Sunday, July 31, 2011

Two Years Ago....

Two years ago, less than three months after he died, I went looking for him.
I remembered this today, as I made a to-do list. Things that need to happen before two of my three kids fly back east, without me.

Even now, the notion of looking for him makes sense.

So, I went back to the post I wrote on August 4, 2009.


The chair where he always sat by the water in Maine.

This place is saturated with him.

I awake from a bad dream and prefer to go back to it rather than acknowledge that the other half of the bed is empty.

It feels like it did in the beginning, raw and suffocating. I am steeped in disbelief. I am not here without him, I think. He’s in the kitchen.

And when he’s not there, I think he’s stretching in the living room.

And when I check and see the floor empty I think, he’s down by the water.

I walk down expecting to find his long legs stretched out, his head back, eyes closed, hands intertwined and resting on his flat belly, dressed in his red fleece to protect from the dewy morning.

And when I don’t see him there,
I sink into his chair
and sob.

This is that wave that my friend spoke about. The grief wave. It comes, up over my head and with magnificent force shoves me down to the bottom, smashing me. It lifts and tosses me until I don’t know which way is up. I am afraid to breath.

So I don't breath, I cry until I magically float to the top, where this time, there is not another wave waiting for me.

12:10, three hours after
looking for him.

Looking for him?
Searching for him. Like he might just be in this one other place, this one place I forgot to look. Against logic. I saw his dead body. Against common sense, why would he be here?

But I just had to check, to see, to make sure that he really wasn't there or here or maybe at the store. The chair by the water was the last place I knew he would be if he were still alive.

Now I sit on the porch of Blue Hill Books, unwrap my new journal and begin writing. My lungs fill with air that is filled with him.

I'm still breathing.

I remember that day. I remember the sadness and the surprise of my action. What I find so amazing now is that, just like my friend said it would, the pain is not sharp or forceful or even scary. There is a sense of loss, dull, like someone gently putting pressure on my back. Noticeable, but not distracting or overwhelming. I am surprised to find myself here.

In this place of acceptance and dare I say...okness?

I am relieved to find myself here.
Finally, a place where it doesn't hurt as much.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

But To

"He'd want you to keep on living." "He'd want you to be happy."

Oh, how those remarks we're scalpels to my ears when Michael first died. But, they kept coming, mouth after mouth, stranger after family member.

"But to live is to do something he can no longer do?!"

"But to be happy is to make the world believe our love no longer runs through my veins?!"

I remember those being my silent responses heard only in my brain.

4 years later and I see that my thoughts were the complete opposite. Time wiped away the preconceived notions built up in my broken mind and heart.

I'm alive. I'm happy. I've learned. I've created my rules.

But to live is to do something he would do anything to do once more, and I shall fulfill that for him.

But to be happy is to show the world just how deeply our eternal love continues to run through my veins.

Friday, July 29, 2011

touch me

I can handle being alone. Being "single" is just fine and I am often think that this is how I would prefer to live. Loading the dishwasher in the way I deem to be correct is truly satisfying. Dancing spastically in the kitchen while the kids sleep and not concerning myself with looking coordinated or even sexy is fabulous.

But not being having any physical contact with another adult human sucks. Badly.

In the months after Jeff died, people would hug me or rub my back as I stared blankly out a window. My daughter, five years old at the time, was perpetually snuggled next to me as she feared losing me in an instant as she had her beloved daddy. My one year old son was still breastfeeding and slept in my bed. Although I missed Jeff and every small thing about him, I was still often in close physical proximity to others.

After six months, the comforting embraces had dwindled and only my little ones continued to absentmindedly touch my skin and gently stroke my face as they surrendered to slumber.

I remember going to the hairdresser and blinking back tears as she softly brushed my hair. It was not erotic or sexual in any sense....It was just that at that moment, I was worthy of being touched by another human being.

Occasionally, my sweet friend would offer her husband up for a hug as he was large and burly like Jeff had been. I know it terrified him, but I would desperately sob into his chest as I imagined being held by Jeff's safe and strong arms. It was horribly humbling to be embraced by someone who was doing so, not because they desired this, but out of obligation to their wife....and embarrassing. But I still accepted those hugs.

Now, three years later, I am quite happy being on my own. I enjoy making my own decisions and choosing which path our little family should follow. I am comfortable with my own company and am truly never bored.

But, at times, I ache to be touched. To have someone push back the hair from my cheek or nonchalantly brush my arm with theirs. Just to have another person value my physical presence and find me attractive enough to want to touch me. I want to smell someone's neck as they embrace me within their strong arms....not out of duty to their wife, but because they want to.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My "Mr Right"

I recently heard about another widow I know …widowed after me … she has found someone new.

She is quite in love.

This makes me sad.

Not about her happiness.
Just that I am nowhere NEAR being there. I don’t even want to look for someone new, even though I just want to be happily married again Right Now.
….but I want to be happily married to Greg.
Nobody else will do.

I guess it is good that I know myself well enough to see that I am not ready. That I would only be using another person as a crutch...
... expecting characteristics and quirks that only belong to Greg and me...
...expecting another person to drag me out of this hell.

I know I will never be that same, undamaged person I used to be.
That's OK.
....But I do want to be comfortable in my own skin.
Comfortable with my own abilities to steer us through this life.
I want to be able to give as much as I get from someone new....

I’m Not there.
Not yet.

