BLOG - August 2010

This blog is chronological order. Click on the links or orange bars to read more.

Also see Blog for: June-July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November - February 2011 | March - June 2011 | July - October 2011 | November 2011 - June 2012 | July - December 2012 | January 2013 - June 2013 | June 21 2013 - December 2015 | January 2016 - Present


  • 08/01/2010: Doug & Eastern CT State University
  • 08/01/2010 - Medical Examiner, Faucet Face, Trucks - click to open
    On Friday, I brought the last of Doug's medical records to the Medical Examiner. She met with me briefly. I did not get the answers I was hoping for. The blood and toxicology tests were all negative. The only thing she found was some concentric thickening of the arteries (especially the left ventricle) and that his heart was larger than expected for a man of his size. But all his muscles were larger than expected. He was an athlete. It makes me wonder if he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. I find it hard to understand why mild hypertension for a few years could have been fatal. But there is nothing else - other than the Benicar possibility. It is not possible for the medical examiner to determine whether a malignant arrhythmia stopped his heart, which is what the ER doctor believed. I need to have a cardiologist look at the records I guess, but I realize I may never know what happened.

    Later, J and I went to the dump to get rid of all the carnage from the Drunkfest. He drove because it is safer that way. At one point, in the midst of me whining and bawling, a white chicken ran in front of the truck! J swerved and saved it. We laughed at the bizarreness of it. I asked J why the chicken crossed the road, and he said "to make us laugh." It was the first time I had laughed in a long time.

    Then on Saturday, J and K and I worked as a team to try to revive J's truck - or at least get it out of the garage. The truck was glued to the garage floor and it wouldn't start. Where was Doug when we needed him? He could have figured it out.... Then K tried to release the emergency brake it the cable ripped off. Eventually we dragged it down the hill to where it can be towed. I went for a walk and only cried part of the way.

    Today I tried to write a few thank you notes and fell apart. I think I have been stalling on this because it makes it all seem too real. I still can't deal with real.

    I miss Doug so much.

  • 08/10/2010 - Traveling for Work & Coming Home - click to open
    I haven't written for a week and a half because I finally went back to work. I can't access this software while on travel. Plus I didn't want to post that I was away, since the house was empty. Another new thing to worry about.

    I have NO CLUE how people do it in a matter of days. I know one widow who threw herself back into work after a week, in order to distract herself. Everyone handles it in their own way. For me, going back right away would probably delay coming to terms with the situation. They say the only way out of grief is through it. I also had so much to do since it happened so suddenly (most of which I haven't gotten done yet.)

    In addition, I simply was not ready earlier. My job is doing environmental audits and strategic planning, primarily at non-profit research and development laboratories. It requires a lot of concentration. Even after 7 weeks, I had difficulty and a series of meltdowns.

    When I had to lug my heavy suitcase down the stairs, I cried. Doug always did this for me. He also helped me pack. He spoiled me so....

    On the way to drop the cat off with my in-laws, he barfed all over my luggage. I had to pull over for the crying jag that ensued. Little things like this overwhelm me.

    At the airport, I left my computer in the car and had to ask the shuttle bus driver to turn around and take me back.

    I never worry too much about flying - I can't control what happens on the plane and have to do it for work. But this time, I could have cared less if the plane crashed - at least not for myself. There was no Doug to come home to.

    At the site, I lost my rental car in the parking lot after a meeting. (See Grief and Safety)

    I tried hard to not let my grief well up in front of people I didn't know, and to only cry in between meetings. It was hardest when I saw old friends who asked me how I was doing. At that point, I usually lost it. I was concerned about this, as it seems unprofessional. Also, I know some men have trouble dealing with raw emotions. However, most of the people (who knew about my situation) seemed to understand. Other times, I was able to completely absorb myself in work, and forget for an hour at a time.

    When I got back to the hotel room, I kept catching myself about to call Doug to see how he was doing, and talk about what happened that day. Then reality would hit me again.

