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Three years.

January 18, 2016 Leave a comment

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That’s how long it’s been since Mark passed away. 1095 days.

So much has happened since that night. Nothing ever prepares you for the death of a spouse. Nothing. Even though he was sick for years before he passed, it didn’t make it easier.

And now it’s three years later. So much has changed. I look around my home, and realize that time has kept marching on. Gone is the color brown. A lighter and brighter me has emerged.

Gone is the deep pain, but what remains are the memories of the 13 years we were together. Some bad. Some indifferent. But mostly good. I used to remember and it cut like a knife. Now I remember and I smile. Yes, sometimes I still cry, but it’s not like it was the first year after Mark passed.

I didn’t think life could or would go on. But it did, and I can honestly say I’m happy. Sure, there is always room for improvement, but on a personal level, life is good.

I don’t think this date will EVER be a happy one for me, but it will hopefully never be one of doom and gloom.

I made it through these three years because of the love of friends and family, but also because I found strength that I never knew that I possessed. I always considered myself a weeny. I never thought I was equipped to handle the cruel world we live in. Mark used to tell me that I was too sensitive and emotional. He said I needed to be tougher and more assertive. That’s never worked for me. It’s not who I am. I haven’t changed in three years. I still possess my “weeny tendencies” but who I am is what made me the person I am today.

I have learned a lot since Mark passed away. I now know that I can function quite well on my own. I admit that I prefer not to because I love having someone around to share life with on a daily basis. I learned that life is short, and money is not everything. It definitely makes life easier when you have it. But it won’t buy you love. That comes from within.

A lot of the things that I learned are deep and very personal. Even I won’t share them with anyone, but the important thing is that I learned.

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As I start my fourth year without Mark, I am grateful for our years together. I think about him often. I miss him more than I admit. And a part of me will always love him.

Having said that, I know that he’d be proud of me, and I know that he’s glad that I listened to him. He always told me if he should pass away, I should find love and happiness again. I can be stubborn, but I took his advice and honored his wishes.

I know he’s looking down on me, and I know he approves.

Learning to Live…

May 12, 2013 Leave a comment

When Mark passed away, I felt as though my life was thrown into a blender! That may sound a little odd and melodramatic, but it sums up what I felt at the time. As time has passed, I have found that the blender only mixed up all the parts of my life, but in its churning, it created a new and different me.blender

I’ve realized that life is too short to take everything so seriously. That’s not to say that I would just act irresponsibly or reckless, but I will embrace what I want and how I feel. I’ve learned that I have the best friends that anyone could ever ask for! So many of them have gone WAY above anything that I could have imagined, and I am eternally grateful. I have also learned the fine art of “Pay It Forward”. For those of you who do not understand that concept, it’s really very simple. Pay it forward is asking the beneficiary of a good deed to repay it to others instead of to the original benefactor. It’s really a beautiful concept, and for the first time (that I can remember), I was able to do just that.

I’ve realized that there is no timeline for grief. It’s inconsistent, it’s personal, and it often hits like a damned freight train. But at the same time, it’s important to know that grief is also like a snowflake. Each snowflake is different, and each person who experiences grief deals with it differently.

snowflakeI’ve been given a lot of advice and suggestions by those that care about me. The advice has been on a variety of topics such as money and finances, cooking, dating, and personal safety just to name a few. While I take it all in and listen carefully, ultimately the choices will be mine. Some of my decisions will be good and others may not work for me. This is all part of the growing process that I’m experiencing as I learn how to live on my own and for myself.

I know that I’m being given the advice because I am loved and cared about, but again, the choices are mine, and my time line is my own. If I choose to eat frozen pizza for dinner, that is my choice. If I spend too much money or buy something extravagant, that is my choice. If I choose to date someone, that is my choice. If I choose to be a bit reckless, again, that is my choice.

I’m in charge of my own life. I’m walking my own time line. And I will live and learn with each step that I take. You may not always agree with what I do or how I live my life, but just remember, it’s my life to live. I appreciate the concern and the advice, but I can’t live to please others.

