Monday, January 2, 2012


from here

My latest realization about this process is that somehow I haven't emerged (yet) from this tragedy with a more negative outlook on life. If I had, I think it'd be pretty understandable. And to be honest, I'm not sure how positively I'd handle any additional tragedy in this stage of the process. But based on the progress I've made so far, I can clearly see that I actually have LESS negativity than I had before.

I truly don't know how this is possible. I also don't dare to think that this state of mind will always be. One thing I CAN count on is the roller coaster of emotions this process entails. I might be able to say that I have a positive outlook now, but a minute, day, week, month, or a year or more from now, I might be in a completely different state of mind. However, looking at the past 7 months, I can see how hope was there all along even when I didn't recognize it. It was hope that got me from one day to the next when I wasn't able to sleep, eat or think from the shock. It was hope that things wouldn't always feel as terrible as they did in the first few months that kept me afloat.

And now, it is hope that keeps me from packing it all in and giving up. I have stubborn hope that there's more out there for me. More love, more chances, more joy, more excitement.

There is another part of me that will probably always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. After experiencing what I did in June, I know even more than I did before how bad things can get. I remember a moment in the car on the way to the ER the day Dave was admitted when I said out loud to myself "Lightning CAN'T strike you a THIRD time. The odds are in your favor". Whoo boy was I wrong on that one. So now, there is a tendency to think that the next tragedy is just out there, waiting for me. I'm sure that when (not if, WHEN) life begins to feel peaceful and joyous again, there will be a part of me wondering when the bad stuff will rear its head again.

But, somehow that pig-headed optimism that good is out there for me, has been, overall, winning the fight in my mind and heart. If it hadn't, I don't think I'd have gone to Camp Widow at 2 months out, or made so many new, wonderful friends, or taken a year off of work to sort out my feelings, or run a 5K, or gone to concerts, or considered selling my house and moving or traveled. 

I could easily hunker down and isolate myself in my grief and opt out of life based on what it's dished up for me so far, but I haven't. I haven't settled for a restricted life based on fear and sadness.

This is not to say that decisions I've made or will make are not fear-based anymore, or that I won't do anything out of sheer sadness and grief. I know I will. I also am aware that I will look back on this time and realize that I wasn't fully emotionally stable yet and my mind wasn't yet fully functional.

But, upon reflection, I think I chose life much more often than not. I chose to live life as big as I could manage and plan to continue to do so, whenever I can.

Maybe this was partly due to my inherent will to keep going and kicking ass, but I'm convinced it had a lot to do with how my loved ones held me up when I couldn't hold myself up. Knowing they were there to catch me at every possible turn in this road kept me stronger than if I'd walked alone. There is no doubt in my mind that they were and are crucial to my survival.

However, at the end of the day, it's just me living for me now. The new me is emerging from the ashes. I keep getting little glimpses of perspective on how far I've come and how much farther I have to go. Even if I had spent the last 7 months hiding out in my house, it would be completely understandable. But I didn't. I didn't consider it an option. Some sort of blind and incredibly stubborn will to live kicked in and I chose life and all its inherent fears and beauty.

I am scared shitless, yes.
I'm also not done fighting. Not even close.
I will continue to emerge from this hell as a person who has not had her soul completely crushed. Bruised and battered, and continuously healing, but never crushed.


  1. Cassie, I love this post.
    Most days I also feel this way (15 months out).
    the other day a friend said to me "the most remarkable thing about what has happened to you is that you hold no bitterness". I had never thought about that. But I don't. No anger, no bitterness, no "why me". Somehow - over my 53 years (and losing three immediate family members and my love) I have come to know grief very deeply BUT I want life. I refuse to be crushed. I call it my inner amazon. When I feel the weight of the grief, my loneliness, the fear I could live and die alone, she rises up! She says - it will only be that way, if you lay down on the ground and you don't get up.
    Rise up! Refuse to be destroyed by loss and grief.
    Live because it is all you have.
    Live despite what has happened to you!
    And I am - every day.
    Thank you for sharing your own courageous journey.

  2. Its been 3 yrs for me since I lost my spouse of 40 yrs, and I dread the new year this year as I dread another year without him. We were not very social and most of our friends were job related and our families all live out of state. I retired to care for him and our youngest son moved out of state for law school 9 mo after his father died. So I had empty nest, retirement, and the death of my husband all together. And I haven't really found what I want to do with my life. I've just been on survival mode for 3 years, one foot in front of the other. I've gone through the grief, but what I've found at the end of 3 years, is that I'm still so alone. Winters are especially difficult due to the confining weather here in the mid-west. And I have no one to travel with, nor the money. I've been on antidepressants for about 15 yrs. So its a constant struggle to stay positive. Especially once you've experienced such a devastating loss.
    My other son lives many states away with his family. I've lived all alone for 3 winters, even spending a thanksgiving all alone due to cancelled travel plans related to weather. My realization after 3 years is how alone that I am without a partner. Whether planning a trip, doing lawn care, or celebrating a holiday with family, at the end of the day, I am all alone. And how do you start over at 65 or replace a guy you've loved since high school. This is the reality that I deal with and it is very painful and lonely and many days I feel so stuck. I've moved 3 months ago to live with my son and daughter-in-law to babysit my now 6 month old granddaughter. She is a delight and I'm thankful for the opportunity to be so close to my granddaughter, and caring for her does keep me occupied and busy, but underneath it all I still feel such a loss and so alone at the end of the day. Babysitting is a band aid, because I still haven't built a new life with new interests and friends. I guess my realization of this fact the beginning of change. What I want to share is how hard it is to start over. Grieving a loss is one process; building a new life is an even more difficult task. Identifying how you want your new life to be is one step, but then having the courage to make those changes when you still feel wounded from such a significant loss can be very difficult. Blessing to all my fellow widows as you journey.

