Monday, March 31, 2008

The Grief Ever Good?

A thought. Have you ever considered grief good in any way, shape or form? For three and a half years you’re locked in combat with yourself, and the world around you as it changes. In time all things adapt, and somehow we open our eyes and learn something different, that you are indeed changed by your grief experience and you are therefore, different; newer, stronger, wiser and hopefully more loving and compassionate. Should we thank grief for allowing us to experience all that is different in our world? Have we in the grief process evolved into who we were meant to be? We got a push or a shove on this journey…has it turned out in any way more than you could ever have envisioned for yourself?

Friday, March 28, 2008

New State Quarter and Reflection

Today in the mail I received the latest State Quarter, Oklahoma. While he was ill my husband had ordered a 50 US Quarter Dollar Wall Frame and the quarters would arrive regularly when they were issued, in uncirculated condition, and he would place the new quarter in the appropriate slot in the wall frame.

The first time a quarter arrived after he had passed away, (I think it was Alabama) I recall looking at that quarter, wondering if I was supposed to make a payment or notify somebody.

When I called the company they assured me the Wall Frame had been paid in full, and I would keep receiving the quarters on schedule, until all 50 slots were filled. At the time and the six months before my husband's passing, the quarters arrived, but I was so busy seeing to daily life as a caretaker, the quarters melted away somewhere. I never did find them. The company was kind enough to send me replacement quarters for the 4 I could not locate.

Now, just two months shy of four years of my husband's passing, the quarter set is almost complete, and will be finished at the end of this year, 2008. There will be no more quarters arriving.

I'm sure when my husband first ordered this quarter set, he had no thoughts of not being here to see it finished. That's like a lot of stuff in your life, you expect one thing, but something else happens. That's just the way it is. So you adjust, in time, you move ahead, the best you can, and your life goes on.

Caregiving and the Final Conclusion

Loss is devastating and we’re never prepared, even following caretaking over an extended period of illness. We need to talk about it more, to help bring each of us, the ill and the caretaker and family, to a more accepting, peaceful, loving and accepting conclusion. But it is difficult.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gifts Come in Various Shapes and Sizes

For me one of the most beautiful gifts are my three boys, next, are my life experiences and where they've led me and will lead me in the future. Today is wonderful, with all its strife and joy, but all the tomorrows are a gift yet to be unwrapped........

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Going to Print, A Journey Well Taken

My book is finally going to print this week. It feels like it’s been a long process, but it has really been a great learning experience. I am so glad I decided to take control of this project and put it out there myself. It’s been incredibly rewarding. The designer inserted the testimonials for me into the text of the book, about 24 of them in all, and also added two on the front and back cover. I am very excited about this and can’t wait to see the final book. Actual publication is still scheduled for June of this year, but it’s growing ever closer. I am in the process of writing new articles related to dating after loss and the loss of a spouse. I’m also considering creating some new videos for some of my grief related articles.

I’ve almost felt like I was stuck this week in some kind of limbo, but thankfully that feeling has passed. I love charging through my days and getting lots accomplished, that’s who I have always been, but when I get struck by this inertia, I hate it. So, life is moving forward once more, each day a new adventure. Meanwhile, I’m doing my best to keep on top of the marketing and pubicity. I search out other grief related blogs and connect with others in this grief experience. It’s been very rewarding, and only time will tell the final outcome. Soon, I will be setting up an account on Amazon and my book will be available at all online stores.

Saturday Night Dancing

One of my decisions to take life by the horns and not sit still involves dance lessons I’ve been taking since January. Swing dance, jitterbug. I’ve always envied people who could dance and look good out on the dance floor, and since taking lessons myself, I’ve developed more confidence in myself as a dancing partner. I love to dance, and this past Saturday I attended a vintage dress swing dance party. I was one of the first to arrive and there ended up being about seventy people, men and women, in attendance. I had a great time and danced so much I developed a blister on my one heel. So, next step is to buy the proper swing dance shoes so this doesn’t happen again. I wore a beautiful dress that looked the vintage part, it was a deep midnight blue, overlaid with black lace, cap sleeves, handkerchief hem dress I bought to wear for New Year’s Eve, but I never went out for New Years, so I got to wear it for the first time on Saturday.

