Sunday, August 30, 2015

Doggy Boot Camp

Rudy was the dog whisperer in our family.  He was the alpha dog in charge.  I was happily second in command and my role was mostly sweet talking.  I benefited from his discipline.  He was good at keeping the dogs in line.  He was firm, but fun, and they all loved him dearly.  They towed the line because they wanted to please him.

With Rudy gone, I'm sure there's been uncertainty in our pack.  Six dogs.  Three males.  Two young ones who didn't get to spend enough time with Rudy to clearly understand the rules.  And me?  Grieving and lost, I've  mostly wanted to snuggle with them all.

George, one of the young ones, has been showing signs of possessiveness and aggression.  His last incident got my full attention and I'm happy to say I'm stepping up and letting them all know I'm in charge.

The six dogs and I are in the midst of what I'm calling doggy boot camp.  I need retraining as much as they do.  I'm reading articles and spending time reinforcing our new rules.  I'm amazed at how well it's going.  I think Rudy may be helping me somehow.

I don't know how well I can get them trained or how far I might take this, but I consider this phase one.  Phase one includes basics.

1 - I'm boss.  Today when I told the family about my new system, my sister-in-law, Nancy, said I was the Alpha Bitch (which could be taken as referring to a female dog or a very assertive female).  The family cracked up over that one and sweet Nancy tried four different ways to make that not sound bad.  It was finally decided that she's been living with her hubby, Mike Alford, for way too long and his craziness has influenced her.  It really was funny.  But, on a deeper level,  it's sort of sad that just when I've become a fairly mellow person, I am having to step up in all areas of my life to become strong, independent and assertive even though I was really happy with being mellow.  (Sigh)  It is what it is.  I guess I'll have to claim my new title.

This is Nancy while she tried to back track and make my new title sound nicer.
Nancy - never, ever insult someone with a blog.  LOL
Truthfully, I thought it was quick-witted and funny as all get-out.
2 - Nothing is free.  Since I'm boss, everything belongs to me - food, treats, toys, etc.  If they want any of it, they have to do something to earn it.  Mostly, they have to come to me and sit.  Sitting first is making treat time and meal time much calmer.

George sits and waits for his turn to get a treat.

3 - No means no.  Most of the dogs respond decently to me saying no.  I am occasionally reinforcing my NO with a quick squirt from a water bottle.  George is the main one who needed that to start with.  This is just day three of boot camp and I only had to squirt George once.  Just one quick squirt quickly redirected him.

I'm going for long walks with them twice a day right now.  That's been a great opportunity for training.  I take doggy treats and my squirt bottle.  We've been walking for about 35-40 minutes at a time. I stop about 10 times to hand out little treats.  They have to come to me and sit calmly to earn that treat.  They are doing a great job. Annie has always been the hardest to hand feed - she gets excited and sometimes it seems fingers might be at risk.  I've been getting stricter with her on this and demanding more calmness.  She's really done well.

We're going on training walks twice a day - rain or shine.
Today was rainy.
I'm having to work on my behavior just as much as theirs.  I'm learning to be firm and consistent.  I'm learning to promote calmness.  I'm learning to be loving and full of praise without relinquishing my alpha role. I don't want these dogs to be fearful or anxious.  I want them to feel secure and loved and to understand what's expected.  I'm determined to make it work. I'll bet Rudy is proud of me.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lost in Translation

Once again, I've been interacting with other widows online.  It seems to be exactly the therapy I need.  The posts can be inspiring, but I seem to find the real jewels in the comments.

Yesterday, I read a post advising widows to not wait to go out and do the things they are passionate about.  It was very upbeat and positive and though I tried to feel upbeat and inspired while reading it, I just didn't.

Then I scrolled the comments.  Here are three that caught my attention -
What if you are lost in translation... I don't know what I'm passionate about anymore... How do you rediscover yourself after a loss?
I've been trying to do the same things my husband and I both enjoyed, but I find I no longer enjoy with his absence. I too am stuck in limbo. I have a few goals but they're so sketchy. 
I needed this tonight...have recently felt that there's "something more" I should be doing...almost like when you forget something really know you're supposed to do something, just can't put your finger on it...
Oh my.  I know just how these ladies are feeling.  I've lost my mojo.  I can't seem to get fired up about things I used to enjoy.  I can't get fired up about what the future may hold.  The fire is out. The embers aren't even warm.  I'm going thru the motions and that's about the best I can do.

