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More Firsts

I just realized I haven’t written since last month … what?!

(A large bit of this is pulled from a recent post on Facebook, so if you’re friends with me there most of it will look familiar.)

On Wednesday I did a couple of new-to-me things. I had my six month fasting labs early, and I had a lot of things to do in Niles (where my doctor is) so I decided to take myself out to breakfast. This was a routine for me and Dave after any early morning medical stuff. When I last had my labs, back in October, it was just a couple weeks after he died and I honestly don’t even remember what I did; I think I just drove back and had breakfast at home.

So I ate in a restaurant by myself, for the first time ever. And it was fine! I brought my Kindle, read my book while I had a nice meal, and didn’t feel uncomfortable or conspicuous at all. It took growing older to realize that nobody is watching me and wondering why I’m eating alone. People do not care, and even if they do, I don’t! Check that off my list.

It was raining cats and dogs, so I had the added joy of doing errands in torrential rain. I got all my shopping done, and even found a cute raincoat at a thrift store. (Why do so many of them just look like big plastic bags? Or have NO HAT? I need a hat to protect my cochlear implants. Or they pull over your head. No, my hair does not want that!)

Then I moved on to my next “first”: an in-person grief group. It was meeting at the YMCA, which is where Dave and I used to work out when we lived in Niles. I hadn’t been there since 2017, but it was a good kind of deja vu as I pulled into the parking lot.

Nobody in the lobby was wearing masks, but the grief counselor had told me to bring one. (I’d emailed ahead of time to explain my hearing loss and difficulty with masks, and he said mostly likely we would just need them when we walked in and then we could take them off.)

I wore mine in, took it off when I realized I was the only one wearing a mask, and then a man wearing a mask came out of a doorway to greet me and show me where we were meeting. This was the grief counselor, who said we should wear them. Great.

An intern approached me and talked for a bit, and I understood not one word. I explained to her that I read lips and couldn’t understand her. She just silently looked at me and didn’t take her mask off. (Usually people do after I explain, even in doctor’s offices.)

We were in a huge empty room that echoed terribly, which made understanding almost impossible. It ended up being me, the two grief counselors, and two older men. I didn’t expect to be the only woman, to be honest. I expected a range of ages, and that was fine, but it was weird not having any other women to relate to the struggles I have dealt with.

I have to say, though, kudos to the guys. Looking at them, you would never picture them in a grief group with tear-filled eyes. These were tough, rural farming men, you know? And I just wanted to hug them both. Time for me to get rid of some of my stereotypical thinking!

Eventually it was determined that we could remove our masks (I really didn’t hear why this was such a drawn out decision) but even then I just could not understand much. They had us sit very far away from each other, and the acoustics in the room were terrible. I caught maybe 30-40% of what the other people said, but luckily most of what the grief counselor said because I was close enough to read his lips.

One of the guys lost his wife after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I heard hospice mentioned, and I think the grief counselor knew him through the hospice service. The other guy really did not talk, just very briefly to say why he was there. I’m pretty sure he lost his wife, maybe very recently. This made it hard to have actual conversations because I couldn’t hear them, and only two of us participants were talking. The grief counselor didn’t keep conversation moving very smoothly and there were a lot of long, awkward silences that I felt compelled to fill. I think I talked more than anyone else, which is a strategy I employ when I can’t hear/understand – if I’m the one talking, I don’t have to try to hear anyone else!

I really didn’t get much out of this, other than the joy of just being able to talk to other people for once. (You can only take so many cold, rainy spring days alone in the house and talking to the cats before you start to lose it.) I’ve been doing a lot of reading on grief and that is helping me work through it, helping me reframe some negative thoughts, that sort of thing. I have the self care stuff (I hate that term, but you know what I mean) well in hand. I do the painful things and the scary things in small increments; when I feel myself panicking, I stop and regroup and do something I enjoy instead. But I also keep making myself try the scary things, so I don’t let the fear take over.

I’m not going back, but I’m also very glad I did it. It confirmed my suspicions that my hearing was going to be an issue, and also made me realize that my need right now is for social interaction, not necessarily help with navigating my grief. Things like my cookbook club at the library, which I just love, are what I need to seek out. (Our next meeting is May 4, picnic foods. I hope the weather catches up by then, because we have snow predicted for Monday.)

My stock answer to “How are you?” has been “Hanging in there.” Now I’m getting to where I’m not just hanging in there. I can genuinely say “I’m doing good” many days.

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