I received lots of compliments on it and while dressy, it fit well in with the dance theme. I danced with many of the guys I’ve been taking dance lessons with, but also with other men who were more advanced dancers, and it was great fun. I learned some new moves which was the best part, and found out I could cut a pretty good swathe on the dance floor. I had made up my mind before I went that I was going to have a good time, and that is exactly what happened.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Breast Cancer and What Every Woman Should Know - Maureen's Mission

I found an incredible page today, and there is a video from Maureen Thiel, who died from breast cancer, about her misdiagnosis for many years of breast cancer.

It is a heartrending story, and a story that is still happening to many women today, who die from breast cancer due to lack of proper testing and doctors not paying attention to sometimes very obvious symptoms.

This is a video every woman should see, especially anyone who has ever been told the breast lump is only a cyst, or nothing to worry about. There is a serious gap in health coverage today, and Maureen's surviving spouse, William Thiel, is trying to bring this "lack" in our system to everyone's attention. There is a wealth of information on this site. Please visit this site for your own information and for every woman you know.

A Movie Today

I saw a movie today, entitled Wings of Desire. It's the movie that City of Angels was no doubt based upon, where an angel decides to give up his heavenly duties and come to earth to love a mortal. It was better than City of Angels in that it didn't have the typical Hollywood ending, where they feel they have to kill someone off at the end and get the last bit of angst out of the audience. This movie was mostly in subtitles and German, I believe, but nonetheless I found it very intriguing. It began pretty darkly, but ended up much better. At one point the woman the angel falls in love with says she just wants someone to say they love her wonderful today. Some days that's how I feel.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Giving Kids the Facts

I came upon an interesting post today at

It brought up the subject of funerals, death and dying....and being honest with kids. My thoughts on the matter are it's thought provoking -- trying to give kids information without giving them too much information to scare them, but be honest. I never wanted my kids to feel they’re prohibited from asking questions they need to be answered.

We all handle/filter the death process differently, but I tend to agree that kids need the truth, as hard as it is sometimes. At my mother-in-law’s funeral, my then 9 year old wanted to play one last song for his grandmother, and he did this while 3 tears dropped onto his fiddle at the gravesite. When his dad passed away a year later and we scattered his ashes, my son played another song, but up in our field behind our house. It was his way to say a final goodbye, but we all know know that is only the beginning of the grief process.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Time Does Heal

I recall a many moments after I lost my husband, thinking, What am I going to do with the rest of my life? I recall that bone deep numbness, that total disinterest in life. I didn't care if I ate, didn't care that it was a beautiful sunny day outside, all I could think about was my lack of interest in life and my missing the life I'd had, my husband and our three boys. Gradually, with time, you do begin to feel again, you begin to experience joy and life. I knew I had to keep it together, if only for my boys. So be assured, in your own way and your own time, you will heal and love life again. It isn't a steady one, two three, but in small steps some days and bigger strides other days. Some days you go backward, but you just keep trying to move forward. I talked with my boys about their father, and we would laugh and reminisce about silly things that had happened in the past. That in itself became a healing process, not being afraid to talk and remember. It will all come in time.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Dream of Death

Elaine Williams copyright 2008

My husband was ill ten months with cancer when I had the dream. I had been taking care of his needs for almost eleven months, and even though some days there seemed to be progress, in hindsight I see it was really a steady progression on a downhill curve.

One night I had a dream I was upstairs in our two story house and looked out my youngest son’s window, which faces a large back field. I could see a large machine coming inexorably closer and closer toward the house. It made a terrible racket, almost like a threshing sound. With fear, I knew that it was going to come into the house through the back, into the kitchen and to the corner of the living room where my husband sat. I tried to call out and warn everyone, but I couldn’t speak. I ran downstairs, hearing it get closer and closer.

When I got down to the living room, my husband’s chair, where he always sat in the corner, was totally gone. The machine had come through the back of the house as I’d feared and swept him and his chair away. It continued around the front of the house and across the side yard.

