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Shattered Pieces, Fractured Heart

Shattered Pieces, Fractured Heart

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Shattered Pieces, Fractured Heart

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Apr 9, 2013


Shattered Pieces, Fractured Heart tells the unforgettable story of one woman’s struggle to come to terms with the black hole of grief that almost swallows her up and strives to find her way back to life.

News and Internet writer Cath Monahan thought she understood grief and how to get through it and over it. But it’s been many months now and her debilitating paralysis escalates into something even more frightening.

Facing her ghosts (literally and figuratively), Cath must examine her entire life and push herself to change as never before. Her daughters try to help her, but Cath has to reach deep within, especially to salvage a tenuous relationship that is the only link to her lost love.

Cath’s devastating grief threatens to obliterate everything meaningful in her life: her relationships, her career, her mental and physical health, even her bond with her dog Bo! With the help of her no-nonsense therapist, Cath jumps head first into facing and conquering the effects of her grief in a most unusual way.
Filled with the ups and downs, the challenges and obstacles on the road to grief recovery, Shattered Pieces, Fractured Heart is the haunting story of Cath’s emotional road back from the depths of despair.

Apr 9, 2013

Sobre el autor

Janet Grosshandler has taken her 20+ years of published writing and her 30+ years of counseling/life coaching and created Get Stronger, Girlfriend, a movement to harness the power of girlfriendship, love and support to help women live stronger, healthier, more balanced, empowered lives. Janet’s Facebook site, http://facebook.com/GetStrongerGirlfriend reaches thousands of women daily with inspirational, motivational and health/wellness advice. Janet also writes women's fiction ebooks that touch hearts and inspire others similar to Nicholas Sparks' books. Missing Pieces of My Forever-Heart, Shattered Pieces, Fractured Heart and Heartcore Shift are available on Amazon.com, Smashwords.com, barnesandnoble.com among others.

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Shattered Pieces, Fractured Heart - Janet Grosshandler


Chapter 1- September

Maybe this isn't what I should be doing, I thought as I dangled both legs out the side door of the small plane.

Jame, my husband who died nine months ago, told me to Get out there and fly! Experience what it's like to soar above the clouds! Should I have taken him so literally?

Ready? the male voice shouted into my ear over the roar of the plane's engine. Lean forward and fall out. NOW!

'Give it up and let it go,' my mantra filled my head as I leaned out and fell into the sky!

And ooooohhhhhhhhh it was amazing! I'm freefalling through the air- 8000 feet up. The roar of the wind blocked out any other sound. There's the ocean! There's my friend's neighborhood. I can't believe I'm skydiving!

A tap on my shoulder startled me into remembering the presence of the instructor attached to my back for this tandem jump. He pointed to the videographer reminding me to wave and smile so that my dive was recorded for my kids to see.

I didn't have to force a smile now as I had to these past few months. This minute I felt lighter, out from under all that debilitating grief that's been burying me for the past few months. For these few minutes, I can smile for the videographer and not fake it. I'm FLYING! Look at meeeeee!

There was a big tug as the parachute opened and the free fall magically transformed into a glide. And the silence! After the roar, the peaceful silence was overwhelmingly perfect as the instructor and I floated down toward the ground.

I could see my daughters, Erin and Kaitlin, waiting on the grass, waving and cheering. And there was my Jame-clone, Michael, the son I gave up for adoption when he was only hours old. Jame brought him back into our lives.

Years ago, Jame, my high school boyfriend, abandoned pregnant 18-year-old me to go off to college on a basketball scholarship. Suddenly in April of last year he dropped back into my life like a stick of dynamite. I resisted as much as I could but Jame wanted to find our son… and his cancer scare made him determined to succeed.

So Michael amazingly reentered my life because of Jame's steamrolling tactics and because of his love. We rekindled our love affair, which had started as 14-year-old high school sweethearts and ended last January as Jame succumbed to his cancer.

I've been inconsolable. I lost the love of my life, again. I lost him before when we were younger. This time was absolutely for good. Jame and I would never be together again. It hurt too, too much.

Mom! Mom, you did it! Kaitlin yelled as I landed with my instructor. I fell to the ground and let out a huge whoosh of breath I think I held in the whole way down.

Erin ran over for a hug. She has been my rock, this oldest daughter of mine. She hovered close by, watching me for what I call my insanity signs. Today, Erin had the hugest grin and a parental look of approval on her face. When did she grow into being my parent at times?

Probably on the days when I didn't get out of bed, couldn't eat, and lay like a zombie, still shell-shocked over Jame's death. Erin's patient cajoling tones have pulled me out of his closet too many times, as I sat in there, with his shirts and sweaters wrapped around me, breathing in his scent and his essence.