    In some ways, it was easier being away from home and the constant reminders. I am used to being without him while on work travel. It was also good to catch up with old friends, who let me babble about what is going on. I was so exhausted at the end of each day that I was able to sleep the entire night.

    Coming home again to an empty house was hard. While I was away, friends cared for the ducks and goat, so I didn't have to worry about that. Our neighbors kept an eye on the house and mowed the lawn. I am so lucky to live where I do.

    The first night back in the house, I had my first dream that Doug was alive. It was very vivid and seemed real. We were lying together on the floor of the living room, reading the Sunday paper. I can't recall him saying anything. We were just snuggling. I told him I loved loved loved him. We were happy. I felt as if I were enveloped by warmth and love.

    Then I woke up, and reality hit. I remembered that I don't get the Sunday paper (I cancelled it to save money), Doug is not here, and I am far from happy. Still, I basked in the afterglow of the feeling of being with him again.

    I read that some people try to dream of their spouse by looking at photos and thinking of them before they go to bed.

    It is not uncommon for those who have lost someone to have "miracle" dreams. In these dreams, we see the person and are usually surprised they are not dead. We may be thrilled. We may be confused. We may be angry (Hey, we thought you were dead! We had a funeral! We mourned! We gave away all your stuff! And here you were alive all this time!) I have had these dreams about both my father, my sister, and my friend Alan. Sometimes I dream they had amnesia; sometimes that they ran away to start a new life.

  • 08/11/2010: Crying Jags - click to open
    I cried myself to sleep last night. It is so terribly hard to realize that Doug is never ever ever coming back. He left for work one day and that was it. So sudden.

    A friend told me that perhaps Doug was spared a long, agonizing, painful death. I did not have to helplessly watch him suffer. I did not have to see him diminished or angry or fearful.

    For the people I love, and myself, I would wish the end were as quick and painless. But it is hard in different ways. There is no time to prepare, to deal with loose ends, to say goodbye forever. (See Sudden Death - what it's like for those left behind.)

    I know if I live long enough, a day will come when I will not cry. I tell myself that although life will never be the same, it can still be good again. That which does not kill me makes me stronger. But for now, it is all I can do to handle a few hours or day at a time.

    I am so grateful for the perspective my friends share with me. They listen. Then they remind me to focus on getting through today. Baby steps. Not to expect so much. To try to just worry about the "must do now" stuff and let the rest wait. That the world does not stop turning just because I am stuck in the past, where the person I loved is forever. That some people DO survive losses like this. That I have friends. That I might still have something to offer others and the world. That there is a reason to go on.

  • 08/11/2010: Sudden Death - what it is like for those left behind. As my "virtual" friend Linda said, "there is no good way to die too young."
  • 08/12/2010: Talking with others who have "been there" is helping me - click to open
    It surprises me that there are many people my age (I am 54) who have never experienced a really difficult loss yet - mostly only elderly relatives.

    I have been talking with a few other people who lost their spouses under traumatic circumstances. It helps me to not feel so alone. It also gives me an opportunity to learn from their experiences.

    Linda lost her husband John in a construction accident. Like Doug and I, they were joined at the hip. She and I have had similar reactions to our losses. We both experience thoughtworms and regrets.

    As much as I would like to skip through the pain, she commented that "This is a long journey we are on, and we must go through. We can't go around, under, or over." I know she is right. I hope I can find the ability to endure.

    Another woman - a colleague - was supposed to come home early one day, but was delayed at work. When she got home, she found her husband's body. He had suffered a heart attack about 45 minutes earlier.

    She threw herself back into work almost immediately. I would not have been capable of that. I wonder if it delayed healing. She said that after two years, she was thinking it was almost as bad as it had ever been. She just recently got around to cleaning out his closet. However, a few weeks ago, she went away for a weekend with girlfriends and actually had fun.

