I was lucky to be married to the most wonderful man from November 23, 1996 - July 7, 2014.
Only 17 years, 7 months and 14 days ... 6,435 of the most wonderful days of my life, I just wish there were more.
Kidney Cancer may have cut his life short, but he lived a wonderful life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wedding Ring Etiquette for the Modern Widow

Did you know that there is an etiquette to your wedding ring when you become a widow?  I never really thought much about it.  I never asked my Mom when she would remove her ring or move it to the right hand after my Dad crossed over. The thought never crossed my mind.  But apparently it is big news and its meaning has more than I truly understood.

It has been 254 days since Don has passed. Yes, I keep a weekly count of how many days in my organizer. I don't physically count the days on a daily basis, but I do have a week-by-week account of how many days it has been. I want to know without doing much thinking. I look at my organizer every now and then and am in amazement that many days has passed.

So, after a wonderful retreat to Bimini Bahamas (next post I will share my trip news and photos), I decided that it felt right to move my wedding band to my right hand. There was nothing symbolic of the gesture, there was really no thought behind it. I had taken off all my jewelry while in the Bahamas when we went to the Mangroves so they would not get damaged. At the end of the week when I put my ring on, I thought I would see if it fit on my right hand. And it did, so I left it there. I didn't think anymore about it until it was brought up to me that it was shocking that I have "moved on". Really?! Just the simple act of moving my ring means that I have moved on? For me, moving on would be putting it into my jewelry box or actually dating. To those that truly know me, they know that I have not "moved on" and it will be sometime before I do move on. I don't have a time frame, when the time feels right I will move on and I feel sad for the person that brought this up, as they truly don't me.

So, #BreakingNews, I have moved my wedding band encrusted with diamonds that holds so many precious memories to my right hand and it doesn't mean a damn thing!

I still feel for the ring that used to be on my left hand, it has only been a few weeks since it moved. The indention of wearing it for 19 years is still there. The man that gave it to me is still in my heart and I miss him every day.

Thanks to those of you that know me, for allowing me to do this without questioning me. Without making me feel like I did something wrong.

Being a widow sucks when you are questioned on things you do.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Filled with Anxiety

Summer of 1995
I am filled with anxiety that I can't seem to shake whenever I think about spreading Don's ashes in Alaska.  I know that I will do it, but when I start to think about the plans and carrying it all out, I literally start to shake.

I have little anxiety issues from time-to-time and had them big time as a kid, so this is nothing new. However, having anxiety about honoring his last wish is stressful.  The islands that Don wants to be partially scattered on are not islands that are easy to get to, so that in itself is stressful just thinking of getting me and the girls there. Also, the thought of touching my feet onto Ketchikan's earth without Don holding my hand is a devastating feeling. I just don't feel mentally strong enough to go there. And knowing that I don't have the strength right now to go to Ketchikan makes me anxious. I feel like a failure, like I am failing Don.

I have talked to both Lisa and Erica and told them my feelings. They are 100% supportive in whatever I choose, but I keep going back and forth with what I want to do. I just don't want anyone to think that I am not following through with Don's wishes. I don't want to be judged and talked about for not doing it "in a timely manner".  I wish I didn't worry about what people think, but as a life-long people pleaser, it is something that I just deal with.

So, you can see why I am filled with anxiety.

Do I go to Ketchikan, even though every cell in my body is filled with fear of being there without Don, or do I wait and go when it feels right to me?  Do I go to Ketchikan and just get it over with or do I wait until I feel like it is the right time?  Why does it feel like I am being judged by certain family in Alaska for not bringing Don home? I am so torn. I hate being filled with this incredible amount of anxiety.

I know what I need to do, but it just isn't something that I want to do right now.  I will honor Don's wishes one day. But I don't feel like planning a memorial in Ketchikan is something that I am able to do. I am not mentally strong enough to handle all of the memories that will come with going to the town where I met and feel in love with Don. At least I am not ready right now. It has been 7 months since he passed, but it feels like it was just yesterday to my heart.

I still miss him immensely and yesterday was a good cry in the shower kind of day.

So, please don't judge me for not planning anything in Ketchikan at this time. I am always acting so strong, but I am not and I just can't handle the thought of going to Ketchikan at this time. I promise that I have every bit intention of honoring Don's wishes, but it will have to be on when I feel strong enough to do it. I am sorry if this offends anyone, but I have to worry about myself and I know what I am able to handle and what I am not able to handle at this time.

