Monday, September 17, 2012

Still Alive For You, Love


I tried dating. It didn't my favor...shall we say. The whole thing felt like I was being jerked around by my heart. Not that he meant to or that he was malicious. Just that my poor, aching heart felt so torn up already and the experience of allowing myself to be vulnerable and hopeful again for a moment, only to have the whole thing blow up in my face really hurt. It really, really hurt.

But what I've discovered is that when everything else falls away - the humiliation, rejection, anxiety and pain that went along with it all, even the excitement, the affection, the companionship, the glimpse at happiness and joy, when all of that was stripped away and I had to face reality once again, it's still there. The gaping hole that is Dave's absence. It's still there and was exactly what I got to avoid in a small way for a little while.

Not that there's anything wrong with a little of that. The loss that I've suffered is too huge to take in all at once and all the time. I have to live and distract and try to find a new life.
It's a part of the process and some of it is healthy and normal. I need distraction. I need to feel alive again. I need to make mistakes and try new things and feel the fear of being vulnerable again. But, there, behind all of that was this pain I haven't fully addressed - the loss of this man I miss so much, that I can't look at that pain directly very often. I have to look at it peripherally just to not be taken down by it.

The truth is, that man I lost was the love of my life. He was my best friend. He was my everything. I suffered something so horrible and painful when he died. And I'm still suffering. Sometimes I think I'm not suffering LESS as time goes on, because I miss him MORE the longer he is gone.

After a last, sad conversation with this new man I had to say goodbye to today, I went for a run in the woods. So many thoughts crowded my mind as I ran, but I felt more peaceful than I had in weeks. I blasted the Bon Iver song, Perth through my earbuds until I felt myself begin to let go of some of the tension I'd been holding onto for days. The lyric still alive for you, love* reverberating through my mind and heart again and again as my feet flew above the dusty trail.

The woods are my church. The trees, moss, spiders, pine needles and ferns my cathedral and stained class. I feel closer to Dave when I'm there. At the halfway point, I turned around to jog back to the car, and without warning, a sob tore through my guts and out of my lungs and left me gasping. I stopped and bent over at the waist, my hands on my knees, as more sobs followed, one after another.  It's just this, my heart said when it could no longer be silenced by the pounding of the jogging and the music, my husband was everything to me and he is gone. I'm lost without him and I try so hard every moment of every day to be good at this new life, but I'm terrified and I need him and I miss him. My heart is cracked wide open. 

That one truth ripped through me like an explosion and I trudged back to the parking lot, winded by the racking sobs. At a bend in the trail, the sun pierced the thick canopy of leaves and shone a ray of brilliant light through several elaborate spiderwebs. I stopped in the middle of the trail, face raised to the sky. Tears I didn't know were leaking from my eyes slowly made tracks down my cheeks to my neck, and sweat dripped down the hollow of my spine, as I let the warmth of the sun soak into me.

It was so bright that I had to partially close my eyes, narrowing my view of the trees and glowing webs to a pinhole. It was so achingly beautiful that I wanted Dave to see it. I wished and prayed for Dave to appear to me in the trail behind me. His soul, his ghost, his spirit, whatever. I wished so hard. I turned around, opened my eyes and waited to see him coming around the corner. Just a memory of him, even. I prayed to feel his hands on me. I prayed to feel him wrap his arms around me and hold me.  I prayed to hear him reassure me that I'd be okay and that he loved me. It didn't happen. He didn't appear to me. He didn't hold me. I didn't feel him.

But, I did feel my own strength resurfacing from somewhere deep inside. I turned away from the bend in the trail where I had hoped to catch a glimpse of his sweet face and I walked on. Toward the sun, the trees, the life I have to live without him. I have to keep walking toward it. Even though he can't physically walk beside me.

I know he wishes he could be here with me. I know he misses me too. But I've been waiting for him to come home and he's not going to. I've been avoiding that horrific, giant, unavoidable, black cloud of truth a little bit, nough to survive the last 15 months. Somehow, though, I'm going to have to face that truth completely. Bit by tiny bit, I will have to fully accept that he is gone and that his absence has been and continues to be shattering.

I have to allow myself to really accept that my heart is broken, I'll never be the same, and the whole thing has been unspeakably hard. I've put on a great show so many times. I've gritted my teeth and gone out in public and smiled and made words come out of my mouth when all I've wanted to do is lie in bed focusing only on breathing in and out. I've pushed myself forward when all I've wanted to do is live in the past and cling to what was. I've been hard on myself and had ridiculously high expectations for myself. I've felt ashamed of my failures and my shortcomings. I've second guessed every damn decision I've made. I've treated myself in ways I'd never treat a good friend. I've treated myself like a person who hasn't just lost her world and had to start over.

