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Support Group and Panic Attacks

February 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Tonight was my second time attending Bereavement Support Group at Bayshore Community Hospital. This is a great group of people who make me feel like I am not alone in my thought and feelings. Pretty much if I have thought it or done it, someone else has as well. Nice to know that I am not crazy (yet!).

The group was a little smaller today (only 9 people) as opposed to the 15 from last time. Maybe it was because the weather was supposed to be bad, I don’t know.  Yea, it rained, and it was windy, but it was worth going out to attend this group meeting.

It was easier to attend the group meeting this time. I still HATE the fact that I have to go to a Bereavement Support Group, but I don’t think I could ask for a better group of people. Every one is so kind and warm.

The topic that the facilitator Anna brought up today was how we need to take care of ourselves. Some of the thoughts and answers were going to the doctor for routine care, getting enough sleep and rest, eating during the day with foods that contain good nutrients, and being kind to ourselves. I liked that some of the people said that being kind was often just allowing the tears to flow (without feeling guilty) and sometimes doing nothing which includes lying on the couch, mindlessly staring out the window, or watching something on television just to pass the time.

panic-buttonOne woman talked about the panic attacks she used to get when her husband first passed away (about a year and a half ago). She said that whenever she was faced with a new situation or had to deal with something that her husband normally did, she would suffer panic and become unable to do anything.

I mentioned that going to the grocery store creates severe panic in me to the point that I can’t go alone. I tried switching grocery chains to a store that Mark and I never went to together, but the whole concept of shopping was painful and anxiety producing. I’m not alone in this as others also said that grocery shopping (or restaurants, gas stations, department stores, and other places that they’d gone to with their spouses) caused anxiety, fear, sadness, and an overwhelming desire to run like hell. And I am NOT the only one who has left the grocery store without actually buying anything!

It was nice to know that I am not the only one with this issue. I didn’t have trouble getting gas at “our” gas station, but the grocery store is really difficult for me. I didn’t have trouble on the couple of occasions that I went with my friend in the morning before work. The problem is that eventually I am going to have to learn to do this kind of stuff alone. I am going to have to learn to do every day things by myself. I am going to have to do all those things that Mark used to do. I am going to have to stand on my own two feet because, as sad as it is, I am a widow.

As the group said, it is going to get easier. It is going to get better. I am being patient. And I am trying to be kind to myself.

Categories: kidney disease

This is NOT my job!

February 20, 2013 1 comment

Today, like most other days, Belle and I had lunch together. I kept thinking I was hearing water running. I checked the kitchen and all three bathrooms. Nothing was running.

Just out of the blue, I decided to check downstairs… and guess what? The water heater is spewing out water into the floor drain! Ugh!

I call Home Services who are the people that have the maintenance contract on the furnace, A/C and water heater. They say they will send out a service man by 10PM. Oh yay, I get to sit and wait for seven hours! Just lovely.

Luckily the guy came much quicker than I would have thought. He confirmed it. The water heater is shot. Double oh yay!

He tells me that Home Services will call me with a price quote and time frame. Fortunately they do, and they will come tomorrow to install it between 9 – 3. I’m just happy that it will only be 24 hours without hot water. It could be much worse.

After the appointment was made, it occurred to me that this was the kind of stuff that Mark would always take care of for us. I never had to do it. If something broke or service needed to be called, he set it up and most times he stayed home to deal with it.

This is not my job. I don’t like doing all this stuff. It’s not fair that I have to do it. But I did learn something, I may not like it, but I CAN do it.

Yay Me!

Parties, Holidays, and “Firsts”…

February 18, 2013 Leave a comment

presidentsdaySo today is President’s Day, and it is one of the holidays that I must work, but Mark would have been off. He more than likely would have had an early dialysis treatment, and he’d be home by the time I got home. We would have had a nice quiet dinner together, and just relaxed together while enjoying our extra evening together – one that was not shortened by his treatment.

In a perfect world, that’s how it would have been. But life’s not perfect; far from it. Instead, this is just another “holiday” that I am spending alone. It’s going to be a year of “firsts” that I will spend alone. First Valentine’s Day. First Birthdays. First Easter. First Memorial Day. First Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. First Anniversary. First Fourth of July. First Summer. First Labor Day….

You get the idea. A year of “firsts” that I will spend without my husband and best friend.

