Friday, November 30, 2012


(Image from here)

As more holidays pass, like Thanksgiving last week, I find that it’s easier to look beyond my awareness of whose hand I’m not holding while I muscle through myriad family events.  Last week’s holiday marked my fourth national day of thanks that I quietly pondered things I’m really not very thankful for.  All too easily I can reflect back on our last Thanksgiving together: She was fresh off a tough chemo treatment toting around two automated pumps delivering both a slow drip of extended chemo drugs and meds to dull the pain of her worsening condition.  It seems like a different lifetime ago.

Thanksgiving Day I was privilege to share a poignant and unforgettable moment watching my grandmother lovingly spoon-feed my ailing grandfather who, by all accounts, was aware of little other than the gentle pressing of each portion of food into his mouth.  I empathized all too easily with the deep yet staid emotions my grandmother poorly camouflaged with a look of determination.  In her face I saw the reflection of my own memories.  Her humble service to my grandfather was nothing less than a glimpse of a wonderful love story that has played out for generations but is now crawling dolefully through its final chapter.  In those moments witnessing a most lovingly assisted dignity, I felt sadness and anger yet I couldn’t have been more proud of both my grandfather and my grandmother for they truly embodied what Maggie and I aspired to become.  It was heartbreaking and beautiful.

With our wedding vows Maggie and I declared proudly to the world our shared long-term dreams that ended with hearing aids and rocking chairs.  Instead, fate gave us final directives and morphine.  Our moment in time together hand-in-hand certainly didn’t last nearly as long as we planned.  I’d like to believe that if it weren’t for the damn cancer, that one day long, long in the future we would have ended up just like my grandmother and grandfather sharing poignant, loving moments until our last days.

Actually, now that I think about it, I suppose we did exactly that.  Just like my grandmother and grandfather, Maggie and me, we were good together to the end.  I guess that’s a love story, too.

I suppose I have more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving than I thought.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dream on.

The dream world has always been a funny topic for me.

I dream A LOT. Almost every morning I remember my dreams, usually more than one. They're sometimes crazy weird, sometimes scary, usually in some way incorporates things I've been thinking about throughout the day or weeks. 

Only recently have I discovered that I sometimes mumbled in my sleep (nonsense), giggle when I'm dreaming about something funny, or shake and breath differently when I'm afraid. Jeremy was such a deep sleeper that I don't think he ever noticed if I did these things (although I caught him talking in his sleep a few times, which was always hilarious). Steve, however, is one of the lightest sleepers I know and wakes up every time I move a muscle. He's had to wake me from a few bad dreams - I seem to be having quite a few lately.

Oddly enough, I've been dreaming about Jeremy a lot over the last few weeks. After he died, I dreamt about him often, constantly begging God to let me see him in my dreams. But it was never in the way I wanted. He was distant, never came close enough for me to touch him, but would give me these deep looks of pain and apology that would leave me aching in the morning. Then, gradually over time, my dreams would just come every once in awhile. I don't know why he's been coming back in my dreams so much recently. Perhaps getting past the 2 year mark was a big milestone and I was thinking about him constantly. Perhaps like the rest of my dreams, it's manifesting an understanding I can't work out when I'm awake or in real life. I don't know. 

What I do know is that Jeremy is changing in my dreams.

Has any other widow(er) had this happen? I feel like I always have this sense that no matter what the dream is about or where we are, I can feel him in real time - like he's opening my eyes to something. I've never been hokey about dreams before, but after Jeremy died, I knew there was purpose in me seeing him there. 

At first, he wouldn't come close. He would stay far away and apologize or I would beg and plead for him not to go from a distance.
Then, he finally got in close enough that he put his arm around me once. But the closer he got, the weaker he seemed and I always dreamt of the injuries he endured from the fall after his heart attack, or I would worry about his heart. Or I knew that he wouldn't be staying alive long and I needed to do or say as much as I could before he left.
Then he got closer and intimate enough to hug me and tell me he was so happy for me when I found Steve. And there was no pain, just that beautiful smile of his. What a gut-wretching blessing of a dream that was.
Throughout the changes in my dreams, though, I felt him grow. I felt any anger he ever had gone from him and he always seemed at peace, even if he was sad he couldn't stay with me. He matured somehow in my dreams, like the essence of Jeremy but in the form that God created him to be. It's hard to explain.

Lately, he appears in my dreams like a lot of normal characters in my dreams. He'll be along side me for an adventure, or trying to protect me from something, or won't do anything specific, but I know he's there.

Maybe someone else out there knows more about this area than I do, but I would be interested to know how the widowed community views dreams of their loved ones, or what they think about the evolution of Jeremy in my dreams. Either way, and in no matter what form, he is always a welcome presence that I ache to see in my dreams. I love getting to see his face, and feel him living, even for just a moment and even if it's not real. It feels real. Those are the dreams that if I wake up prematurely, I try desperately to close my eyes and finish, just so I don't have to say goodbye. Just so I can squeeze one more second of time in with him. 

There's a Fine Line ......

...... between good memories and pain.

In the beginning of my grief, there was no line.  I couldn't even think about good memories.  I couldn't think about good.  Period.

But now I can dwell on my good memories ...... and not feel any pain.
Most of the time.

Thanksgiving was not one of those times.

The above picture is from my father-in-law's farm, where we spent Thanksgiving with the rest of Jim's family.
While I love visiting there, it also brings me a lot of pain.
It's difficult to be there without him.
It feels ...... unnatural.

Jim's mother died 5 months after he did.  Also too soon.
Also not expected.
It was very hard to be there without her, too.
It was painful.

I cried more tears last week than I've cried in quite a while.
And I hid while I shed them.
I'm not sure why ...... except that after 5 years I think other people don't want to see tears.
And I didn't want to depress anyone else.

I also found it hard to say goodbye.
But then ...... that's been hard for me for the past 5 years.
Goodbyes are painful, at least for me.
Because you never know when goodbye ...... really is "goodbye".

But I don't have to tell you that, do I?