I heard my youngest son talking out side to a friend of my husband’s, and the talk was normal, as if nothing had occurred. I wanted to cry out, but it was no use. When I awoke, I knew with certainty my husband was going to die.

I never told him about that dream. I couldn’t talk to him about it. I was afraid to acknowledge what I knew it meant. I was doing the best I could to keep my husband alive, but in my dreaming state, I knew he was going to die.

That day was the first time I acknowledged the truth of his impending death. That afternoon our regular hospice nurse arrived, and my husband asked her quietly, without fanfare, how much time she thought he had. I just stared at him, not saying a word. She said based on her experience, probably two or three weeks. I went into a numb state. I was not expecting him to confront his own death and mortality in this manner. And yet, it was only natural he would know the end was near. I had been denying it to myself.

When the nurse left, I walked outside with her. I told her of the dream I’d had. She put her arms around me in my distress. I faced the truth that he was going to die.

That week, my husband refused to let me put any of the protein rich formula I had been preparing for him, into the enteral pump, his only source of nutrition. I tried to argue with him, but he was quietly adamant. I still see the expression on his face. He simply said, “No more.” That was it. That was his way of telling me this is the end. Two weeks later he died. It wasn’t discussed, we didn’t’ tell the kids he no longer wished to receive the little sustenance his stomach could take. It was just done. Should we have discussed it with the kids? I don’t know. We talked with them about everything else. Most importantly, their father continually told him how much he loved them.

The last week is a mixed collection of jumbled memory. My husband didn’t sleep well, since he dozed on and off all day. He developed a bed sore that we were trying to cope with, but had to be incredibly sore. His focus turned inward. There was little verbal communication, and I stayed by his side most of the time. At night, he would be awake at two or three in the morning, and he’d drink cups of water at a time. It was amazing, considering he hadn’t been able to drink or eat in three months or more. He became incredibly weak, and I could no longer lift him to help him onto the commode, even as light as he had become. My heart cried inside, but there was nothing I could do, except love the man I had married twenty years before. I was exhausted, and knew I couldn’t take anymore. I wished for him to go to sleep and asked God to take him. His passing was relatively peaceful, but I always wondered if it would have been easier if we had talked more about him dying.

A Protective Shell to Keep the Grief at Bay

Elaine Williams copyright 2008

After my husband’s death, I enclosed myself in an emotional shell. A hard cased, untouchable cocoon of nothingness. I wanted to be numb, I wanted to be left alone. Many days my self-imposed prison made me want to be loved by someone. Some days I lived and breathed by rote. God kept me breathing when maybe I took that for granted. It sank in one morning when I woke and asked myself what do I do with the rest of my life. I decided I probably had another forty years to go. Where do I go from here?

I felt an overwhelming disinterest in life and living. I had three boys, so I put one foot in front of the other and took care of the things that needed doing. My kids were my first priority. I was and am so blessed to have them. And yet, I felt bad that they lost their father. My youngest was ten, and I just wanted to fold up some days and hide in a corner for sadness. But I didn’t. I decided, subconsciously, my children needed me more to be straight and unbroken then I needed to crumple.

I avoided people sometimes because I didn’t want to talk about and therefore confront my grief. I didn’t know who I was anymore, now that I was alone. And I felt very alone and isolated, even from family. Isolating myself, I just wanted to be left alone. Sometimes others didn’t know what to say. It’s just the way it was.

I read with gratitude the cards and letters friends and family sent. Many of them wrote about how much my husband had meant to them, and expressed their sorrow at his passing. Those were the letters that meant so much.

I understood acquaintances awkwardness with my grief, but there was nothing I could do, beyond trying to alleviate their unease with my own sense of caring.

Gradually I grew into my life, a new life where I carved a niche for myself. Over time, I grew to enjoy living again. Some days when I thought I had progressed so very far, I would suddenly go into a depressive state of mind. I hated when that happened and tried to think analyze why it happened, but some days it just came unbidden and pulled me down.

At about three and a half years after my husband’s passing, I began to feel a noticeable lightening of my spirit, as if I’d suddenly found new purpose in my life. I had been doing some dating, and had reached the point where I decided to empower myself by not dating men who were not in the same space mentally and emotionally as I was.

