Saturday, July 31, 2010


One restless night of blog surfing, I saw someone post the exact number of days since they lost their soul mate.

I must admit, I stopped long ago in counting the exact days and months since Michael was killed. Knowing such numbers, especially in the never-ending days in the beginning of my grief, seemed like mental suicide. As much as I'm a believer that each day on earth is a day closer to them in heaven, I couldn't fathom marking and taking note of each day without him...that is a loss in my being that no month, date, calendar, or clock can construe.

Yet I admit, as I stared at the widowers days numbered, I was tempted to find out my own. I found a site that allowed me to find out the duration from date to date...

"Submit" was clicked.
1157 days can be converted to one of these units:

* 99,964,800 seconds
* 1,666,080 minutes
* 27,768 hours
* 165 weeks (rounded down)

I stared at the numbers.

I wasn't numb. I wasn't in shock. I simply looked at them, shook my head, and closed the page.

As much as I can't believe that it has been that long since everything happened (and had I been earlier out I may have had a different reaction) I've learned one thing above all;
In 1157 days I have struggled, cried, given up, stood back up, laughed, smiled, grown, cried some more, scorned the heavens above, thanked the heavens above, given up on life, taken back my life, fallen to my knees...prevailed.

I look at 1157 with pride, not pain.

I have survived 1157 days without my soul mate physically here. I have fallen deeper in love with the man who took a new form and shown me a new perspective on our amazing relationship and my new life.

Just as I couldn't count the days or months these past 3 years because I felt that no number would ever bring back my love or erase the heartache felt because of his number or date can be put on the length and depth of our love...but when I am given the chance (or the curiosity) to see a number, it will be one that reminds me of the strength born from both of those things.

My name is Taryn Davis. My life ended 1157 days ago....but in the last 1157 days it has come back from the dead...stronger then ever...fueled by the essence of any life...the knowledge that is has true love on its side.

Friday, July 30, 2010

When Will You Be Done?

Lately I have been asked by more than one person when I think I might be done with this whole, "widow thing." Hmmm...done. Well I guess that depends on the definition of done.

See the thing is, I will always be widowed. Remarriage doesn't erase my widowhood. Being happy doesn't erase the memories I have of lying in bed dry heaving as I screamed in agony over the news that the man I loved was dead. Loving a different man doesn't make me stop loving Phil. There is no such thing in my mind as replacement, and I can't figure out what done would look like.

Maybe I struggle with this concept because I have fallen into the trap of being done more than once. The first year was done, which meant all those awful firsts were done, right? I have lived through five holiday seasons without Phil which means I am done being sad that he can't complain about all the Christmas boxes, right? Phil hasn't ever stepped foot into the gym I now belong to, which means I am done thinking I saw him around that corner, right? Here's the big one, I will be getting married in seven weeks, so I should definitely be done, yes? Done crying? Done mourning? Done wishing Phil weren't dead? Not exactly, because done and healing or healed are not the same thing for me. Happiness, rebuilding, getting married, facing the world with a little different shade of lens...all these things coexist with my widowhood.

One thing I am done with is trying to predict the course of my life. I can promise you that I never thought I would lead a group of widowed people through an amazing weekend designed expressly for them. I never thought my kids would understand the nuances and subtleties of grief before they reached adulthood. And I definitely never would have imagined that I would walk down the aisle of the grocery store wearing a tee shirt that I created simply stating,"Death Sucks."

What I know for sure is that my widowhood has changed me. I can't tell you if or when I will be done, but I can say with confidence that I will never again be the same.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

hindu temple

today you went to

your first muslim mosque

(just realized i didn’t take any photos of that)

as well as your

first hindu temple.

you met a ton

of very friendly

people and learned a

little bit about

cultures other

than your own.

don’t worry…

i don’t expect you

to remember everything

you learned today.

we’ll come back

here a lot

as you get older,

and over the years

you’ll learn it all.

i’m pretty sure

you’re gonna be smarter

by age 10 than

i am at 31

(almost 32).

and for that,

i will be most

proud of you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I Am Pissed ....

..... please forgive my crassness. Since Jim died I haven't had anyone around to give me a disapproving glance for unladylike language so ....... it's been much more difficult to be ladylike.
I think it goes with the experience.

Deep breath here. This will be one of those honestly honest posts.
I'm not sure who should take the deep breath .... you or me.

So .... yesterday was the two-week mark of my four week 'weaning off of the depression meds' trial.
Yesterday was also the day that I ended the trial.
I gave up.
Threw in the towel.
Waved the white flag.
Took the full dose.

And I'm pissed.
And sad .... but I've been past sad for a number of days.
I'm pissed .... not just because I 'couldn't do it' ..... but because this is yet another thing that has changed since he died.
Something else that I did not ask for.
Something else that I did not have to deal with "before".
Something else I didn't get to vote on.
And something else that will be with me for the rest of my life.
Damn it.

In my "non-depressed" body I can tell you that this is not that big of a deal.
I can tell you that my body needs these meds for a chemical imbalance ..... much as it needs medication for my inherited high cholesterol.
I can tell you that it's not a weakness, but a strength to know that I need this and to take it.

But I haven't been in my "non-depressed" body for a while. Things started to tank last week, though I worked very hard at hiding it .... and did a fairly good job (I was a Theatre major :) )
The only sure outward sign was my fingernails. A few friends know that my fingernails reveal the state of my emotional health.
My nails are a wreck. I spent the last week chewing and biting. And since I have solar nails .... it's a pretty difficult (and ugly) process.
I'd take a picture and upload it .... but it would make small children cry.
(Now that I've told you this little secret I know that a hundred or so of you will be checking my nails next week in San Diego. Don't worry .... I'll have them fixed by then. :) )

The inward signs were worse.
I started having those thoughts that one tends to have when spiraling down that hole.
They're like voices in your head that become more than thoughts .... they become reality.
Some of you know what I'm talking about.
"I'm so tired of living like this."
"I don't make a difference so why be here?"
"The kids ... and everyone else .... would be better off without me."
"I will never be happy again."
"This was not supposed to be our life."

