Reflections

Sometimes you cheat on your own website. My View, a column in the Buffalo News offers a place for writers to express their own personal thoughts on a topic of your choosing. There are some guidelines (of course) which can easily be found online. Today, I was published.  Some of you have been asking how I’ve been since my great loss(es) of 2017 and here I try (within the word count allowed) to express where I am today.

My View: Beginning life again after a year full of loss

By My View Published

By Holly Olmstead

As we live our lives, we can expect to lose our elderly loved ones. We are saddened, of course, and we respectfully mourn those we loved. We realize it is the natural order of things when the aged pass away. The stone that is cast by that death has rippling effects that last for years.

Adult children who may have come into town to visit that parent stop doing so, family gatherings are less frequent and sometimes difficult without an identifiable matriarch or patriarch, and the next generation of babies born to those adult children are born and create new, exciting attentions.

Now, when there are losses of loved ones that are unexpected and do not align with the natural circle of life, that brings on a grief of a whole other kind. You wonder how your life will go on. After a long and successful marriage, I lost my husband of 35 years. He was my best friend, cheerleader and protective caretaker my entire adult life.

Through the last few months of his life, we had to re-home our Labrador of five years, a sacrifice for hubby’s safety in the household. Even though it was a successful transition, one’s pet is like one’s child, a terrific loss.

In the meantime, my sister with Down syndrome passed away, a death more bittersweet than upsetting as at the age of 62 and born in the 1950s we felt she lived a full life. However, it was indeed a significant, heartfelt loss to me. Having lost my sister, pooch and hubby all in one year, I felt like I had lost my entire identity.



Holly Olmstead

This was overwhelming, to say the least, for me. Where to begin? Where to pick up the pieces? Where to turn?

At first I was numb. In shock, anger, and likely, in denial. So, I did nothing. Mourning: Who knows what that looks like? They say gather with others, join groups. Keep old traditions, consider new. Give permission to yourself for time, space and for your family.

So, I took on some new things. I now volunteer at Habitat for Humanity at the construction site and run with a group from Fleet Feet. I’ve just signed on to teach knitting at Cornerstone for the winter semester and completed a grief group session at Hospice.

I’ve learned how to time manage the job of two people regarding house maintenance, including grocery shopping and cooking. Children are out of the area and trips scheduled to see them are and will always be in the works.

It has been over one year. I am dating. While all this was well and good, the busy, full schedule was not filling the void and the loneliness I was continuing to feel. It wasn’t until I had a euphoric moment that things began to take a turn for me. My past and present do not need to look the same in relationships. While I understood and had accepted my activities looking different, why not my relationships, as well?

This simple shift in thinking, of taking off the parameters of expectation of the familiar interpersonal relationships I had known, is allowing me to be more open to friendships of all kinds.

Much like starting adulthood over, I can enjoy people I meet, find joy in others’ ways and traditions, and accept new ideas in conversation and lifestyle. The world actually feels like a bright promising place for happiness and love, once again.

Holly Olmstead, of Kenmore, is a retired teacher from the Sweet Home Central School District.

PS.  The photo, above is of my home where I’ve hung outside lights for the first time, have a new storm door, new mailbox, and hung a vintage poinsettia wreath, a wreath that hung on the front door during my childhood recently given to me by my mom.  Not forgotten, the beautiful wreath hubby gave me a few years back is hanging on the mantle, where sweet memories of Christmas past remain present.

[HERE] is how the article appeared in the Buffalo Evening News.

A Valentine for Late Hubby

Roses are red
Violets blue
Your loved ones
Are remembering
The day I married you!

Roses are Red
Violets blue
now collected in my heart
are memories of you

Roses are red
Violets indeed are blue
I will stop by
and blow a kiss to you

Life does go on
whether we like it or not, tis true
I can no longer say
Happy Anniversary to you

It is a constant that roses are red
and violets blue
As with things tangible
we can count on remain true

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Life is now offering
A new point of view.

 

Coping with Great Loss, Intentional Moves

I don’t know what the psychologists would say but I certainly know what my heart and mind are saying and I am listening.  Here is what has been going on with me.  Each of these moves are or has been intentional to help cope with the great losses I have experienced this horrific year.  Do not read into the order as truly many if not most of these things are happening simultaneously.

  1.  Adopted Lady.  By adopted, I really mean accepted her as my own.  I continue to grieve and have a good dose of guilt about Lizzie (please do not try to tell me otherwise) and continue to pray her new family loves her the way I did.   Articles on Health and Wellness always include how owning a pet aids to a person’s overall sense of well being.  
  2. Going out on a Monday night.  Now twice.  Much fun.  Enough said.

    Rochester Knitting Guild, gathering ideas
  3. Furniture give-away, furniture purchase.  Pieces I associated with bad memories have been thoughtfully given away which then changes their memory to the positive and those pieces have been replaced with new purchases.  Or, adding to existing collection(s).

    Added new pieces in hubby’s memory
  4. Removed doors, three of them last week in an effort to gain light and space within my living space.  Light and space gives me a sense of freedom and tranquility.

    glass door knob-8 paneled doors, on a pallet in the basement
  5. Repaired old favorite keepsakes.  Over time, things would need repair and get forgotten, at least in our household.  Ex.  When cleaning out the basement, I have found two such lamps and now, after repair, are fabulous keepsakes and reminders of our 35 years together and how/why/when these particular items came to us.
  6. Out of a massive collection of photos we have (we all have), I have framed and put out only a few around the house, but in prominent places. It really becomes the location of the photo, rather than the quantity (which I think can be annoying) that makes the statement. 
  7. Finding NEW activities with no associations to the past and for the purpose of meeting people.  Ex.  agility training with Lady (now into the 5th class) and joining a team constructing a new build for Habitat for Humanity (I am now the proud owner of steel-toe boots).
  8. Asking for and accepting help from neighbors.  Ex.  How to add water to the boiler, fire alarm issue, rules for garbage vs. trash in our Village
  9. Out of my control but very noticeable and appreciated is the continual support of family.  Ex.  daughter making short jaunts back home,  step-son sending texts,  sisters-in-law emails, flowers being sent from dear hubby’s family members (just received yesterday).  This continuation of including me into the family fold is imperative and what I am most Thankful for this season.
  10. Grief counseling/groups of all kinds.  Hospice follows up with the family 13 months after the death of the loved one.  I am taking advantage of this opportunity.  There are groups for specific loss as well as generic loss/relation.
  11. Crying.
  12. Accepting.
  13. Finding that sense of humor, again.

    teasing gullible daughter about some knitting needles
  14. Doctor’s appointments for wellness checks, prevention down the road.  They’re all lined up.
  15. Visiting loved one(s).  Well, I  visit my sister and Lizzie via photographs and I  visit my dear hubby.  It is currently helpful to face my reality and hoping in time will be a source of solace, maybe even contentment of sorts.  Once a best friend, always a best friend, perhaps?

And, writing!  Writing this list and thinking about my intentional moves these days is reflective in nature and is allowing me to ask myself, “Is what I am doing helpful to my overall happiness?”  And, I answer, what I am doing is, at least in the ball park of coping and healing and allowing me to find my way to a new normal and all that life, in the future, has to offer.