Friday, November 22, 2013

I Forgot You Died

My husband's sudden and unexpected death happened on a Wednesday.
July 13, 2011.
We had gone to sleep the night before, and I still don't recall saying goodnight.
Or saying anything.
We simply fell asleep, in the exhaustion of having two jobs and being busy and life.

A few hours later, he had left for his volenteer job at the local Petsmart,
helping out with cat adoptions, and then stocking pet food.
But he never got around to any of that.
His manager found him collapsed on the cold, hard floor instead,
about 90 minutes after arriving to work.
(Just a side note; I don't actually know for a fact that the floor was cold, but for some reason, whenever I describe it to anyone or write about it, I always describe it as a cold floor. I just picture it and see it as being cold. These are the kinds of things, big and small, that trauma puts into our heads.)

My very healthy and active husband,
who was a paramedic and saved other people's lives daily,
suffered from a massive heart attack at only age 46.
No symptoms. No warnings. No goodbyes.
Here one second,
Gone the next.
On that morning, I literally woke up to my new reality and the new life I didn't want, as my husband was gone from our apartment, and gone from Earth.

And since that catastrophic day,
I have been counting,
both consciously and subconsciously,
every month, week, hour, minute, and second,
since he died.
On the 13th of every month,
Every month,
my heart would automatically know it was the 13th.
On the rare occasion that I didn't know within minutes of waking up,
my body would remind me.
I would feel "off",
or sick,
or really, really awful.
If it was the 13th of the month, AND a Wednesday,
that was even worse.
I would re-live "that day",
again and again
and Again.
Every 13th.
For over 2 years.

Until this week.
This week, someone innocently asked me,
"How long has it been since your husband died?"
And instead of blurting out, like a robot,
my completely normal response of:
"It has been 2 years, 4 months, 5 days, 17 hours, and 3 minutes since my love died" -
something bizarre happened.
I forgot.
For a few seconds in time,
I could not recall the exact time that had gone by since his death.
I had to think about it.
It required math.
I had to use my fingers, and carry the one.
That had never happened before.
Not ever.

And then I remembered something else,
that I had forgotten. 
The 13th.
For the first time ever, since his death, 
the 13th of a month, that happened to fall on a Wednesday,
creeped by,
without me even noticing. 
The only reason I even thought about it, 
was because this person had asked me, 
"How long since he died?" 
So I counted. Did the math. Remembered. 

But here is the best part:
I didn't feel any guilt. 
No guilt.
I didn't feel bad or guilty,
for momentarily forgetting the exact date in time
that my world exploded.
Because why should I?
It is insane to think,
that I could ever really forget.
That's not possible.
His death is in the rhythms,
of everything I am.

I felt something else. 
A new way of breathing. 
I was happy to forget,
even for a few moments,
because in my world,
this is progress. 
I was excited. 
I almost felt like singing. 

And after that day, this week, where I had forgotten what I had always remembered, I noticed other things happening too. Small things, but still things.

I noticed a couple walking down the street, holding hands and kissing, clearly in love - and for the first time in a long, long time - I didn't want to simultaneously trip them and watch them fall into a manhole, never to be seen again. I didn't want to throw them a goddamn party or anything, but I didn't feel massive rage either. It's a start.

I noticed that this year, on the upcoming Thanksgiving, which will be my 3rd one without my love - that Im not filled with anxiety and fear and dread, as the day approaches. I wouldn't say I'm "excited", because, well, let's not get crazy - but it's not looking like the black, dark hole it used to be. 

The other day, I was in the car, driving to meet my best friend Sarah for dinner somewhere, and I had the car radio on. Now, that in itself, is something that is very recent for me, in my new "after" life. Music is still very hard. Music was my husband, and my husband was music - so it's very, very hard. Only recently have I been able to even listen to music of any kind in the car, and still, lots of times, many songs will send me into random bursts of sobbing, and I become an emotional dishrag. But on this particular day, for whatever reason, it was different. Not only did they play music, they played Christmas music. "Let It Snow".

I sat there. Driving. There was a slight pause in my tiny, ginormous world. Nothing happened. And then, something did happen. I turned it up. Loud. And for the first time, in a long, long time - I sang. It has hurt to much to sing since he died, because I'm not singing with him. I'm not singing while he strums his guitar. I'm not singing to chords that he learned, just for me, that would sound blended with my voice. Music was my husband, and my husband was music. And we were music. When he died, the music stopped. There just didn't seem to be a point anymore. 

And then there was. In the car. When I sang "Let It Snow", all alone, and with him. 
For about 25 seconds in a row, I decided to let Christmas in again. 
It hurt. 
It hurt a lot. 
I'm still not ready for all of Christmas. 
But maybe just a verse. 
So I sang. 
And then I cried. 
But first, 
I sang. 

(Pictured: my husband Don and I celebrating Christmas in NYC, 2010. The Who's down in Who-ville. Singing. )


  1. Hi Sweet Kelly Lynn, My husband died on 10/13/10 and I am very familiar with the power of the 13th. I'm happy to see some of life's pleasures are starting to return to your life. I too am actually not dreading the holidays this year. I love your post and really appreciate your humor thanks for posting.

