Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ezra's Pain

As my world stabilizes.

As I look forward, instead of back

As I feel the earth rooting me, it is exactly as the grief people said it will be.

"Many young children hold onto their grief until the surviving parent is able to cope. And then...."

.....hell breaks loose.

I see them, beyond me. They have changed from "one more thing to deal with" to "how can I help them."

Ezra, in my room casually throwing himself aggressively on my bed in that boy manner says,
"Mom, have you ever thought about suicide?"

My heart does not skip.

I do not turn to him, startled. I have been warned.

His bereavement group leader called before the holidays. "He talked about wanting to die. This is not uncommon. Some kids long to see the dead parent so much they think suicide is a way to do it. However, Ezra kept repeating it. I told him this was very serious and that I would be talking with you. I think this goes beyond him just wanting to see his dad."
"Can a 7 year old be suicidal?" I ask incredulously.
"Yes they can" she informs.
I am silent. I took the information in and let it swirl around in my head during winter break.
Seeing if he showed any signs of depression. Nothing till now.
Suddenly I have the mother self-conscious awareness of the power of my words, aware that I have to keep this open. Oddly I am not scared.
"Yes I have Ezra. Do you feel like committing suicide?" my voice even.
"Yes" he says. I turn to my closet, picking up a pair of shoes to put away. Do not make this seem like a "talk" I think. He is a boy, I must stay in motion.
"Why?" I ask hanging clothes in my closet.
"Everyone talks about daddy and I don't like it. I don't like talking OR hearing about him. I like pretending that I never had a father."
"Are the feelings that come up scary?" I can no longer resist. I sit on the bed and look at him.
"Yes, they are." he replies in a squished voice as he answers mid summersault.
"For me, I sometimes feel like I can't possible get passed them. I sometimes feel like dying would be better than feeling them." And I swallow because every word I say is TRUE!
He starts into another summersault, but glances in my direction. Searching? Seeing if I'm telling the truth?
"When?" he asks.
"On Tuesday." I reply reflecting how recently my grief seldom side swipes me during the day.
How long has it been since they have seen me cry over Art?
He looks at me and...
yells "Pallas, do you want to play...."
He leaps of the bed as if he just remembered there's bread in the oven and dashes out of the room.
I am left on the bed inbetween crying and courage, dumbfounded.
I am sure of only one thing I am finally grief-less enough to help him.

Friday, January 29, 2010

call me

I haven't called Jeff's number in almost two years. In the first few days after he died, I called him repeatedly....apologizing. Wishing I could have saved him. Begging him to come home.

His cell phone number is still programmed into the home phone and my cell phone. I will never be able to delete it. If it is on my phone, it seems that he is just a call away. Not too far.

Our home phone had a special ring programmed announcing that the caller was him. Some classical song that was exciting and uplifting. When I'd hear it, I would bolt from whatever task I was involved in and launch myself over children and furniture to catch it before voicemail took over. I haven't heard that ring in so very long.

One evening after putting the kids to bed, I felt compelled to phone him. To close the gap between us and pretend for just a moment that I could succeed with this seemingly small and mundane task of calling my husband.

I dialed the number and attempted to breathe as my heart leaped from my throat and down to my abdomen. It rang three times before the new owner of the number answered it. I waited to catch my composure and squeaked out, "Can I speak to Jeff, please?" She tersely coughed out, "Wrong number," and hung up.

I sat sobbing. He was gone. I couldn't bridge the gap. I couldn't reach him. After sometime, I managed to settle myself. I rolled over on my soaked pillow and stared at his dry one in the dark as I fell asleep.

At two am, I was jolted awake to the sound of an 'exciting and uplifting classical song' being belted from my telephone. I snatched the handset and stared at the call display. "Jeff" I thought I'd vomit as I answered....... Nothing. Silence. Dead air. He wasn't there.

But for one brief moment, I remembered how it felt to know he was out there. He was thinking of me. He was calling out for me....and he loved me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

pocket dialing

happy 10-week birthday.

monday was the day

that my perfect baby

transformed into

little miss fuss.

she cried almost the

entire day.

the only thing that

stopped the crying was

to hold her.

she’s got so

much of her mom

in her.


parents used to tell

this story about


as a kid,

sitting on a swing

(more than capable of propelling herself, i think)

saying, “somebody push me!”

she wanted attention

and loved having

people around.

madeline is obviously no


her cries said,

“somebody hold me!”

so i did.

almost all day.

a full day of little miss fuss

made this a tough day,

my first real moments

of baby frustration.

she finally fell

asleep at 1:30am.

was carrying a whole

bunch of stuff,

2:45am, i hear my phone

dialing a random number

due to me hitting some

random button.

