Archive for Widowhood Posts

published in A Widow's Awakening Book, Change, Death, Grief, Hope, Life After Loss, Widowhood by Maryanne | September 13, 2017 | 2 Comments

This is the first blog in the Sept 2017 Life After Loss blog series: 

Warning: This blog contains course language 😉

The Thing with Feathers – Let’s Look at HOPE Shall We?

 

 

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in your soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

and never stops at all

– Emily Dickinson

What does the word “hope” mean to you?

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, hope means “to cherish a desire with anticipation” or “to want something to happen or be true.”

In my experience, however, hope can be a double-edged sword.

When we are drowning in quicksand while dealing with the fallout of a significant loss in our lives, looking for anything to grab onto to help haul us OUT of our present situation, I think we need some sort of hope for a better future.

But I have learned that when we attach a specific outcome to our hope, we can run into trouble. For if that particular outcome doesn’t manifest, not only are we disappointed, we can be downright devastated…perhaps even left with a feeling of being “cheated” out of something we feel is owed to us.

Or…perhaps our specific hope does come to fruition – but it is NOT at all what we’d expected!

I thought it might be of interest to explore several types of hope – and how a hope can change – by pulling a few examples from A Widow’s Awakening.

Hope for a miracle

In this excerpt, it is the morning on the day of John’s (“Sam”) fall and we are in the hospital. I (“Adri) have just learned from the doctor that John will soon be declared legally brain-dead. Most of the people who have come to the hospital have not yet been told:

Thankfully, the medical staff need to work on Sam so we’re taken back to the family room but I choose to stay in the larger area that’s now packed with people.

“There’s still hope for a miracle,” a well-meaning visitor whispers in my ear.

At hearing these words, I do feel a surge of hope — even though I understand the physical reality and have seen Sam with my own eyes. But you know, an old-fashioned Jesus-raising-the-dead style miracle would be lovely right about now. Maybe Sam’s brain injury can somehow be reversed. Where’s my faith?

In the same place I need to be. My stomach is so upset I’ve got to find a bathroom. I leave the waiting area but only make it as far as the hallway because I see one of Sam’s older teammates leaning against the wall. We look at each other.

“There’s still hope,” I tell him.

He takes my hand but doesn’t say anything. The pain in my stomach subsides a little so I stay here with him, which is where the social worker finds me a couple of minutes later.

“Would you like to come with me, Adri?”

No thanks. I’ll just stay right here because even though I know damn well the shittiest news of my life is coming, since I haven’t yet technically heard it, the chance still exists that all this could somehow get turned around.

But the older officer releases my hand and I know I must go.

When all hope is gone

In this excerpt, it is later that same day. I have just spent fifteen hours in the ICU, holding John’s hand, comforting him as best as I can as his body is prepared for organ removal:

Around 9:00 p.m., my eldest brother, Ed, arrives from Northern Ontario. Since he’s missed the family meeting, he isn’t as up to par on Sam’s medical condition as the rest of us. He asks a nurse — not one of Sam’s regular ones — if they’re absolutely sure there’s no hope left.

She glances at her clipboard then back at Ed. “Well, I personally haven’t read his entire chart but it says right here that his gray and white matter have mixed — so no, there’s no hope.”

When she sees the expression on my face, she back-peddles. “I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, am I?”

“Oh no, no,” I reply, waving my hand.

I understand Sam’s head hit the concrete hard enough to kill him but until now, it hadn’t registered that his brain is a goddamn tossed salad.

When hope begins to shift

This is what happens next in the ICU:

Then the organ transplant coordinator comes in. ‘Oh fuck,’ I think, ‘now what body part do you want?’

But she hands me a teddy bear. I read his nametag: Hope.

“I just thought you might need someone to hug,” she says.

I throw my arms around her.

Hope with no strings attached

In this excerpt, it is the day after John’s death and I am having a conversation with the police chaplain:

“Can I ask you a personal question?” the chaplain begins.

“Uh huh.”

