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.


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.)

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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?)