I am going on a Healing Retreat in a few weeks, just me alone. I am going to hopefully help myself heal by fully processing the tremendous loss. I need to do this by spending some time alone with my thoughts. Writing them out and feeling them without worrying about anyone else. I will be at the Atlantis Rejuvenation Center in Bimini, Bahamas for one week. This is a small place that will help me focus on me and my thoughts and feelings. I have never done something like this before, but it feels like a trip I need to take. I need to fully deal with his death. I need to get back to myself and figure out who I am without Don. I don't know who I am anymore and I hate this lost feeling.

Please understand my thoughts and feelings without judging me.  I am trying the best I can.

Blessings ~ Susan

Monday, January 5, 2015

Trying to Live my Life Like 'Aan Kadax Tseen'

Some may not know that Don's Tlingit name (given to him by Elder Albert Davis) was Aan Kadax Tseen, which means Happy Man in a Village. And from the day I met Don he lived up to that name that was passed down to him. A name that he was proud to carry and often talked about legally changing his name to, however, I wasn't sure if I would be called Susan Tseen or would it be Susan Aan Kadax Tseen. I was never really ready to make that change! I was perfectly happy with being a Hoff.

Don was the happiest person I had ever met. And it was genuine, it wasn't an act. He was a Happy Man in a Village 99.9% of the time. Even in his darkest of days, he was happy. When the alarm clock would wake him up at 4am to get up and get on the road when he was working for TVA, he didn't complain and hit snooze, he got up and embraced the day. As soon as his feet his the floor, he was truly Aan Kadax Tseen, he was the Happy Man in a Village.

I wish I knew what made him be like that.  What made him see the pure wonderful in people and what made him be the type of person that people wanted to be around? Don was just a wonderful and kind person. Now, he had his days when he was upset with something in his native politics, but he had me trying to calm him down from talking about the 'white man'.  I had to remind him sometime that he married a 'white woman'. He would snicker and say that he did it to 'piss off the white man'. Aaahh my Tlingit Warrior!

I am trying to be a better person.  I am trying to not judge people based on their decisions and not condemn people for their past mistakes.  I am far from perfect, so why should I expect anyone else to be? I am also trying to let more light into my heart. Trying to not sweat the small stuff and to look for the good and beauty around me rather than the negative things that want to jump out first. I am seeing a difference in the way my soul feels. It is feeling lighter, which I imagine this is how Don felt every day of his life when he would wake up loving the fact he was alive.

I am trying to live my life like Aan Kadax Tseen would want me to do ... I want to be that Happy woMan in a Village.

One day at a time .... one day at a time I will maybe be as good as a person that my Don was.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Surviving the Firsts

Audrey Christmas morning.
 I can not tell you how happy I am that the holidays are over with.  The anticipation of how I would feel and how things would go on Christmas, was both mentally and physically draining.  The Holidays were sad, but they were not terrible.  Thankfully kids have a way of turning your frown upside down.

Christmas Day was spent opening presents at our house with Erica and Audrey, followed by dinner and presents at my Mom's house. It was nice, my Mom talked about Don. My sister-in-law talked about Don's love of turkey legs and Audrey mentioned that Grandpa loved turkey butt more than turkey legs. Don was not there, however, he was not forgotten.  I teared up a little, but was able to keep the full fledge crying at bay until I was alone.

I saved all my tears for Christmas night and while Erica and Audrey were at a friends house. I went about removing all the ornaments from the Christmas tree and remembering special ornaments for Don and I. We always bought an ornament when we traveled, so there are 19 years of memories on the tree.  It was special remembering those times with just myself. The tears flowed and it wasn't pretty, but the tears helped my soul.

I miss him. I miss him just as much as I did nearly 6 months ago.  We are all healing and although we may never heal the hole left in our heart, we are continuing to live life just as Don would want us too ... to the fullest.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holidays Bring the Tears

This was quite the surprise! Brought instant tears.
I wanted to name this blog "Holidays SUCK", however, that wasn't exactly true.  The don't technically suck, they just have a little less shine this year.

I miss my Don, my god how I miss him. It has nearly been 5 months since Don died (7/7/14) and I have been OK.  But lately, the tears just come out of the blue. I will see something and boom ... tears. I wish for nothing more than to pick up the phone and send Don a text of something funny that happened.

I didn't think the Holidays would have this affect on me, but they have. I just can't get into the Christmas spirit.  I would not put up a Christmas tree in the house if it wasn't for Audrey.  I went to buy a real tree yesterday and pulled into the lot and burst into tears. A Christmas without Don seems unimaginable and yet, here I am without him.

I did OK on Thanksgiving. We had a #HOFFstrong team for the Grateful Gobbler and walked a 5K at 8am Thanksgiving morning. Then after the Gobbler, we traveled to my Mom and Stepfather's house in Whitwell, TN to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family.  It was fun to see all the little kids in the family and it was nice to laugh and smile with everyone. But under my smile, I was sad that Don wasn't there. Don loved the holidays and he loved when everyone was together. That night I just cried and cried in my room alone mourning the love of my life.