Of course they are not reality .... but when you're in that inky blackness, reality is not what it should be.
I tried to fight it off.
I tried to deny it was coming back.
I thought that it would go away if I could just wait it out.

But .... after an exceptionally bad weekend .... I slowly decided to stop fighting.
It's not easy to stop the spiraling once you're in it.
But I had encouragement from a wonderful blog friend who saw what was happening.
And I've been blessed (each time this has happened) to be able to peer out of the spiral long enough to know I had to take action .... and have had just enough strength to act.
This was the last time.
There is no more choice.
I will be on these meds for the rest of my life.
This is proof that I really am a different person now.
The "before me" seemed to have balanced chemicals in her brain (or at least thought she did!).
The "after me" does not.
Another change.

Fortunately, the meds are slowly starting to kick in.
I know that this was a good decision.
I know that I am not weak, even though my emotions haven't totally caught up with reality yet.
I know that I matter.
I know that my children need me.
I know enough to be unable to imagine the pain and damage they would suffer if I suddenly "weren't here".

And I know that Jim would be proud of me.
He'd be proud of my strength.
The strength I found in the middle of my very dark weakness.

Yes, I am different now.
But in some ways .... I am better.
Yes, I have to take meds to stay healthy .... in more than one area of my body.
But I'm ok with that.

Maybe I'm not so pissed after all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quiet the Mind (Rest in the Riddle - part 5001)

I had a little time to check in with me, myself, and I this weekend. Not as much as I could have used, but I did get a few moments of serenity. I sat on a balcony, watched golfers pass by, listened to a waterfall, and enjoyed the lazy circling of a wasp in search of its nest. I wasn't alone for this moment of relative stillness, and I'm certain the person sitting next to me thought I was uncharacteristically quiet. I was just drinking it in.

It's interesting to hear my own thoughts in these rare moments. I heard contentment, and also fear that it won't last (something always happens, doesn't it?). I heard thoughts of stress and how to deal with it better, and annoyance at the amount of responsibility in my life. I heard a wish that I was 16 and someone else had to do all the heavy lifting for me. If only! :)

The contentment and fear caught my attention, the other thoughts are there pretty frequently, I mean sometimes being the grownup just sucks. It is what it is. Contentment on the other hand, that's a more rare thought. It has eluded me in the past, but I'm really feeling it now. It's frightening. I'm not sure I know what to do with it. I'm trying to go with it, not over think it. My widow brain resists. I find it hard to let go and just enjoy it, I want to know how and when it will end.

I'm filing away those thoughts, in a safe place for consideration, but not daily review. I mean, what does it really matter? Knowing the end of the story doesn't mean you can skip all the steps to get there. You still have to get to the end via the path you are intended to take. I'm not in a rush to get to the end, so I'm just going to savor (even if it scares me) the moments as they come.
Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Grief, Parenting, and Coping

Parenting is both overwhelmingly rewarding, and unrelentingly challenging. Some days we glow with pride at the accomplishments of our little angels; other days we may wonder how our best laid plans went awry. Sharing parental duties with a wonderful partner definitely helps manage the roller coaster ride we call parenthood…there is someone to discuss options with, another person who loves the kids as much you do to listen to your rant about their current behavior, an additional carpool driver, and someone else to go over the math homework.

But for widowed parents the time we have to raise our children with the person we love is cut tragically short. For widowed people with children the common concerns of parenthood are eclipsed by the shadow of grief. Questions of which diaper to use are replaced by fears of whether our kids will remember mommy or daddy. Some children’s first written words are, “Why did my daddy or mommy have to die?” Nine year olds may apply the extra emotion of loss to the smallest disappointment leading to angry tantrums fueled by missing their other parent. Teenage angst, scary territory under the best of circumstances, is greatly complicated by the tumult of death and loss. Perhaps the heaviest weight for widowed parents to carry is the fact that we often provide the road map for our children that shows them how to grieve. Do we cry? Do we say our loved one's name? Do we remember aloud? Do we continue our regular routines? Do we shut down, speed up, or spin in place?

I am continually amazed at the fact that widowed parents must survive the searing pain of losing a partner, and also assume the role of only parent. Each family’s route to healing is unique, but some common themes may help pave the way. Seek a compassionate family counselor. Join a group that addresses death and grief in age appropriate forums. Find ways to help your children store their memories. Honestly access your financial situation. Accept help when it is offered. Know that you have limits and you have needs. Allow your friends and family to drive carpool, help with homework, and buy groceries; they want to help. Try to arrange time away from the kids to sob and rage without witnesses. Cry in the shower. Know that children grieve in a new way at every developmental stage. Live in the moment and try to let tomorrow take care of itself. And finally, laugh, play, paint, watch a funny movie, blow bubbles~ let the inherent joy of your children be a balm for your family soul.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I’ve written ELEVEN Thank you notes this week.


Eleven hand written notes filled with gratitude and gratefulness for the things people in my life did for me. There were the three dinners I had at friend’s houses that included a great amount of laughter and connection and the feeding of my three children.

One went to the paralegal who was kind and understanding.

And one to the lawyer who made my stomach ache with laughter with stories about his dad, including hilarious imitations.

One went to the pizza delivery guy (really) who was on time and just downright jovial, like he always is! Another went to a friend who I miss and had been thinking about far too long not to send something.

I’m gushing.

Gushing “OMG can you believe I’m here?” Gushing “Oh! I hate this cold LA weather but at least I can where my favorite jacket.” Gushing “I am so grateful to be on your list of come-over-and-swim people!”

I’m gushing because I’m standing here and it feels like, really, honest to God……like I’m back. Functioning smiling and laughing in this new life without him.

I’m gushing because I am the miracle.

Because I am standing in a place that I saw from way below but had no idea how bright and shiny and clear and humbling it would be stand way up here!

Gushing because I can say "No" and be firm and stand by it and NOT have to offer ONE SINGLE EXPLANATION!

I was angry today and I in that anger I started to giggle. It’s so funny that I’m angry over _________!!! Poof. Out it went.

I looked in the mirror today. Yup have put on a pound or two.

Followed by a SHRUG!!!???

After which quickly came “Who cares! You got that new sexy bikini to wear!”