Erin reached out to help me untangle myself from my instructor and peel off my flight suit and harnesses.

I can do this, Erin, I lashed out and then quickly felt ashamed and guilty. Why do I flash in this quick anger at her like this? She's only trying to help. Sometimes I feel so out of control. What is it with me? One minute I'm happy. The next I'm flushed with a raging anger at the stupidest things. And Erin doesn't deserve this.

Sorry, Erin. Here, can I lean on you if you get this last one off my foot, please? I succumb into the helpless child I am at times. I don't want to hurt her but I seem to be incapable of stopping.

That's OK, Mom, my patient daughter stepped in to tug the final harness free from my sneaker. I've seen that look on her face before- trying to judge my degree of craziness at the moment.

My son Michael hung back from me. He's having his own difficult time, what with finding out that Jame and I are his birth parents, meeting us and the girls, becoming attached to our newly created family, only to have it blow up after just a few months. My guess is that he wants to stay away from us as much as possible but my girls wouldn't let him off the hook today.

I heard Erin on the phone with him. You HAVE to show up. I'm sick of you letting Mom down. You haven't seen her in a month. Get your ass to the sky diving place on Saturday morning or else!

I don't know what Erin's or else threatened, but Michael reluctantly showed up this morning and for that I was so glad. I needed to see him. He was my sweet Jame's younger twin, looking exactly like Jame when we fell in love in high school. When I see Michael, it brings back a flush of feelings and memories that I love and hate right now because so much aching pain comes with them.

Does Michael sense my mixed up feelings when I see him? I don't know. Maybe. Probably. He's been seeing this out-of-control mother at times and our relationship is shell-shocked fragile these days. Poor baby. We had only begun solidifying our bond, getting to really know each other when Jame died and exploded life as we knew it. I wish I had the strength of heart to help Michael with what he was going through but I could barely keep my own head above water. Again, that task fell to Erin, who was fast becoming the glue holding our fractured family together.

Way to go, Mom, Michael finally said as he walked closer to me. No big hug. Not much of a smile on his face. Oh Michael, I wish I could help you more. I'm so frozen most times in my heart; I feel I have nothing to give my hurting, confused son. I will talk with him soon to help him sort out his feelings. I promise. As soon as I can sort out mine. Yeah, right.

Kait had her back to me, staring out at a place in the landing field.

Mom, look! she cried pointing to a nearby patch of grass.

I walked over to stand beside my younger daughter following the direction of her pointing finger. There in the freshly mowed grass were two butterflies flitting and hovering.

Aren't those the same ones we saw when we did Dad's ashes? Kait asked.

I could see the yellow coloring and the brown tiger striped markings on these butterflies, exactly as we saw when we spread Jame's ashes in the canal leading out to the ocean. It was sunset when we did that a month ago, an unusual time of the day to see butterflies. I didn't attach any importance to it at the time.

But sure enough, here were two more of the same kind of breathtakingly beautiful butterflies on the landing field, staying around, not scared off by the four of us inching closer to them.

Hey, cool, Erin smiled. I'm going to find out what kind they are when we get home.

Silently I stared at the two butterflies, flitting and flirting around each other. My sky diving euphoria drained out of me as my leadened, deadened heart returned to my new normal. I wanted to feel happy about seeing the butterflies. But I went back to feeling nothing but pain and emptiness.

Chapter 2

In the months since Jame died, I isolated myself from my friends and my work, only staying close with my children. They too had deeply connected to Jame in his last few months.

Michael was having the most difficult time with only meeting his father a few months before Jame died. It was a tough go for all of them but they banded together as best they could with Erin's cajoling, and today had been a first step toward coming out of our grief to rejoin the living.

Jame and I had crammed a lot of love into the short time we had together as 45-year-olds. In many ways it was even better than when we were in our teens. Getting married had fulfilled our promises from years ago, and I held his hand as he took his last breaths in the hospital.

Jame left me Pep Talk Notes- yellow note cards with all kinds of encouraging thoughts and ideas that he wanted me to pursue when I felt ready to live again as he put it. Sometimes it seemed like Jame was talking to me from the Beyond. I would find those yellow cards in the strangest hiding places.

The day I found this one, Get out there and fly! Experience what it's like to soar above the clouds! could really have meant anything. But since Jame and I had put skydiving together on our Treasure List, I knew this was what I had to do.

It seemed like a good idea this morning. Now as I returned home, Michael went back to his apartment in New York City, Kait headed back to college, and Erin went out to meet some friends after asking me three times if I was going to be okay.