I am crying now, because I miss him so much. I think I've just tried to be brave for so long and act like I was OK and now the tears are demanding to be shed. It's tough. It's tough when you lost not only your huband, but your bestfriend too.  Losing those two partnerships in your life is devastating.

Today after work, Erica, Audrey and I are going to buy a real Christmas tree.  Together we have been able to endure these months without Don. Audrey is amazing and expresses her feelings about missing Grandpa.  The other night we were watching TV and out of the blue she says "I hate that Grandpa died".  All I could do is agree and hug her.  I hate that Grandpa died too.

Erica, Abbey Smith, Kimberly, me, Audrey and Asher
But, time has continued to move on and I just need to get through the holidays, then my birthday, Valentine's Day, Memorial Day, Don's birthday, 4th of July then the anniversary of his death. Each of these dates are dreaded, as they bring a vivid reminder of what Kidney Cancer took from us. These dates remind me that I am virtually alone, a single woman again.

I am feeling a little broken lately, however, I will bounce back again. Just needed to express my sadness the best way I know how and that is to write it out.

Love those in your life without hestitation and without judgement, becasue you never know when the last time you will have them in your life.

Until next time ..................

Friday, October 3, 2014

What Am I?

I have been slowly getting around to changing things to only my name and just this week I called my auto insurance to get a better rate and to take Don off the policy.  Their response was, "OK, I will put that you are Single now".  My response was a little odd I am sure.  I told him, "No, I am not single, my husband just passed away in July". There was silence on the phone until he decided to change the subject.

So, the question is ... what am I?  Am I Single or am I a Widow?  Is there a box I now check that says Widow? Seems like saying Single totally negates the amazing last 19 years Don and I have spent together.

Single .... I just don't feel single. I feel married. I feel like I am still part of a union.

Does a Widow ever feel Single?  I do feel alone, but not so alone that the term Single applies. I know that I am probably making more out of this one word than necessary. But, that one question just jolted me.

"Death takes the physical person from our lives but there is so much that death cannot take from us. We are forever connected to the people we love. The relationship still exists just in a different form. The physical separation is momentary, the love connection is forever."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

If You Just Smile

"You'll find that life is still worthwhile, if you just smile.  ~ Charles Chaplin


Even in the darkest of days, Don still smiled.  Even when he was in so much pain, Don smiled.  Even when Don couldn't get up and walk around, he still smiled.

I miss that smile.

I hate that life keeps going on since I've last seen his smile, but I guess that is what it is supposed to do. But, I wish the world could rewind back to the last time I received a big ole bear hug and smile from my Brown Knight. Then once I rewound to that moment, I would pause it for a whole day and just live in that moment of him.

I miss him.

Monday, September 1, 2014

55 Days and an Eternity to go ....

It has been 55 days since Don passed away.  I promise you that I am not mentally keeping a daily count of the days, but I do look it up from time to time.  I mainly wanted to see how many days it has been since my life changed forever.

It's been a weird 55 days marked by wanting to pick up my phone and text Don when sometime funny happens. 55 days of wanting to turn to him for comfort during a difficult day and 55 days of ups and downs.

I don't cry every day now. I do cry when I think that this is it. This is life and that at only 41 years of age I have a lot of life left that will not include Don. That's so super scary to me. Don's presence while he was here on earth was so huge, that the void feels like it can never be filled.

I am taking care of myself and doing things. Recently I volunteered at the Southern Brewers Festival on the Chattanooga Riverfront. It was so freaking hot, but it was so much fun. I volunteered for the Knights of Columbus and poured beer for 5 hours!  There were over 60 breweries represented at the Brewfest and people got to pay with tokens and sample the various beer. It was nice to get out and meet new people and since they didn't know I was a recent widow, they treated me normally. 

I also went to a movie all by myself! Went to see the movie "If I Stay" and must say that the book was far better than the movie. Weird thing was that I was the only one in the theater, that was a little weird. But it didn't matter when I cried during the sad parts since no one was there!

Next thing I am doing is starting a new support group for Widows on 9/2/14. The group will meet every Tuesday for 8 weeks. I have a lot of stuff that I need to get out and express and these groups have been easy outlet for me to express myself.

I can feel myself growing into another person ~ the new normal Susan I suppose. I am not trying to change, it is just happening. I guess I am growing with my grief. I am slowly (and I mean SLOWLY) moving into the independent stage that I must accept. I am now only responsible for my own life. It will take me awhile to fully accept and move into that new role full-time, but I feel it happening. 

