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Journeying Through Grief: Retrospective on Grieving Goals

What are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about forming deep and meaningful relationships with those around me. I'm curious about all the different personalities in the world and each person's story - their struggles, joyful moments, everything that makes them who they are. I am particularly sensitive to children's issues, childhood development, and the underprivileged. - eHarmony profile of Teri Hoang

I am thankful that the passions that Teri listed on her eHarmony profile can be an encouragement to me during this difficult time. I wouldn't say I'm as curious about other people as she was about people, but its something I hope to get better at. Thankfully she was living her passions out in our marriage. She deeply cared for me more than anyone else and showed it with her time and genuine interest in wanting to get to know me better, all the time. I felt very loved. Reading her profile again (see photos below) makes me miss her even more. I also wish I took the time to visit all those places on her list and inspires me to travel more. I am most interested in going to New Zealand, perhaps to do a Triathlon or just to explore on my own. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.


How are you doing?


I guess its been another difficult, distracted, and discouraging month for me and some of my close friends that are going through hardship. I feel stuck on emotional roller coaster I can't seem to get off of. I know what you'll say. I should just be OK with all of this and be patient. That things will get better. I hear this all the time. You'll say I am doing a good job. I'll say thank you, but deep down I don't really agree with you. In fact, a friend commented to me this weekend that I looked miserable. I'm not doing any of this on purpose.


Since I haven't had the opportunity to meet with people reading this blog in person (I actually wish I could because my favorite people are the ones who subscribe), I'll share here what I tell everyone:

  • This last month was a lot harder than the first three months

  • I am hanging in there, staying busy

  • I still can't believe Teri's passing all happened in a very short amount of time

I was in the attic yesterday looking for my running stroller and noticed all our Christmas decorations neatly stored in the big red tupperwares that Teri bought. For those that seen my house "before Teri" and "after Teri" there's no doubt that Teri was a world class homemaker. I did zero thinking when it came to the holidays. I just had to follow her orders regarding what we needed to buy and what to set up. Life was good. It was less than 9 months ago when Teri and I were taking pictures under the Christmas tree to send out Christmas cards to announce that we wanted to start a family through surrogacy:

While I'm thankful for Mayo keeping me company every day, I'm not looking forward to the upcoming holiday season. It's definitely a challenge going to events that Teri and I used to go to as a married couple. It also feels awkward. Perhaps it would be a good time to travel and try something new?


I guess I've spent a lot more time in the "denial" stage than I would like, but I'm sure this is normal and have no problem reminding myself that there's no timeline to grieving.

 

Grieving Goals Retrospective

While I have no shortage of words and feelings these days, I've struggled with putting them on paper. I've created several "draft" posts and never finished them. I'm going to try to get back on track with writing at least 3 times per month so these posts don't get so long. As I figure out what I'm passionate about in my new life without Teri, what may help for is doing a brief retrospective of some of the Grieving goals I wrote about on June 2:

My Relationship with God: Rediscovering my faith in Jesus and clinging to His promises during this time of grieving. Spending time reading the Bible, praying for clarity regarding my future, and trusting Him that I can focus on one day at a time. Building new habits and routines: I love having recurring meetings with myself (quiet times with Mayo at the park, exercising, etc.) and with others.

While I love routines/structure and tell everyone that will solve all their problems in life, I haven't committed to a structured bible reading plan like Teri did last year. I've been studying the book of Job, as I felt that it was appropriate for what I'm going through. I have also been learning quite a bit about my relationship with God and grief through the several books that people have recommended or given to me:

Grief is very complicated. When I feel motivated to grow and "figure out grieving" I'll read one of these books. Some have been helpful and made me feel better in the moment. Some I just didn't really agree with. Some have been great to help me fall asleep. I'll share some of what I've liked and disliked in another post.

 
My Relationship with Teri: Scheduling 1-2 nights a week to be alone, allowing me to re-read her journals and email exchanges. This has continued to humble me. There was so much about her that I misunderstood while we were together, and it has significantly changed my heart and view of relationships, as well as my own struggles in marriage

During the first few months of Teri's passing, I had to be very intentional with having my 1-2 nights a week to be alone. Now that fewer people reach out to me (which is perfectly fine), I end up being more proactive with wanting to meet with people. Or I just end up catching up on work.


This past month, I took a break on reading her emails and journals. Some of it is a bit too heavy and just makes me feel sad. When I read them, its like she's still here talking to me. So instead, I'll gravitate towards her memory book:

What usually happens at night is before bed, I'll start reading one of the books on my desk, and then after a few minutes, read the Memory Book or use my meditation app to fall asleep.


Am I Angry?