Today, I gave myself a pep talk about this whole lost in translation feeling.

I need to remember that this grief is fresh. Rudy has been gone less than 4 months.  It's been an incredibly long 4 months, but still doesn't feel like he's truly gone.  I hear his voice in my head.  I see him coming around the corner.  I think I hear him coming home.  He's in my head every time I do something we'd typically discuss. I can almost feel his fabulous hugs.

I need to give myself a break and not worry that I feel so lost.  I'll be lost for as long as it takes, but I won't be still.  I'll keep going through the motions - seeing friends, decorating my house, playing with the dogs, going places and telling everyone, "I'm OK".  One of these days I might actually feel something other than grief.

I have a feeling I'll be writing many grief-related posts as I go through this process. For some reason, I am able to write how I'm feeling, even though I can't seem to talk about it much.  That doesn't make sense, but I can't get fired up about making sense either. :-P

Thursday, August 20, 2015

1,000 Years Older than Everyone Around Me

I've been reading The Cat Widow blog again.  Her husband died a year before Rudy and I have been reading her posts from last August when she was a 3 month widow.

The post I read today had a bit that hit home -
I didn't feel like the lonely widow out of place in the crowd. I didn't feel like an impostor of a woman trying to have fun. I didn't feel like I was 1,000 years older than everyone around me due to grief. I felt normal.
She had gone out with friends that day and felt somewhat normal.  I haven't felt all that normal yet..  I still feel like I'm too often putting on an act - in her words, I feel like "an imposter".

The part of the post that really jumped out was the part about feeling 1000 years older than everyone else.  I don't feel old in a wise, mature kind of way.  I feel old as in I've seen too much.

I'm so changed I hardly recognize myself.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Just a Shell?

I have been reading some blogs by other widows.  One (The Cat Widow) is from a rather young (just 30 years old) widow.  When I find one of these blogs, I like to find the posts they wrote when they were as far along into widowhood as I am.  For me, it was 3 months yesterday.  I was busy most of the day, but the times I was on my own, I had a harder time than expected.  At one point I was in my car crying and really missing Rudy and then, dammit, I hit a racoon.  I'm such an animal lover, so that was pretty horrific.  Instead of crying worse, I shut down.  Just went numb.  I drove the rest of the way home in a state of nothingness.

Today, I read a post from The Cat Widow that made me think about that numbness.  First, she explained the difference between grief and mourning.  I had never heard there was a difference.

Grief is an internal process. Lots of emotions come into play and the process is different for everyone. Mourning, however, is grief that is expressed to the world. Mourning is how a person works through her grief by outwardly expressing the things she is feeling inside.
I have plenty of grief, but I avoid mourning.  I work really hard to hide my sadness.  I work hard to be cheerful and make sure others are comfortable around me.  I don't want to cry in front of other people.  I prefer to be alone with my sadness.

Then, her post went on to say this -
In grad school and during my time doing a graduate internship with hospice, I was taught that grief without mourning is frightening and destructive. Grief without mourning is how people become shells of their former selves. How people succumb to demons and emotional pain. How people get stuck and cannot move forward. 
 That got my attention, especially because of the part about becoming shells of their former selves.  That struck home because I often feel like a shell.  All empty inside.  I shut down often - just like I did with the racoon.  The shutting down is scarier than feeling sad.  I can't even explain it.

This is not my drawing, but it
sort of fit how I feel sometimes.
If I believe the grad school logic in her post, then it would be prudent for me to try to open up more.  Unfortunately, I don't think I can do that.  I don't even want to do that.  You won't see me breaking down in front of others, but maybe my writing can count as my mourning.  I can write some of what I'm feeling.

I'm not going to worry too much about being a shell. I don't think I'll get stuck in this state.  I know I'm not going to succumb to demons or not be able to move forward.  I don't know how long it will take to get a little real life back in me, but I feel sure it'll happen.  I'll just continue faking it 'til I make it. Sometimes faking it feels real.

Anyway, maybe it's best to look at this shell thing another way - a shell is a protective covering.  I'll use it as long as I need it.

By the way, grief is different for everyone.  Even though I am not in total agreement with the point of view in The Cat Widow's aforementioned post, I really do like her blog.  Her posts could be really helpful to other widows.  Her husband committed suicide due to ongoing pain.  I think that adds a whole extra level of pain to the grieving process.  She's dealing with it gracefully.