WHO CARES????? That has never been uttered in the same sentence with the words “weight” and “gain” and “few pound.”

Sentences like

“You are an amazing host.

You have such a good eye for art.

Just hearing your voice takes my anxiety from a 10 to a 3 and I want to thank you for that

________ (one of my kid’s names here) I am so very grateful to be your mother. Your _____ (pick specific talent, sense of humor, clarity, ability to explain) is such a gift.

Today while walking to me car, “Excuse me. Mr. Dragonfly? Thank you so much for flitting by the pond just now. It was such a gorgeous sight to see.”

I’m gushing. How did I get to be so lucky? How is it possible I can be filled with THIS much gratitude and have buried my husband just over 455 days ago? What a difference a day makes has a WHOLE new meaning!

I am the miracle.

I am not supposed to be here and yet here I am.

And gushing because all those little itty bitty moments, those tiny, tiny milliseconds where I told myself

“This will get easier.

This will not always hurt so much.

You CAN walk through this, toenail at a time.

Have proven to be true.

It was one shitty, slog from hell to get here.

I leave with the kids for a vacation tomorrow.

I think I need to go to the bank again before we leave. I have a feeling this gushing is gonna cost me a lot in tips for the cab drivers, baggers and the parents of the cute kid who am lucky enough to get a smile from.

Gushing. I really like that word.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Broken Heart

Sometimes I wonder how....

I had the Johnny and June idea about our life together. One of us would die and within a couple of months the other would die of a broken heart.

Fast forward to almost 3 years later, and that theory has been proven wrong.....Even though there have been many times I've begged for it's brokenness to take over the rest of my body to finally reunite me with Michael.

I didn't know how it could still beat, other then that it must be held together by the eternal remnants of our love.

But lately, I've thought of "E.R." or "Grey's Anatomy". A doctor will be doing some sort of open-heart surgery when the patient suddenly flat-lines. The paddles won't work and in a last ditch effort, the doctor pulls the heart out of it's chest and starts pumping it with his two hands.

The night I heard Michael died, i remember putting my hand over my heart and feeling as if it had stopped, as if I was hollow. I wanted to give up and at times prepared to raise that white flag, but just like the doctor with the patient, I felt as if Michael began pumping me back to life with those rugged and callused hands of his.

At first I despised as it got stronger, yet with time, have cried tears of happiness as I felt all its capacity fill my being once again with the love and memories that made it once pound in his presence....The feelings and times that had, for so long, been clouded my by own despair.

My heart is broken.

My heart is healing.

My heart still beats in the warmth of your hands.

It beats to tell the story of our love and pulsates your undying words through my veins.....

"I Love You, Taryn."


And that my friends, is how a broken heart still works.

Friday, July 23, 2010

are you lonesome tonight....

Photo from Desicolours

I'm not dating. I have gone on a few....dates. But it never felt right. But neither does this loneliness.

I don't want to go through the hassle of meeting, dating, getting to know the other person's "issues", introducing this person to family and friends, getting giddy when they come around, having our first argument, finding out that they have an oddly close relationship with their mother...who hates me, and having to dump their mama's boy ass after going through all that.

I want to jump straight to the comfy fart-in-bed stage. The leave-the-door-open-when-you-pee level. I want to not worry that they find my poultry obsession a little alarming or that my kid's habit of climbing into bed with me every night is not overly annoying. I want to be with someone who finds my kids cute even when snot is running down their chin.

But, alas, the only one who can fit this bill is a husband. My husband.

I worry that no one will ever love my kids as much as their daddy did. And that even if some man was willing, I may not let them through 'the gate' as I seem to fear that anyone with any interest in us must either have pedophilic tendencies or a death wish.

I'm scared that no one could ever love me again despite my habit of repeating deliciously interesting words under my breath until they cease have meaning. "colposcopy. colposcopy. colpscopy...." Or that the horrifyingly large amount of matter on my thighs that resembles marbles under blue-white coloured cloth would repulse some poor man. Or that they wouldn't know that laughing when I'm raging and screaming at some perceived injustice, although seemingly counterproductive, is just what I need to see life's bullshit as it is - bullshit.

I want to jump to husband and wife. I want to miss all the ups and downs of possibilities.

I want comfort. I want warmth. I want Jeff.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

the same, but not


walked here,

in the same place

you now stand,

through a uttar pradeshian summer,

the two of


hand-in-hand until

we could no longer.

still we walked

near one another,

separated by it,

yet kept close

because of it.

we learned about this

place, hearing how it

and a lack of water

drove them

from here.

we both understood

then, why otherwise

rational human beings

would leave behind

years of hard work and

forgo such beauty;

it was the same

reason we let go

of one another.

the wind

blowing in from

the desert,

bringing with it

that heat…

heat that feels

like a

hair dryer blowing in

your face while

you stand in

a sauna.

but today,

we, you and me,

we stand here.

summer is

over, and that heat,

that heat

is gone.

but i can still

feel it,

and it is

something i’ll revel

in until i can

no longer feel.

and you.

you feel her.

i’m sure of it,

because i can

see her in


the smile on

your face,

the way you

hold my hand,

and the way you

let it go…

so walk where

we walked,

stand where

she stood

and together,

we will feel


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Honest to a Fault ....

.... is what I can sometimes be .... I think.
Some people do not enjoy my honesty on my personal blog.
I've learned to hold back on some things ..... things that will have an effect on those I love. Although sometimes holding back puts me in a very, very lonely place.
I wish that I could just pour out every single feeling that comes my way when something happens that I don't know how to handle.
But I can't.
Not on that blog.
Unless I can figure out a way to make that blog unreadable for some people, yet readable to anyone who finds solace or hope or support or just plain understanding here.
Those are the people that I really write for. The ones on this path with me.
The people who read this blog.
And I know that I can be totally honest and open here.

Yes, the honesty helps my friends and family to understand me better .... the me that stays hidden most days.
But it also can embarrass or unfortunately, offend others .... when that is never my intent.
I just write.
I write what I feel.
And I write what I think other widows/widowers can relate to or feel.

So, in spite of maybe being too honest for some people .... I'm forging ahead today.