It was good to be among Jim's family ...... my family.
It was good to be back on the farm.
It was good to have so many things for which to be thankful.

But sometimes there's a very fine line between what's good ...... and what's painful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's Nice to Meet You.

Welcome today's guest blogger Kathleen Fordyce Rohan, who is filling in for Amanda.
The words come easy now; the problem is the timing.
How and when is the right time to tell someone that I am a widow? That I am not simply single, or divorced, or separated? That my husband –my son’s father – died?
feel the most conflicted when dropping-off and picking-up Logan from school, or on the sidelines of his soccer games. Friendly mothers strike up conversation, commenting on his smile, asking innocent questions, like, “Is he your only one?” I occasionally see their eyes glance my bare left hand. Sure, there are lots of other single mothers out there, but we always seem to be surrounded by couples and families of four or five or six. Just the two of us, we seem out of place. Is this reality, or all that I see?
I don’t want widowhood to define me but at the same time feel it is an important part of my identityI want people to know I was once loved and married, and we were once a traditional family. But while Nolan’s death has changed me more than anything in my lifeI don’t want it to be the only thing they think of when they see me. I want to claim and detest the title all at the same time, in the same breath.
So I try to navigate the tricky equation, calculating in my head as I indulge in conversation with someone new. I try to ponder the right moment, the right words. Sometimes people find a polite way to ask (So where is Logan’s Dad? Are you married or divorced?). Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it just hangs in the air and I spit it out in a rush of words; other times I hold back. I know sometimes some people wonder and guess, and other times people just really don’t care.
I wonder if telling the story ever gets easier, more fluid and real, or if I will always feel this way: unsure. I wonder when – or if – people will ever stop wondering? When or if I will cease to care?
As with everything else in grief, maybe only time will tell.

Monday, November 26, 2012



Envy means "to bear a grudge toward someone due to coveting what that person has or enjoys." In a milder sense, it means "the longing for something someone else has without any ill will intended toward that person."

I'm intimately familiar with the emotion of envy. I've felt it for as long as I can remember. I've longed for so many things other people have that I don't.

A mother. A father. A childhood free of fear and the iron grip of an alcoholic, mentally ill father. A parent who shows up occasionally for a school function. A brother or sister.

And now, I also feel it when I see couples. Happy couples, unhappy couples, young couples, old couples, couples discussing their everyday lives over dinner or arguing over groceries, couples who text each other and touch each other and look at each other longingly.

I don't want anyone else to be alone or miserable just because I am. I don't even want to be in a relationship right now. I don't think I'd be any good for anyone, anyway.

Before I find myself involved with anyone else again, I have a lot to do on my own. You know, a few little things like healing, learning to do everything on my own when I used to be spoiled rotten by Dave, confronting the trauma I've experienced and my fear of losing again, learning to be okay with being with myself, alone, which should all take, oh...forever.

It's not that I think that having what others have will fix my problems or take away my pain. Instead, seeing couples makes me long for what I lost and want back so badly. My love. The love of my life.

I was so very, very loved and that man was my everything. All that I see reminds me of the loss of that.

I can think thoughts like The love you had wasn't lost, it's with you, inside of you and Comparing your situation to others' is pointless and Be grateful for what you DO have, but feeling them deeply is something very different.

It feels like the love we had is gone. He is not here to hold me or touch me or tell me how lucky he feels to have found me. I have my memories, but even they are painful, still because they're all I have.

It feels like I'm alone in a sea of couples.

Statements of gratitude still feel empty when I miss him so much and face a life without him.

My biggest concern right now is that on top of just missing someone I so adored, I also don't know how to value or love myself unless I'm wanted and loved by Dave.

Why do I feel so meaningless when I don't get a check-in text or a declaration of love from him? Why do I feel worthless when he's not there to pick me up at the airport? Why does it feel less meaningful to cook for just me than to cook for him? Why do I feel ugly unless he's telling me I'm beautiful? Why do feel stupid unless he's telling me I'm smart? Why do I feel terrified unless he's taking care of me? Why do I feel so lost unless he's telling me where we're headed together? Why do I feel lonely unless he's there, even when I'm surrounded by people? Why do I feel misunderstood and left out unless he's taking an interest in me?

Scariest of all, how will I ever feel okay without him and is it possible to feel okay again without the love of a man, without being a part of a couple? Can I value myself even when no one loves me like that?

Will there come a time when I can see couples and feel okay with my single status? Will I be able to look at families and not feel like I'm missing out on everything? Will hearing someone say "We've been married for 40 years," not turn my heart inside out and leave it barely beating?

In the meantime, I miss the man who made me feel complete and gave me a sense of true belonging for the first time in my life. I miss my family and I feel very alone even when surrounded by people.

In the meantime I hope for the strength it takes to learn self love and acceptance.

 I hope for the ability to appreciate myself without any outside reassurance that I'm worth appreciating, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Back in the anger stage

The heart volcano my nephew drew for me.

Yesterday was Seth’s 34th birthday.
Or would have been, I guess.

Yesterday as I was slowly waking from my sleep, I heard crying.
As I slowly open my eyes, the tears were flowing, and realize the crying I heard was me.

It’s not the first time I have woke myself up crying. But it also hasn't happened for a while, so I was caught off guard.

I sat up in bed, wondering “What the hell is wrong with me??”

My mind slowly and gently reminded me that it was Seth’s birthday. And he is still dead.

His birthday is a horribly rough day. All I want to do is make him nachos, buy him his favorite beer, and do whatever his lil heart desires.
But I can’t.

I normally release balloons to Seth on his birthday. This year would have been 34 balloons.
But I couldn't bring myself to do it.
I thought – he doesn't see it, so it doesn't even matter.

After some thought, I realized - I am angry.
I am back in the anger stage, for the billionth time.

I am pissed as shit that my husband isn't here. I am pissed that he took his own life.
I am pissed that I had to face my birthday, Thanksgiving and his birthday, without him here.

A friend told me to be strong. I thought about it, and thought to myself “Forget that, I am done being strong. Today I am going to be pissed and weak. After all, I deserve that”.

