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

 

Clutter Can be a Beautiful Thing

CLUTTER!  This time of year, parents start thinning out children’s toys to make way for an influx of Christmas presents.  People start looking forward to a new year, and vow to be more organized.  Markets are gearing up for promoting books and items to help you organize.  In other words, buy more clutter to help corral your clutter.  The irony!

I have been back home for 6 months, and have spent way too many weekends battling clutter – purging, donating, throwing away and burning.  I should be out with family and friends, starting to actually live my new life.  But no.  I only have two days out of the week to do this, so I grab every chance I get.  I even joined a site where I get daily messages for one year to re-train my brain how to deal with every type of clutter, whether physical or emotional.  Funny thing is, I rarely open the messages and this is now cluttering my inbox.  More irony!

Just about every weekend has been dedicated to simplifying my life by having less possessions.  I cannot believe how much clutter has been stuffed into this tiny house.  It’s insane.  First world problems.  Clutter is controlling my life.  I made a vow that once this massive project is finished, I will think twice before buying any item and bringing into my home.

This weekend, I parted with some of my husband’s kitchen items I knew I would never use.  That hurt.  I felt so guilty.  I was so sad going through his clutter, and this made me cry.  Did he even think of the mess he was leaving me in when he took his own life?  I guess not.  I am sure clutter was not the last thing on his mind.

I want to get rid of as much clutter as I can so that my children are not faced with clearing out my clutter when I join their father in heaven.

I had to take a break to regroup.  Of course, a break meant perusing FB.  Mental clutter.  A memory popped up from 5 years ago.  It was a picture of two of my oldest grands decorating our Christmas tree.  I remember my granddaughter was quite peeved we bought a tree off of a lot and didn’t cut a scrub pine out of the woods.  I looked at my dining room table and it was covered with clutter.  Groan!  That table clutter was the bane of existence for me and my husband.  We lack storage in this small house, so things ended up on top of our table (including a dirt bike my husband was working on for our grandson – but that is a story for another day).

We had a lot of good memories around that table – family gatherings – crawfish boils.  But when I moved back home 6 months ago, all I saw was clutter.  The table was really too big for our house to begin with.  And I just couldn’t see gatherings happening there anymore.  My mom was gone, my husband was gone, my stepdad is getting too old to head up this way.  No, it hurt too much to keep the table.  I gave it to one of my best friend’s.  Her family hosts other families after church, and I knew she would create great memories like we did.  This did my heart good.

But back to that picture.  I looked closely at the clutter.  My grandkids were wearing their Santa hats.  Ornaments were all over the table.  The plastic bin holding Christmas decoration clutter was sitting on a chair.  I saw my grandkids school pictures.  We had a clutter of egg cartons donated to us for our 60 laying hens.  There was a garden watering can, probably to fill the tree base.  That was my favorite little can to water my herb garden.

But the biggest memory was my husband’s flannel jacket thrown over a chair.  He wore his flannel jackets until they were in threads and embarrassing.  However, we couldn’t throw any away until we found one to replace it.  That ratty jacket was always thrown over a dining room chair, the back of a recliner or on the bed.  As he got older and was on blood thinners, he wore this jacket year ‘round because he was always cold.  Seeing this flannel jacket tugged at my heart.

This time, clutter was a beautiful thing.

A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.  Ecclesiastes 3:6.

See – even the Bible is telling me to cast a way my clutter.

 

(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

 Avon tip of the blog:  Of course, Avon IS NOT CLUTTER.  You purchase a product and use it up!  Have you tried Avon’s eye make-up remover (product #579-359)?  Avon True Color Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover Lotion works quickly and easily to gently remove all traces of eye makeup. Plus, it conditions and moisturizes your lashes and the fragile skin around your eyes.

 YourAvon.com/ghegwood

 

The First Thanksgiving

For this first Thanksgiving without my husband, I didn’t want to do a traditional meal on the actual day.  We agreed to do an informal dinner the weekend before.

Did I think this would lessen the blow of having our first holiday meal without him?  Yes.  Was I wrong in this assumption?  Yes.

This morning, as I was preparing the dishes I was assigned to bring, I opened my oven and noticed this inside was a mess.  We have a propane oven and realized I don’t know how to clean the inside.  I never had to do that before.  My husband handled everything concerning the house, meaning from repairs all the way to cooking.