Audrey is also doing well.  She talks about Grandpa a lot and misses him. She says she has dreams where they are together and I know those dreams bring her comfort beyond compare. I know that she will always remember the love her Grandpa showered upon her and I am in awe at how she understands that Grandpa had to leave us. The other day she asked me how would she know Grandpa when she got to Heaven. I told her that Grandpa would look the same as she last seen him, only she will have grown older. She was very happy about that and also speaks that she is happy that Grandpa doesn't hurt anymore and doesn't have broken bones anymore. When she sees me crying, she will give me a hug and tell me that crying is OK. Children truly are amazing.

I miss Don so much and I feel his presence at times. It always happens out of the blue and I know that it is Don. Since Don passed, dragonflies have been seen in places where dragonflies should not be. In a random parking lot, on the beach, on my car antenna, just various obscure places and we have associated these dragonflies with Don. Audrey will tell me that Grandpa was with her on the playground at school since she saw a dragonfly. Just seeing them brings comfort to all the Southern Hoff girls.  So, when you see a random dragonfly, just give Don a little wave and smile ... as he loved you enough to visit you as well.   

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I Choose to Remain #HOFFstrong

Today while driving to work, it dawned on me that I have chosen to deal with the immense grief I am feeling with the same attitude we chose to deal with his cancer.

I am choosing to be strong, hold my head high, not wallow in self pity over the crummy hand we were dealt and most importantly not falling into the daily pity party on social media. Now I am not saying that I won't post that I miss Don or that life is different, however, I refuse to let myself become one of those people that constantly post depressing messages on social media. I absolutely refuse to do that (I may be guilty of doing this on Twitter ... but that stops today). From day one of our cancer journey we didn't post or blog about how it wasn't fair or that our life was horrible, that just wasn't us. We accepted it and lived life to its fullest in spite of the cancer. We chose to deal with it as a matter of fact and to be transparent in our feelings, however, not let the cancer diagnosis define us. Therefore, I have chosen to not let the heartbreaking grief I have define me.

Don was a lover of life and I like to think that is what he loved about me. We embraced each day with new possibilites of 'what if'. Cancer may have changed things for us, however, it didn't change us. We didn't allow cancer to define the people we were, so I can't let grief define me either.

This video was from 2009 after Don was diagnosed with cancer and after we learned that it had spread to his lungs. His attitude was amazing.

To honor my absolutely fabulous and wonderful husband I will live the remainder of my days honoring him by smiling more, talking to strangers and remembering the great love we shared. I will try to get out more and experience life with friends and be the kind of person Don was. I will become someone that doesn't let life's events outline my life, just the way Don lived his entire life.

I will continue to feel the immense emotions that come with loosing your soul-mate freely. I will cry when I feel like it, I will acknowledge and accept both positive and negative feelings and I will not minimize how I feel. I will honor my husband by dealing with this grief the same way we handled the initial diagnosis. I will be strong when I need to be and I will be easy on myself on the days when I can't be strong.

Tomorrow I will start a new journey with a Support Group for people who have lost a loved one. I will share my amazing love story and hopefully gain strength and experience the soul calming effect of being with people who understand how you feel. 

I do all of this because of the great man who I loved with my entire being. I do this to honor that love and to show him that I am that same strong woman he fell in love with. I do this to help my heart heal from the devastating loss.

I do this because if I don't ... I let cancer win and that is not what being #HOFFstrong was all about.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I Have a Shovel

3 weeks ago my husband had a shovel and everything in the garage was his. Now, I have a shovel and just that alone is so overwhelming to me. I don't know why I never considered the shovel or any of the power tools mine, but now I have shovels and hoes and work gloves and stuff that I feel so overwhelmed with.

Erica, Audrey, my Mom and I spent the last week in Daytona Beach. We should have been there with Don enjoying the sun and watching Audrey swim. It was the first trip to Daytona Beach I have taken in 19 years without Don and it was rough. My Mom did a fabulous job of keeping my mind occupied, but when it was silent, my thoughts always crept back to Don. 

I am still in shock in how fast the last days went. Two weeks before Don passed he had received chemo and his blood work looked OK. But the last Vandy appt. where the blood work was dismal and clearly showed disease progressions and then him slip away 4 days later just doesn't make sense to me. How did it happen so fast? Deep down I know it didn't happen fast, it was actually happening all along for the past 6 months, but it felt fast. 

I feel so confused about him passing only 4 days after stopping treatment. I am so crazy in love with him that being on this earth without him is sad. I know that this grieving is all a transition that I have to go through ... just pisses me off that I have to. 

So, I have a shovel ..... what in the hell do with a shovel?