Monday, October 11, 2010

Circle of Friends: Myra's Story

Monday's topic is grief. The process . . . the twists and turns . . . the questions . . . the hope . . .

Today's approach is a little different. A reader who's been with WCP from nearly the start has granted me an interview! It will be a pleasure getting to know her better, and I think we'll all learn alot as she tells us a bit about herself and her experience.

Ferree: Hi Myra, it's been such a pleasure getting to know you a little bit through this blog. How did you find out about WCP in the first place?

Myra: I use the internet for all kinds of research. My friends laugh at me because if a question comes up during a conversation, they know that I will find out the answer on the internet and email them with the answer as soon as I can get to a computer. What a great resource that the Lord has made available to us! As with anything you can use it to the good of the world or abuse it. I periodically search for new widow and singles resources on the internet. Because of the way search engines work, one set of results may come up one day and a different set another.

Ferree: I thought it'd be fun if we could have a "virtual visit." We'll find the greatest virtual cafe for a scrumptous lunch and dessert---and best of all, these virtual visits have zero calories!
So, tell me about yourself. And since I just made myself hungry mentioning a virtual lunch and dessert, let's start with this: what's your favorite restaurant and your favorite food?

Myra: Oh, I'm an adventurous eater! I have become a sushi lover and have even braved some of the raw fish! I love to travel and try food from all the different countries and cultures. When I can't travel, I can imagine that I am somewhere exotic by trying some new foods. My favorite foods right now are Mediterranean dishes because they do beautiful things with spices.

Ferree: That's so cool! If we ever get together I will have to take you to this crazy grocery store near Cinci called "Jungle Jim's." It has food from all over the world, tanks full of fish, fresh fruits and vegetables that I didn't even know existed . . . I could go on and on, but, oops, but let's get back to the interview. Let's go back in time a little bit. Would you tell how and when you were widowed?

Myra: My husband died Christmas morning 1994. Yes, it would seem to be the worst possible day for a family with small children. It actually happened at 3:00 in the morning, before the rest of the world was even awake. He died of a massive heart attack and in spite of the valiant efforts of two of my neighbors who were EMTs, there was no way to resuscitate him. My daughters were 10 and 5 at the time and so the circumstances of it being Christmas were even more traumatic.

Ferree: I'm so sorry, Myra. I had no idea, and the fact that your husband died at Christmas really knocked the wind out of me. I don't know if this is divine timing or not, but for our book club at the end of the month we'll be looking at some ways to make it through the holidays---and I'll bet you have some hard earned advice that our readers would really respect. Are you willing to talk about making it through Christmas?

Myra:That first Christmas, I packed up "Santa" before I brought the girls in to tell them that their daddy had gone to heaven to be with Jesus on his birthday. Later that day, when it was just my parents and my brother, my oldest asked about Santa's gifts. We ended up opening gifts that day with my parents; this really helped us as the girls were occupied and had new things to play with. The following years I always talked to my oldest about what she felt like doing. God bless her! Out of the mouths of babes! We continued to decorate and have Santa for a few more years. We continued many of the traditions that we had when my husband was living--watching "A Wonderful Life" together, driving around town to see the Christmas lights, and going to at least one Christmas music performance. We did change the holiday some though to fill the void. My parents started coming to celebrate the holidays with us every year. Previously they usually stayed in their own home and we would drive out of town to see them after Christmas Day. Some years now we travel to a out of town destination to change things up. However, the girls still prefer to be at home to celebrate a traditional day. Traditions can hold you and your family together.

Is it hard to believe its been fifteen years already?
It will soon be 16 years ago that he passed away. Sometimes it seems like another life and other times it seems like only a year or two. If the years were not so evident by my daughters growing up, it would be harder to imagine that it was very long ago at all.

What was the most helpful thing people did for you?
I had amazing support from my church family since my real family lives 300 miles away. I don't know what I would have done without my church. They prayed for us and were there whenever we needed them. There was one woman who called me almost every night at 9:30 and filled that empty time in the evening when the children were in bed and it wasn't quite my bedtime. Somehow that was the lowest time of the day. I credit her for getting me through the first six months or so without going crazy. Other families would entertain my children, especially the families of my children's friends. It was such a blessing to us in many ways.

The worst thing?
The worst thing that happened for my kids was the old standby, "your daddy is going to be with you all the time and watching everything you do." My poor older daughter had nightmares that her daddy's "ghost" was going to be looking in the window at her. The toughest thing for me has always been when someone innocently asks, "and so what does your husband do?" Even now, 16 years later, it still hurts. One thing to prepare for if you haven't experienced already: many of your relationships with your friends that were based on you as a couple will change. Your friends are also grieving. They don't know how to deal with you as an individual. Don't take it personally. After a while, some of your friendships will wane, but you will also develop new ones.

What was the best thing you did for yourself? What did you do that helped you the most? Was it a book you read, a grief group, moving or traveling, etc. ?
Number one in helping myself was to talk about it. I found a friend to confide in and was able to express how I was feeling. I went to a grief counselor with my daughters a couple of times and to a widows support group that the funeral home sponsored. However, the group was mostly older people and at the time I was 39 years old. I only went once. I found a great deal of support in reading various books written by widows and counselors. One was the book Joan Rivers' wrote after her husband's death. Unfortunately, I donated all the books to my church library and I no longer recall the titles.

Ferree: Thanks, Myra. Let's take a break for now. Our readers don't know it yet, but this was just the beginning!

Myra: This was the easy stuff!

Ferree: We'll finish this up on Wednesday, OK? If you have questions for Myra, or comments, please go ahead and click the comment line below or email me,
Thanks for joining us today!

P.S. I just found out about another widows conference, it's coming fast--this weekend! If you're in Colorado or can get there, check out the Walking With Widows Conference in Englewood, CO, Oct. 15,16.

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