Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Things I've Done ......

…… without him.

In a little over three months I will have been without Jim for 5 years.

In those 5 years I’ve had to do many things without him.
Things I was supposed to do with him.
Or things I wasn’t supposed to do …… at all.

The first thing that he should have been here for was the news that Daughter #1 made it into Harvard for grad school.  I was so excited for her, yet so sad that her dad didn't hear the results of those applications.  Nor stand with me to put her on a plane to go.
It was very bittersweet.

Four months after Jim died, I stood next to his mother, our mother, and held her hand as she died.  He should've been the one holding her hand.  But actually, if he had been there, I don't think she wouldn't have been in that hospital ..... dying.  She would have had the "fight" in her that she needed.

The next month he missed Son #1’s high school graduation.  As the president of the school board he would’ve stood on the platform and handed a diploma to our son, and to the children of our friends (as he did when Daughters #2 and #3 graduated).
Instead, I stood in his place and did his job. 
Though not nearly as well, since it was an emotional evening.

But the hardest thing I did during that first year, by far, was taking Son #2 to military school. 
Against his will.
Jim should’ve been there so we could’ve been there together, one unit of authority, making it much easier on each of us.

I have done many, many things without him.

But not all of them have been emotionally draining.

In this month alone I managed to put together my first Power Point presentation.
Without the help of my very computer-literate husband.

Then there was the day last week that I jumped my car …… by myself.
I’m pretty dang proud of that one.

And then, just a couple of days later, I cut down and uprooted a tree/bush. 
Me, myself and I.
It wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t tiny, either.
I cut/sawed off all of the branches, and then the top part of the bush/tree.  And then I used all of my strength, which is more than most people think, to uproot the trunk.
And I think I only received 2 mosquito bites (West Nile inhabits my community, so each bite is noticed) and I didn’t break a nail.
Or anything else.

I have traveled, bought two cars, sold a boat, bought a boat, hired an accountant, fired said accountant, watched my children graduate, stood my ground, alone, when I didn’t think I had the strength (sometimes I surprise myself, too), stupidly bought a time share, hired a real estate company to sell said time share (still not sold….sigh), attended court (more than once) for a child, given my children financial advice (!) and killed/gotten rid of every single bug, lizard or spider that’s dared come into my personal space.

I know that I can add hundreds of things I’ve done by myself.
As can each of you …… or at least you will be able to before long.
Even though we all have hated hearing the words, “You are so strong”, we really are.
I know I’m not the only one who has surprised her/himself.

It’s funny (not as in “ha ha-funny”, but in “isn’t-it-ironic-funny” …. just to be clear), but when I was in that room (many of you know which room I'm referring to), with the surgeon sitting knee to knee with me, holding my hands, all that I could think, over and over and over again was, “God, what are You thinking?!  What the hell are You thinking?!!  I cannot do life with him!  I can’t parent these kids without him!  WHAT ARE YOU THINKING??!!”
But I was wrong.

I didn’t want to do life without him and I’d still rather not do it without him, but here I am.
And here are you.
We’ve made it one more year, one more month, and/or …… one more day.
Heck, there were days when I wasn’t sure I’d make it one more minute.

There will be many things we’ll do alone …… and we’ll wish they were here.
But there will be many more things …… that we’ll do alone …… and we’ll be proud of ourselves.
And proud of each other.

You dads are not only combing your child’s hair, but you’re even managing to put it into a ponytail!
And you women are probably killing/getting rid of any critter that dares invade your personal space!
You are stronger than you think you are.

And though I’d rather be weak with him here, I, too, am stronger than I think ……
without him.


  1. So funny. I just made a list like this to remind myself of all of the things I have done in the almost two years since my husband died. I did it on a day when I thought "I have accomplished little, I am wasting my life looking out the window when I should have been living more".
    Then a thought popped into my head "you cut down the dead tree branch" and I started listing all of the things on my computer and felt at the end - I have actually done a lot!
    I am going to keep that list ongoing. It is now called the "brave list" and I feel better for having written it. Yes it has small things and a few very big things.
    I enourage all widows to make such a list. Even if the first thing on it is "finally got out of bed".
    Thanks Janine.

  2. Great post Janine! So many things I never imagined I could do alone, but I have somehow, someway. As you said, we all have, because we have too! Thanks!

  3. I have to keep reminding myself, too. It's interesting how easy it is to forget about the amazing accomplishments we've accrued. It does help to list them. It also helps me to have enough self-compassion to truly understand how difficult it was to go through it all too. To feel some empathy for myself.

