Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So Today I Bought a Shirt ....

.... which really isn't newsworthy (or blog-worthy) in and of itself.
But I think that all of you will understand why I felt the need to write about it .... and to show it to you:

Looks like a simple enough t-shirt, right?  Other than the fact that there's a heart on it, which gives me mixed feelings.
Mostly because I haven't visualized my heart looking like that.
Not in a very long time.

This is how I feel my heart has looked since the end of 2007:
                                        picture from here

Yep, for the last 3 1/2 years my heart has felt like a gigantic piece of it is missing.  A gigantic piece that held Jim.  And now that he's gone, that gigantic, heart-shaped piece is gone.

But the funny thing is, he is still held by my heart.
And he always will.
So while my heart may feel broken .... shattered into a million pieces .... the reality is that it is whole.
It hurts, yes .... to be sure, but it is whole.

I haven't always felt that way these past 3 years.  In fact, it's a rather new-ish development.  Because I now know something that I once knew, but had forgotten.
Grief tends to do that to a person.
Makes them forget ..... a lot of things.
Or is that just me.  (   :)     )

When I was pregnant with our first child, I never imagined how much love I would feel for her when she was born.  Yes, I loved her while I was pregnant but please ..... that is nothing compared to the love that fills your heart the moment you look into those eyes.
The instant I looked at her, counted her fingers and toes, stared at the tininess of perfection ..... and looked into her eyes, my heart doubled in size.
I could actually feel it growing, day by day those first weeks.

And then we became pregnant with number 2.  Which, at five months, turned out to be 2 and 3, but that's a whole 'nother story!
From the moment I found out I was pregnant that second time .... I worried.
Not about the baby's/ie's health.  Not about my health.
But about my heart.
I knew there was no way I could love another child as much as I loved that first one.
It was not physically, or emotionally, possible.
So I worried.  A lot.

And then the day came when I saw those two precious babies.  The day I counted their fingers and toes and was amazed at their tiny perfection.
And then I looked into their eyes ..... and felt my heart beat a strong and extra beat.
It had happened.
My heart had grown in size.
And I was amazed.
I am still amazed at the way a heart can instantly grow and hold more love.
It is nothing short of a miracle.

And as soon as I remembered that lesson, I knew that my heart was still whole.
Yes it was bruised, cracked .... and in much need of repair, but it was, and still is, whole.
Jim's love will never, ever be gone from my heart.
I carry him, and that love, with me wherever I go.
And with whomever I'm with.
No, there's not anyone in my life at the moment (not in that way), but I know that my heart is a lot stronger and flexible than I thought it was.  So if that day ever comes, I know that my heart will grow again.
It won't rid itself of Jim's love in order to make more room.
It will just .... grow.

So I bought that shirt today.
And just in case you couldn't see it closely ...... here's another view:

It's taken me a while, but I can definitely wear that t-shirt and mean it.
Not every day.
Not every moment.
Not all of the time.

But life is ..... mostly good now.
Which is a bit ironic, because this is the t-shirt I was wearing when I bought it:

This shows how I've felt, mostly, over the past 3 years.  And I still do .... sometimes.
I have looked up towards the sky too many times to count and asked/yelled, "SERIOUSLY??!!"
And I'm sure I always will.

But most of the time, I hope that I think .... life is good.
I know that Jim would want me to think that.
He would also agree with the fine print on that new t-shirt.
The writing that I didn't notice until I took it out to take a picture of it for you.
It's on the bottom right of the first picture.
In case you can't make it out ..... here it is:

And I am.
After a very, very long time.
After a journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death .... which I barely lived through.
Which I didn't want to live through.

But here I am .... doing something that I love doing, communicating with, and supporting other widowed people, letting them (you) know that you, too ..... will be here one day.
Yes,  I do .... and yes, you will.

And I hope that one day you will be able to know that .....
Life is good.