I have not kept the fact that I am on anti-depressants a secret.
I started taking them approximately 2 to 3 months after Jim died.
I started taking them when I started thinking of suicide regularly and the thought of my 6 children didn't matter any more.
Fortunately I still had the wherewithal at that time to know this was a very dangerous sign.
So I went to my doctor, who doesn't like to mix meds and grieving, but once she asked a few followup questions she immediately changed her mind and started me on them that day.
Smart lady.

They helped.
They didn't stop the thoughts, but the thoughts never became plans.
Until last summer.
When I had a couple of very close calls.
I did not plan them.
I just lost complete control .... maybe what some people would call a nervous breakdown.
And I knew, without a doubt, that I could not do this anymore.
Fortunately God put the right person in the right place at the right time.
And I did not succeed.
Now I can see that was a good thing.
Then .... not so much.

So back to my doctor I went.
She prescribed a bigger dose and an extra med.

And I slowly started feeling better.
Very, very slowly.
One step, heck ... back to one breath .... at a time.

Fast forward to a year later.
The past 6 months have been good.
Better all of the time.
Don't get me wrong .... I still have some days when I take one or two steps backwards, but those days are few and far between. I'm sure they'll always be with me.

I went to my doctor earlier this week and told her that I wanted to try to get weaned off of these meds.
She looked rather skeptical.
And a little worried.
She asked why.
I told her that I'd never had to take them before Jim died and I'd just like to see if I can live without them.
I don't think she's so certain that I can.
But she's working with me.

I am on half a dose for 2 weeks.
Then that dose every other day for 2 more weeks.
And then off completely after that.
Two weeks later I go in to see her.

If I have a "depressive episode" any time during those 6 weeks .... I go back on the meds.
For the rest of my life.
I'm not opposed to that .... I'd just like to see if it's necessary.

Why am I telling you, mostly complete strangers, all of this?
Because .... I know that I am not alone.
And because ..... the more people who know this .... the more people who will be aware of any changes in me that need to be noted.
C knows.
He's a bit worried.
I think he's more worried that he won't see something that needs to be seen.
I think he will.

I need to be able to tell the difference between just feeling sad (which sometimes happens when you're a widow/widower) and feeling depressed.
It's a fine line.
One that I'm not sure I can see anymore.

So there you go.
Probably not the uplifting post you thought you'd read today.
But .... it's an honest one.
For good or bad.

I hope that in being honest about this part of my life I am able to make a connection with someone else who reads this.
And let that person know that he/she is not alone in this.
Not by a long shot.

Thanks, friends.
For being there.
And for those who comment.
The comments are great encouragement.
They mean a lot.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Little Faces

Tucking Grayson into bed the other night - "Mom, will you lay down with me for a few minutes?". Who can resist that? I crawled into bed with the little guy, and promptly fell asleep. I didn't sleep for long, maybe five minutes, but when I woke up, I was lying on my side looking at him in profile. It took my breath away how much he looked like Daniel in that moment.

I've had people tell me over the years how much he looks like Daniel and I've been able to see it most of the time, but he still looks just like Grayson to me. Occasionally I see a flash, so very clear, of Daniel when he was young, and it just jumps out at me. His appearance isn't the most amazing part though. Its his behavior. He was only 5 when Daniel passed away, so there wasn't a lot of time for him to pick up Daniel's habits.....however, he is his father's son in so many ways it makes me laugh out loud.

My little guy is always right, knows everything about everything, and will argue a point until all other parties give up. He walks like him, has facial expressions like him, sticks his tongue out when he's concentrating like him, etc. In other ways he doesn't mirror his father, but the list is pretty short. He is Grayson, his own person with unique qualities, but he is definitely Grayson Dippel. A chip off the block, for sure!

Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Death Grip

For the last couple of weeks I have been in Australia with my three kids, my daughter's best friend, and my fiancee. We spent ten magical days touring, laughing, learning Australian phrases, introducing the kids to Michael's friends and family, and exploring our new family dynamics. We couldn't have asked for a better first togetherness trip.

The kids and I arrived home safely, and Michael will be following us in less than a week. We brought home some of the things he didn't want to send on the ocean liner that will deliver his personal belongings to his new address in America. As I unpacked his leather jacket, a few business suits, hiking boots, linens he thought I would like, and t-shirts that all have some sort of Australian logo on them I found myself wondering...whose life is this?! Five years ago I was packing up beloved items of the man I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with and trying to find an appropriate home for each and every one. Press the fast forward button and I am now trying to find space in this house that I have somehow stuffed full of my own things for a different man that I will spend as much of my life with as fate allows.

As the reality of Michael's eminent immigration gradually sets in, my heart has begun to attempt a daring escape. For the past five years I have held my heart in a vice like death grip. The first months after Phil's death I think I needed to contain my heart to keep myself from bleeding out! As the years past my heart hold remained a constant shield from disappointment. As long as I didn't expect for life to be kind to me, there was no danger of having my hopes dashed. I liked to play any game of the heart very close to the vest. But then love called me out and asked if I was willing to give up the chance to experience joy in a vain attempt to create a safety net that would protect me from future pain. Lip service to the idea of taking a risk is fine, facing the reality? A whole new ball game.

Yet as I unpacked these manly things into my very feminine bedroom my heart would not stop doing a little jig. The concept of a happy partnership with a wonderful man who loves me kept causing my poor strangled heart to struggle to be free to sing. Sing about how great it will be to have Michael here everyday, sing about the wonder of having a man who wants to take care of me right here in this house, sing about the fun things we will do, sing about the projects we will embark on together, sing about date nights, and dinners, and wine tasting, making new friends, enjoying old friends, and calling Michael on the phone in the SAME time zone. All of these things are right on the horizon. On one hand the nearness of joy terrifies me and on the other hand my captive heart is rapidly wriggling free of the clamps that have been securely attached for just about five years and refusing to stop singing.

The one thing that settles me slightly as I face an amazing, but unexpected future is the fact that love is the only thing that never dies.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


photo by Pallas

Ok I admit it.

I’ve been lying.

Not really lying buuutttttt not telling the full truth.

Because well, people look at me funny when I say, “I’m good!” “I’m doing well.” after they ask “How are you?”