(shit. i hope i’m not waking someone up).

look down at the phone.

it’s dialing



of all the numbers

in my phone,

why the fuck did it dial



that’s was enough

to keep me up

’til 4:30am.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Last week one of my children experienced a tragedy.
This child called me within minutes of the experience.
I listened to him, stunned at what had happened and not believing what he had gone through.
My very first thought, my first instinct .... was that I had to call Jim.
In fact .... I thought that more than one time during the phone call.
In spite of the fact that he's been dead for over 2 years.

I was stunned that that was still my instinct. My mind was numb and that was the only thought I had.
I'm still stunned over that thought.

How long will it be before my brain stops going there?
How long will it seem like my brain is in denial about my reality?
And how long will my heart feel like a knife goes through it when that instinct kicks in and then my mind catches up with the truth?

And while I'm asking questions with no answers ...... how long will it be before I stop having this thought ..... "I can NOT believe that he's really dead."?
I don't have that thought nearly as often as I used to .... but I still have it.
I still have moments when I can't believe that this is my reality.

Thankfully, it doesn't knock me to my knees like it used to.
Although it can still bring me to tears.

Does it ever go away?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Then and Now

I spent some time last week reading through my old journal. I wrote in it almost every day for a year after Daniel died. Every once in a while I read through it to remind myself of how far I've come. It's been over a year since I've looked at it, and it was some rough reading. I felt so sorry for that poor woman (yes, me). It was painful to relive those moments and read the anguish in my words. Sometimes, I still feel that intense anguish, fortunately most of the time it is a low level regret and sadness.

January 31, 2006 (the picture above was taken a month or so later)

I haven't been sleeping well. There has been some sort of critter under the house making so much racket, and Osa walks through the house whining. Jeff finished the underpinning yesterday, so whatever was under there was stuck for over 24 hours. Chris and I opened up the entry door, and hoped it would come out. Minutes later a cat comes out and then runs back in. Minutes after that....a possum came out! There was a cat and a possum under the house! I shut the door on the possum, but the cat is still under the house. I'll try and get it out in the morning.

I've been having a really hard time lately. I just miss you so much. Grayson realized last night that you won't be here for Mother's Day, Father's Day, or his birthday. He cried. I told him I was sorry and that we would have to try to make those days extra special. My poor baby boy, he's only just realizing that you won't be here for so many things. He asked me if if he could call you and if you have your cell phone in Heaven. It was so sweet and so sad. We both wish we could call you. We both wish it was our turn to go to Heaven so we could be with you now. We miss you so much.

I'm really struggling. I wish I could talk to you. You are the only person who knows me, all of me, warts and all. You are the only thing that would make me feel better, and I can't have you. I hope I am being a good mommy to Grayson. Sometimes it is just so hard without you. We both miss you so much. We try to make each other feel better. Sometimes it helps.

I love you.

(the cat stayed under the house for over a week - not sure what it was eating, but it lived) We are so much better than this now. We have our bad days, but they are so few and far between. Four years ago when I was writing these heart broken love letters to Daniel - the bad days were a way of life. We made the best of it, but our best then was pitiful.

I would have never thought then, that I'd be soooo much better now. Re-reading my own thoughts at that time is powerful stuff. If I ever doubt how far I've come since then, my own words leave no doubt in my mind. Time doesn't ever fully heal and you don't forget, but you do change and the pain you carry with you becomes a part of you in a way that isn't bad. It just is. I appreciate things now in a way I never could have before. I'd rather not know what I know now. I'd rather my life had stayed the way it was. I'm grateful though for the ways that living that experience has changed me. I was changed by loving Daniel and changed by losing him.

This picture is us now. My little guy has grown so much on the outside, and I've grown so much on the inside. I'm pretty proud of both of us.

Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Presumed Dead

I have an internal panic switch which is automatically activated whenever anyone I love, know, am briefly acquainted with, or maybe even have only heard about on the evening news is not where they are supposed to be. Any and all types of missing people are presumed dead, by me, immediately.

If this "missing person" is someone I love, my heart rate accelerates, my hands get sweaty, I tap my toes, and drum my fingers as I wait for the news that the person in question is dead. There is no doubt in my mind that the news will be delivered shortly, and I am an emotional nerve center on overload until my suspicions are either confirmed of denied.