I can only be strong and not angry for so long before I crumble under the pressure.
Sometimes I am too weak to be strong any longer.
Sometimes I am too mad to tell myself to calm down.

It’s ok to allow myself to be weak. It’s ok to allow myself to be angry. Angry with Seth. Angry with God. Angry with the life that I didn't sign up for.

Thanksgiving came and went, with few grief moments.

As I was getting ready for my family to come over, I found myself grieving over doing the shopping and cleaning alone.

Everything now seems so much harder. The shopping and cleaning seems extremely hard now.

I’m not sure if it’s because I do it alone or if it’s reminder of being alone.

The things that were so simple in the “before” life are like pulling out my own teeth now.

I got to babysit my nephew and niece overnight on Thanksgiving night, so my brother could go black Friday shopping.

The kids and I were laying on the floor and coloring.

My nephew suddenly says “I’m glad you don’t live in the old house anymore”.

I was completely caught off guard. While trying to control the lump in my throat and preparing myself for the answer, I asked “Why?”

He says “Because the old house was scary”.

I fought back tears and had to excuse myself to gather my feelings.

My nephew doesn't remember Uncle Seth.

I was pretty shocked that he remembered “the old house”, let alone brought it up.

Especially since I just passed the one year anniversary in the new house.

It was pretty shocking to hear my nephew say the old house was scary.

I thought the fear I felt in our house, was my fear alone.

Little did I know that my 5 year old nephew was scared of it too.

I loved watching my niece and nephew.
They are so fun.

They also remind me how simple life really is.

How I need to slow down, and enjoy the simple things in life.

The simple, teeny, tiny things.

Such as coloring, snuggling and laughing.

My nephew also reminded me to follow my heart.

That my fear was not mine alone, and if I am consistently scared, to make changes to soothe myself.

After all, at end of the day, the only person to comfort me, is me.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


“Everyone has an Angel. A Guardian who watches over us. We can’t know what form they’ll take. One day, old man. Next day, little girl. But don’t let appearances fool you, they can be as fierce as any dragon. Yet they’re not here to fight our battles, but to whisper from our heart. Reminding that it’s us. It's every one of us who holds power over the world we create. You can deny angels exist, Convince ourselves they can’t be real. But they show up anyway, at strange places and at strange times. They can speak through any character we can imagine. They’ll shout through demons if they have to. Daring us, challenging us to fight.” - Unknown

Life is a consistent flux.

But if there is anything I can say I've become aware of over the past 5 years, it's the nuances, the individuals, the friends, the strangers....that have been the biggest blessing.

With Thanksgiving still on my heart, I wanted to take a minute to write about all the "angels" that have been a part of my life, most importantly, after my real life angel died.

Some have been around for longer than I can say, some for a few years, others a few months, and some for a very brief second...but each have been the reason I am here today, and for that I am eternally grateful.

They have shouted through the demons of grief, remorse, angst, and pain to help me see the silver lining in life after the most tragic of losses.

Most may not know the full extent of what they have done, nor have I probably ever expressed it at the level I should (since I'm not quite sure how to thank those that have given me the gift of laughter, smiles, and a shoulder to lean on), but I hope that what they have given me they receive back ten-fold in this life and their lives to come.

Thank you and thank you some more.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Be thankful. Or don't. It's OK.

I remember Thanksgiving two years ago, just a couple weeks after Jeremy's death. Well, when I say I remember it, I actually don't remember much about it other than I was deep in the pits of despair and grief. But what I surprisingly remember was the the sense of responsibility I felt to voice being thankful in some way. I remember putting up a status on Facebook about trying not to dwell on what I lost and trying to focus on what I could be thankful for.

But the truth was, I was not thankful for anything.

I'm not so blinded as to not understand that I had things to be thankful for. But I didn't feel thankful. I couldn't image my life being any worse. I was even pissed that I was still around to suffer through the days without the love of my life. Why did I have to express thankfulness?

Because that's what we're supposed to do...

This holiday tends to start a chain reaction of responsibility and expectations for grievers through the end of the year. It sucks. Sometimes empty. It's hard to feel thankful when the person you were most thankful for is no longer there.

Knowing things could be worse doesn't take away the pain of losing someone. Knowing we have much to be thankful for doesn't lessen the injustice of what we've been through. Sometimes the insinuation is enough to make things worse.

Here's what I know: don't worry about the expectations of others or even the expectations we tend to put on ourselves. It's OK to not get into the hype and hoopla of the holidays. Don't feel pressured to please others or keep up with traditions alone if it hurts too much. It's OK to take a break for awhile and keep things simple. It's OK to feel angry, sad, or irritated with others for getting to celebrate what you have now lost. It's OK to do things YOUR way.

Here's what else I know: If you do feel thankful, that's OK. If you feel blessed that you've got a second chance at life even in the midst of losing something so special, that's OK. If you're in a place where you can look at your blessings and appreciate them in a way that only grief will let you, that's OK.

Don't let others dictate where your heart is at. This holiday season, be true to you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankfulness ......


...... is sometimes very, very hard to find.

Which, sometimes, makes this time of the year very, very hard to endure.

No ...... Thanksgiving ...... and the month of December ...... oh, hell, we might as well go all the way to that crappiest holiday of them all ...... February 14th (I don't even want to say/type the name) ...... are days that should not have to be "endured" ...... but it's a fact that they are.

I had always heard that this time of the year has a higher incidence of depression and suicides than other times.
I thought I understood that concept ...... "before".

I had no earthly idea.

Until Christmas 2007.
One week, to the day, after Jim died.

Now I am a statistic.
I'm one of those people who find the holidays depressing ...... and wish we could just skip the whole damn month.
Or two.
Or three.

My "death march" (the days leading up to the day he died ...... the days that my body tunes into the date,
 even when my mind doesn't) starts around now.  It really solidifies into a steady beat on Thanksgiving.
Making that holiday so.  much.  fun.