I interpret their look to mean “but she’s a widow.”

While writing lately, I’ve stayed within the imaginary widow party lines that says widows are always sad and lonely and forlorn.

I’m not.

Not always.

Not most of the time any more.

In fact, I can say other than the lack of sleep I’ve been experiencing lately, I’m happy.

I don’t want none-widowed people to think “Well, good she’s done grieving.” Grief is still in my life. It always will be. But it’s not the kind you see in photos of those who just recently lost. It’s stealth grief. Like the other day, after seeing a photo of my therapist’s family, one I have seen like a gazillion times, I burst into tears realizing that Art will never be in a family photo again. I was back in that place of loss, confusion and questioning. It lasted all of 5 minutes.

And then


The moment passed and we laughed at something not related to him or the grief and I left and I went on my merry way. In fact, I did not think of Art at all for the rest of the day.

I want those none-grieving people to know that one never “gets over” a loss. And that in sudden unexpected, random moments the loss hits, like a brick thrown at the back of my head by some stupid bully. And I see stars and can’t breathe and nothing makes sense.

And then just as abruptly the world right’s itself and I am applying lip gloss while driving a large vehicle in traffic, thinking about what I will make for dinner tonight and trying to remember which kid I am supposed to pick up first.

Just by admitting this, I feel almost like a traitor of sorts. Somehow I’m not playing the “widow” part right.

My life includes a hell of a lot of laughter and giggles and crying… because I banged my funny bone on the door jam while skidding sideways trying to run on the hardwood floor (with socks on) trying not to get tagged by my eight year old.

My life includes a stomach workout because my oldest son repeats a joke with words I forbid him but does it imitating the Little Mermaid.

My life includes ‘brain on fire’ moments when my assistant and I are reviewing and tweeking my 6 month marketing plan.

My life includes cute smiles directed toward the guy who strikes up a conversation with me in the check-out line.

My life includes longing for Art, missing his hands on my back and it includes the excitement of new hands on my back, caressing my face, pulling me in.

I will always be a grieving widow just like I will always be an:
African American woman,
A mom,
An entrepreneur.

Just like I will always be the one who is quick to laugh or come back with some smart ass remark.

Just like I will always be up for a game and a little fun competition.

Just like I will always be hot…. (well…another lie, or is it? There are more and more hot over 60's out there, my mother so in that group!)

I am free…..

to order what I want on my pizza,
to decide where I want to go for vacation and
to decided NOT to do that run today.

I am free to…..
listen to the music I want to (when the kids are not playing dj)
Sleep on whatever side I choose (I haven’t switched but if I wanted to I could!)

I have the courage...
NOT be nice to those people ever, ever again!
to say "When you said____, I felt _______ which I didn't particularly care for. Or I am leaving till you can speak to me in a respectful tone."
To claim titles like "a good catch," good mother" and really a "decent friend."

Nothing is as serious as it used to be…..NOTHING!!!

I am light......walking just a weensy bit off the ground.

Oh and here's just one more little secret….

Most days, I don’t want him back.

I don’t.

Because if he were here, I wouldn’t be this woman I have become.
This woman that I am really diggin’.
This woman who is clear on her priorities...self, kids, my business. Men....stand in line.

I wouldn’t have the courage (or the experience) to know and say, with pride…
“I Kim Hamer am hot! And yes, I would love to have a drink with you, you lucky dog you!” (I don't so much as say it as I think it!)

If he were here, I would only see part of the light I have become.
I would not see my power.
I would not know that I, Kim Hamer have one thousand legs to stand on.
His death was my evolution.

So there.
This is the true face of my widowhood.

And it fuckin’ rocks!!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


For those that really know me, they know how open I am in sharing that a huge percentage of the reason I am still here today, has been due to my friends.

Before Michael was killed, my friendships were on a superficial level. This wasn't to say that I didn't have long-time friends, but the essence of who I was wasn't truly understood.

The only person that knew me past the candy coating was Michael, and for my life, that was all I really needed.

It wasn't until after he died that true friendship, outside of my husband, would find it's way into my cold soul. This isn't to say that there weren't a couple of bumps in the road to find the ones who would really be willing to stick it out for the long haul (though they taught me much), but as my wise best(est) friend of mine has said, "Those that aren't in your life anymore, have made room for those that want to be there forever."(Sorry TT, if I butchered that).

Through the AWP (which is the other percentage of the reason I'm still here today), I have met the women who have not given up on me when I wanted to give up on myself, women that embrace and laugh at my quirks (just like my baby), women who continue to teach me about life, love and death at a level I never knew existed, women that have celebrated in the tiny and big moments that I never thought I could handle without Michael by my side, women that have made life worth living after a very long time of nearly settling for despair.

Women that have shown me that TRUE, undying friendship (outside of Michael), does exist.

It is to those women that words can never be enough, nor actions, but....I did find a few quotes that will suffice for now ;D :

“With each true friendship, we build more firmly the foundation on which the peace of the whole world rests.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

"By respect for life we become religious in a way that is elementary, profound and alive.
Impart as much as you can of your spiritual being to those who are on the road with you,
and accept as something precious what comes back to you from them.
In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter
with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit."
-Albert Schweitzer

“Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance.”
-Rabindranath Tagore

“True Friends are like blood.. it sustains life, and comes out whenever you are wounded”

“A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand. Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?”
-Kahlil Gibran

“I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun."
- Charles R. Swindoll


Friday, July 16, 2010

the perfect father

Lately, Liv and I have been struggling. We have been fighting arguing about everything from whether she should brush her extremely knot-filled hair before departing for the day to whether older sisters are 'allowed' to speak to their younger brothers in a hatred filled voice to whether it is her job to clean up her mess. She claims that my requests for daily self-care (teeth brushing, semi-clean clothes wearing, etc.) are demands upon her body which I have no right whatsoever to impose....and that this is exactly why nature has so much trouble supplying humans with their 'needs' because society has created an unreal ideal of human hygiene (If you are confused, don't worry - I don't totally get the rationale either).
I am holding my breath wondering what Liv is going to find issue with far too often for my liking. I am emotionally exhausted and communication/NVC/positive parenting deficient.

