August 14, 2012


Tomorrow marks six months since Dave died February 15. Stop. Pause.

It is… Stop. Pause. Breathe.

The last couple of weeks have been very thoughtful on death. My most recent post was actually written a couple weeks before that, in July. I was sidetracked and just didn’t post until August.

As August approached I was in thoughts about my dad and Lucky dog. They share an August 2 “deathaversary.” Lucky came to mind top-most because it was the one year date and I spent lots of time with him on a daily basis. Dad died over a decade ago, and the time and distance made those memories less prevalent. It seems somewhat strange to me to admit more emotional response for an animal, but it makes perfect sense that I would.

I’ve been working hard emotionally through my losses week-by-week as I move the content of this blog into the new website, Navigating Grief. I am re-writing some history as I update links and make the words relevant to the changed location (not content; mostly business references). I’ve had to relive all the days and moments going backwards as that was my structure for completing the task. Like reading the last pages of a book to know how it ends, I have been skimming through the story and stopping on the words which fill in the missing pieces. I am amazed at all that happened, and all that didn’t. The powerful entries reach through me and I transport back into some very difficult hours. I re-live the love and humor that was also in those pages and our daily lives. I feel the teaching and tenacity of Dave. I marvel at his being not only the last year but throughout our marriage (warts and all).

Hmm. Ironic, and something I hadn’t thought about for a while. “The present redetermines the past.” (Erikson, follows Freud’s “The past determines the present.”) This process of my grief in reading and updating through my blog history is redetemining my past right now as I meld paths all together. I am living a theory! Gosh, don’t I know it?!

I was chatting with a friend who has a new job. She was talking about the long learning curve and how one person in her office said it took her three years to feel truly knowledgeable in providing the services required. (lots of bureaucracy and regulation)

Six months is the time frame I’ve always allotted to how long it takes to feel comfortable in a new job. It’s arbitrary I suppose, I don’t recall that being someone’s theory. Perhaps just my experience. Now I am at six months. Do I know my new role as widow? (And what’s with widow? Isn’t this the only relationship to death that has its own title? ) How’s it going? I think about him every day. But I am fine with that.

The last six months have zoomed by for me. In some ways I can’t believe that much time has passed. Then there are those definite moments that are in suspended animation and I still think Dave should walk through the garage door. Brains are funny that way. I have all the angst of forgetting and moving on, and all the relief of knowing I can remember and go forward.

So if I am at six months in a new job, the question might be, “Are you happy here?”

I can honestly say, “Yes. Yes, but I miss the people (person) from my old job (life). I don’t miss the position I held as caregiver, I do miss the caring for, and sharing. I miss the routine, but I embrace the one I am growing into now. I am growing and learning, which is always life-affirming. I am excited for what is to come. I am thankful for everything I have gone through. What makes me happy is the chance to bring this experience with me wherever and however I go.”

I just remembered a question I asked my dad way back my first year at Evergreen. It was an interview for the Human Development program, a psycho-biography assignment for the year end thesis. My question was about his sense of when the best days of his life were/are. (Eeek! He would have been younger than I am now!) It was a question for insight into his optimism. The answer I recall was that “today” is the best day of his life. He went on to talk about being where he was because of all he had experienced. He was the culmination of his life because of life. I remember being surprised by his answer, not because I didn’t think he had or didn’t have regrets, but by the way he filtered his choices in life and the meaning he attached to his life in the moment.

None of us get to the moment of today without all our yesterdays. It’s what we do with it.

That year in Human Development was a life changing year. I met Dave. I learned about my dad as a person, separate from being my father. I picked up foundations of theory (Freud, Erikson, Angyal, others) that have paved my choices about career, interactions, even raising our daughter. I fell in love with learning. I discovered the holistic, the interdisciplinary approach to life (or rather this was confirmed). These are not anything I will forget. They are all a part of me without a second thought.

This year, too, is life changing on my continued story, my journey, through human development. And I have to say that today is the best day of my life. Everything leads me here. It’s something I won’t forget.

3 replies
  1. Nancy Miller
    Nancy Miller says:

    I just came to your blog, Joan, and was compelled to look at this journal entry first because I wanted to get to know Dave, to see what he looked like, how the two of you together created this intense energy. And it shows. It also took me back to the sixth month marker after Rachel died, and I recalled how, yes, brains are tricky things. You can know something logically but emotionally or spiritually, it feels just so foreign, so wrong, so unnatural that these people we loved so intensely (and still do) have simply disappeared. How do we make sense of this?

    I feel blessed that our paths have crossed and that we are forging through this experience. I’ve always believed that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s an old saying but one that is true, at least for me. This hasn’t actually killed me, though at times I wished it had, but it is making me stronger, and more able to give to others. This idea of giving to others is perhaps key to maintaining one’s sanity. Bless you for this gift today.


    • Joan H
      Joan H says:

      Thank you Nancy for dropping in to learn more about me and Dave specifically. Since our recent meeting I feel like a kindred soul with you although a difference in the type of losses we’ve experienced that bring us together – your daughter, my husband, the immediate change from her sudden death, the slow rhythm of his death through cancer. Neither are easy. I agree whole-heartedly living through loss and grief does make me stronger. I’m looking forward to learning to make sense of death, which ultimately means life, with you and others along the path. ~Joan


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