I think I am now feeling more angry at Teri right now because of her passing away so suddenly. I know for sure that I feel abandoned and discouraged. Perhaps it is anger? The problem is, I don't really know how to express my anger. This will take some time to figure out. I think it's because I've taken pride in staying calm and not getting verbally angry with Teri. I also didn't grow up seeing too much much anger in my family. I also tend to just be passive-agressive and find ways to distract myself or stay busy when I am in a situation that makes me angry.


I learned on Thursday from my therapist that I've found indirect ways to be angry by doing things that I know Teri would NOT like. I hope this list does not get too long. Looking back, I wish I had the humility to get more help and simply listen to the few that really have my best interest in mind. Hopefully we can all learn something from all of this. Here are three examples of indirect anger worth sharing here:


1. Wrapping the Model Y

It didn't take too long for me when I first saw a Silver Model Y a year ago that Teri and I should also wrap Teri's Model Y the same color. Silver has always been my favorite color on cars, with dark grey being a close second (the color we ended up gettting). Teri said no and thought it was a waste of money, and didn't even like the color silver (even though that was the color of her first car). This wasn't just a no and let's move on, this discussion went on for a week or so until I decided to drop it.


So in May, out of impulse, I got a few people to "buy-in" to my desire to wrap the Model Y:

FYI, The model Y was Teri's car. While its a great car, I didn't like driving it too much because I prefer smaller cars like the Bolt EV. After Teri passed away, I actually wanted to sell the car. I then realized how helpful it is to have "dog mode" so I can take Mayo around on errands. So I'm keeping the car for now.


Now looking back, I'm happy I wrapped the car with the color I really like and now have no regrets, but I did feel unsettled doing it so quickly. There was no rush on getting this done. I guess was pretty desperate after Teri passed away to do something to make me feel better. Thankfully this has really been my only big purchase and now feel pretty content with what I have.


2. Late night Fast Food

I'm thankful for friends who call me out on this one because unnecessary fast food always makes me have regrets. Before I met Teri, I would have episodes of getting fast food after work almost every day, sometimes for weeks. Then I would stop because I needed to get in shape for a race, or just try to work out even more. There's nothing really wrong with fast food once in a while, especially if you're working out regularly and its not your second dinner.


When I met Teri, I rarely ate fast food while I was with Teri since she didn't really care for it. One in a while she was in the mood for it. When we did order, she was really good at helping me manage my portions since I tend to over order.


I remember a few times that I would go for an errand after dinner and pick up some fast food and eat it in the car. I would enter through the backyard so I can throw away the trash before going inside. Pretty embarrassing to share when I think about it.


What's been happening? There's been a handful of times this month that I would finish a healthy dinner at my house or at at friends house, and then order a second dinner. I wasn't even hungry. I ate plenty of food for dinner, just felt that ordering more food would make me feel a little better. I even used door dash in bed right before I was about to sleep. Not good.


3. Trying out Online Dating Apps

I am not excited to write about this one just as much as some of you are not excited to read about it. A few weeks ago I managed to convince a few of my friends to give me the OK to try out some dating apps. Others have been telling me that it won't hurt and to take things slow. I had a feeling at first that this would be a bad idea, but this seemed low risk (just like wrapping a car).


I felt like I had a good excuse to try Eharmony again because that was also how we met:

While I'm glad I saved these screenshots of her eHarmony profile, I can't remember what I wrote for myself regarding my passions. I completely deleted my profile after we got married, of course thinking I would never need this again. Now I wish I still had my profile. I'm struggling with figuring out what I'm most passionate about doing these days. I also wonder if the passions I wrote about in 2017 apply to me today? Probably not.


I also heard of some success stories on Hinge so I figured I would give that app a try too.


So I quickly made a minimalist profile. I uploaded some photos, including one with Teri and I since I wanted to make it 100% clear in my profile that I just lost my spouse. I would then do some mindless scrolling at night before I would fall asleep. I would send some messages to people I was interested in, only to find out days later that they were not interested in me (no response). I would also get a few likes or comments from people I was not interested in. Nothing new to me since I did online dating for years before I met Teri.


At the end of the night, I feel frustrated, shameful (how could I be doing this now), or discouraged by the whole experience. Sometimes I would uninstall the apps. A few days later I would reinstall them and hope for a better outcome.


I know there's nothing wrong with online dating as there would be no such thing as Terwin if it wasn't for eHarmony. I actually encourage all my single friends to give it a try. I just feel that the timing for me to meet new people on the internet isn't now. I would feel conflicted if I did match with someone. I also don't think anyone new would really be interested in getting to know someone that is going through something as difficult as losing your spouse.


Anyways, I managed to convince myself last week that deleting my profiles was the right thing to do, just like I did after I got married to Teri. I feel much better now.

