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Hard things I have done 
Started by KathCull_admin
06 Dec 2014, 5:26 PM

I have always been a very independent creature. I think I come by it honestly – my parents, having immigrated from Russia, learned early on from their parents, how to work hard and not rely on others.   However, sometimes this characteristic of mine stops me from asking for and receiving help. 

After problems with vision, headache and left sided weakness, plus 3 visits to the emergency department, a CT scan showed that my husband had had a stroke. But I am strong. I could deal with this.  A day or so later, I met one of our neighbours, and was curt almost to the point of rudeness.  But I didn’t mention my husband’s ordeal, my tiredness, fear or sadness. That meant I could add guilt to all those other feelings.  A few minutes later, I rang her doorbell to apologize. To my horror, tears came down my cheeks as she opened the door.  I stumbled through my apology and the reason for my behaviour.  She hugged me and asked if there was anything she could do. Through her touch and words, my heart felt lighter and I no longer felt as alone.

The ‘hard thing’ for me was to ‘let someone in’, but as T.A. Webb said, “A burden shared is a burden halved.”


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Reply by jorola
06 Dec 2014, 8:12 PM

That is a very touching story Kathrine. Thank you for sharing.
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Reply by moderator | modératrice
07 Dec 2014, 3:26 PM

Here is the link to Joy Tyndall's Globe & Mail article:

Learning to be a widow is the hardest thing I have ever done by Joy Tyndall 

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Reply by marstin
07 Dec 2014, 5:10 PM

I had recently shared this article to my facebook page. The emotions shared in it were like an echo of how my life has been since losing Len. As well as being a source of comfort I think it will give others a rare glimpse into the life of a widow and maybe bring a little more understanding from those who feel there is a time limit on grief or that we are just having pity parties.

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Reply by Razz
07 Dec 2014, 10:40 PM

I'm thinking that this thread contains two very important topics and each deserve their own thread.  One - the hard things I have done AND two - the life of being a widow.  I can't comment on the second one other than to say that I always feel bad for those in mourning who feel they should be "over it" by now.  That "life goes on" which tends to translate into "get a life already" for some folks.  Oh how wrong and presumptive these phrases are.  There is no time frame or set chart that one needs to follow in thier period of grief and/or mourning.  Each loss is different for everyone and the depth of that loss can only be felt by the individual.  And although it's true that it is not healthy to allow ourselves to stay stuck and wallow endlessly in our grief so too is it important for us to take as long as it takes.  For many the loss never totally leaves but the pain becomes less acute as we move slowly forward in our lives.  The out of the blue and for seemingly the strangest reasons we feel ourselves overcome with those feelings of grief.  They pass but for that moment in time and space it's a very real and painful feeling.  My father passed away 27 years ago and still there are moments when it just hits me like a ton of bricks and I find myself in tears - often at the most awkward times.  But to me it's as if that loved one is sending a "hello, I'm still watching over you" and is not a negative thing but a positive thing.  Our deep and profound love of someone does not just disappear when they pass for it is still a part of our soul and continues to make up a part of who we are.  


I have 2 tales of "hard things I have done" for the first one brought me back full circle to the second one.  And both are examples of how we fall into a certain "role" that we tend to take on through out our lives.  I am the "caretaker" ,"the peacemaker" and the "organizer".  I am the one that people share their inner most secrets and fears with and the one that takes charge in a crisis.  And this is not just isolated to family situations but to situations that involve complete strangers.  My husband tells me that it's my "purpose in life" which may be partly true but others never see the pain I carry inside because of it.  My youngest daughter told me that my "purpose in life" was to be "everybody's mother" and I have to admit that is not that far from the truth either when looking back over my life.  What I do want to add to this however is that these roles that I end up having also have given me some of the biggest blessings in my life.  

My father passed away as the result of a massive stroke which we knew would come - it was only a matter of time.  He had a large cerebrial blockage and after 2 strokes that affected so much of his abilities we knew that he was not going to get better and in fact we watched as he got worse.  He was hospitalized after the second stroke and once the cardiologist discovered the blockage was determined to wash his hands of us.  It was if he knew that it was a lost cause and since there was nothing more he could do to help he wanted to discharge my father and even had the oudacity to tell us he needed the bed for somone else who was waiting in the ER.  Mother was beside herself but also "old school" where doctors were gods.  I on the other hand was not and I dug in my heels and refused to take my father home.  They could not discharge him without a doctor who would take over his care.  I simply told  him we didn't have one so he'd either have to find us one or leave my father where he was.  Oddly that is not the hard part of this story.  

The next day after this conversation Mother recieved a phone call early in the morning that she shoud call the family as Dad had suffered another stroke and they felt that it would also be the fatal one.  We natrually all rushed to the hospital to see our Dad and be there for him in his final time left.  In to the room comes the "peacock" of a caridiologist and introduces us to the head of that department.  He has a smug look on his face as he's sure that this man will back up his reasons for discharging Dad.  You can imagine my pleasure at watching the head doctor read my father's chart - look at the treating physician with totally distain and said "No only is this man not in any shape to be discharged but you will find a private room for him immediately!"    Such nonsense that could have been avoided.   And now the hard thing ...... waiting with my father; watching him slowly breath in and out and sometimes stumbling with his breath.  Listening to all the beeps and rythmns of the various medical equipment and know that I would this was the last bit of time I would ever spend with him on earth.  

Originally the doctor gave us a time frame of "within the next few hours" so he surprised everyone by hanging on for 4 days.  4 of the longest days of my life and the hardest.  They were also the most blessed as I was able to say the things I needed to say before he passed.  