Last week my coffee guy was missing from his normal daily location. This man is part of my daily life, and as such, not allowed to die. I call him Java and he has been one of my steadfast supporters as I grieved the loss of Phil. He is one of those people who just lets you be how and who you are...every single day. So, when he was not at his shop, I assumed he was dead. The panic sequence began, and I was a nervous wreck until I found him working on reorganizing his shop to meet new health code regulations. As soon his frame came into view I yelled out the window..."Java, I thought you were dead!" And because he knows me, he laughed and said, "I am right here, haven't I already told you I am not going anywhere?" Whew. That one lived.

As I was recounting the whole drama to Michael later in the day he asked why I came to the conclusion that the ONLY logical explanation for Java's absence was his untimely death. As I started to explain, I found myself fighting tears....

"The reason I assume everyone is dead when I can't find them is that one day four years ago a woman I didn't know called me from the side of the road to tell me my husband had been hit by a car. Even while I was rushing to the scene of the accident the thought that Phil would die never occurred to me. I was completely unprepared when his heart stopped. I felt cheated. Unfortunately, I am no longer naive to the fact that people die, every single day. And rarely does anyone expect it, so I refuse to walk around with rose colored glasses assuming everyone is alive! AND you should probably get used to it because I don't think I will ever get over it!"

Poor man. My soliloquy reminded me (and Michael too!) that after Phil's accident my concept of who dies, and when, was permanently changed. I am acutely aware that people die too young, accidents of all kinds happen way more often than most people realize, diseases kill people both quickly and slowly, and it is indeed possible to be shocked by your loved ones death even if you have been "expecting" it for days, weeks, months, or years. Most of the time I wish I didn't know all of this useful information, but understanding the fragility of life somehow grounds me. I find it nearly impossible to take life for granted.

So, this is my reality...if I love you, and you are missing, I will assume you are dead. I will try very hard not to freak out, or have a heart attack myself while waiting for news of your whereabouts, but I am not promising anything.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Truth

Art Halloween 07

(From December 09)
I had a drink tonight with someone who reminded me to speak my truth.
The truth is today was another day.
The truth is the eight month anniversary is nothing but a date.
The truth is I once stopped counting days. I will now stop counting months.
The truth is he was an amazing man.
The truth is he loved me more than he loved life.
The truth is I am crying with gratitude and awe.
The truth is my life is marvelous and hard and shitty and sad and frustrating and obnoxious and disappointing and humorous and stupid and gay and fun and exciting and new and adventurous.
The truth is...
his death
was his greatest gift to me
for without it
I may never have discovered that
joy and suffering do indeed go together.
And that it's ok to feel both in the exact same moment.
Peace out, my love.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yep, that's me...

I miss the quirky awkwardness that was all ours.

The waking up in the morning and making up songs about the cereal I was about to eat. The moments where he'd surprise me....not with roses, but fried okra.

Giggling like teenagers as we snuck out to fool around in random parking lots.

Smiling at each other during cheesy movies and then getting in the car to see who could do the best impersonations of "Naaaccchhooooooooooo" or whatever other lines made us smile.

He always was proud of how well i could do, "What you talkin' 'bout Willis?"....I was really good at it.

I'd turn on '50s music and he'd dance with me, smiling the whole time.

We'd go to the Zoo and take pictures of the squirrels running around, instead of the lions.

But all of those things and more.....are what made us, us. What made our love, our amazing love, what it is.

I still make up songs, and sometimes I'll even stop by "Church's" and eat my okra. I will laugh at the corny jokes in a theater when no one else will, and snort with enthusiasm when the rest of the world is silent. He encouraged me to be who I was...who I am...and I am so proud to be me....because it is when I am me, that I am us....I am perfect.

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” - Dr. Seuss

Friday, January 22, 2010

ode to your toothbrush

If the toothbrush holder is a reflection of the household occupants, people would think that we were the perfect family of four. A girl, a boy, a mommy, a daddy.
All of our toothbrushes stand huddled together in the cup. As I sit on the toilet, I imagine that my toothbrush is staring at yours, begging yours to come back to life. Your toothbrush stares emotionless ahead. Like one of those soldiers in Britain with the big fluffy hats.
I irrationally despise the arrival of our new toothbrushes at the prescribed three months. It seems to mark a measure of time that has been lost since you died. I get tired of your toothbrush. I will it to change somehow.
I have stared so closely at the bristles pondering the bits of dried toothpaste embedded there. I've wondered if there is enough DNA to clone you upon its' head. I've mused about what pieces of food are trapped within its' plastic spikes that comprised your last meal. I've weighed the likelihood of my loss of mental health and mulled over the thought that maybe all widow/ers think these bizarre thoughts....over a toothbrush.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

no tears

while friend johnny utah

was out for a run (obviously he is crazy),

maddie and I started walking toward

the playground.

saw a mom, a dad.

each one holding an arm

counting to three

swinging their daughter,

daughter laughing


how does a single father

bring that kind

of joy?

i could try it with

one arm, but

that would look terrible

to passers by, and

would likely leave madeline

with only one working arm.

