Friday, March 15, 2013

Six Degrees of My Dead Husband

Everything in life comes back to my dead husband.

This month, I have had a few unexpected expenses, and I make crappy money to begin with, and today I sit with $87 in my checking account, and somehow need to make that last until the end of the month, which is payday. Now; when my husband Don was alive, being broke was no picnic, but it also wasnt the end of the world. We got through each broke cycle together, and he always had my back. Often times, the first thing he would say as I was shaking him awake in the morning was: "Take whatever's in my wallet, Boo. Love you, have a good day." Then he would roll over and go back to sleep as I left for work. (He worked the overnight shift as a paramedic.) But now? When Im broke, Im just broke, and there's nobody to shake out of their slumber to loan me a few bucks. I just gotta "figure it out."

This morning, right in the middle of going to the bathroom, I came to the sad realization that there was no toilet paper on the roll sitting there next to me. Great. What the hell do I do now? Walk pants-down to the hallway closet and grab another roll, taking the very high risk that my roommate will choose that very same moment to walk down the hall as well? Back at our old apartment in New Jersey, in my old life where I was a very happily married person, this was a common occurance. No big deal. I simply open the door and shout: "Boo! Throw me a roll of TP please?" "Again?", he would chime in, not believing how many times I leave myself sans toilet paper. "Yeah yeah, enough with the critique. Just do it." I dont feel comfortable enough to have that kind of dialogue with a roommate, so it doesnt happen.

About 6 months ago, I made the decision to move out of the NJ apartment that my husband and I had shared for 7 years. It was a crappy rental, it was old as hell, and we were always saying how we wanted to move out of there and find a nicer place. But Don made everything that was miserable - funny - and so when he mocked the apartment or me or our life, it always made me laugh. Well, living in a crappy apartment by yourself with nothing surrounding you except your husband's things? It ain't that funny. It sucks. It sucks hard. So after searching and searching and packing up our entire life into boxes and spending months getting rid of and selling and donating our furniture and generally having every second revolve around moving, I finally found what seemed like the perfect place at the perfect time. There was a really nice and generous man on the 21st floor of a high-rise in my favorite neighborhood of NY, Forest Hills. He was (still is) a gay man, so there were no worries about weird heterosexual tensions or "intentions", and after meeting up a few times, once in his Manhattan office and once at the apartment so I could see it, we decided to be roommates. In New Jersey, one of the best things about our old apartment was that it sat right on the Hudson River, just 8 minutes outside NYC. The city skyline view was amazing, and at night, the whole city lit up like a Lite Brite board. It was pure magic. Don and I used to take walks at night and look at that view, and he would say: "You know, Jersey sure is a craphole, but this view never gets old." My bedroom on the 21st floor has that same view - but better, because its in my bedroom. I dont even have to walk outside to see it this time. The neighborhood is only a 20-minute drive to work for me. In NJ, I was commuting about 2 hours each way (driving to Long Island and back.) with traffic. Everything about this place felt like home to me, and it felt like a sign. It felt like my dead husband had sent me here.

And then, last month, it all came crashing down. Out of the complete blue (at least from my perspective), my roommate told me that "we are not a good match" and he would like me to be out by the end of May. I think I asked him to please repeat himself because I was so shocked. I asked for an explanation, many times, as to the "Why" of this sudden mismatch news. He refused to give me any specific reasons, and so, to me, it became just another thing that I was losing suddenly - in a flash - and for no reason - just like Don.

Just a few weeks before, I had specifically inquired with him as to whether or not we were on solid ground, and should I feel comfortable selling my car in order to save money and just use the amazing public transporation options that are available here in Forest Hills? Not only did he tell me we were doing great, but also talked about a year or two down the line, when he may move to Los Angeles, and how I could stay here and find another roommate if I wanted to. Feeling confident about things, I decided to drive my car home to Massachusetts and have my brother try and sell it for me. This was also a hard decision to make, as this car was a used car that my brother bought for me just a couple months after Don died, because Don's car was very old and had tons of miles on it and was becoming too unsafe for me to drive. So we sold my husband's car for super cheap, and my brother bought me this one. Ironically, both cars looked exactly the same, and were both Pontiacs. My brother switched out the rugs and the rearview mirror on the cars, so that I could always have Don's rearview mirror.

Now, a few weeks later, my car sits in my brother's snow-filled yard and on Craigslist. There have been no calls on it. And here I sit, just 6 months after moving my entire life from NJ to NY - exhausted, confused, terrified, broke, and once again; looking for a new place to live.