“There are a lot of things about me that aren’t what you thought. But if you love me, you have to love all the things about me.” ~ Frances “Baby” Houseman, Dirty Dancing

I’m hopeful because I truly believe that my new life can be GREAT! I lost myself over the years, but I’m ready to find myself and start living again! Do you want to know why? It’s really simple, BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT!

Just an Observation…

March 14, 2013 1 comment

It’s officially been 8 weeks since Mark passed away. In some ways it seems much longer. And in some ways it seems much shorter.

I can honestly say that the excruciating pain is starting to subside just a little bit. This is not to say I don’t miss him. Nor does it mean that I don’t cry.  I still cry every day, but the length of the crying jags is starting to shorten too. Thank goodness for that!

My doctor says that my sinus issues are due to inflammation and irritation due to… GUESS WHAT? All the crying I have been doing. Well how about that! It’s not like I can do anything about that. I figure when the time comes to stop crying every day, the sinuses will heal! Until then, I suffer with this!

I’m trying to move forward a little bit each day. With the help of some wonderful friends, the basement is sorted out into two piles. KEEP and SELL/DONATE. The guest bedroom has been started. It looks like a bomb went off it there. The closets are cleaned out of Mark’s clothing. All of it, except for clothing with tags, were donated to The Goodwill Store.

Going through all the stuff was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be. Granted it was no picnic, but I was not a bumbling mess either! I think I will be better once I get out of this condo. This place is like wallowing in a box of memories. Not good and not healthy.

Gotta move forward a little bit each day. That is what Mark would have wanted me to do.

Something to look forward to….

March 12, 2013 Leave a comment

90-minutesThere are not a lot of things that I look forward to these days, but Bereavement Support Group is definitely one of them. For 90 minutes, I spend time with people who REALLY understand what I am feeling. It makes me feel like I am not so alone in my thoughts and actions.

I wasn’t sure what to think about attending a support group. I thought it would be a room full of people who were filled with grief and sorrow and pain. I pictured a bunch of people crying all of the time, whining about how much pain they were in, and boxes of tissues every where. It’s not at all like that. Yes, each person has his or her own pain, sorrow and grief, but there is so much strength and hope in this group that I can’t help but go back.

supportWith each meeting I attend, I realize that whatever I am feeling, someone else has felt it. Whatever I think, someone else has thought it. Whatever I do, someone else has done it. I know that the pain will lessen. I know that I will get this better and easier.

I’ve also begun to feel comfortable enough to speak about how I am coping and what I am feeling. Today I was asked to speak about what I’ve been going through since the last meeting. I told them that I was in the process of sorting/tossing stuff. I also told them that, with the help of friends, I was able to get Mark’s clothes out of his closet and to the Goodwill Store. One woman who lost her husband 20 months ago has not been able to do that yet. She says all of her late husband’s stuff is right where he left it. I understand how that could happen. If it were not for my WONDERFUL friends J and G, I KNOW I would not have been able to deal with Mark’s clothing. Nor would I have been able to even attempt to tackle my basement or my guest bedroom closet! I am SO very grateful for my friends!! Especially the ones who have stepped up from TERRIFIC to FANTASTIC (and you know who you are!!)

So in two weeks I have support group again. I am looking forward to going. I get that it’s not for everyone, but it is definitely helpful to me.

7 weeks or 49 days or 1176 hours or 70560 seconds..

March 8, 2013 1 comment

That’s how long it’s been since Mark passed away. But who is counting?  I guess I am.

boxesIt’s been a long seven weeks. So much has happened, but yet nothing at all. It’s hard to explain. I’m still waiting for all the financial stuff to settle down. Insurance companies, social security, Medicare, and the State of NJ move slower than molasses on a frigid day! Until the paperwork is finalized, I am sort of stagnant. Actually that is not completely true. I have been taking care of stuff as needed. And this weekend is the start of sorting/tossing stuff that is in my basement. I have a dear friend coming over to help me with this very tedious (and probably painful) chore. She seems to think it is not going to be as daunting as I think.

