“I was silently suffering through STERBS..”
LOLA Case Study
We recently received a referral from a Non-Profit Board in San Antonio. They had received news that one of their employees had just passed-away suddenly and they wanted to help her husband.
Time of Loss clients are never the same, they all start off at different places in their process and so it takes a little time to establish what their immediate and long term needs exactly are at that moment.
I called over to the husband and he was expecting my call. He was so open and willing and ready to sit down to meet. He was overwhelmed with the details of his wife’s death. She handled a lot of the bills and everyday items around the house. He was overwhelmed by family and friends and nervous about the funeral.
When we first met, we walked through his grief, and we role played when people asked about how his wife died, how he could respond. We then looked at all of his bills and financials to see which accounts had her name, their joint names and his names on them. He had just purchased a car for her so he was overwhelmed with what to do with the car. (moving from 2 incomes to 1 was stressing him out) We spent a good 2-3 hours together outlining a plan and what we could handle for him.
During the next 6 weeks we would meet, talk and email. We picked up Death Certificates and helped get them out to providers, banks and vendors for him. We reviewed his medical benefits and helped set him up for a doctor appointment to get him benchmarked. We assisted with moving a 401K over to his financial accounts and held on the line with him and social security to submit the claim for his wife’s death benefit. We advocated for him at the car dealership and they took the car back. He needed help filling out forms so we assisted him with completing them to ensure they were filled out correctly.
At the end of our time together he quickly became part of the LOLA family. He was getting ready to embark on a road trip to grieve and begin his new journey on the life highway. My heart was so full that we could clear the path for him.
When people ask us what we do, it’s different for every single person. Because everyone’s needs are different. Its more than grief guidance, its more than helping find a probate lawyer, it’s being the guidance someone needs during their darkest times.
“How do you like your eggs?”
This is my favorite line from The Runaway Bride.
How do you know what you like if you don’t know what your favorite eggs are in the first place? I have spent the better part of 4 years trying to work through this analogy/question, because it pertains to everything in my new life.
In 2017, when I started creating LOLA, my dream was to help people in a time they needed it most. Before, during and after a loss.
However, the business side of building a dream means:
I am living in 2 different worlds. The LOLA world where my heart is always full because I am in the depths with families, helping them during the darkest of times and then in the business world dealing with vendors, contracts and the administration of LOLA.
Sometimes finding vendors who really understand you can be difficult, it can be very much like learning what type of eggs you like.
I recently had an AHA moment! And I realized I needed to begin asking these questions when it came to the business side of my life. (heck even my personal side)
Has this person experienced a LOSS? Have they ever watched someone they LOVED Die and then not know if gravity is up or down?
I realized I had a new perspective on a new-criteria I needed to start including for LOLA and myself. If you haven’t experienced LOSS, you probably won’t ever understand me. YES, I was finding the type of eggs I like, and it is a process.
Being a business owner and widow brings many new challenges, but after almost four years I am finding out a lot about myself. When I was married to Carl, everything was scrambled eggs and in the challenging times Eggs Benedict…But now, I really Love Sunny Side Up eggs!
What kind of eggs do you like?
After losing my husband, one of the biggest adjustments I faced was learning to travel alone. I asked my friend and national etiquette expert Diane Gottsman to share her thoughts on how women can learn to navigate the sometimes intimidating world of flying solo.
February 11, 2018
I thought I had processed my losses. I mean it has been over 3 years ~ surely by now I have resolved my grief...right?
Then I went to get Certified in Grief Recovery and I learned I had not really finished completing what had been brewing for almost 3 and a-half years. Yes, brewing.
I walked into a room with 8 other people, all attending to become Certified in Grief Recovery. These 8 humans would be my support group for the next 40 hours. At the end of the first day I had been cracked like a nut.
I had never thought about Loss in the way it was described to me, but then as I started reflecting loss was more than losing someone I love, it was so many more things. And little did I know I was walking around with holes through myself. I had only covered myself up.
Loss, I learned was losing a job, a friend, kids going off to college, changes in my marriage, divorce, a financial loss or gain, loss was every change I felt and I had not properly addressed.
I started to realize that I had a lot of recovery work to do. Because when I wrote my life timeline out, I realized how many changes I had experienced.
After the first day of the Certification class I got home and knew what was going to happen, I was going to finally learn how to work through my loss with Carl and my dad. The second day was heavier and sure enough I physically felt what I had yet to work through.
By the 3rd day, I felt like I had been run over but I also felt a little Free. I had said everything I needed to and my relationships are now different. As the 9 of us who were there together looked around, we knew a true transformation had occurred.
I have met and been coached by many wonderful people, but this was the first time I felt understood and complete. I also feel like I have this new-found laser vision of seeing people and seeing the hurt and pain they are carrying.
On our 4th and last day of our Certification, we realized we can't help others until we ourselves have completed our relationships. That lightbulb clicks on and we realized while we were all in different timeline of our losses, we all had done the work.
I am excited that 2018 started off this way. It is true you should never stop learning and healing.
2017 Thanksgiving came and went and I successfully ran my First 5K in San Antonio, Texas.
For many this may not be a huge deal, but for me ~ Seriously I could barely run when I decided to make this a goal for myself. My running instructor had me running 2 minutes and walking a minute when I first started and at the end on Thanksgiving morning, I ran 43 minutes straight. Yep – it took me 43 minutes to run 3.1 miles. But I DID IT!
