Friday, September 23, 2011

I'm Okay

Filling in for Jackie today, she'll be back next week!

Six years ago my husband died in a tragic accident (is there any other kind really?). I woke up the next morning, and felt certain that I had been dreaming. With my eyes closed, I slid my hand across the bed to Phil's side, and felt the cold sheets where his warm body used to lie. I wasn't dreaming.

The pain of his absence was searing. There were so many days when I thought for SURE that the gut wrenching pain would kill me. In fact, to this day, I am still surprised that it didn't. I felt like a zombie that was bleeding internally, and dragging my blood soaked bandages as I wandered aimlessly through life. Attractive, yes?

Day by painful day I put one foot in front of the other. Many days were awful, others were worse. Getting out of bed was sometimes  a Herculean effort, but other times getting into that empty bed at the end of the day took every ounce of strength I could muster. My life was full of these mind-bending contradictions. I wanted to be alone; I hated being alone. I ached to be around familiar friends, but their presence shone a spotlight on the hole left by Phil's death. I wanted everything in my life to go back to the way it was, and yet everything familiar was also torturous. Yes, no, move forward, run back, cry, laugh, cry some more...I felt like a spinning top with endless momentum. When would the pain stop, and who would I be when/if it finally did?

Maybe the hardest part of healing for me has been the fear of what would come after. After what? After I was done. After I was "better." After I reached the semi-dreaded state of acceptance. After I was done being widowed. What would happen then?

I can't tell you what will happen for you when you have lived through 2,213 days of widowhood, but I can tell you what I have learned through these past six years. First, I will never get over Phil's death. I am certain I will always think the fact that he lost his life was a terrible waste and that the world would have been better with him in it. Next, I now believe that my widowhood belongs to me in the same way that my motherhood, and sisterhood, and daughterhood, and friendhood does. Being widowed is part of my life story, and this painful chapter has colored the rest of my life in rich, deep colors. I have met some of my dearest friends while navigating the waters of grief, and I know we will be surfing together for matter what lies ahead. Lastly, I have realized that life will always be delivering a new challenge, another test, a different circumstance to my doorstep. How I handle the package will determine what impact the unexpected bomb, or bouquet, has on the next chapter of my life. Thanks to my widowhood, I know I will survive.

And what will happen after? I (and you) will be okay.


  1. Michelle,
    This post resonates with me so much today. The way you describe those first days. I couldn't bear the empty bed, the empty house and yes I hated the loneliness but often found in the middle of dinner with friends, I felt even lonelier because my husband - who was always there was not.
    I would lay in bed in the morning and think why can't i die. How come I haven't died? Because the grief is that bad.
    If i got out of bed and there were a few days i didn't - i thought it was a miracle.
    Zombie - is the perfect metaphor - you are the undead walking among the living.
    Slowly - with time and support and other people who understand - those days are gentler to you somehow.
    Yes, at almost a year I have learned there will never be an "over" Jim.
    He is woven through my life - the 36 years we had together and the rest of my life too. For now, I too am painting the canvas of my life alone but as you so aptly phrased it - the colours are richer and deeper.

    Thank you for this beautiful post.

  2. It will be 6 years for me in a few weeks. You have a real gift to put into words how this grief thing works. As, for me, well, I can relate to all you have expressed. There is no real getting over it, just a numbness to the early pain. I want to relate something that happened to me yesterday as I was cleaning out my closet. It is the closet I have always used for my clothes, and it is and has been mine only. My husband had his own. I was in the bottom of it digging and throwing out shoe boxes when I came across a scrap of paper. On it the word "yikes!" was written in my husband's hand writing! He used to always leave me little notes like this in all sorts of unexpected places. I saved all of them and some days I will get them out to read when I am really blue. This note I had missed seeing until yesterday. Placed in a shoe box, to remind me of how he thought my closet was a real mess! I laughed and cried at the same time. So unexpected, this little gift 6 years after the fact!

  3. As always, Michele, you are an amazing inspiration to the tired hearts and souls of so many. You write with such clarity and depth because you have felt and lived through so much of what we can relate to. No matter how or when our precious loves died, your words resonate with us and give hope and meaning to this crazy journey we find ourselves in. I have a quote saved on a bulletin board from many years ago...I am not sure why I saved it, but I did and it fits NOW more than ever because when my beloved Tim was alive, it didn't have the impact it has now: "One must love life before loving its' meaning, and when love of life disappears, no meaning can console us"--Albert Camus.

    Thank you and Phil for helping us at least begin to love life again and hopefully, somehow we will figure out the meaning of what we have been through...or we will not but at least we know we will be okay...someday.

    Thank you, thank you, thank Phil and thank you again.

  4. You are beautiful inside and out, and thank you for sharing your personal pain so openly and for all you have done to reach out to others who are widowed. You are a great inspiration. I hope you continue to write here and share the light.

  5. I appreciate all your kind words, and am so glad that we have each other!

  6. Michelle, your words have brought me comfort today as I am experiencing terrible loneliness and do not want to be here anymore.
    Some days these posts just save my life. Thank you to all who contribute.

  7. To the anonymous last post - please hang in there.
    I understand.
    I have been where you are. I have contemplated not being.
    It will not always feel this bad. It will feel less than that.
    I just walked the garden and cried the whole way, for the same reason - I am so incredibly lonely today.
    I could picture my husband out there bent over the flowers. I cried and I walked and I said as I have a thousand times since he died - he lived! His living is as important as how he died.
    This is where I come.
    This virtual community is the place where I find hope.
    We are here for each other.
    We are here for you.

  8. To Anonymous above......Thank you for your kindness.It helps to know others understand.

  9. Dear Anon One: I am so glad you come here when you feel you can't, or don't want to, go on. Because you will find all of us who have felt that way many a time right here...still living life one day at a time.
    Keep coming back (and when you can't sleep, read some old posts) because you will discover that each of our writers has frown, and changed, and survived, and even thrived. We are here for are all the readers too. One small step at a time.

    Anon Number two: Thank you for offering a candle of hope to another reader...what I love about this space is that we all make it by with a little help from our friends!

  10. To everybody,

    Thank you for being here. Michelle, thank you for being the force that allows us to lean on each other here, and for the beauty expressed in your writing. Today is an anniversary date, one of so many, and I'm having a hard time. Reading all of this, as well as the recent posts from all the bloggers has helped me. Love and hugs your way....

  11. Beautiful. You're not just OK, you're fabulous. I have almost reached six years without my husband. You express it all so beautifully. Like you, I think that being OK is a certain kind of challenge. It takes courage to allow yourself to be OK and to know it doesn't lessen the loss but lets the loss become something that adds depth to your living.