When I met Greg, I had a deal with God that I’d have a thumping realisation when I met my “Mr Right”. I’d had enough of rubbish boyfriends and I didn’t want to spend any more time with people who were … well … just NOT right for me.
So at the tender age of 22, I had sworn off men until I got that kick, that thump, that nod from above that *This One* was my Mr Right.
… and frankly, Greg couldn’t have come with any more bells and whistles.
It was almost like he was wearing a flashing neon sign saying “I’m Mr Right”.
It was obvious to both of us from the minute we met.... obvious to everyone else at that party too....
.....we were Meant To Be.

So what worries me is that while I’m here, forsaking all others, pining after a dead man …. that I may miss the next flashing neon light. But it’s a risk I will have to take, and just have faith in my gut feeling that I won’t be alone for the remaining (50?) years of my life.

I just hope that the next good man to come into my life remembers to wear his "Mr Right" name badge so I recognise him.....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Weirdly Emotional ....

(This is a post I wrote 10 months after Jim died.  It still applies.)

                           This is one of those pictures that doesn't need any words about love.  It's there.

     OK, let me just warn you upfront.  This is going to be a weird post.  I'm going to try to explain something that I felt yesterday but I don't really know how to explain it, and I wonder how many people are just going to think I'm some weirdo.  I've already told you that I have difficulty stating my emotions, so this post is huge.  Well, for me.  Probably not  for you.

     Yesterday while I was sitting in that chair, having my roots canaled (or rather, having my canals un-rooted), I suddenly felt very emotional.  It was all I could do to stare at the ceiling very, very hard, so that I wouldn't cry.  And since I spent the rest of my energy trying to keep my palms from sweating, that effort was extremely difficult.
Here's the "hard to describe" part:  the endodontist sat on my right and had to work on the left side of my mouth (strenuously, as I already told you) and so my face was turned in to him.  He had his left arm around my head and it worked from the left side of my mouth.  His right hand, of course, worked on the right side of my mouth.  But the way we were both positioned made my head almost laying against his chest.  Not quite, but only about a millimeter from it.  
And suddenly, I realized how much physical contact I have been missing.  
Before I go any further (and I'm trying not to cry now), get your minds out of the gutter!  I am not talking about sex, I'm talking about just being that close to Jim.  Just resting my head against his chest.  Just having his arm around me.  Just having him hug me.  Or hold my hand.  It was another one of those blows right to the gut. It hit me very quickly -- I never saw it coming.  And there I lay --- his arms wrapped around my head, my mouth pried open and several gadgets protruding from it ..... and tried to keep control of myself so that I didn't scare the poor man and his assistant and make them think they'd done something horribly wrong.
I was very proud of myself for keeping it all together.
But sometimes, when you keep it all together for a while, there comes a time when you suddenly don't.
This is that time.
I miss his touch.

Like a Hurricane

It’s been 812 days since I last kissed my angel. After she was diagnosed, we were lucky to live life large for 850 days. Like so many other difficult things (dealing with chemo treatments, watching her deteriorate over time, holding her that day, her death, living without her), it is so hard to get my head around how much time has passed; it’s been nearly as many days as I’ve coped with It happening as days we coped with It coming, denial and all.

The start of this journey, just before January 5, 2007 (the day she was diagnosed) can be compared to the intro of a Michael Bay action movie with a slow-motion, stop-action film capture of an explosion:
Frame 1 (very early December 2006): A little flash.
Frame 2 (early December): Hmmm... That little flash is getting bigger.
Frame 3 (mid December): That’s no spark. It’s a FIRE!
Frame 4 (late December): Oh my gosh! Something is very wrong!
Frame 5 (very late December): WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??
Frame 6 (January 5, 2007): OH MY GOD!

The next weeks were absolute misery. But after the shock and after the surgery and after the first chemo treatment (which thankfully started working immediately), things started to get better. She was stronger. She wasn’t in the hospital. She wasn’t dead. We were still together. I won’t call it nirvana but I’ll sure call it a time that we were both very, very happy to be together. Maybe it was borrowed time. But nonetheless, things got a lot better compared to the first few opening frames of the movie. And that was how it all started: with a bang that just about knocked us down and broke us. Then we began rebuilding.

Little did we know that we didn’t just survive some big explosion. No. What we really had done is survive one wall of the hurricane. And for a good long while, we lived, love and played innocently inside the eye of that hurricane. The weather there was nice and the company was wonderful. I wish we could have stayed there forever. Then the other wall of that hurricane hit us and hit us hard. It was relentless until…. Well, you know how that ended.

The day It happened I was numb and tired and had nothing to give other than just give up. The waves of the hurricane had bashed me about and beaten me into passivity. I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I was numb. Even physical pain didn’t hurt any more. I just didn’t care. What could life possibly throw at me that even compared to the pain that I was feeling? I wished I could sink into the ocean and just dissolve.

Somehow unnoticed, time passed. Months, even. When I came to, I found myself lying on some floating debris, one arm holding on while my body dangled into the still thrashing ocean. I was tired, dazed, angry, sad, and still didn’t care if I lived or died. At best I was conscious only part of the time. Days and nights smeared together while wave after wave of salty, cold water stung my eyes, choked me and threatened to dislodge me from my float. I didn't fight. Why should I? My love was gone. What reason was there to live?

More time passed. Months, even. Eventually I found myself floating near a beach, neck deep in water and feet dragging on the bottom. I was sore, covered in deep wounds, emaciated, and confused. Waves still pushed and pulled me up and down, forward and back while I choked on the briny water. My body was numb but my eyes were clearer now; I could see what looked like a shore. Despite being tossed about, I put one foot down flat against the sand and pushed. I took my first step. Then I fell.

But my first step turned into my second. And my second into my third. Every other step was a trip or a slip back into the cold water. Coral sliced my feet. Waves choked my breathing and stung my eyes. But I kept putting my feet down, one after another, and pushing, while still holding onto that debris to keep me afloat. As I stepped, the water became not neck deep but chest deep. The coral still sliced my feet almost every step. And the shore slowly inched closer. But I still fell often. I was exhausted.