    One thing that has really helped her is trying to create new memories and pursue new interests - things that don't remind her of her lost love. She just decided to go back to school for her PhD.

    She did say she had thoughtworms, but at one point realized there was nothing she could do about what had happened, that it was not productive and was going to drive her crazy, and just shut them off. I need to learn that skill.

    I attended a second bereavement support group meeting at a local hospital. A number of participants are religious. They are convinced they will be reunited with their spouses when they die, and find comfort in this. Whatever works.

    A friend noted that this certainly no place for me to challenge people's belief systems. But to me, it seems more like wish fulfillment that fact. A fiction generated to meet a need in a situation where we are otherwise helpless and hopeless. For me, prayer is along the lines of a rain dance. An attempt to change the outcome so we won't have to deal with fear or uncertainty. But it clearly helps them and brings them peace that is so sorely needed in a time like this.

    A number had been married for more than 50 years - their whole adult lives. What a traumatic change that must be.... but I am jealous.

    One said his doctor told him he looked horrible, and that his wife would not want him to lay down and die - she would want him to be enjoying life. He is 82 years old but went out and bought a laptop and is learning to communicate electronically.

    Another was horrified that after 7 months, men were asking her out. She still feels like she is married and always will be. She too cannot say the "d" word yet. Many of the women wear their husband's wedding rings on a chain like I do. Many are hard on themselves and cannot forgive themselves for things they cannot fix. I wanted to tell them to do so, yet I can't do it for myself.

    All were kind and supportive. They say that many people who have suffered a major loss become more compassionate.


08/16/2010 - New experiences, Tanglewood - click to open

In the "beginning" of this journey, I told the funeral director that I was lost. I felt as if my life were over. He told me that I would change in ways I could never imagine right then, and have experiences I might not have had otherwise, as a result of this loss. I knew he was probably right. The problem is, I loved the life we were living before.

Yesterday, our neighbor friend D invited me to join him for a day in the Berkshires. He usually goes with family. I figured I would not be very good company, but also realized getting out would be better than moping alone.

We drove up and talked the entire trip. We enjoyed an amazingly delicious meal at the historic Red Lion Inn. I had a minor crying jag in the bathroom. Doug would have really liked the building and we never got a chance to explore that area. I threw caution to the wind, and had a decadent slice of flourless chocolate cake.

Then D treated me to the afternoon concert of mostly English pop music with the Boston symphony at Tanglewood.

We sat next to a famous, up and coming 17 year old composer conductor Alex Prior. David, who is a music lover, had met him at an earlier concert, after recognizing him from a PBS special. Prior said he was thinking about writing an opera about Martin Luther King. I said something idiotic like "will it be in English?," at which point he shot me a look of utter disbelief and informed me that operas had not been written in Italian for about 150 years. It reminded me of how UNpretentious Doug was.

David asked if I thought Doug might have enjoyed the concert. I'm not sure - he probably would have squirmed through parts that were unusual. I DO know Doug & I probably would NOT have done a day like that on our own. We were too frugal and Doug wasn't really that kind of music.

It was quite a uxorious and interesting day. I felt guilty for enjoying it so much, when Doug will never enjoy anything again.

When I got home, I realized I have misplaced my wallet somewhere. I probably stuck it in the freezer while my head was in a fog. I must stop being so careless - I'm continually breaking and losing too many things that I don't have the time or the money to replace. When things like this happen (a lot) it intensifies the feeling of being totally overwhelmed and out of control.


  • 08/16/2010: Impromptu Geology Lecture. I had forgotten about this one. Filmed the same day as Singing in the Rain. Doug was in rare form. As we got to the amphitheater at the campground, I asked him to give a talk. He picked up a chunk of (what he claimed was Iron Bauxite - I have no idea if it really was) and began to blather.
  • 08/17/2010:
  • 08/18/2010: The "d" word - click to open
    Yesterday I tried to say the "d" word with regard to Doug - e.g., my husband is d---. I had to shake my head, like a wet dog shaking off the water. I can't bear it. It is so final.