(decided against that, too. i’m really using good judgement today).

made a phone call to someone

’cause i was missing


and was more than

a little sad

watching all these moms and dads

hanging out with their kids.

decided that i really needed

to go to a place

where there are no

families. no kids.

discussed an escape

plan with johnny utah…

called rhonda to take her up

on her offer to

watch madeline for the afternoon.


a great idea.

no families.

no kids.

but lots of memories.

in early 2006

we were there with a

big group of folks

to say goodbye to me

as i left my everything

behind to head to

the india for 6 months.


organized the party,

ordering pitchers of “death margaritas”

for everyone.

great memories of this


hard to walk in there

though without


with johnny utah by my side

we went in

walking past the place



and i had so much fun,

made it home around 11:00,

kissed madeline twice

and went to sleep.

too many thoughts of


realized that today

was the first day

i didn’t cry.

(and i feel really, really sad about that).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Finding Balance.....

..... seems to be life-long process, doesn't it?
We try to find balance between school work and fun, then between marriage and work, then between marriage and work and children.
For the past two years I've struggled to find balance between grieving and living.
And now my heart is trying to find a new balance .... between a wonderful current relationship and the wonderful one I used to have.
It should be a no-brainer, right? I mean, one man is here .... one is not.
But my heart sometimes finds this easier said than done.
Thankfully, my heart is learning the new balance easier than I imagined it would.
I think it helps that I do not compare these two men. There's no use in that and they are two very different people.
It also helps that I am surrounded by supportive people who want only the best for me.
But I think that the most important factor in finding this balance .... is Jim.
He loved me far more than I could hope or imagine.
He taught me how to love and to love well.
He will always be in my heart ..... always.
Even as I find a new balance.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Numbers Keep Growing

What's that old joke? This must be Heaven, people are just dying to get in here....

People aren't dying to get into our club, but membership requires that sacrifice of a loved one. Before I found Michele, and all of the rest of my widowed friends, I thought it was just me. Only I had lost my husband young. Only I was left to care for a child alone. Only I cried until my stomach muscles were so sore I could hardly breathe. Only I was left to figure out what kind of life was still possible for me.

Unfortunately for those who were here before me and for those who have joined me, I am absolutely not alone. We are all walking this path together, and each day brings more into our fold. It is sad to say, but the truth is clear to those of us already on this path. More will follow. I know two women personally who have lost their husbands in the last month. Young women, young husbands. The tragedy is never lost on me. I'm still surprised. I lost my husband when he was 35, and I will still naively say upon hearing of a similar story: "but he was so young."

Death does not discriminate. Old and young, death finds us all when it is our time. Death is not optional, and there is no alternative ending to any of our stories. We are not defined by death. We are defined by how we choose to live. Death will likely find me sooner than I would like, but when it comes knocking it will find me making the most of all of the minutes I am allotted. Death sucks, but I will not let my life suck because of it.

- Michelle D.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Throwing in the Towel

I have often said that anyone whose spouse has died should receive an automatic, lifetime, get-out-of-jail-free card. This card would be used for things like avoiding leaking faucets, flat tires, broken fences, faulty plumbing, and critters stuck under the house or in the chimney. This all purpose pass should also free the bearer from: teenage temper tantrums, homework and school projects, cooking dinner every, single night, nosy neighbors, unsolicited advice, ugly break-ups, and pretty much any other difficult or trying situation...for the rest of our lives. Period. Right?

Currently I am working on my new relationship. Somehow I have forgotten that being a part of a duo is hard work. You have to communicate with someone other than yourself. You know what I, myself, and I have an on-going conversation about what needs to be done, when, and how (and we are always right). Turns out this kind of dialogue has to be spoken out loud. Huh. There is also the issue of space, both physical and personal. How did my closet morph from a two person place into a stuffed to the gills woman's clothing store? And WHERE will I ever put a man's things again? As far as personal space goes I've discovered that my widow self requires a larger amount of alone time than her pre-widowed counterpart. I am USED to doing things on my own. Another surprising development? I am tempted to give up on my relationship, often.