Yes, I am not a child. I'll be FINE! I bit back the anger that was creeping into my voice.

Yikes! At this pace, I'll drive Erin right out of the house, never wanting to see me again. She had graduated from college last May, a few months after Jame died, and snagged a really good job where she interned- at FoxieRoxie.com, an up and coming online clothing company in Jersey City. She talked about getting an apartment in Hoboken with some girlfriends but she still lived at home with me. Probably because she thought someone should take care of this crazy momma. I shouldn't push her away like this.

Sorry, sorry, sorry, Erin. I grabbed her in a hug. I don't know why I'm acting like this, baby.

That's okay, Mom. I read the books. You're sad and grieving about Dad. I understand. It's not always easy, but I understand. Just sometimes, could you come out of your fog and see that I'm hurting too? And she slammed out the door.

Oh God, I am so messing everything up. As I trudged upstairs to shower and change, I thought back over the last months Jame was so sick, fighting his cancer, dealing with the chemo, and trying to stay strong. Our little family had come together in an amazing way, I thought at the time. Even though he was not the girls' biological father, they made him their dad in a very short time and embraced their newly discovered half-brother with a loving vengeance.

Was I blind then or now? Was I too wrapped up in Jame and his illness to notice what was going on with my children? Did they really mesh together so well, or were there underlying bumps that I ignored?

What a mess you left me with, Jame! You dropped back into my neatly ordered life with my girls after all those years apart and changed us in so many ways forever. Should I be thankful about that or angry that it's all falling to pieces now? Did our family really exist or were we all trying too hard? The recognizable black cloud of confusion and grief overcame me again.

This was now the familiar. The way I'd become used to feeling for all these months. Stuck, pain-filled, heart hurting, paralyzed. It didn't seem like it would ever go away. Yes, it left me today for the minutes I jumped out of the plane until I hit the ground, but no longer. I could not even find the energy to help my children with their sadness and isolation. I gave a big sigh as I went into the bathroom to take a shower.

I looked at myself in the mirror. Ugh, my whole face drooped. The corners of my mouth seemed frozen in a permanent downturn. Furrow lines between my eyebrows and on my forehead showed the months of sorrow and frowns. Would I ever get through this?

Oh, Jame, I slumped onto the toilet seat, feeling that damn rage bubbling up from my toes and stampeding through my veins again.

What the hell, Jame? Do you see what a mess you left me with? I should NEVER have gone sky diving today! It was fake! I'm not happy- why should I force myself to try to be happy? Screw your stupid yellow note cards. Screw your pep talks from the grave! I effing HATE this! I screamed as I pounded the vanity with my fist.

My tears roared up again and again, in alternating waves of abandonment and desolation. I wailed my anger and my grief in loud sobs and gulps, almost losing my breath at times. That's what it felt like, that I would never breathe again. I was suffocating with this grief and I would never again fully breathe!

Spent and drained, I wondered could there be any emotions left inside me? I lay my head on the vanity burying my face in a towel, as I hiccoughed my way out of this meltdown.

Jeez, Jame. I thought this would get better. You promised me I'd get better. Why can't I move out of this black hole of despair? I can't stand this! I miss you so much I feel like I'm dying too.

At that moment, as I lifted my face from the towel, the three lights over the vanity sink popped one at a time. Pop! Pop! Pop! The third one's shattered shards rained down inches away from me. And the room went dark.

Holy shit… Jame?

Chapter 3

I had the Jame dream again that night. After the bathroom lights went out, I showered in the dark, fighting down the unnerving hope that Jame was trying to tell me something from the Beyond. I added the light-popping thing in my secret After Jame journal that absolutely NO ONE could ever see.

In it were my unbalanced rantings and lunatic ravings from my darkest hours. I thought, as a writer, that I could journal all the grief feelings out of me and that one day I would miraculously be all better. There has to be a finite amount of grief and sadness in a person's heart, doesn't there? Then when it's all expelled, I will be recovered and sane enough to go on living my life. But it sure wasn't adding up to that for me.

I had this exact dream once before but I was surprised to have it again. The first time I didn't pay too much attention to the details, just how it made me feel. This time it was more intense and vivid.

* *

I'm sitting on my back deck swing (although in real life I don't have a swing) and Jame is sitting next to me. I can only look forward and down so I see his legs in his favorite jeans. My feet don't reach the floor, but Jame's deck-shoed feet give little pushes to make the swing move. It glides back and forth in a slow motion. I want to reach out and hold his left hand, which is resting next to mine, but I can't.