    If I say Doug is "gone," it is as if he has gone away, and will be back.

    Or "lost" - as if he will be found again.

    "Passed away" is another euphemism that does not seem as dreadful.

    The other word I cannot say with regard to myself is "widow." I am not Doug's widow. I am his wife.

    I read this hopeful poem on a grief site last night. I guess we all feel like this in the beginning - I hope it is a place I will get to some day. Right now, it seems like a long way off.

    I never thought I could go on living when you died, but - I did.
    I never thought I would survive after burying you, but - I did.
    I never thought I'd get through those first days, weeks and months, but - I did.
    I never thought I would be able to endure the first anniversary of your death, but - I did.
    I never thought I would let myself love my new grandchild, but - I did.
    I never thought tomorrow would be different, but - it was.
    I never thought I would stop crying for you, but - I have.
    I never thought that I would ever sing again, but - have.
    I never thought the pain would "soften," but - it has.
    I never thought I would care if the sun shone again, but - I do.
    I never thought I would be able to entertain again, but - I have.
    I never thought I would be able to control my grief, but - I can.
    I never thought I could function without medication again, but - I can.
    I never thought I'd smile again, but - I do.
    I never thought I would laugh out loud again, but - I do.
    I never thought I would look forward to tomorrow, but - I do.
    I never thought I'd reconcile your death, but - I have.
    I never thought I would be able to create that "new normal," but - I have.
    I never thought I'd want to go on living after you died, but - I do.
    Always missing you,
    always loving you,
    and thinking of you daily,
    with a smile on my face
    and tears in my heart.

    ~ Author Unknown

  • 08/18/2010 - Courage? Puking - click to open
    A friend I'll call "B" told me this story.

    When he was a young lad in New Jersey back in the 50's, his uncle Rocco, who was apparently a Mafioso, handed him a paper bag. He said he would give B a dollar (which was a lot of money to a poor kid back in the day) to deliver the bag to the candy store. He warned B not to look inside.

    So B went to his father to ask him what he should do. B's father said "Don't look inside. Just deliver the bag and take the money." So B did it, on multiple occasions.

    I asked B if he ever looked inside the paper bags. He said no. He was too afraid of what might happen if he did. I then asked his wife, his daughter and son what they would have done. They all agreed with B - they would not have looked inside the bag.

    I was absolutely amazed. If it were ME, I would look in that bag so fast your hair would catch on fire. Ala Pandora's Box maybe, but I would not have been able to contain my curiosity. It would have nothing to do with being contrary.

    When I discussed this with another friend (who also said she would have been too afraid to look), she said she admired my courage. I think it is more lack of an ability to control myself, as opposed to courage. (Or maybe they are flip sides of the same quality.) I want to know everything, even if I might get hurt in the process.

    That quality applies to how I am dealing with my current situation. I am exploring every nook and cranny of that awful bag that is loss. And then puking my emotional guts out on this website. I am sorry you must see and walk through my miserable barf.


  • 08/18/2010: Doug in high school.
  • 08/19/2010 - The Dance - click to open

    I've known for a long time that Doug was the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't know when, if ever, my heart will accept what my brain knows is a fact - that he is gone.

    For a moment all the world was right
    How could I have known
    that you'd ever say goodbye
    And now I'm glad I didn't know
    The way it all would end
    the way it all would go

    Our lives are better left to chance
    I could have missed the pain
    But I'da had to miss the dance

    ~ Garth Brooks, The Dance

    See more quotes and poems that have touched or helped me
  • 08/19/2010: The autopsy results
  • 08/20/2010 - Living a larger life - click to open
    Jennifer sent me a card that had a poem on it that really fit Doug and the way he lived.


    Some people live a larger life,
    no matter what life's length.
    By looking on the brighter side,
    They find an inner strength.