I managed to get through Valentine’s Day which also marked ONE MONTH since Mark passed away. It was not fun and on top of it, I was sick. I had to take a half day of work because I was physically sick with some respiratory thing! And emotionally I was spent with all the “hearts and cupids” and flowers and candy that were everywhere. I spent the afternoon and evening at home. With Belle. On the couch. Watching TV.

I lived through it. I knew I would. I didn’t want to be alone, but again, life is far from fair.

Then to end an already tough week, I had a Surprise 50th Birthday Party to attend on Saturday, the 16th. It was for Mark’s close childhood friend Jeff (and Best Man in our wedding). I did attend the party. I had the love and support of my good friends Dawn and Patrick who were also invited to attend. I was able to drive to their house, and then hitch a ride with them to the party. I am so grateful that they went because they were terrific moral support for me.

The party was entertaining, and it was nice to be able to share in Jeff’s happiness. But at the same time, it was bittersweet. I don’t know when or if I will see Jeff and his wife again. They were closer to Mark than I was, and we didn’t see them very often because they are busy, have three kids and they live 2 hours away.

I was also introduced to members of the family that I had heard numerous stories about over the years. It was a shame that the first time I got to meet them was after Mark passed away.

I know that Mark would have been so proud of me for going to the party. I’d like to think he is smiling down at me for finding the courage to get dressed up, put on my happy face, and go the party! I hope he knows that Dawn and Patrick were the reason that I found the courage to go.

ItGetsBetterWithTimeIt gets better. That’s what everyone tells me. Other widows say it takes time. It gets better with time. Maybe if I keep repeating it, I will begin to believe it.

Repeat after me…

It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time. It gets better with time.

Attending a Bereavement Support Group

February 13, 2013 Leave a comment

supportgroupI went to my very first Bereavement Support Group Meeting last night at the local hospital. I was a little nervous and anxious as I waited to leave my house. When I got to the hospital, I got sad thinking that the last time I was at the hospital was right after Mark had passed away.

I did manage to go inside and went to the room where the meeting was being held. There were about 8 people there when I got there. All were welcoming and friendly. By the time the meeting started, there were about 15 people total, and about 4 of us were first timers.

The group was a general bereavement group, but most of the people there had lost a spouse. Two women had lost their mothers, one woman lost her father, and another woman lost her brother and a best friend.

The group was mainly women, with two men there. All of the people were at different stages of the healing process. One woman was four years out, and many were 1-2 years out.

The group was facilitated by one of the Chaplains at the hospital. She was a very nice and soothing type of woman, and I liked her immediately. She talked about the grieving process. She said it was different for each person, and it is a highly personal thing. She talked about the physical symptoms of grieving including sadness, constant crying, anxiety/panic, depression, as well as headaches, aches and pains, and a pain in
the chest bone (although she did encourage a doctor visit as it could be something more serious). She said that sleep at this time is very important because it helps the body heal and rest from the pain and stress. She said in the early stages of grief, it is important not to get overtaxed or over tired. She suggested reaching out to family and friends to help with simple tasks like cooking, cleaning, and running errands.

She went around the room having everyone state their name, and if they were able, to tell who they lost and any other details they wanted to share. I couldn’t really share much because the pain, loss and tears were overwhelming. All I managed to share was my name, and I told them that I lost my husband Mark almost 4 weeks ago.

supportIt was comforting to hear the other people share their story and how they were coping, and it was good to feel that I was not alone in how I was feeling. The people were very warm, and so so kind. After the group meeting, they were huggy and kept saying I should come back and let them all help me through it. They all said they understand and they know first hand what I am going through. The hugs were warm and genuine, and they were most welcomed. I was so used to getting many hugs from Mark each day, and now I miss the physical contact that we had.

I will go back in two weeks. I found it helpful in the sense that I am not alone, and it got me out of my house, and around people. I don’t know when (or if) I will be able to tell my story or talk about Mark without crying, but I think the comfort is worth going for.

The frustrations of dealing with a bureaucracy that doesn’t give a….

February 11, 2013 2 comments

BureaucraticBSWhen someone close to you passes away, you are suddenly forced to make decisions, contact companies, and try to put all sorts of things into perspective and some semblance of order. This is definitely no easy task for someone who is grieving.

I have encountered numerous frustrations from some of the companies that I have had to call to inform them that Mark had passed away. I certainly understand this because Mark was a Teacher for the State of NJ. That translates to “government” so you know that they are going to move at a snail’s pace. I have accepted that, and I realize that I will have to make numerous follow up calls to ensure that they do what they need to do.

