us. That is why coming to a place like Strokenet for a lot of people is the beginning of healing and why I am still here. I still need that love and support that is offered by a support group like this. I may no longer be a caregiver but the strokes that affected Ray's and my life still have a hold over me. The way Ray died was a result of the strokes and so that shadow is still here, I may be an ex-caregiver but I will never forget those years and the effect they have had on my life.


Next Monday I go to the second grief counselling session. I moslty cried through the first session, I hope not to do that next time. I want to remain in my head and ask some of the questions that are on my mind, like what steps I need to take to find myself moving forward. I realise that that is probably the wrong question and comes out of my feelingds that I do not like being out of control and that is why I feel so uncomfortable now. We all feel out of control after a crisis or a trauma and losing your husband or wife in most circumstances is a trauma. So maybe I just have to accept being out of control for a while is my "new normal" and not ask too many questions because I am not going to like it if there are no answers.


All of us live with that sense of hopelessness and powerlessness in the way that stroke intrudes on our comfortable lives. We have made plans and they have now come to nothing but life deals us many a blow and somehow we learn to live with the consequences. We all do a bit of tamtrum throwing when that happens. Of course we all say: "why me?" as I sometimes do now. In my selfish way I want this painful time to be over and for me to get to the "happy ever after" stage of my life. But given my past record that is not going to happen. I am not sure there is a "happy ever after" in my future.


Instead, as usual, I will have to commit to acceptance, of where I am, where I am going and where I will finish up. And enjoy the journey and the view along the way.I will get through it as bravely as I can, remembering to smile and "fake it till you make it".


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At the end of the storm will come the rainbow........it may be a ways off for you, but it will be there. You have weathered many a storm in the past and always come through a stronger person. You have two new guardian angels watching over you now.



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Sue, I am reminded of what Lesley a former RN was always told at work about what pain the patient was having she was told "pain is whatever the patient says it is", much truth in that. If the person says it is excruciating then it is. If they say little, then it is. That advice not only applies to physical but also mental pain. It is what it is for each of us. No one else can know what anyone else is going thru. I remember when I first posted here you wished that Ray had my determination, etc. If I had to go thru what he did, perhaps I would not have been so brave. Not all the thoughts I had immediately after my stroke were positive, I assure you. If he had been in my circumstance, who knows, maybe the result would have been different for him. Yes I have lost both parents and a spouse. But even then although I have an idea about some of your pain, I cannot know it exactly. The only advice I give is to deal with each day by itself, do what interests you that day, if nothing does, force yourself do something anyway. Best wishes.

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Sue, that's the question and just maybe only a hand full knows the real answer that has traveled the road you have for the last 15 years or more and know what you had to deal with for your dad, husband then your mom. I hope I can be half as strong as you without breaking down. You are a very, very strong woman and not many could have traveled that same road you did for that many years. My heart goes out to you all the time!! You are remarkable in every right as a true care giver and no help!!

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Sue: neighbor Cliff's Mom passed away yesterday. 92 years old, totally there cognitively but with the body failing. Cliff has been her caregiver since his Dad died many years ago. As an Engineer and with Mom being relatively OK, life was good for a long time. They moved across from us 8 years ago. Mom could still function independently as long as her meals were prepared.


As she began to fail, they moved to Arizona to be near to Cliff's sister, but Mom's pacemaker acted up, so back up to Connecticut. In the meantime Cliff officially retired and they are back in New England. Mom has failed over the past two years and just the last three weeks, her daughter - Shirley (wonder how I remember that - LOL) arrived from Arizona when Mom had to go into Hospice. And I am so thankful Cliff has her here. Mae passed yesterday - peacefully and Shirley was with her. Cliff had gone to pick up lunch and is dealing with that.


Sue, he has been leaving stuff at my house for a week. I will donate all of it. I have no problem doing that and it is all really nice stuff - but Sue I am so worried for him. I think that this is way too much, way too soon. It is almost like being in Limbo for two years and now just over-reacting. I am sorting through all of it. Anything I think may be too soon, goes in one box. The stuff I know can go-hospital stuff: gowns, wash basins, bed pads, equipment - OK most of that can be donated. But honey, I have no clue what I am doing.


We talk every day. Services will be private as it is only Cliff and Shirley and Shirley is leaving on Wednesday. Then next door neighbor Gloria called today and apparently he is doing the same with her. I just told her to put the stuff in a corner and I would help her with it. And how did I get to be the "decider." I barely have my head above water with what I deal with here!


Honey, guess my point here is every one grieves at a different level. And what I have found out is that in all my experience with loss, there are still new things to learn and experience. I think part of it is just listening and accepting. And maybe knowing when to put the stops on, give support, don't question and pray you are helping and making the right decisions.


Mostly, I am really just there to talk. He cleared out my driveway today when the plows made their second pass and made sure I knew waste disposal was put off a week. These are the things he know, where he is comfortable. Mom's loss is just too new and now, too definite. No more grey areas. And where does he go from here? Where is he at, after all these years of being so "defined?"


So even in loss, I am yet again taking direction from you. And who knew, honey? That yet again, you would be there. At least I have some idea of what he is thinking, how he is reacting, feeling. So yet again, thank you

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