This year, I have been asked for the first time, to be a presenter at Camp Widow. I will be doing a stand-up comedy performance about grief, and about my husband's death. The presentation, which is the weekend of April 19th, is supposed to have the tone of inspirational. Coping with loss through humor. Meanwhile, my life is such a mess right now and I am such a mess right now, that I went to bed at 9pm last night because I couldnt handle any more random crying outburts or emotions or things I have to get done or stress. I was jolted awake at 4am this morning with this thought: "SHIT! It's Friday! I have to write my Widow's Voice Blog!!!" Normally I write it up and submit it on Thursday night, but I was so stressed out, I forgot. Never did I picture my life being one where I would awaken in a ball of tension screaming about a blog for widows. Never did I think that at age 41, I would be no longer married, but feel married, and be going through roommates like toilet paper. Never did I see my life ending up here - once again packing boxes and bags, once again relocating and "getting used to it", once again making yet another sacrifice so that I can keep going, keep surviving, keep trying. Once again, I need to just figure it out. Alone.

A couple of months ago, when I was starting to consider selling my car due to the huge expense of simply owning a car in New York, I was bringing up the idea in an online private group I sometimes hang out in. It is a group of women, and they are not widowed. I was talking about how difficult it was going to be for me to sell this car, because Ive come to love it, and my brother bought it for me after Don's death, and it would suck to let it go. One of the women made a comment that she "didnt see what selling my car had to do with Don's death at all", and basically implied that I was being stupid if I didnt sell it to save some money, and that I needed to start "sacrificing" some things. Oh really? Would you like a list of everything I have had to sacrifice since my husband randomly died that morning? Sit down, because its a long list. It was one of those many moments in this new life where I wanted to scream, but had to instead hold back and keep reminding myself: They just dont get it. They just dont get it. They just dont get it.

And, among many other things they dont get, the big one, is this:

When you lose your life partner to death, it affects every single part of your life going forward. Everything  changes overnight. Every. Thing. Tiny things like shopping, to what you eat, to how you look at pictures, to cooking , to watching TV, to your music selection, to what route you take when you drive to work, to everything.

And then, of course, the big things. Like letting go of your 2nd car in a year. Your 2nd home in a year. Your 2nd time of feeling like you were on solid ground, and then having that ground pushed out from underneath you. It all goes back to the very reality that he died, and it always will.

It's like that game; Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where every actor at some point has worked with or has worked with someone else who has worked with Kevin Bacon. This is the same thing, except it's not a fun game to play. It's just the truth. And sometimes, the truth is a really sucky place to be.


  1. My heart hurts for you and understands your pain. I am a new widow of 4 months after losing my husband suddenly in a tragic accident. This new way of life totally sucks and is so unfamiliar to me. We were married for 33 years, and I am now also experiencing the pain of the daily secondary losses. They could be the littlest things that maybe I took for granted previously, but now are like huge deals, at which I have meltdowns. I also thought of myself as a strong person and boy, i sure do feel vulnerable now. I do know that while we have to walk through this pain to get through this horrible journey that we really are surrounded by people that love us and hurt for us and wish they could take the pain from us. We are not alone though, I am truly thankful I found this blog. So hopefully, each day will get better for all of us.

  2. Lately I've felt so out of sorts. Every big and little injustice that occurs to me or to anyone I find out about rankles me so much. I was never one to believe that the universe was fair or that prayer would bring about miracles or that good outweighed bad, (ok, so I was a pessimist/realist) but lately, I'm just really sick of how no one necessarily gets a break. For you, two moves is just too much! But what can you do? Fate has no mercy right now.
    I suppose it means that when you do get a chance to breathe and find a tiny piece of "home" again, to suck it up and store it in your heart like a squirrel saving nuts for the winter is the best case scenario. I tell myself this anyway. And I keep finding ways to discover how others have it worse. And I wait for the days when I feel better. What else can I/we do? Sending hugs.

  3. Kelley,
    It will get better, trust me. My husband Greg died 6 years ago. It took a while for me to regain my footing. I am just now selling the condo he and I lived in. It still pangs a bit but not so bad since I am selling it to my son. It is true that what doesn't kill us just makes us stronger. Your room-mate is an ass in my book. But nonetheless, he wants you out and that couldn't happen at a worse time. It took a good year and a half for me to fully process MY situation and I can only imagine your grief of not only losing your husband but now your home. Keep putting one foot in front of the other are not alone in many of us in this "widow/widower" stage. How I hate calling it that, but life has got to keep moving forward. God bless.

  4. I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your blog. I'm not a widow, but my friend died recently, leaving a widow. I get the pleasure of reading some of what you write when she shares it on facebook. I think everything I have ever read of yours has helped me learn to be a better and supportive person to my widow friend. I hurt for her, and I hurt for you. Thank you so much for sharing your trials and tribulations, your joy and sorrow. It takes a lot of balls to open yourself up to the world like this and I can only hope that everyone can gain a better understanding of those around them that may have lost that one person they chose to spend the rest of their lives with.