Today, 812 days after It happened, I’m lying on a sand bar alone covered in bruises with bleeding feet looking out at the horizon and the waves wondering what the hell just happened. I remember it all but it seems like a dream. I’m thirsty and hungry. I hurt so much but nothing’s broken. I’m scared and confused. I still don’t care if I live or die. I have no idea where I’m at or how the hell I’m going to get back to… back where? Back to where? Where is home now? For the last 812 days, my life has been the ocean, the waves, the sand and that very, very special piece of debris I clanged to which saved my life. Where is home now? Even if I knew where and even if I made it there, she wouldn’t be there. So I sit here on this sand bar, alone, wondering, what do I do now.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Look of Love.

I have been missing Michael terribly today. I'm not sure why, but it was one of those days where my heart just didn't want to accept that he is indeed gone.

Throughout the day I kept picturing him looking deep into my eyes. I kept feeling his gaze, and kept sensing his touch. It will be two years in September, yet these days still arrive where I can't make sense of the fact that he is no longer here with me. I just kept asking myself over and over, why?

I hate when I get like this, because it feel pointless. It happened. Move on.

On my usual Sunday drive back from visiting my folks I was listening to some CD's I threw into the car. One that I hadn't listened to in awhile was Shelby Lynne's "Just a Little Lovin'." It's one of my favorites, as it combines Shelby's sultry voice with a collection of songs from one of my all time favorites, Dusty Springfield. As I was getting lost in song after song, I realized that I was falling deeper and deeper into the abyss of longing.

At one point my daughter removed her headphones from the iPod that she was listening to, and asked who was singing. I began telling her about taking Michael to see Shelby Lynne in concert. As I spoke I realized that it was the last concert, and likely one of the last night's out, that we had together. I remember him sitting next to me, smiling, and moving to the music. I remember looking over at him and seeing those beautiful eyes focused on my own.

It was such a simple, yet touching moment, as Shelby sang those words, "the look, of love..." which took Michael and I to a place of bliss. I knew I wouldn't have him much longer, but I was so happy in that moment. I was feeling so much love for him, and blessed to have his love in return.

Then those final words.

Don't ever go.
Don't ever go.
I love you so.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


my daughter Pallas (2nd from the left) and her friends

She says to me “Kim, you’re important. Other widows want to meet you. They ask if you will be there.”

I was talking to Michele, the founder of this blog, Camp Widow, Widow’s Village and Soaring Spirits Foundation.

She was trying to convince me to come to widow camp.

I wasn’t going. Even though I live just two hours away.
I wasn’t going.

I’m important, I whispered to myself. I’m important.
I matter to other people.
I had not felt that way since…
Art died.

The moment Art died I felt like I mattered less.
Like the space I took up in this world was not nearly as important as the space others take up.

I was not a wife anymore.
As a wife I knew I mattered to one other adult. I mattered a lot to him.

As a widow there is no one to call to say “I’m on my way home.”
There is no one to worry about me, or worry with about the kids.
My day doesn’t matter to other people.
They guy who cut me off matters less.
The great deal I got on a dress doesn’t really matter either.
My life and all it’s little insignificant happenings does not matter to anyone else.
It would take days for anyone to realize that the kids and I were gone…or dead.
Without a husband I questioned my matterness.

And it was not until Michele spoke the opposite of what I believed that I saw how I carried around that little belief. I carried it around as sure as I carry around my kids were born from me, that Obama is our president and that I will wake up tomorrow and it will be Sunday.

I don’t matter as much now that I don’t have some to matter to.

That belief just sits there,
I matter less with no one else to share my life with.

And the thing is I didn’t realize that was my belief until I spoke with Michele.

“I matter,” I whisper again, this time just a little bit louder.
The funny thing is:
if I take a really close look at my life.
if I am honest about who I have become since Art gave me the gift of his death
if I really look at it, I matter more
than I did when he was alive.

And if this is true for me, then it is true for many of us widow’s too.

We matter.
We matter to each other.
Every blog that is discovered at 3:23 am, when a widow is terrified of what has happened to her or him,

The comments that widows leave, the open, honest, "me too" comments that are left and read by THOUSANDS

The visitors, lurkers, outsiders

We all matter! It just doesn’t look the same way it did before our partners died.
Heck it doesn’t look the way we were taught it was supposed to look, dead partner or not.

I matter
You matter.

So when you see me at Camp Widow, or out and about in LA, come up and give me a hug.

I need it. I need to be reminded that I matter.
And my guess is you need to be reminded that

I think we all do.

Saturday, July 23, 2011



One of the things I started after Michael died was our "Date Night's".

It usually consists of a movie and a five course dinner with wine pairings throughout it.

It's amazing. From "Birds" to all three "Lord of the Ring" to "Chocolat" I sit there with an empty sets next to me and savor every moment.

But, as I've embraced life once more, I've found time sailing faster and faster by. So when I saw that there was a Harry Potter Feast for the last part of "The Deathly Hollows" I didn't blink an eye to buy the ticket.

As the film was winding down and the fourth course was being served a prominent sense of pure perfection and bliss took me over (equating to watery eyes at a very non-watery eye moment).

I sat there and soaked every second of this feeling in, reminding myself that it is always attainable, that it never left me, that there is so much beauty and love in different forms that take over your being to remind you why you're alive.

I turned to the empty seat next to me and placed my hand on it as the credits started to roll in.

