January 18, 2015

How Am I Doing?

That is a question that I have come to despise. It has been one that has been tossed my way countless times during our miserable days while Jim and I battled his cancer. Now it gets flung at me as I begin the life of a widow. Everyone wants the answer to be “fine.” Well, it’s not fine. I’m sorry to disappoint those who inquire. Do they really want me to lie so that they feel better? I suspect that the majority wishes that I would tell the fib so that they can merrily go on with their lives and dismiss me without any guilt.

And some people wonder why I am not blogging so much. Well now, I’m not exactly a bundle of joy at the moment, and it is way too difficult to pretend. And, my biggest blogging fan is now dead. Gone forever.

So… How am I doing?

Sad. Abandoned. Lonely. Forsaken. Confused. Depressed. Overwhelmed. Frightened. Forgotten. Dismayed. Miserable. Grief-stricken.

I could go on with the description of my life right now, but that list is probably sufficient. Yeah, you probably didn’t want that much honesty because it’s making you squirm in your seat. One day, this may be your life too.

Yes, I have joined a grief support group. It is comprised of people who have lost loved ones, not just spouses. Some participants have been there for a year or longer. I found that fact a depressing one. The group meets every two weeks. I’ll give it a try for a while and see if it helps. At least it will provide me opportunities to have face-to-face conversations with people who aren’t grocery clerks.

I am staying busy. I have daily task lists to give myself structure and feelings of accomplishment. There are many household chores that got neglected during the past year and a half. There is a lot of outdated food to throw out. I don’t know when I will get the courage and energy to clean out the garage and the storage room. And then there are all of Jim’s personal effects. The magnitude of it all is immense. Sigh…

Thanks to the incompetency or laziness of the physician at the residential hospice facility, I still don’t have the death certificates. So I can not get on with completing the most important tasks associated with the estate, such as the monthly retirement check, financial accounts, and household utilities. I don’t look forward to taking care of all of those necessities. But at least it won’t be as bad as making all of the funeral arrangements by myself. Now that event has to rate as one of the most miserable in my life.

Are you still reading this? Are you wondering if I have anything good to say? If you haven’t closed this post out by now, then you will be rewarded for sticking with me.

I sold Jim’s car for a really good price through a local CarMax office. The whole process was as easy as can be, and I was grateful that the car title was set up so that I didn’t need a death certificate.

I’ve made reservations for six different photo tours this year. All of them are small groups. Three are in Tennessee and one in Georgia, so I can drive to those events. The other two are located in western Wyoming: landscape photography of the Tetons in the spring and wildlife photography in the Tetons/Yellowstone in the fall. Though my number one traveling companion is gone, I still intend to travel. But as a lone, senior female, I will have to be much more careful about it.

I also got a dog. Surprise! For the past several months, I had been looking at dogs that are made available for adoption through a local small breed rescue group. I didn’t tell Jim of my plans. But I knew that I would do better if I had a companion after Jim’s death. At a local meet-and-greet, I was introduced to one little pooch that seemed like she would be a good friend. Her rescue name was Angelina, but I decided that was too long. I shortened it to Angel. She is living up to her new name too.

Angel is a Chihuahua mix and estimated to be about 3 years old. She is 9 pounds of sweetness and very laid back in temperament. She is housebroken, crate trained, and leash trained. Good around all types of people and other dogs. She is well mannered and not yippy. Doesn’t even flinch when the doorbell rings. She has an endearing snaggletooth on one side of her mouth and beautiful coat markings. And best of all, she is a champion snuggler, content to sleep on my lap while I am reposed in my recliner. Angel doesn’t know basic commands, so we are going to obedience school, starting this week. She is smart as a whip and eager to please, so I am confident that she will do well.