  4. Thanks Janine. I've been widowed just 8 weeks yesterday. Your words help me understand that what I try to do to be brave is normal, that I'm not crazy. I never thought I could live w/o my husband and somedays I don't think I can because all I do is cry. I'm told not to look into the future, live for today. So if it's pruning shrubs, staining the deck (yet to happen his job) or just getting out of bed, I'll be doing it all alone and hope that someday I will be stronger, more brave and more able to cope.

  5. It has been five weeks since my husband passed away. It was so unexpected. I still cry at some point each day and I still say good night to him and ask him why he had to go and who was it that was calling him. I also wanted to know why I didn't go too. We were together for 37 years and filled every one of them. We had more plans to come but now I feel that I will never enjoy any of it. I have had to cancel reservations and concerts. I have had to deal with the legalities of all this and the finances. I have had to make decisions on major home repairs on my own. I have moved the wood pile that he worked on the night before he died. I have purchased a new lawn mower and taken over the job along with all the other chores that weren't mine.I just removed the window air conditioners and now have to fiqure out how to carry them to the attic for storage until next summer. I have emptied the seasonal pool and put it away. I am definitely not looking forward to winter or the holidays for that matter. It is suppose to get easier but I am not sure how when I feel broken. I miss him.

    1. Anon, I am sorry for your loss. You will always miss him. I too was with my husband for many years, 38+. It is not an easy transition to suddenly be alone and have to deal with all the things you did, and then all the things he did. You have taken the first step with your list of "to do's".

      I still cry after 2 years of loss, it is not as intense, but little things can trigger it...seeing couples hand in hand, songs on the radio, being unable to do simple chores (can't get the dang hood release to work on the plow truck to recharge the battery, help me Janine!). As to those plans to come, well, you have to make new ones. That is difficult for me, retirement was around the corner, boat was purchased, all those places we planned to sail to will not be on my list anymore. I have finally accepted that, I am still saddened that his dream never happened, but no one has guarantees of any future plans. Stick to the present, don't look too far ahead, holidays will be tough this first year (still are for me) but you will get through them. Come back here often, and read other years' posts, too. It helps to know that others before you have felt the same, you are definitely not alone.

    2. Thank you Cathy, it is good to be able to express those feelings to someone who understands.I will keep in touch.

    3. Rose,
      I think it's amazing that you've done SO much at only 5 weeks out. Really. I know that most times you probably did those things because doing something is better than sitting around and thinking ...... and crying. But you've done a heck of a lot more than I was capable of doing at that same point in time.
      And as far as this getting easier .... I don't think it gets easier ..... we just get stronger and so are able to carry our grief better. But the amount of time it takes to gain strength is different for every one of us. So please don't think that if it's not easier for you yet you're not doing something right. Just get rid of any thought like that. People who are not widowed (and society as a whole) often tell us how we should grieve and how long we should grieve. trust me ... the one year date is no magical day that suddenly wipes away all our tears and sorrow ..... or our grief. You were with him a very long time. You will grieve for him a very long time. But your grief will look different as time goes by. I'm so glad that you found this site so early on your path. I'm sorry that you had a reason to find it, very sorry ...... we hate to see anyone join this "club". But once they're in it, it's great that they come here. I hope we can help you along the way.

    4. bad night, can not stop crying. so sad, so lonely. We should be out having a good time. We always had fun. We had so many things planned. I am not getting why I was left behind. What am I suppose to do now.

  6. Janine! Bravo!!

    I love this post! It has been three years and one month. It feels like forever. I relate to this so much. The car, the kids, college, their cars, money, tuning a lawn mower, chopping shrubs, bought a house, and remodeling it. I hinged on your words,I didn't want to do it without him! That is where the sadness creeps up and I swallow the tears and remind myself how strong I am. Maybe lonely, and missing my best friend, but strong and capable. Thank you for writing today! good luck!

  7. Janine,
    Wow, your post is so inspiring but brings tears to my eyes. I just found this blog a few days ago and am enjoying reading it. I am 26 years old and lost my husband three months ago. Recently, I have been feeling so lost without him here to take care of the lawn or do other things around the house. I hate having to feel dependent and this post helps me to realize that if so many other women can do it, so can I!

    Thank you!


  8. We can do it - Courage my loves.

  9. Hi Janine, thank you so much for your inspiring words. I am approaching two years, for a while I felt strong and thought I was a "kick-ass chick" but the last couple of months I've felt like anything but. It is amazing when I do think of the things I have accomplished without him, but lately I've been back in the mode of just trying to get through each day. I think we all need to recognize our accomplishments, and pick our selves back up each day.

  10. I just found this page, and a little late in commenting - but as I read this I thought. WOW...I felt that. I thought that. I am close to 4 years into widowhood and turning only 40.(LOL..only) I felt much younger before all this. I have 2 small children ages 5 and 3. This website is a place I have needed so many times - I have felt so alone in this crazy place of "all the things I've done...without him".Well.. here I am.