I smiled some more and knew that all was right in the world at that moment. He was there like he always is, never leaving my side, never letting me forget that I not only live for him but for me too.

Lord Voldemort: Why do you live?
Harry Potter: Because I have something worth living for.

Friday, July 22, 2011

return of the numbness

Photo from here...

Written four months after Jeff's death....

I don't know if it's normal to have the vague fuzzy feeling like thinking through a pillow re-emerge four months after a death happens. But it has. I feel as if I'm trying to catch glimpses of things as I spin in circles. I can see that things are there but the edges blur and smudge together. I'm late for things all the time...okay, even later than I was before. I can't keep my bloody mind 'on task' and forget where/what I was doing or going.
It was getting better. Maybe it was the large whiteboard that I stationed in the living room to help remind me of the obligations that need attending to. Maybe I was beginning to heal a minute amount (this is what I was hoping).
But whatever reprieve I had from the chaos and confusion of a muddled mind has ended. Fuck. It makes me crabby. I always think I am forgetting something (which I am) and I can't rest or let my mind cease the constant flurry of thought. It's a numb, yet intense feeling. Like walking barefoot through really deep, COLD mud. Slow but sharp.
My only reasoning for this is that grief is not a steady road upward. There are twists, setbacks and road-blocks. I've hit a big-ass speed bump.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My name is Amanda and this is my story...

I met my soul-mate on February 6, 1993: it was love at first sight. Greg was the fun-loving, farm-boy to my shy, inquisitive city-girl. He was an engineer who loved all things mechanical and I was in the midst of my PhD in eco-botany. We just clicked straight away and seemed always to know what the other was thinking.

We married in 1997 and after living and working in the tropical paradise that is Australia’s north for a few years, we eventually settled down to married life, buying a house and having our precious daughter in 2002 and wonderful son in 2004.

I was so happy and lucky and loved and I took it all for granted.

Now I am someone different: I am a widow. The man I love beyond breath was killed in a car accident whilst carrying out his normal duties at work on March 1, 2010 – the same day I began my new career as a teacher. He was 47 years and 5 days old; I turned 40 a month later. If it wasn’t for my sheer determination to keep going in the weeks and months that followed, the mawing pit of grief would have swallowed me whole. But I have stubbornly refused to give in to despair, instead pouring my grief into my personal blog.

Today, most of me remains... I am still a Mum to two beautiful children. I am still a teacher. I still am a botanist. I still love Australian native plants and gardens. I still have fantastic friends. My brain still functions on a reasonably good level (short-term memory is a bit wonky though). I still love Holden cars and meat pies and good people everywhere. I still love the beach and the bush and I still love a good laugh.

But I find myself turning into someone new ... I find myself showing more kindness as I have been shown kindness. I find myself seeking out the hearts of others and hearing their story. …and I know one important truth: true love never dies.

Widow’s Voice was one of the first blogs I found in the months after being widowed in 2010 and I am honoured to be taking part in this wonderful project. I know I have such big shoes to fill as the wonderful Matt moves on to bigger and better things, and I join with some truly amazing men and women who are also walking this horrible road of widowhood. I hope that I have something useful to say, something worthwhile, something that resonates with other people here and helps us all to feel that little bit less alone. Thank you Michele for inviting me and thank you all for welcoming me here.

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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Sorry for another movie reference, but this one has been on my mind. Remember the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks? I was reminded of this movie just last week because of a dream I had. Remember how in the movie he returns after being presumed dead for years? His girlfriend of many years has married, and she now has a child, a family...she's moved on. He's devastated, and so is she. I remember watching that movie years before I could imagine her loss, and thinking how horrible that would be. In a way I experienced her conundrum last week.

I dreamed Daniel came back to life - and in my dream I was trying to figure out how to explain him to Carl. He already knew about Carl (he'd been watching from Heaven), and didn't need an explanation. It was surreal. Although I never actually saw Daniel in my dream (he had scheduled a meeting with me but we'd not yet met), I was aware that he expected me to make a choice. I was pissed really. I was pissed at him. How dare he come back after all these years and think he could ask me to choose? In the dream I was also waiting for his judgment on how I'd been living my life without him. I was angry in the dream, and it stayed with me after I woke up. It took me a couple of hours after I woke up to shake the thought of it.

It was interesting to consider the possibility. What would he think of who I am now? I'm different. My life without him has changed me, losing him changed me. How much I can't really say, but I know that the new me is a better me in some ways - stronger, more self-sufficient, more focused; and in other ways maybe not better - less tolerant of bullshit, more direct in my communication (not always in a good way), harder, less cautious. He might not approve of the new me, but I think he probably would. What's most important now is that I approve, and thankfully, most days I do.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I'm sitting here, Sunday night, and watching the old Steven Spielberg film, Always. It's one of those films we widowed people try to avoid, especially in the first year. I'm not in my first year, more like at 22 months, but who's counting.

This is one of those films that I remember enjoying, but never really thought to watch again. So, the details of the film escaped me when I tuned in tonight. A pilot dies, leaving his girlfriend widowed, and is sent back to help guide another, younger, pilot. What the pilot doesn't realize is that he is not necessarily sent back to help the young man become a better pilot, he is sent back to help the young man heal the heart of his widowed girlfriend, through new love.

Interesting timing. As many of you know I have just started dating again. For some it may seem soon, but at 22 months, I find that I need something new in my life. Not surprising really, as most of my widowed journey has been about seeking that which is new. It's not the recommended route, nor is it the easiest route. I'm well aware that my grief remains, and that there is still much for me to work through. But, what I also know well, is me. I know what works for me. At seven months into my grief I was feeling like ending it all. Not the safest best place to have been, and not something I share with everyone, yet something I do share with my widowed companions.

