I Survived the Year of 2019 – Can I Survive this Year of Jumanji?

For the most part, I am doing well.  Most part.

However, as the year anniversary of my husband’s suicide is about to roll around, I get deep anxiety as to how I am going to face that day.  Will I wake up gasping for breath?  Will I be able to get out of bed?  Will I be able to put one foot in front of the other?  Or will it just be another day?

Thank God I continue working from home, because I just do not know if I want to be around people that day.

Almost a year.  Sometimes it is flying by, some days it is dragging by.  But I know I made tremendous strides in my healing.

When I have to say my husband passed away, those words just do not seem right.  Passed away.  Passed away, to me, seems like a peaceful passing.  His was not.  His was a violent death – at his own hand.

I have not publicly shared what happened that day to try to protect what was good in Bubba, and let him have some dignity.  But by not doing so, rumors abound.  Rumors are worse than the truth.

May 29, 2019 – a day I will remember for the rest of my life.

The years of chronic pain, his body failing and the multitude of medicines he was on, I swear, turned his brain into Swiss cheese.  The last two years of his life were very difficult for him, and his moods were difficult for the rest of us.  His last two weeks of his life were worse.

I will not go into detail, but there are a few things that I would rather utter the words instead of others spreading rumors.  You will know this truth from me – the only other person with him that day.  What anyone else offers is pure conjecture.

All I will say is on May 29, 2019, Bubba had a most difficult day.  I returned home from work not knowing if I would find Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde.  I was in the front yard.  Bubba was on the carport – when I heard the gunshot.  I heard the gunshot.  I will never forget that.  I heard the gunshot.

I knew what he did.

I called 9-1-1.  Since no one else was home, the 9-1-1 operator said I had to check my husband to see if he was still breathing.  I could not imagine what I would find.  Yes, he was still breathing.  No, his face was not blown off like someone later told his sister.  How this untruth traveled from north Mississippi to the bayous of south Louisiana beats the heck out of me.  I could have had an open casket funeral if I had not chosen cremation.

To dispel other rumors, at no point was a gun turned on me.  I was not in fear of my life at that moment.

My goal in this is to make people think before they offer opinions to someone who has lost a loved one by suicide.  Death by suicide of a loved one already has enough stigma attached to the situation.  We do not want to hear you state our loved one cannot get into heaven because he took his own life.  We do not want to hear what the trajectory of a bullet does to the brain.  And mostly, if you were not in the room at the time and have no idea what occurred, we do not want you to offer opinions, or repeat hearsay as fact.

I hurt for Bubba for what his mind must have been going through contemplating his suicide.  I hurt for our children and grandchildren.  I see the pain on his siblings’ faces when they speak about him and I could just cry.  He’s left a world of hurt in cousins, aunts, uncle and friends.

His suicide hurts badly enough. Rumors and conjecture hurt even worse.

Fast forward to May, 2020.

As May 29, 2020 approaches, for the most part I am doing well.  Most part.

I am bringing on my own anxiety by anticipating I will have a bad day.

That is an unknown.

What I do know is God’s promise.

Philippians 4:6-7 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This verse brings me peace, for the most part.  For the most part I am doing well.

A common comment heard from someone experiencing new grief is, “I wish I could fast forward from this deep pain to a day this pain does not bring me to my knees.”

This crazy COVID-19, Jumanji year has accomplished that very feat for me – fast forwarded my grief.  I am not making light of others’ hardships during this most difficult time, I am only speaking of my own experience.

Usually during a time of trial and tribulation, God sees it fit to put me in the middle of the turmoil.  But this time, God let me sit this one out.  He gave me rest, peace and blessings.  I still have a job.  I work from home.  I get paid.  And I will return to my job when this over.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

Life is good during my time of quarantine.  I am finding myself, re-kindling old friendships, spending many therapeutic moments in my vegetable garden, eating better, losing weight and learning much.  Learning things such as, did you know you can open a bag of potato chips and not eat the entire bag in one sitting?  Who knew?  I have also learned I can let my bangs grow out, and I do not have to cut them myself.  The hairdo actually looks better!  I can have downtime and enjoy this without guilt.  I can be lazy sometimes, and that is okay.  My soul finds rest.

Yes, my grief has fast forwarded, but I find myself trying to put on the brakes as May 29, 2020 approaches.

Check with me on May 30, 2020, and I will let you know how I survived.

For the most part, I am doing well.  For the most part I have shed my skin and stepped into a skin I like much better.  For the most part I live, I laugh and I love.  For the better part I am moving forward, not just surviving but thriving.