I continue to be cheered by all of the correspondence from my blogging friends. If I haven’t responded to you, I’m sorry, but it may have gotten lost in the shuffle. Many of you tell me that you wished you lived closer. I wished you lived closer too! The hardest part of this journey is that it is so solitary, and my local support network is very limited. But here is the thing. I bet if you looked around in your community or your circle of acquaintances, you would find someone who is living in similar circumstances. I’m not the only one out there who could use a friend and helping hand. Please, reach out to someone who is hurting. Make a difference in someone’s life on a regular basis and demonstrate God’s grace. Make it your own, personal “Donna project.” Okay?


  1. you are entitled to all of those feelings and more. i'm sorry about the death certificate hold-up. i know all those financial matters are hanging over your head. glad you were able to sell the car, at least. and i like sweet angel. yes, sounds like a well-behaved loving companion. and good for you for signing up for the photo tours. and thanks for the note at the end, too. a good reminder to try harder.

  2. Every single one of those feeling is completely understandable. My sister in law is dealing with the same thing since my brother passed away last year. I can only try and imagine how overwhelming all of this is.
    Your sweet little Angel is adorable. I think the name is very fitting for her.

  3. Of course you are not "fine." Thank you for sharing your feelings so honestly here. Someday, some of your readers will be in the same situation and glossing over the reality helps no one. Angel looks like a darling companion. Enjoy your snuggles with her. You may not be fine, Donna, as you adjust to this wretched new normal, but I'm pleased to hear you've signed up for some photo tours.
    Thanks for the reminder to show grace to those I meet every day. If any of those photo tours ever bring you to our Island, it would be wonderful to meet for tea. Hugs, Lorrie

  4. Wow, I can not believe a death certificate should take so long.. I love your sweet Angelina, she will be a great companion for you.. I love the Tetons and Yellowstone.. Wyoming is a beautiful state and I am sure you will love it there.. Only time will heal, take care..

  5. Dear Donna, My thoughts and prayers are with you during this extremely time. I think you made a very wise choice with the adoption of your little Angel. She is such a sweetie and such a lucky girl to have you.
    take care

  6. Always in my prayers and thoughts.

  7. I'm glad you shared your feelings with us and I'm glad to know you are seeking help and making plans for the coming months. The little dog looks like one I had when I was a kid...Moochie. How precious and such a sweet companion. I read most of your post to my hubby. We both keep you in our prayers. Sending you and Angel some sweet hugs tonight. Your friend, Diane

  8. I can't imagine how anyone might think you should be "fine." You are entitled to every single one of your feelings. It is going to take time. It took me years (much too long I think in hindsight). I was squirming a wee bit...were you thinking of me when you wrote that... and then you mentioned taking some trips and that you found yourself an Angel. I sure hope that Marty and she get along.

  9. It comes as no surprise to you that I believe in transparency in blogging; your feelings are normal and, even if they weren't, are still valid. I'm still being asked "how are you?" and sometimes by people who genuinely care...most do not. Angel is a love bundle, you did the right thing, Donna. You know had it not been for my animals I would have killed myself; it's what kept, and keeps, me going. Yes, I am a strong Bible believing Christian and it's been more than 3 years; even so, it's only in the last few months the grief fog as begun to lift and I'm actually enjoying life. I'm still amazed!
    You are loved, liked and prayed for; fight the good fight so you can hear "Well done thou good and faithful, servant."

  10. These words you type Donna are words both my Gran and My Sister in the last two years have said...My Sister still very much feels many of those words so deeply and so publicly my Gran more privately,My Sister attends compassionate friends and does art therapy and Im so glad she found that avenue as it has been her 'thing"...I have been one of those friends who 'wished" I was closer,I have said those very words to you...They feel not-enough...But From a distance I will be here for you and continue to do so...I will check how your doing as I care,And I am prepared that the answer may be...Terrible,awful;,depressed...But I care and won't squirm,I wont ask you to hurry the grief process...take all the time you need...I will say I am so proud of you answering emails and blogging I think you have done very brave steps especially so early on in your 'new" normal. You have had ustsuch a enormous past year and you need this year to be one of restoration. I hope someone in your immediate community can be that person to be there for you in the upclose and personal way I know so many of your long distance bloggy friends wish but cant be. xxx Love you Donna...and I do care...I care enough to ask 'how ya going"? ...big hugs