Full circle came once again in the form of a phone call from my brother's daughter.  He and his family live a 1000 mi. away and over the years we had not kept very well connected with each other.  There were a variety of seemingly valid reasons for that and in the end those reasons flew out the window!  She let me know that her Dad had already been in the hospital for over 2 weeks during which time they had discovered the bone cancer that was causing him so much pain.  It had started with undiagnosed and symptom free lung cancer that had matatised through out his entire body.  Most of his internal organs were effected.   

And so I did what that voice in my head was yelling at me ...... GO SEE HIM, GO SEE HIM NOW!   The doctors hadn't given a timeline on how long he had left nor any indication that death would happen soon .... but I could not ignore that voice.  I flew out to see him a couple days later with no idea about any of the logistics that needed to take place once I got there.  I simply went on blind faith that it would all work out (it did).  

What I found when I got there was a very, very ill brother and a family in total chaos each one running in different directions.  They could not agree on what was the best way to care for my brother and were definitely not on the same page.  The thing a dying person needs the most is to his family working together!  He had told his family not to call me and create a fuss but he cried when he saw me.  Some of the first words he said when I got there was "OK, now we have someone who can give us the plan!"   And that's exactly what I spent part of my time doing whild I was there.  One on one discussions with those involved helped them to see that there desires to keep my brother living longer , while being noble, was not in his interest and they needed to focus on "comfort" not "quantity".  This was delicate and "hard" to do but by the day came for me to leave they were indeed a family united.  

The hardest thing for me however was sitting at his bedside watching him sleep.  We were blessed with the opportunity to say the things to each other that were meant to be said and we both felt at peace with that.  But that sitting there was one of the hardest things I have done.  I wanted to run screaming from the room at times because my brother looked just like my father and the pain of going through this same thing was so painful.  Keepiing myself in the moment and not reliving that past experience was so hard!!!  It was the same thing all over again and I was loathed to do it.  

While I was there I had the opportunity to also speak with his doctor.  He felt that my brother didn't have that much time left and guessed at a month to 6 weeks.  With that in mind I kept to my original time line for the visit and left after 4 days.  The morning of the day I left 2 of his daughters had that "hard" conversation of how much they loved him and how much they were going to miss him once he was gone.   Two days later he passed away.  

Doing those "hard things"; having those "hard" conversations do in the end become blessings.  For me it turned out to be a very sacred time and it gave me peace knowing that he had died with an easy mind.  Most of us wish we could in some way avoid those "hard things" that happen with someone we care about becomes ill and eventually passes away.  We'd far rather ignore them and put them off with a certain level of denial.  And yet once we accept that we do have to go through the "hard things" some how they change to not being such "hard things" after all.  

I joined this forum after July, 2013 when my husband was diagnosed with IPF or Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.  IPF and PF are progressive terminal diseases for the lungs for which there is  no effective treatment or cure.  Those with IPF are generally given a mortality rate of 3-5 years from diagnosis.  Since then; after a year of tests, procedures, and visits to specialists his diagnosis has been altered to Pulmonary Fibrosis Secondary to Sjogren's Syndrome.  This means that the progression of his disease will be much slower; however, anything can change on a dime if he were to catch pneumonia or any other respiritory illness. So I am well aware that I will be faced with many more "hard things" to come.  

be good to you - Razz  
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Reply by marstin
08 Dec 2014, 1:48 AM

Hi Katherine,

Having read what you have written touched me deeply. How incredibly strong we expect ourselves to be when we are used to being strong. How easy it is to reach out and help someone else and yet be incapable of asking for help. I don't know how many times I have been able to assist someone else but rarely ask for help myself. I'm not sure why it is that we are so afraid of asking for help other than the fear of rejection or of appearing weak.

Was this a recent event Katherine? If so, I can only hope that your husband has begun to heal and things have gotten a little less stressed. Thankfully your neigbor was an understanding person. I think sometimes that if you look deep enough at an angry person, there is usually pain and fear behind it all.

It reminds me in a way of a run in I had with an elderly lady last week when I was out buying groceries. She asked me for some money and when I shook my head and said no, she started swearing at me. I stopped in my tracks and rather than respond like I normally would, I walked back over to her and nicely told her how unfair that was. I told her a bit about my circumstances and she looked a little sheepish. I apologized to her for whatever her situation was that was making her so angry but also said that maybe she wasn't the only one that was struggling. I don't think she quite knew what to think. I then apologized to her for her circumstances one more time, and told her to have a nice day and walked away. Did I give her any money? No. I'm struggling too. I can only hope that I left her with something to think about and that maybe she would be careful who she was swearing at.

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Reply by KathCull_admin
09 Dec 2014, 11:01 PM


Tracie, sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I am not sure either why it is so important to ‘have it all together’. I had hoped that by the time I reached the age I am (which is older than 59 and younger than 61) that I would be more able to let people in to help….but maybe I am changing.

How good that you talked with the woman – so often when I see people who are asking for money, washing windshields or standing on the corner, I avoid looking at them and struggle with knowing whether or not to give them something. But it took courage to turn around and talk to her – treat her normally. It sounds as though it was good food for thought for her too.

My husband has recovered a good bit, but he has previous health problems that have made recovery slower. Thanks for asking.

Thank you for separating those two topics Razz. Powerful stories.  Your experiences in this instance were not the same as Tracie, but you both did something hard, something that took courage, and something that has made a positive difference in both your lives.

Jorola, I am glad you appreciated the article.


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