For the most part I am truly doing well.

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home town. Pre-Quarantine, they would bring the college students into their home on Monday nights to break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  They have since then had to find other ways to minister to these young men and women.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

After the Spiral…..

I spiraled Valentine’s week.  I am not proud of it, but it is what it is.  I know spiraling can be expected during grief.  Does not mean I was ready for it though.  It was a bad spiral.  I was not sure I was going to climb out of that rabbit hole this time.

I had a panic attack in Dollar General.  I barely made it through the check out, ran to my vehicle, and cried once I shut the door.  Cried all the way home.

Grief is rough.  On top of regular grief, trying to process your husband committing suicide makes you wonder how you function every day.

With the help of my therapist, I realized I was missing what might have been, and going down the What If rabbit hole.  What if my old vehicle dies?  What if I can’t fix the problems in my old house?  What if I never get my vegetable garden started ever again?  I have to re-till and amend the soil because I have not had a garden for 3 years.  What if I can’t do this by myself?  What if I can’t fix the potholes on my dirt road?

The irony is, the hope of ‘what could have been’ sustained me through my husband’s mental illness.  I always had hope his physical and mental ailments would be cured and we would grow old together as planned.  Now, after his death, the ‘what could have been’ was driving me insane.  Identifying this emotion, owning it for what it was, sure helped propel me to once again put one foot in front of the other.

Another factor playing into my depression was the weather.  Our region normally has mild winters.  We didn’t have particularly extreme cold days, but we had a wet winter.  Most times, there are nights where we can go outside, light a fire and have outdoor movie night.  There was none of that this winter because it was just too wet.  Not being able to be outside, on the land I so love, was much more draining that I ever could have imagined.

Fortunately, Saturday was dry and mild.  With my newfound grasp on reality, I was able to spend some time in sunshine and this lifted my spirits tremendously.  I felt empowered!

I tackled the yard, starting with cleaning up some messes.  Then, I learned how to drive our zero-turn lawnmower while wearing my bright pink Avon Mattitude Liquid Lipstick.  I also learned how to connect my headphones to my cell so I could listen to music while cutting the grass.

Progress!

I broke the lawnmower.

Not progress!

And as if widowhood wasn’t enough, a lizard got in my house.  I picked up a magazine, saw a little stick sticking out of it and proceeded to remove it, when said stick jumps on my finger.  Said stick turns out to be a baby lizard.  I shake my finger while screaming and hopping around.  The baby lizard scampers to parts unknown and can probably live in this house to adulthood because I am not picking it up.  I realized I should have known that wasn’t a stick because why would a stick be sticking out of my magazine?

Not so much progress, but that’s okay.

So heck on this day!  I went out for boiled seafood and $2 margaritas for National Margarita Day.

Problems not solved, but who cares when you can get $2 margaritas?

Sunday rolls along.  I decide to pick up sticks in my yard to burn, which gives me the idea that I can burn some oak logs in my garden area.  That would go a long way in amending my soil.

Hallelujah moment!  Garden problem partially solved!

Later, I went down my muddy dirt road, noticing my husband’s shovel that he kept in the woods to dig little trenches when the rain got bad.  So right there, in my good tennis shoes, I hopped out of my vehicle to dig a few trenches to drain some of the water.

Pothole problem temporarily solved!

I go back home feeling really proud of myself.  Now to clean my tennis shoes and take a shower.

And then….

I see that baby lizard in my tub.  I run out the bathroom, stop in the hallway, and say ‘time to man up, Gretchen.’  I march back into the bathroom with new resolve.  Taking the advice of one of my widow friends, I threw a face cloth over the lizard.  She said she heard little lizard screams as she carried it outside.  I am hard of hearing so I did not hear any little lizard screams, but I did feel it wiggling in the cloth.  I almost threw up.  I opened the back door to release said lizard, and it was clinging to the face cloth for dear life.  Before it could jump on my hand, I threw out the cloth, ran inside and locked the door.

Lizard problem solved!

Days later, when I know the lizard has left the face cloth, I will just burn that cloth in my garden burn pile.

Problem solved!

Man, it’s grand not to be stuck in a spiral.

 

The wise woman builds her house,
but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.  Proverbs 14:1

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  My daughter and her husband are the sweetest Valentines I know.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Avon tip of the day:  For a limited time, you can join Avon for FREE.  Got to my website and click on Become a Representative.  Start selling immediately. Your sign up comes with loads of perks, benefits and goodies to help you start strong. Plus, you can earn up to 65% in sales and bonuses!  Personalize your free online store and then text or email the link to friends and family for instant sales. Sell anywhere, anytime with our mobile app and get paid fast in 2 business days with Rapid Pay!