  11. I think if you told me you were fine Donna, I'd wonder what was up. Grieving has several phases as I'm sure you're aware and sharing your feelings on your blog has made me feel better to understand some of what you're going through. The Donna Project was already on my mind this morning when a woman at church who lost her boyfriend (both in their 70s) just before Christmas told me she was not doing well with the situation. I really didn't know what to say to her other than offer my condolences so I'm thinking now how I can help her in some way.
    I'm glad you've put a photo of Angel here for us to see the little sweetheart that is going to help you in your journey by always being by your side.
    A hug to you and Angel.

  12. How are you doing? You are doing exactly as you are supposed to be doing--all of it. People say things that are perfectly fine, but when we hear them through widow's brain, they sure sound weird and stupid. At Fred's funeral, I had a woman say to me, "I know just how you feel. We had to have our Max put down last week." As if her damn dog's death was like my Sweetheart's. She was trying to be sympathetic, but...................One day at a time, that's hard enough to handle right now.

  13. I'm so glad you are honest about where you are, my friend. Of course you're not fine! I don't ask that question. And I'm SO glad you and Angel found each other. She is a darling, little girl. I'm thrilled to hear that you are going to travel and do photography. You may not find the support group to be exactly what you need. You will know and it will be alright to continue. Or not! I wish my Joey and I could go to obedience class with you and Angel! We went when he was a puppy but I really think it's his owners who need to be retrained!! We're going back for a refresher soon and then on for more training to deal with distractions. Everything is a distraction for a little Doxie! Hugs to you and Angel.

  14. This is your moment to process the grief. So that's it! I understand that you are doing this very well!
    A hug friend and affectionate.

  15. No lie, I was hoping you had posted something because I so desperately wanted to know how you were doing but figured you were sick of hearing the question. And I so don't expect you to say "fine". All those things you're feeling are what I would expect you to say. You sound to me like you're doing all you can do from one day to the next.
    I love that you got a little companion. She looks so sweet.
    This is a hard road that you are being forced to travel. These times suck and there's no other way to say it. But you are very loved.
    Sending BIG HUGS!!!!

  16. Had I asked you how you were doing and you said fine I probably wouldn't have believed you anyway. Sounds like you are doing as well as can be expected. You have every right to be sad and angry and all those other things. Cancer cheats so many people! I'll add to the voices that say the wish they lived closer to you, although I don't know what I could say except to be there to hold your hand! I'm so glad you got sweet Angel. Sounds like she will be a good companion for you! And also that you are planning trips too. Not only for you to keep busy but we get to look forward to some beautiful pictures in the future. Hugs!

  17. No way you would be fine and I'm so glad to hear how you truly are...which is to be expected. You are a strong woman Donna, even though right now it's extremely and miserably hard. You've come further than I would have expected. And "Angel" sounds like the perfect companion. She is adorable. That sucks about the death certificates. What the heck is wrong with them! Hopefully you will get them soon. I'm keeping you in prayer and love you ((Big Hugs))

  18. Dear Donna, it is good to hear how you are 'feeling'. I certainly appreciate your honesty with us and it's good to share it here. I'm so happy that you found a loving companion in Angel, and that you are signing up for some photography tours. I think that's brave of you and something to look forward to. I think of you often and say a little prayer for you each time. Love and hugs to you. Thanks for the update! Pam

  19. That little Angel is exactly who you need at this time - I think she looks and sounds like the perfect match for you. . . . I can already envision you snuggling up with her 9 pounds of sweetness.

    I've said it all before - I'm glad other friends here 'get it' too - and knowing you are already making plans for the future is the best news yet!