    They take whatever time they have
    and live for all they're worth,
    Spreading love and happiness
    to others hear on earth.

    They laugh a little louder
    and care a little more
    and show through their example
    just what life is for.

    Although we miss them
    when they're gone
    what stories we can tell
    of how they made a difference
    by simply living well.

    - Hallmark card


    Maybe it is just my imagination or increased sensitivity, but it seems like people in our 'hood are living larger since we lost Doug. They all got another wake up call on how short life can be. They are spending more quality time together, talking, laughing (and crying on occasion.) Dating again. Appreciating each other. Telling their loved ones they are loved. Reaching out and helping each other more. Inviting others to join them in celebrations. Getting out and about on more adventures. And trying to live a healthier lifestyle in order to have as much time as possible with the ones they love. It makes my heart glad. Their joy in living life subtracts from my sorrow. Their sharing and support help me feel less alone.


  • 08/22/2010 - Work - click to open
    I am going to be off doing an environmental audit for two weeks and won't be writing here meanwhile.

    Working full time is distracting and helps with finances. It is still hard to focus on life. I will need to fake that things are more or less okay and that I am fully functional, hour after hour, day after day. It is exhausting.

    I still don't understand how people return to their old life or try to start a new one in a few days or weeks. Even our cat didn't begin to play again for 6 weeks. He just clung to me and slept a lot.

    The sadness over what Doug and I have both lost has not subsided at all. The missing him goes on and on. I just try to think about it less. To get through the day, I work on putting a shell around it, to to numb pain, thickening it little by little.

    A neighbor lost her elderly husband suddenly 9 months ago. She said the pain is still like being stabbed with a knife, except now it doesn't feel like it is being twisted during the stabbing part.

    I realize that being religious would help me deal with such a loss. I'm not going to become religious just because it would be convenient, or adopt beliefs because they would make me feel better.

    So I continue to struggle with the senselessness of what happened. I need meaning in my life. I need a "why." I have always worked or volunteered in public service, in part because of that need.

    Maybe trying to understand what happened to Doug and why is part of my search for meaning. It want to know if this outcome could have been prevented or delayed. What we both would have given for a few more days, months or years.... His aunt died very young of cancer, and his cousin died very young from epileptic seasons. All of Doug's other relatives lived well into their 70's, 80's and 90's.

    I want to know whether Benicar was a cause or factor in his untimely death. I want to know whether an echocardiogram or other test would have picked up the problems with his heart, and then measures could have been taken to lengthen his life while still maintaining the quality of it.

    I do care about justice. I believe that individuals and organizations should be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof. There are consequences.

    For me, this quest is really not about retaliation, revenge, or vindictiveness. It is about understanding, and fairness and equity. I believe in restorative justice. That tact is not about retribution or punishment - it is about making the victim whole. It brings the offender and the victim together so the offender can better understand the effect their offense - if one is determined to exist - has had. It is also about preventing future injustice or suffering.

    I don't want to spend the rest of my life like a Holocaust Survivor bent on pursuing Nazi war criminals. However, I do need to get to the bottom of this. I feel I owe it to Doug.

  • 8/23 - 9/4: Two weeks worth of thinking
    I have been on travel for two weeks for work. It is easier being away from home, as every little thing doesn't remind me of Doug. It is easier being distracted. However, I don't feel I make any progress as a result.

    I still cry every day. I realize seeing someone else in emotional pain can be hard because you can't "fix" it.  You don't want the people you care about to suffer.  (See Suggested Do's and Don'ts)

    Individuals deal with pain differently.  They are also some gender-specific tendencies in our culture.  Women may express pain more visibly - with tears & talk.  For me, I need to think & talk & write & cry. (See things that trigger tears.) It helps me move along and reach a more balanced understanding of what it means, and figure out how to deal with it. 

    With men, it may be less visible.  My male friend GL reminded me that this does not mean they feel the loss any less.  