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

 

The First Valentine

I did not think Valentine’s Day would be too bad.  We had been married for 37 years and didn’t really celebrate the day anymore, for goodness sake.

Or did we?

I opened FB that morning and 10 years of memories hit me.  We didn’t do elaborate celebrations anymore, but I realized we quietly marked the day with sweet little traditions.  He would cook me breakfast before work, which included a heart shaped omelet.  I would pick up a couple pounds of crawfish for a quiet dinner to be eaten in front of the TV (watching Walton’s re-runs, no doubt).  Filling a vase with whatever we could find growing in the yard to decorate our dining table.

I will never experience those moments anymore, and that made my cry.

I have been growing stronger each day, so this step back took me totally off guard.  The mourning was so tense, it became physical.  My heart was burning and felt tight and constricted.  I could swear someone had my heart in their hand and were squeezing as hard as they could.

I reached out to a few other widow friends, and we were all suffering.  Julia and I discussed how memories were normally comforting, but today we were drowning in them.  Debbie said even after 3 years the pain was still so raw for her.  Julie told me God’s got us, the firsts are always the hardest and we will make it.

I do not want to bring others down on this day of celebrating love, but my co-workers find me crying in my cubicle.  I do not want to allow this sadness and anger to turn my heart to stone and become bitter.  I want to celebrate love and I want to always be happy for couples who get to celebrate this time together.  God, please allow me to be happy for others even though my heart is breaking.

I’m still mad at him for taking his own life, and that anger continues to buffer some of my sadness.  I took his picture off of my cubicle wall, and threw it in my top drawer.  Then I removed the picture and flung it in the bottom drawer because I decided he wasn’t top drawer worthy.

But on this day, there was no anger, just deep, gut wrenching, heart constricting pain

My therapist advised me to accept these days and just to sit in my grief for a moment.

But oh God, it just hurts so bad.

For your Maker is your husband– the LORD Almighty is his name– the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.  Isaiah 54:5

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  My daughter and her husband are the sweetest Valentines I know.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.)

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Avon tip of the day:  For a limited time, you can join Avon for FREE.  Got to my website and click on Become a Representative.  Start selling immediately. Your sign up comes with loads of perks, benefits and goodies to help you start strong. Plus, you can earn up to 65% in sales and bonuses!  Personalize your free online store and then text or email the link to friends and family for instant sales. Sell anywhere, anytime with our mobile app and get paid fast in 2 business days with Rapid Pay!

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

Glory to the Ordinary

For 37 years, just before midnight, I would say Happy New Year to the same man.  For 37 years, upon waking, I would say Happy New Year, again, to the same man.

Needless to say, I have been stressing and dreading this New Year.  I feel I am stepping forward into the future and leaving my husband behind.  In 2019, my husband was alive.  In 2020, he isn’t.  2020 won’t know him.  2019 knew him.  This seems to solidify he is gone.

I have started New Year’s with him for 37 years.  How do I not do this?

Well he left me no choice, did he?

In the year’s pre-kids, we would go to nightclubs, drink champagne and ring in the New Year.  Once kids arrived, we hosted family parties at our home, making great, great memories.  Years later, we rang in the year with the two grandchildren living with us.  Most of the time it was just the 4 of us on our little acreage, lighting sparklers and throwing snappy pops.  Such a cozy setting.

Fast forward to this year, the oldest grands are in their teens now, doing their own thing.  I don’t want to go to any parties – socializing – that would hurt too much.  But I don’t want to be home alone.  I figured I would go to Waffle House, sit at the counter (because booths are reserved for 2 or more), and have a lonely dinner.

Then I would go home and wait for midnight – counting down by myself.  3 – 2 – 1.

I can’t.  I. Just. Can’t.

But the past few days, something started changing in me.  I have been feeling the need to socialize more, and not just with my friends in my computer (my Facebook friends).  I need face to face contact.

Is my grieving progressing to a new stage? Am I seeing light at the end of the tunnel?  Well, I am not to the end the tunnel, because grieving never ends.  But grieving does morph, and I am seeing some light.  I am coming up for air.  I feel I am beginning to breathe again.