This doesn't mean that I'm not thankful.
This year.
Being thankful has gotten easier.
I imagine that on my first Thanksgiving without Jim ...... if you had asked me if I was thankful for anything ...... I could have sarcastically said, "Yes.  I'm thankful that my children aren't dead, too."
And that's about all I could've been "thankful" for.

But each year has brought more thankfulness.
Or actually, with each year that passes I am more able to realize that there are many things for which I really am thankful.
Even though I'm still grieving harder at this time of the year.
Even though this whole thing still sucks.
Even though ...... well, just ...... even though.

I am happy.
And I grieve.
I've found that those two things can now peacefully coexist (most of the time) in my heart.

As I've said before, my "after" happy is different than my "before" happy.  I doubt that I will ever see my "before" happy again.
And while that sometimes makes me feel sad, it's also OK.

Those cold, inky black days of grief are behind me.
The future, though still totally unknown ...... and unplanned ...... looks brighter.
I don't wake up each day with my first thought being, "Jim is dead."
I dont' fall asleep at night with my last thought being, "Jim is dead."
I don't long for death.
I can think of Jim, and all that we had, and not feel that cold, sharp slice into my heart.

So for all of that, and for the hope that I have given at least one of you just that ...... hope ...... I am thankful.

If you aren't feeling it this year ...... that's OK.
It doesn't mean that you're selfish.
It doesn't mean that you're ungrateful.
And it doesn't mean that you will always feel this way.
It just means that you're ...... normal.
In a perfectly abnormal situation.

During what can be a perfectly horrible time of the year.
But hopefully, and most likely ...... not always.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The view from my verandah on Saturday morning

I know I've written about this before.
I know I sounds like  broken record.
I don't cope well with uncertianty.

That change in government I mentioned we'd had?  Well they have decided to get rid of their contract staff.  That means me.

Despite pulling two classes uphill this year, and being recognised for doing a stellar job, I find that I am once again in that place where I don't know what I'll be doing next year.

I've been in this place before.
I was a scientist for almost 20 years where funding is uncertain and you work on 3-year funding cycles.  I was never without work, but by the same token, I never really worried about it: I knew we could comfortably live on Greg's wage.

Not that he earned a lot, just that both of us come from farming stock and so we are a very frugal mob.

.....and I find myself getting angry at how things have changed. 

(not that it helps).

I am told that I am "lucky" I have the compensation payout.
(I know right?..... but I managed not to slap the person who said that)

But truth be told, money is not top of my list of worries .....
I am not good if I am not busy. 
Working, feeling useful, seeing the difference I make, being part of the workforce means that my mental health is OK. 

...and the not knowing what will happen is driving me crazy.

But I have to just wait out this storm. 
I have to hope that things will work out for the best.
Because hope is currently all I have got that is working for me.

Sunday's view

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wandering or Lost?


I was talking to my therapist about the ways I've been moving slowly toward starting an honest-to-god dog-walking business and while I was telling her, I noted the flat, bored tone in my voice and I knew she'd take notice too. And she did.

She wanted to know what it was that was keeping me from feeling excited about it all and I thought and thought and thought. All I could dredge up was "I have no idea".

I tried to think of an example of something I was excited about, that lit me up and I couldn't think of anything at the time. I figured (and so did she) that maybe the dog walking thing just wasn't really what I wanted to do.

She asked me if I liked walking dogs.
I do.
She asked me if there was anything I didn't like about it.
Not really.

I still couldn't access any excitement. For that venture or any other.
And I wondered, what DOES make me really excited? What really lights me up?

My lifelong passion has been animals. They light me up.
I love to sing in a choir.
I can draw and paint and feel very much in "the zone" when I'm doing it.
I love to read.

But as a purpose? A reason for living? True drive and passion for a project of some sort? Nothing feels quite right. Nothing really gets me jumping out of bed in the morning ready to tackle a goal.
Did that die with Dave? Will it come back? Do I just wait around for some sort of inspiration?
Why don't I even know what it is I really want to do?

I feel restless and frustrated.
There isn't much I really want to do.
Except to feel the way I used to, when he was alive. Like I had direction.

I'm not suicidal or even deeply depressed. It's getting easier to be alone, overall. I'm sleeping and eating okay and laugh easily again, despite bouts of grief.  I even enjoy quiet nights at home with take out and a movie when I used to dread them. There are many things I'm doing and trying as I learn about myself as a single person. I'm slowly meeting new people and spending time with old friends. I have fun travel plans in the works. I don't feel hopeless, I just feel passionless. Purposeless.

But I think part of it is that I compare too much. I compare myself to people who seem to have satisfying occupations and find myself lacking. I tell myself stories that I'm lacking because I don't trot off to a formal job each day all filled with industry and good work ethic. Or because I'm not going to school to get another degree.

I'm not contributing or busy or industrious enough somehow, and I feel aimless.

There's that story-telling again. The stories I tell myself are almost always wrong or at least misled. I am contributing, it's just not in the way I used to. I used to KILL myself to perform as close to perfectly as I could at my job. Did that make me a better person? Did having that kind of (slightly nutty) drive make me worthy? More worthy than I am now?

I can also understand logically that I'm still healing and that all my energy is going toward that kind of growth so I don't have much left over for a great work ethic and a "go get-em" attitude.
Understanding all of that doesn't completely stop the feelings I've been having though. I still wonder when the hell the purpose will come back and what that purpose will be. I still wonder if my brain will come back online again and if it will always be altered by this trauma. I still wonder if I'll be able to support myself long-term. I still wonder if I'm ever going to feel grounded and certain again.

I know though, that the one certainty is that we can't see around the bend. We can just take the next step we think is right. As I look back on this time, I'm sure I will see how much I grew and how much I actually accomplished and how every little "next right step" took me in the direction I needed to go.

It's just hard to ignore the feeling that I'm missing some integral part of me now. It's like I lost my internal compass and now I'm just aimless, wandering, lost. Again though, the things I tell myself! I'm not "lost".

Lost and wandering are two different things, right?  I'm wandering around as I learn about myself, this new self. I'll find my way. I am finding my way, I'm just too close to see the big picture.