I'm worried about you, Cath, I hear his deep voice say filled with emotion. You did good today but then you flipped out again.

What do you want from me, Jame? I try to take these little trips into happiness and when I come back to my real life, which sucks, I feel even worse! Why did you leave all those stupid Pep Talk cards for me? They don't help. They just make me hurt more because you're not here to do these things with me!

All I can watch is his legs rocking in motion as he pushes us slowly on the porch swing. I hear him breathe. I smell his Jame-scent. I want to turn to look in his eyes one more time and kiss him, hold him. But all I can do is sit and watch his legs and feet.

I want you to go on living your life, Cath. There's so much more for you out there. I'm okay. I'm in a good place. I don't want you to be sad, Cath. Take it slow if you need to but you have to live your life again, sweetheart. I'll be here for you, I promise.

How can you be here for me when I can't even see you? I cry out.

You'll know, my love. You'll know me.

* *

This time I woke up after the dream, turned on my bedside lamp and pulled out my After Jame journal from its hiding place to write it all down. Jame's dog Bo, who slept in bed with me raised his head as if to say, What the heck? I thought we were sleeping.

Bo seems to have adjusted to Jame's absence better than any of us. At first he would search around the house looking for his master, but eventually he switched allegiances, so now I guess I can say Bo is my dog. He's the one who gets me up in the morning and out the door for an early walk. Then when I would crawl back into bed and stay there until afternoon, not even getting up to eat, Bo would nudge me back to life. Sometimes I think Jame left him for me because I would need Bo to take care of me, instead of the other way around. Except now he looked at me as if I were crazy, which I suppose I am since I think he's looking at me like I'm crazy.

I tried to write down each tiny detail of my Jame dream that I could remember, especially the feelings that I seemed to experience in the dream. There was contentment sitting next to him on the swing, longing and yearning to hold his hand and kiss him, frustration and anger because he didn't seem to understand that it's not easy living without him. I also felt hope when he said I would know him, and total abject sadness when he left me.

Jame, I don't understand all this. Help me; please help me understand what I'm going through here. I don't think I can survive it.

Jame didn't answer. I couldn't feel or sense him now.

God, this is such an uncharted path for me. When a drunk driver killed my first husband Sam, I must have gone through some of this, didn't I? But I had two teenage daughters and a full time job so maybe I didn't feel that loss like I am now.

Maybe that's my problem, I'm alone most of the days and nights. I'm hardly working because I can't concentrate. My feelings are so overwhelmingly intense that I don't feel like I can handle any part of my life just right now. Why am I buried so deeply in this? Jame, you hijacked my life! I want it back the way it was… or do I?

* *

The next morning, Erin joined me as I sat nursing a large cup of strong hazelnut coffee in my breakfast nook. She eyed me warily. Erin and I rarely fight. I don't think I would call last night a fight even, but she expressed some of her emotions to me and I needed to pay attention and be the mother. I had abdicated this role for long enough.

Hey sweetie. Grab a cup of coffee and come sit with me, please.

What do you want, Mom?

I patted the place next to me. I want to be the mother you need.

At that Erin burst into tears. I jumped up and wrapped my arms around her. She leaned on my shoulder and sobbed.

After a few minutes of us rocking and swaying with her tears- plus a few of my own soaking my shirt, Erin pulled back and looked into my eyes.

I'm so sorry, Mom. I know you have so much going on…

I smoothed her curly almost-black hair back behind her ears like I used to do when I comforted her in a myriad of teenage traumas. But now it was a heartbreaking grown-up trauma, and I had been no help to her at all. In fact I was draining her with my needs.

No, no Erin. I'm the one who's sorry. I've been so wrapped up in my crap; I can't see what's going on with anyone else. And you have been wonderful doing all that you have for me. I've been an ungrateful baby.

Erin gave a little smile at that. Well, maybe.

I have been, and sometimes in moments of clarity I can see that, but then I sink back into my depression and POW! Everything gets reversed again. I'm trying to crawl out of this black hole I disappear into, but I have to tell you, sweetie, I'm not very good at it. I have to try harder.

Erin tugged a handful of tissues from the box on the counter and she poured herself a cup of coffee. We sat at the kitchen table side by side, sniffling our final tears and forcing insincere smiles.

Finally Erin sighed. Mom, I went to a counselor.

What? When? Why? I was shocked. And dismayed that she hadn't confided in me. But then again, I've been useless, haven't I? She's the one who's been the adult in our relationship for the last several months, encouraging me to get up, get out and get back to work.