“What are you thinking about Sam right now?”

Hmmm . . . let’s see. Well, wherever he is at the moment, he’s one pissed off Greek. And I’m pretty sure he was in the hospital bathroom with me yesterday because if there’s one place on the planet where Sam’s soul would be sorting things out, it would be a toilet. I know he felt me kiss him in the ICU and managed to hold my hand, brain-dead and all. He’s very concerned that I’ll let my mother control my life now that he’s not here to be the buffer. I suspect the squirrel at the birdbell was some sort of sign. And I think Tom falling and hitting his head the day after Sam fell and hit his head is significant, as is the fact that one of the happiest days of my life and the absolute worst happened exactly one week apart.

I shrug. “Stuff.”

“What does the word hope mean to you?” he asks.

“I dunno. I guess just that one day things will get better.”

Hope for falling in love again

In this passage, three months have passed since John’s death and I am telling my Dad about the romantic feelings I have towards John’s Sergeant (“Tom”).

Over dinner at my place, I run the Tom possibility by my father. Not only is my dad the least romantic person I know, he’ll be sure to give me a brutally honest and rational assessment of the situation.

“I see,” he says, after I tell him the details.

“And?”

“First of all, it’s logical why you would fall for him. Secondly, knowing his character, if he decided that he could pursue a relationship with you, and I’m not saying he will, but if he did, then I can tell you right now you’ll be waiting quite awhile.”

“Oh.”

“He was Sam’s friend and boss.”

I sigh.

“Besides,” the realist adds, “doesn’t he have a girlfriend?”

I nod.

My dad laughs. “That might be a bit of a problem.”

I shrug.

“Whatever you do,” he advises, “don’t fall in love with love. On the other hand, you don’t want to be on your own too long because then you’ll get stuck in your ways.”

“But thinking about Tom gives me hope,” I say.

Then I walk over to the dining room wall, where I’ve hung the framed first stanza of an Emily Dickinson poem. I point it out to my dad.

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in your soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

and never stops at all

He reads it then looks at me. “But your tune has a word.”

What is it we are really hoping for?

In this passage, over six months have passed since John’s death. I am still holding out hope for a future romance with “Tom”:

After the detective leaves, I call Tom to debrief. He tells me he’s off to Mexico tomorrow with his girlfriend.

“Oh,” I say snottily. “And are you looking forward to your trip?”

“Of course.”

“Well have fun.”

“Thanks.”

I don’t say anything.

“Are you OK?” he asks.

“Not particularly.”

“Adri…”

“Have a great vacation,” I say, then hang up.

Then I walk into the dining room and re-read Emily Dickinson’s poem. My dad’s right: I’m hinging my hope for happiness on an expected outcome with a specific person. Not only do I want Tom to help me deal with the issue that led to Sam’s death, I want him to drop his girlfriend and rescue me from widowhood.

“Come on guys,” I say to Sasha and Sven, “let’s go for our walk.”

Learning to let go of a specific hope

This is what happened next:

At the dog-park, I sit down on a rock and look out over the river. “Well Sam, I promised you I’d stick it out for seven months. Now here we are.”

I remove my wedding and engagement rings from my left hand and place them on my right. My marriage to Sam is over. As much as I don’t want to let go of the past until I know what the future holds, I’m learning life just doesn’t work that way.

What hope means to me now

Well, the “one day” I told the Police Chaplain about the day after John’s death, is here…it’s today. In fact, it’s been “one day” for many years now. Things are better and they have been for a very long time.

I love my life and have learned to embrace the challenges and lessons – because that’s where the greatest growth comes from. But I really try not to stay stuck for too long when the time has come to move on.

These days, I tend to “hope” less and focus instead on visualizing what I sense needs to come next and then taking concrete action towards achieving that outcome…and if I’m off track – or on track – the universe always let me know 😊

As for my hope for a romantic relationship with “Tom?” Well, I wish I could say I was able to let go of that hope a mere seven months after John’s death. But that would be a lie. It took me more than a decade to let that hope go.