Fortunately, a high school friend threw out a rope and saved me from drowning in my pity.  She invited me to spend New Year’s at her house, drinking champagne, wearing our jammies and talking the night away.  (After all, we have 40 years to catch up on!)  We will skip the parties and have a girl’s night in.  This is just what I needed.  I won’t have to be in a social setting, and I won’t be home alone.  The next day, we will cook the required black eye peas and cabbage.  Well, she will probably cook.  She knows my cooking horror stories and she may not let me in her kitchen.

But I still don’t know if I can say Happy New Year.  I am thinking of starting a different tradition, similar to Seinfeld’s Festivus for the Rest of Us.  I think I will say, “Glory to the Ordinary.”

Those of us grieving or hurting just want to be ordinary.  We don’t want the stigma of being the wife whose husband committed suicide.  We don’t want to be the parent who buried his/her child.  We don’t want to be the wife/husband whose spouse left them for a ‘newer model.’  Glory to the Ordinary.

Instead of having “Airing of the Grievances,” we will hold “Remembrance of the Non-Descript.”  For example, I kiss my husband goodbye as I leave for work.  I come home in the evening, opening the front door and smell his famous chili cooking on the stove.  Or Saturday mornings when we were feeling lazy and we would linger in bed while watching PBS, and grandkids would climb in with us.  Or Sunday Saints’ games, boiling a sack of crawfish.  (He took his famous boiled crawfish recipe to the grave with him.  I don’t think I will ever taste crawfish again as good as his.)  These days, nothing out of the ordinary happened.  These were just regular days of existence.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We can keep “Feats of Strength,” but this will not entail wrestling.  Those of us grieving or hurting show our strength everyday just by getting out of bed, showing up for the day, accomplishing what is necessary, celebrating small victories over our pain and managing to make it to nightfall.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We want an ordinary day without the heavy burden of our losses.  Glory to the Ordinary.

We don’t want to say Happy New Year, because we really do not feel it.

So to all of us that are hurting as we approach the New Year, I will not say Happy New Year.  But I do wish you a Glory to the Ordinary.

 “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” – Proverbs 23:18 (NIV)

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights – sometimes over 20 people are fed – on a youth minister’s salary!  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

GLORY TO THE ORDINARY!

Christmas is What You Make it – so is Life

In 2008 and 2009 we were a little nomadic, moving between the coast and a little further inland.  I was ready to buy a house again and put down roots.  But where?

My son knew of an acquaintance wanting to sell his grandparents house.  We took a ride down a bumpy country road to check it out.  I pulled into the yard, took one look, promptly backed out and told my son, “No way in heck would I ever move there.  Don’t bother making an appointment to see inside.”

Fast forward a few months, no other deal panned out for us.  To make matters even worse, my husband lost his job.  What followed was a frenzy of fighting for his unemployment benefits and trying to find an affordable place to live.

God sure does have a sense of humor.

The only place I could afford on my salary alone was – you guessed it – the place I refused to consider a few months earlier.

We moved in December 1, 2009.   Christmas was going to be tight.  My husband took our 5-year old grandson and 3-year old granddaughter into the woods to chop a tree.  We do not live in an area that abounds with beautiful trees you see in a Hallmark Christmas movie.  They found a scrawny scrub pine, brought it in the house, put lights on it, and whatever ornaments the tiny branches could hold.  The grands and my husband were excited.  I was depressed and cried.  But in the end, we had a very good Christmas.  We made the best of our situation.

From that moment on, the grands wanted to go into the woods to chop down a miserable excuse for a Christmas tree.  I simply refused for that to happen again, and we bought our trees off of a lot.

Eventually, with my husband’s chronic pain taking over his body, I resorted to a fake tree.

Last Christmas, my then 14-year old grandson revolted.  He wanted a real tree.  I refused.

This year, with all he has been through, I was determined to get him a real tree.  I have been busy purging clutter in this house (yes, the same house I refused to move in to 10 years before), and decided I did not have room to store a fake tree.  I donated the tree, which meant I would be forced to buy a real tree.

My son and grandson took a ride to check out real trees and were shocked at the price tags.  Just great.  I donated that fake tree, and now I was stuck.  With other expenses happening, I knew this would be a stretch, but I would bite the bullet for my grandkids.

My now 15-year old grandson took matters into his own hands.  While I was at work, he headed out to the woods to follow his Paw Paw’s footsteps and find us a tree.  The little prankster he is – he chopped down a Charlie Brown tree, drug it into the house, put it in the stand – took a picture – then texted it to me.  Funny kid.  Why can’t you put as much effort into your homework as you do a prank!

I get home from work, just in time to see him setting up the real tree he intended to use in our house.  It looked better than the Charlie Brown tree, and even better than the tree he and Paw Paw cut down 10 years ago.

