Fat Girl Wearing Thin

Life beyond the loss.

   Jan 26

Group Therapy Thursday: Week Four

Wow!  Can you believe this is our last group therapy day?  I don’t know about you, but I’ve grown quite fond of our weekly meet-ups.  You’ve all been such a source of comfort and strength to each other, and to me.  I will miss our time together here. But….it’s not over yet, so let’s get started with this week’s update!



This week we had two options to choose from.  The first one was to Pay It Forward or in simpler terms: do a random act of kindness for another person. 

The second option was to treat yourself to something special, especially if you tend to over-extend yourself to other people on a regular basis. 



This was a very sad and stressful week for me.  My grandmother died, and at the last moment I was unable to leave for the eight hour drive to attend her funeral.  My husband became ill the night before we were to leave, and the morning of our scheduled departure,  I rushed Emmie to the vet only to learn that she was very sick with Hookworm.  I spent the week tending to husband and dog while continuing to work, while my mind and heart were in Kentucky with my mother and family.  I was feeling too depressed to commit myself to my exercise  and spent the week wondering what on earth I was going to write about when Thursday came around.  Before I knew it, Wednesday was here and I couldn’t even think about doing a good deed for someone, much less do something for myself.  I had a long list of both personal and work-related errands that I’d been putting off all week that could not be ignored any longer.  By 8:30 AM I put on my coat and scarf and checked to see if my black cloud had decided to come along and keep me company. 

Me and You, we’re stuck like glue, it whispered. 

Well then, I thought.  Let’s go and get this over with. 

My first few stops were pretty uneventful.  I’m quite sure that I had a sour look on my face, very sure that I had defined dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep, and to top off my haggard look- had my hair stuffed under a ball cap.  Me and the public had an unspoken understanding.  I left them alone and they left me alone. 

But then, something unexpected happened.  I was at my last stop of the day: Panera Bread.  I was there to pick up some soup for my employer’s lunch and the place was packed – at least 10 people were in front of me.  And as I stood there silent, impatient, tired and frazzled, the woman in front of me turned to face me and said, ‘You are wearing such a pretty scarf.  It looks so nice on you.  Did you make it?’  I looked at her, stunned for a moment.  I was sure that my I need my space face was still very much present.  But then, I smiled – a genuine smile, and looked down at the scarf I’d made years ago.  You realize what’s happening here, don’t you, Ellen? I thought. You are being given a random act of kindness.  I looked back at this woman who was still gazing at me with a smile and said, ‘Thank you.  I did make it, many years ago.  It was one of the very first things I’d ever crocheted.’

We chatted while waiting in line to order, and by the time I left the restaurant, soup in hand – I felt….different.  Better.  The cloud had thinned out a bit and I was a little closer to feeling like ‘me’ again. 

Even though I didn’t officially complete my exercise for the week, I couldn’t have come up with a more fitting example of how good it feels to do or say something nice to someone unexpectedly.  The only difference is that I was supposed to be writing about how it made me feel as the giver, not the receiver.  And as I write this today, the one thing I find interesting is that when I was giving examples about this week’s exercise on Monday I wrote: 

Can you remember a day when a perfect stranger passed you by and stopped long enough to say how much they admired your scarf? Your hair? Your smile?  Think about how that simple gesture made you feel.  Perhaps you walked a little taller, a little prouder that day.

She admired my scarf, and I felt better.  That’s all it took. 

And actually, I think I did walk a bit taller for the rest of the day. 


I want to thank each and every one of you for leaving me a note of condolence.  You weren’t even aware of it, but you produced your own random act of kindness with your kind words.  They helped me through a very rough week.  I’m terribly lucky.


Have a great session today, everyone. 



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  1. Caron says:

    Love this! So true. :)

  2. Hanlie says:

    Oh Ellen, I’m sorry this week’s been so rough for you! I love this story though. Thank goodness that someone reached out to you in your hour of need!

    Here’s my post for the week – http://www.hblewett.com/blog/2012/01/26/hlc-group-therapy-week-4/

    Thank you, once again, for hosting this challenge. It has definitely kicked of the year on a very positive and empowering note.