This last revelation has been really difficult to wrap my head around. I have never been a quitter. After Phil died I would have loved to quit everything, but I didn't have a choice if I was to continue being a mother. So, I soldiered on. Recently I have realized that when it comes to difficult situations, I feel I have already lived through my share of grief. Life has been hard enough. I don't need any added drama, thank you very much. So I am tempted to walk away from disagreements, from compromise, from looking at my own faults, and essentially from all the lessons that have been learned through loving and losing an amazing man. Somehow over the past four years I have decided that lonely and safe are synonyms.

And that is the one thing that helps me stay put. I know better. Deep down I know that love is worth the effort required to open my heart again. Love is worth giving up the iron tight control I exert over all things associated with my household. Love is worth making space for compromising, listening, and reevaluating. Love is worth the risk that it demands. Because when I am honest with myself I see that I am tempted to walk away because I am afraid. Can I live through losing a man I love again? Wouldn't it be easier to just be alone for good rather than making room in my life for love and the inherent risk that comes with it? What if I make all the adjustments necessary for a long and happy relationship only to face another untimely end?

Then I remember that the opportunity to love Phil was worth every tear I have cried since his death. I would go back and do it all again. Love is always worth the effort. So, with that thought in mind, I guess I won't throw in the towel this week ;)

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I am standing,


in the parking lot of Costco

in the arms of

a strange man.

The parking lot of Costco, my cart next to me.

I am unable to find my car.

It's not my car, it's the one I am borrowing.

And when I left the store, striding like a woman who knows

EXACTLY where she is going, I remembered what it looked like.

But as I neared the row, I forgot where I parked.

"This is stupid." I say out loud.

My strides begin to shorten, then they falter and I can't find the car.

And then I can't remember what car I am looking for.

Is the mini-van? No that's at home.

Whose car is it? What does it look like?

And out of NO WHERE....I am sobbing.

I can't find my stupid car cause I can't remember what it looks like.

Is this grief or am I losing it?

Shit where is the car?

Why am I so hysterical about not being able to find the car?

And then I stop, attempt to gather myself (which means I am telling myself to fucking knock it off, get a grip and calm the hell down.)

"Are you OK?" says a gentle voice.

There is a man standing next to me. And just like in the movies, I look down and shake my head.

And then I start to laugh AND cry AND sob.

"I can't find my car. I can't remember what I'm driving. My husband died almost 9 months ago and I really hope this is the grief."

And then he looks at me, knowingly and says,

"My wife died 5 year ago." he says "It's the grief." He smiles.

And then I swear to God,

I'm hugging this guy, and crying in his shoulder and with his arms around me. He doesn't shush me. He tells me about the time he landed at LAX 8 months after his wife died and wasn't even sure he was at the right airport.

And now I'm pulling away and laughing and then BINGO I remember what car I'm supposed to look for and




We smile at each other. I give him one last hug and we whisper a thank you to each other at the same time because it's our secret. He knows what he did for me. He knows the gift he bestowed on me and he is grateful I willing said yes.

He smiles and waves one last time before he turns towards the store.

SPLAT....grief undone.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Turn the Light On

The other night I was enjoying dinner with one of my great friends. She is also a widow and will be coming up on two years since the loss of her soul mate.

As we sat and enjoyed our meals, drinks, conversation and company, it became obvious that in a restaurant full of people, we were the only ones laughing, smiling, toasting and enjoying the evening to the fullest. At one point, a waiter even came up and commented on how we brought "happiness" to the abode.

So what was our secret? It wasn't the drinks, but more so - the stories we were sharing, the struggles we are currently facing (that we confirmed were normal), the love of our heroes, and this crazy life that we're daily trying to figure out. Conversations that if most were listening in on, they may feel sad for us and the hardships we face. Yet, it became obvious to me that we are doing and were acting as we did when our loves we're still here, because it was in that evening that they were brought to life.

Brought to life in the way that we were not hiding from our realities, but embracing them and the fact that we have come this far do to the love that still burns in our souls and beings.

And like the quote above says, it's about remembering to turn on the light. I can't say I always remember to, but with the right people and the right spirit,

I am more often.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Before widowhood, I really, truly thought I knew a lot. I supposed I knew how I should/would/could react in a variety of situations. How others should/could/would act. The 'right' the 'wrong' in a plethora of situations. What a variety of other people's actions meant regarding their thoughts or mental state.
I was wrong. So very wrong.
I remember so clearly having a conversation with Jeff about what we would do if the other were to die. I remember what both of us believed we would do. And now, unfortunately, I know what I would do.
I can tell you that I have been grieving. Pining. Aching. But it has not been how I ever imagined widowhood to be. And I cannot tell you how it has been for me, because ultimately it will be different, if slightly, for you.
One thing I have stumbled upon, is that most widows don't judge each other. We link arms and laugh with and at each other's strategies for survival post-spouse. I wish that I could always stay wrapped in that comfortable comraderie that other widows provide. But, alas, I cannot and I must often face the outside world. The world where I feel that others think they know how they would act wearing my, or your, shoes...and judge harshly.
I find that it makes it all so much harder and alienating. So, thank you, my widow-sisters and widower-brothers for understanding and not judging. Thank you for laughing with me and not at me. Thank you for not measuring my pain and deciding if my loss is any more or less worthy than your own. I love you. I couldn't have gotten this far without you.

Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 - 1962)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

who she was

taken at

the broback wedding.

two weeks

(including a trip to greece)

after ours.

i think i have

a new favorite

photo of


i talked to the

male broback

about this

and we’re sure


waving to someone

who was a complete

stranger to her

just hours earlier.

everyone was

her best friend.

i can’t get enough of

that shot.

this is truly

who she was.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Peace and Quiet ....

.... are not two things that I've felt a lot of over the past two years.
Not that I haven't experienced quiet .... I have .... sometimes too much quiet, right? But I haven't felt the quiet .... inside of me. Not like I used to anyway.
But there are days now ..... finally, that I am feeling more at peace .... and more quiet.
Certainly not every day. My emotions are still sometimes all over the map on any given day, but there are more good days.
Of course every once in a while there will be a bad week ..... but they are few and far between. It's nice to have them down to just a day or so .... or maybe even to just a few hours in a day.

I can remember the days when I was just trying to survive from moment to moment, even though I didn't really want to.
And then it grew to hour by hour .... and then a few hours at a time.
I've come a long way.
But not by myself.
There have been many people who have helped me along the way .... and many of them are the people I've met here.
So thank you to all of you who've encouraged me .... day by day, minute by minute.

You've helped me to feel the peace and quiet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pretty Good

Well, usually there is some drama or some burning question to discuss on a Tuesday....but so far, so good! What do I blog about when things are just pretty good? Nothing terrible to report this week, no self actualization, no amazing realizations...just normal life. I guess that is something, isn't it?

I think sometimes I get caught up doing everything and forget to just breathe. This weekend was a breathing exercise of sorts, and I spent a relaxing couple of days with a great friend or two. A little time to just "be" is sometimes hard for me to come by. I enjoyed every moment.

My resolution for this year is to "be" more. I tend to overbook myself and I don't see that improving really, I am what I am (see popeye stance above for proof! ;). But, I do intend to slow down and breathe a bit more: see a few more movies, read a few more books, work up a few more recipes, spend a few more hours playing one on one in the driveway. The other stuff, the more serious stuff? It will be there. I will deal with it. I just don't have to give it Headliner status.

Happy Tuesday!! - Michelle D.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Friends Matter

In my pre-widow life I was fortunate to have lots of friends. We bonded over jobs or kids or committee work or a combination of any/all of these. I knew the value of girlfriends who set you straight when you are weaving a self-destructive path, those who would hold your hair at just the right moment, and the ones with whom I could share my child rearing woes. Each and every one of these unique relationships enriched my life, and I remain grateful for every person that I have called friend.

There is a special category, however, for the people in my life who have also lost a spouse. These friends came to me at a time when I thought no one could make a positive difference in my life. Actually, I am pretty sure I planned to become a recluse. Adding people to my life only increased the odds that I would suffer the loss of another important person in my life. Once I lost Phil, I suddenly realized that everyone I loved was at risk of dying. My immediate response to this devastating realization was to circle my wagons, and to keep my circle small and tight. No one in, no one out.

Then you came along. The people I have met who have suffered the same kind of heartbreak I did, and still risked opening their heart to another person in need. My fellow widowed friends didn't hesitate to welcome me into their stories, their homes, or their hearts. And they changed me. I could laugh with them without wondering if they would think my lightheartedness was a sign of, gasp, recovery. Sometimes I was encouraged, and other times I became the cheerleader. I discovered that my heart was able to allow entrance to this new category of friend, regardless of the risk involved in loving someone new. Their willingness to love my brokenness somehow began the mending process. One relationship led to the next and before I knew it my heart was bigger and more accepting than I ever imagined it could be.