But it is still a sparse scrub pine and not really Christmas tree worthy.  Oh well!  This child put a lot of effort into this, and I didn’t have the heart to say, “Throw it out because I am going to buy a tree from a lot.”  He jacked it up in a stand, threw lights on it, and hung a few ornaments – all by himself.  We topped it of with his Paw Paw’s Santa hat.

This young man hasn’t shown much interest in many things since losing his Paw Paw.  I was glad to see his excitement in this project.

I took a chance to peek into my past, possibly opening my heart to some aches.  But looking back, what I saw as my only choice for a roof over our head as a severe setback, turned into years of a fun life I never could have imagined.  I learned how much I loved the country life and this former city girl was converted.

For quite some time, my husband, myself and the two grands were quite the tight little family unit.  They learned about vegetable gardening, harvesting, storing and canning.  They learned about chickens and had the fun experience of collecting their breakfast from the backyard.  They experienced walking down a country dirt road to a pond, catching fish for supper, gutting and cleaning them, and eating this fresh catch straight off the grill.  They learned how to build a campfire, roast marshmallows, make hot chocolate and s’mores, and watch a favored Christmas movie with their daddy on an outdoor screen.

They learned how to take a scrawny scrub pine tree and turn it into a magical Christmas wonder.

What I saw as a failure of not being able to give my grandkids a proper tree from a lot, turned into an adventure for them and their Paw Paw, and taught them to improvise, using what is available to them.  In hindsight, this ‘failure’ was pure lagniappe, giving my grands a priceless memory.

We made the most of our country life in our dinky house with our sad Christmas trees.  We had fun doing the best we could, until my husband’s chronic pain became so unbearable it changed his demeanor, which changed our lives, which ended up taking his life.

This Christmas, drawing upon our God-given strengths, we will start new traditions, while preserving some of our old traditions that are instilled in our brains as happy memories.

Last night I was blogging about not being okay.  I thought it would take quite some time to shake that feeling.  All it took was a 15-year old grandson, a sad looking scrub pine and great memories.  Tonight, I am okay, and I will take tonight for what it is.

Christmas is what you make it – and so is Life!

 

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and youth minister son-in-law’s personal ministry of reaching out to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Some of the students are foreign exchange.  From a handmade table in south Mississippi, the gospel is being spread around the world.  Please check out my Avon website.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  If this is your first time ordering online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any order.  And, you get FREE SHIPPING on any $40+ order.)
YourAvon.com/ghegwood

6 Praise the LORD! For he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

8 The LORD gives his people strength. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king.

Psalm 28:6-8

I Regret, Re-Visited

I have already expressed regrets from our married life.  I have a deeper regret from your last few hours here on earth.  I have to unburdened my soul, confess and get this off of my chest.

This regret carries my deepest shame.

You left a note.  I will never read your last thoughts.  Your last days were filled with such venom. I don’t want to hear your poison snaking around in my head until I take my last breath.  Our daughter talked me into letting our son-in-law keep the note, so that if you left a kind word for anyone, he can pass that on.  I don’t even want to know if you left a kind word for me.  Actions speak louder than words and your actions were deplorable.

I do not regret not reading your note.

I sat in the waiting room while you lay in a sterile hospital room dying.  I imagine you were surrounded by machines, nurses and doctors – strangers.  I would not go in the room to see you.

I do not regret not going into the room to see you.

The doctor entered the waiting room, telling me you were not long for this earth, did I want to tell you goodbye.  Absolutely NOT!  I was so angry at you for what you did.  I didn’t want to see you in that state and I didn’t want to give you the comfort of having a loved one by your side.  At that moment, I hated you.

I do not regret sitting with you while you took your last breath.  I was most upset to not have been given the option of holding your hand while you died a peaceful death.

Family was far away in another state, so I was your only family member there – your wife of almost 37 years, who should have been by your side.  Had our children been close by, wanting to go in to see you, I would have conceded.  But hell would freeze over before I was by your side watching you take your last breath.  My co-worker asked if I at least wanted our preacher in there with you.  Absolutely NOT!  You chose a vicious end to your life, you were leaving this world alone.

I do regret not letting the preacher be with you as you were leaving this earth.

Five months of reflection, I realize I should have let the preacher be by your side.  That is my deepest, most shameful regret and I want to hide my face for the ugliness I displayed in your last moments.  I am sorry.  I apologize to our children and to your siblings for letting you die alone.  I was your partner in life, and no matter what, should have sent you off with some dignity.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.  I was scorned and I was furious.  I did not let God’s light penetrate those last awful hours.