I'm not that person. I'm not okay. I had the shit kicked out of my heart and had to watch the life I knew dissolve before me like a mirage. That person doesn't function like a "normal" person who's not grieving. That person requires special treatment. That person needs extra TLC and patience and love and while my friends could always do that for me, I often couldn't do that for myself. It's time I did. It won't be easy. But I'll do it for him.

Still alive for you, love.*

*I just discovered that the lyric might actually be "still alive who you love" which bugs me because "still alive for you love" makes more sense and means more to me.  


  1. Precious Cassie,
    Your searing words are painful poetry that brings tears to my eyes and an ache in my heart for you. Now at 34 months, I recall the horrible pain of "year 2" which was much worse than "year 1". The REALITY sinks in painfully deep as you finally allow yourself to FEEL the physcial absence wash over you like waves in the ocean...they come, they go, they beat you down and you rise and try to swim against the wave only to be beaten down again. And yet, you ARE GETTING UP with each wave and you learn and you live and you continue to love one painful moment at a time. Still alive for Dave and for Cassie too. Take good care my friend.

    1. Thank you, sweetheart.

  2. There's a lot of us out here just like you, Cassie, waiting for him to come home, knowing that he will not, missing him MORE day by day, and trying to figure out how to go on w/o him. I don't have any answers for you (or me), just be kind to yourself, keep writing, keep moving on day by day. I'm twice as far along as you, and still beat myself up for not being able to get back into life. I know that life is not going to include him, my head realizes that, but my heart does not. I guess it takes as long as it takes.

  3. Oh, Cassie...your posts never fail to break me down. I feel like we are going through the same wave of emotions. You at 15 months and me at 12 months (on Thursday). Every word, every expression of sadness, anger, fear heartache...I feel it right here in my chest, too.

    This new life is such a live and learn process. Having to do the things we didn't think we'd ever have to do again because we thought our lives were complete. Having to go back out there and risk constant pain, unexpected waves of tears. This is so tough, but I know we can all do it.

  4. I am at 4 years 7 months without the love of my life. I identified with many of the heartbreaking feelings you have Cassie. I tend to not give myself enough credit for being as strong as I have been or doing as well as I have been within the last 6 months I would say. My heart is broken forever and I feel it inside my chest each and everyday. Yesterday was the 5th birthday that we celebrated for my husband, yet without him being here with us. My daughter and I did a small celebration to remember her daddy and the most amazing thing happened...I know it was my sign. As we were releasing a balloon for each of us...a huge black and blue butterfly flew up to me and nearly landed on my head. Since losing Jesse there has been a butterfly with us continually. I knew jesse was there with us and it gave me a little more strength. I miss everything about him every single day that I breathe on this Earth. It is the hardest thing I have ever gone through. I try to take on each day because I know my husband wouldn't want his baby girl or wife crying or sad each day. He wanted a happy childhood for our daughter and I have to do everything in my will to give her that....for him especially.

    1. Wow. Reading about that butterfly visit gave me goosbumps.
      I'm so amazed and inspired by the strength you have to do everything you can to give your daughter a happy childhood even though you're hurting so much.

  5. Wow, your words go straight to my heart; in so many ways, I could've written your post. These lines especially "my husband was everything to me and he is gone. I'm lost without him and I try so hard every moment of every day to be good at this new life, but I'm terrified and I need him and I miss him. My heart is cracked wide open" - YES!

    I too (19 months last Saturday) show up at many things; new things, old things, looking for things to fill the time, the void; demonstrating courage as I enter into yet another new place with new people; only to realize whether I am in a new setting or old setting, my heart is a million miles away. Rarely am I "present" and I hate that. I have missed so much emotionally with my adult kids and grand-kids these past 19 months - not because I am absent in body, but I am absent in spirit and much of the time it shows all over myself.

    I had a great husband. Loved him with my whole heart. We had a lot of living to do yet and it was cut so short; finally the kids were out of the house and we could begin to experience some of the pay off of all our hard work parenting; only to have his life cut short.

    Yes to you too Anne Marie, the 2nd year is a beast all it's own and as torturous, if not more than the first. More time has passed and the ache is so tough still. And it seems others have expectations....and I have expectations and a strong desire to be out of pain.....but that is not happening. I survived the year of the firsts; on days when all I could do is breathe, I did.