For sometimes the thing with feathers also has talons. And that’s okay…because what we learn about ourselves in the process of letting go of a specific hope is worth the disappointment.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

For further info about the Life After Loss blog series, please click here.

To subscribe to receive the Life After Loss blogs and/or to read the archived blogs, here is the link.

 Do You Believe in Soul Mates?

 

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

– Stephen King, On Writing

What if your dream was handed to you on the same platter as your soul mate’s life?

Not all fairy tales have happy endings…but perhaps the best ones aren’t meant to? Maybe true love is also tough love?

Here’s a little story for you…

Please click here to watch a 2-min video.

“We must own our true stories. In doing so, we begin again to belong to the world in the way only we can. The door to soul opens.”

– Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft; Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and the Psyche

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the door sill where the two worlds touch. 

The door is round and open. 

Don’t go back to sleep.”

– Rumi

About A Widow’s Awakening

With over 2000 copies soldA Widow’s Awakening is touching the heart and soul of readers. This extraordinary story is a candid portrayal of Maryanne’s journey through the first year of grief after the on-duty death of her police officer husband. Engaging, powerful and heart-wrenching, this book captures the immense difficulty of accepting the unacceptable while learning to transform loss into positive change.

What Readers Are Saying…

“I started reading A Widow’s Awakening on Sunday and finished it Monday. The first third of your book touched me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I cried so hard, my eyes became swollen; the pain was so real. I haven’t cried that hard in a long, long time. The grief you expressed was so real to me, as I experienced my own grief in a similar way. Reading your book has been healing for me.” 

– Cristy

“What an incredibly powerful and moving book! Although I had tears in my eyes as I read each page, I think your messages are uplifting and are so important in challenging the human spirit to make our lives mean something meaningful in this world, by helping others and doing something more for society. It is so cleverly written and thought provoking. I haven’t enjoyed a book this much since I taught classic literature to high school students a few years ago.”

– Sarah

“WOW! As soon as I read the first line, I couldn’t put the book down. The truth on soul-mates, hope, after-life, happiness, sadness…you definitely told your tale as it is. I can’t stop talking about this book. I’m glad you shared your story with us.”

– Parveen

For additional reader testimonials, please click here.

About Maryanne Pope

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. She is the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. Maryanne lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

About Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

PGP creates entertaining and authentic works that inspire and challenge people to effect positive change in themselves and the world around them. From books, plays, films and e-mail campaigns to greeting cards and inspirational quote cards, PGP products encourage and challenge people to reach their highest potential. The company was started in 2002 by Maryanne Pope. Please visit pinkgazelle.com for details.

About the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund

The JPMF is a registered Canadian charity that was started after the on-duty death of Cst John Petropoulos of the Calgary Police Service. John was investigating a break and enter complaint at a warehouse when he fell to his death after stepping through an unmarked false ceiling. There was no safety railing in place to warn him – or anyone else – of the danger. The JPMF raises public awareness about why and how to ensure workplaces and roads are safe for everyone, including emergency responders. For further information or to view the safety videos, please visit jpmf.ca.

This is the 4th blog in the Mothering Matters Spring 2017 Blog Series:

Putting Grief on Hold – a Candid Account of Raising a Child After Death of Spouse

 

Rebecca and Caitlin Orr

“Looking back, it’s like everyone else around me was falling apart and I was stoic. I feared that if I did let my guard down, I wouldn’t be able to stop – and then in what capacity could I look after a child, if I couldn’t look after myself?”

– Rebecca Orr

For today’s Mothering Matters blog, I interviewed Rebecca Orr about her experience and perspective on raising a child on her own. Rebecca’s husband, Lance, passed away when Rebecca was expecting their daughter, Caitlin. Rebecca and Caitlin live in Olds, AB.

Question #1: Thank you for being interviewed for Mothering Matters. How old is your daughter now?

Caitlin will be 8 at the end of August.

Question #2: How far along were you in your pregnancy when your husband passed away? Can you tell me about how your husband died?