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

What Happens When the Overwhelming Feeling of Grief Strikes

For almost 5 months I have been living in an angry world – my angry world – so angry at my husband for committing suicide – that I thought that was my world forever.  I don’t like angry world.

Recently, angry grief started moving over and allowing sadness grief to make an appearance.  I felt like I had multiple personalities, but angry grief was the dominant one.  Angry grief would allow other personalities of grief to briefly peek through.  But that potent emotion always, and most easily, regained control of any other feeling wanting to surface.

Angry grief is a real son of a gun.  Out of the blue, it fled my body, as if an exorcism had been performed.  In its place was a whirlwind of the deepest sorrow I have ever known.  My heart became so heavy it seemed to have dropped far into an abyss in my body that I never knew existed.  Something foreign bubbled up into my throat and began strangling me.  I was plunged into a sadness so deep that my entire world rocked.

The only way to compare this is the feeling when you are driving on the beach road, singing along to your favorite song on the radio.  The skies are blue, the water is serene, the sun roof is cracked open a bit – and BAM – out of nowhere, a hurricane strength wind blows in from the gulf, slamming into your vehicle. Not only do you swerve into another lane – you are thrown into an alternate dimension.  The skies are dark and stormy.  The air is so thick you cannot breathe.  You try to scream but nothing comes out, and the gravitational pull on your heart can actually drop you to your knees.  You fight to return to the normal dimension – the dimension when all was right with the world – but you are floating – no – you are spinning –and there is nothing to grab on to.

This pain was so intense, this is nothing a surgeon’s hand, or a physician’s drug, could fix.

I was beginning to think I liked angry world better.  At least angry grief insulated me, for a bit, from the shock I had to deal with on that dreadful day of May 29.  Angry grief insulated me for almost 5 months afterward and allowed me to put one foot in front of the other.  I was functioning, making decisions and living life.  This new pain of sorrow grief wanted me to curl into a ball and withdraw from functionality.

In reality, I was not on a beach road.  I was driving to work on a Monday morning when the heavy heart feeling hit.  I began to cry.  It would have been so much easier to turn around and go home.  But I had responsibilities at work, and onward I went.  I walked into the office wiping my eyes, trying to gather myself and present a rational being to the world. I was still spinning with nothing to grab onto, but I was trying, on my own, to return to the normal dimension of functioning Gretchen.

On my own – those are the keywords.  On my own.  You cannot handle grief on your own.  Don’t try it.  I did and it did not work.  As I was spinning in that alternate direction, I was trying to grab onto anything.  What happened was God grabbed on to me and said, “Come on child.  I am taking you on a journey.  You may not like it.  But you are not alone.  I am with you every step of the way.”

I walked into my cubicle and there was a little book, titled Think Happy, Be Happy, from my supervisor, along with a note stating I was not alone and my work crew was with me.  A high school friend (note – we have been out of school 40 years!) texted me throughout the day checking on me.  Another high school friend stopped me in the work hallway to offer words of support.  Co-workers rallied around me tightly that Monday.  Later in the week, a former co-worker mailed me a book titled Hugs – a Daily Devotional for Woman.  My former supervisor walked into my cubicle to give me a hug.  And, as always, family was near holding me up – my family and my husband’s family.  I had earth angels pulling my heart out of that abyss.

In this intense pain of sorrow, God is the surgeon’s hand and the physician’s drug.  In addition to His Word, God has surrounded me with a huge support system.  This support system actually extends around the world.  He must know that I am a real mess and I really need a group this big.

I know that throughout this grief journey, the hurricane strength wind and abyss heart sinking feeling will overtake me at times.  This is a journey I must take for complete healing.  This is my journey.  No one else walks in my shoes. We all have different journeys, but we all have a common path to take – and that is a journey with God.  Not only does God grip my hand, He cradles me when I cannot walk.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.  Psalm 62:5

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

I Regret

I never thought the anger would move over enough to let normal grief in – not the grief of a widow whose husband chose suicide by way of leaving her instead of fixing the problems – but the grief of a widow who lost her husband through natural causes.

Five months later and I feel like it is the first week after your death.  I am driving in the car, and out of 37 years of habit, when I stop at a red light, I reach for your hand, but I look down and my hand is empty.  The anger has subsided enough to let me remember the good times; however, this brings on such heavy sorrow, pain and regret.

I have had five months of processing all of your faults.  Now I must address mine.