    It may help a man to go off by themselves and vent by doing something physical like chopping wood.  (See I walk alone.) Women may interpret the lack of talking or tears as indicating that men don't feel it as intensely as women, or that they are avoiding grief.  But if they recover in the end and are able to move on ....whatever works. I just hope they know what they are doing, and are not burying it so it resurfaces later.

    Grief is like manure, if you spread it out it fertilizes, if you leave it in a big pile it smells like crap.~ Tom Golden, Men, Grief and Ritual


    A friend who had not seen me in some time said I was wasting away. Another said I look drawn. It's only because my heart is broken.


    My friend KF was encouraging me to focus on how great the time Doug and I had together was.  I KNOW that it was great, but have been lamenting that it ended far TOO SOON.  I greedily wanted so much more time with and for Doug. 

    She noted that when a love is strong and good, and a life is well-lived, pretty much WHENEVER that life ends and you are parted will feel like it is too soon. 

    I saw this in an 80+ year old man who was happily married for 50+ years.  He too felt it was too soon.  The possible exception is an elderly person with a lingering illness that causes intense suffering. (See Sudden Death.)


    I am still stuck in the past.  I think this is natural when you are grieving - that is where the person you love and the life you lost is. 

    I am getting somewhat better at living in the present.  

    The pain has moved to being an undercurrent of my existence.  I am also getting better at pushing it down and faking that things are okay.   

    Still, the pain is seldom far from the surface. It erupts when I am talking with someone I haven't seen since this happened.  Also when I am unexpectedly reminded of him and our loss.


    I have been so consumed in dealing with my own situation that I sometimes forget how difficult it is for everyone else who loved Doug.  Especially Doug's parents.  They worry about me, since they often see me falling apart.  I need to remember that their heartbreak is also intense.  Doug was such a good son.  They had a very healthy relationship.  They loved each other very much and their connections were quite close, even if they didn't see or talk to each other every day.

    They say it is not good (or necessary) to compare types of losses - e.g.  is losing a child harder than losing a spouse, or vice versa. They are all difficult.  A lot depends on the people, the relationships and the circumstances. 

    A widow friend, MG, told me of a study that was done of people who lost a loved one.  The study looked at those who had lost a parent, spouse or child.  After twenty years, they evaluated how well people were doing.  Those who still had the most difficulty were those who lost an adult child. 

    This surprised me - I assumed it would be worse to lose a young child - such an unfinished life.  I'm not sure why this would be the case. Perhaps is because that child was a part of their lives for so long. They may have expected the child to be there to take care of them when they are older. Of course the unnatural sequence of a child dying before their parents is always going to be difficult to process. 

    Many parents would probably be willing to trade their life for their child's life. 

    Doug was a better person than I will ever be.  I loved him more than I love myself.  When he was alive, I wanted to live all the more, for him and to be with him. If I had the choice of going WITH him, or after him, I feel pretty certain that I would have chosen with.  This quote from Winnie the Pooh resonates with me. 

    If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.~ Winnie the Pooh

    Except I would have gone for an even 100, so he would not have had to suffer like I am.

    However, we generally don't get that choice (unless suicide is considered an option, which I don't recommend due to the pain it causes others.) 

    So now I am left having to live without him.

    Honestly, right now if I learned I had a terminal illness now and had three months to live, I would be okay with that.  I wouldn't look forward to physical suffering. I would be grateful for the time to get ready, resolve any unfinished business, and get my affairs in order so I don't leave a mess for others to deal with.

    I'm not saying that I needed Doug to complete me. I'm not saying I am less of a person now that he is gone. I am just saying that life was infinitely better when I shared it with Doug.  It seemed much more worth living.  

    Now the joy is gone, replaced by pain.  The looking forward to is gone.  Our life, as I knew it and reveled in it, is over.  

    I may feel differently about the value of living at some point in the future, but not 10 weeks after losing him.

  • Blog, continued....

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