I was 6 months pregnant with my daughter, Caitlin, when my husband, Lance, died. I was 26 at the time. Lance died in a work-related incident. He worked in construction and was a rigger at the job site they were on. He had been working long days for quite a while. We believed fatigue was a factor in his death…and corners were possibly cut.

They were moving a load of concrete forms from one place to another on the site. He had hooked up the load – but for some reason he had used 2 different lengths of chains and didn’t tie down the load. Then he gave the okay to move the load. Then for whatever reason, Lance walked underneath the concrete forms. They fell from the slings and he was killed instantly, crushed under the load. There were more questions than answers.

The weather that day was all over the place, so weather also played a part.

I found over the years that getting up caught in the “Whys?” made me go even more crazier. For sure fatigue played a factor. He was very dedicated to his work and wanted to get the job done. But he didn’t want to go to work that day. He wanted to go with me instead to start a baby registry. He was hoping to get home early.

And he didn’t like to talk to me from work – but that day he talked on the phone with me for a good 10 minutes…about 2 to 3 hours before his death. He told me he was looking forward to being done.

I don’t know why he chose to clear the deck of everyone but him and the load operator. And I don’t know why he chose to walk under the load when it was dangerous to do so.

Question #3: What was the impact on you and your baby when you heard the news and in the months to come, as that must have been extremely traumatic?

If you asked the police officer who talked to me that day, she would tell you I was strangely calm. I reconnected with her again not too long ago.

At the time when the police first contacted me, I thought Lance had got himself into trouble with the law because he was a “live on the edge” kind of guy. So when the police called to speak to me the first time, I panicked and called Lance’s phone. And when he didn’t pick up, I really started to panic and left a harsh message on my phone asking him why the police were contacting me.

The police finally found me at Toys R Us, where I was setting up the baby registry. They told me there was an accident at the job site and Lance had been killed. I was actually quite calm. I asked the police officer what had happened. She said it had something to do with concrete forms. And I said, “That sounds about right.”

Then she asked me if I needed anything…if I needed to go the hospital?

I asked her, “Why would I go to the hospital?”

And the police officer said, “Because you are 6 months pregnant.”

I was incredibly calm when I heard the news. I called members of my family and said, “Apparently, Lance died on the job.”

But then when I was talking to Lance’s cousin, I began to have a panic attack. Then after that I was calm again. I think I was in shock and in denial. Deep down, I knew I needed to keep this child alive.

In all honesty, my calmness and denial pretty much lasted until the last year or so. And then I started crying all the time over the weirdest things.

In my view, looking back it wasn’t about “being strong.” I had to do whatever I had to do to keep this child alive…including lying to myself. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, in a fog.

Looking back, it’s like everyone else around me was falling apart and I was stoic. I feared that if I did let my guard down, I wouldn’t be able to stop – and then in what capacity could I look after a child, if I couldn’t look after myself?

I didn’t allow myself to feel any emotions – except for one all-out breakdown. Even at the gravesite, I was doing everything I could to not show what I was feeling. I fooled a lot of people, alongside myself.

I also wondered if, since I was so calm and focused, maybe I didn’t love him as much as I thought I did?

People would say to me that I was handling it so well. But I was so young…how else was I supposed to be handling it?

I was very disjointed for multiple years.

Caitlin Orr at her dad, Lance’s, grave

Question #4 Tell me about your experience raising your daughter on your own? What have some of the challenges been?

Thankfully, I have an incredibly supportive family who, especially in those first two years, really stepped in to become stable adults in Caitlin’s life. But I have felt a lot of guilt about Caitlin not having a father in her life.

There are pros and cons to raising a child on my own. To be honest, I have more anger and frustration now than I did in the early years.

The first year of Caitlin’s life was a blur. She spent the first week of her life in NICU. I had this horrible sense of panic that since my husband was dead, I was also going to lose my child. I think I held on to her for dear life…versus the last couple of years, when I have begun to let her go.