Recently, Liv has started to not just fly off the handle with anger over the injustice of expectations upon her body, the needs of others in the household or my desire to have a calm and communicative homelife....but at the idealized image she holds of her father and my perceived shortcomings.
She regales me with reasons that I am less of a favourable parent to her father. I don't play with her enough. I yell more than he did. I don't love her as much as her daddy did.
The ironic and most painful part of this is that although Jeff was a kind, funny and loving father, he was not always hands-on. He would wrestle with Liv. Or snuggle on the couch watching a movie. He'd occasionally make something with her in the garage. He loved to listen to her read or hear her tales of daily life on the phone weekly while he was fishing.
But I was the one who cuddled her to sleep and got up with her in the middle of the night. I wasn't holed up in the garage drinking beer and watching WWF. I was mixing the homemade playdough and kissing away 'owies'. I knew what size of shoes she wore and how far up she liked her coat zipped.
He was a fabulous daddy. But the image she has of him is just not accurate. And I am being compared to a 'saint'.
One evening of overly expressed dislike of my inadequencies as a parent I (remarkably) calmly told Liv of her father. I explained that he was a fabulous guy and my very best friend whom I loved with all my heart and wished with every part of my being that he would be back with us. BUT that he was a real person. He made mistakes and lost his temper and sometimes stunk like B.O. He didn't like how I loaded the dishwasher and ate pickles straight out of the jar. It doesn't mean he was 'bad' or 'mean' or 'unkind'....just that he was like the rest of us. 'Real'.
With horror on her little angry face, she told me that I was never to talk 'mean' about her daddy ever again. That he was 'perfect'.
And really, he was. He was perfectly him....But I hope that one day, and not TOO far away, she can see that I am perfectly me....and I am trying the best I can to do the job that he and I used to do together.

I do not want to take Liv's love or admiration for her daddy. I don't want her to ever stop thinking that he was wonderful and hilarious. But why does it have to come at the cost of her love and devotion to me?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

i didn't think about it

i thought about

it from time to time,

but i wasn’t sure i’d

ever come across

it again.

i had a vague sense

of where it was,

but it’s not like i

i really end up

near this place all

that often.

so the memory could

have remained just that.

i’ve gone much further

to find the places

i’ve wanted

to rediscover, and this

one is so close

that it could have

happened much sooner

so today,

it did.

not meant to be,

it just was.

as it all is

these days.

sitting here,

i thought that

where we were

wasn’t where i thought

any of us would be

just four

years earlier,

but who really can

predict anything?

believe me when

i say

i’m glad that

i can’t.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Slow Fade ....

.... is not what happens the day your soul mate dies.
There's nothing slow about the slamming shut of the door of your life.
Your life as you knew it.
Your "before" life.
Your future as you dreamed it.

The door slams shut.
All light is snuffed out.
You are thrust into a very, very dark, very cold place.

No .... not slow at all.

But ..... then begins the slow fade.
So slow that it cannot be seen.
So slow that you often believe you will be in that dark, cold place forever.
So slow that the only way to tell that it started .... is to look behind you.

The inky blackness ever-so-slowly fades to a grey color.
And one day you find that you can see your hand in front of your face.
You find that you can take a step.
Only one.
You, of course, may go three steps back, but one step forward is something.
You move one step at a time.
Into the grey.

You still cannot see very far in front of you.
There is no hint of a future and what it may hold.
That is unthinkable.
But the grey slowly fades into brown.
One step at a time.
And maybe only two steps back.

It's a slow fade.
This cold, inky blackness.
But it does fade.

The browns fade into blues.

And what once appeared to be a cold and final sunset .....
.... now starts to look like a warm sunrise.

Sometimes it difficult to tell the difference.
Until you look behind you.

And see how far you've come.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Some things remain unchanged for centuries, such as Stonehenge (my photo, two summers ago). Others change much more rapidly, such as myself (no photo, you've seen me before ;).

I guess 4 and a half years isn't a tiny bit of time, but in the framework of a lifetime, 4 years is pretty quick. I find it hard to believe how far I've come since November 2005. At the time, I thought my life was over, I was preparing myself to just suffer through the rest of it.

Flash forward to today, and I'm able to see the possibilities. I'm able, once again, to move forward with my life, feeling that things are pretty darn good. Unlike what I thought, my life didn't end in 2005, it morphed into something different. I'm different too, harder in some ways, and softer in others, but still me at the core. It took a little while to find me again, but I'm here. Underneath the pain of loss and the reality of grief - the mischievous girl with the twisted sense of humor still lurked. I'm glad she's back full-time, I missed her!

It's a musical Tuesday -

Some things in life are bad
They can make you really mad
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best....

And....always look on the bright side of life....
Always look on the light side of life....

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow.
Forget about your sin - give the audience a grin
Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow.

So, always look on the bright side of death
Just before you draw your terminal breath....

Life's a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true.....

Happy Tuesday! - Michelle D.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Guess Who is Coming to Dinner?

I don't know why, but when I sat down to write this post, I thought of this title. Recently I was asked to be a guest blogger here on Widow's Voice, so here I am. This new world that I have become a part of is very strange. Sometimes I feel like my new peer group should be called something darker, like Knights of the Darkness, or The Left Behind. Let me introduce myself. My name is Dan, and I am a widower. Some of you may already be familiar with me, or my blog, Dan, in real time. My husband, Michael, died 9 months ago due to a brain tumor.

Michael and I had only been a couple for 1 1/2 years when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Our lives changed immediately, and for the next two years we were on an amazing journey of love, illness, and death. When I think about the film, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," I think about the element of surprise, and about the misconceptions we have about each other. As we go about our daily lives, we often don't realize how insular we can become. I think we tend to find ourselves surrounded by those with whom we most identify. If we look around ourselves, we sometimes see that we have chosen people who are like minded, or have similar life experiences. When something like the death of a spouse happens, we are completely thrown off. Who is our peer group now? Suddenly those that understood us or those that we previously identified with are clueless. Of course this is not a slight against our friends, or family, it is just that we find ourselves dealing with issues that they haven't had to experience.