The Social Security Administration, who also handles the Medicare system (which Mark had because of his End Stage Renal Disease) was another government entity that screwed things up, and probably will continue to do so. In a nutshell, I called Medicare to inform them that Mark had passed away. They told me to call the Social Security Administration. I did call them, but I had to hold for a long time. They told me that they would cancel his Medicare coverage and stop the payments from being debited. I also inquired about the Social Security Death Benefit which is a whopping $255. They told me that I needed to have a “phone interview” to collect it. They told me that I would receive a date to do this via a letter in the mail. It’s been three weeks since I contacted them. I am still waiting on the letter.

Wouldn’t you know that Social Security/Medicare actually debited the Medicare payment AFTER I reported him as deceased.  When I called again, I was told that a form would need to be mailed to me, and after they received it back, I would get the refund in 4-6 weeks. I was placed on hold for an hour while the moron tried to locate the form. I finally gave up and called back the next day. I spoke with someone else who informed me that there was no form, but he contacted the billing department, and I would receive a check in the mail in 4 weeks.

Ok, so here’s the thing that pissed me off today. Let me back track a little bit. Mark had a car loan for his Buick LaCrosse. The loan was with Chase Auto Finance. I was not on the loan, and I had no responsibility for the loan or the car. After Mark passed away, I called Chase who informed me that the “probate department” would have to call me in 48 hours. They called after nearly 3 1/2 days, and I spoke with someone in that department. I was told that I had three options:

  • Pay off the vehicle
  • Assume the car loan
  • Surrender the vehicle

Well, I obviously chose to surrender the vehicle. I didn’t want it, and I certainly did NOT want that car payment. The Probate Representative were very kind and helpful. I was told that I needed to fax a letter with a copy of the death certificate to them. The letter needed to state that I wanted to surrender the vehicle, and that there were no assets and no probate. She said that once they received the letter and death certificate, they would have a company call me who would pick up the vehicle. I was told that they would sell the car, and if they received more money than was owed, Mark’s estate would receive a check. If they sold the car for less than was owed, they would just “eat the loss”.

It all went as planned. A day after faxing the required documents to Chase, a very nice gentleman called me from a Recovery Service to schedule a pick up. I scheduled it for Saturday, the 2nd of February. The man showed up, and he was kind and polite. He signed my “receipt” and offered his condolences on the loss of my husband. Nice guy and very professional. I figured at this point I was done with them as I was sure I was not getting a check from them!

Today I receive a letter from Chase Auto Finance. This is what it says:

Dear Mark Clark:

We have your 2010 Buick La Crosse because you broke the promise in our agreement.

We will sell the Vehicle at private sale sometime after 2/17/2013.

The money that we get from the sale (after paying our costs) will reduce the amount you owe. If we get less money that you owe, you will still owe us the difference. If we get more money that you owe, you will get the extra money, unless we must pay it to someone else.

You can get the Vehicle back at any time before we sell it by paying us the full amount you owe (not just the past due payments), including our expenses. To learn the exact amount you must pay, call us at the telephone number provided below.

If you want us to explain to you in writing how we have figured the amount that you owe us, you may call us at the telephone number provided below and request a written explanation.

If you need more information about your right to redeem the Vehicle, the mount needed to redeem the Vehicle, or the sale of the Vehicle,call us at the telephone number below.

We are sending this notice to the following other people who have an interest in the Vehicle or who owe money under your agreement.

The purpose of this letter is to assist us in collecting a consumer debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose. Your immediate attention to this matter is anticipated.

Sincerely, Redemption Department

This letter was obviously a form letter, however IF the person sending the letter read the notes in my file (or the computer spilled out a correct listing of people who should actually receive this letter), I would not have gotten it. There were so many things in this letter that were so wrong.

First of all, Chase’s record should note that Mark is dead. The file was in the Probate Department, and they received a Death Certificate. So because he is dead, he did not break his promise to pay the loan! He friggin’ died!

Then I was told that because Mark died with no assets, and I was not on the loan, if they sold the vehicle than what was owed, they would “eat the loss”. The letter stated that he will owe the difference.

The letter states that “We are sending this notice to the following other people who have an interest in the Vehicle or who owe money under your agreement.”  There was no list following, and if they looked at their records, they would see that Mark was solely responsible for the loan.