I was the one who packed up all that crap – on Mark’s insistence that we take it with us, so I know that each box is filled with to the brim with stuff. I still don’t know why we had to move all that stuff. It was hardly ever used to begin with, so instead of donating it, we opted to pack and move with it. And now it has sat in the basement (and guest bedroom closet and the garage) for 18 months collecting dust. Chances are very good that 85% of it is not stuff that I really want since I haven’t needed it in a year and a half.  Of course, finding my snow boots would be nice. I remember packing them, but haven’t seen them since. Honestly that’s all I can remember absolutely looking for but not finding.

I definitely have to move out of the condo that I live in now. It is way too large for me. I don’t use the basement. It’s just a huge storage area complete with a set of furniture that is collecting dust. I don’t use the guest bedroom. It is also a huge storage area. I go in there once each night to utilize the mini fridge. I get cold water for both myself and Belle. Other than that, it is a “no enter zone”.

Then there is the garage. The perimeter is lined with boxes and stuff but there is enough room so I can get my (small) car into it during bad weather. Again, it is simply a place to store MORE stuff that we collected over the years. Once I downsize, I will have a better assessment of what I have, and I will know exactly what type of new home I will need.

Besides the fact that my current condo is much too big for me (do I really need 2.5 bathrooms?), it is also too expensive. It costs quite a substantial amount of money to heat and cool a three level condo! I don’t even make enough money to cover everything each month. Since Mark passed away, I now dip into my savings each month just to pay all the expenses. That is definitely NOT a good thing, nor is it a smart thing.

forrentSo I have been looking online using a variety of sites to find a new place to live. I do have a budget. I am being realistic in what I want and what I need. I just need something for me and Belle.

Ideally, I would like a well-kept one bedroom apartment (or small house or a condo or duplex)  that is located close to where I am (Laurence Harbor/South Amboy, NJ area plus 5 miles) now since I like the area and it would be close to my job. Obviously I need a place that will allow Belle to live with me. Even though she is not classified as a “small dog”,  I am grateful that she is a golden retriever/poodle mix because that is considered a  “happy/friendly breed”. I definitely do not have any prejudice against any breeds, but I think I would have a more difficult time if I had a Rottweiler or a Shepherd or a Pit Bull.

I must have a washer and dryer in the apartment. I don’t want to be lugging laundry to the laundromat on the weekends with all the other “washerless” people! I would be fine with a place that has the hook up for the washer and dryer, and I will purchase my own!

I don’t have endless funds, but from what I have seen, it would be reasonable to find a place between $800 – $1,100. It would also be great if some (could I possibly wish for ALL?) the utilities to be included in the rent.

My ideal residence would be a first floor unit as I don’t relish the idea of lugging stuff up and down a flight of stairs. I would love to have a garage or off-street parking, but realistically I would settle for on-street parking. I would love to have a deck or a patio so that I could have an outside area to enjoy the spring and summer air. It would also be great to have a place to put my BBQ grille! Of course a quiet area is necessary. I do not want to live on a noisy and very busy main street. That is not for me. I am a quiet person who appreciates peace and serenity in my home.

I did go look at a small home in Laurence Harbor that was for rent. It was beautifully remodeled. It had a patio for grilling and a small fenced in yard for entertaining. I really liked it but realistically it was just too small for me. I took measurements while I was there, and I found out that my bedroom furniture would not fit. I could have lived with that, but my living room furniture also did not fit. My kitchen table and chairs did not fit. There was no closet space to speak of, and if I had any intention of taking any boxes with me, I would have to get a storage unit. That did not seem feasible or economical to me. Besides, boxes and a convertible do not mix well. It would be very hard for me to move boxes using my car, and I would have to recruit someone to help me each time I wanted to swap out boxes. Not realistic, so I had to turn it down. My friend reminded me that it was the first place that I went to see, and she was positive that I would find something that better suited my needs. I hope so. I don’t like hemorrhaging money each month. But more than that, I want to get situated in a new life and be able to settle into this life of widowhood. It was certainly NOT my choice, but I definitely need to make the best of things.

I am hoping that I will begin to feel better once I have a new home to live in. I won’t feel like I am trapped in a box of memories wrapped up in financial ties! So here’s to my finding my new home, and my new (first time) independence!!

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!!