  2. Thank you for sharing Kelley! I am also going into my third year without my wonderful husband & I feel the same way. Not that we will ever forget or be the same people but we dont have a choice if we want some type of a happy life again! Hopefully, we can all sing and try to enjoy the holidays as best as we can!!!

  3. Kelley Lynn, I lived in your world of counting for about two years as well. My husband passed away suddenly on 3/8/2010. The Sunday of each week, the 8th of each month, the days, the hours, the minutes.... since his passing. I remember the first month time that the 8th passed without me noticing and like you I did not feel any guilt. It was liberating. Unfortunately, unlike you, heading into my 4th holiday season, I only feel sadness and dread.

    Good for you for coming so far in such a short period of time! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Im so sorry about the sadness and dread. Thanksgiving , for me, is MUCH easier than Christmas. Still hard, but easier. And Im not really looking forward to it, but Im not filled with anxiety, which is a huge leap for me this year. Its enough. Christmas, like music, was too much a part of me and Don for me to go back to jut yet. It hurts too much still. But I know its there for me whenever Im ready. And for now, one verse of a song in my car is what i can handle. Ill be spending Thanksgiving this year with some good friends and their family - my friend lost her mom about 9 months ago, so this will be their first Thanksgiving without her, and her widowed dad will be there, and me - a widow. So weird. I will make sure we toast to her mom and my husband, and the day will be whatever it turns out to be.

  4. Kelley Lynn, thank you for sharing your post with us and for giving us hope for the future. My husband died of a heart attack beside me at 3:11 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. Everything for me is relative to before and after that date. Somehow I find myself waking up at exactly 3:11 a.m. My tears still fall unexpectedly at any given moment. This will be my third holiday season without Rich and I feel empty inside; more so than last year. I find myself walking around the stores filled with holiday decorations and music and I'm numb inside. I pray that what you described happens for me soon.

  5. Music was such a big part of our lives too, having had a music store. After 3+ years I am finally able to listen to a select few cd's, the rest will just have to wait. The same ones have been in my car cd player all these years, you'd think I could change them out...but, no. Let it be.

    Can't quite get into the ho ho ho of Christmas, way too much of it to handle. Can't even walk around stores, like anon above. I don't shop, I don't bake, I don't go to parties (tried that last year, big mistake). Guess I'll just hold onto hope that someday I will feel different about it all. Thanks for giving me a glimpse of what might be, if only one verse of one song, for one moment. It's something to look forward to. As you said "the day will be whatever it turns out to be".

    1. You will Cathy. You WILL feel different about all of it. Someday. It will happen slowly, and all of a sudden too. The feelings and emotions of grief just change so much and so often, most times we dont even recognize the shifts until a bit later on. And as my counselor always reminds me: "It takes as long as it takes, and you are exactly where you need to be." xo ....

  6. That was lovely, really rang true for so many of us. This is also my third holiday season without my husband. He died suddenly of cardiac arrest on September 28th, 2011, our youngest's 11th birthday. I'm still in the counting stages. I even mark off the weeks on a calendar, which is macabre, I know. Still wake up several nights a week at 3:10 a.m., the time when he woke me feeling ill. However, I too am feeling just a tinge of excitement for the upcoming holidays. Like you, not anything close to how it used to be, but my black despair from the last two holiday seasons seems to have lifted a tiny bit. Could this be the beginning of finding a bit of happiness again? I sure hope so.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing; it echoes my experiences as well. My partner died on 6/13/2011, and for the first year out, I was always hyper-aware of the 13th. When one day about 18 months out, I realized that I forgot to remember!
    Peace to you,

  8. It's a really weird feeling when you unexpectedly find yourself enjoying things you used to, but weren't able to for a while. For me it felt like 'I'm coming back' - not the same as I was, but I'm coming back.

  9. Kelley Lynn, You have a wonderful way with words, and especially with words to express the feelings so many of us are feeling or have felt. I echo the sentiment of thanks to you for being you, for helping us understand and express what we are going through, and maybe how to start going out of our grief.

  10. THank you so much Carol, and everyone, for the very kind words. Im always SO happy whenever anything I write resonates with someone else. I always just write what I feel.

  11. My husband died of MS on June 13, 2011. I feel like you Kelley. As much as I prayed to relieve myself of the incredible grief, It has just recently eased up. On it's own somehow, I'm finally getting some forward motion as I like to call it. Baby steps for sure, but the timing seems so much like the other widows here. I don't like being alone but I seemed to have been able to keep myself alive all this time so I guess I'll be up to the tasks of trusting myself with this life.

  12. I am so thankful to find someone who is able to put into words so much of what I am feeling. My husband died May 6, 2012 and while this will be the second year of holidays I am already dreading them with a passion. Since we did not have children or close family we tried to plan vacation around Christmas and I miss that more than I could have ever imagined. I am so looking forward to one day not counting the number of months since that day in May or face that moment of panic when having to walk into a room full of happy couples at holiday gatherings. Thank you Kelly Lynn.