I remember that time as the darkest, and most painful, time of my life. I was grieving not just the loss of my husband, but the complete loss of hope. I had gone through so much in my adult life, especially with all the unexpected challenges of raising my three adoptive children. I realized that through some of my choices, and perhaps through some bad timing, I had remained single throughout most of my adult life. I often laid up alone at night, and wondered what it was like for married people. I wondered what it was like to sleep next to the person I loved every night. I wondered what it would be like to make love to the same person, night after night, week after week, and year after year. At some point in my life, I had actually given up hope that I would indeed meet that person.

Then one April evening, without any real expectation, I met Michael. It didn't take much time to know he was the one. And, it didn't take much time to know what I had been missing all of my adult life. You see, it was almost four years later, to the day, that I sat on the floor of my bedroom, with a choice to make. Succumb to the pain, or wake up the next morning with a new plan. That is when I made a plan to pack up my kids, leave my job, sell my home, and move on. It is what I needed. I knew that ultimately it would be the only way for me to survive. I made a choice that next morning to trust that I wasn't making this decision alone, and that I wouldn't be taking those steps alone as well.

Now I find myself out here, 22 months into this journey, knowing that it is time for me to take another step. I know that I need new love in my life, and that I have to go out and seek it. It is what he wanted for me, and I feel like he is once again here guiding me. Funny, there is no guilt. There is only a smile on my face, thinking about the way Michael's whole face would light up when he was filled with joy, or when he looked at me. I don't see him, yet I feel his smile. I feel the warmth of his gaze. It lights up my life.

This week I will be going on a second date. I'm excited, and I am nervous. I know what I had, and I know what I would like to have once again. I hope to maintain my optimism as I begin this phase of my life. I hope to find enjoyment in the process of meeting new guys, and I hope to remain open to the prospect of new love and romance.

For so long I thought I would never have true love.

For a short time I thought I would always have it.

For a time I thought I would never escape the pain of losing him.

For now, I realize that I will always have him, and his love.

I trust that he knew what was best for me, and that he wants me to choose love.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Grief from A Child

This is what Ezra has to say about grief. He wants you to pay attention. He's nine. He was 7 by three weeks when Art died. M=Mom, aka Kim

E: It's scary whenever I go to sleep because I’m afraid I will be dreaming about daddy.

M: Why do you not like that?

E: Cause then every morning I wake up and I realize that he’s never coming back and it’s really hard for me.

M: What do you miss about your dad?

E: I miss that everyone would say, “Oh your dad is so tall. I wish I had a dad like him!” and stuff like that.

M: What do you think about our new lives without him?

E: Everyone says that everything that happens on earth has a reason. And it’s really hard to believe that this has a reason.

M: What do you like about our lives now that you don’t have Daddy?

E: Come to think of it, I’m having a lot of new experience that I wouldn’t have if my dad was alive.

M: Like what?

E: One of the biggest experiences is not having dad.

M: What are your good days like?

E: I don’t know. I think about him. I have my mind on other stuff.

M: Do you have any advice for people who are grieving, adult or child?

E: If people say that they are in worse grief than you are, just say, "You know I don’t think you are." because there are different kinds of grief. So it may be they are in bigger grief than me but in a different way.

When people say that to me, I just think you don’t know how I feel, so how can you compare something when you don’t know what it is?

M: What is it like to watch me cry when I miss Daddy?

E: I have different feelings. Sometimes I feel like I let you down somehow. Sometimes I feel like I should just leave you alone because I’m not in too good a shape myself.

M: When you comfort me, how does that make you feel?

E: When I comfort you, it kind of comforts me. And also that’s why I like to play the piano sometimes. It’s another way to express myself without getting mad. It comforts me.

E: slyly. That’s why you should let me get on the piano more often.

M: Do you have any tips for widowed mothers?

E: When the kids say, “Leave me alone” the mother should. Cause a lot of times when we say, "Leave me alone." it’s just better to be left alone because it feels good to let your feelings out when you’re not with other people.

M: Ezra can I post this for other widow’s to read?

E: Well that’s why you’re writing it all down, isn’t it?

I love you Ezra. Thank you for teaching me what it's like to be you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


To put it simply...every action, every breath, every second of my life after Michael's death was one thing and one thing only...hard.

Okay, I should re-phrase....torture, painful, unbearable and hard to imagine surviving even a day.

But an amazing thing happened most things, it's something I've noticed in passing since becoming a widow, but after sitting on my sofa, enjoying a bowl of cereal, it hit me...

I have more easy than hard!

It took a simple action to see how easy it is in general to live my day-to-day life!

Yes, there are still some tragically painful moments, but I'm not always consumed by the hard...the stressful, the hurtful, the moments that leave me begging to join my love.

I like the easy that has creeped its way back to me...the simple...I never lost it, I think my heart just forgot how to handle it...but it's happening...the easy is taking its rightful place back in my lungs and heart...

It's easy to eternally love him...but now, it's easy to do that in the midst of my life here on earth....and secretly...deep down..I know it may not be because the aspect of life has changed (or even that all is truly easy), but my strength has.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The same??? a cranky rant

Image from here....

First posted on my personal blog on June 25th, 2008 (Three months after Jeff died) while still in the throws of "death anger"...