So, thank you my friends. Thank you for sharing both the good and the bad here on this blog, thank you for being willing to allow us to walk with you on your journey of loss, thank you for reaching out to people you have never met with a kindness that beguiles the loss you have experienced, and thank you for being a part of a changing tide of hope for widowed people, because we need each other. Of that I am certain.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Toast

A peace settled around me this morning that muffled the noise of the day and left me smiling (except when I was trying to get the two kids out the door to pick up the third kid, so we could get the oldest kid to his concert on time) Photo above.
"It is all good." I kept thinking...and feeling. "I am exactly where I am supposed to be."
15 years ago, I was exactly where I was supposed to be too. I remember when the time came to get ready walk, I reached down for my flowers and was surprised that my hands were shaking. I remember walking down the stairs at the Blue Hill Farm Inn in Maine to the beat of an African jimbe (drum) played by a Japanese guy. My mother and father escorting me.
I remember the ceremony only from the photos. I remember my jaws hurting from smiling so much. I remember waltzing with him. I remember leaving too early, in my opinion. Let everyone go home, I wanted to stay at this party!
After I write this, I will take a glass of our favorite red wine and toast him.
I will toast to:
the deep respect we had for each other
to the crappy gifts and the pain that we caused each other.
I will toast to:
the three humans we stewarded into this life
all the bike rides and flats we changed.
I will toast to:
the fights we had
and to the growth we honored
I will toast to:
us and the day he asked me to marry him.
I will toast to:
him and the moment I watched him die.
I will toast to:
me, because it is exactly what he would want. And finally, now, I see why.
I will toast to:
his well-lived life that ended when it needed to, not when we wanted it to.
I will toast to:
my new life.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

6 Words

I came across this article and video about "6 Word Memoirs" and how they put many people to test on what they would write. The history behind it was explained:

"The six-word memoir is said to be rooted in a bet between Ernest Hemingway and a friend — supposedly, the author claimed he could write a short story in just six words. (He won with “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”)"

So after watching this, I figured to put myself to the test.

I won't lie, it's been a challenge to sum up so much happiness, grief, growth, setbacks, life and death in six words, but figured that in reality, six words is more then most of us get.

So here we go:

Lived for life, died for love.

What would yours be?

Friday, January 8, 2010

strength and surrender

Image from

The two words, strength and surrender seem to be at odds with each other. Opposites. Seperate.
As a young widow, one of the phrases that I hear so often is "You're so strong!". Throughout this journey, as many of you feel as well, I haven't felt strong. I have often felt weak and lost. I have felt vulnerable and afraid. I have felt that I have given up and been broken.

But when I look back over the last 21 months, I realize that I have become stronger. More resilient. More capable. Wiser.

I have learned that surrender is not akin to weakness. It's not 'giving up'. It is allowing yourself to be at peace with what has, will or might happen. To let go. To roll with it.

I have learned to stop fighting against it. I don't beg whatever higher power may be up there for my old life back any longer, even though I miss it every moment of every day. I don't scream out against injustice and wonder why this happened. I accept and I surrender. I now know that whatever life throws at me, I will deal with it.

I have become strong enough to surrender.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


as i walked up

the hill today, i stared

at our house…


fucking loved this place.

fell in love with

it the second

she saw it.

it’s hard to

look at, knowing

that she can’t

enjoy it with us.

we got to

our stairs and

i didn’t want to

go inside.

for some reason

i just couldn’t

do it.

i pulled madeline

from her stroller and

took a few photos

of her playing

in the leaves

we spent about

an hour outside,

just enjoying life.

then i realized

that i better

figure out how to

be okay with

being in the house,

’cause i had a lot

of work to do.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tears Still Come ....

..... even when someone new enters your life.
There is no cure for grief.
No answer.
No person.
No miracle.
It must be traveled through.

I discovered that this week.
I am definitely having more good days than bad days.
But the bad days still come.
I think they will always come .... though they will be fewer and farther in between.

I am happier than I have been in a long time.
But the waves still hit.
The sadness still encroaches.
And that is frustrating.
Beyond belief.

I want to leave the tears behind.
I want to move forward and count my blessings.
I want to live in the now and focus on the good.
But the grief is like a living thing that grabs hold of me and drags me backwards.

It seems to grab me when I least expect it.
When I start to think that all is well and that I am doing well ...... it crawls out of nowhere and slams into me.
But .... here's the thing: after it slams into me and knocks the breath out of me ..... I somehow manage to get back up. Sometimes I get up quickly, other times it takes me a few days.
But at least I get up.
Even when I don't really want to.