I have regrets.  I am not finished trying to fix us.  Time goes on, but not for our matrimonial union.  I am so sorry I did not realize the concept of Love and Respect sooner in our marriage.  The husband craves respect from his mate in order to feel loved, and the wife needs to feel love in order to feel respected.  I was raised to be such a strong-willed woman I don’t think I ever truly let you feel like the leader of the family.  I am so sorry for that.  You were such a strong willed man and that collided with my need for being an individual.  This struggle interfered with the concept of two becoming one.  And time has run out to rectify the situation.

I am so sorry for whatever pain I ever caused you.

I must accept my regrets and live with what is.

I asked God for forgiveness and this gives me comfort.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version (NIV)  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

Thank God for Renewed Mercies!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentation 3:22-23

I was in a bit of a snit last night and having a pity party.  I felt I was back to square one in my grief process.  What a setback I was having, and I was feeling lonely.

Yesterday, our granddaughter turned 5.  She is the life of the party, like her grandfather was.  Little Miss Sassy is so full of happiness, love and personality.  I couldn’t help but think what her Paw Paw was missing, by his own hand He would have made a huge deal out of her newly pierced ears.  And I could picture him, and our baby, sitting on his lap as she told the story of how she scored two goals in her soccer game.  Our Little Miss Sassy would have had his undivided attention.  This man was born to be a Paw Paw.

Yesterday was also our son’s birthday.  I had the bright idea to cook a supper for my son and bake a cake.  The kitchen was my husband’s area of expertise.  I am a burning, over-cooking, setting the food on fire hot mess of a momma.  I was my usual disaster self.  I really, really need to stay away from the kitchen.

I was so unnerved by these thoughts I pretended he was in the passenger seat of our vehicle on the drive home and I cursed him out royally.  I vented lots of frustration.  I calmed down enough to listen to the radio, only to have Brooks & Dunn’s Neon Moon shatter the thin glass my mind was walking on.  I fell hopelessly into a state of loneliness and depression.

I went to sleep with a heavy heart and had sad, sad dreams.

BUT THEN, I opened my eyes to a new morning.  Instead of lamenting my sorrows, I lamented on Lamentation 3:22-23.  God brings me new mercies every morning.  I was calm.  I decided to take a walk outside on my property.  Bin, the dog, trailed along, and Katuree the Krazy Cat insisted I carry her.  My husband’s presence is everywhere outside.  That was his domain.  He has four neat stacks of future projects waiting to be done at Spooky Hollow Southern MS, our faux homestead.  Faux, in meaning that if the apocalypse came, we would be the first to die.

He has a stack of boards that can be used for various projects, a stack of tin to re-do our tool shed, covered by a stack of thick wooden fence posts.  He has a stack of fencing and metal fencing posts.  And, finally, he has a stack of various sizes of miscellaneous brick, stone slabs and little boulders.  I didn’t look at this stack with sadness.  Because of my new mercies for today, I looked at this stack with a hope of some great projects.  How will the projects get done?  I do not know.  I have not a crafty bone in my accountant body.

But that thought is for another day – another day that has renewed mercies.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)

I walked back into the house, made my son a cup of bitter coffee, and conjured up plans to salvage the pork loin, and to once again try to bake that cake.

As for me, I am not eating anything I cook.  I have plans with some high school friends to meet at a café for a late lunch.

Thank you God for renewed mercies every morning!

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood

Crushed in Spirit

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

That’s me alright – yes indeed – that is me – the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.  How righteous I felt when I heard this verse. The Lord is close to me because I am all so self-important.  My husband’s mental illness sure made me brokenhearted and I sure was crushed in spirit.  I felt so vindicated and so superior.

Then, a small voice spoke to me.  “How crushed in spirit do you think your husband was to put a …… – to commit sui….. – to take his own life?”  (I still have trouble thinking it, much less saying it loud…)  I felt small and petty.  My insides were churning.  He lost all hope and spiraled down into total despair and darkness on the afternoon of May 29, 2019.

I have spent the last few months trying so hard to process my own emotions, no way could I take on my husband’s emotions.  But there it was, a voice creeping into my thoughts to try to see this from his perspective.  He was brokenhearted.  He was crushed in spirit.  He was broken – PERIOD!  I will never fully understand because he is no longer here to explain.