Sometimes when a wife loses a husband, she is lost because she never handled anything financial in the marriage.  I always knew I wouldn’t have trouble in this manner.  Once my husband became disabled, we managed on one income.  What I didn’t expect was being so lost about how to do just about everything else.

So I looked at the dirty oven, and started to cry.  I continued crying while preparing my dishes.

I knew our daughter was sad, too, because she posted she was dreading this and also posted our last family photo from last Thanksgiving.

I studied that picture and realized how awful I looked.  For months I had been dealing with a husband with rapidly declining mental health.  I let myself go terribly.  I looked like I woke up, rolled out of bed, threw on just any old junk and headed to dinner.  My gosh, I am the Avon Lady, how could I walk outside my house looking like this?

I went through that day sitting on pins and needles, not knowing what would happen, how he would act and who would he offend.  I was constantly in the middle.  “Gretchen, do you know what Bubba is doing?”  “Mom, dad is…..”  “G-Maw, Paw Paw is…..”  Everyone thought I could intervene and change the direction of his behavior.

I was worn.

Have you ever heard the song Worn by Tenth Avenue North?  If not, go listen to it.  That song was my life.

Remembering that final Thanksgiving helped me shift my perspective.  I was going to be sad missing my normal husband, but I was going to enjoy this day being free from mentally impaired husband.  I was going to put that bad Thanksgiving memory behind me and focus on all the good ones instead (there were many).

I put on make-up, fixed my hair, dressed nice, googled how to clean my oven and headed off to my daughter’s house for a wonderful day of making new memories.

 

(Just a note:  Since I am the Avon Lady, I tithe my online order earnings to my daughter and SILs personal ministry of ministering to college students.  Every Monday night, they open their home to the students, break bread and play games.  Recently, they had 24 people at one meal.  That is quite a lot on a youth minister’s salary.  But God always provides.  I like to give them help when I can.  Please check out my Avon website.  We are not your grandmother’s Avon anymore.  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)

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

My Grief Letter

My Dearest Friends and Loved Ones,

Recently I have suffered a devastating and traumatic loss.  My emotions are all over the place.  Sometimes I am so pained by my loss I don’t feel like I can take a step forward.  Sometimes I am happy not having to deal with my husband’s crippling pain and mental illness.  And always, I feel guilty for being happy that I don’t have to deal with my husband’s crippling pain and mental illness.  I ask for understanding.

I learned a new term in therapy – bereavement trauma.  This is what I am suffering from.  Just what I needed, another layer of grief.  Thank you, dear husband, for adding to the pain of grieving.  I not only have grief from the loss of my husband, I have post traumatic stress from the way he left this life.  I ask for emotional support.

Most of you know my husband of 37 years committed suicide.  Don’t ask me questions such as how did he do this, and did I find him.  I relive his suicide, on my own, much more than I care to admit.  I don’t want to re-live these moments because of someone’s curiosity.  If I want you to know, I will tell you.  I can tell you now, I don’t want you to know.  I understand people are naturally curious.  I am guilty of the same.  But now, due to experience, I know better.  I ask for privacy.

I am having nightmares, so if I act sluggish during the day, there is a good chance I did not have a good night sleep.  I will be struck unexpectedly with anxiety and might have to walk out of the room in the middle of the conversation.  I ask for patience.

I poured my heart and soul into honoring my vows during my husband’s sickness.  His suicide feels like the ultimate rejection – a slap in the face for all I sacrificed.  I ask for your love.

Sometimes I overreact during a situation for which my husband usually handled.  I become a drama queen over minor situations.  I ask you to hold my hand until I calm down.

I tend to lose my train of thought during a conversation.  I ask for a moment until I gather my thoughts.

My life is in transition, and I don’t quite know which direction I am going.  Unless I am about to literally walk off a cliff, I ask for your silence while I think out loud.

I am quite needy right now.  I don’t like being needy.  I don’t like having to rely on someone.  I am used to being strong and in control.  I ask for your compassion.

Finally, I thank all of you for kind words and actions.  I am overwhelmed by your outpouring.   I am truly surrounded by amazing friends and loved ones.  I have never felt more loved in my life. I pray, one day, I can repay, and pay forward, your kindness.

Love, Gretchen

 

(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