  1. Janine ... Thank you so much for your encouraging post. Boy did I need it today!
    Today is nine torturous months since I lost my darling husband. I really can't see any reason to want to live but I hold on for the sake of my children.
    Your post reminded me of the poem i read to my husband at his funeral.
    I had bought a piece of artwork with this on it on a trip to the US from Australia just before my husband passed away from cancer. I had intended it to be his Christmas present but he didn't make it to Christmas.
    The poem reads....

    She heard the words
    "keeper of her heart"
    and thought of him.
    he always had been,
    whether he knew it
    or not
    now it was time for her
    to be keeper of his heart.
    holding it gently, tenderly,
    she tucked his heart into
    hers and carried him with
    her always - and forever.

    I don't know the name of the author but i feel she must have been one of us.
    I am carrying your heart with me Gordon ...always and forever.

  2. Thanks for this post- sometimes it is hard to remember you will ever feel happy again. Just waited Dan, in real life,-Boy, I could relate to his struggles in the movie, especially with his teenage daughters. I have two. If it is not one it is the other, they gang up on you, yet, you still have to hold on and be the parent! Sometimes, I just feel like I can't stand it, doing it alone, so I take a ride just to get away- luckily they are teengers! I think when we start to realize that we must take care of our own heart/mind/ body do we give ours selves a break and start to heal the whole in our heart. I am not there yet, but I keep just moving forward!

  3. great post!!
    I think a wise man once said, "a t-shirt says a thousand words" ;)
    I'm so glad that you have found the right shirt!!

  4. I love this I too have a "life is good" shirt but it is a a sweatshirt and it belonged to my husband. We bought it on vacation. It was his retirement shirt, the one he would wear on his boat someday soon. Then, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
    He did wear it, while in treatment. Radiation and chemo.
    He wore it at the lake.
    On the boat.
    But whenever I saw it - it was like a knife in the heart because of the day we bought it - we were like children, so happy, so in love, so optimistic. That is what the shirt represented, the future we had planned together. It was one of the things I kept after his death. Because when I hold it, those dreams, his happiness and our love come back to me.
    I still believe it.
    I want to believe. Yes, I too feel that I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
    The light, his light - always in front of me, saying "don't give up" Life is good.
    He so desperately wanted to live. He always believed life was good.
    I won't let go of that despite losing him.
    Because I had him for 36 years and they were the best part of my life.

    Thanks Janine.
    I love the last part too - that is the way forward. I once asked my sister in law how she coped after my brothers death and she said "don't let anyone tell you how to do it. Do whatever you want to do".

  5. A few months after my husband died a friend with a wicked sense of humor gave me a t-shirt with the British war slogan: Keep Calm & Carry On. It was perfect! Grief feels a lot like a war at times so I wear the bright red shirt proudly.

  6. Every now and then I read a blog here that encompasses my entire grief experience in a scant few paragraphs. This is one of them, an excellent piece of writing. I am 21 months out, and last month I felt myself coming back. I'm gaining back motivation, and losing the fear and vulnerability which has stuck to me like a fog. Time really is healing. I think if we can survive the first 2 years, we'll make it. Of course we will always hold our loved ones in our hearts, but eventually the light comes back on. I am so much better than I was last summer, when I didn't care about much of anything. Keep the faith, and thanks for sharing.

  7. There is actually a little book I found, sort of a bathroom book, with that title- Keep calm and carry on-it has some good short advice. Also, shortly after my husband of 35 years died I aksed a friend who's sister in law had been a widow for a few years how her SIL always seemed so happy and she said- she's faking it. Somehow I have never forgotten this. Seemed like the only real thing anybody said to me after my husband died. Mostly I was getting the you're so strong and a lot of hugs which oddly really bugged me. I remember thinking if one more person hugged me I was going to scream. Don't know why that bothered me so much but it didn't give me any comfort at the time. I think about the faking it part alot and feel like that is how I get through every day. Takes a lot of effort.