So that's something.
Something good.
And we all need to hang on to something good.
Don't we?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Will Try to Fix You

I love this song and the message it holds. As long as I'm clear on what the word "fix" means to me in this concept. If "fixing" means that I am broken and someone has the magical fairy dust that will make me "happy" and make me "forget", than I don't like this song a bit. On the other hand if "fixing" means you will love me, accept me for who I am and where I have been, than this is a great song. I've always hated the concept of needing to be "fixed" after losing Daniel. I've found that lots of people want to "fix" me, help me "forget" (now that is hilarious), get me "better". I don't need fixing in that sense, but I'm learning that I do need acceptance. I am who I am, scars and all. No amount of future happiness will change where I've been nor would I want it to. My future will only be possible because of my past. I won't "get over it" if that means forgetting. What I will do, is move forward with the knowledge of where I've been and a focus on where I want to go next.

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
I will try to fix you

Tears stream down your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face
And I ...

Tears stream down your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes

Tears stream down your face
And I ..

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you.

(Coldplay - Fix You)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I've Got The Memories

From a song from the movie, Prince Caspian. I have heard it many times before.
Tonight I HEARD it.

i've got the memories
always inside of me
but i can't go back
back to how it was

i will leave now
i've come too far
no I can't go back
back to how it was

i'm moving forward

so every day starts
with a magic spark
i've got my hopes high
with a second start
we are miracles
every breath is magic

so you give yourself away
with your miracle heart
ya just to be alive
is a magic art
we are miracles
every breath is magic

relief over misery
i've seen the enemy
and I won't go back
back to how it was

and I got my heart set
on what happens next
i've got my eyes wide
it's not over yet
we are miracles
and we are not alone

so every day starts with a magic spark
i've got my hopes high with a second start
we are miracles
every breath is magic


every breath is magic
his was
but I can't go back
second chances arrive every day

I'm so looking forward to it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Well, it's 2010.

I remember going into 2008 without Michael. It was the first year in which no history or memories would include him, a year in which reality took it's place next to me on my throne of grief. It's funny how my mind also worked in ways to revert back to a time when he was still living. I'd sign checks with 2007, set dates with friends on the phone or email with that year... it was, in a way, symbolic of my heart holding on to something not tangible... going into a year with Michael by my side.

Each year, the ball has dropped, and I've taken on at different capacities... 365 days of self reflection, self growth, setbacks, happiness, grief, pain, joy, curiosity, dreams, nightmares and more. With each year though, the hesitation and reluctance to accept the current year I'm in, has fallen to the wayside and I am becoming more aware and open to my present and all the gifts it holds.

Each year is lined with the sour notes of with my life without Michael, though positive thoughts and actions have taken place. I have learned that I am able to take on things (like a new year), with the knowledge that I feel him rooting me on and invisibly holding my hand when I am open to living life the way I did before tragedy struck.

So it's with that knowledge, that I will embrace 2010 and hope to feel his presence every time I laugh, smile, take on the world and explore all it's beauty.

Happy New Year!

"Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols." ~Thomas Mann

Friday, January 1, 2010

Entering the New Year

Grief has changed my perception of time. Ever since Phil died I have found myself wondering each New Year's Eve where the last year has gone, and some years wondering how I managed to survive the waves and sucker punches that grief delivered on a very regular basis throughout the previous year. And yet I have survived: one year, one month, one day, one minute at a time to find my way in this strange new world missing many of the certainties that provided the basis for life as I once knew it.

On New Year's Eve 2005 I was certain that Phil and I would have many, many years together. Life has since taught me otherwise. Not long ago I would have told you with certainty that even though I was happily married, my identity was not dependent on my marital status. After Phil died the only thing I wanted was to be half of a whole, being an independent woman was suddenly no longer desirable. Once upon a time I was a person with a ten year plan. This blueprint took for granted the fact that the main players would be alive to carry out the prescribed steps, and to enjoy the fruits of their labor. An exit strategy was never part of my grand scheme.

What I have come to accept is the fact that life is full of uncertainties. But there are some things that do not change, even when the world turns upside down. Love always matters. No one will remember what you wore to the party, but they will remember whether or not you greeted them warmly. Harsh words last for a very long time. Small kindnesses can never be accurately valued. We are each better and more resilient than we think. Every parent wishes their kids came with an instruction manual. Losing someone you love scars you forever, and that is not a bad thing. People are flawed. Hope is contagious. Courage can become a daily habit. Giving often benefits the giver more than the receiver. Life isn't a spectator sport. Actions do speak louder than words. The people we love change us, and we change them.

These are the things I know for sure. I no longer make resolutions that come with time lines. Instead I resolve to remember the lessons that loving and losing Phil have taught me. Because mixed in with the trauma and the pain is a beautiful story of love and hope. Life may not be what I planned, but it is still what I make of it.