My life changed dramatically and forever when I lost TJ.

I welcome you to follow along as I adjust to my "new normal".

It is not all puppies and ice cream but it is my life....real and honest.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Lost TJ One Year Ago Today

Wow! I don't even know where to start. There are times when it seems like only yesterday that TJ and I had the world in the palm of our hands, yet there are times that it seems like he has been gone forever. My life has changed so much over the past year that when I think about it I am overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed at what I have been able to accomplish without TJ, I am overwhelmed at the support from my many friends and mostly I am overwhelmed that TJ is actually gone.

Since losing TJ I have spoken to lots of other widows and read quite a bit about the experience of widowhood and losing a loved one. Most all agree that the one year mark is not as big a deal as you would expect it to be. For me it is a huge deal though. When I look back on the past year I am proud of my many accomplishments and I am proud of how far I have come since this same night one year ago. I had lots of decisions to make as others do in my same situation and I feel confident that TJ would be proud of my decisions.

I know I am better because I now have many more good days than bad. I no longer get weepy when I see TJ's personal items. I no longer think about TJ constantly. I have gone whole days where he did not cross my mind and when I realize that I haven't thought about him all day I don't feel guilty.

I am beginning to appreciate my own life more. I spent the last seven months of his life caring for him. He knew how much I loved him. Now it is time to love myself! This experience changed me immensely and I will never be the person I was before TJ's diagnosis. I am beginning to accept my "new normal" and even enjoy it.

I can't express enough how much the support from my friends and family has helped me. Additionally the support I have found on twitter is absolutely priceless and I thank you all (you know who you are!). I have even gotten a lot of support from old friends in Indiana via Facebook. What all this means is that anytime day or night when I needed someone to listen or even just a friendly conversation to take my mind off things someone was always there. It may have been the middle of the night here in Arizona but it was early morning for my friends in Scotland or Ireland. There was also the friend that told me, "I will leave my phone on all night, you call or text if you need me" and this wasn't just an empty offer this was heartfelt and honest (thanks Melissa).

Then there are my girlfriends here who are always thinking of me and worried that I will be alone on significant days. They got me out of the house tonight for pizza just so I would not be home alone and I so appreciate their thoughtfulness. My favorite (and only) sister who I know too is just a phone call away and would drop anthing to be with me if I asked. My brother, who we don't talk as much as we should but I know his love is always with me. I could go on and on but I will suffice it to say that I am very lucky to have such wonderful friends in my life.

We meet people in life who touch our heart, who we won't ever forget, but it is the ones who touch our soul that we remember for an eternity.

TJ - I still love you whole bunches and I always will!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


"Change is the only constant." - Heraclitus

One afternoon this summer when the girls had come over for a swim one of them looked at me and said, "Don't you ever feel like you need some change in your life?" I said, "Seriously?!!! Are you kidding me? Don't you think I have had enough change in my life in the past year?!!!!!"

I don't like change. I don't mind a little adventure once in a while but on a day to day basis I am a very structured person. I even plan my weekends in advance so I will know what is going on.

When TJ was sick my life changed on a daily basis. I never knew what the next day was going to bring....what new side effect would plague TJ, was he going to have a good day or a bad day, was it going to be a bad enough day that I needed to stay home from work to take care of him, would we end up in the Emergency Room and if we did were they going to admit him. I hated the uncertainty of every day. It was at times terrifying and I felt like I had no control over my life. TJ felt all of these same things too. On the days that I would stay home from work to care for him he would always tell me before I called my boss to let him know I would not be in..."tell Bill I am really sorry" Oh how that would break my heart. He was going through enough without having to feel guilty about me missing work!

When TJ passed was when I really had change in my life. I thought at the time that I was going to finally be able to breathe and get into a routine...Boy was I wrong about that!! Once again every day brought something new to my plate. In the end he was not able to help around the house or help feed the animals but he was there to bounce things off of. If something was wrong around the house I could ask him what I should do and he could walk me through it. Now he was gone and I only had myself to rely on, no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to help me solve household problems....just me.

I am pretty handy and self sufficient but I had gotten used to TJ taking care of things and it was overwhelming me to have to do it all myself. I felt like I worked tirelessly when I got home from work before falling into bed. Then when I had to! Try moving a home you and a spouse have lived in for 14 years all by yourself. Sure, I had help with the actual moving part but it was still overwhelming. I still have boxes in the garage of TJ's stuff that I need to go through.

Well, I have been in the new house for about 6 months now and even though I am not fully organized I feel as though I am into a routine. Once the initial move was over I began to take a little time for myself every day by reading, which is something I really enjoy. Even if it was only 30 minutes, it was still "me" time and it felt really good. I also am starting to stay home on the weekends more to do projects around the house.