So much easier said than felt, though, huh?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Today, I Shall Celebrate

Source - A friend posted this on facebook

Today I am celebrating.

Today is 1 year since I made a life changing decision.

Today, 1 year ago, I bought my new house.

The day Seth died, I knew I didn't want to live in our house anymore.

I took my counselors advise, and waited for the 1 year sadiversary to make any life changing decisions.

3 months before the 1 year sadiversary hit, I suddenly had the strangest thing happen. I would be sleeping and I would wake up in middle of the night. I would sit up in bed, terrified, and not have the slightest clue where I was. I would get up and turn on the light, and stand in our bedroom, terrified, confused, and even with the light on, I had no clue where I was.

I lived in our house for 11 years, and I suddenly had no clue where I was.

It was one of the scariest times I have ever faced. To be in our home, scared, and not knowing where I was.

It was a horrible feeling. That went on for 3 months.

I finally came to the conclusion that I was no longer home. I was in a strange, scary place, that I didn't want to be in.

As soon as the 1 year mark hit, I was out looking for a house.

I looked at 2 houses. When I walked into the 3rd house, I stood in the doorway, not even seeing the house yet, and started crying. After a year, I was finally home. It didn't matter to me what the house looked like, I was home. (Luckily the house was cute and didn't need much work!).

I made an offer on it that night. After my friends and family came to look at the house, and I had made my offer, I sat in my car in the driveway and cried. I didn't want to turn around and go “home” when I was already home. I didn't want to spend one more second in our home.

I still dragged myself to our home, and waited for all the real estate transactions to happen.

I remember sitting on the floor in our home, looking around, thinking “I have lived here for 11 years?? It doesn't feel like I ever lived here.”

Our house had become an empty shell of a house. It felt so empty and cold.

Our home was no longer my home.

Finally closing day came. I closed on November 18th, 2011.

I went and signed all the paperwork, and got the keys to my home.

I drove to our home after.

It was snowing, and when I pulled into our drive way, I sat in my car. I didn't want to go inside. I debated about getting a sleeping bag and sleeping on the floor in my house until I could get moved.

Through my tears, I looked at our front door, and there it was. A huge (about the size of a  baseball), orange, monarch butterfly was on our front door.

(Back story, when Seth died, I wrote him a letter that was cremated with him. The only thing I can remember that the letter said is “When you are thinking of me, send me an orange butterfly”).

When I saw the butterfly, I was angry. How dare someone play this kind of joke on me??

It’s middle of November, snowing outside, of course the butterfly was fake!

As I started walking up to our front door, the butterfly started moving, and then flew away.

I was in complete shock.

That was when I knew, without a doubt, I had just made the best decision for myself.

I knew it was time for me to go, and I never looked back.

I have never once regretted the move.

Moving out of our home and into my home, was a turning point in my grief.

I never felt like I was abandoning my memories that our house kept.

I knew that my brain and heart kept my memories of Seth and our life together.

A house did not keep those memories.

I often times forget that I spent 11 years living somewhere else. It feels like I have lived in my house my whole life. When I am reminded that I haven’t lived in my house my whole life, I get a major case of whiplash.

I haven’t had the problem of waking up and not knowing where I am since I moved.
I wake up in middle of the night, and know exactly where I am.
I feel safe and at home.

On a bad day, I want to run to my safe place.
My comfort.
My home.

One of my favorite songs is - I’m coming home, by Diddy Dirty Money.
In the song there is a verse that says “is a house really a home when your loved ones are gone?”

Without a doubt, buying my house is one of the best things I have done for myself since Seth’s death.

If you are struggling with this decision, remember a house does not hold your memories.

Your brain and heart hold those memories.

As long as you have those two, you will always have your memories. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012



On a scale from 1-10, if you were to honestly answer, how much fun do you have on a normal basis?

I answered the same question months ago.

'It's been 5 years. I have fun, again!' and I have, but it wasn't a consistent constant if I really thought about it. I do what I love, I have great friends, I do amazing things, but when truly thinking of it, I was probably a 4 or 5.

Since facing that reality, though, I have added a bit of Peter into my life.

Peter Pan, that is.

I've gone back to the inner child we all have sometimes lying dormant within us.

I play with chalk, face paint, sing horribly in too many public places to name, definitely dance like no one is watching, laugh till my belly hurts, make up corny jokes and laugh at them by myself, take out my cruiser bike with two bells and ride around ringing them waving to strangers while listening to Hall and Oates, and randomly give smells and random animals names I've created.

That's just to list a few.

These weren't things I didn't do before, because fortunately (and unfortunately to some that were present) these were all things I did on a pretty day to day basis before Michael died. But they became something that I wasn't even incorporating into 50% of my life.

So I took my trip to neverland these past few months and never looked back!! I'm at a 7 and rising!

It's easy to forget to be a kid again after all that's happened. It's easy to take for granted laughing until you nearly wet yourself after you've at least taken the huge leap of laughing once more after a tragedy. It's easy to get to a 10 in many areas and forgetting what may actually be a huge component to feeling alive, feeling your husband's presence in the process, when breathing doesn't become such a torturous act. But man, it is not easy to go back to those places once you strap on those green leotards and sprinkle just a bit of fairy dust to add a necessary part of our daily lives into the mix again.

Fly on!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Aaaaaand… Full Stop

I’ve been pushing with all my might since October 5th and I can claim many little victories: The kitchen is now mine.  The living room is now mine.  The closets – all except for the big scary one - are all mine.  But the house is a wreck with piles of stuff.  I have one pile of stuff that’s the Keep This Forever stack (that pile is filled with emotional land mines and prickly pear.)   Another pile is the eBay pile.  Another pile is the Give To Others pile. (The process of distributing those gifts will be all kinds of fun.)(By the way, that was extreme sarcasm, just in case it wasn’t clear.)  Despite the enormous emotional effort, I feel like all I’ve managed to do is shuffle stuff around while making a complete mess of my house.

And everything has come to a complete stop.