The kids and I went to a small toy store to find a little toy for Liv and Briar on our way to the wedding on Sunday. The saleswoman was one of those types that drive you insane while shopping by following you around and making comments on anything that holds your attention for longer than 3 seconds. She must have been curious about why we kept referring to ‘Daddy’ in the past tense. (Daddy didn’t like that. Daddy thought that was funny. Etc…) When I went up to pay, I explained that I was trying to find a few things to keep the kids busy while I was doing photography at a wedding. She says, “Well, where’s your husband?” Like it’s any of her business. What if he left us for some skanky, gymnast with a leashed pet bunny named Gerome? I just said, “He’s dead.” I’m so tired of the questions and the ridiculous euphemisms for death (passed away, left us, in heaven, etc.) I find if I just say ‘it’ they usually stop. Not this chick.

After getting past her questions about the circumstances relating to his death (I STILL have a hard time telling people that it’s none of their business and that I’d rather not talk about it to a total stranger, she begins this fucking stupidly long story about her grandfather’s death in a car accident when she was 3 years old. I didn’t quite understand why she was telling me all of this. Now, I don’t doubt that her grandfather’s sudden death caused her family a lot of pain and that it was hard for her family. But she then says to me, “So I totally know what you’re going through.” Huh?

I fail to see very many parallels in these two events other than that they were both males and they died suddenly. UNLESS:
- She was over say age…..5.
- She was in love with her grandfather and not in the grandfathery sort of way.
- They had children.
- Her and her grandfather’s children were there when he died.
I could go on, but I am sure that someone will take offence to this anyhow and I think you probably get my point.

I think often people don’t know what to say and so they just spout off the first experience that they’ve had with death and assume that it’s all the same. Maybe after I left, she thought “God, I’m a dumbass.” But I doubt it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"where are you from?"

that's a question

i used to get asked

a lot in my previous life,

(you know, the one before my wife died)

it was either preceded by,

or sometimes followed by,

"what do you do?"

in my current life,

it matters less where

i'm from & what i do...

what's more important,

especially to others

like me

(like us),

are questions like,

"what happened?"


"how did you get here?"


"how long has it been?"

it's weird for me

to consider that

the questions that

used to be normal

parts of a

"getting to know you" conversation

are now asked as an

afterthought, or aren't

asked at all.


that got me to thinking

about how unimportant

our location is

in all of this.

of course

there are many significant

differences for widows/ers

in different places,

(including how some of us are supported both emotionally and financially after the death of our partners, among many other things)

but where we're located

is less important

in this community

than our personal stories

of love, death, happiness, sadness

and all that follows.

and the differences that

naturally exist between

us because of

where we're from

(which is a huge part of who we are)

dissolve pretty quickly

when there's a unifying

force in our

lives like death.

and as much as it

sucks that we

all have this,

the death of a partner,

as such a huge

and defining

part of our lives,

it's pretty fucking awesome

that we have each other,

no matter where

we're from...

(also, this is my last post for the widow's voice blog. it's time for another voice to take my place, a voice that needs to be heard, a voice that happens to be from australia. please welcome amanda each thursday as she shares her life with you. and thanks for reading my ramblings over the years. the comments you've left for me have helped me immensely, and i can only hope that my words have had even a nominal impact on you. more importantly, i hope that the writing you've read by all of the writers on this blog has made you feel less alone as you navigate through the life you never wanted. i encourage all of you to write down your thoughts, even if no one else ever reads them. writing has helped me more than i ever could have imagined, and i'm pretty sure it can do the same for you).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not Everything is Black & White ....

.... nor all black or all white.

In fact, I'm going to step out on a limb here and say .... that nothing is just black and/or white.
Well, except for grief.
Parts of grief.

In the beginning (and actually longer) my grief was black.
Solid black.
Cold, inky black.

I've been in caves before.  You know, under ground, deep and cold caves.
And there have been times when I've been on a tour of a cave and the guide turned all of the lights off, so that we could experience the solid, black darkness.
That darkness doesn't hold a candle to the cold, lonely, smothering, black grief that enveloped me, that seemed to seep into and out of every pore of my body.
That blackness blinded me to anything in front of me, any thought of what might lie ahead .... or of any notion of a future.  Not even a future of one minute.
But I guess I don't have to tell you that, right?
And anyway, I digress.

The older I get, and I suppose the more "experienced" I become with life (I think that's a very kind way of putting "the more suckiness I encounter in my life"), the more I realize that nothing really is black & white.
And I am also learning that I guess that's a mostly good, though not very comfortable, thing.
People are not all black nor all white (no matter what they might tell you).
Situations are not all black or all white.
Rules are not always black and white.
And grieving .... wow, grieving is anything but all black and white.
No matter what people may tell you.

If you ever hear anything like that coming out of someone's mouth .... I'd bet they have never, ever grieved.
There are no rules.
There is no magical "one year" mourning period.
I don't know anyone who woke up on day 366, took off their mourning clothes to put on some color and were miraculously "all better".
Part of me wishes that it were like that.
As easy as that ..... put in 365 days of hard grieving .... and then be done, walk out .... like walking out of prison.
One day you're in .... the next day you're out.
Although I would imagine that ex-cons have a lot of baggage to deal with once they're out, too.
See?  Nothing is black and white.

One would think that the longer "out" one gets from the date of being widowed, the easier everything becomes.
Wouldn't one?
Well, if one were not widowed, one would.
We, however, know that it's not quite that simple.
Not that quite ..... black and white.

Yes, some things get "easier".
I actually think that we get stronger and so our grief is easier to carry.
But then something happens .... for whatever reason, or .... for no reason at all.
Like .... July the 4th.
When I was driving to a friend's house and it occurred to me that in 5 months I will be 4 years "out".
And I almost had to pull over to stop and regain some sort of control of my mind ... and body.

The moment that thought .... that number .... went through my head, it was like a bolt of lightening had searingly jolted my brain.
My heart started beating way too rapidly and I could feel my blood pressure going up.
I could also feel my stomach lurching as fast as my heart was racing.

