Monday, November 3, 2014

Voices of Experience: Looking Back

Jim Gorman
By Anne M. Gorman

The only time you should ever look back is to see how far you've come.  ~ Unknown

Anne Gorman and her beloved Jim were married for 40 years until his death on May 25, 2012 from Alzheimer’s disease. With the help of their Hospice of the Valley team in Phoenix, Arizona and the private nurse they hired, they were able to prepare ~ as best as one can in such circumstances ~ for the end of his life, and to fulfill his wish to die at home. Anne decided to mark the 29-month anniversary of Jim’s death by taking a careful look back at her own grief journey: remembering where she was in the beginning, noticing how far she’s come, and pondering what she has learned in the more than two years since her beloved died. She agreed to share her insights here, with the hope that the lessons she has learned will inspire others as they find their own way through grief.

Since my husband Jim died on May 25, 2012, this past Saturday, October 25 was a special day for me: the 29-month anniversary of his death. I marked the occasion by taking some time to see where my grief journey has taken me.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along this path:

· It is my journey, and mine alone ~ yet, I do not take it alone.

· The waves or the roller coaster rides are real ~ learn from them and sometimes enjoy them for they do change throughout the grief journey.

· The “fog” lifts and it hurts more than when I was in that “fog.”

· Sometimes we have to be alone for it is in that solitude that we begin to see ourselves as we are today ~ changed, different, resilient.

· Crying is not a weakness ~ it is OK to cry ~ to be sad ~ to be angry ~ to have guilt.

· It is important to care for yourself ~ it is NOT selfish.

· There are some people who will sit with you and not try to hurry you along your path ~ these are treasured friends ~ they have known grief.

· No one grieves in the same way ~ our children, co-workers, or friends do not know how we feel ~ it is important to understand this so you do not judge others for being insensitive ~ most people mean well.

· Reading about grief is a “tool” that will enable you to handle most situations.

· Sleep disturbances, health issues, finances, death of a pet, social isolation, etc., can challenge our sense of security and confidence ~ these things can exaggerate the grief journey.

· There is NO timeline in grief ~ “it takes as long as it takes” to accept the loss.

· Reflection/meditation is good.

· Laughter is good.

· Music is healing ~ Nightingale Serenade still brings tears to my eyes; Let There Be Peace on EarthMake Me a Channel of your PeaceIf You Came Back From Heaven by Lorrie Morgan, and Bridge Over Troubled Waters are songs I go to for comfort. Music is my mantra ~ today I played our Sympathy in White video, the same one we listened to as my Jim slipped away ~ and YES, I did cry.

· Art is healing ~ I like my colored pencil/marker coloring ~ it is cathartic. 
An example of the author's pencil coloring

· Trying something new (learning to play the piano) has been a challenge.

· Support from others on the online Grief Healing Discussion Groups has been a major part of my healing ~ the genuine love and concern for others shows through on all the posts expressed on this site ~ We are indeed caring for each other ~ I for one am grateful to you all.

· Patience is a new word in my vocabulary ~ allowing myself to mourn now is good.

· Significant dates, holidays, or other reminders can trigger feelings related to my loss ~ acknowledging these feelings are ways that can help me cope ~ planning ahead for these special days allows me to remember many of the good times in our lives. I can do this by:

1. Making a special Christmas ornament for the tree

2. Baking a favorite bread (Banana Nut Bread) to give or serve during the holiday

3. Creating iMovies of our life together

4. Making chocolate fudge (Jim’s favorite)

5. Making that homemade apple butter to spread on muffins

6. Lighting a special candle during the holidays

7. Taking road trips to places we both enjoyed ~ even though bittersweet

On this journey I have learned how to share my feelings, to be a good listener, to hold a hand, to be available to others who are in pain, to allow others to be in their own pain AND to accept my own pain, understanding that it changes ~ There are good and not so good days on this journey.

I have learned that it is my choice to take hold of my health ~ I am managing my heart failure and my lung function numbers have been in a good range ~ I am off of most prescription medication and my high B/P and heart rate are in the normal range ~ I keep in touch with my cardiac and pulmonary doctors ~ I have become my own advocate.

I miss my Benji but believe that he found me at a time when I needed him ~ I wish I still had him here making me laugh, making me exercise ~ I loved him as best as I knew how ~ my heart is not ready for another dog.

Remembering some of the good times is slowly taking the place of the painful reality of those last years when I walked with my Jim on his Alzheimer’s journey.

I am so grateful for those of you who have walked this journey with me ~ thank you for your encouragement, support, loving kindness, and allowing me to learn from you as you grieve your losses.

Remember When  

© 2014 by Anne M. Gorman

About the Author: After flying B-17's as a U.S. Army Air Corp pilot (USAAC) during WWII, Anne's husband Jim majored in business at De Paul University in IL. His lifetime career was that of a milk route salesman. The Gormans have one beautiful daughter together, and two grandchildren whom Anne adores. Her own life’s passion included four decades of teaching middle and high school students. The last decade of her professional life was spent in administration, teaching teachers how to integrate technology into their curriculum and how to use software to enhance student learning. Anne chose to end her teaching career in 2007 to care for her beloved Jim at home. She writes, "I am still (and always will be) in mourning for this devastating loss. One day I may be able to write my story, but today it is too soon."

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