    With love and caring as always - Mary X (and Bob X)

  20. Donna, just this morning you came to my mind...I was even thinking about sending you an email. Of course, these folks asking you how you are doing are probably at a loss for what to say...so they ask the easiest question that comes to mind, pretty much not expecting you to say "fine". Like the others who commented, I agree whole heartedly that all of these things you are feeling are only to be expected when one has suffered a loss such as yours...that's all there is to it. Angel is just a precious little girl and I have no doubt she will bring you much companionship and comfort...those little furry creatures have a way of doing that and I have no doubt why God created them. I am glad to hear that you will be doing some traveling with your photography. Thank you checking in I will continue to pray for you.

  21. Today is the 2nd anniversary of our daughter's death (which is also the anniversary of the last time we saw her three children). Yeah, it's miserable. It's miserable even when it isn't the anniversary of the worst day of our lives. Every day since has been the worst day of our lives. So, if it is any consolation, I know how you are feeling. Don't be depressed about those people who have been in the grief group for over a year. It doesn't end. It just changes a little from time to time. Not necessarily for the better.

    However, there is the sometimes overlooked variable that is the peace that passeth all understanding - that is God's love for us and His knowledge of how crappy this life can be for us. He knows, he gets it. And He provides comfort - minute by minute if we are willing to acknowledge it. This is what I've learned. He has a wonderful life for us after this one is over, we just need to make the choice to go to bat for God and not Satan. But this life is very hard, no matter what kind of icing we try to keep on it. That can make us pull away from the one thing that will eventually give us more happiness and peace than we can now imagine.

    The puppy is adorable!! Soooo cute! I can see why you are falling in love with her. I'm happy you got her. :)

    As for those people who ask you how you are doing, well, that answer will change as time passes. For now, you can refuse to answer if you want, but remember that people don't have a clue about what to say. So many have not suffered through the loss of some of the most important people in their lives - yet.

    ((((Donna)))) my dear friend. I keep you in my prayers. I'm praying for the best for you.

  22. Donna, I am so, so sorry. I can't even imagine the grief. You are in my prayers.

  23. Donna, right now it is all about you. That is hard for some. No, you are not fine and will not be for whatever amount of time it takes for you to get your nose above water. I do like that you sounded off here. Good for you!

  24. PS... You took a wonderful picture of your little Angel. She does look a bit sad. I think you will save each other.

  25. I have thought about this post for several days now. In fact, I had a lengthy discussion with my good friend who lost her husband 3 years ago after a bout with malignant melanoma (7 weeks from diagnosis to death). I remembered overhearing her express similar thoughts about the question "how are you?" and so I decided to ask her for some help because I know that I have asked that question of grieving people and I would never choose to add any pain to someone's wound.

    But, no, I do not want you to lie and say that you are "fine." Of course you are not fine and anyone who would expect that has never felt grief on a personal level. I am sorry that you feel that expectation from anyone.

    I think that you are doing all the "right" things. You are allowing yourself to feel. You are being honest. You are giving yourself small, daily tasks. You are making plans for travel, because that is something that you love. You are reaching out. You have found a furry companion...and such a darling one! And yet, even all of those "right" things will not take away that deep ache of longing for a different reality. One day...one moment...at a time, you will put one foot in front of the other...

    I am sorry for this long and rambling comment (believe it or not, I could ramble some more!), but I just want you to know that you are in my thoughts and in my prayers and I care very much.

  26. Donna...you need to look after yourself & tomorrow will do the same. Shout out to any of us & we'll be glad to help you whatever you need!

  27. It's interesting to me what you say, my friend. A few years ago I asked a family member how she, and her mother, and her father were doing after a monumental and cataclysmic and yes, tragic (although it did not involve a death, at least not of a human being), event in their lives. I love this person and I truly wanted to know how they were; "FINE" was the last thing I expected to hear. And yet, in answer to each of my questions, she brightly (if superficially) responded: "Fine!" And I was appalled, and it hurt me to the quick.

    And I thought how sad it is that we use the only lives we have or will ever have, engaging in meaningless (and false) small talk. I DESPISE small talk. There is nothing to me more terrible than trivializing the huge, the life-changing, the heartbreaking -- just because we are AFRAID to say what is in our hearts! And this we do, when all the while we know (or we SHOULD know) full well that it is only the truth that helps people! Oh, I believe in tact; I know it is necessary and that the employment of it is an art. I'm not very good at it, but I want to get better. Even so: when we care about folks, we do them the honor of being honest.