Four years.
Those two words sound .... obscene to me.
Truly, horrifically obscene.
Like .... that should not be allowed.
It should not be four years since I last held Jim's hand.
Since I last kissed him good bye .... not knowing, or even suspecting, that it really was good bye.
It should not be four years since any of his children have seen his smile, have heard his encouragement.

Four years.

Not so much.

I wouldn't have guessed that.
But then .... I've learned not to "guess" too much anymore .... about anything.
Or anyone.

Because nothing ..... is black and white.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Winnie the Pooh on Grieving

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

-Winnie the Pooh

Always be with me….. I really hope so. But I know her and her curious, wandering ways and know that it’s much more likely that she’s off exploring the wonders of wherever she may be. Sure, I’ll bet she checks back occasionally but she’s busy, busy, busy learning, reorganizing, teaching, and talking. I don’t take any offense to that. Heck, no, that’s part of her special sauce and part of why I fell in love. She was so… alive.

Time has smudged up my memory of her and I’m sad for reasons that you can understand but others can’t. But rather than be sad or deep or whatever is my proclivity, I have a list of questions that have been on my mind lately:

- Is she really with me always, hanging around, watching what I do? Or is she off doing her own thing and I really am alone?
- Do our puppies remember her? If they do, do they miss her? Do they recognize her smell on anything and wonder, “Hey, where’d Mom go?”
- If she’s with me, can she hear my thoughts or do I have to talk out loud for her to hear me?
- Can she change things or make things happen? Does she?
- What would her life be right now if I was dead and she was me? Would she be dating? Would she have thrown my clothes away? What things of mine would she have kept? Would she be happy?
- If she’s seen all that I’ve done (because she’s been hanging around checking on me) is she upset with anything I’ve done or not done?
- Are my memories of her going to continue to fade until she’s just a reflection of the pictures that I have of her?
- If/when I find another love, will my mind confuse how it felt to hold her with how it feels to hold my new love? Will my hands remember what it was like to hold the back of her neck or the small of her back? Can I let go enough to ever be ok with that?
- What do I do with her shoes? Purses?
- Why don’t any of our friends mention her name?
- Why is it worth living if when you die no one talks about you anymore?

I miss her so much. It makes me even more sad that no one seems to miss her as much as I do. And the people that know how much I miss her act as though my continued pining for my sweet wife is a sad failure, like I’m not doing my part to move forward. Maybe I’m not.

What would Winnie say? Oh yeah:

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
-Winnie the Pooh

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dating Again.

table for two

Well, last week I wrote about visualizing change. In fact, "Visualizing Change" was the title of concurrent posts both here and on my personal blog. I thought it appropriate to discuss the issue in both forums, as I wanted to feel like I carefully explored what I was wanting and what I was feeling.

The subtitle to my personal blog is "one gay man's journey through love, life and grief," so I feel like it is appropriate to be sharing each step of this change. I have shared my grief, so now it's time to share other developments in my life, including my quest for possible new love. I tend to be a man of action. If I say I'm going to do it, then I must be ready to follow through. Well, for those who visited my blog recently, you might have seen that I in fact took that first step.

First Date.

It was the first date in 5 years. I don't think the time described is what is actually most significant, as even if it had been less time, or more time, it would still have been a monumental step for any of us. It's about feeling ready to open the door to possibility. It's about presenting yourself to another person, from where you are at this point, and with all the expected baggage.

For me, it meant showing up. Not just in person, but emotionally. I had to be available to let someone in, if only for a short time, and if only for a guarded look. What I found was that I was indeed ready. Now, the first step I took was to not over think it. I made the choice to put myself out there, and someone voiced interest. That was enough to let me know that the timing was right. And, a first date is just that, a first. There was no need to worry too much about expectations, and there are usually very little of them the first time out, at least for me that is. I approached this as an opportunity to sit across the table from another adult, enjoy a nice dinner that I didn't have to cook, and to share in some mutually satisfying conversation.

My fist date didn't mean I was committing to anything other than having this introduction. It didn't mean that I was going to marry this person. It didn't mean that I needed to fit in with his family and friends. And, it didn't mean that I had to be sexualy compatable with this person. All of these thoughts and concerns are what will get played out if I continue to see this, or any other, new person. So, putting those worries aside, I realized that the first date was not very scary at all.

I won't get into the personal details of the person I met with, or too much about the conversation, as I don't want to ever make him, or others, feel that anything that happens around me will end up on some blog. What I can say was that our dinner conversation was primarily a very intense conversation about God. Yes, God. Now that I reflect back on it, I'm sure that is the last topic that many Americans would expect two gay men to be discussing out on a first date. By the end of our dinner, he asked what I thought. I said that I enjoyed our conversation, and that the subject was one that I both enjoy, and feel comfortable, talking about. Yet, I also said that after this somewhat intellectual conversation, that I didn't really have a good sense of who he was, and that perhaps he didn't have a good idea of who I was.

We chose to go somewhere else, and just sit and talk. And that's exactly what we did, for an additional two hours. I now feel like he can make a good assessment about my potential for a platonic or romantic relationship. I can now do the same. Yet, I am also quite aware that I have no need to make any quick decisions, as I'm in no hurry to define, or limit, the types of relationships I am developing for myself.

Will I see him again. Yes, if that is what we both want.
Will I see others as well. Yes, as that is what I want.

The change I was visualizing has room for many people. The change that I am visualizing has room for many types of relationships.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Did He Die?