  5. I find myself listening, listening, listening to every detail you share. There are no easy solutions at hand at all. No difficult solutions either. This is not about finding solutions. This is about enduring the impossible.

    How do you endure a tsunami? This is not something we can ever learn. The only thing we know is that we have no choice.

    You can't discuss with a tsunami. You can't fight a tsunami. You can't swim with it and you can't stay where you are. You can't do anything at all. And that's exactly how you find out it that it carries you.

    And yes, one day you'll find yourself at peace, in a harbor. But that's not now. Now there's just now. And this you can. You can make it through this now, this moment.

    All my best -


  6. Kelley...I'm so sorry. What you are dealing with sucks. I know from my own experience, that unexpected changes can cause a complete meltdown, and suddenly the delicate framework of recovery we were building just comes crashing down. I did want to say that I think it's tremendous that you are taking on the role of a speaker at CW. Brave. I will be there, I'm signed up for your session, and I want you to know that you will be supported, no matter what your frame of mind is. But it is clear that even in the worst scenarios, you have a unique perspective and humor that continues to shine. Take care, Katja.

  7. Do you ever feel like one of those punching bag clowns that when you hit it, it falls down then pops right back up and nearly hits you in the face? That is how I feel. Everytime I am about to bounce back up, something hits me back down on the ground again. My head hurts from hitting the ground again and I feel like a stupid idiot for grinning my way through the pain.
    However, the key is that I do get up each time....after I lost my job...after I found out I might have breast cancer...after my car broke down again ... after I got stuck in a snowbank. It's only been two years since I lost my beloved but I feel like I have lived a lifetime. So Kelly, please be the clown toy next to me. You can get up. You can do this. You are not alone

  8. I feel your pain and totally understand how you feel. A little over four years ago I lost my husband of thirty years to a horrific disease that had been diagnosed a year before his death, and my life has gone to hell since then. It is just one thing after the other and right now I am so low I don't have any idea where up is. When you are in a loving, supportive relationship and things are bad you can always count on each other. But when you lose that person you depended on so much then you feel lost at sea. Nothing is the same anymore. What a totally heartless and rotten thing for your room mate to have done to you. I so hope that you are able to find a new place to live by the end of May.

  9. I'm so sorry you are going through this. I have no words... your roomate should be forbidden to ever have another roomate...

    You are not alone. Hang in there...

  10. Yes. Losing your husband affects every.single.thing. in your life. Nothing is untouched by him, his presence, or a memory. NOTHING. STINKS. BADLY.

  11. You are all so wonderful and kind, and I never expected so much support on this blogpost. THank you for making me feel a bit better underneath all the stress and anxiety right now.

  12. Kelly,

    Thank you for sharing so openly.
    Thank you for sharing how difficult to let the car go is.
    Thank you for sharing how even the '15th first' of no tp is as cutting as the first.
    Thank you for sharing how even your support group doesn't get it and expects us to think and make decisions 'logically' or 'unselfishly', instead of understanding we are spent and overwhelmed.
    Thank you for not apologizing for not being more upbeat or philosphical using words like 'Circle of Life' or 'I will survive'.
    Thank you for your honesty.

    Thank you for reminding me that even though other widows/ers may look as if they are 'dealing', they probably are just better at looking that way.

    Thank you for inspiring me.

    Thank you. I do get it.

    I know your presentation will bring down the house!

    Kaye Letskus

  13. Kelley,

    What can I say? You always amaze me. Again, you've hit that nail on that head. I can so relate to what everyone has stated in these comments. Most especially, to Victoria. You can easily insert my name instead of hers. Not sure why when life already sucks as much as it possibly can, it has to suck more. I agree when you have your soulmate there, the hard times are so much easier and since they're gone, the hard times just seem to keep on coming, and getting harder.
    Thanks always to you, Kelley, for writing the lyrics to our life songs.


  14. Kelley,

    Your posts amaze me. They always say what I can't put into words. You are right, every injustice I encounter leads back to to my husband is gone. Life was never perfect but an imperfect life is so much easier to attack when there is someone beside you. I'm sick of hearing how strong this is making me because if I had my choice between being strong and having Ron you know what that choice would be!! My thoughts are with you as you take on this hurdle, just know you have many friends out here cheering you on on this journey.

  15. I understand your stress and anxiety you have experienced because my husband died a month ago, it is awful and I will try to go on because of my teenager daughter. Life sucks and people call this a good and nice life.... People are giving me advice and support , but I really do need my husband. ...