    All of that to say, I know you're not fine and I would never have expected you of all people to answer the question "How are you?" with that dumb (and all but meaningless, due to our abuse of it) word. But that doesn't mean I don't truly wonder, many times a day, how you're doing. I love you, I remember you, I pray for you. I am comforted that despite the things you do have to worry about, there is a great deal you don't have to worry about.

    And in the end my friend, forgive me, but -- everything will be fine. Your Jim is safe. God is always gracious and He is always good. Life is sweet, made all the sweeter for its brevity. Getting out on the road again and taking pictures will be such a treat for you. I'm glad to hear of your plans. xoxo

    1. and never forgotten...we are here for you dear firnd, always remember that.

    2. Dearest Donna

      Thank you for 'spilling the beans' in your honest way. No one in their wildest dreams could possibly imagine things could be fine with you.
      Losing the love of your life, the one who always knew what you were thinking, with whom you shared your innermost thoughts and ideas, love, laughter, joy and life is catastrophic.
      It must be taking every fibre of your being to get through each day, you are coping the best and only way you can, it is a very personal journey.
      It will happen to us all one day and I dread that day more than anything else. No one is ever prepared for such a loss.

      Hold your head high dear Donna, you did everything you could and more to make things better than they were for Mr Jim - he knew that.

      Your little angel is what you need right now - she can't fill the gap I know, but I hope that little by little her presence will help ease the pain.

      Sending my love and prayers dear Donna
      I'm an email away if you need a shoulder to lean on.
      Shane xox

  28. What a Sweet little Angel...and HUGE hugs to you friend...

  29. I am still here. They are your feelings and you deserve to feel them, that does not make it any easier though. You are paving a road that we all will face someday. And we can gain strength through your words an know what it takes to get through each day.

  30. Hi Donna, I'm still here too though I too have been dealing with a death. My Dad passed two weeks ago. Please, please call me. I only live 4 hours away and only work two days a week so I can come down on my off days and have lunch or whatever...I sent you my phone number if you don't have it anymore. Also, I am a gal on my own too so if you ever want a traveling buddy I'm here because you know we both love to travel. I heard someone say grief is not a straight line....you take care and if you ever need to vent..like I said I listen well even if I have no words to say love and hugs.....

  31. I forgot to tell you....your puppy is so cute!!! I bet she is like an angel sent from heaven to give you comfort!! :-)

  32. Hi Donna, I was thinking of you today, and found this post which I had missed. I am so sorry for what you are having to go through. I lost my father last May, and as sad as I have been, it is nothing compared to what my mother has had to go through...she hated being asked how she was doing, too. It is the hardest thing she has ever been through and I am sure you feel that way, too.
    Your little Angel is precious...and I know, a sweet comfort. xoxo

  33. Thinking of you today, just like every day dear Donna. How's that little Angel settling in? Bet you are finding her a great comfort during these hard days. Hope you share more pics soon.
    Love, Mary

  34. Just stopping in to say I'm thinking of you and pray God is giving you the strength to get through one day at a time ((Big Hugs))

  35. Thank you for your raw honesty. For speaking what is true about loss and grief. I've been very absent while you went through this terrible journey. I tried, once or twice, to write words of encouragement, knowing there is not a lot one can really say to help, but I'll continue to keep you in my prayers and hope there is some comfort in that.

  36. Dear Donna, you remain in our prayers daily. I just don't know what to say, words of comfort are hard, especially long distance. I believe though that dear Jim knows how much you miss him, that you will always love him, and he wants the best for you.
    How about that sweet little Angel - are we going to see more pics of her soon?
    Be strong -
    With love, Mary & Bob


Marty, here! Donna loves comments, and I faithfully pass them on to her. Thank you so much for visiting!