Don't be so surprised, Mom. Counseling works. Didn't you write articles a few years ago about therapy and how it can help push you in a positive direction again if life is falling apart?

She had me there. I did write a human-interest series about the benefits of therapy and unscrambling a messed-up life. My daughter was my teacher yet again.

Erin continued nonchalantly, her dark blue eyes shuttering her feelings. My insurance covered it and I got a referral from my employee support division. I needed help actually in dealing with you. She sat back and let that sink in.

I stared at my 22-year-old daughter wondering if I heard her correctly. I could see her father, Sam, in her so keenly at that very moment. Sam was so intuitive and could call me on every emotional dodge I tried to make when I wasn't ready to deal with something. It seems that Erin inherited her father's gift for reading beyond my bullshit.

Dealing with me?

Mom, she leaned closer to me. I would come home from work at seven o'clock at night and you would still be in your pajamas. Bo would have no food or water and would be whining to go out.

Guilty of that.

Other times, I would make you dinner and you couldn't come out of Jame's closet even to eat with me. You've lost about 15 pounds and look sick.

Didn't she understand that I couldn't help it? I didn't do all of those things consciously. They just happened.

Erin put her hands over mine, ignoring the stricken look on my face.

Mom, I want you to see a therapist.

I can't. I choked on my refusal.

Why not? Patient Erin just kept staring me down.

I don't know. I don't think I can talk about it. I wouldn't know what to say.

Is that your only objection?

Maybe. Yes.

Good. You don't have to figure out anything to say. The counselor leads you through it. I have two referrals for therapists right near here that you can choose from.

I don't think so, Erin.

"Mom, I had to practice this whole conversation with you with my therapist five times but it needed to be said. So how about you do this for me and our relationship because I feel really worried and stretched sometimes and I don't know how much longer I can keep this up."

Erin's eyes welled up again with her tears and I felt it in my heart how serious she was and that I had strained our mother-daughter relationship to a dangerous degree. She has been so good and understanding and patient with me, how could I refuse her?

All right. Let me have the names. I'll set up an appointment with one of them in the next week or so.

Dark blue eyes pinned me in my place. "You promise?"

Yes, I promise. Thank you, sweetie. I know you did this out of love and concern for me.

Okay, here comes another request.

What now?

Please start working again.

Chapter 4

I checked out the two therapists online that Erin gave me. I chose the woman because- I know this is sexist beyond measure- I didn't feel that a male could understand what I was going through. I quickly left a message even though it was Sunday night about setting up an appointment before I lost my nerve. I just didn't see how anyone could help me feel better.

I sat out on the back porch after taking Bo for a lengthy walk, apologizing to him all the way for being such a bad caretaker. I can't even remember doing what Erin said I did - not feeding him or letting him out. But I must have. Dogs are so unconditionally loving, thank goodness. Bo wagged his tail in forgiveness and we were good.

Of course if anyone had seen or heard me talking non-stop to Bo as we walked, I'm sure they would have thought I was way far away from being good. But I really didn't care what people thought.

As I sat out, breathing in the September evening air, I caught a glimpse of the sunset and almost remarked to Jame about the beautiful reds and oranges. Sometimes it was so hard to remember that he wasn't sitting here with me. I thought about my Jame dream and knew I'd never tell anyone about that.

I picked up my cell phone to call Ed Henry, my editor at the news company I worked for. Or used to work for. I hoped I still had some semblance of a job. We were an online news organization and our pieces showed up on all the major news outlets and channels. I specialized in human interest stories and docu-series. Some of my writing and reporting was made into video, film and TV segments and documentaries with my voice-overs and narration. I had become somewhat well known and had a growing international following, or at least I did a year ago.

When Jame got sicker last fall, I slacked off my assignments, forcing Ed to reassign them to others on the news staff. Ed never complained but he would drop hints every now and then about a must have topic for me. These were the ones I would fight to cover in the past. But Ed also saw the fight go out of me. I tried to rev up again after Jame died. In fact I did take on a major assignment that he needed ASAP. When I couldn't even complete the research or the basic outline, I never even told Ed. He had to find out from Erin.

Well, here goes nothing, I said to myself as I dialed his personal cell number. I felt a little flutter in my stomach. Was that nerves or a little anticipatory excitement?

Hey, Cath. How the hell are you? It's great to hear from you. Ed's loud voice boomed so strongly that I had to hold my phone away from my ear. I could picture him in the button down shirt he wore even on the weekends. White with red or blue pin stripes. I think he had a hundred of each color.

Hi, Ed. Just wanted to get in touch and let you know I was still here.

"I know you're still here. Erin

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