And my personal favorite part of this letter is the last line that states, “Your immediate attention to this matter is anticipated”. Ok, what part of “HE’S DEAD!” do you not get???

I called the number on the letter. The woman transferred me to someone in the Redemption Department. She asked me ALL the information that was required to access the account (the account number, Mark’s social security number, the vehicle type, our home address, and the phone number on file). I gave her everything she asked, and she wanted to know how she could help me. I told her about the letter that I received. She told me that she was not allowed to help me because I am not authorized on the account. I asked her how this could be if I was able to access it to surrender the car back to them. She kept repeating that she couldn’t help me. I asked her who could, and she told me that I needed to contact the Probate Department. I asked her if the file was in the Probate Department, why was Mark being asked to call the redemption department? Obviously if it was in Probate, that would mean he was dead. She told me that she couldn’t help me because I am not on the account.

When I asked who I should contact to get this straightened out, and again the ignorant bimbo said she couldn’t give me any information because I was not on the account. I asked her to transfer me to Probate. She informed me that they close at 5:30 PM. It was 5:32 PM. It figures.

I guess tomorrow I will call the Probate Department because this is wrong on so many levels. It never should have gone to the Redemption Department because Mark was deceased. Obviously he is not going to call them to get his car back. And I should NOT have to deal with the stupidity of it all when my husband has died! And that representative could not have been colder to me. Never did she apologize for not being able to help me. Never did she offer her condolences.

Too bad I didn’t have $1.00 for each time she told me that she couldn’t help me, I’d be able to put gas in my car!!

What I learned from Winter Storm Nemo….

February 10, 2013 Leave a comment
Heart of snow for Bunny

Heart of snow for Bunny

So a snowstorm ripped through our area. I dreaded it because I’ve hated snow and all that is associated with it since school snow days became a thing of the past.

The weatherman talked about doom and gloom. They were predicting a foot of snow with high winds that could cause power outages. That’s all I needed to hear. The panic started to settle in. I dreaded shoveling all that snow. I started fearing a power outage with no light and heat on a snowy night. I was afraid to be alone without Mark because he was the one who always balanced me.

I became a wimp. I left the office early once the snow started to stick on the ground. I always told people that I don’t drive in snow, but the reality of it all is that I did. I can’t remember the last time I left early due to snow. I just couldn’t stay at the office. I knew that I couldn’t take chances because if something happened to me there was no one left to take care of Belle.

I stressed all night over the snow falling. I worried about power outages and made sure I had flashlights around. I made sure that my iPad and cell phone were charged.

When I went to bed about midnight, it was a winter wonderland outside. The snow was falling heavily, and I went to bed fearing the worst, and feeling lonely and scared.

I woke at 7:00 AM. I figured that Belle would need to pee. I took her out, and there it was. A white winter wonderland. I stuck my ruler in the snow on the deck. The measure was 8-1/2 inches. I didn’t want to face it, so I went back to bed, dreading the shoveling that was going to have to be done.

I stayed in bed for as long as I could. Finally about noon, I went out to battle the white shit. I’d hoped that some teenager would knock on my door to make a few bucks shoveling out my driveway. No kids knocked. My next door neighbor didn’t come over, offering to help. In fact, it looked like he wasn’t even out yet because his snow was still virginal.

I shoveled the driveway and the sidewalk. I cleaned off my car and put it into the garage. It took me about an hour. I missed the fun that Mark and I would have when we shovel. We’d throw snowballs at each other. We’d make snow angels. We would chase Belle around the yard. Today I had none of that. It was a harsh reality that this is how it is going to be for me.

But I learned something from Winter Storm Nemo. I learned that:

  • I can shovel my driveway and sidewalk
  • I am strong enough to fight my own fears of storms
  • I can make a mean homemade French Onion Soup
  • Belle likes snow even if her Daddy is no longer physically with us

I’m not liking my new way of life. It’s going to take time to adjust and cope. It’s going to take a lot of grieving to get past this. I am going to miss Mark forever. But so far, in spite of daily (sometimes almost constant) tears, I am learning that I can be strong when I need to be. I have survived 3 1/2 weeks of being a widow. I have hated everything single minute of it, but I am surviving.

I am determined to push forward and come out a stronger and better person. I will need help. I won’t always be capable of asking for it. I will have my share of tears and pain and hurt, but I am determined to come out of this on the other side in one piece. I know I have to do it because that is what Mark would have wanted for me.

I love you Bunny… and I miss you tons!