I have begun to set a new course for my life and am taking better care of myself. I am choosing joy over sadness and rising above my pain. My life has taken on a whole new meaning and direction and I am making the choices about how, when and where I spend my energy and I am confident in the choices I am making.

Yes, not being able to start the chain saw to trim trees made me cry and wish TJ was here to help...but it only lasted a minute or two and I moved on. My trees still aren't trimmed but it will get done eventually.

I still don't like change but I have learned to turn it into a positive and run with it.

"What lies behind us and lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us" - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, October 7, 2010

That Ain't Nothing

I had a similar conversation with two people today. When you have been through a life altering experience it changes you. I don't know if it is good or bad but it changes you nonetheless. These life altering experiences come in many shapes and forms but if you have been there then you know what I am talking about.

If you haven't been there then I am very happy for you but I am also here to tell you that those of us who have are no longer sympathetic to your sniveling about small stuff. And believe is mostly all small stuff to me at this point.

I will not go into details about the trivial things I hear people complain about but it is time for all of us to stop and think. Is my life really that bad? Is what I am complaining about really a big deal? Do I know someone who has been through something much more difficult than what I am complaining about?

I heard a story this week from a widower that in my opinion was way more tragic than what I went through with TJ. Yes, we grieve the same for our loss. But, it also made me think....quit whining Sandy, it could have been worse.

Shortly after TJ was diagnosed we frequently used the phrase, "it's just small stuff, don't sweat the small stuff!". This became our mantra when he was going through treatment. Try it! You will be surprised how much easier life is.

Monday, October 4, 2010

"It Brought Me To My Knees"

"It Brought Me To My Knees"....we have all said that at some point, but has anything really "brought you to your knees"? By this I mean in the physical sense....made you literally drop to your knees and cry or pray in anguish. I have been there and it is the most intense hurt that a human can endure. I know you are thinking that this happened when I heard TJ's diagnosis but it was at that time that I mustered more strength than I knew I had, there was no way I was going to let TJ see me as being weak at that point, he needed me strong and I was determined to be there for him.
What brought me to my knees was our be specific...our Social Security Adminstration. Don't stop reading...this is not a partisen political rant. When TJ was diagnosed he was told that he could no longer drive because the 20 brain tumors could cause a seizure at any time. His job was a boom truck/crane operator so this meant that overnight we lost half of our household income and were faced with mulitple copays on a daily basis. We had insurance but the copays were about to add up quickly!
My first order of business was to get him on disability...the doctors gave him a year to live at the most so I thought this would not be a problem. I helped him to apply for disability and assumed it would kick in immediately. Disabilty payments aren't much but they are better than nothing. His disability was approved within two weeks of application....
Then.....I spoke with Social Security and this is how that conversation went:
Me: I received a letter that "TJ" has been approved for disability
SS: Yes, he has been expedited
Me: When will he receive his first payment?
SS: There is a mandatory six month waiting period
Me: Are the payments retroactive?
SS: No, after 6 months he will receive his first payment
Me: No money for six months? Did you not see that the doctors are giving him less than a year to live?
SS: Yes, I know, people die all the time waiting for their disability to kick in.
Me: ??????????????????????
Me: Is there any way we can expedite this?
SS: No...6 months is mandatory, he will receive his first payment on October 20th
Me: Thank you....goodbye
Now, our income is cut and our expenses because of copays have gone up....WTF???!!!
TJ worked hard his whole life and this is the treatment he gets?!
An hour later TJ found me in our master bath, door closed ( I didn't want him to see me), curled up in a ball on the floor....crying were we going to make ends meet?!
Our own Social Security Adminstration "brought me to my knees" and let me tell is an awful feeling. Not only is TJ very sick but now I don't even know if we can make our house payment and afford his treatments. They tell you that treatment will never be refused....BULLSHIT!! pay your copay or no treatment today!
I had a wonderful family friend that offered to step up and help TJ & I so I was very fortunate. I paid her back after TJ passed but I know not all are so lucky to have a special person help them like TJ and I were.
Nobody (until now) knows my reaction that day. When I should have been strong for TJ I was breaking down...when I should have been the one telling him that it was going to be OK, it was him telling me that. He was such a strong man through it all!
If you truly have never been "brought to your knees" it is my wish for you that you never will be. The pain lasts forever.....
TJ was diagnosed on March 13, 2009 and passed on October 25, 2009, he received his one and only disability payment on October 20, 2009.
We thanks to our Social Security Administration helping a very hard working man!
Am I bitter?.....yep, just a bit