By four years, I knew I had made it on my own this long, I would continue to be alone until the right partner came along. No more rushing into dead end relationships. My writing career took on new life, giving me a sense of purpose once more. I truly began to enjoy my life as I developed new friendships and took on interesting job endeavors.

The little whine inside me that protested my circumstances, became quiet and almost content. Somehow, I had skipped over some milestones in the last several years and made my life my own. I am proud of myself for where I have gone and where I will go. It’s been an interesting journey, and totally unpredictable, a journey I expect to get better with each day.

Afraid to Talk About Dying

Elaine Williams copyright 2008

When my husband was diagnosed with esophagus cancer, we never talked about him dying, except in the very beginning. I think we were afraid to voice the worst scenario we could think of, him not making it through this disease. He refused to consider taking the traditional route in medicine, which was chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He told me early in his illness he was certain that the chemotherapy would kill him right away. When such a diagnosis is delivered, you begin to carry around with you a heaviness inside. When someone you care about is terminally ill, it dominates your thoughts and every waking moment. Your mind races over the different treatments and the newest drug trials, in the slim hope that things aren’t as bleak as they seem.

When the doctors told him he had this cancer, which essentially prevented him from eating, he wanted them to operate and take out the largest tumor at the junction of the stomach and esophagus. His doctor said it would be a major operation, where the ribs would have to be cracked open, and not one that he had the ability to perform. After more extensive testing was done, the doctors decided not to operate because they felt there was a good chance the cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes in the esophagus region. I didn’t know it then, but I guess I should have -- they didn’t want to operate because they felt it was a lost cause.

We didn’t feel we should give up -- we just knew that each human life is a cause worth fighting for. We never gave up hope that he could beat this cancer, even though it wasn’t discovered until almost last stage. I never actually asked the doctor what stage his cancer was. I believe it was an emotionally insulating factor for myself. I was afraid to know. I did so much research on alternative therapies that might help him, but I was afraid to know where traditional medicine saw him in his stage of cancer. Perhaps I was just better off that way. If I had known, perhaps that may have taken some of the fight out of both of us. We passed many milestones on our quest to heal him. To me, it wasn’t extending his life, it was attempting to heal his life and his body.

When someone is terminally ill, you want to preserve every moment, and that in itself becomes exhausting, though you’re not really cognizant of the toll day to day life takes on you. You want to try every avenue available to get better. I wanted my husband to visit a clinic we learned about in Mexico, where they had a good success rate of treating his type of cancer. I questioned our alternative medicine doctor about the latest therapies for cancer patients. I refused to let hope die, especially when my husband’s smaller tumors disappeared, and even when he kept losing weight. My mother said to me once, that some women might have left, but it never occurred to me. How could I ever think of leaving someone who I love when they needed me?

We took note of every mile marker along the way. Each step forward felt like a triumphant race to the ultimate goal, his being totally cured of cancer. I read many stories about others who had beat this devastating disease. It wasn’t until three weeks before my husband passed away, the night I had a dream, that I knew he was going to die. I’m sure many others knew right along he was going to die, but being in the thick of living this illness, it wasn’t an option for me. When I had the dream he died, I awoke and knew he was going to die. It was that simple.

All hope turned to despair. And still, we did not talk of him dying. Perhaps we should have, I don’t know. Perhaps he didn’t talk about his dying to spare me and my children. Perhaps he was afraid that even though I’d always been strong, maybe he didn’t want to see me break into a million tiny fragments. And I might have. I might well have broken apart, lost the emotional glue that was keeping me together in those last weeks. When hope flees, emotion and fear can break you down.

Some days I thought there was nothing more terrible than watching someone you love waste away from 200 lbs to ninety or so pounds. The spirit and the brightness in his eyes was undiminished, until the last eighteen hours. When you look into a loved one’s eyes and all you see is a black glassy emptiness, you know it is the end. For someone who likes to take control, and make other’s comfortable, I knew there was noting I could do. It was the most helpless I ever recall feeling in my life. The end had been written, but we never talked about the end. I think it was just too hard.