My mom used to say that although I have bounced back from losing Lance, she honestly didn’t think I would bounce back from losing my child.

In the first couple of years, one challenge I faced was that I really battled between being a mom and dad. Caitlin got whatever she wanted. Now I battle with her thinking she deserves everything under the sun.

For the longest time, Lance was on a pedestal for Caitlin. When she was 3 or 4, if she was angry at me, she would sit on her bed and cry that she wanted her dad.

However, in the last few months she has been angry at her dad – that it is his fault for going to work and dying. She is also angry that she doesn’t have siblings. Now I am not only trying to figure out my own emotions, I am also trying to help Caitlin sort out hers. It breaks my heart to see Caitlin struggle. It bothers me more than my own grief, for sure.

We live with my mom. Caitlin and my mom have the most remarkable relationship. But at the end of the day, I am the only parent. There is nobody else to consult with. It is difficult not having someone to consult with. And there is a loneliness there. There is a frustration that I didn’t ask for this. I had no intention of being a single parent. I have a lot of frustration that this isn’t what I asked for. I am also exhausted…beyond exhausted on any given day. Parenting alone sucks when you don’t plan it that way.

But there are also the pro’s: I get to decide on everything…where my kid goes to school, how I spend my money, etc.. I don’t have to consult with anyone.

And there are some experiences that Caitlin and I are having, such as traveling to interesting places, that likely wouldn’t have been possible had Lance still been alive. How different life would have been had Lance was still around. I find it difficult to imagine.

I am very blessed for the remarkable family unit that my family has. It doesn’t replace having a dad – that missing piece is still missing. Caitlin wants a dad and it is tough to explain to a child that it is not that simple. There are challenges that come with her desire of wanting a father.

Question #5 Have you met anyone else in terms of a mate/partner?

No. If that ever did happen that would be fine but there is nobody at this point.

Question #6 You have mentioned a bit about your support system. Is there anything else you would like to add?  

My family is awesome! I am very blessed. I also have great church support. Faith is a huge part of my life. I don’t know how it is with people who don’t have the support. I am so lucky, then and now, that I have that support.

After Lance’s death, my family really stepped in – especially my mom and brother – and took over. I was in no state to be handling all the affairs on my own at that time. My brother handled the media. My brother and my mom helped me with the finances. My brother stepped in as a father figure and role model for Caitlin…and he still is. He has his own kids, too.

I do realize how blessed I am – and that God put those people in place at the time to help out. I could never repay that back. I am incredibly blessed and grateful for my support system. It is huge.

Question #7 Do you have any words of wisdom for women or who may in a similar situation i.e. raising a child on their own due to the death of a partner?

Yes!

Don’t let anybody tell you how to feel – that’s the biggest thing. Everyone is going to have an opinion on how you should grieve. But the only person who knows how is you.

Just put one foot in front of the other. You can’t live in fear.

I am finally going to counselling now, 8 years after Lance’s death. I kept thinking, “I should be past this.” We are always such critics on ourselves. I mean, I wouldn’t say to someone else who was grieving, “You should be past this.” So why would I say it to myself? But I did.

Grief has no timeline. It could hit you right off the bat or it could hit you 10 years down the road. I am incredibly harsh on myself. So that’s what I would tell others: you need to be gentle on yourself. You have to do what you have to do to get through – and that will look different for every single person.

May 8th was the 8th anniversary of Lance’s death. My counsellor asked me what I was planning on doing that day. I said to her, “I don’t want to be a burden to other people.”

She looked at me and said, “If a friend called you up and said that to you, what would you say?”

In other words, you would never say that to someone else, why would you say that to yourself? We are often a lot harsher on ourselves than we are on other people.

Don’t put on the façade that you are okay when you’re not. I wanted people to think that I was okay even thought I wasn’t. I felt like Jeckyll & Hyde! And that’s not healthy.

Also, find people that you can trust.

People tell you that they will always be there for you…they mean well, but not everyone is always going to be there for you.

And hold on for this crazy roller coaster of a life!