I have come to accept the limitations that come from being at this place. In my daily life, I am often in an environment where I am interacting with what most would consider my peer group, other gay men. Yet when I am approached for conversation, my peer group can be thrown off when I reply that I am neither single or in a relationship, but in fact widowed. I am not what they expected. Sometimes in my widowed interactions, which tend to be online, people can be thrown off when I state that I am widowed by the death of my husband, not my wife. Again, not necessarily what the other person expected.

So what's a new dinner guest to do? Frankly, just be myself. With time, I am finding that all I can do, and all I have the energy to do, is be myself. People will adjust, or they won't. They may do what I do when I meet someone new, listen, and try to find a bridge that connects us. Sometimes we find that we are a good fit, and other times we don't. Yet what I have found during this difficult time is that finding another widow(er) to sit with is rare. When I do find them, I focus on that which connects us. This experience of grief seems to supersede all other factors. So while I may initially be aware of that which makes us different, I have come to understand that what matters most is that which binds us.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


2002 summer family photo

This post if from May 8, 2009, just 22 days after Art died.

Recently I needed to go back, to see how far I'd come. I've been blind to the changes -- the small little changes like that I can remember to order shoes, and that today is hot lunch day at camp each thought within 10 seconds of each other. This daily action of putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes with confidence and other times only by force, leaves me unable to see where it is I started.


Day 22
May 8, 2009

Emotional residue from receiving the death certificates was all over me today.

I watched movies, read and suffered with heartburn. I felt like I was swimming through stern fog – muffled, holding me up, my movements like those of a beginner marionette puppeteer.

I am tired of talking to people about how I feel. I am tired of talking. I want to be left alone only not alone. I need people around me, just quietly there. Come to my house and read a book, roll your eyes with me when I get snippy at the kids. But don’t ask me how I’m feeling. Telling you leaves me with little left.


Now, at day 420 after his death, I find that I have spiraled back around but in a different place. I am tired, again, of talking about how I feel about his death. I find comfort in being with the few close friends Art and I had before this journey began, where I can bring up his name and not a single person gives me those stupid puppy eyes or reaches for my arm. Only here today, I see that a new woman has emerged. So it's not that talking about it is so draining, it just feels more like talking about it is a waste of my very valuable time.

I also noticed I don't have widow mouth. I can have full conversation with stranger for over an hour and mention that I am a widow. I do, however, derive secret sadistic pleasure in comments like "My husband was 6'6"" or "My husband was the Upper School Director of ___________."

While I am not surprised to find myself here, I am a bit taken aback because this is not how I pictured it. But death never is how we picture it, is it.

Dark Nights of the Soul

Warning: This post may be unsettling to many. It was written 8 days ago.

I thought about it today.
And yesterday
And actually been thinking about it for 5 days straight.
Considering different ways to do it. Quick, painless ways to do it.

I’ve been thinking about killing myself.

The fact that I am writing about this means, I think….I am working past this feeling.

I hope.

This running of me, the running of my children’s lives, the running of my business, the worry of money, the worry of asking for help…..again. It’s stretched me beyond ….
I am so thin, wispy….. I can’t see myself.
Father’s Day, a school wide celebration called Moving Up Day, the death of the husband of a friend, the running out of money, the knowledge again, that there is no protecting my children, just shielding them from a few things and offering them tools to cope. Ha!

Tools to cope, where are mine?

I know suicide would be selfish.
I know that it is possible that my children would never understand.
And I know that I am in extraordinary pain.
And I know that dying would be quieter, easier and would end the pain. I know this is what my husband felt when during his battle with cancer he said to me “I’m just so tired. I just want to rest.”

I know that you, the reader may call me cowardly, a horrible selfish mother.

And you would be right and you would be wrong. The pain is so intense that I feel my kids would be better off without this monster mother I have become, roaming freely in the world, angry, mean, blowing up for no good reason at random.

I find myself looking at another shopping list, listening to another bickering session between my kids, packing another lunch, making another play date phone call, trying to stretch $1 into $2 and then going to bed and doing it all over again the next day. I find it all too much. And I ask,

“Is this all there is?”

After the intense loss, after learning how to be OK without him, after the grief has turned deep and mellow, is this all there is? Is this what I was fighting to get too?

I remember when Art and I would share the weekends. One morning one of us got to sleep in. For a few hours in a week, one of us got time to ourselves to do whatever we wanted to do. I remember we provided for each other with back-up, guidance, help, humor (I have forgotten what it feels like to have a really big belly laugh!) I remember feeling like I could fall down cause not only was there someone there to pick me up but to clean up the mess as well.

The wave of grief has me so far down that swimming to air, if I knew which way was up, feels like it would take too much energy. Energy I simply don’t have.

My friend said, “Imagine BP (the oil company) losing ½ their staff during this crisis. That’s what happened to you. You lost half your staff when Art died and you were in crisis and still are.”

That makes me smile. It puts an image to the burden I feel.

He follows with “You need a break.” And I want to smack him. How do you take a break from kids who can’t stand to have you go away?

Everyone says you need a break and yet no one helps you get one! I wrote this once before, it’s like the airplane thing when they say put the mask on yourself first. What if you mask is all tangled up, barely within reach, in knots.

What then? A break feels like that tangle knot. I simple don’t know where the energy to plan for break will come from. One “So sorry, Kim, I can’t.” from a friend who I ask for help would rip a whole in my already thin existence.



I did go to the beach today for one hour while the kids were in camp. And I slept. I slept for two hours before I was awakened by my alarm that said “Get up, get up. Time to be a mom.” And I got up and I picked up the kids and I fed them (a meal full of carbohydrates with a trace of vegetable called sauce.) and they are now in bed. It is all I can ask of myself right now and it has to be good enough. It just simply has to be.

Saturday, June 26, 2010
As I reread this to prepare it for posting, I realize the suicidal thoughts have diminished greatly. I have only been this depressed one other time in my life. The whole experience makes me shudder. The dark nights of my soul were so dark that it will take many nights of light till I feel normal again.

I credit one good friend, my therapist and a re-commitment to my spiritual practice for saving my life. “Walking into the fear, instead of running away from i,t is when it losses it’s power.” Kinda the "though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." For me it was about walking into it, instead of trying to dodge it.

