When Change CHANGES US.

Change from loss can be difficult, even when anticipated. However, it can be really devastating when it is sudden and unexpected. It can be anything from the loss of a spouse, a partner who leaves the relationship, a friendship that comes to an end, or a sudden (even anticipated) death of someone you dearly loved. These events can leave us stuck in wonder; trying to understand WHY it happened. And more important, WHY it happened to US.

We can become depressed, angry, or bitter and find maladaptive ways to numb our raw emotions. This may include behaviors such as excessive consumption of alcohol, becoming promiscuous in search of falsecompanionship, or staying in and avoiding others and our daily routines. Although these methods give us immediate comfort, they are certainly not long-term options. We must find a way to fight our way through the dark cloud that consumes us and find the light of day once again, so that we can begin to function in a healthy manner. So how do we even begin to do this?

Well…the truth is that change CHANGES US. Our lives are different from the moment the event happens and we must adapt to a new life without that person in it. The trajectory has been redefined and we must navigate down a different course. However, it does not have to be something that paralyzes our entire being. This is not something that comes easily, and the work and understanding of how to rewrite our story is filled with challenges that can include many days and nights of confusion, pain and tears.

This happened to me almost eight years ago when I lost my closest and best friend of 30 years, Glenda. We met when were both young single teenage moms and shared a parallel life of marriage, second children, divorce and new loves…while balancing jobs that became careers and furthering our way to higher education. Our kids were “cousins,” we shared nieces and nephews, and even our mothers, ex-husbands, and new loves were friends. She was my “sister” that I never had and we clicked from day one. Then in July 2008, that dreaded day we hope never happens, happened. After battling with health issues for a while the doctors finally had discovered what was causing her so many problems. She was diagnosed with stage 2 Pancreatic cancer. We were lucky I guess…we had been given a little extra time to share. It turned out to be almost exactly two years.

Now of course, I did all the “research” to understand everything about the journey that she was about to embark upon. We even went all the way to New York to see a specialist in alternative treatment. We prayed, hoped, cried, wished, and during that time adjusted nutrition to support her needs. Her battle became our new normal. We cut our hair together before the chemotherapy could take hers. We shopped for wigs and were constantly buying her new (and smaller) clothes as she began to shrink right before my teary eyes. But even through all of that, I STILL HAD HER with me to laugh with, talk to, and hold each other up. So, when she left us very early that first Monday morning in August 2010, I found myself totally bewildered.

I was facing one of the most difficult challenges of my life, and the one person that would normally be there for me was now the one that I was mourning. I was fortunate to have the support of family and friends, but I knew that my life would NEVER be the same. Our Sunday morning phone calls to catch up on each other’s lives were no longer going to happen. We were not going to be recalling memories from our past that made us laugh until it hurt, nor will we be able to “complain” about our men not understanding us as only our girlfriends can. So, after many months, and a lot of wine, tears and Kleenex, I had to face my new life without my best friend. Although, it has forever been CHANGED, it’s still a good life. I surround myself with very wonderful women who embody the very essence of what made Glenda and I click in the first place, women who are non-judgmental, empowering and supportive.

Glenda (left) and I on a mother's day trip to Rideau Vineyards in Solvang, CA

Today, I spend Sunday mornings talking long distance with my brother. We talk about everything from politics to nutrition, from kids to jobs, and of course we talk about our parents. I spend time with her daughter as often as possible and I think we give each other a little piece of Glenda. I talk to her son from time to time and I see her mom too. She epitomizes strength for me and we are constantly sharing memories of old days and we make new ones. We go and visit Glenda sometimes and take her flowers, or sometimes we just go to one of her favorite restaurants. Since 2010, we have had three weddings in the family and been blessed with two more granddaughters. For each and every occasion, I felt her celebrating with me as only she would have done.

I discovered quite some time ago that she is embedded in my heart. I have her with me every day.

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