My faithful helper texted me Monday to ask if I wanted to make another big push forward this weekend.  My heart went cold.  I didn’t even respond at first.  I feel like I’ve hit a wall.  Go figure.  The last big push I made three weeks ago left me a slobbering mess of a man.  It was the hardest of all by far, except, possibly for that first big step.  Now I fear I lack the resolve to push through to the finish, the last big push: to clear out our closet.

I dismissed my helper’s request with an honest self-assessment of my timidity: I’m seriously rattled from our last bit of work and need some recovery time.  But yet I feel I must continue.  This process is just simply unforgiving.  I get weaker with each step I take yet I know that that despite the pain, this is the right path.

For now, like a climber’s respite at the butt of the final summit, I’ve paused, out of breath, out of energy, and out of motivation.  But where my wind, muscles and drive fail me, my devotion will not.  I am devoted to the pursuit of a life that would make Maggie proud.  She’s worth that.  And so am I.  While I may rest for just a bit, I will not stop my progress.

(Damn this is hard.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Clean Cut Grief

November 9th came and went.
2 years lived without Jeremy passed, just like that.

Like every other milestone date, the week leading up to it was much harder than the actual day. We honored Jeremy by getting together with friends at his memorial stone at the college for dinner and then went to see Skyfall, which coincidentally (or notsomuch) opened on the 9th. Jeremy loved the James Bond series, as do I, and we had talked about anticipating this movie when the last one came out. I knew that if he were still here, we would have gone together opening night. It felt fitting to go, and was a great way to honor him.

Except, I woke up the next day and felt bad again. Aggravated is more accurate. Irritated at myself cause I expected to feel better, not worse. Then, annoyed with the world (and myself again) for assuming I should feel better now that I've gotten through an anniversary of my husband's death. One day is fine for grieving and remembering, but the next day life must go on.

I couldn't let go. Grief isn't clean cut, it doesn't follow my schedule. Jeremy had felt so close to me the past couple of weeks because my heart had been in sync with the last moments I shared with him - I couldn't just wake up the next day and forget.

I happened to get to spend the day with Jeremy's mom and sisters, which was just what my heart needed. But, I simultaneously felt myself hurting again for all the things Jeremy was missing out on with his family - things we had prayed for, and so many changes happening. He wouldn't have missed it for the world. And yet, just another reminder that he's not here and life continues to move forward. As it should, even when you don't really want it to.

I settled in to the fact that I'm ok with not being ok sometimes. I'm thankful for an incredible husband who gives me space for grief when I need it and wraps me with understanding and presence when I need it, and never makes me feel bad for grieving. I've wanted to blog so many different times this week, and I honestly just haven't had the time...but grief has been close to me. And that's ok.

So, I start a third year beginning without Jeremy here to see it. I still can't bring myself to honestly believe he's gone sometimes, but the trail he left behind is too big to ignore. So I follow, and pray that this year will continue to bring hope and healing.

It Takes a While ......


...... before happiness can be a choice.

Last week I wrote a post about a powerful fortune that I found in my cookie at a Chinese restaurant.
It was about looking for my happiness in front of me, not in my past.
Those words stunned and overwhelmed me, but not as they would have stunned and overwhelmed me in my first 2-3 years on this "path".

Because now, at almost the 5 year mark, I have the ability to choose to be happy.
Most of the time.
Way more often than I did in those first few years.

I wrote that post as encouragement to those of you who are behind me on this path .... and who have yet to be able to choose happiness.  Or sadness.  Or what's for dinner.  It's difficult to make almost any choice in the beginning.  I get that.
I remember that.

But in writing that post, I think I unknowingly put pressure on some of you who aren't there yet.  Those of you who don't have the ability to choose ...... yet.
And who can't even imagine EVER being happy again .... by choice or otherwise.

And for that, I apologize.
I hope that you now are familiar with me enough that you know I would never intentionally cause any of you pain.  Or sorrow, or grief, or pressure.
My goal is to let you know that you're not crazy, that you're perfectly normal in a perfectly abnormal situation, and that your timing is the perfect timing .... for you.  No matter what your friends or family members might say.
My goal is to let you know that you're not alone and that there is no ONE right way to grieve.
My goal is to give you hope.
Not pain.

So while I wrote about choosing happiness ....... I should have made it more clear that I was writing about me, and only me, being able to choose happiness now.
It's taken almost 5 years, and The Happiness Project, to show me that.

But just because I'm at a point in my life where I can choose to be happy (most of the time) doesn't mean that I don't remember, with every fiber of my being, those first few years when happiness was not a choice I had.
In fact, there were very few choices that I had.

Grief ruled over me with an iron fist.
He was a very cruel and a very stealthy ruler.
I never knew when he was going to show up .... which was often at the most inopportune moments.  He would pour his hot, horrendous pain all over my body, but with particular preciseness .... he'd slice it straight into my heart.
And it didn't matter where I was ..... at home alone, sitting in church, driving down the freeway, or in a business meeting.  He'd show up and leave me in a mess of tears and sorrow and pain.

Sometimes I knew when to expect him.
Interestingly enough, the pain at those times wasn't as bad as I had anticipated.

But there were far more times when he would descend upon me out of nowhere.  I'd never see him coming, never hear a warning bell, never be able to prepare myself for his onslaught.  Those times required a longer recovery period.  They left me emotionally and physically drained.  I often wondered how much more I could take.
And how many tears I could possibly physically make.  I never understood why I wasn't constantly dehydrated from all of the tears I seemed to constantly shed.

Yes, I remember those days.  We all remember those days.  Which makes me all the more passionate about sharing hope with you.
I didn't know many widowed people in my early days out here.
I didn't know of any websites where I could find encouragement and support from people who understood, mostly, what I was going through.
I wish I had.
Maybe my dark, dark days wouldn't have lasted so long.
Maybe my darkness wouldn't have continued to grow so dark that the only escape I thought I had was death.
Maybe not.

The "maybes" don't matter so much to me anymore.
What matters is that I'm still here.
I am a survivor.
I have experienced the worst thing that I can ever face (in my opinion).
And I'm standing.  Tall.
Well, as tall as a person who's 5'3" can stand.
And that's a lot taller than you think so don't even ponder making a short joke!!