Since losing Carl and my dad I have had to rebuild my identity. I have had to learn new things and get comfortable in my new body. More importantly I am having to learn how to be alone. It has not been easy.
Three years ago, I thought to myself, "How will I ever learn to live again?"
And now when I say three years~ I have to stop and take a breath. I have gone almost 1200 days without my person. I feel stronger every day I move forward and away from my incredible Grief.
I did not think running would be my friend, let's face it, I did not think exercise would ever be my friend. But then I started into a huge legal battle and needed something to help me. Help me calm down, work through my frustrations and burn the grief.
I met new friends through exercise, who know me for me and call me now to see how I am doing without asking about my past losses. They see me for well, ME.
As a person who makes checklist after checklists, I go down and know I am moving the needle forward IF I can check off a box. So, when I started making lists this last year I listed -
Do things to make myself healthier
Maybe start lifting weights
Maybe do a 5K –BEFORE I turn 50
And in 2017, I have done all three! After losing someone I Loved more than anything in the world who was the athlete in the family, I can now say I feel him in my face when I run outside. He is the burst of cool air that hits me and the voice I hear in my head ~ cheering me on.
Loss can lead you down a narrow slippery slope into a very dark place, and I can say I have started to Run myself out of there!
November 8, 2017
Is how I feel day in and day out now that I am alone.
Being alone when you are young before you find your soul mate, is one thing. You are vibrantly unafraid of anything and throw all of your sensibility out the window. Then one day, you run into your soulmate and Voila! Your destiny is set. And if you are lucky enough bobbing and weaving through the rough patches you have a some-what normal marriage or union. Kids, dogs, sports you name it, you are in the middle of it all. Directing the traffic of your life~ you are on top of it! The best part of it is you have a partner to lean on and be the person who will listen and assure you when you are on the right track or reel you back in when you are way off course.
That was my life.
Then the other alone happened to me. I became a widow. That word makes me want to throw a chair through a window. That word tells the world you have been left alone. Your soul mate has left and you are alone in the world.
The vulnerability sets in, you are fighting to get out of the shadows. When you have work to be done, you have to ask your friends for help. Even though they say when you've had a loss, "call us, anytime" you feel like you are a burden. So, you try and hire people, and when they find out you are alone, you get the elevated pricing. Or in my case when I hired roofers, I was told not to ask questions and then there was the plumber that charged me $350 to fix a faucet. I have experienced it all from creative kinds of people who were "helping me" to various contractors, the vulnerability is all the same.
Vulnerability. I am having to learn to have a new voice and sometimes I have to stretch a little outside of my comfort-zone. I was told early on after my loss, that allowing others to see your vulnerability is a strength. I am starting to flex the muscle a little bit more ~ and learning to find my own voice ~ even three years later.
October 22, 2017
7 years- ago today, my nephew, Christopher Thomas Cardenas passed away.
He would have been 30 years old had he lived on and he would have probably been a sports writer. He loved the Spurs.
Christopher embodied how everyone should live their lives every day. He was born with many challenges, he chartered a whole new world of medicine for doctors struggling with how to help a child survive that was only given 72 hours to live when he was born.
Christopher was 23 when he passed away.
He lived his life to the fullest, he wasn’t the tallest person in the room but he was a giant when it came to his words. He appreciated life and was grateful to all that helped him. 23 years of surgeries, being picked and poked, he was resilient. He wanted to live.
There were so many things we could all learn from Christopher, and while the medical professionals said he would live no longer than 72 hours ~ he proved everyone wrong.
My brother went to the cemetery yesterday to clean the headstone where Christopher lies peacefully with our mother ~ Lola.
He sent me the picture of the headstone and I sighed inside and out. I couldn’t help but feel tears well up in the corner of my eyes. I thought ~ this is why what we are doing is so important because the fighters in the world show us how to LIVE our Lives. We all tend to think we will live forever, but for those who come into the world as fighters and spend their whole lives fighting, they remind us how we take so much for granted.
Christopher and his parents spent his whole life being prepared for the inevitable. The evening he passed away, the light Christopher shared with us slowly dimmed and went out. But even 10 years later we can say he lived a fuller life than most.
Rest our sweet angel.
Run.... That is what I feel like doing. Except I hate running. Really. I can spin on a bike, lift weights, jump rope, throw a ball across a parking lot and hop. (and I hate hopping) but more than anything I really hate to run.
The Run, I mention above is the one I want to do in my head that moves nauseously with my stomach. It’s a weird feeling I get a couple of times a year. Once when it comes close to Carl's anniversary of dying and the other is the New Year when I measure my life.
These last few days have been about Carl, and as we inch closer into the month of September I feel it heavier and heavier in my heart.
I am hopeful that one day I will not feel this way but let's face it, it has been 3 years. 3 years since I was paralyzed. So, I tell myself I should be over it. I have friends who are widows that are already dating. Moving on with their lives. But in the words of my niece Victoria, "I just can't!"
Maybe I tell myself it's because I don’t get out, or I have started alienating. (again)
Maybe this is just how it is going to be.
I have conversations with myself, "it's ok. Tomorrow will be different." But I know it's all the same. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy, as happy as I can be without Carl. My kids fill me up and we have enough energy and joy to last forever. I am so thankful for them.
But Run is what I feel like doing, so I think I shall try and do the other running, the actual running. It might make me feel good and tired so my mind stops wanting to Run.