And, mostly I credit my kids, their hugs, their “Mom can I help you?” and their gentleness towards me during those really tough days. While they didn't know what I was thinking, they were hipped to the intense emotions. If Art hadn't died, if my kids hadn't seen me grieve and hadn't grieved themselves, I don't think they would ever have been able to offer up their support as beautifully and honestly as they did. They can drive me to the edge and it is with incredible gratitude I see they can also bring me back from it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


"I don't understand what's happened to me?"

"It's huge. You've finely embraced the life you hadn't planned on."

This quote from a movie just keeps echoing in my brain.

I've noticed that, with quotes and words...they have a way of sticking to the sides of your mind during different parts of our life.

Some temporarily to help you get through the day or empower you to march on, others to bring you comfort in knowing that your pain has been felt by another, and in this case, to remind me that as much as i may have never fathomed it....I'm embracing this life I have.

The funny thing is...I don't understand it either.

I guess it's like most things in my life since Michael was killed...out of nowhere, it just happened.

I guess the only way to describe it is like being in line for a REALLY scary rollercoaster. One that you didn't want to ride but got pulled into line for. Plus on top of's a really looonnnggg line, so any hesitation and fear you have in actually getting on is enhanced by the fact that you must now wait, watch, and either walk through the other coaster-goers (head down of course) back to the entrance you came in through, or stay in line, hope for the best, and take the exit you were made to take. If you decide the latter route, I (at least) am one of those folks that has to ask everyone around me if they have been on this ride before; "Is it scary?", "How many times have you been on it?", "It's not that bad? Are you sure?" and of course, as the questions take place you hear screaming from those who have already met their fate with the metal mammoth. Then I get jumpy like, 'I'm going to do this, woo...yeah!", while secretly hoping that I can play the "I really have to go to the restroom" card.

But then it happens! You look up and the wait is over and you are asked to take your seats (hopefully you'll be sat next to one of the new friends you've made in line). The bars go down and before you can even anticipate anything, your zooming off.

That's how life's been after Michael's death. Lots of fear, having to ask others who have been on this ride before, or on for the first time, how they feel about it, and before you know it you're going full speed ahead, with plenty of loops and turns thrown in.

I guess the important thing to do when the ride finally takes off is to put your arms up, keep your eyes open, scream as loud as you can, and when it concludes, if given the chance, get back in line and ride it all over again.

Embrace the life you hadn't planned on.

Friday, July 9, 2010 the way

Photo from Auburn University

I am seeing all sorts of old and familiar faces since we moved back to my hometown. It's been great getting reacquainted with now-grown children of my youth. We discuss how the town has changed. That the one stop light in town is no longer the one stop light in town. Gossip about the nastiest boy in our class has changed and where he is now.
I find it so very interesting to know who or what the townsfolk have become, who they've married and how many children they've had. Looking at the faces of their little ones makes me grin seeing the familiar face of their parents as children staring right back at me.
Somehow during the conversation I seem to blurt out, almost Tourette's like, "My husband died."
I feel like a dork when I say it. But I can feel it building inside me like a burp and suddenly spew it out at my long-lost aquaintance. The moment after resembles the pause that I could imagine occurring if I had indeed loudly belched in their face. My burped words seem to echo between us.
If I somehow manage to come away from our brief visit in the parking lot without this almost involuntary admission, I feel as if I have mislead the other person somehow. That they are missing some huge part of the puzzle. But if I include it, it's an echo invoker.
I still, after two years, do not know what is the appropriate way to include this humungous tidbit into a brief summary of my life.....and socially, I don't know if any one really wants to know?
I wonder, is this normal? Do other widow/ers have this compulsion? Should I try to stop?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

written words

today, someone asked

me what i do.

when i told her

she asked,

“how do you come up with them?”

“i don’t know,” i said.

“i can’t make them stop.”

and it reminded me that

i used to wonder,

are there enough of them?

they seemed so hard to

come by before that

moment, but now,

they’re as plentiful as

the rays of light

blanketing los angeles

in july.

these things,

they’re that rope

i found hanging from

the sky that day,

the one i held,

floating away

as the rest of

the world disappeared.

and as tightly as

i’ve clung to them,

they’re the reason i

can let go

of some things.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Feeling Guilty ....

.... for falling in love again?
Ummmm ...... not so much.

I've heard and read a lot about this topic lately.
I've seen what others have written about it.
And I've seen quite a bit of guilt.

Why do we do that to ourselves?

I use the word "we", even though guilt is not an emotion that I am, or have, felt since I started dating again (after not dating for over 27 years!).
I know, with every fiber of my being, that Jim would want me to date.
I also know, with every fiber of my being, that he is very happy that I have found love again.
And I know that C's wife .... who died almost 9 years ago .... is up there with Jim, happy that C has also found love again (and probably thinking that it's about time!).

I would absolutely want that for Jim .... had he been the one left behind.

Would any of our spouses want to see us sitting home alone, not dating, not finding a new love?
And yet many of us beat ourselves up over this.

I consider myself very blessed.
I never, ever thought I would find someone who could love me as much as Jim loved me.
I was wrong.
And I am very glad about that.

But I never would have found someone to love me if I had stayed home, thinking that Jim was the only love of my life.
I never would have found love again if I had hung on to guilt over him not being here.
There is no guilt.
Neither of us chose this outcome.
And neither of us would want the other to be alone for the rest if his/her life .... however long/short that may be.

I also would never have found love if I'd listened to my teenagers, who would rather I sit home and pine away than love someone else.
I get that.
I know that they are grieving.
It's only been 2 1/2 years.
They've only seen me with one man ..... ever.
So this is hard.
But they will go on to live their lives.
And I must live mine.
In spite of their protestations.
In spite of their unhappiness over my happiness.
In spite of the guilt they try to load on me.

I refuse to feel guilty for something so wonderful.
For someone so wonderful.
For .... living.

I think two years of not living is long enough.
Two very long, very sad, very lonely years.
Jim would say .... "Enough."

So ..... I did, too.
Enough ..... is enough.

Feeling guilty over loving another man?
I think not.

Not guilty ..... just very blessed.