I have been through "THE Valley".
It was a very long, very hard, very painful and very exhausting trip.
I thought I'd never get out.
But I did.
One day I looked around and found that I was climbing upward, approaching the lip of THE Valley.  And someone ahead of me was there to reach down, grab my hand and help me climb over the top.

I made it out.
But I still didn't have the ability to choose happiness.
That didn't come until a year or so later.
It just kind of snuck up on me ..... like almost everything else on this path.

So what was the point of this very long, very boring description of my time on this path?
My point, or rather, half of my point, is this:  to tell you that I get it.  I remember.  I will never forget the days, weeks, months, years that all I could see in front of me was cold, dark blackness.  No future.  No joy.  No happiness.
And no choice.

And the other half?
To tell you that you won't always see only cold, dark blackness in front of you.  You won't always despair at having a future.  You won't always believe that you'll never be happy again.
And you will one day be blessed with the ability to make a choice.

I can't tell you when.
I can't give you any short cuts.  Because there aren't any.
I can't walk through this Valley for you, though there are many, many times when I wish I could.

You will get to the other side when you get there.
Don't measure your progress against anyone else's.
No two journeys are the same.
You will walk through the whole Valley.  One step at a time.
Some days you'll just sit, too exhausted to take a step.  And that's ok.
But you will get through it.
You have to.
Because that's what you'd want for your loved one ..... if he/she had been the one left behind.
And it's what we do ...... fight to survive.
And it's a fight, believe me.

So many of you, right now, can't imagine happiness.  You can't imagine a future any longer, because the future you looked to so very often, will never exist.
And again, that's ok.
You don't have to imagine it.
I will imagine it for you.
Others who are further along than you are will join me in imagining it for you.
We will keep hope alive for you.
Because we can.

Just as you, too, one day will do for the person behind you.

So for today ...... for right now ....... if you can't believe that you have happiness in front of you, let go of that.
And just believe that I do.
I have a lot of happiness before me.
I believe it so much that I know it's certain.
Believe me.
Because, though you aren't aware of it, though you can't feel it, as you believe me ...... belief in yourself will be planted within you.  It grows slowly, so you won't notice it for a while.  But it will grow.
It will grow into Hope.
And once Hope arrives, fully formed ..... Happiness comes soon after.

Believe me.
And just breathe.
One breath at a time.
I'll do the believing for you.
For now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I think I am turning into my own Grandmother

The weather turned cool* again in the weekend and it rained all day Saturday - the first rain we have had in months.

What did we do?
Baked ANZAC biscuits, then I ran about in the rain fertilising things and planting other things, then ending the day by watching a movie and crocheting a blanket.

I swear that if it wasn't for work and my passion for photography, I'd never leave the house ..... I'd actually BE my own grandmother.
Think I am exaggerating?
Look at the evidence:
The baking, crocheting, gardening  and reminiscing about the "old" days (ie - when Greg was alive).   This is all stuff my Nana liked to do.

My (lovely) teacher friend (who is young and gorgeous) often asks me why I don't go out of an evening, and I found myself defending my hermit lifestyle: the thought of putting on a frock and going out with other adults leaves me cold.  (In my old life, I used to wish we did this more often given that we spent most of our free time wrangling toddlers.  Now that the kids are a little older, I have no desire to go out ....... alone.)

Anyhoo ... talk with my friend turned to the inevitable work Christmas party, which I have been trying to avoid signing up for some time now.  I have dutifully gone to the last two parties and hated almost every minute if it...... feeling a little out of place and not able to drink as I had nobody who would come and pick me up at midnight when I turn into a pumpkin.
So the lovely friend asked me "Why don't you bring your camera along - you can always go and take photos of things when you feel sad?  And we will give you a lift home."

....and that actually started to sound like it could be doable.  Even better- it could be fun. 

So maybe....  just maybe ..... I can stop turning into a 42-year-old 90-year-old.  I can still like doing the "old lady" things, but I can also frock-up, bring my camera and head out for a night with my friends and workmates.

You know - I think I will just pay for that Christmas party ticket today.

*By cool, I mean 24°C  - I do live in subtropical Queensland and anything under 25°C is cool; anything under  20°C is cold.  But then, we have no heating and our houses are designed to let cool air in.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Facts of Life


Dave's death catapulted me into a phase of self-discovery like nothing I've experienced before.

Alive, his presence allowed me to look away from myself. I looked closely at our marriage, because it was so important to me, and I looked at him constantly, especially when he was sick because I loved him. I looked at my job and examined every facet of it, obsessively. I looked at the future I expected to have and could imagine it quite easily.

What I didn't really look at much was me. The inside of me. The dark, deep-down and hidden bits of me that were so convenient to ignore.

Sure, I processed my grief around my mother and father's deaths. I knew I had some "issues" that many people raised by an alcoholic do and many who lost a mother very young experience also. I knew I was terrified of losing Dave. I was working on all of that in therapy. But there was so much more inside.

When Dave died and our marriage as I knew it evaporated in front of me and my identity was blown to bits, leaving me to sort through the pieces, I had no choice but to examine the dark and deep parts of me that had been exposed. I had to, for the first time, deal with my fear of being alone as a woman, my perfectionism and how it keeps me prisoner, my neediness, my somewhat warped money and work ethic beliefs, my doubt in the power of myself. It was all there waiting and after the first year or so of widowhood had passed, and some of the shock had begun to burn off, I started to see it all more clearly and I finally couldn't ignore it.

Throughout this journey, the pieces of myself I've been trying to heal and sort out and fully understand for the first time almost seem to come together under one theme, but I've struggled to figure out what that theme actually is. It's like I can see the common thread out of the corner of my eye, but when I turn to look at it head on, it slips back into the periphery and I can't get a really good look at it.

I could sense that it's all related and that it's all about my attachment to the stories in my head, but I could never quite grasp it all.