Forgiving Death

Forgiveness is part of the process. I went through a time I was angry that my husband felt like he left everything in my lap, what was left of our life had changed. I had three boys without a father, my youngest being 11. I just felt like everything had been dumped on me. When I faced up to these feelings and got over feeling guilty about them, I realized this was just part of the grief process I had to get through. I forgave myself, understood it was okay, and I didn't dwell on it but moved ahead with my life.

In the Midst of Grief

When you're in the midst of grief, some days something as simple as the words of a song can touch you very deeply and bring the tears of memory to your eyes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Book Reviews for A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss by Elaine Williams

I am posting the latest book reviews for "A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss." Some of them were received via email. At this point I have about 22 positive reviews on the book, which will be available June 2008.

"I enjoyed your book! It's obvious that you're a good writer and it's a heart-felt story."

Diane Brandon
Integrative Intuitive Counselor & Intuition Teacher, Speaker
Author of "Invisible Blueprints: Intuitive Insights for Fulfillment in Life"

"The book is good and I am sure that it will be quite helpful to early/young widows.

It is also a quick read - which is also a good thing as something complex was certainly beyond me during those early years and I know this is the case for many women. As well, you do catch some of the nuances of widowhood - nuances which can only be brought to light by one who has been there. Best of luck with it."

Mie Elmhirst PCC, MBA, Widow's Life Coach

"I related to so many things you shared in your book. I'm encouraged by how you have uncovered your own inner strength through your journey. I hope and continue to pray that God will reveal his purpose for your life as well as my own. I've been drifting since my husband's death in 2004.

After, 28 years of marriage with my junior high school sweetheart I have felt totally alone and lost even with two grown children and three wonderful granddaughters. One of which was born following my husband's death in 2005 and now carries his name forward. It's just not the same. It was very helpful to know you have walked through the challenges and you are moving forward by taking new steps every day. Blessings to you and thank you for sharing with me. So, many will be blessed and encouraged by reading your book."

Karen White
Widowed 2004


"We have some things in common when it comes to the subject of grief and it feels as though I know you after reading 'A Journey Well Taken: Life After Loss'. I admire your willingness to be open and vulnerable -- I've seen pain and loneliness in there too, and you talk about that openly."

Fred Frank, Owner Comfort Music and


Testimonials Received via email

"I just want to say that I read your excerpts of your story and I found it so touching and inspirational. I found it by accident, as if I was led to it. I lost my husband suddenly and have experienced all that you mention as far as grieving. Just recently my mother was diagnosed with esophagus cancer, and has elected to try radiation. She is a two-time survivor of cancer. So what I've read so far, in your excerpt from your book, is very informative, and so touching. Thank you for sharing it."



"Thank you so much. . . it helps somehow to know what you're feeling is normal and that you're not alone with those feelings. The more stories I read the more I realize
I'm not going crazy, but that I'm grieving. You have taken so many words right out of my own mouth. Any help on healing is a welcome in my life."

Bonnie S. widow of 3 years


"I really enjoyed reading your book. I just wanted you to know I feel some of your pain. Thanks again for writing your book and may God bless you."

Polly R.


"Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are very strong and give me courage."



"I was looking on the web for information to help my mom who was just widowed a month ago. I ran across your story. As I began to read it I got goose bumps. I knew your husband had esophageal cancer as soon as I read about his burping. My dad just lost his battle with that horrid disease. We also tried many alternatives because he also felt he wouldn't survive the traditional approach.

My heart goes out to you. Your husband was way too young to be stricken down by this disease. Your children should have been able to have their dad much longer. He sounded like a good man. I am sorry that you weren't able to grow old together, as I am sure you planned. My dad was 76, full of life, a great husband, father, and grandfather and interested in everything. Even though we know he lived a full life we thought he was too young, but we are all grateful for having had him that long. . . my mom misses him like crazy. Thanks for sharing your story."

Cathy B.


