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need to shape up


swilkinson

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I need to shape up. I have slumped down for too long feeling sorry for myself. I need to get out more, not to the usual haunts but maybe to different places, places I would once have gone for rest and relaxation before being confined to the house with Ray's illness. A friend told me that in a stern voice yesterday, my fault as I had asked for her advice. When you ask for advice you do lay yourself open for others to take a bit out of you. This friend is honest in the extreme, which is why I value her opinion. She just tells it as she sees it. And boy that smarts sometimes. But she is also a widow so she does know my pain.

 

It is hard being on your own, making decisions about your own future. That is why I want the kids to discuss things with me. But ultimately I know the decision-making is down to me. It is my life. I am only just emerging from what has seemed like a fog. It is hard to explain it to people who have not been through it. It is as if you see faces through a mist and hear people but cannot assimilate what they are saying. Sometimes it is like I have been in a dark room for a long time and when I go outside the light is too bright, the voices too loud. I know others probably see me as "normal", they hear me laugh as say they are glad I am "coming out of it now". As if I have been ill or unconscious for a while.

 

I am assured by others that they know what I am going through. Do they heck! We are all individuals and we all grieve in our own way, we all feel our own pain, we all tread a similar path but do it in our own time. I am missing the time spent with the grief caounsellor as she saw life in a text book plus shared experience kind of way. She did not know exactly what I was going through but did know what people at my stage of grief generally went through. I stopped at six sessions as I didn't want to be someone who was constantly in therapy. There is a bit of pride in that I guess, I want to be independent.

 

I went to the Stoke Recovery group meeting on Saturday, there was no guest speaker so the co-ordinator asked if we could help her to flesh out a presentation she is making to a national conference. She asked questions and the group answered. On the whole we agreed that person-centred care is often in name only, consulting the caregiver often doesn't happen and the information flow is not as good as it could be. There were horror stories, mainly about buzzers out of reach and patients left in their own...well you get the picture.

 

I did mention the wall that goes up when the word "Dementia" enters the notes. I had too many occassions when some staff member said: "we would have given Ray such and such treatment, only he has dementia". If that happened I always emphasised that although Ray had dementia I didn't so as long as I knew what to do with him, I could repeat the exercises at home. Sometimes that worked sometimes it didn't. Some staff just seemed to want to write him off. We do have a tendency to write off dementia patients here and if stroke is the dominant feature why is that not treated? After all a body is just a body, if the person without dementia needs to do certain things in order to get well so does the person with dementia.

 

When she asked if there was any after care problems I would have liked to have mentioned the lack of grief counselling but I didn't want to introduce a topic a lot of them are not ready for yet. The saying about not jumping the gate until you reach it came to mind. I don't think caregivers put their heads in the sand but they deal with so much trauma day to day they don't want to think too far ahead. I know I was like that, today and tomorrow were always more than enough for me and next week was just written in the diary so I wouldn't forget where I was supposed to take Ray.

 

How does a past middle aged woman reorientate herself to a new life? I have had some helpful suggestions from other widows. Travel is seen as a panacea, or new hobbies, joining the gym, reconnecting with old friends, going to see more distant family etc. I think it depends a lot which generation you are in. I am going to do some travelling, one overseas trip, then some little trips to catch up with old friends. I don't know at this stage whether Ray's brothers and sisters want to keep in touch, no-one has said they'd like me to visit or that they would be visiting me. Maybe they don't know how to change the relationship either and that is another thing I will have to take slowly. How long do your friends need to adjust to the fact that you are on your own now?

 

So I will visit those who have extended an invitation. I guess this is another time when you accept the friendships offered rather than grieving friendships lost, or maybe you do both.As with all things it is hasten slowly.

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Sue, you hit the nail squarely on the head when you said "It's hard being on your own." That's the one reason I'm now married for the fourth time. I probably wouldn't do it again now at my age should that comes to the forefront again. Make the best of your life and perhaps the memories will suffice. You just don't know what lies ahead of you in this life.

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Sue, I think you will find that old friends and especially ex relatives will forget your phone number quickly. When my first wife died I did not keep in contact with any of her family long. It soon became apparent the only real thing we had to talk about was my late wife. That did not help any of us get through the grieving process. I think you are on the right path, doing new things meeting new friends, new hobbies, etc, etc. Trying to live exactly as you did, and you and Ray did will not work. Best wishes.

 

BTW, as much as we all love you here, I am not sure even being on his forum is helping you get over the past but might just be keeping you reliving past things. Don't get me wrong, we all love you and will be here to help in any way we can. In the end however, you need to find a better path for yourself. In the end, I changed houses, churches, and location. Too many old memories where I was.

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George it does help me to be here. Writing blogs has always been part of sorting out my life so blogging here where people have seen the strugglle Ray and I went through is like connecting with old friends. I stay with the Stroke Recovery group for the same reason. There will be a time for me to move on, I know that and hopefully I will recognise it when it comes.

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And Sue you are of such value to us... you are now in life, where we will all go.. I read the first part of your blog and understand- only to well... that feeling you have -- in fact i blogged under debbies blog about the loss of her mother, just yesterday.... about a friend of mine ( my age ) who has lost both her children and how one just gets to the point of not a gut wrenching mourning but the vacant - dont know what to do, but shouldnt, i feel worse ? type mourning.. and the guilt of not feeling worse... mourning, such a individualized process... and hey since you are visiting people who are extending invitations come on over to the states.... we would love to have you !!! Nancyl ----- hang in there!!

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I was in the same situation many years ago when my first husband passed away at age 43. Like George, relatives and friends soon fade away as they can no longer make a connection somehow or just forget. I made new friends as I was still young but it was hard. Maybe if I had a support group like StrokeNet it would have been easier for me to adjust.

 

I'm glad you are going to be traveling. That is one thing I miss so much. Take care.

 

Julie

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I've heard it said that when you've seen one stroke, you've seen one stroke. They are all so different. I think the same is true with grieving. The process is yours and yours is unique. You need the time you need and no one else can possibly have all the variables of your life experience. I remember the benefit you felt from the grief counselor and wonder if returning to her might be helpful. You won't become permanently dependent. If you just rely on your own physical and emotional cues you will know when you've received what you need from her.

 

I have wondered also about your insight of how caregivers manage stroke recovery. All the losses come in stages throughout a long period of time but we don't have time or energy to grieve those losses as they come. Perhaps that delayed grieving is more intense once it is fully in front of us. Or perhaps grieving is just intense no matter when it comes to us.

 

"How does a past middle aged woman reorient herself to a new life?" One day at a time. I'm not sure the age makes much difference. Anyone who is suddenly thrust into a new world feels disoriented and must take time to create a life that fits the new experience. You will find your way. I am convinced of it. Give yourself all kinds of grace. ~~Donna

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