  3. "I have stubborn hope that there's more out there for me. More love, more chances, more joy, more excitement."

    What a great attitude to have, Cassie. Yes, there will be days when you are going down on that roller coaster of grief, but then there is always the upside too. Good for you for choosing life, because you have a lot of living to do yet. We are amongst the living, I have to keep reminding myself that my husband would have gone on if he were the one left. I agree that loved ones can hold us up when we are going down; sometimes it is hard to rely on them, we want to do it/go it alone. But there is nothing wrong with letting others help us, and it also helps them just to be there for us. My friends have stood by me for 2 years, and are still there when I need them, which, as you know, can come in an instance or be days apart. I know I will be there for them someday, too.

    In regards to Anon above, starting over is never easy no matter what age. I, too, dread the winters (just finished plowing the drive, a chore my husband used to do). We were social, but many of those friends must have been his, for they have avoided me like I have the plague. I have my core group of friends, and have found that is all I need. I have learned that you have to get yourself out in the world, whether that be in a volunteer mode, church group, book club, adult ed class, exercise group, etc. Make a list of your interests, pick one, and find something to do related to it. Volunteer at the library or a school or a hospital. In helping others, we help ourselves.

  4. Anon 1, "Rise up! Refuse to be destroyed by loss and grief." This makes me want to stand up and cheer. I love that you call this attitude your inner amazon. I'm stealing that. You are an inspiration!

    Anon 2, I am so sorry for your pain and loss. I don't know how you rebuild after loss. I don't know how I'm doing it. I just am.

    I do know that somehow, after losing my mother, when I was 5, my father, when I was 28, AND my husband at 35, I have found a way to carry on. It hasn't been easy. It hasn't been without antidepressants and it hasn't been without wanting to give up many, many times.

    I have my relatively young age on my side here and I am lucky enough to be financially stable.

    Sometimes I catch myself saying "I am so lucky" and I actually shake my head with disbelief. How could someone who's been through so much death and pain say she's lucky? I don't know. I suppose after seeing so much death, I see just being ALIVE as luck.

    If I'm alive, I have another chance. If I'm alive, I have another day to see what might happen.

    More bad stuff is headed my way. It comes with life. But good stuff is headed my way, too.

    I grasp on with all my strength to every piece of luck and love I can get my hands on before my time runs out. I don't know any other way.

    I think it's great that you've moved in with your family to care for that grandbaby. What a gift to that child to have her grandmother that close to her. I would have LOVED to have had a grandmother in my daily life.

    It is incredibly difficult to make decisions when you're grieving. But, you're making them! Every day you decide to get out of bed and try again, even when you don't want to, is a decision. A brave one.

    You've already survived so much. This speaks to your resilience and strength.

    Anon 3, I love that advice. Helping others has made helped to shift me out of victim mode. It's a relief to be the one on the OTHER side of the equation occasionally.

  5. Cassie, you are a very strong person and are doing everything in you power to stay positive and to move forward on the journey that we are all sharing.

    I too am moving forward, little by little. Life is beautiful again for me now. It's only been 13 months - almost - and I am learning that we are not supposed to go down and stay down. I made decisions that I regret during the last year, but I have to live with the consequences of those decisions. My life will continue to move forward and even when this lifts I will make decisions that I regret, but at least I am doing something.

    My husband told me before he died to grab life with both hands and live it, after 25 years of illness he was ready to move on with his journey, but wanted me to keep moving forward with mine. I have tried to honour this during the last 13 months and although I have slipped and slid a lot I feel that the climb is mostly upwards.

    My volunteer work means that I am giving back to the rest of the world and it gives me a chance to move forward myself while helping others.

    There are still good things out there for all of us, but we all need to be ready to accept them when the time is right.

    Everyday I get out of bed and start the new day, I smile and remember my husband saying that once he died then it was time for me to live..... I am doing it one day at a time and one step at a time.

    Blessings to all.

  6. Cassie,
    ( I am Anon 1) in the first entry. Thank you for saying that I have inspired you to take on the Amazon persona too. I even have an image of her in my head.
    Like you I lost my mother, sister and brother all to cancer. Then my husband.
    For the Anon 2 - Oh, I do understand. My husband and I had just retired early - a dream we had held for years and not even a year later he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. Immediately following his biopsy he was disabled, he couldn't walk. He went from a fit, active, brilliant man to disabled overnight. It was devastating. As a family we determined to keep him alive as long as possible and to make the last year + of his life the best we could. We did.
    I am living alone for the first time in my life. I went from my mothers home to a home with my husband. We were married 36 years and in mad love. The loss and grief will always be there but we are alive. We are still here. I know my husband would want me to live fully. In fact he said that very thing - embrace life, travel, laugh, fall in love - LIVE.

    We can not let our grief destroy us. I agree with the other comments, make a list of all of the things you had once thought you might like to try or do. I couldn't volunteer (had five years in already) as I needed time to not take care of anyone. But volunteer work can be at the theatre or in other "non medical" places. I am currently searching for ways to make friends so I just joined a yoga class and am considering a reading group sponsored by a local bookstore. Everyday, I go out. Even if it is just for a coffee and a drive. No matter the weather (today it is snowing and blowing like crazy).
    To "cloudsmom" Better to make some decisions and regret them then none at all. In my mind it just brings you closer to making the kind that better works for you. Brave!

    Hold onto life. Make yourself begin each day. I start each morning with gratitude for my life.

    Don't let go. Cry and then - put on the amazon shield and dive into the day. Bravery is not the absence of fear. It is rising from devastating loss and living anyway.

  7. Anon 1, you are amazing. I am so inspired by you, you Amazon!