While it's more complicated than one simple answer or common thread and no one book can ever fully encapsulate the complicated labyrinth of human emotion, a book I started last night felt damn close.

The Five Things We Cannot Change seemed to fit snugly into a gap I had in my understanding of how all these issues of mine come together. It helped make very clear and simple what had been swimming around, unorganized, in my head all this time.

Richo states that there are 5 core facts that we all face but usually live in denial of and this denial is what causes us the undo pain we experience.

These facts that will find us over and over again in life are:
1. Everything changes and ends.
2. Things do not always go according to plan.
3. Life is not always fair.
4. Pain is part of life.
5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.

What I really like about this is that Richo proposes that these truths are not actually the bad news they seem to be. It's actually the struggle against them that is the source of our troubles.

I know that the pain I feel and will always feel at the loss of my husband won't be remedied the minute I really grasp this concept. I understand that grieving is a separate sort of struggle entirely. However, I do think that at some point, I can cause myself much more pain than necessary by pushing against these facts and trying to deny them.

When I feel my worst, I notice my thought patterns actively push against these facts. We were supposed to grow old together. Why did this happen? It's not fair. I don't want to feel pain. Why do people leave me? He died too young, we didn't get enough time together. All valid points and feelings, of course and completely understandable and human, but they feel like arguing with a big, stubborn, omniscient creature (I picture it as an ogre) who keeps all the answers locked within itself just to piss me off. 

However, when I turn my thoughts to Yes, he died. It is and was horrible. It was unfair. NOW what? is when things begin to turn the corner for me. That's when I begin to imagine that there might be a life after this for me. There might be a way to do something good in this world because of my pain, not just in spite of it.

And, just as important, nothing is permanent, so why cling to it?

Don't cling to this particular pain, because it will pass. Don't cling to this particular moment, because it will be over, too.  Let go and let be.  

That's when I start to find a still, calm center within the chaos of my mind. That's when I might be able to zoom up and out of the shell my soul is inhabiting and look down from far above at this life I live from a different perspective. Amongst all the other pain in the world, I'm not alone in loss and grief. We are all able to withstand terrible pain and have been doing so since the beginning of our species' time on earth.

Also, there are facts just as important, but not included in that list. Like there will be incredible joy and beauty and miracles. There will be amazing lessons to be learned only by the trial of pain and loss. There will be wisdom and sunshine and babies' laughs and shouts for joy.

Each of us go through it all if we live long enough. We all experience every one of those five facts and along the way we get to experience all the wonderful facts too, that glow extra bright when held up next to the dark.

I've only read the first chapter of this book so far, but I have a feeling it's one I'll reread again and again.  There is something comforting about confronting and even trying to embrace these truths. I believe that it's tricky in our society to talk about the truths without coming off as a Debbie Downer.

But that's where the misunderstanding begins and where the struggle against the truths starts. 

Facing the truth of life isn't negative, it's brave and if we all can look squarely at the facts (no matter how scary or sad they might be) and talk about them, maybe we won't feel so alone in our pain.

It will expose them as utterly common and unavoidable parts of a life so they can't fester in the dark and become scary unknowns or shameful secrets.

Maybe it really says something about me that a list of facts that some might categorize as depressing actually made me feel better (That's why I'm most likely paying for my therapist's new car!), but it did and maybe it might you.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dead Traditions

One of the many lilies from Seth.

Dear Seth,
I am writing you this letter to let you know that election season has come and gone. 
Obama was re-elected.
I’m guessing you already know this.

So what’s the purpose of this letter?

You see, months ago, when the debuts started, I thought -
“I need to talk to Seth about all this political stuff going on. He’s great at telling me the pros and cons of each party.”

Then it hit me.

We had a tradition I didn't know we had.

You would always watch each party closely, watch the presidential debuts, and then fill me in. I always ignored it all and looked forward to our talks about politics, and I looked forward to seeing your opinion on it all.

As you know, I really don’t care about politics. But I do like to use my right to vote.

As Election Day grew closer, I grew more anxious. The one person I really needed to talk to about the election, is dead.

Once again, a tradition died with you.

A tradition I didn't know we had.

I didn't expect election season to be a huge grief trigger.
But man oh man, did it knock me down.

I remember when I realized a tradition died for the first time.

It was the first Easter after you died.

I woke up Easter morning. Even though my brain knew you were gone, I still expected to wake up to my Easter lilies.

Remember, you bought me lilies every year? And we would plant them together?

It was a tradition we had, that I didn't know we had.

I guess it was just the “norm” for Easter. I guess I expected my lilies. After all, you did it for years. Never once buying me the same lilies twice. So why would you stop doing that now?

For some odd reason, I still expected that tradition to carry on.

My brain isn't able to process that traditions died with you. I still expect the traditions to live on.

The Easter bunny my mom now carries on the Easter lily tradition. My garden is full of lilies from our “before” life, and my “after” life. The Easter bunny brings me amazing lilies now, making sure I don’t already have a certain lily before bringing them.

But who is going to carry on the Presidential Election tradition now? 

They say it’s the little things you miss when someone dies.

For me, it’s the traditions that the “old me” didn't realize were traditions at the time.

Nothing hurts worse than being smacked with a “dead tradition”.

Friday, November 9, 2012


I wish I could sit here and tell you that I was the genius that came up with what you are about to read, but I am not...more so the messenger of something I think we all would enjoy at some capacity.

Enjoy and have a great Saturday!

"God, grant me the serenityto accept the people I cannot change,which is pretty much everyone,since I’m clearly not you, God.
At least not the last time I checked.
And while you’re at it, God,
please give me the courage
to change what I need to change about myself,
which is frankly a lot, since, once again,
I’m not you, which means I’m not perfect.
It’s better for me to focus on changing myself
than to worry about changing other people,
who, as you’ll no doubt remember me saying,
I can’t change anyway.
Finally, give me the wisdom to just shut up
whenever I think that I’m clearly smarter
than everyone else in the room,
that no one knows what they’re talking about except me,
or that I alone have all the answers.
Basically, God,
grant me the wisdom
to remember that I’m
not you.