He was always the life of the party, but something dark continuously lurked under his vibrant personality.  What happened to his psyche during his lifetime to cause him to harbor this demon?  Why would his emotions shift at some imagined offense only he saw?  Out of all the good times we had, I suffered anxiety because I never knew when that inner crazed person would make an appearance.  Deep down, he was a good, caring man.  He suffered with alcoholism and this angry demon living within himself, and it got the best of him.  He would cry out sometimes, “I am so sorry!  I don’t mean to act crazy!  I don’t like myself.”  This would leave me wondering, ‘well – why do you act like this?  Fix yourself already!’  I will not know the answer this side of heaven.

He knew he had problems, but he would not seek help.  When he was not feeling contrite about his actions, he was feeling too self-important and thinking someone always wronged him in one way or the other.  Nothing was ever his fault.   Once he decided someone wronged him, he bore anger on that person until his last breath.

I had a moment of clarity in my moment off all too self-importance.  This man was suffering greatly.  I never want to be in that dark of a place.  I believe if he had not been so stubborn, and sought help, he could have lived a fairly normal life and perhaps died a happy old man.  Instead, the anger he died with shed and attached to me at the exact moment he took his last breath.  All I can say is thank you God for allowing me to recognize this flaw and I turn to you for relief.

Saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.”  Jonah 2:2

Many have tried to persuade my husband to seek help.  Was it stubbornness?  Pride?  Righteousness?  Whatever it was – he was wrong – WRONG!  Not only was he flawed, but the system is flawed.  I once tried having him committed after one of his bouts of threatening suicide.  The system said he was fine and released him after a few short hours.

He failed himself by refusing therapy.  The system failed him by not realizing he was incapable of making a wise choice.  Many complain they cannot get help because they don’t have insurance.  We had insurance – insurance that could have paid for his care, so that was not the reason he was turned out of a hospital.  I don’t have the answer.  I was tired of fighting the fight.

I don’t have the answers as to how to fix the system.  My brain is just capable of handling my immediate surroundings.  I have to pray for the people in charge of our system.  I have to pray God uses me to make a positive difference in someone’s life.  I have to pray.

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand.”  (Psalm 10:14a)

So often I wanted him to move out – but I had nowhere to put him.  I could not turn him out on his own, with no support system – no benefits.  This is the man who supported me when I went back to college – the man who made sure I got to stay home full time with my babies during crucial periods.  We all tried to handle this as a family.  He failed, we failed, the system failed.  At times it was easy to think God failed us.

In GriefShare, we were told our mourning is never an excuse for acting rude.  Well golly – aren’t I being hit with all kinds of zingers this week.  During a conversation recently, a person was adamant I should not feel angry as to what my husband did.  I guess my comment of “Screw You – Dude!” was not politically correct.

How appropriate I am having all these revelations this week – Mental Illness Awareness Week.   But I am not alone.  I walk with God.  I will continue my walk with God, delving deeply into His Word so that I do not lose myself to this world.  God never has, and never will, fail me.  He never abandons me.

“But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand.”  (Psalm 10:14a)

My husband was raised in a Godly household.  He was a believer.  I don’t understand why he couldn’t shake his anger, alcoholism, and hopelessness.  Oh God how I pray these inequities are not visited upon his children and grandchildren.

The last few months of his life were pure hell, for himself and for anyone who came in contact with him. He was spiraling terribly and there wasn’t anything any of us could do.  It was obvious he was a train wreck about to happen.  He had been sober for quite some time, but the anger within was raging a full time war – and winning.  The life of the party was disappearing into oblivion.  The chronic pain heaped upon his anger made for an ugly combination.  He isolated himself into his own ugly world.

But God was with my husband always.  I cannot imagine the pain he was in during his last moments on this earth, but I take comfort in the fact that I know in an instant he was in the presence of God – fully restored, pain free, out of the darkness and into the light.

I take comfort in knowing God is always with me, not just because I am brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.  I pray, God, that I always see the JOY you want me to experience, despite the trials and tribulations while I walk this earth.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

These verses allow me to rest in the Lord.

 

(Just a note to my U.S. readers – I am finding healing in giving back.  My side job – my Avon business – is helping me do that.  My daughter, and youth minister son-in-law, have a personal ministry of reaching out to college students in their home on Monday nights.  They break bread, play games and speak the gospel.  I am tithing my online order proceeds to their ministry.  Every little bit helps.  Would you please check out my website?  If this is your first time ordering Avon online, use code WELCOME10 for 10% off any size order.  Your products will be delivered directly to your door.  Some of the college students are foreign exchange students.  From a hand built table in southern Mississippi, the gospel is managing to be spread around the world.  Would you shop from my online store and have a part in spreading God’s word?)

YourAvon.com/ghegwood