  3. While I am sorry you did not get to be with your family I am thinking how lucky it was that your husband did not take ill on the road (not to mention your dog, too).

    Random acts of kindness feed two souls at the same time – no food could ever do that.

    Here is my post for this final week. Thank you again for leading such an inspiring and positive challenge to usher in 2012.

    When we are through changing – we are through.


  4. Cindy says:

    Ellen, I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s and Emmie’s health issues that you had to expereince on top of the heartbreak of your grandmother. You’ve had such a rough week, but I’m glad to hear that someone did something kind to cheer you up. It is amazing how sometimes strangers come along at the most unexpected time to make a difference in our lives. I am very lucky because it seems to happen to me quite a bit. This week I decided to just pay it forward. I was in the copy store at the beginning of the week. I was there to pick up a big copy job and, as usual, I was pressed for time and wanted to get out as soon as possible. There was an elderly lady in front of me who, from the aggravation apparent on the face of the clerk, had been there a while. She was trying to pick out cardstock and colors on some invitations she was having made. She just couldn’t decide, so I offered to help and had a long conversation with her about the event. It was something very special and she wanted everything to be perfect. Although the clerk became even more irritated when I jumped in, I just ignored him and helped her make her selections. She was happy and I thanked him for being so patient. It was a good day. (Ultimately, I got my copies and the world did not end because I spent more time in the copy store than I had planned. Lesson learned.)
    Take care, Cindy

  5. Sharon says:

    So glad to hear from you. When you become accustomed to someone posting on a regular schedule, it feels odd when one of those days passes and there is no post – even when you know the reason why! I believe with all my heart that things don’t happen by chance and I believe that lady was planted right there in Panera and given just the right thing to say. Not too much, not too little, just right!!

  6. I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. Though it’s difficult when you can’t attend a funeral, it’s okay. I had to miss one once, and you just have to honor their memory in another way… and in small ways throughout your life. It’s not about that one event; it’s more about the memories and lessons that you carry from that person.

  7. I am so very sorry that you lost your grandmother and were not able to be with your family…on top of such a rough week. Big hugs Ellen…

    I do intend to write a post for the final week, but it’s not going to be today as I am filled to the brim here in Vermont at Green Mountain at Fox Run…I’ve been both paying it forward and treating myself…

  8. Goodnuff says:

    Hugs Ellen, what a hard week. I love this post though. I’ve been thinking about how much good this challenge has done for me and how lucky I was to be in it. Considering all of the gaziilions of blogs out there I was connected to the right ones to get connected to you. What are the chances? But everything happens for a reason. That lady was what you needed right then. You put good out there and it comes right back at you!

    My post is here: http://goodnuff.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/hate-loss-group-therapy-day-3/

    Thank you so much!

  9. Paula says:

    I am so sorry to hear about the tough week. You deserved that random act of kindess. My father died of cancer on April 18, 2011. It was a horrible 2 years and the fact that we live 1500 miles a way didn’t help me feel any better. But he did not want me to stop my life for his cancer and so life went on here for me. I went to work everyday. I’ve been at this job now about 6 years. Being a loner, I don’t really know anyone in my department very well. When the call came that he had passed, I didn’t really share this news. Imagine my surprise when after lunch I returned to my desk to find a beautiful card, flower & a bundle of cash from these co-workers whom I would have bet couldn’t tell you my last name. Tears just came and I sent out a note to each one of them expressing my gratitude as it was completely 100% unexpected. So yes these random acts of kindness can so touching so never doubt that yours go unnoticed. My random act of kindness this week is I baked a pan of brownies for one of these co-workers birthday today. As a matter of fact, I bake a homemade treat for each one on their birthday’s now. The smile and surprise I get is worth it and it is nice to hear them tell me and others that I am a great baker!

  10. Kimberly Greenlee says:

    I’m so sorry about your grandma. I was pregnant with Lily when my grandpa passed away and couldn’t go to the funeral, so I know how you feel. Praying for you and hoping everyone else is feeling and doing better at your house.