Although people don’t tend to be mean, they do say stupid things…most of the time because they don’t know any better. But sometimes it is best to say nothing. The night Lance died, someone told me, “You’re young, you will find someone else to marry.”

I said to my mom the other day that I was exhausted from all the crying. My mom looked at me and said “You are only just getting started. In 7 and a half years, you have never cried. Did you honestly think you weren’t ever going to cry?”

I cry over everything now. I find it infuriating. But it is completely normal. I am incredibly hard on myself with this grief process…I would like it be over by now!

But now that my daughter is 8 and in school, maybe subconsciously I am finally giving myself permission to really grieve? Because in the midst of all this there is a lot of peace….a lot of good that will come out of it when I get to the other side.

I was only 22 when I got married. I thought I knew everything. Looking back 10 years later, I knew nothing! I have grown so much over the past 8 years. But how much would I have grown if Lance was still alive?

I have grown up so much, learning to live without Lance and raising a child on my own. My perspective on life has changed an awful lot in the last 8 years. I had to learn how stand on my own. Lance was the protector and took care of everything. I was the people pleaser. Lance was who he was and if you didn’t like it, that was your problem. Caitlin is very much a similar personality. If you don’t like me, that is your problem, not mine.

I, on the other hand, am a people-pleaser. In the last 8 years, I had to learn how to stand on my own. I had to learn how to build my life as a one-person universe. It is a very different life than what I thought my life would be.

Lance was super excited to raise a child. Caitlin looks like me but she is her father’s daughter. She is so similar to Lance. I am curious as to whether or not they would have gotten along or would they have clashed? Caitlin is a very matter of fact child…very literal. It fascinates me that without even knowing her dad, she is through and through her father’s daughter.

It is a fascinating and infuriating journey to be on.

There are times when I wouldn’t take back what I had before. I have been a single mom far longer than I was married. It’s what I know. People ask me if I ever want to get married again. I say sure, I would love to. But at the same time, the longer I stay a single mom, the more used to this life I have become.

Question #9 How old are you now? What are your hopes for the future?

I am 33. Obviously, in the future I want to be in a better place emotionally. I am not against getting married again. But any guy in my life would have to be good with being a dad from the get go. I just want to be the happiest mom I can be for my child.

I want to be a good role model for my daughter. If I find someone great. If not, that doesn’t define me as a person. God clearly has a direction that I am going to be heading in. I have no idea where this crazy ride is headed. I am confident that I can raise my kid and be happy and healthy in whatever happens.

I am super picky about guys. Caitlin wants a dad but at the end of the day, I have to pick up the pieces of her broken heart if it doesn’t work out. There has been the odd guy, that Lance knew, in our lives. They stuck around for awhile and then they just vanished. And Caitlin blamed me.

Finally, I had to sit her down and say: although people say they will always be there for you…that isn’t always the case. If a person chooses to not stick around, that is their choice – not mine. Mom is not always to blame.

A year ago, I really hit rock bottom emotionally and my mom told me I needed to go see someone. It was a very good idea. Looking back now, I realize I wasn’t in a good place.

The other day, I was bawling my eyes out in the parking lot of Caitlin’s school. Caitlin asked me why I was crying and I told her I was tired. I’m not one to show emotions, so this is a whole new ball game for me. This is new territory.

But you know what? There is something freeing in all this. Why, as women, can’t we be broken – and admit that we are broken? When did it happen that women can’t admit to being a crappy place?

I am incredibly grateful for my mom (and my best friend) who nudged me, a year ago, in the right direction of seeking help. Who knows where I would be right now if I didn’t get help?

Thank you, Rebecca, for being interviewed for Mothering Matters. Your honesty will really resonate with readers. Take care!

Rebecca Orr was interviewed by Maryanne Pope. Maryanne is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

Mothering Matters is an initiative of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

For further information about the Mothering Matters blog series, here is the link.

If you would like to receive the Mothering Matters blogs and/or read the other blogs, please click here.