I’m at the bank, not my usual branch.
Comments are made about how tall my youngest is.
“He’s only 9?”
I nod.
What I want to do is roll my eyes, and hand her a card that says:

“Thank you for noticing that my child is tall. Hopefully he will be a tall man some day. I have trained him to smile and say “Thank you,” even though he has nothing to do with how tall he is or how tall he will be. Now kindly stop ogling and either lets finish our business or be on your way.”

That’s what the card would say.

But I haven’t printed it up yet so instead I say:

“Yes, he is tall. My husband was 6’6.”

I use past tense easily now, forgetting how ominous it sounds. When their eyes go wide, I assume, for an instant that it’s in response to my husband’s height. Silly me.

The conversational tone changes from light to tragic. Their realization that in front of them is a woman whose life truly is tragic. “Did you say your husband ‘was’?”

Here we go.

“Yes. I did. My husband died.” And depending on the situation I sometimes add ‘recently.’

And then it comes, the stupidest question ever…

“How did he die?”
Or if they have a modicum of politeness, it’s:
“Do you mind me asking how he died?”

Now here is my quandary.

I do mind. Now I do.

When he first died, I would recount the story in detail. Somehow telling it over and over again and getting the same reactions over and over again put more and more earth beneath my feet, a place where I could say “this is where I stand now, without a husband.”

Then right around the second year, I noticed that telling my story began to feel old. I felt like my piece of earth was fairly solid. I had tamped it down and built it up. It was called “my new life: the expected bad, ugly and the surprisingly good.”

As I stepped into my third year, (OMG my third year….. I remember in the beginning not being able to imagine what it would be like to live that long without him!) Wow.

As I stepped into my third year, I find the question intrusive. And voyeuristic and well, like I’m adding to their gossip mill.

Isn’t it enough that my husband died? If I tell them he died of cancer, unless they have experienced loosing someone to cancer, they will have a way-not-accurate-image of his last moments on this earth that will probably include him looking deeply into my eyes and him saying a few final words before his last breath is taken. Or something that is so, so far from the truth!

I have to admit. It’s the kind of question I would have asked before I was on this side of death. It’s the kind of thing I would have listened intently too, shaken my head. Then later, maybe months later, I would have shared with an authoritative tone in my voice “I met this woman who lost her husband to cancer and she said…….”

That would have been me. Missing the whole point. Because it’s not how he died that matters. It’s the fact that he’s dead that matters.

And this is what I want to tell someone when they ask.

“Its not about what killed him. What makes it so difficult is that he’s dead.”

So I resolve to use that line. I resolve to not tell anyone how he died.
From here on out, when someone asks me “how” I will reply:

“It’s not what killed him that matters, it’s the fact that he is dead that is so difficult.”

And in that resolution, I leave the house the next day.
And I find myself in a random conversation with a random person in line at the grocery store.

Out slips “He was … “

“Oh!” she says “Is your husband dead? “

“Yes.” I reply

“Was he shot?”

I give up.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sometimes Healing Hurts

When a friend is sick you hope they will get well soon. If you know someone who has cancer, you might pray fervently for them to be cured. After you've had surgery, a friend might call to tell you they hope you will heal quickly, but what about when someone dies. What do we wish then?

After Phil's death I feared getting better. I didn't want to get over it, move on, allow time to heal me, or be grateful that Phil was in a better place. Frankly, getting better sounded like forgetting, getting over it was impossible, moving on implied leaving a time when Phil was a part of my world, time as a concept wasn't doing much for me, and I couldn't think of a better place for Phil than in my arms. None of the things people said to me about healing or recovery were in any way comforting. In fact, they were horrifying. I will confess...I was afraid everyone around me would assume I didn't love Phil all that much if I could recover from losing him.

So I quietly wallowed in sorrow. I found all the tender spots on my heart and poked them regularly. I covered my office in photos of Phil, using them like wallpaper. I was always on the look out for signs, and would cry on the way home from a run if Phil didn't visit me. I avoided expanding my world, because I didn't want to leave behind the one Phil occupied with me. Often I wondered if I was doing this widow thing right.

What would it mean if I laughed? How could I enjoy a party? Why should I be merry? God forbid I should go on a date. In my mind all these things screamed, "Over it!". But there were a few things I didn't know. All the nights of crying myself to sleep, going home alone from a family gathering, grocery shopping solo, climbing into my empty bed, eating by myself in a restaurant, and finding my way in the world of single parenting have taught me that pain is actually an agent of healing. Grief drops us into the burning inferno of shattering loss, and day-by-day the fuel for the fire burns down. Each painful experience is the burning of another piece of timber, until we have lived through one more thing we thought might kill us. And it didn't, again. Bit by painful bit, we blaze through the hurt, the anger, the loss, the fear until we find that we aren't afraid of healing anymore. Because healing doesn't mean forgetting. Instead true recovery from a loss as life altering as this creates embers that light our illumination that only grows brighter with time.

And so the dreaded phrase, "Time heals all wounds," actually does mean something. It just doesn't mean what I thought it meant. I expected that the passing of time would facilitate healing, that each day would be a little less painful than the last. Following this logic, we might even expect to be healed by a certain date. Of course you are all laughing at me right now and telling your computer that I am crazy, because it just doesn't work like that. And you are right, it doesn't. But time gives us the opportunity to burn our personal grief fuel. One experience at a time the timber of grief pops and blazes, and each day we emerge from the fire. Burned perhaps, raw for sure, dazed on occasion...but walking through the smoky haze to begin again tomorrow nonetheless. At the end of each haze filled day it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about how you heal or when. There is no right way to be a widow. Instead there are just survivors who face the flames of loss armed with the shield of love, and hope for the day when the embers that remain when grief has burned its seemingly endless fuel provide the light through which they see the rest of the world.