 
My Relationships with Others: Life is short. Spending time with the people who matter most to me has brought me so much joy. I am incredibly thankful for reconnecting with a few people whom I haven't spent quality time with in a while, along with new friends I've met recently. I feel loved in ways I don't deserve because of their empathy and presence. It's as if I'm the most important person in the world to them while we are together. This also means letting go of old relationships to make room for new ones.

This past month, I have more of a desire to reconnect with people in my past (people I were close to before I met Teri). Some of my friends are from my 20's. Many of those are in completely new life stages because of new jobs, relationships, kids, etc. but were still willing to meet up to catch up. So it was more of a one time thing. Some friends seem really interested in just picking things up were we left off and spending more time with me on a recurring basis.


I also feel a unique connection with meeting with friends and family who have recently lost someone close to them (spouse, sibling, or parent). We can share stories about grief and what is working and what is not. We can also laugh about the well intentioned but not-so-nice things that people have said to us.


I also went to my first wedding without Teri last weekend. While I had a lot of fun and met some great people, I wouldn't say it was easy for me, especially during the ceremony and thinking about my own wedding.

Sucheta and I celebrating Catherine's wedding in upstate New York. Both are friends from middle school.

Regardless of when we met, I'm really thankful for all the relationships I have, past, present, and future.

 

The last grieving goal to retrospect on is my constant battle with trying to make everyone happy:

Letting go of what others think of me: Being the middle child, I grew up as a people pleaser, constantly striving for acceptance from everyone around me. This resulted in being overcommitted and cycles of burn out. I have received a lot of strong opinions on what to do and not to do during this season. Trying to make everyone happy or like me during this season is one sure way to have regrets.

I guess I've been all over the place on this one since I still get a lot of strong opinions on what I should do. There is no shortage of advice, some helpful and some not so helpful. Perhaps some people reading this are a bit disappointed that I would even write about online dating and that I should keep this all to myself.


Putting everything together, I reflecting on this whole post makes it clear that that finding validation for my actions isn't as challenging as it might seem. What matters most to me now is seeking God's will during this season and having faith that, just as He has always done in the past, He will provide. He blessed me with Teri and gave us six wonderful years together, and there's no doubt in my mind that He has a plan for my future.


Conclusion

Thank you for reading this far. As I continue to navigate the journey of grief and adjustment without Teri, I am reminded that healing takes time, and the path to recovery is different for each person. Over the past two months, my faith and the support of my loved ones have given me strength. While the ride on the emotional rollercoaster may still pose challenges, I cling to hope and trust in God's grace to guide me through each day. With faith, I still look toward the future, treasuring the precious memories of Teri and eagerly anticipating a joyful reunion in the eternal embrace of God's love.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" - Josuha 1:9 ESV (Teri's favorite bible verse, perhaps mine too)
Everybody loves mayo

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5 commentaires


MAYOOOOOOO


Man, it takes a good amount of courage to post about regrets about the grieving process (especially when it's ongoing), but I do think it's important for people to know that they're not going to do it perfectly. It's okay not to know, it's okay to try things out, it's okay to realize that they weren't all wise decisions—that's how we learn. Very encouraged by your transparency.

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Jenny Scott
Jenny Scott
29 août 2023

I love your post, Erwin. Thank you for letting us be updated to the window of your heart. Teri would be so proud of you!!!💕I am so sorry that this has been a difficult month for you. I am glad I saw you at church and can’t wait to catch up soon. I hope you have a wonderful week

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So glad to know that you are going to post more. I was wondering where this writer has gone to, a long vacation perhaps haha. I love the ideal of going off somewhere—a place where you are totally not in your element would be fascinating!

I second the post above, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are only human! I do feel like you are doing your best. Lots of love - Susan

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Tiffany Wong
Tiffany Wong
28 août 2023

Thanks for sharing, Erwin. Thank you for sharing what’s been helpful and also not helpful when supporting you through the grieving process. Everyone’s process is indeed different and every day is different. Each day is a new challenge and I found it helpful to just be in the moment and not think about yesterday or tomorrow… just today and how I’m feeling. Might have a good day and then a bad day and then a sad day and it’s all ok. The rollercoaster is definitely to be expected. I’d also encourage you to go directly to the Word of God too. No one knows and understands suffering quite like Jesus and He’s always down to hang out or chat 24/7.


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I love your honesty. I think I would be mad if someone “left” me so suddenly too. Of course I would then feel bad because clearly this wasn’t a choice but I get you. It’s good that you’ve figured out some of your decisions and while you’ll probably still keep making mistakes, dont be so hard on yourself. We’re human. Only God is perfect and it can definitely be challenging to be all he wants us to be. lots of love

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