  11. teresa says:

    I love the story about your received RAOK. I also love that you realized even in the moment what was happening. That’s pretty great.
    I know it’s hard to call caring for our husbands or pets/children random acts, but I know you were showering them both with love and kindness all week. That does count.
    And I’m sorry you couldn’t share in the time with your family…. that’s really hard. I have found that there is still plenty of love and support to give and share in during the weeks and months after such a loss. The funeral seems to be a blur and settling into life without the person is it’s own challenge.
    If I can be of any support to you, please call on me.
    big, big hugs!!!
    and i’ll be posting soon too.

  12. What a rough couple of weeks for you, Ellen!!! I hope that both hubby and Emmie are on the mend. I sure hope they are because this is an excellent opportunity for the other challenge you offered: “treat yourself to something special, especially if you tend to over-extend yourself to other people.” Hello haircut/mani/pedi/cashmere yarn for another scarf? :) Please take a minute to treat yourself to something nice. Doesn’t have to be big. Just has to be about you!


  13. Jan says:

    I’m so sorry you’ve had such a rough past couple of weeks. Jason missed his Grandma’s funeral because he was sick (and I was the one that made him sick). I still feel bad he missed it. I’m so sorry you had to miss it too. Hugs to you after such a long week with so much stress and I’m thanking God for the woman at Panera Bread who took the time to compliment you with her “random act of kindness”. :)

  14. debby says:

    Dear Ellen, I am so sorry for the loss of your grandmother, and then all the illness on top of it. So glad the lady in Panera felt the need to give you a little lift. I will remember that the next time I see somebody with their “I need my space” face on!

  15. Denise says:

    To be honest, I wasn’t that inspired by this challenge. I feel like I regularly do both. However, as the week wore on, the challenge remained in the back of my mind. Yesterday (Group Therapy Thursday) I read all the updates, and still couldn’t decide.

    My calendar told me I needed to mail the insurance payment that day, so I roused myself from the computer to take a shower and get ready to go, and figured I could do a few errands between getting the check in the mail by 4:45 p.m. (last pickup of the day) and a meeting at work that started at 7:15 p.m. I had a bra I needed to return, as I had ordered the wrong size online, but they said I could return it to the store and not pay additional shipping. It had been sitting in a corner with some other things that needed to be returned to various places for various reasons.
    Now, here, I have to confess that this is something I don’t do very well—that is, returns. I don’t know why, maybe it’s like admitting I made a mistake (which I also don’t do very well). The thing is, these things sit there in the corner, silently reminding me of all kinds of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, and I try to ignore them, and then it becomes too late to return them, and they go in my closet still with the tags on them, and every time I see them they are a reminder of a mistake I made, and something I should or shouldn’t have done.
    I decided that I would go through the pile, and get out as many things as I could reasonably manage to return before my meeting, and I would forgive myself for not having done it before, and I would just go do it. The key here was that I would forgive myself and stop beating myself up over it.
    And I realized as I was driving to the mall to return the bra, after mailing the insurance check and 3 pairs of shoes back to Zappos.com, that this was my response to the challenge, and my treat to myself, as it were, was to stop beating myself up and forgive myself. I still have some more things I can return to other places (that’s today’s errand), and I have decided to be creative with things I can no longer return, and if I can’t find a use for them, to give them to someone who can. Which is kind of paying it forward.
    I am so glad I stumbled upon this challenge. Thank you, Ellen, for sticking it out in spite of the adversity you encountered, you are truly awesome and an inspiration. Thanks to everyone who shared themselves during this challenge, it has been a pleasure meeting you all.

  16. So sorry to hear about your Grandmother passing and all the other stresses you had to deal with. What a rough week! I hope that your husband and Emmie heal soon and that you are able to find peace with it all. I am so glad that lady reached out – what a great example for your group therapy challenge! It just shows we never know what a difference showing a little kindness will have. Hugs!

  17. didi says:

    I am sorry to hear about your rough week, but reading the story that you wrote was uplifting. I am glad that an angel came down to reverse the random act of kindness on you. :)
    I know this is late, but I still wanted to finish the challenge in spite of the lousy week that I had.

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