    I understand why widows pull in sometimes - its just too hard being "out there" and most don't understand at all.

    Thanks for putting my feelings into words and for sharing hearts - though I'm sorry we both have to.

    1. You're so welcome.

    2. I totally relate to you, Anonymous. At 40 months, I feel exactly as you do. Sometimes I don't know how I will make it another day, but I do. How can I ever be happy again? I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life but the thought of someone else is just not appealing to me at all. It shouldn't have happened to him. (Heart disease) We never even got to fight it much. I hate my life, I exist. I try, I just can't seem to bring it together. I guess I am not trying hard enough. It is so nice to know I am not alone.

    3. You are NOT alone.

  6. HI Cassie.

    I am at three years without my best friend, my husband of 22 years, my entire adulthood. In time, you will hurt less! It is going to be ok again. I feel like you describe more often than not, but less anguish as time goes by. Someone once told me that I could not "see" him, not feel him, because he is at peace, and that is because we loved each other so right. I cling to that at times when I wish so badly for him to appear. There is a book called "Tear Soup" that very simply embraces grief and its ongoing moments of crippling us.The book looks like a child's book filled with illustrations, but it says so much. It is filled with resources in the index. It help me and I hope it does for you. Love you you, and remember that you are not alone in feeling like this with expectations set high, and trying to mark time without your love. It takes time to loose that constant counting of it. Love to you. Be well.

  7. Thank you for this post Cassie.
    My most memorable moment of clarity came in the middle of the night a few months ago. I woke from a dream where he had been holding me and we were laughing, I had my ear against his chest and I could feel and hear his heart beating. When I awoke - I actually gasped out loud. I was certain he was alive. It was as if it was the day he died, the moment he died.
    I was shaken to the core.
    I always said my mind suddenly spoke "you know he is never coming back right?" and I the other I the one who somehow dreamt it differently said "I know" and then I heard "Never. He is never coming back".
    I sobbed for an hour.
    I think it takes the heart a very long time to understand that truth. But eventually, we get there. As I come within months of year two, I think slowly my heart understands.

    Wishing you peace.

  8. Cassie, thank you for this blog. It iterates so much that I feel. In particular, your passage copied here echo my thoughts and experience exactly: "The woods are my church. The trees, moss, spiders, pine needles and ferns my cathedral and stained class. I feel closer to Dave when I'm there. At the halfway point, I turned around to jog back to the car, and without warning, a sob tore through my guts and out of my lungs and left me gasping. I stopped and bent over at the waist, my hands on my knees, as more sobs followed, one after another. It's just this, my heart said when it could no longer be silenced by the pounding of the jogging and the music, my husband was everything to me and he is gone. I'm lost without him and I try so hard every moment of every day to be good at this new life, but I'm terrified and I need him and I miss him. My heart is cracked wide open."

    I too am a runner, I feel my husband as the sun streams through the tall cedars. I can hear his words when I ask for help. I too have bent over and knelt down in sobs..when he was fighting cancer at first and now as I work to move on without him. You know when you are crying so hard that you can't even think of calling a friend or family member? Somehow the forest helps to let this out, yet provide comfort all in one. I love blasting my tunes and hearing the pounding of my feet as I run. I have returned to road running to make the pounding louder and more jarring - this seems somehow more therapeutic.

    Thank you for your posting, again we are not alone are we? Just lonely and broken. I loved this blog posting.

    1. I know EXACTLY what you mean by crying too hard to call a friend. I know so much about what you mean. And no, we are not alone. Thank you.

  9. The first year, I waited/hoped/prayed to die too. Now I know he isn't coming back and I'm not going just because can't find a reason to stay. So, I'll do it for him until I can find a reson to do it for me.

    1. And I can only imagine that that's EXACTLY what he'd want you to do.

  10. Wow, such beautiful, profound writing. Yesterday was 1 year since my husband suddenly passed away. I too try so hard to be strong, to tell people I am doing better (and I am), but I am not ok. I am lonely and broken too; and my heart breaks for my children. I still have trouble grasping the fact that he is gone. It is good to know I am not alone. There is no time-scale for this.

  11. Hi Cassie, Meant to say this earlier; hope this comment still finds its way to you. Even if the lyric is different, "still alive for you, love" suggested itself to you in that moment, so I say: make it "your" lyric. Hold onto it, use it however you need; may it bring you comfort. <3