"I am a 47 year old woman and just lost my husband 30 days ago today suddenly from cardiac arrest. Finding and reading your excerpt tonight is truly a blessing and has brought me comfort in knowing that I'm not alone. What you've put into words describes so much of what I'm feeling inside. I will look forward to reading more of your journey that is only beginning for me."

Patti W., widowed 1 month


"I was very moved by your story. Like you, I also lost my husband suddenly to cancer and believe that although we move on and stay strong for our children, our hearts never really heal. I read the first part of your book to my best friend last night who stood with me and went with me to chemo with my husband. The tears rolled down our faces as we shared in your grief."

Miriam B.


"I've just finished reading your story. My Dad, my Mom's partner for 38 years, died. . . the past 2 months have been, as you can imagine, very, very difficult. I was looking online about what a person goes through when they lose their life partner. I want to understand what my Mom is going through that she may not be able to express. I also wanted to find something that would maybe encourage her, and give her hope.

Your story touched me so deeply... It brought me to tears. (I had to close my door and just take the time I needed to read your story in its entirety.) Thank you for taking the time to write your story... Please know you've touched a life today."

Jeanette P."I just want to say that I read your excerpts of your story and I found it so touching and inspirational. I found it by accident, as if I was led to it. I lost my husband suddenly and have experienced all that you mention as far as grieving. Just recently my mother was diagnosed with esophagus cancer, and has elected to try radiation. She is a two-time survivor of cancer. So what I've read so far, in your excerpt from your book, is very informative, and so touching. Thank you for sharing it."


Monday, March 10, 2008

An Inspirational Movie from The Light Beyond
This is a beautiful and inspirational movie with a wonderful soundtrack, found at The website also has a lot of helpful information and links relating to grief, loss and bereavement.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Grief in its many forms

Grief and loss come in a multitude of forms. Grief due to loss of a loved one but there's also grief related to illness and the impending demise of a loved one.

This week our family pet had to be put to sleep after ten years with us. When he was five weeks old he was slated to go to the dog pound. No one wanted him, so we went down to the place that had him and brought him home, not that I really wanted another dog. (We had the vet put to sleep our cherished Lab "Pearl" the week before)

Bear had a terribly aggressive, fast growing tumor that despite our best efforts, he chewed at and ultimately broke open in his last day of life. I went back and forth for a month on the idea of okaying an operation. He seemed fine, despite the tumor, but the operation I was afraid would totally lessen his quality of life. He would lose his tail, and some of his hind quarter. Otherwise, he seemed his usual self. It was strange...but I finally decided to go for the operation, when he seemed to be bothered suddenly by the tumor -- only to have him within the span of twelve hours, go from seeming to be okay to dying. We never got to the operation, and it seems he was fully involved with cancer, even though he looked okay on the outside. It's incredible to find how much you've become attached to an animal in that span of time. He still had a beautiful, shiny, thick husky coat, and yet he was dying from cancer.

My girlfriend of 17 years just had an operation for endometrial cancer. When she went for pre-testing and bloodwork the week before, and told me they found some swollen lymph glands in her legs, I was very fearful. Having been through this cancer route before, the deep feeling in the pit of my stomach was there...that unrelenting fear for the worst. I wanted to keep her buoyed up, it wasn't up to me to play doctor or surmise what this might mean. She had experts to do that. But I called her, took her out to lunch, kept in daily contact, just to talk to her and let her know I cared.

I saw her this morning after the operation which took a lot longer than they expected. I stayed with her several hours. At a few points we cried together, because the prognosis is not good. The doctor that came to see her, not her regular doctor, alluded to the fact that there was cancer in other places. She is realistic, and I couldn't help the tears that started to my eyes at her matter of fact way of dealing with this news. I cried and I already knew this in my gut.

She said she doesn't want to linger, if she's filled with cancer. She wants it over quick. She knows how it went with my husband, and she fears lingering toward death. I didn't want to talk about this, but I must, so I can help her in this way, just by listening. I feel for her and I feel for myself. Already I feel the loss in my life, the loss of a good, loving person who loves her dogs, animals and especially kids. And they love her.

I love her, but there's nothing I can do for her. Nothing at all, except be her friend and help her in the best way I can.